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2.08.11 Mobs destroy 3 churches in Central Java

JAKARTA, Indonesia, February 8 - Mobs destroyed three churches in Temanggung, Central Java, on Tuesday in violence that broke out following a blasphemy hearing against defendant Antonius Richmond Bawengan. The angry crowd set the Bethel Church and Pantekosta Church on fire, and threw stones at Santo the Petrus and Paulus Church, kompas.com reported Tuesday. Stores in the city were closed and traffic was reportedly chaotic because of the violence. During the hearing, prosecutors had demanded the court sentence Antonius to five years in prison for his alleged blasphemy against Islam via books and articles in October 2010.

Blog comments:

Lauren - Palembang, Indonesia INDONESIA LISTEN UP. Your country has degenerated into sectarian mob violence. All you "moderate" Muslims need to get off your prayer mats and start defending the civil values you supposedly stand for. Let me tell you that Islam cannot hide its ugly face for much longer. There isn't a burqa big enough to cover the global atrocities committed in the name of Islam and Indonesia's tolerant monniker is nothing but a shameful farce. Indonesians are demonstrating to the world, the hideous group mentality of Muslim people, who fly into irrational rage at the printing of a leaflet or the fact that some "deviant" Muslims believe there was another prophet after Muhammad. Islam is a religion of peace? Read the friggin book moderates. 61% is devoted to kafirs and how much they are despised. Lets review some of the Quranic verses that are inscribed with hate and violence and that legitimate the lunacy of Islamic mobs.

Quran (2:191-193) - "And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]...and fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah."
Quran (2:244) - "Then fight in the cause of Allah, and know that Allah Heareth and knoweth all things."
Quran (2:216) - "Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."
Quran (3:151) - "Soon shall We cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers, for that they joined companions with Allah, for which He had sent no authority".
Quran (4:74) - "Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward."
Quran (4:76) - "Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah…"
Quran (4:89) - "They but wish that ye should reject Faith, as they do, and thus be on the same footing (as they): But take not friends from their ranks until they flee in the way of Allah (From what is forbidden). But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks."
Quran (4:95) - "Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons. Allah hath granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight with their goods and persons than to those who sit (at home). Unto all (in Faith) Hath Allah promised good: But those who strive and fight Hath He distinguished above those who sit (at home) by a special reward,-"
Quran (4:104) - "And be not weak hearted in pursuit of the enemy; if you suffer pain, then surely they (too) suffer pain as you suffer pain..."
Quran (5:33) - "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement."
Quran (8:12) - "I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them."

The religion of peace? What sort of bullshit is that?

Abdul - Manitoba, Canada - We wonder why we are most reviled? Because the extremists amongst us reinterpret the judgement of Allah to be bestowed into our human hands. In our hands it becomes murder for we lack the purity to judge, even as followers of Allah. Extremists have lost sight of this. Someone speaks out against the Qu'ran, the extremists want death. Death is for Allah to decide, not hatred-filled extremists in the streets burning churches. I tell you now, there is an end unlike the one you believe waiting to reward you. What is there that suggests love and kindness and forgiveness in our faith? Nothing. Everything is hate. Sharia Law practically means: stoning of women for "honor" offences including for the "crime" of having been raped; beheadings for apostasy or blasphemy hand/foot amputations for "lesser" offences; public hanging of homosexuals and outspoken women; incessant war against infidels and especially Jews; black slavery; female sexual slavery; FGM [female genital mutiliation]; no democracy; no human rights; everyone down on their knees; Mullahs as Gods; non-Muslims as dhimmis; no music except for drums (ask "Cat Stevens"); no dancing; public floggings for "sexual crimes" such as flirting or speaking with an unrelated person of the opposite sex; all women under the veil; prison rape-brothels run by the Mullahs; and so forth. It is perhaps the most cruel and violent system of human life and social organization which has so far been invented, and it came to the world from those populations once only living in the desert "dead heart of Arabia", but now lording over gigantic sums of oil-wealth, and spreading their vile doctrines all around the world. The extremists condemn themselves by their thoughts and actions. They make their world one of extreme hate and subject themselves to endless and hostile violence against humanity and property. What in the article above, is the problem that yet again, incites their hatred? Was 5 months too little a punishment for blashpemy? Death - death I believe is the sentence that would have brought them dancing in the streets and praising Allah.

The extremist Muslims condemn themselves along with respectful and good Muslims to an unfair hatred felt by the world and their fear of us all is most unfair as well. Sadly, there is no way, save the matter being settled by Allah, to prove the extremists are wrong in their pursuit of annhilation of infidels.

[More blog comments>>thejakartapost.com]

Editorial note: "Contradictions in the Koran." Many verses in the Koran claim that it confirms the Jewish scriptures and Gospel. Also, "The IMRANS" 3:45, acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah (Gr. Christ). The Gospel of Jesus cannot be reconciled to the violence against man advocated in the Koran, as he taught loving one another, turning the other cheek, forgiveness of enemies, etc. We discuss this contradiction and other Koranic teachings advocating violence in contradiction to Biblical precepts and objectives at Maravot News "The Allah Controversy," topic: Koran's Confirmation of the Bible;

See also Maravot News 1.22.11 article
1.20.11 Steal from enemy to fund terror: al-Qaeda "...Dar al Harb (Arabic: دار الحرب "house of war") refers to areas outside Muslim rule, as opposed to Dar al Islam. The precise designations of such territories can vary widely according to the speakers idea of who is and is not a Muslim, and which governments are or are not Muslim in practice. The inhabitants of the Dar al-Harb are called harbi (Arabic: حربي), as opposed to dhimmi (second class citizens of the book - Christians and Jews) or kufr (non-believers, pagans). According to ancient law, a harbi does not even have the right to live..."

Watch also a related speech/video of an Egyptian Islamist leader on jihad, below.

Mel Copeland

2.08.11 Video emerges of Indonesia religious mob killings

JAKARTA, Indonesia, February 8 - Around 1,500 people attack 20 members of "heretic" sect. Disturbing video emerged Monday of a bloody religious mob attack in Indonesia that killed three members of a minority Muslim sect, showing extremists beating and stoning their victims to death. The incident has been condemned by the government and rights activists. Local police chief Let. Col. Alex Fauzy Rasyad says about 1,500 people — many with machetes, sticks and rocks — attacked about 20 members of the Ahmadiyah Muslim sect who were visiting their leader in his house in Banten province on Indonesia's main island of Java.

Footage of the attack — which came at the start of "interfaith harmony week" in the mainly Muslim country — shows police doing nothing as scores of Islamic fanatics go berserk with stones, knives and sticks. Shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) and "kafir" (infidel), the mob brush aside a lone police officer and launch a sustained attack on the house, as a small group of Ahmadis try briefly to defend the property. Defenseless and half-naked Ahmadi men are then shown being beaten and stoned to death in the mud outside the house. Their bodies are pelted with stones and desecrated as members of the mob laugh and take pictures. The attackers killed at least three men. Rasyad said Sunday that six others were rushed to a nearby hospital, four with critical injuries. Throughout the attack police are either absent or standing amid the mob doing nothing to intervene.

2.08.11 Protests swell at Tahrir Square

February 8 - Tens of thousands pour into central Cairo seeking president Mubarak's ouster, despite a slew of government concessions. Thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators have poured into Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square as protests against Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, entered their 15th day despite a slew of concessions announced by the government. Tens of thousands of protesters have also come out on the streets in Alexandria, Egypt's second largest city. There were also reports of a protest outside the parliament building in the capital. A witness said at least a thousand people had gathered at the spot and more were coming in. According to Hoda Abdel-Hamid, Al Jazeera's correspondent in the Egyptian capital, the crowd at Tahrir Square grew rapidly on Tuesday afternoon, with many first-timers joining protesters seeking Mubarak's immediate ouster. The newcomers said they had been inspired in part by the release of Wael Ghonim, the Google executive, after what he said was two weeks of detention by state security authorities. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also, bbc.co.uk, February 8, "Egypt protests: Hosni Mubarak's concessions rejected."]

2.08.11 Tinkered, Tailored, Soldered, Spied: US suspends high-level contact with Pakistan

WASHINGTON, February 8 - The United States has suspended high-level contacts with Pakistan as ties between the two countries continue to deteriorate over the Raymond Davis affair. The situation has worsened to such an extent that the Obama administration is reported to be putting a hold on Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari's proposed visit to Washington next month. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also declined to meet Pakistan's foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.

Agitated US lawmakers have indicated that defense and economic ties, including aid to Pakistan, may need to be revisited. So what is the Raymond Davis affair? While Washington and much of the world continues to be transfixed by the drama over democracy in Egypt, an ugly sideshow involving spooks and spying in Pakistan is consuming the Obama administration, redrawing the security contours with regards to what was once regarded as a stalwart ally.

Davis, an alleged private security contractor, was on the rolls of the American diplomatic mission in Pakistan when he shot dead two Pakistanis last month in what he said was in self-defense after they attempted to rob him. He has been incarcerated pending legal proceedings despite US demands that he be freed because he enjoys diplomatic immunity.

Washington has now convinced Pakistan that Davis has a diplomatic passport, and although it is stamped with a work visa, he is entitled to diplomatic immunity under international conventions. But the situation in Pakistan appears to have slipped out of government's control, with anti-US interests and pro-American sources each selectively leaking information to inflame public opinion, which is already anti-American.
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, February 8, "Davis case won't affect Pak-US relations"
: ISLAMABAD - US embassy in Islamabad has denied suspension of high-level dialogue with Pakistan over the case of an American detained on murder charges, Geo News reported on Tuesday. Talking to Geo News, spokeswoman for the embassy said that US is engaged in high-level contacts with Pakistan over Raymond Davis case. She further said that US is also engaged in high-level dialogues to resolve Davis issue besides other agenda items. To a question, she said that Raymond Davis case would not affect Pak-US relations...

2.08.11 Karzai in talks with US on permanent Afghan bases

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) February 8 - Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that he was in talks with the United States about the possible establishment of permanent US military bases in his war-ravaged country. "From the statements made by US officials, US senators to the media and from what they have told us, yes, they have this desire," he said. "This is an issue that we’re in talks with them about." But Karzai insisted that Afghanistan would have the final say on whether such bases would be allowed. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

2.08.11 Four rockets fired at western Negev from Gaza

February 8 - Rocket alerts activated; residents of Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council asked to temporarily remain in homes; no injuries, damage reported. Four projectiles were fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip Tuesday. Two Kassam rockets landed in a kibbutz in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council during the early morning hours. No injuries or damage was reported. [More>>jpost.com]

2.08.11 PA announces July elections, but Hamas won't participate

February 8 - The recent push for Palestinian elections appears to reflect fears that two weeks of street protests demanding increased democracy in nearby Egypt could lead to similar calls in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority on Tuesday set long overdue local council elections for July 9 in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the government spokesman said. The rival Hamas government that rules Gaza promptly rejected the move. The recent push for Palestinian elections appears to reflect fears that two weeks of street protests demanding increased democracy in nearby Egypt could lead to similar calls in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority has not held elections since 2006, leaving Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and members of parliament in office after their elected terms ended. [More>>haaretz.com]

2.08.11 Shooting in Mexico kills 3 teens, 2 from Texas

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) February 8 - Mexican prosecutors have no witnesses, leads on suspects, motive; unclear if any of victims were US citizens. Three teenage boys were shot to death in the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez, and at least two of them had been high school students in Texas, authorities said Monday. The boys were killed at a car dealership in the city across the border from El Paso, Texas, Chihuahua prosecutors' spokesman Arturo Sandoval said. He said there were no witnesses and no leads on suspects or a motive. At least 60 bullet casings were found at the scene. One of the boys, Carlos Mario Gonzalez Bermodez, 16, was a sophomore at Cathedral High School in El Paso, said Nick Gonzalez, the Roman Catholic brother who is the principal. Another victim, Juan Carlos Echeverri, 15, had been a freshman at the private all-boys Catholic school last year but left to study in Ciudad Juarez, Gonzalez said. [More>>cbsnews.com]

2.08.11 Iran claims it test-fired anti-warship missiles

February 8 - Iran test-fired what it calls a supersonic ballistic surface-to-sea missile today in a dramatic ceremony that saw the missile crash into a ship that went up in smoke. It's being called anti-destroyer, anti-warship and radar evading, with a range of 300 kilometers, or 186 miles. Brig. Gen. Ali Jafari, Commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, described the new hardware. "These missiles are ultrasonic and can never be detected and intercepted by the enemies. The result of these defense projects is a very long leap in maintaining the security of the country in the sky and in the sea." This, just a day after the chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guard warned they would close the Strait of Hormuz if Iran were to be threatened. [More>>foxnews.com]

2.05.11 Cameron says British multiculturalism has failed

BERLIN, February 5 - British Prime Minister David Cameron believes his country's policy of multiculturalism has 'failed' to prevent the radicalization of Muslims by hindering their integration into the British society. In his first speech on radicalism and causes of terrorism, the Prime Minister said a "hands-off tolerance" of those who reject Western values had failed to prevent the rise of Islamic extremism in Britain. He said Britain has "even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values," a policy that needs to be revised. Addressing a security conference in Germany, Cameron argued in favour of developing a stronger national and "muscular liberalism."

Decrying the long-standing policy of multiculturalism, Cameron also suggested that there should be greater scrutiny of Islamic groups that get public money but do little to tackle extremism. "Let's properly judge these organizations: Do they believe in universal human rights — including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism?" he said. Cameron said what is needed is the strengthening of national identity and allowing people to say "I am a Muslim, I am a Hindu, I am a Christian, but I am a Londoner... too." "Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism," the prime minister said. The comments did not go down well with Muslim groups, some of whom said the community had been singled out as part of the problem.

Editorial note: "Islamic radicals use the authority of clerics' teachings from the Koran and Hadith" (Koranic law) to justify jihad against unbelievers, such as the West. For a recent sample, see the February 3, 2011 video by the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt below. For those interested in the actual verses in the Koran and law that are used see Maravot News "The Allah Controversy," Koran advocates violence against unbelievers (kuffar) / enemies:

Mel Copeland

2.05.11 Hate on the streets: Massive police operation as far-right group descends on town in protest against 'extreme Islam'

February 5 - Thousands of English Defence League (EDL) supporters descended on the town that spawned the far-right movement for an inflammatory protest today. The far-right street protest movement opposes what it sees as the spread of Sharia law and militant Islam in England. The group gathered in Luton, where counter-demonstrations were organized by Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and sections of the town's Muslim community. A massive police operation was launched with more than a thousand officers on the streets at a cost of more than £800,000...Speaking about the demonstration beforehand, Mr. Lennon, who uses the pseudonym Tommy Robinson, said members did not want violence. He added: "We want it to be peaceful. We want to get our point across. We want our local and national issues at the forefront, not anything else." And he told the crowd: "There are no racial tensions in Luton, just religious tensions." The EDL protesters were branded 'racist thugs' by Labour MEP Richard Howitt. Speaking at the counter rally he said: "The EDL have bussed a ragtag coalition of racist thugs from France, Germany, Holland, Belgium and all over the UK into Luton today. On behalf of the people of Luton, this town can never be a home for neo-fascists, or the prejudice and hatred they spout..." [Full story w/blog>>dailymail.com]

2.05.11 Top leadership resigns from Egypt's ruling NDP party

CAIRO, December 5 - Earlier reports said Mubarak resigned his post as head of party; Hosni Mubarak's son, Gamal, party secretary-general among those who step down from National Democratic Party; young party members set to replace them. The top leadership body of Egypt's ruling party resigned Saturday, including the president's son, but the regime appeared to be digging in its heels, calculating that it can ride out street protests and keep Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in office. Protesters rejected the concessions and vowed to keep up their campaign until Mubarak steps down, convinced that the regime intends to enact only superficial democratic reforms and keep its hold on power.

Tens of thousands thronged Cairo's central Tahrir Square in a 12th day of protests, chanting "He will go! He will go!" But the United States gave a strong endorsement to Mubarak's deputy Omar Suleiman's handling of the transition, warning that order was needed to prevent extremists from hijacking the process. "It's important to support the transition process announced by the Egyptian government actually headed by now-Vice President Omar Suleiman," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said at an international security conference in Munich, Germany.
[More>>jpost.com; See also

aljazeera.net, February 5, "Clinton warns of 'perfect storm'": US secretary of state says rulers in Middle East must enforce political and social reforms or face backlash. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, has warned of a "perfect storm" enveloping the Middle East if leaders do not implement political and social reforms to meet the demands of their people. Clinton was speaking on Saturday at a high-level security conference in Munich, where EU leaders have appeared divided in their response to events in Egypt...

2.05.11 Egypt slams Iran for calling the unrest an 'Islamic awakening'

February 5 - Egyptian FM says comment by Ayatollah Khamenei 'crossed all red lines' and slams Iran's 'hopes to establish an Islamic Middle East." Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit criticized Saturday remarks by Iran's supreme leader that the unrest in Egypt was a sign of an Islamic movement gaining strength in the Arab world. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday compared the turmoil in Cairo to the period before the Iranian Islamic Revolution of 1979 and described the recent events as an "Islamic awakening." Abul-Gheit said the comment "crossed all red lines by addressing Egypt's internal issues through a hostile and hateful perspective." He said, "The hopes to establish an Islamic Middle East led by Iran reveal what the state seeks to achieve in the region."

Khamenei also said that "the echo of the Iranian nation is now heard in North Africa," and that a new political setup in Egypt would endanger Israel's existence. Iran and Egypt severed diplomatic ties after the 1979 revolution because of Cairo's peace treaty with Israel, although the two governments do maintain interest sections. Egypt's anti-government protests entered their 12th day on Saturday, as thousands of protesters refused to relent on their core demand that President Hosni Mubarak step down.

2.05.11 5,000 Egyptians wounded in anti-Mubarak 11-day protests: Health Minister

CAIRO, February 4 - As many as 5,000 people were wounded in 11 days of demonstration to force President Hosni Mubarak to immediately end his 30-year rule, Egyptian Health Minister Ahmed Sameh Farid told State TV on Friday. Farid said the ministry will issue an in-depth statement on Saturday about the casualties of a series of demonstrations across the nation. Inspired by the uprising in Tunisia, thousands of Egyptian have taken to the streets since Jan. 25, ratcheting up their demonstration. Over the past days, protesters have camped out in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. [>xinhuanet.com]

2.05.11 Explosion rocks Egyptian gas pipeline to Jordan, Syria and Israel

(AP) February 5 - An Egyptian pipeline running through the Sinai Desert exploded Saturday, cutting the flow of natural gas to neighbors Israel and Jordan. The blast comes as anti-government protests against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak continue in the country. An explosion rocked a gas terminal in Egypt's northern Sinai Peninsula on Saturday, setting off a massive fire that was contained by shutting off the flow of gas to neighboring Jordan and Israel, officials and witnesses said. Egypt's natural gas company said the fire was caused by a gas leak. However, a local security official said an explosive device was detonated inside the terminal, and the regional governor, Abdel Wahab Mabrouk, said he suspected sabotage. [More>>france24.com]

2.05.11 Islamist rebel vows "blood and tears" in Russia

MOSCOW, February 5 - Umarov says attacks response to "lawlessness." Russia's leading Islamist rebel has vowed to make 2011 "a year of blood and tears" in a chilling video message released two weeks after a suicide bomber killed 36 people at a Moscow airport. In the video released late Friday, Doku Umarov, the leader of a deadly insurgency over Russian control of the North Caucasus region, said rebel attacks in the country's heartland are meant as a wake-up call for ordinary Russians, who should urge their leaders to withdraw from the region. The video marked Umarov's first known public statement since the late January attack — Moscow's second suicide bombing with heavy casualties in less than a year. Though he did not claim responsibility for the Domodedovo attack outright, Umarov made reference to a "special operation" and suicide bombings. "God willing we will make this year a year of blood and tears for you," the fatigues-clad Umarov said in the address posted on the Kavkaz Centre website, a known rebel mouthpiece. He said attacks were a response to "lawlessness" unleashed on the region by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and "his pack of dogs." [More>>alarabiya.net]

2.05.11 Two NATO troops killed in Afghan blasts

KABUL, Afghanistan, February 5 - NATO says two of its service members have been killed in separate bomb attacks in southern Afghanistan. Details of the service members' identities and the exact location of Saturday's blasts were not immediately disclosed. Five service members with the international coalition have been killed so far in February, and 36 since the start of the year. Last year was the deadliest of the nearly decade-long war for international troops, with more than 700 killed, compared to just more than 500 in 2009, previously the worst of the war. [>thenews.com.pk]

2.05.11 Mauritanian army arrests al-Qaeda suspect

NOUKACHOTT, Mauritania (AP) February 5 - A Mauritanian army official says a suspected al-Qaeda militant killed himself by detonating an explosive belt to avoid capture at the same time security forces grabbed his alleged accomplice. The official who could not be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media says the army had cornered the two in Lexeiba, 150 miles (250 kilometers) south of Nouakchott, late on Saturday after a three-day search. The two men were allegedly part of a convoy of cars loaded with explosives that had entered Mauritania last week. Security forces stopped Wednesday morning's attack, which may have been targeting the French Embassy, by firing on the first vehicle as it attempted to enter the capital. The assailants abandoned the second, and soldiers are still searching for a third. [>foxnews.com]

2.05.11 Somali pirates capture Chinese vessel off Yemen

SANAA, Yemen (AFP) February 5 - Somali pirates hijacked a Chinese commercial ship off Yemen's western port of Al Hudaydah, Yemen's interior ministry said in a statement on Saturday. "Somali pirates attacked a commercial Chinese ship named 'Tien Hau' while it was 11 nautical miles off Al Tair island in Al Hudaydah province," said the ministry. The pirates ‘managed to capture the ship’ and steered it towards the Somali coast, it quoted Al Hudaydah coast guards as saying. An investigation has been launched into the fate of the ship and its crew, the ministry added without elaborating further. Heavily armed pirates using speedboats operate in the Gulf of Aden where they prey on ships, sometimes holding vessels for weeks before releasing them for large ransoms paid by governments or ship-owners. [>khaleejtimes.com]

2.04.11 Over a million join protests throughout Egypt

February 4 - Egyptians in Cairo, Alexandria demand president's ouster on "Day of departure"; ElBaradei calls for year-long transition to democracy; Arab League chief Amr Moussa appears in square to chants. Over a million protesters demanding Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's ouster continued to pack Cairo's Tahrir Square Friday, breaking the evening curfew that has been put in place, Al-Jazeera reported. The protesters were waving Egyptian flags, singing the national anthem and cheering, appearing undaunted and determined after their camp withstood two days of street battles with regime supporters trying to dislodge them. Hundreds and thousands were also protesting in the country's second biggest city of Alexandria, Al-Jazeera reported. Families with children flowed over bridges across the Nile into Tahrir Square, a sign that they were not intimidated after the protesters fended off everything thrown at them by pro-Mubarak attackers — storms of hurled concrete, metal rebar and firebombs, fighters on horses and camels and automatic gunfire barrages. The protesters passed through a series of beefed-up checkpoints by the military and the protesters themselves guarding the square. [More>>jpost.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, February 4, "Khamenei terms Egypt protests as 'Islamic movement'"
: TEHRAN - Supreme leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Friday declared Egypt's anti-government protests as 'an Islamic movement.' Addressing worshippers at Friday prayers, Khamenei said the revolt in Egypt reflects defeat of US policies in the region. "The events have special meaning for the Iranian nation…this is what has always been said that an Islamic awakening (could) result from the victory of Iran's great Islamic revolution," he said. Iran's Supreme Leader said Egypt was a nation that felt "humbled" because the regime of president Hosni Mobarak was a servant of the US. Khamenei said the Egyptian uprising was a 'very important and real earthquake' that could damage US policy in the region...

2.04.11 22,000 Pakistanis flee fighting near Afghan border

KHAR, Pakistan, February 4 - About 22,000 Pakistani villagers have fled military operations against Islamist militants in a tribal region near the Afghan border, a government administrator and the army said Friday. The offensive, involving aerial bombing, artillery and ground troops, began Jan. 27 in Mohmand, said Roshan Khan Mehsud, the region's government representative. He said nearly 100 insurgents had been killed so far, and there had been "some casualties" on the army side. He did not mention any civilian casualties. Pakistan's military has carried out several military operation in the country's remote tribal regions bordering Afghanistan over the last three years. It has claimed to have made decisive gains against the insurgents, though many hundreds of thousands of residents have yet to return. Accounts of civilian casualties are numerous and militant attacks in Pakistan remain routine. Reporting independently in Mohmand and other border areas is not allowed by the army and highly dangerous. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

2.04.11 Jordanians demonstrate for reform, Egypt

AHMAN, Jordan (AFP) February 4 - Around 1,000 protesters gathered on Friday outside the Jordanian prime minister's office to demand reforms, before staging a sit-in near Cairo’s embassy in support of anti-regime protests in Egypt. The demonstrators, answering calls by the powerful Islamic Action Front (IAF), the political arm of the country’s Muslim Brotherhood, chanted: “The people demand reform and change.” "We want freedom, not martial laws. We need a government for the poor. We want electoral law that satisfies the young and old," they said under the rain as they carried national and IAF flags after midday prayers. They then left the prime minister's office and marched to the Egyptian embassy nearby, holding banners reading: “We salute and support the great Egyptian people.” "We are marching today to support the brave Egyptian protesters in their struggle to remove (President Hosni) Mubarak the tyrant," Muslim Brotherhood leader Hammam Said told AFP. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

2.04.11 New anti-government protests in Albania

TIRANA, Albania (AP) February 4 - Thousands of Albanians converged on central Tirana on Friday demanding that the government step down over corruption allegations, two weeks after a similar anti-government demonstration turned violent and left three people dead. Protest marches were also being held in another three cities, including the town of Lezha northwest of Tirana, Vlora to the southwest and Korca to the southeast. The demonstrations come two weeks after three protesters were shot dead in clashes with security forces during anti-government protests in Tirana. Another 150 were injured in the violence. The opposition Socialists are demanding that conservative Prime Minister Sali Berisha hold early elections over allegations of corruption and vote rigging in the previous 2009 general election. But Berisha has refused to resign, accusing the opposition of trying to stage a coup. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

2.04.11 Girl whipped to death in Bangladesh over alleged affair, four arrrested including Islamic cleric

February 4 - Four people have been arrested in Bangladesh after a young girl was whipped to death for allegedly having an affair with a married man. The suspects, including an Islamic cleric, are accused of issuing a fatwa for 14-year-old Mosammet Hena to receive 100 lashes. This was despite her insistence she had been raped by the man, believed to be her cousin, and did not consent to an affair or physical contact of any kind. She collapsed after receiving 70 of the lashes from a bamboo cane. She was taken to hospital unconscious but died shortly afterwards. The public beating occurred in a south west village in the district of Shariatpur, approximately 35 miles from the capital of Dhaka. The district's chief of police, Shahidur Rahman, said incidents such as these usually occurred in remote areas. He added the 40-year-old man involved was also sentenced to 100 lashes but has since fled the village. "We are hunting for him," Rahman said. Fatwas are illegal in Bangladesh, but Islamic clerics are often found presiding over courts that use Sharia law. Action Aid Bangladesh has demanded exemplary punishment for those responsible for Hena's death, and called on the government to do more to stop crimes like this from happening again. [>news.sky.com]

2.03.11 In a pluralistic part of India, fears of rising Islamic extremism

MUVATTUPUZHA, India, February 4 - Wearing jeans and leaving her auburn hair uncovered never created problems for Rayana Khasi, a 22-year-old Muslim engineering student in the coastal state of Kerala. But then came the threats. About two months ago, members of the Popular Front of India, a fast-growing Muslim political and social organization in Kerala, allegedly started sending text messages to her saying, "You're committing blasphemy." They admonished her publicly in her home town of Kasaragod, confronted her family and pelted her car with stones, she said. "Many women here are now listening to them and covering. But this is India, not Afghanistan," said Khasi, who has moved to a different city and changed her cellphone number several times as Indian authorities investigate her charges.

For centuries, Kerala has been known as "God's country," and generations of Muslims, Christians and Jews were warmly welcomed by Hindus here. One of India's most religiously diverse states, Kerala has rarely experienced the religious violence that has flared in other parts of the country. But the Popular Front's popularity here is raising concerns as a growing number of its young members embrace a radical brand of Islam. Authorities say they fear that the group has become an example of how extremism can creep into a society, even one in which the vast majority of Muslims are not conservative.

2.04.11 Special report: Catastrophic drought in the Amazon

February 4 - Region set to outstrip US as CO2 emitter. A widespread drought in the Amazon rainforest last year caused the "lungs of the world" to produce more carbon dioxide than they absorbed, potentially leading to a dangerous acceleration of global warming. Scientists have calculated that the 2010 drought was more intense than the "one-in-100-year" drought of 2005. They are predicting it will result in some eight billion tones of carbon dioxide being expelled from the Amazon rainforest, which is more than the total annual carbon emissions of the United States. For the second time in less than a decade, the earth's greatest rainforest released more carbon dioxide than it absorbed because many of its trees dried out and died. Scientists believe that the highly unusual nature of the two droughts, which occurred in the space of just five years, may be the result of higher sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic, which could also be influenced by global warming caused by the release of man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The Anglo-Brazilian team of researchers has emphasized that there is as yet no proof that the two highly unusual droughts in the Amazon are the direct result of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, but the scientists have warned that the world is gambling with its future if it fails to curb fossil fuel emissions.[More>>independent.co.uk]

2.03.11 10 dead in Cairo square violence; doctors at scene

CAIRO (Reuters) February 3 - Ten people have been killed during violent clashes between pro- and anti-government supporters in a Cairo square, a doctor at makeshift clinic treating the casualties said on Thursday. Dr. Sayyid Hussein said the makeshift clinic, operating out of a mosque near the square, had registered 10 deaths. "An hour an a half ago, two people were rushed to me with gunshot wounds to the head. They were gasping and died. A third case followed, which was very severe, but that case was taken to hospital by ambulance," said another doctor, Yasser Tibi, at a field station of the makeshift clinic. The health minister earlier said six had been killed and more than 800 wounded. [>thestar.com.my; See related stories,

aljazeera.net, February 3, "Tense calm in Tahrir Square" :
Uneasy standoff follows clashes between pro-democracy protesters and Mubarak loyalists in central Cairo. There is a tense calm in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square following clashes between pro-democracy protesters and loyalists of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's embattled president. Earlier, the two sides fought running battles near the square, the epicenter of protests against Mubarak for the past 10 days, with witnesses reporting hearing the sound of gunshots. An Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from the scene, said it was not clear who was behind the firing. There have been sporadic clashes throughout Thursday, as the army fanned out to separate the two sides and allowed thousands more protesters to enter their camp in the square...

haaretz.com (Reuters) February 3, "Egypt opposition refuses to negotiate, even as violence spirals" : Muslim Brotherhood and Mohamed ElBaradei: No talks until Mubarak goes. Leading Egyptian opposition members refused Thursday to negotiate with newly elected Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, saying that they would not enter into talks until Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left office immediately. Speaking for the first time after a week of  protests across Egypt calling for regime change, Mubarak said Tuesday that he would not seek to extend his 30-year rule and would step down following elections in September. But Mohamed ElBaradei and the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday rejected the prime minister's invitation to negotiate, reiterating their condition that Mubarak quit first. Anti-government demonstrations entered their 10th day on Thursday, with violent clashes spilling into Cairo's Tahrir square, where protesters unsatisfied by Mubarak's pledge to step down in September have vowed to stay until the 82-year-old president departs...

alarabiya.net, February 3, "Bitter standoff in central Cairo as Tahrir battle rages"
: CAIRO - Army remains cautious, US slams media intimidation. A bitter and, by turns, bloody confrontation gripped central Cairo on Thursday as armed government loyalists fought pro-democracy protesters demanding the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak. An Egyptian army tank moved against supporters of Mubarak as they hurled rocks at anti-Muburak protesters in central Cairo, prompting cheers from demonstrators battered by overnight fighting that killed six...

indianexpress.com (AP) February 3, "Obama is a 'political naif'" : JERUSALEM - President Barack Obama's response to the crisis in Egypt is drawing fierce criticism in Israel, where many view the US leader as a political naif whose pressure on a stalwart ally to hand over power is liable to backfire. Critics - including senior Israeli officials who have shied from saying so publicly say Obama is repeating the same mistakes of predecessors whose calls for human rights and democracy in the Middle East have often backfired by bringing anti-West regimes to power. Israeli officials, while refraining from open criticism of Obama, have made no secret of their view that shunning Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and pushing for swift elections in Egypt could bring unintended results.

including senior Israeli officials who have shied from saying so publicly say Obama is repeating the same mistakes of predecessors whose calls for human rights and democracy in the Middle East have often backfired by bringing anti-West regimes to power. Israeli officials, while refraining from open criticism of Obama, have made no secret of their view that shunning Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and pushing for swift elections in Egypt could bring unintended results. "If there are elections like the Americans want, I wouldn't be surprised if the Muslim Brotherhood didn't win a majority, it would win half of the seats in parliament," he told Army Radio. "It will be a new Middle East, extremist radical Islam."

Three decades ago, President Jimmy Carter urged another staunch American ally
the shah of Iran to loosen his grip on power, only to see his autocratic regime replaced by the Islamic Republic. More recently, US-supported elections have strengthened such groups as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and anti-American radicals in Iran. "Jimmy Carter will go down in American history as 'the president who lost Iran,'" the analyst Aluf Benn wrote in the daily Haaretz this week. "Barack Obama will be remembered as the president who 'lost' Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and during whose tenure America's alliances in the Middle East crumbled," Benn wrote.

Israel has tremendous respect for Mubarak who carefully honored his country's peace agreement with Israel after taking power nearly 30 years ago. While relations were often cool, Mubarak maintained a stable situation that has allowed Israel to greatly reduce its military spending and troop presence along the border with Egypt. He also worked with Israel to contain the Gaza Strip's Hamas government and served as a bridge to the broader Arab world. Israeli leaders have said it is essential that whoever emerges as Egypt's next leader continue to honor the peace agreement...

nytimes.com, February 3, "As Islamist group rises, its intentions are unclear"
WASHINGTON - After maintaining a low profile in protests largely by secular young Egyptians, the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's largest opposition force, appeared to be taking on a more assertive role Thursday, issuing a statement asking for President Hosni Mubarak to step aside for a transitional government. "We demand that this regime is overthrown, and we demand the formation of a national unity government for all the factions," the Brotherhood said in a statement broadcast by Al Jazeera. The Obama administration has spoken cautiously about the future role of the Brotherhood, which has long been banned by Mr. Mubarak's government, saying only that all parties must renounce violence and accept democracy. But one of the few near-certainties of a post-Mubarak Egypt is that the Muslim Brotherhood will emerge as a powerful political force...

abcnews.go.com, February 3, "Mubarak: 'If I resign today there will be chaos' :
In an exclusive interview, Egypt's president says he's fed up and wants to resign, "but cannot for fear of the country falling into chaos." I've just left the presidential palace in Cairo where I sat down for an exclusive 30-minute interview with President Hosni Mubarak. He told me that he is troubled by the violence we have seen in Tahrir Square over the last few days but that his government is not responsible for it. Instead, he blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned political party here in Egypt. He said he's fed up with being president and would like to leave office now, but cannot, he says, for fear that the country would sink into chaos. I asked President Mubarak about the violence that his supporters launched against the anti-government protestors in Liberation Square. He told me, "I was very unhappy about yesterday. I do not want to see Egyptians fighting each other."...

via twitter: RT @hagmanny RT @exposeliberals: Just great! Obama regime open to a Muslim Brotherhood gove... http://bit.ly/eJaifo http://bit.ly/fB8JAa)

latimes.com, January 31, "US open to a role for Islamists in new Egypt government" : But the Muslim Brotherhood must renounce violence and support democracy, the White House says. WASHINTON- The Obama administration said for the first time that it supports a role for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Islamist organization, in a reformed Egyptian government. The organization must reject violence and recognize democratic goals if the US is to be comfortable with it taking part in the government, the White House said. But by even setting conditions for the involvement of such nonsecular groups, the administration took a surprise step in the midst of the crisis that has enveloped Egypt for the last week. The statement was an acknowledgment that any popularly accepted new government will probably include groups that are not considered friendly to US interests, and was a signal that the White House is prepared for that probability after 30 years of reliable relations with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak...

2.03.11 Global food prices hit new record high

February 3 - Global food prices have hit a new record high, amid fears that the escalating cost of bread and meat is adding to the turmoil in the Middle East. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) gave warning that the high prices, already above levels in 2008 which sparked riots, were likely to rise further. The FAO measures food prices from an index made up of a basket of key commodities such as wheat, milk, oil and sugar, and is widely watched by economists and politicians around the world as the first indicator of whether prices will end up higher on shop shelves. The index hit averaged 230.7 points in January, up from 223.1 points in December and 206 in November.

The index highlights how food prices, which throughout most of the last two decades have been stable, have taken off in alarming fashion in the last three years. In 2000 the index stood at 90 and did not break through 100 until 2004. Surging food prices have come back into the spotlight after they helped fuel protests that toppled Tunisia's president in January. Food inflation has also been among the root causes of protests in Egypt and Jordan, raising speculation other nations in the region would secure grain stocks to reassure their populations. Abdolreza Abbassian, an economist at the FAO, said: "The new figures clearly show that the upward pressure on world food prices is not abating..."

2.03.11 Shell profits surge by 90% as oil prices soar

February 3 - Royal Dutch Shell has reported a 90% surge in annual profits to £11.5bn, saying higher oil prices and a boost to production levels have contributed to the leap. The figures come two days after main rival BP revealed a £3.1bn annual loss due to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Despite the jump in headline profits, Shell's trading performance for the fourth quarter fell short of City forecasts. Shares saw a 2.9% fall when markets opened following the results. The Anglo-Dutch firm said results would have been better had it not been impacted by weaker refining margins and pressure caused by rising oil prices on its marketing margins. [More>>news.sky.com]

2.03.11 Tens of thousands of Yemenis demonstrate in Sanaa

SANAA (AFP) February 3 - Tens of thousands of protesters massed on Thursday at Sanaa University for a "day of rage" against Ali Abdullah Saleh's rule, while a similar number of loyalists flooded a central square in support of the embattled Yemeni president, AFP correspondents said. The protest, the biggest staged against Saleh in past weeks, came despite the president announcing Wednesday that he would not seek another term and that he had postponed controversial April elections -- two key opposition demands. Opposition leaders, who have been calling protesters onto the streets in a bid to force Saleh into making reforms, had said they would push on with Thursday's planned "day of rage" but that they would also study his latest announcements.

Their plans were affected when armed supporters of Saleh's General People's Congress took over Al-Tahrir Square, the planned protest venue, on Wednesday night, setting up tents and carrying portraits of the president. Protest organizers from early Thursday then drove through the streets blaring out over megaphones that the venue had been changed to Sanaa university, about two kilometers (1.2 miles) from the square.

2.03.11 Roadside bomb kills 6 Afghans: NATO

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, February 3 - Six civilians, including two children, were killed when their rickshaw struck a roadside bomb in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, the NATO alliance said. Afghan police and coalition forces secured the area and were investigating the blast site in Kunduz province, NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said, giving no further details. It is the latest attack of the deadly Taliban insurgency that has gripped the country for the past nine years. Afghan police earlier reported that a father and his young son were killed when a bomb blew up their car near the city of Kunduz. "A father and his 10 or 12-year-old son who were driving to the city were killed," deputy provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Aqtash told AFP. He did not give details of any further injuries from the roadside blast. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

2.03.11 Twin Iraq attacks kill 8 in west

(AFP) February 3 - A car bomb followed by a suicide attack on Thursday in the mostly Sunni Arab western Iraqi city of Ramadi killed at least eight people, including five policemen, police and a doctor said. The car bomb in the city centre attracted a crowd, at which point a suicide attacker detonated his explosives-laden vest, a police major said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The attacks, at around 7:15pm (1615 GMT), left at least eight people dead and 15 others wounded, a doctor at Ramadi hospital said. [More>>france24.com]

2.03.11 Oysters vanishing from oceans worldwide, biologists say

February 3 - Oysters are "functionally extinct" in m[an]y locations around the globe due to disease and overharvesting, a new study has found. The wide-ranging survey, published in BioScience, the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences, compares the past and present condition of oyster reefs around the globe. The international team of researchers led by Michael Beck of the Nature Conservancy and the University of California found that more than 90 percent of former reefs have been lost in most of the "bays" and ecoregions where the prized mollusks were formerly abundant. In many places, such as the Wadden Sea in Europe and Narragansett Bay, oysters are rated "functionally extinct," with fewer than 1 percent of former reefs persisting. The declines are in most cases a result of over-harvesting of wild populations and disease, often exacerbated by the introduction of non-native species. "Overall, we estimate that 85% of oyster reefs have been lost globally," the study says. "Most of the world's remaining wild capture of native oysters comes from just five ecoregions in North America, yet the condition of reefs in these ecoregions is poor at best, except in the Gulf of Mexico." [More>>foxnews.com]

2.02.11 Egypt Health Ministry: 350 injured, 1 killed in clashes

February 2 - Pro-Mubarak rioters hurl Molotov Cocktails, rocks at opposition from surrounding buildings; Egyptian Museum goes up in flames; gun shots heard at Tahrir square. A spokesman from the Egyptian Health Ministry on Wednesday said that 350 people were injured and one man was killed in the recent round of clashes that erupted in central Cairo earlier in the day, Reuters reported quoting Egyptian state television. According to the report, the man who was killed was a "conscript" which means he could have belonged to the army or police. Pro- and anti-government protesters continued to clash in Cairo on Wednesday, with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's supporters throwing dozens of Molotov cocktails at those protesting against the regime. Numerous explosives were hurled as the pro-regime mob attempted to push through a no-man's land towards the anti-Mubarak protesters in Cairo's Tahrir (Liberation) Square. Witnesses at Tahrir Square also said they heard several shots fired into the air, and water cannons were fired by security officials to try to calm the protests, according to reports. An anti-Mubarak demonstrator told the BBC that she is trapped in Tahrir Square, because the area is surrounded by pro-government rioters. [More>>jpost.com; See also

cnn.com, February 2 w/videos, "Egypt crisis: US evacuation flight leaves Egypt; Alexandria maintains tense peace" :
..[Update 9:30pm Cairo, 2:30pm ET] A spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry says demonstrations by supporters of the Mubarak government are spontaneous and not orchestrated by the government. He also said the men on horseback and camels who rode into Tahrir Square earlier Wednesday were workers from the Pyramids whose business has been hurt by the unrest.

[Update 9:24 p.m. Cairo, 2:24 p.m. ET] The violence witnessed Wednesday between anti-government protesters and government supporters in Egypt "won't end tomorrow, or Friday, or by the weekend," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, adding: "This is not all going to be wrapped up in a matter of hours. It's going to take some time."

[Update 9:18 p.m. Cairo, 2:18 p.m. ET] CNN's Anderson Cooper describes how demonstrators are arming themselves as he watches gasoline bombs being lobbed from a rooftop. ..

2.02.11 Hamas worried upheaval in Arab world will spill into Gaza

February 2 - Gaza police disperse rally showing solidarity with Egyptian protesters; several thousand join Facebook group calling for a protest against Hamas rule in the Strip. Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip are concerned about the effects of the upheaval in the Arab world, as Facebook messages call on Gaza residents to demonstrate against Hamas rule on Friday. Several thousand people have joined the Facebook group calling for a protest against Hamas rule in the Gaza Strip. Another Facebook group is calling for protests against the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Far fewer people have expressed interest in that page, but Palestinian leaders in the West Bank also recognize that the protests in Tunisia and Egypt could spill over into Palestinian territory. In what seems to be an effort to hold off possible demonstrations, PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said the Palestinian Authority will hold municipal elections in the near future, and senior Fatah officials said they are considering general elections as well. [More>>haaretz.com]

2.02.11 Iran opposition leaders call executions 'un-Islamic'

TEHRAN, February 2 - Urge end to "unrestrained and illogical executions." Two opposition leaders in Iran want a halt to "unrestrained" executions which, they say, are spreading fear among Iranians and isolating the country internationally, a website reported Wednesday. "As citizens of this noble Iranian nation, we urge that these unrestrained and illogical executions be halted," Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi were quoted as saying by Sahamnews.org, which belongs to Karroubi. Iran has hanged 67 people so far this year, according to an AFP tally based on media reports. The foreign ministry says that 80 percent of those executed were drug smugglers. Karroubi and Mousavi, who oppose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, said the executions have only managed to "spread fear" among the people and "forced further isolation of Iran in the international community." Given the current rate of about two executions per day since January 1, the number of hangings in Iran is set to exceed the 179 reportedly executed in 2010. Mousavi and Karroubi said that nearly 300 people were hanged in 2010 and that some had been executed before the conclusion of judicial proceedings. [More>>alarabiya.net]

2.02.11 Yemeni president says he won't seek another term

SAANA, Yemen (AP) February 2 - Yemen's president has told parliament he will not seek another term in office or hand power to his son an apparent reaction to protests in his own country that have been inspired by Tunisia's revolt and the turmoil in Egypt. The US-allied Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has been in power for nearly 32 years, spoke on Wednesday to lawmakers in both houses of the assembly. Saleh said, "I won't seek to extend my presidency for another term or have my son inherit it." Activists and opposition supporters have staged several protests in Sanaa, boldly asking for Saleh's removal and decrying reports he plans to install his son in power. The opposition has called for mass anti-Saleh rallies tomorrow in all provinces. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

2.02.11 NASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets

WASHINGTON (AP) February 2 - An orbiting NASA telescope is finding whole new worlds of possibilities in the search for alien life, including more than 50 potential planets that appear to be in the habitable zone. In just a year of peering out at a small slice of the galaxy, the Kepler telescope has spotted 1,235 possible planets outside our solar system. Amazingly, 54 of them are seemingly in the zone that could be hospitable to life - that is, not too hot or too cold, Kepler chief scientist William Borucki said. Until now, only two planets outside our solar system were even thought to be in the "Goldilocks zone." And both those discoveries are highly disputed. Fifty-four possibilities is "an enormous amount, an inconceivable amount," Borucki said. "It's amazing to see this huge number because up to now, we've had zero." The more than 1,200 newfound bodies are not confirmed as planets yet, but Borucki estimates 80 percent of them will eventually be verified. At least one other astronomer believes Kepler could be 90 percent accurate. [More>>cbsnews.com]

2.02.11 WikiLeaks' documents reveal more 9/11 suspects

February 2 - A gang of previously unknown men are wanted by the FBI for their alleged role in the September 11 terror attacks, it has been reported. Secret documents obtained by the WikiLeaks website detailing the movements of the three men in the days leading up to the atrocities have been published by The Daily Telegraph. The diplomatic cable sent between the American embassy in Doha, Qatar, and the Department for Homeland Security in Washington, reveals the trio entered the US on a British Airways flight from London on August 15 2001. The men, named as Qataris Meshal Alhajri, Fahad Abdulla and Ali Alfehaid allegedly visited the World Trade Centre and Statue of Liberty in New York and travelled to Washington DC and other locations in Virginia. Several days later on August 24 2001, they flew to Los Angeles where they stayed before checking out of their hotel on September 10. The cables said hotel staff become alarmed after seeing pilot uniforms and a smashed mobile phone in their room. [More>>independent.co.uk]

2.02.11 7/7 gang given bomb-making advice from Pakistan, inquest hears

February 2 - Mobile phone records reveal series of conversations with mystery figure in Rawalpindi, says Met officer. An unidentified person in Pakistan gave bomb-making advice and encouragement to the four suicide bombers on 7 July while they were plotting the attacks that would kill 52 people, an inquest into the victims' deaths has heard. The leader of the bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, received a series of calls on a mobile phone used solely to plan the attacks from a number of public call boxes in Rawalpindi, it was revealed. The bombers are believed to have been guided by an individual in Rawalpindi because they lacked expertise in making bombs, Detective Sergeant Mark Stuart of the Metropolitan police told the inquest.

Photographs of the bomb-making factory in Leeds where the group built explosive devices using concentrated hydrogen peroxide and pepper were shown at the inquest, at the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday. The first call from Rawalpindi was received by Khan on 23 April 2005, the inquest heard. That call was followed by a series of calls between mid-May and the start of June. One call was made on 2 July that year, five days before the explosions, said Stuart. Hugo Keith QC, counsel to the inquests, asked him: "Did you assess that those calls therefore were probably connected to some guidance or some means of communicating information concerned with the manufacture of the bombs and then ultimately their detonation?" "Yes, I think they had to be," Stuart said.

2.02.11 Bomb kills 9, wounds 20 in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) February 2 - A car bomb killed nine people close to the main northwestern city of Peshawar on Wednesday, the latest in a rash of attacks that are challenging recent police claims of progress against Islamist militants in the region. Twenty others were wounded in the blast on a main road leading to Pakistan's border area with Afghanistan, said government official Siraj Ahmed Khan. Three children were among the dead. The possible target of the bombing was not immediately clear. It was the third major bombing in or near the city in the last week. Government and security force targets in Peshawar have been often attacked by the Pakistani Taliban, who have bases close to the frontier with Afghanistan. Pakistani security forces have traditionally had very little presence or authority in the tribally ruled region. [More>>japantoday.com

2.02.11 Conservative German state first to ban burqas

February 2 - Hesse, a state run by Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, on Wednesday became the first German region to ban Muslim face veils for public sector workers. Hesse Interior Minister Boris Rhein announced it was "not acceptable" for the teacher in Frankfurt to wear a face veil because "public sector workers are obligated to have neutral religious and political views." The decision was prompted by a local teacher who had told her school she wanted to wear a burqa in the classroom after returning from maternity leave. She had not previously worn one. Debates about outlawing burqas have spread across Europe after France banned the Muslim face veils. Only a small minority of Muslim women in Europe cover their faces, but their veils have become symbols for Europeans troubled by problems such as the economic crisis, immigration and Muslim integration. A poll last year showed 61 percent of Germans favoured a burqa ban. Ban supporters include a Catholic bishop in Bavaria, and also the country's most prominent feminist, Alice Schwarzer. But Germany's interior and justice ministers have opposed a ban. [>khaleejtimes.com]

2.01.11 Obama urges Mubarak not to run again

WASHINGTON, February 1 - President Obama has told the embattled president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, that he should not run for another term in elections in the fall, effectively withdrawing American support for its closest Arab ally, according to American diplomats in Cairo and Washington. Al Arabiya television, citing unnamed sources, reported that Mr. Mubarak would announce in a nationwide address Tuesday evening that he would not run for another term. The message was conveyed to Mr. Mubarak by Frank G. Wisner, a seasoned former diplomat with deep ties to Egypt, these officials said. Mr. Wisner's message, they said, was not a blunt demand for Mr. Mubarak to step aside now, but firm counsel that he should make way for a reform process that would culminate in free and fair elections in September to elect a new Egyptian leader. [More>>nytimes.com; See related story,

france24.com, February 1, "Egyptians find loophole to government blackout"
:...Egyptian Web users just got some heavy-weight support. On Monday night, Twitter and Google established a system that allows users to continue posting 140-character “tweets” despite the Internet shutdown in Egypt. The solution proposed by the two Internet giants is called “speak-to-tweet” and allows people to publish updates on the famous microbloggins site by leaving a message on a voice mailbox. The service is free of charge, with Google offering users three international telephone numbers (in the US +16504194196, in Italy +390662207294, and in Bahrain +97316199855)...

2.01.11 Jordan's King Abdullah sacks cabinet in wake of street protests

February 1 - King Abdullah appoints new PM after thousands of Jordanians take to the streets protesting rise in fuel, food prices, slowed political reforms. Jordan's King Abdullah has sacked his government in the wake of street protests and has asked his former ex-military adviser Marouf Bakhit to form a new cabinet, an official said. King Abdullah's move comes after thousands of Jordanians took to the streets inspired by the regime ouster in Tunisia and the turmoil in Egypt and called for the resignation of Prime Minister Samir Rifai who is blamed for a rise in fuel and food prices and slowed political reforms. The Royal Palace says Rifai's cabinet resigned on Tuesday. Abdullah also nominated Marouf al-Bakhit as his prime minister-designate. No other details were immediately available. "(Bakhit) is a former general and briefly ambassador to Israel who has been prime minister before. He's someone who would be seen as a safe pair of hands," said Rosemary Hollis, professor of Middle East policy studies at London's City University. "I wouldn't see it as a sign of liberalization. With his previous premiership, he talked the talk of reform but little actually happened," she said. [More>>haaretz.com]

2.01.11 Syrian protesters plan 'day of rage'

February 11 - Syrians are organizing campaigns on Facebook and Twitter that call for a "day of rage" in the capital Damascus this week, taking inspiration from Egypt and Tunisia in using social networking sites to rally their followers for sweeping political reforms. Like Egypt and Tunisia, Syria suffers from corruption, poverty and unemployment. All three nations have seen subsidy cuts on staples like bread and oil. Syria's authoritarian president has resisted calls for political freedoms and jailed critics of his regime. The main Syrian protest page on Facebook is urging people to protest in Damascus on February 4 and 5 for "a day of rage." It says the goal is to "end the state of emergency in Syria and end corruption." The number of people who have joined Facebook and Twitter pages calling for protests on Friday and Saturday is still relatively small, and some are believed to live outside the country. Social networking sites were integral to rallying protesters in Tunisia and Egypt. Facebook is banned in Syria, which makes organizing more difficult - even though many Syrians manage to access the social networking site anyway. More than 2,500 people have joined the page calling for the protests, with another 850 joining a page in favour of President Bashar Assad. [More>>independent.co.uk]

2.01.11 Pakistan Christians feel threatened

February 1 - Unease spreads among the Christian minority as blasphemy law reignites controversy. Pakistan's blasphemy law has been in the spotlight since November, when a court sentenced to death a Christian woman for insulting Islam. The government, under intense pressure, has repeatedly said it will not scrap or amend the law, and rallies have been held in support of it. The recent furore has left many in the Christian minority feeling increasingly threatened, as  Kamal Hyder reports from Lahore. [More w/video>>aljazeera.net]

2.01.11 Afghan Christians live life in fear and hiding

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) February 1 - Hoping for religious freedom 10 years after Taliban's fall. Fearing his Christian faith could land him in prison, or worse, 22-year-old Afghan Enayat is one of thousands in the Islamic nation still hoping for religious freedom, ten years after the Taliban's fall. "I used to carry my Bible everywhere I don't anymore," says the baby-faced convert, using a pseudonym for fear of being identified and speaking to AFP at the home of a trusted friend, west of Kabul. "I don't want to call myself a Christian, people would think I'm immoral." In Afghanistan, where insurgents continue to fight their "holy war" against foreign forces, there are no churches, evangelizing is illegal and the country's constitution forbids conversion from Islam to another religion. The crime carries the death penalty, although it has not been enforced in recent history. "If I'm arrested, I would never say I'm a Christian. If you admit it, you (cannot stay in) the country," he says. Missionaries and other foreigners suspected of being in Afghanistan to convert others to Christianity have been killed in recent years. Eight foreign medics, accused by the Taliban of being missionaries, were shot dead in north Afghanistan in August. Their organization, a Christian aid group which had worked in the country for 45 years, said it never proselytized. [More>>alarabiya.net]

1.31.11 Heavy gunfire as angry scenes grip Egypt

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt, January 31 - The Egyptian city of Alexandria is tense as dozens of army and civilian roadblocks are in place and people are being urged to join the 'March of a Million' against the government on Tuesday. Earlier, my team and I experienced first-hand the anger felt by many towards President Mubarak and his regime. We were attacked by a crowd who thought we were broadcasting pro-government interviews. They surrounded us, were very aggressive and started attacking us. We were bundled into our nearby hotel by people who have been helping us. But the crowd of about 50 remained outside the building and were banging on the windows. An army personal carrier was called, and it fired a volley of rounds into the air to try to disperse them. We were then asked to leave the premises and made our way across the city to another hotel. On the way, there were dozens of checkpoints and soldiers on the streets. There were also civilian checkpoints with people armed with batons and at least one pistol, guarding against looters. Until the incident in Alexandria, people have been very friendly towards us. There has been criticism towards the British government and in particular the American administration which the protesters feel is propping up the Mubarak government. [More>>news.sky.com]

1.31.11 Cairo airport a scene of chaos as foreigners flee

(AP) January 31 - Cairo's international airport was a scene of chaos and confusion today as thousands of foreigners sought to flee the unrest in Egypt and countries around the world scrambled to send in planes to fly their citizens out. Nerves frayed, shouting matches erupted and some passengers even had a fistfight as thousands crammed into Cairo airport's new Terminal 3 seeking a flight home. The airport's departures board stopped announcing flight times in an attempt to reduce tensions — but the plan backfired, fueling passengers' anger. Making matters worse, check-in counters were poorly staffed because many EgyptAir employees had been unable to get to work due to a 3pm-to-8am curfew and traffic breakdowns across the Egyptian capital. "It's an absolute zoo, what a mess," said Justine Khanzadian, 23, a graduate student from the American University of Cairo. "I decided to leave because of the protests, the government here is just not stable enough to stay." A US military plane landed at Larnaca Airport in Cyprus on ferrying 42 US Embassy officials and their dependents from Egypt. The US Embassy in Nicosia said at least one more plane was expected Monday with about 180 people. US officials have said it will take several flights over the coming days to fly out the thousands of Americans who want to leave Egypt. [More>>independent.co.uk]

1.31.11 Report: Pakistan doubles nuclear arsenal

January 31 - Pakistan has doubled its nuclear weapons stockpile over the past several years, increasing its arsenal to more than 100 deployed weapons, according to a published report. As a result, Pakistan has now edged ahead of India, its nuclear-armed rival, The Washington Post reported late Sunday, citing non-government analysts. India is estimated to have 60 to 100 weapons. Only four years ago the Pakistani nuclear arsenal was estimated at 30 to 60 weapons. "They have been expanding pretty rapidly," the report quoted David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, as saying. [More>>foxnews.com]

1.31.11 Taliban 'abduct 21 Afghan tribal elders'

JALALABAD, Afghanist (AFP) January 31 - Taliban militants kidnapped 21 tribal elders in Afghanistan close to the Pakistani border whose relatives apparently work for the Afghan government and NATO, an official said Monday. The incident happened eight days ago in Marawara, in the eastern province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan's lawless tribal district where Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked networks have carved out strongholds. "The Taliban first called them for a meeting at a mosque and after a discussion, the Taliban took all the elders away to an unknown place," the local official told AFP on condition of anonymity. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

1.31.11 Blasts hit northern Pakistan

January 31 - A suicide bombing targeting police officers in northwest Pakistan has killed four people; three officers and one civilian, officials said. The attacker struck near a police van in Peshawar on Monday, killing Rasheed Khan, a deputy superintendent, two other policemen and a passerby, and wounding at least six others. "We have received four bodies three police officials and one civilian," Abdul Hameed Afridi, the head of Peshawar's main hospital, told the AFP news agency. According to a police officer at the scene, the attack was carried out by a teenage boy carrying between six and seven kilos of explosives. The Pakistani Taliban has claimed the bombing. "We have already announced that we will target police and security forces," Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan told AFP. [More>>aljazeera.net]

1.31.11 Second sun may appear at any moment

January 31 - (RIA Novosti interview with Nikolai Chugai) Scientists claim that Betelgeuse, a star 640 light years away from Earth, is going to explode soon. Nikolai Chugai, head of the department of Variable Stars and Astronomical Spectroscopy of the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Astronomy shares his views with RIA Novosti's Samir Shakhbaz, on possible threats and impact this star may cause to our planet.

Samir Shakhbaz: Good afternoon, Mr. Chugai. An Australian scientist claims that the star Betelgeuse is going to explode. Betelgeuse is 640 light years away from the Earth, which is very close for objects in space. The explosion will be extremely powerful and we'll be able to observe the supernova from the Earth. What have you heard about this news? Is it of legitimate interest to the scientific community?

Nikolai Chugai: Right now we cannot say for sure when it will explode. But yes, Betelgeuse is commanding the attention of astrophysicists for a number of reasons. First of all, it is one of the brightest red super giants.

S.S.: How much bigger is it than the Sun?

N.C.: If we are talking about visible starts, the Sun is a minus 26 but that won't tell you much. It's more useful to speak about its luminosity. Betelgeuse is about 100,000 times brighter than the Sun. We know that Betelgeuse is a huge star. It has ten to 15 times more mass than the Sun, so it is a red super giant. This also means the star is near the end of its life. For the bulk of its life, it was a blue super giant, like Rigel (Beta Orionis). It existed for ten million years as a blue supergiant, and became a red supergiant only in the last 100 thousand years. Betelgeuse is actually the brightest star in the constellation Orion in the winter sky. [More>>en.rian.ru]


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