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The Chart Showing the National Debt above is far more than projected, of about $11.3 trillion. See "The debt to the penny," publicdebt.treas.gov.
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02.05.09 Protectionism raising its ugly head

February 5 - ...Fears of a return to protectionism are growing as one government after another takes measures that may impede free trade under the pretext of helping their domestic industries overcome the global recession. The World Trade Organization reported recently that 16 countries have already taken a total of 19 new protectionist measures since last September. Experts worry that such anti-free trade moves would provoke retaliation from other countries and may eventually cause trade wars similar to those during the Great Depression.

...Experts said that the United States has led such moves. The US House of Representatives passed a "Buy American" provision that calls for government-financed stimulus projects to prioritize the use of US steel and iron. Critics worry that the Senate version of the provision could add "manufactured goods" to the list. Developing countries have joined the newly emerging "protectionism" bandwagon. On Jan. 23, the Indian government announced a six-month ban on imports of toys from China...If the United States, the world's largest consumer market, blocks its trade access, Korea's economy will suffer severe damage because exports account for 60 percent of the nation's GDP.
[Full story>>koreaherald.co.kr]

02.05.09 Arab unemployent 'highest in world'

February 5 - The rate of unemployment in the Middle East-North Africa region is the highest in the world compared to other regions, the director of the Arab Labor Organization said on Wednesday. The global economic crisis has hit the Arab markets hard and may cause job losses to as many as five million people, Ahmad Luqman said, according to Al-Jazeera. The rate of unemployment in Arab countries is one of the highest in the world compared to other regions and stands at around 14 percent, he said. Among young people, the numbers are even higher, at around 25%. The ALO is a specialist organization of the 22-member Arab League. [More>>jpost.com]

02.05.09 Archbishop who ran arms to PLO said aboard seized Gaza aid ship

February 5 - The Israel Defense Forces on Thursday confirmed that its navy had taken control of a Lebanese ship carrying aid to the Gaza Strip and redirected it to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Military sources said that on board the vessel dubbed the "Brotherhood Ship" were nine people, including Greek-Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, who was arrested in 1974 after caught smuggling weapons from Lebanon to activists in the Palestine Liberation Organization. Capuccini was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but was released after three years upon a papal request to the Israeli government. He has made frequent anti-Israel comments since his release...The IDF also confirmed that no weapons were discovered aboard. All troops found on the ship were about 150 bottles of mineral water and a few dozen kilograms of food and medicine.

...Maan Bashour, the organizer of the Lebanese delivery, told reporters that the IDF had opened fire on the boat close to the Gaza shore. "The Brotherhood Ship was fired on by an Israeli military boat 32 kilometers off the coast of Gaza and they were asked to divert course," he said. The ship remained in the water near the coast of Gaza, he added. Bashour said the ship was loaded with 50 tons of medical supplies, food, clothing and toys and left the port city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon early Tuesday. The delivery was organized by the Palestinian National Committee Against the Siege, in cooperation with the US-based Free Gaza Movement. [
Full story>>haaretz.com]

02.05.09 24 killed, over 30 injured in DG Khan blast

DG KHAN, Pakistan, February 5 - [The] death toll has climbed to 24 while over 30 others were wounded in a bomb explosion that ripped through a mourners procession in Muslim Town here, IG Punjab confirmed Thursday. Talking to Geo News, IG Punjab Shaukat Javed said the explosion left no crater on the ground indicating the blast could be a suicide attack. The blast ripped through a mourners' procession in Muslim Town outside Johar Ali Imam Bargah. Rescue teams arrived at the scene immediate after the explosion and shifted the dead and injured to the district headquarter hospital where many are said to be in critical condition. The explosion, which shattered the windowpanes of the nearby buildings, enraged the participants of the procession and they chanting slogans against the government. [>thenews.com.pk]

02.05.09 US plan to arm militias scares some in Afghaniistan

MAIDAN SHAHIR, Afghanistan (AP) February 5 - A US-backed plan to create militias and give them guns to fight the Taliban is drawing criticism from local authorities in areas where the first units are being rolled out, raising questions as to whether the effort can succeed in Afghanistan. The militias have been compared to the US-fostered Awakening Councils in Iraq, which have often been credited with reducing violence there, and are similar to neighboring Pakistan's tribal armies which also have been touted as a success. On Saturday, Afghanistan's interior minister announced the program had begun, and that the United States would be paying for all aspects, including buying Kalashnikov automatic rifles for members of the Afghan Public Protection Force.

...One skeptical Afghan official said only criminals would join because most citizens wouldn't want to face the Taliban in combat. And critics question the wisdom of handing out weapons to Afghans when the government and UN have been trying to reduce the number of arms in the country. They fear the plan could stoke rivalries between ethnic groups with a bloody past.
One of the causes of violence in Afghanistan is because most people do not give up their weapons. Now you want to again give weapons to the villages?' said Mohammed Hussain Fahimi, the deputy of the provincial council in Wardak, where officials say the units will be first deployed."We never learn our lessons." [Full story>>arabtimesonline.com]

02.05.09 Somali pirates 'free arms ship'

February 5 - Pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian ship loaded with weapons have received a ransom and have left the vessel, reports from Somalia say. The pirates seized the Kenya-bound MV Faina and its crew in September 2008. They initially demanded a ransom of $20m (£14m), but reports suggest that a figure of $3.2m was agreed following months of negotiations. The MV Faina was the highest-profile vessel held by pirates. The intended destination of its cargo was disputed. The Kenyan government says the tanks, rocket launchers and small arms on board belong to it, but the manifest suggests the arms were heading for South Sudan. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

02.04.09 Bailed-out Royal Bank of Scotland bankers set for millions in bonuses

February 4 - The troubled Royal Bank of Scotland, rescued with £20 billion of public money, is planning large bonuses for thousands of its City traders and senior bankers, The Times has learnt. The proposed payments are expected to reach tens of millions of pounds possibly hundreds of millions with some star bankers in line for six-figure payouts. UK Financial Investments (UKFI), the Treasury-run body that holds the Government's RBS stake, is understood to have given its blessing in principle to limited payments, although it has yet to see the details.

"There's no blanket objection to bonuses, but they are subjecting them to intense scrutiny," said one well-placed source. "The [bonus] numbers will be very large and very difficult for the general public to understand." The investment banking arm of RBS, a division known as global banking and markets (GBM), paid out £1.83 billion in remuneration for 2007, most of which is thought to have been bonuses. Although the proposed payments will be sharply lower this time, RBS still plans to make payments. The bank, now 68 per cent owned by the Government, is due to report its 2008 results in three weeks, when it will confirm a loss of between £7 billion and £8 billion, after which it wants to pay out the bonuses within weeks. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

02.04.09 Obama calls for 'common sense' on executive pay

WASHINGTON, February 4 - President Obama announced on Wednesday a salary cap of $500,000 for top executives at companies that receive the largest amounts of money under the $700 billion federal bailout, calling the step an expression not only of fairness but of “basic common sense.”

"We all need to take responsibility," the president said, in discussing the compensation restrictions, which include an exception for restricted stock. He also used the occasion to prompt Congress once again to act on his separate economic stimulus program, whose cost could approach $1 trillion. Mr. Obama repeated his comments that some Wall Street executives had shown "the height of irresponsibility" when millions of nonwealthy Americans were bearing the burden of Wall Street's failures. The people are sick and tired, Mr. Obama said, of seeing Wall Street executives come to the government "hat in hand when they were in trouble, even as they paid themselves customary lavish bonuses."

"This is America, we don't disparage wealth," the president said. "We don't begrudge anybody for achieving success. And we certainly believe that success should be rewarded." But Americans definitely begrudge "executives being rewarded for failure," especially if their earning are subsidized by taxpayers, "many of whom are having a tough time themselves," he said...The $500,000 salary cap will be stricter for those companies getting “exceptional assistance” from the Treasury Department. “Exceptional assistance” companies wanting to pay executives more than $500,000 will have to do so by using stock that cannot be sold or liquidated until the government money is paid back.
[Full story>>nytimes.com]

02.04.09 Panasonic cuts 15,000 jobs; global layoffs

February 4 - A cheap night at home in front of the television may have new appeal for cost-conscious consumers these days, but that hasn't made television manufacturers and their employees immune to the recession. Panasonic Corp., the electronics giant known for flat-screen TVs as well as digital cameras, announced today that it would slash 15,000 jobs and close 27 plants worldwide. In December, rival consumer electronics maker Sony announced 16,000 job cuts. Panasonic, which saw its third-quarter sales drop by 20 percent, announced its first annual loss in six years. [More>>abcnews.go.com' See related stories:

cbsnews.com (AP) February 3, "GM sales plunge 49%; Ford down 40%" : DEARBORN, Michigan -  General Motors' US vehicle sales plunged 49 percent in January while Ford's sales dropped 40 percent, starting 2009 at an abysmal pace for the whole auto industry as lower sales to fleet buyers like rental car companies weighed down the results. Toyota's sales dove 32 percent for the month, Nissan's dropped 30 percent and Honda's fell 28 percent, putting the overall industry on track for its fourth straight month in which US sales plunged 30 percent or more. But Subaru bucked the trend of declines for a second month in a row, posting an 8 percent sales increase, and Hyundai said its sales jumped 14 percent. Hyundai credited its increase to its offer to cover a new vehicle's depreciation if customers return a car within 12 months because they are unable to make the payments...

cnn.com, February 4, "Stocks slip in choppy session" : Blue chips lead retreat as investors focus on weak earnings from Disney and Kraft, and more worries about the bank sector. NEW YORK - Stocks tumbled Wednesday as weak earnings from Walt Disney and Kraft Foods and a sell-off in the banking sector added to worries about the impact of the recession. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 121 points, or 1.5%. Weakness in Walt Disney and Kraft dragged on the blue-chip indicator after the companies reported results that missed forecasts. The Standard & Poor's 500 (SPX) index lost 6 points, or 0.8%. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 1 point or 0.1%. After the close, Cisco Systems reported lower quarterly sales and earnings that nonetheless topped estimates...

02.04.09 Russia lets US supplies through to Afghanistan

MOSCOW (Reuters) February 4 - Russia will let the United States send supplies across its territory to Afghanistan and offer flexible support, a top Moscow diplomat said on Wednesday, a day after Kyrgyzstan decided to close down a US military airbase. Moscow had in recent days responded in principle to a United States request to provide logistical support to aid Washington's forces in Afghanistan, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said in a conference call with reporters. "We positively reacted to the request of the United States for the transit through Russia of goods and materials to Afghanistan," Karasin said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See also:

en.rian.ru, February 4, "Russia to discuss with US non-military transit to Afghanistan" : MOSCOW - Moscow is hoping for constructive talks with the US on the transit of non-military cargo via Russia to Afghanistan, a top Russian diplomat said Wednesday. His comments came a day after Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said he would demand the closure of a US military base used to support antiterrorism operations in neighboring Afghanistan, citing Washington's refusal to discuss higher rental payments and its reluctance to address the 2006 killing by a US officer of a local. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told journalists on Wednesday that Moscow had "in the last several days" given the United States a positive response on the issue of the possible transit of non-military cargo across Russia to Afghanistan...

02.04.09 CSTO's rapid-reaction force will be equal of NATO's - Medvedev

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) Feruary 4 - The collective rapid-reaction force to be created by a post-Soviet regional security bloc will be just as good as comparable NATO forces, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Wednesday. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) agreed on Wednesday at a summit in Moscow to set up the new force, to be based in Russia. Medvedev said the force, to be comprised of a "sufficient" number of units, would be "well trained and well equipped." ...The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) is a security grouping comprising the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. [Full story>>en.rian.ru]

02.04.09 Fighters coming to Afghanistan from Iraq: Wardak

KABUL, February 4 - With the reduction of violence in Iraq, foreign militants were now flooding into Afghanistan to join Taliban insurgents battling Afghan and international troops, the Afghan defence minister said on Wednesday. There was a 33 percent rise in insurgent attacks in Afghanistan in 2008, according to NATO-led forces. Violence is expected to rise further in 2009 as Washington prepares to send up to 25,000 more troops into new areas of the southern Pashtun heartlands.

Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said there were about 15,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan but their numbers were being swelled by foreign insurgents moving in from Iraq, where violence has fallen after a US troop "surge" and other measures. "Since last year, as the result of the success of the surge in Iraq, there has been a flow of foreign terrorists into Afghanistan," Wardak told a news conference. "There have been engagements ... in 2008, and in some of these engagements, actually 60 percent of the total force which we have encountered were foreign fighters," he said. Wardak was speaking after he and Afghan President Hamid Karzai held talks with NATO's supreme allied commander for Europe, US General John Craddock.
[More>>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, February 4, "Target Pakistan terror: Pentagon to Obama" : WASHINGTON - A classified Pentagon report urges President Barack Obama to shift US military strategy in Afghanistan, de-emphasizing democracy-building and concentrating more on targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda sanctuaries inside Pakistan with the aid of Pakistani military forces. Defence secretary Robert Gates has seen the report prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but it has not yet been presented to the White House, officials said on Tuesday. The recommendations are one element of a broad policy reassessment under way along with recommendations to be considered by the White House from the commander of the United States Central Command, General David Petraeus, and other military leaders. A senior defence official said on Tuesday that it will likely take several weeks before the Obama administration rolls out its long-term strategy for Afghanistan.

The Joint Chiefs’ plan reflects growing worries that the US military was taking on more than it could handle in Afghanistan by pursuing the Bush administration's broad goal of nurturing a thriving democratic government. Instead, the plan calls for a more narrowly focused effort to root out militant strongholds along the Pakistani border and inside the neighboring country, according to officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the plan publicly. The recommendations are broadly cast and provide limited detail, meant to help develop the overarching strategy for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region rather than propose a detailed military action plan. [end]

02.03.09 Despite Federal aid, many banks fail to revive lending

February 3 - The federal government has invested almost $200 billion in US banks over the last three months to spark new lending to consumers and businesses. So far, it hasn't worked. Lending has declined, and banks that got government money on average have reduced lending more sharply than banks that didn't. Consider the case of Bethesda's EagleBank, which received $38.2 million from the Treasury Department in early December.

The company, which focuses on lending to local businesses, was delighted to get the money, executives said. Its nine-member board convened an impromptu conference call during the week of Thanksgiving to approve the deal. But EagleBank used roughly half the money to digest the acquisition of Fidelity & Trust Bank, a Bethesda rival with financial problems.

..EagleBank's struggles are part of a broader national pattern and illustrate the complexity of the government's attempt to prop up the economy. Rather than investing in the banks best equipped to increase lending, the government invested disproportionately in banks that needed money to solve problems. Those banks often were ill-equipped to increase lending because of financial limitations such as a lack of deposits.
[Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

02.03.09 What GOP leaders deem wasteful in Senate stimulus bill

February 3 - On Monday, House Republican leaders put out a list of what they call wasteful provisions in the Senate version of the nearly $900 billion stimulus bill that is being debated:

• $2 billion earmark to re-start FutureGen, a near-zero emissions coal power plant in Illinois that the Department of Energy defunded last year because it said the project was inefficient.

• A $246 million tax break for Hollywood movie producers to buy motion picture film.

• $650 million for the digital television converter box coupon program.

• $88 million for the Coast Guard to design a new polar icebreaker (arctic ship).

• $448 million for constructing the Department of Homeland Security headquarters.

• $248 million for furniture at the new Homeland Security headquarters.

• $600 million to buy hybrid vehicles for federal employees.

• $400 million for the Centers for Disease Control to screen and prevent STD's.

• $1.4 billion for rural waste disposal programs.

• $125 million for the Washington sewer system.


02.03.09 Another tax problem for Obama nominee

February 3 - The informal battle between members of the Obama Administration and the Taxman resulted in a casualty Tuesday, with news that President Obama's nominee to be chief performance officer, Nancy Killefer, will withdraw her nomination following the revelation that she had a $946.69 lien on her property in 2005 for failure to pay taxes...Killefer joins the ranks of Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, who failed to pay more than $40,000 in payroll taxes when he worked for the International Monetary Fund, and Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle, who as ABC News was first to report last Friday on Jan. 2 filed more than $140,000 in back taxes and interest, having failed to disclose more than $300,000 in past income, including the use of a car and driver for three years. [Full story>>abcnews.com]

02.03.09 European markets fall on global economic concerns

LONDON (AP) February 3 - European markets fell Tuesday as investors continued to worry about the sputtering global economy despite governments' efforts to boost growth with increased spending. By noon in mainland Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 was down 0.57 percent at 4,054.54, Germany's DAX dived 0.75 percent to 4,239.16, and France's CAC 40 dipped 0.73 percent to 2,908.55.Shares in BP PLC fell 4 percent in London after Europe's second-largest oil company said it swung to a steep loss of $3.3 billion during the fourth quarter of 2008 as sliding oil prices hit revenues hard...In Asia, most Asian markets rose modestly but trimmed their early gains, as optimism over billions of dollars in new stimulus measures in Japan and Australia gave way to concerns about the state of the global economy. [Full story>>thejakartapost.com; See related story,

xinhuanet.com, February 3, " China central government cashes in another $19 billion for stimulus plan" : China's central government has launched a new stimulus plan totaling 130 billion yuan (19 billion US dollars) to boost its economy, an official of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) said on Tuesday. The fund is the second batch of investment from the central budget following a 100 billion yuan allocated in the fourth quarter of 2008. Both were included in the country's 4 trillion yuan economic stimulus package announced in November...

02.03.09 EU parliament wants Russia to join Nabucco gas pipe project

BRUSSELS (RIA Novosti) February 3 - The European parliament wants Russia to join the Nabucco pipeline project, planned to pump gas from Central Asia to Europe, a European diplomatic source said on Tuesday. The $10 billion Nabucco pipeline, backed by the European Union and the US, was originally intended to link energy-rich Central Asia to Europe through Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Austria, bypassing Russia and Ukraine. Construction has been tentatively scheduled to begin in 2010...The recent gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices and a new contract on natural gas supplies affected around 20 European countries, and has prompted the European Union to intensify talks on the construction of an alternative gas supply route to Europe. [Full story>>en.rian.ru; See background stories,

Maravot News 1.07.09, article and editorial note
01.03.09 Europe shivers as gas row widens .

Maravot News 12.31.08 article and editorial note,
12.25.08 Russia to transport natural gas from Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan.

02.03.09 Attack shuts NATO Afghan-Pakistan route

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) February 3 - Suspected Islamic militants blew up a bridge in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, closing a crucial supply line for NATO troops in Afghanistan as the military reported killing 35 extremists. The 100-foot (30-metre) iron bridge in the Khyber district, built on a culvert under the British Raj, was destroyed early in the morning and all traffic on the road came to a standstill, official Tariq Hayat told AFP...NATO runs another land route, in the southwest from Quetta through Chaman and across the border at Spin Boldak, and airlifts supplies from Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi...Last month, US General David Petraeus said deals involving Central Asian states and Russia were in place to safeguard extra routes. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

nytimes.com, February 3, "Kyrgyzstan said to deny base to US" : MOSCOW - Kyrgyzstan is ending US use of a key airbase that supports military operations in Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan's president was quoted as saying Tuesday. A Kyrgyz decision to end the US use of Manas, just outside the Central Asian nation's capital of Bishkek, could have potentially far-reaching consequences for US and NATO operations in Afghanistan. Gen. David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Afghanistan and Iraq, said during a trip to Central Asia last month that Manas air base would be key to plans to boost US troop presence in Afghanistan by up to 30,000 soldiers in the coming months. Interfax and RIA-Novosti quoted Kurmanbek Bakiyev as making the statement just minutes after Russia announced it was providing the poor ex-Soviet country with billions of dollars in aid...

02.03.09 Palestinians: IDF targets Gaza smuggling tunnels, Hamas training position

February 3 - An Israel Air Force aircraft bombed smuggling tunnels connecting Gaza with Egypt on Tuesday after a rocket launched from the Islamist Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip struck the southern port city of Ashkelon, Gaza residents and Hamas officials said. One Israeli plane also fired a missile into a training position of the armed wing of Hamas in Abassan village east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Hamas and residents said...The town, on the frontier with Egypt, is a center for smuggling goods and weapons into the strip through tunnels under the border. [Full story>>haaretz.com; See related story,

metimes.com, February 3, "Cyprus silent over ship's suspected Hamas weapons cargo" : AMMAN, Jordan - Mystery continues to surround a Cyprus-flagged ship detained at the island's southern Limassol port under Israeli and US suspicion it may be carrying Iranian weapons for the Palestinian Hamas movement in Gaza, underlying the difficulties in stemming arms smuggling to Palestinian groups fighting Israel. Cyprus acknowledged it had detained a Russian-owned ship last Friday, but has refused to reveal any information to the press regarding reports that it was carrying weapons, insisting that the vessel and its cargo are still under investigation.

Israeli Haaretz daily last week reported that Israel and the United States had asked the Cypriot authorities to stop the ship, Monchegorsk, because it was carrying weapons the Israelis suspected could be destined for Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip...Haaretz said a large amount of weaponry, including artillery rounds and rockets were found, and that Israeli leaders had asked their Cypriot counterparts to confiscate all the weapons. But Cypriot officials have kept mum on what was found or to where the boat was destined; only saying that the authorities were trying to determine if the cargo contravened UN resolutions...

02.03.09 Arab talks focus on Palestinians

February 3 - Foreign ministers from nine Arab countries are meeting in Abu Dhabi for talks on the division between Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas. Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have signalled their support for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and leader of Fatah, Hamas' main rival. The meeting on Tuesday comes as Khaled Meshaal, the exiled leader of Hamas, met Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in Tehran. In recent weeks the three countries have stayed away from meetings attended by Ahmadinejad in protest against Iranian support for armed groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah. Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera's senior political analyst, said the talks in Abu Dhabi show that the Arab landscape is being "reconfigured."

"There are outside influences, whether they be American, European, Turkish or Iranian, which are adding to the pressure on the Arab world," he said on Tuesday. "There are those who support accommodation with Israel and the United States and those who support resisting Israeli occupation and American influence in the region." The Abu Dhabi talks come amid continuing differences between Hamas and Fatah, with the Palestinian parties as far away from a national unity government as ever.

02.03.09 Human embryos cloned for treatment in Shandong

BEIJING, February 3 - A research team at the Shandong Stem Cell Engineering Research Center has successfully cloned five human blastulas from 135 eggs on experiment, according to a press conference jointly held by the research center and a hospital in Yantai on Monday. Of the five cloned human blastulas, four were from skin fibrocytes of healthy donors while the other one was from lymphocytes of patients with Parkinson disease. At the press release, leader of the research team, Li Jianyuan explained the newly invented cloning technology is expected to facilitate medical treatment for patients like the sufferers of Parkinson disease.

Prestigious expert in animal cloning, Chen Dayuan complimented the progress, saying the generation of human blastulas would hopefully heal patients by replacing cells and organs under pathological change with ones their bodies have developed healthily. This way, rejection related to antisense gene transfer could be avoided. The web edition of science journal "Cloning and Stem Cells" reported the Chinese scientific achievement on January 27, 2009.

02.03.09 Iraqi woman who recruited 80 suicide bombers arrested

BAGHDAD (AFP) February 3 - Iraqi police have arrested a woman who has confessed to recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers and who orchestrated dozens of attacks. Samira Jassim, 51, admitted that she had mentally prepared the women for martyrdom operations, passed them on to terrorists who provided explosives, and then took the bombers to their targets. [More>>news.com.au]

02.03.09 Saudi Arabia publishes global 'most wanted' list

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Calls on militants to turn themselves in to authorities. Saudi Arabia published on Monday a list of 85 suspected militants wanted around the world who it said had been drawn to "deviant" ideologies a reference to al-Qaeda, and called on them to turn themselves in to authorities and "return to a normal life." The list, published by the official news agency SPA, includes 83 Saudis and two Yemenis and calls for the suspects to turn themselves in to the authorities.

Saudi television read the names and showed photographs of the wanted men, who it said had "adopted the straying ideology," a reference to al-Qaeda. The list was released by the interior ministry following news in January that at least nine men the Saudi government had put through a militant rehabilitation process, including several ex-inmates of the US prison at Guantanamo, had been rearrested.

02.03.09 Angela Merkel rebukes Pope in holocaust row

February 3 - Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, today became the first world leader to condemn Pope Benedict XVI over his rehabilitation of an ultra-conservative British bishop who denies that Jews died in the Holocaust. Ms. Merkel called on the German Pope to make a "very clear" rejection of the views of Bishop Richard Williamson, who has denied that six million Jews were gassed in Nazi concentration camps. In a highly unusual rebuke to the pontiff, she said that she did not believe there had been "sufficient" clarification.

"This should not be allowed to pass without consequences," Ms. Merkel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, said. "This is not just a matter, in my opinion, for the Christian, Catholic and Jewish communities in Germany. The Pope and the Vatican should clarify unambiguously that there can be no denial and that there must be positive relations with the Jewish community overall."

Last week Pope Benedict expressed his "full and indisputable solidarity" with Jews and condemned denials of the Holocaust. Bishop Williamson had told Swedish TV he believed that up 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps "but none of them by gas chambers." Cardinal Walter Kasper, head of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, which covers relations with Judaism, conceded yesterday that the episode had been mishandled. His remarks follow expressions of dismay by German bishops over a "loss of faith in the Pope" as a result of the annulment of the excommunications of Bishop Williamson and three other ultra-traditionalist bishops. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

02.03.09 A coup for Maliki and a secular Iraq

February 3 - Voters have rebuffed religious parties – and cemented the power of the country's Prime Minister, reports Patrick Cockburn. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who seemed weak and isolated a year ago, appears to have won a sweeping victory in the Iraqi provincial elections that will strengthen his hold on central government. For the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein, according to preliminary results, Iraqi voters chose secular and nationalist parties over their religious rivals.

Mr. Maliki's Dawa party is predicted to emerge at the top of the poll in Baghdad and Basra, Iraq's two largest cities, as well as in most of the overwhelmingly Shia south of Iraq. The largest Shia party, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), hitherto one of the main powerbrokers in the country, suffered heavy losses in all the provinces where it has been in charge for the past four years. "According to initial information, Maliki's list has come first in Basra with 50 per cent of the vote. Ours took 20 per cent," said Furat al-Sheraa, the head of ISCI in Basra.

02.01.09 Abbas sets conditions for dialogue with Hamas

CAIRO (Reuters) February 1 - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday ruled out dialogue with Hamas unless it recognizes the supremacy of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), deepening the split between the two main Palestinian groups. He was responding to a proposal by the Islamist movement Hamas for the Palestinians to replace the PLO, which is dominated by Abbas and the factions loyal to him. "Now we say ... no dialogue with those who reject the Palestine Liberation Organization," Abbas said in a speech at a Palestinian hospital in the Egyptian capital Cairo. "They must admit without equivocation or ambiguity that the organization is the sole and only representative of the Palestinian people. Then there will be dialogue," he added.

The PLO has represented the Palestinians since 1964 but the more recently created Islamist movements, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have never been part of it despite a 2005 agreement to bring them under its umbrella. The Islamists reject most of the agreements the PLO has made with Israel, including the 1993 Oslo accord in which the PLO formally recognized the Jewish state. [More>>thestar.com.my]

02.01.09 Two IDF soldiers, civilian lightly hurt as Gaza mortars hit Negev

February 1 - Two Israel Defense Forces and an Israeli civilian were lightly wounded on Sunday when four mortar shells fired from the Gaza Strip exploded near them in the Sha'ar Hanegev region of the western Negev. Palestinian militants in Gaza fired at least five Qassam rockets and eight mortar shells at southern Israel over the course of the day. Three rockets struck the Eshkol region, two of them landing in open fields and the third between two kindergartens. A fourth rocket struck an open field in the Sdot Negev Regional Council area and a fifth exploded in Nir Am, near the Gaza border. No casualties or damage were reported in any of the strikes.

Four mortar shells struck the Eshkol region of the western Negev earlier on Sunday, as well. No injuries or damages were caused. On Sunday morning, Israel Defense Forces soldiers exchanged fire with militants near the Kissufim crossing on the border with the Gaza Strip. No casualties were reported in the incident. The cross-border attacks came as Al-Arabiya TV Sunday quoted Hamas sources as saying that the Islamist militant group has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a year-long truce with Israel in Gaza starting on Thursday.
[More>>haaretz.com; See related stories:

aljazeera.net, February 1, "Olmert warns of 'severe' Gaza raids" :
Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, has vowed his country will deliver a "severe and disproportionate response" after Palestinian fighters fired rockets into southern Israel. "We've said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a severe and disproportionate Israeli response to the fire on the citizens of Israel and its security forces," he said on Sunday at the weekly cabinet meeting. At least three rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip on Sunday, but caused no damage or injuries, police said. The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades group told Al Jazeera that it carried out the attacks...

jpost.com, February 1, " 'Hamas upholding truce; others aren't' " :
"Hamas have internalized the extent of the physical and moral blow inflicted upon it. Unlike arrogant statements sounded in the media, the organization is conducting serious soul-searching on its strategic mistakes and operational failures," Military Intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Amos Yadlin said Sunday in the weekly cabinet meeting. "Two weeks after the cease-fire began, terrorists not belonging to Hamas are challenging the organization and carrying out attacks in order to bring on another escalation. Hamas is deterred and respecting the cease-fire, but not doing enough to discourage the others," he continued...

cnn.com, February 1, "Hamas leader praises Iran's help in Gaza 'victory' " : TEHRAN - Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal on Sunday praised Iran for helping Hamas achieve "victory" over Israel in Gaza, according to Iranian media reports. "The victory of the people of Gaza was a miracle of God and the Islamic Republic definitely has a share in this victory," Meshaal said after meeting with Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to Iran's semi-official Fars News Agency. Meshaal arrived in Tehran for his first visit to the country since Israel's recent military offensive on Gaza, Iranian media reported. He also met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki.

who lives in exile in Syria is the head of Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory of Gaza. Hamas has claimed victory over Israeli forces, saying the Jewish state failed to destroy its ability to fire rockets at southern Israel. But Israel has said it achieved its goal in Gaza, which was to change the security situation for southern Israel. According to Fars News Agency, Khamenei congratulated Meshaal, saying, "The people of Gaza and the Islamic Resistance made us all proud and with their patience and perseverance successfully passed this very difficult test."

02.01.09 Israel slams attack on Venezuelan synagogue

CARACAS, Venezuela, February 1 - Caracas rejects accusations of government-backed vandals. Israel on Sunday lashed out at the vandalism at the main synagogue in Venezuela after a group of people sprayed the place with "Damn Israel" and "Assassins," referring to Tel Aviv's deadly assault of the impoverished Gaza Strip. "We deplore this anti-Semitic attack. It is up to Venezuelan authorities to assure law and order," foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said, adding: "The Venezuelan people are neither racist nor anti-Semitic." About 15 people broke into Venezuela's main synagogue overnight on Friday, tying up and gagging the guards before destroying scripture books and spraying graffiti, said Elias Farache, the president of Venezuela's Jewish Association. "They stayed in the synagogue for about five hours, tied and gagged the guards, destroyed the offices and desecrated the place where we keep rolls of the Torah," Judaism's holy book, explained Elias Farache, president of Venezuela's Jewish Association. "Damn Israel," "We don't want Jews here," "Jews get out" and "Assassins" were among the anti-Semitic slogans on the vandalized synagogue, an AFP journalist reported.

"Never in the history of Venezuela's Jewish community have we been the target of such an aggression. The climate is very tense. We feel threatened, intimidated, attacked," Farache said. He said the tensions were fueled by the expulsion of Israel's ambassador in Caracas and by the government of Hugo Chavez breaking its diplomatic ties with Israel in mid-January in protest over the military assault of Gaza that left 1,300 Palestinians dead. The Jewish community has filed an official complaint and Farache has requested the government provide protection for the community.

Venezuelan Minister of Information Jesse Chacon said the government "rejects any violent acts against any group in Venezuela" and denied rumors that the vandals had links with the government. "The state of Israel and the policies of the state of Israel toward the Palestinians are one thing that we emphatically reject, and the government's relationship with the Jewish population living in Venezuela with which we have an excellent relationship is another," he said. [More/Blogs>>alarabiya.net
See related stories:

pravda.ru, February 16, 2006, "Venezuela welcomes Hamas and counts Iran as "Great Ally"

iol.co.za, March 15, 2006, "Chavez denies inviting Hamas to Venezuela" :

counterterrorismblog.org, June 18, 2008, "Treasury moves on Hezbollah in Venezuela" :

02.01.09 Obama says US can work with Muslims: OIC

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) February 1 - President Barack Obama told the Organization of Islamic Conference that he has full confidence that the United States can work together with the world's largest grouping of Muslims, the OIC said on Sunday. In a letter to OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihasanoglu, Obama said he would work to improve relations with the group, the Jeddah-based organization said in a statement. It did not release the text of the letter. Obama also thanked the OIC, which represents 1.5 billion Muslims in 57 countries, for its congratulations on the occasion of his inauguration on January 20, the organization said.

In an open letter published in major US newspapers on January 21, the OIC urged Obama to work for a "shared" peace in the world rather than one that is "imposed." "We warmly welcome your expressed desire to give a major address in a Muslim nation soon after you assume the presidency and hope it will mark the beginning of a more fruitful and better-informed dialogue between the West and the Muslim world," the OIC said at the time. "We firmly believe that America, with your guidance, can help foster that peace, though real peace can only be shared -- never imposed. A nation can either be great or feared, but rarely both at the same time."
[>khaleejtimes.com; See also

OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihasanogul letter to President Obama :
...Throughout the globe, Muslims hunger for a new era of peace, concordance, and tranquillity. We firmly believe that America, with your guidance, can help foster that peace, though real peace can only be shared never imposed. A nation can either be great or feared, but rarely both at the same time.


Many myths about Islam, fostered by extremists in both the West and East, have proliferated in the last decade, and a new word
"Islamophobia" has even entered the world's lexicon to describe anti-Muslim acts of prejudice and violence. Despite these pernicious myths, you will find that Islam is a religion of peace. Tolerance is its benchmark and borne of the very nature of Islam. Nor is Islam an exclusive religion. It is an integral part of the history of world religions. It continues and confirms the previous scriptures. Along with Christianity and Judaism, Islam emanates from the same part of the world, comes from the same God, and holds to the same Prophets, mainly Abraham. It has been tested over fourteen hundred years, and shown itself to be a religion of compassion, mercy, justice, and equality.

One of the OIC's guiding principles is to practice “moderation and modernization.” To cite one example, it was at our demand that the UN General Assembly organized a host of events and activities around the world to disseminate the idea of "Dialogue among civilizations" as an alternative to those who predict a coming “clash of civilizations.” We have been alarmed by this tendency to divide the world into rival civilizations civilized and uncivilized, good and evil, friend and enemy. As a youth who spent part of his childhood abroad, you are well aware of the dangers of stereotyping. We believe you will have a unique opportunity to promote tolerance and nurture vibrant multi-cultural societies. It is for these reasons that the OIC has been in the forefront of the Muslim battle against terrorism...

02.01.09 FBI wants to quiz Fahim Ansari for 26/11 terror strikes

NEW DELHI, February 1 - Officials of Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) have made a request to interrogate two militants arrested earlier by the Uttar Pradesh Police and questioned by Mumbai Police in connection with the 26/11 Terror strikes. The FBI made the request through proper channels for questioning Fahim Arshad Ansari and Sabbauddin, militants of banned Lashker-e-Taiba, who were brought to Mumbai in December 2008 as a follow up to the probe into the 26/11 attack, official sources said. 35-year-old Ansari had told his interrogators that he was asked by Pakistan's ISI to identify all the terror-hit places on "Googlemap.com" and is believed to share the extreme mindset of Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda chief.

..The FBI now wants to know whether the Mumbai terror strikes was a deep-rooted conspiracy for which planning had been done from earlier 2008. Ansari and another Lashkar militant, Sabbauddin, were arrested by central security agencies in February and April 2008 respectively...

Fahim was arrested on February 12 2008 in connection with the New Year eve attack on a CRPF camp in Rampur in Uttar Pradesh. Five militants of Lashker-e-Taiba were arrested along with him. Originally a resident of Goregaon in Mumbai, Fahim had reportedly made arrangement for all the Lashker militants to stay in the metropolis. Fahim told the interrogators that at Baitul Mujahideen camp, located near Shivai Nallah in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, he was shown Mumbai in the Google earth map and was asked to point out important places in Mumbai. [Full story>>indianexpress.com; See related story:

abcnews.go.com, February 1, "Pakistan to prosecute Mumbai suspects" : ISLAMABAD - For the first time in its history, Pakistan plans on prosecuting militants once supported by the country's powerful spy agency a group of as many as 125 people who a Pakistani investigation has concluded might be connected to the November attacks on Mumbai. The group, which includes anyone who made any suspicious contacts inside India as the attacks began, will be charged under the country's cyber crimes laws because suspects used Internet phones to communicate, a senior intelligence official tells ABC News. But few if any of the major militant leaders India is asking Pakistan to prosecute are included on this list, the official said. That reflects the delicate balance Pakistan is trying to achieve: appeasing international pressure to crack down on militants who have operated from its soil, and at the same time not completely dismantling groups that the intelligence agencies still see as assets...

02.01.09 Afghan street protests after US raid kills 2

KABUL (AP) February 1 - Hundreds of Afghans demonstrated Sunday against an overnight US military raid that one villager said killed several civilians. The American military said its forces only killed two militants. The angry protesters gathered on the main highway linking Kabul and Kandahar near the site of the raid, the latest to stir up Afghan ire against foreign forces accused of killing civilians. The US military said Sunday's operation in southeastern Ghazni province targeted a militant who coordinates attacks using roadside bombs and other weapons. It said coalition forces conducting the raid called out for all inhabitants to exit the targeted home, but several people barricaded themselves inside one building. Coalition troops forced their way in and killed two militants, the US military said in a statement. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

02.01.09 An Afghan secret revealed brings end of an era

KHOJA GHAR, Afghanistan, February 1 - (This article reviews the history of Afghanistan since the overthrow of its king by the Communists and subsequent war with the Soviet Union) Ordered to bury 16 bodies in the dead of night in 1978, a wary young army officer did his best to remember the location, quietly counting the paces from the unmarked mass grave to the roadside. He gathered from his fellow soldiers that they had just buried Afghanistan's first president, Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan, and his family. His assassination, during a Communist coup in those tumultuous days, precipitated three decades of war in Afghanistan, a succession of conflicts that are still not spent and that have since touched every Afghan family.

It took 30 years and the relative stability and freedom under President Hamid Karzai for the former officer, Pacha Mir, to reveal his secret. With his help and that of another witness, the government has at long last identified the remains of the former president and his family and announced preparations to reinter the bodies with a state funeral in coming weeks. Mr. Daoud was the founder of the Republic of Afghanistan and a towering figure in the development of the modern state. He overthrew his own cousin, the last king of Afghanistan, Mohammad Zahir Shah, in a coup in 1973, but it was his own assassination five years later that plunged the country into bloodshed and turmoil.

02.01.09 Security forces regain control of Charbaugh in Swat

MENGORA, Pakistan, February 1 - Sixteen militants have been killed in the ongoing operation in Swat during the last 23 hours. According to Swat Media Centre, security forces have regained control of Charbagh area. One security man was martyred and two others injured in an exchange of fire with militants in Ali Garam area. Five militants have been arrested. Militants' attack killed a police constable in Rahimabad area. The elders of the area have been asked to extend their cooperation to security forces for restoring peace in Swat. [>thenews.com.pk]

02.01.09 Honda UK plant shuts down Friday for 4 months

LONDON, January 31 - Some 4,200 auto workers at Honda's British plant worked their last shift on Friday before a four-month layoff as the Japanese carmaker seeks to cut costs. The company is stopping production at its plant in Swindon, in the south of England, because of falling sales due to a global recession and plans to resume work on June 1. Honda, which had announced the move on Nov. 21, says the workers will continue to receive their full basic pay for two months, and 60% of that amount for the remainder of the break..Auto production in Britain fell 47.5% in December compared to the same month in 2007, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. [Full story>>japantoday.com; See related japantoday.com, January 31, stories:

  • NEC's loss widens; plans to cut 20,000 workers

  • Hitachi forecasts Y700 bil loss; to cut 7,000 jobs

  • 02.01.09 Parched: Australia faces collapse as climate change kicks in
  • February 1 - Geoffrey Lean and Kathy Marks report on the worst heatwave in the country's history. Leaves are falling off trees in the height of summer, railway tracks are buckling, and people are retiring to their beds with deep-frozen hot-water bottles, as much of Australia swelters in its worst-ever heatwave. On Friday, Melbourne thermometers topped 43C (109.4F) on a third successive day for the first time on record, while even normally mild Tasmania suffered its second-hottest day in a row, as temperatures reached 42.2C. Two days before, Adelaide hit a staggering 45.6C. After a weekend respite, more records are expected to be broken this week. Ministers are blaming the heat which follows a record drought on global warming. Experts worry that Australia, which emits more carbon dioxide per head than any nation on earth, may also be the first to implode under the impact of climate change. [More>>independent.co.uk;

    Editorial note: San Francisco, California is on the 38th parallel, north and has been in a drought, suffering record temperatures; the Melbourne region is at the 38th-40th parallel south.

  • 01.31.09 Slowdown in lending threatens new squeeze on companies

    LONDON, January 31 - Viable firms could be forced out of business if credit drought intensifies. Lending to companies slowed sharply in December, highlighting the threat of a worsening credit squeeze on businesses that would increase the impact of the recession. Bank of England figures yesterday showed lending growth to private non-financial companies at 3.7 per cent, down sharply from 4.9 per cent a month earlier and 8.5 per cent in September. The figures do not show whether the drop was due to reduced demand or availability of credit, though both are likely to play their part as banks remain wary of lending while businesses cut investment as the economy shrinks. [More>>independent.co.uk; See related story:

    nytimes.com, January 31, "As economy sinks, Russians protest" : MOSCOW - Protesters held demonstrations throughout Russia on Saturday, offering largely subdued, but pointed criticism of the government's economic policies as the country continues to sink deeper into an economic morass. Antigovernment protests are rare in Russia, and the latest come amid growing public anger with a government not used to widespread criticism after years of economic growth. Officials had initially hesitated to publicly acknowledge Russia's economic troubles brought on by a steep drop in oil prices and the worldwide financial downturn...

    01.31.09 Jordan's king meets with US ME envoy

  • January 31 - Jordan's king called for the immediate resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks following a meeting with President Barack Obama's new Mideast peace envoy on Saturday. Washington dispatched envoy George Mitchell to the Mideast a week after Obama took office, signaling the new US administration's eagerness to get directly involved in peacemaking. Mitchell has already met with Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian leaders on his trip and will hold talks with Saudi officials in Riyadh on Sunday in a bid to consolidate the cease-fire in Gaza. On Saturday, a rocket fired by Palestinian gunmen from Gaza exploded in a southern Israeli town. Though it caused no damage or injuries, it underlined the fragility of the truce.

    After meeting Mitchell, Jordan's King Abdullah II said he "insisted very serious negotiations should start on basis of a two-state solution as soon as possible," according to a statement issued by the royal palace. "It's important not to lose time, and to move immediately to resume talks," Abdullah said. He said the negotiations should be based on international agreements and incorporate the Arab peace initiative as the means to "ensure security for all in the region."

    The plan, proposed by Saudi Arabia, offers Israel collective Arab recognition in exchange for withdrawal from territory it occupied in the 1967 Six-Day War, the establishment of a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital and a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem. Israel has said the initiative could be a starting point for discussion. Mitchell has said the US is committed to "actively and aggressively" seeking a lasting peace in the Middle East, but has warned there would be challenges and setbacks ahead in efforts to forge peace between Israel and the Palestinians. He did not talk to reporters during his stop in Jordan.
    [More>>jpost.com; See related story,

    khaleejtimes.com, January 31, "Abbas rejects Hamas leader's call for new PLO" : RAMALLAH, West Bank - PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas is leading a chorus of opposition to calls by rival Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal for a new leadership to replace the Palestine Liberation Organisation. The Damascus-based Meshaal this week said that the PLO which has long been internationally recognised as the sole representative of the Palestinians had become obsolete.Meshaal’s remarks put the spotlight again on the protracted Hamas-Fatah feud which has prevailed since the Islamists seized the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after ferocious street battles with Abbas loyalists. The PLO, which was founded in 1964, includes Abbas’s secular Fatah party and several other Palestinian factions but not the Islamist Hamas group...

    Related link: nad.plo.org, "Plo Negotiations Affairs Department" (with articles and links, including "Palestinian Declaration of Independence," (1988) and Historic Compromise Map (Nov. 2008)

    01.31.09 Egypt installing cameras, sensors at Gaza border

    ISMALIA, Egypt (Reuters) January 31 - Egypt has begun installing cameras and motion sensors along its border with the Gaza Strip to try to combat smuggling to the Hamas-run territory, security sources said on Saturday. The sources said Egyptian authorities had begun installing the equipment two days ago with joint US, French and German expertise, and added that they hoped the sensors and cameras would help detect any tunnel construction in the border area. "Cables that are part of a tunnel detection device are being installed along the Gaza-Egypt border," a security source said, adding the cables were being installed from south of Rafah to the Mediterranean coast. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

    01.31.09 9 militants among 17 killed in Swat

    SWAT, Pakistan, January 31 - Militants destroyed one more school in Swat using explosives while the security forces killed 9 militants in [the] operation and clashes. The militants using explosives blew up a boys secondary school in Nain Golai area of Tehsil Kabal, raising the total number of schools destroyed in Swat to 189. Four militants and a civilian were killed in exchange of fire between security forces and militants in Dehrai area of Kabal Tehsil. A man was killed and a woman injured when a mortar shell landed on a house in Dherai area. Militants attacked [a] security forces convoy in Ali Grama area of Kabal. The forces retaliated with fire killing four militants while one security man was also killed and another injured. Two persons including a woman were killed and four others wounded when a shell hit a house in Ali Grama area. [>thenews.com.pk; See also

    thenews.com.pk, January 31, "Five militants arrested from Charsadda, Pakistan" : CHARSADDA, Pakistan - Police arrested 5 militants and recovered materials and items used in carrying out terrorist activities. Police party under the supervision of DPO Charsadda Waqif Khan conducted a raid at a house in Utmanzai area. Five militants were arrested from the house. A wireless telephone set, 24 Jihadi CDs, a binocular, 5 automatic timers and documents of vehicle were also recovered. [end]

    thenews.com.pk, January 31, "20 militants held in Peshawar" PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Peshawar police have arrested 20 militants from Mithra area here on Saturday. SSP operations Abdul Ghafoor Afridi told journalists that these militants were arrested when police raided various hideouts of militants in Mithra. Militant commander Zafar was held along with 20 other militants. Afridi said special security arrangements were taken in the city considering the grimmer in Swat. He said that a crackdown would soon be launched against miscreants. [end]

    thenews.com.pk, January 31, "One killed, six injured in Khuzdar grenade attack" : KHUZDAR, Pakistan - One person was killed and six others injured when unknown assailants hurled a hand grenade on a police mobile van here at Chandni Chowk on Saturday.[end]

    01.31.09 Taliban warns US over Afghan plan

    January 31 - The Taliban has warned Barack Obama, the new US president, that his plans to send more troops to Afghanistan will lead to more bloodshed. In remarks broadcast on Al Jazeera on Saturday, Mullah Mohamad Rasul, a Taliban leader, said that fighters of the group were ready to take on the US troops. "Just as they are bringing more troops, so too the Taliban will have more troops," Rasul, a former governor of Nimruz province, told Al Jazeera.

    "During the Bush administration the suicide bombers were registering individually, but now they are coming in groups. The whole nation is ready for the fight," he said, referring to the administration of George Bush, Obama's predecessor. "Every year our military power gets stronger and stronger and our forces are getting bigger and bigger and we are heading towards success," Rasul said.

    ...Oxfam, the international aid agency, has urged Obama to look beyond purely military solutions for Afghanistan, calling on the president to develop a new plan for US operations in the country. "With spreading insecurity and civilians facing critical needs, there must be a comprehensive new strategy which will avert a major crisis," Raymond Offenheiser, Oxfam America's president, said. The relief group said it had sent a memo to Obama, who took office on January 20, raising its concerns that "events have reached a critical juncture in Afghanistan." Oxfam said "conditions could deteriorate further unless the United States takes a lead in addressing failures in governance, aid and reconstruction, and protecting civilians." [More>>aljazeera.net ; See related story,

    Maravot News 1.20.09 article
    01.18.09 Al-Qaeda threatens German soldiers in web video: Al-Qaeda issued an Internet threat against German soldiers at the weekend, citing their involvement in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan...Whoever tried to make a distinction between al-Qaeda and the Taliban had not understood his enemy, he added.

    01.31.09 Iraq voting ends with 'no security breaches'

    BAGHDAD, January 31 - Millions of Iraqis took to the polls. Millions of Iraqis took to the polls on Saturday in a crucial test for a nation struggling to emerge from years of sectarian strife as voting for provincial councils ended without a single major attack reported anywhere in the country. "No security breaches took place during the election. Things went as we planned and as we hoped," Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askary said. Only a few incidents of violence marred what was otherwise a peaceful vote which wrapped up an hour later than planned. Mortar rounds landed in former dictator Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit but no one was hurt, and Iraqi troops shot one person dead and wounded another after a quarrel in Baghdad's Sadr City area. [More>>alarabiya.net]

    01.31.09 Sudan expels US aid group over bibles

    KHARTOUM, January 31 - An American aid group has been thrown out of Sudan's Darfur region after officials found thousands of Arabic-language bibles in its office, state media reported on Saturday. Sudanese authorities told the official Suna news agency they found 3,400 copies of Christianity's sacred book in the office run by water charity Thirst No More in North Darfur, a region that is almost entirely Muslim. Officials told Suna they had decided to expel the Texas-based group "for its violation to the Voluntary Work Act, the Country Agreement and the regulations on registration of organizations in Sudan."

    ...Suna said Thirst No More was supposed to be in the war-torn region supplying drinking water. It had "failed to provide justification" for its ownership of so many bibles, North Darfur's HAC commissioner Osman Hussein Abdalla told the agency...The vast majority of aid groups in Darfur, including ones with religious foundations, voluntarily sign up to a Red Cross code of conduct that says aid should not be used "to further a particular political or religious standpoint."
    [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

    01.31.09 Attenborough: Genesis? It can go forth and multiply

    January 31 - The Bible is to blame for devastation of the planet, says Sir David Attenborough. He has romped with gorillas, turned his back on grizzly bears and found himself knee-deep in suffocating bat dung. After decades of getting to know the furthest-flung corners of the world and its inhabitants Sir David Attenborough has vented his ire on the Bible for promoting the belief that man has complete dominion over the Earth. Sir David, probably the best-loved broadcaster and certainly the most distinguished television naturalist, has blamed the Book of Genesis for many environmental problems, from the burning down of tropical rainforests to the extinction of species.

    On the eve of a BBC1 documentary on the life of Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution, Sir David has criticized the centuries-old idea running through the Judaeo-Christian tradition which assumes God gave the Earth to man to exploit and use in whatever way he saw fit in order to populate the world. Sir David, 82, said the devastation of the environment has its roots in the first words that God supposedly uttered to humankind, as detailed in Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."

    Editorial note: People tend to see and hear what they want to see and hear, sometimes limiting their perception of reality. Holy books can can guide or misguide (used for good or evil) depending upon one's faculties. There are two versions to the creation in Genesis. Chapter 1 contains creation verses to create abundance, with "go forth and multiply" beginning with the whales and fishes of the sea, then the fowls, cattle and every creeping thing and beast and then man "in our own image" to be fruitful and multiply, etc. The verses recall ancient fertility images painted in Cro-Magnon caves in France and Spain of pregnant animals. Then, in chapter 2, we see:

    Genesis 2.5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
    2.6 But there was a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
    2.7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
    2.8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.
    2.15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

    Perhaps the earth and its life forms might not have been abused so much if Attenborough and others had read on to Genesis 2.15 and recognized man's commission and responsibility to dress and keep the earth. It appears that the creator might complain that man has violated his commission and reason for being.

    Mel Copeland

    01.31.09 Islamist leader elected as Somalia's president

    DJIBOUTI, January 31 - Young imam vows to bring peace, cooperate with neighbors. Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed on Saturday was elected Somalia's president, leaving him in charge of a fragile peace process aimed at ending 18 years of civil conflict. The young Imam promptly vowed to form a broad government and invited all armed groups in the war-ravaged Horn of Africa nation to join the UN-sponsored reconciliation effort. Sheikh Sharif, who chairs the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), comfortably won the vote held in neighboring Djibouti, only days after the Ethiopian troops who sent him into exile two years ago completed their pullout from Somalia. [More>>alarabiya.net]

    01.31.09 Rainforest razed so cattle can graze

    January 31 - Brazil's attempt to double its share of the global market for beef will carry a heavy environmental cost, report warns. Scenes like this, with vast tracts of Amazonian rainforest razed to make way for cattle, are to become more common in Brazil as it continues its drive to expand its beef export industry, according to environmentalists. Green activists say that country's determination to double its share of the world beef market is likely to undermine its new targets for halting Amazon rainforest destruction and reducing carbon emissions.

    The South American country has the world's largest cattle herd and is already the biggest beef exporter on the planet. Now the Brazilian government is seeking to boost its share of the world beef market from 30 per cent to 60 per cent in the next decade. Most of this growth will come in Amazonia, on pastureland created by cutting down rainforest, according to a report released today by Greenpeace. The cattle industry will be the main driver of deforestation, it argues.
    [More>>independent.co.uk; See also nytimes.com, January 31, "Somalis cheer moderate president."]

    01.31.09 Human infection of bird flu reported in central China

    BEIJING, January 31 - A 21-year-old female farmer was confirmed infected with bird flu in central China's Hunan Province, said the provincial health bureau on Saturday. The farmer, surnamed Shu, fell ill on Jan. 23 in Xupu County of the province and was hospitalized at the county's People's Hospital on Jan. 26, said a statement from the bureau. [More>>xinhuanet.com]


    09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
    "Using force the George W. Bush way – Bush's crusade"
    11.25.04 Why the Crusade & Jihad?


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