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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.
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.
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.
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."
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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,
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,
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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]
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,
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."
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.
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:
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.
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.
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]
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