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3.09.09 A rising dollar lifts the US but adds to the crisis abroad

March 8 - As the world is seized with anxiety in the face of a spreading financial crisis, the one place having a considerably easier time attracting money is, perversely enough, the same place that started much of the trouble: the United States. American investors are ditching foreign ventures and bringing their dollars home, entrusting them to the supposed bedrock safety of United States government bonds. And China continues to buy staggering quantities of American debt. These actions are lifting the value of the dollar and providing the Obama administration with a crucial infusion of financing as it directs trillions of dollars toward rescuing banks and stimulating the economy, enabling the government to pay for these efforts without lifting interest rates. And yet in a global economy crippled by a lack of confidence and capital, with lending and investment mechanisms dysfunctional from Milan to Manila, the tilt of money toward the United States appears to be exacerbating the crisis.

The pursuit of capital suddenly seems like a zero sum game. A dollar invested by foreign central banks and investors in American government bonds is a dollar that is not available to Eastern European countries desperately seeking to refinance debt. It is a dollar that cannot reach Africa, where many countries are struggling with the loss of aid and foreign investment.

"Virtually all of the low-income countries are in very serious trouble,” said Eswar Prasad, a former official at the International Monetary Fund and a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, the liberal-leaning research organization in Washington. He went on: "This is the third wave of the financial crisis. Low-income countries are getting hit very hard. The flow of private capital to the emerging market has dried up." Private money invested in so-called emerging countries plunged from $928 billion in 2007 to $466 billion last year and is likely to fall to $165 billion this year, according to the Institute of International Finance.

Not that the United States is enjoying a great influx of money. Globally, investors are holding tight to cash and extracting it as quickly as they can from risky ventures. In the United States, investments by foreigners have slowed markedly. But as Americans eschew foreign deals and keep their dollars at home, and as foreign central banks — especially China — buy Treasury bills, the United States is absorbing money that used to be scattered around the globe. And that is making money tighter elsewhere in the world. The most immediate crisis appears to be in Eastern Europe, where investors borrowed exuberantly in foreign currencies — notably the euro and the Swiss franc — using those funds to build office towers and factories. Their debts are growing as their currencies decline in value, leading to bank losses and requiring government bailouts along with aid from the I.M.F..Economists liken this episode to the financial crisis that assaulted much of Asia in the late 1990s. Then, as now, investors borrowed in foreign currencies. When investment left the region, local currencies plummeted, particularly in Thailand and Indonesia, setting off defaults and sowing job losses and poverty.
[More>>nytimes.com; See related stories:

xinhuanet.com, March 9, "Shares tumble in major Asian markets" : TOKYO - Tokyo's Nikkei index closed at its lowest level in more than 26 years on renewed jittery over the Japanese and global economy. The 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average lost 87.07 points, or 1.21 percent, from Friday to 7,086.03, marking its lowest finish since Oct. 6, 1982 when the Nikkei closed at 6,974.35...

...BEIJING - Chinese equities fell 3.39 percent on Monday amid renewed concern about the country's economy as a range of February economic data are due to release since Tuesday, analysts said. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index dropped 3.39 percent, or 74.26 points, to 2,118.75. The Shenzhen Component Index was down 3.67 percent, or 303.09 points, to 7,946.8. Combined turnover was 158.1 billion yuan (23.1 billion U.S. dollars), slightly down from 159.88 billion yuan on previous trading day...

...HONG KONG - Hong Kong stocks dive 576.94 points, or 4.84 percent, to close at 11,344.58 on Monday as market heavyweight HSBC further pummeled by more than 24 percent. The benchmark Hang Seng Index dipped 49.06 points, or 0.41 percent, to open at 11,872.46 and widened its losses and dived 576. 94 points, or 4.84 percent, to close at the day's lowest 11,344.58, near the important supporting mark at 10,767 recorded last October...

indianexpress.com, March 9, "India loses 5 lakh (five hundred thousand) jobs in 3 months" :The global economy is likely to shrink for the first time since World War II, with growth at least five percentage point below potential and likely to have long-term implications for developing countries, the World Bank has said. The Bank's projections show that developing countries face a financing shortfall of USD 270 to USD 700 billion this year, as private sector creditors shun emerging markets, and only one quarter of the most vulnerable countries have the resources to prevent a rise in poverty...Cambodia, for example, has lost 30,000 jobs in the garment industry, its only significant export industry. More than half a million jobs have been lost in the last three months of 2008 in India, including in gems and jewellery, autos and textiles, it says....

koreaherald.co.kr, March 9, "Small businesses collapse at faster rate" : The rate at which mom-and-pop stores and small and medium-sized companies are going under has risen, raising fears of growing credit defaults, industry officials said yesterday. As of the fourth quarter of 2008, the number of small and medium-sized enterprises that went bankrupt totaled 649, a 50 percent surge from the same period in 2007, according to the Bank of Korea, the Financial Supervisory Service and the Small and Medium Business Administration. In January this year, the number was 184, up 49 from a year ago. The number of small store owners, which totaled 6.06 million in September 2008, declined to 5.59 million as of January this year. Small eateries, considered the most vulnerable among private businesses, saw 17,764 closures in January, up 2,177 compared to the previous month...Faltering exports and anemic domestic consumption have been dimming the prospects of a prompt rebound...

japantoday.com, March 9, "Corporate failures jump 10% in February" : TOKYO - The number of corporate bankruptcies in Japan leapt 10.38% in February from a year earlier to 1,318, increasing for the ninth straight month, a private credit-research agency said Monday...

alarabiya.net, March 9, "Dubai real estate, hotel industries decline sharply" : DUBAI - Palm-shaped islands, the world's tallest tower and the seven-star sail-shaped hotel are icons of Dubai's once-booming real estate and hotel sectors that have been hit hard by the financial crisis as more than half of the residential and commercial property projects due for completion in Dubai through 2012 have been put on hold or cancelled amid the steepest decline in hotel occupancy rates in five years. The emirate's property sector, which boasts an indoor ski slope and the world's tallest tower, has been hit hard by the financial crisis as developers halt or cancel projects, property prices fall and jobs are slashed...

arabtimes.com (AFP) March 9, "Asia capital losses at 9.6 trillion dollars in 2008" : MANILA - Financial assets in Asia lost 9.6 trillion dollars in value in 2008, slightly more than a year's worth of GDP, the Asian Development Bank said on Monday. It said Asia was hit especially hard as the global downturn led to an estimated 50 trillion dollars in capital losses around the world. "Asia was hit harder than other parts of the developing world because the region's markets have expanded much more rapidly," the Manila-based bank said in a new study. It said losses in Asia, not counting Japan, amounted to more than a year's worth of gross domestic product.

cnn.com, March 9, "For Dow, another 12-year low"
NEW YORK - Stocks tumbled Monday, with the Dow and S&P 500 ending at fresh 12-year lows, as Merck's $41 billion purchase of Schering-Plough failed to distract investors from worries about the economy. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) lost 80 points, or 1.2%, to end at 6,547.05, its lowest point since April 15, 1997. The S&P 500 (SPX) index lost nearly 7 points or 1%, to end at 676.53, its lowest point since Sept. 12, 1996. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 25 points or 2%, to end at 1,268.64, its lowest point since Oct. 9, 2002...

3.09.09 Don't rely on Bush's signing statements, Obama orders

WASHINGTON, March 8 - Calling into question the legitimacy of all the signing statements that former President George W. Bush used to challenge new laws, President Obama on Monday ordered executive officials to consult with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. before relying on any of them to bypass a statute. But Mr. Obama also signaled that he intends to use signing statements himself if Congress sends him legislation that has provisions he decides are unconstitutional. He pledged to use a modest approach when doing so, but said there was a role for the practice if used appropriately...Mr. Bush frequently used signing statements to declare that provisions in the bills he was signing were unconstitutional constraints on executive power, claiming that the laws did not need to be enforced or obeyed as written. The laws he challenged included a torture ban and requirements that Congress be given detailed reports about how the Justice Department was using the counter-terrorism powers in the USA Patriot Act. [Full story>>nytimes.com]

3.09.09 Obama ends stem cell research ban

WASHINGTON, March 9 - President Barack Obama said Monday he is allowing federal taxpayer dollars to fund significantly broader research on embryonic stem cells because "medical miracles do not happen simply by accident," and promised his administration would make up for the ground lost under his predecessor. Fulfilling a campaign promise, Mr. Obama signed an executive order expected to set in motion increased research that supporters believe could uncover cures for serious ailments from diabetes to paralysis.

Mr. Obama's action, before a packed East Room audience, reverses former President George W. Bush's policy on stem cell research by undoing a 2001 directive that banned federal funding for research into stem lines created after that date. Mr. Bush limited the use of taxpayer money to only the 21 stem cell lines that had been produced before his decision. He argued he was defending human life because days-old embryos - although typically from fertility clinics and already destined for destruction - are destroyed to create the stem cell lines.

3.09.09 Justices decline New York gun suit

WASHINGTON, March 9 - New York City's nine-year lawsuit accusing gun makers of flooding illicit markets with their firearms came to an end on Monday, when the Supreme Court refused to consider a lower court's dismissal of the case. Without comment, the justices decided not to review a ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which declared last April 30 that federal law protected the manufacturers from such suits. The appeals court had overturned a decision by Judge Jack B. Weinstein of Federal District Court in Brooklyn, who ruled in 2005 that the suit could proceed despite protests by such gun makers as Beretta U.S.A., Browning Arms, Colt Manufacturing, Glock and Smith & Wesson. The gun companies complained that a federal law passed just two months earlier shielded them from such suits.

The law, formally the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, banned suits against the firearms industry, except when a plaintiff could prove that gun makers had violated state or federal statutes in their sales and marketing practices...The lawsuit did not seek monetary damages but, rather, an order directing the gun makers to more closely monitor the dealers who sold their wares — too often to criminals, the city contended...Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has made gun-trafficking one of his signature issues. In 2006, the city sued 27 gun dealers in Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio, claiming that their lax screening practices created a public nuisance in New York City. That suit has achieved some victories, with at least two arms dealers being forced out of business.
[Full story>>nytimes.com; See related stories at Maravot News 3.02.09 article 3.01.09 Mexico: US must stop gun trade at border

3.09.09 Pakistan troops kill 15 militants in Mohmand: official

March 9 - Pakistani troops backed by helicopter gunships attacked Islamist militants close to the Afghan border, killing 15 of them, a government official said on Monday. The violence Sunday took place in Mohmand tribal region hours after suspected Taliban fighters killed 13 paramilitary police officers. In late February, the military took journalists to Mohmand and neighboring Bajur and claimed major security gains in both regions. Meraj Khan, a government representative in Mohmand, said the attack on the militants took place late Sunday in the Salam Koroona area...Mohmand and surrounding districts in northwest Pakistan are Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds. [More>>nation.com.pk]

3.09.09 Commentary: Deals with Taliban could be dangerous

March 9 - (CNN Editor's note: Peter Bergen is a fellow at the New America Foundation, a Washington-based think tank that promotes innovative thought from across the ideological spectrum and at New York University's Center on Law and Security. He's the author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader.") It is a longstanding cliché that there is no military solution in Afghanistan, only a political one. Linked to this is the newer, related notion, rapidly becoming a cliché, that the United States should start making deals with elements of the "reconcilable" Taliban.

...doing deals with the Taliban today could further destabilize Afghanistan...there are nine reasons why doing deals with most of the various factions of the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are labeled "the Taliban" are more in the realm of fantasy than a sustainable policy.

...Fifth, the Taliban leadership is largely in Pakistan. Side deals done with the Afghan Taliban will have little or no effect on the fact that the command and control of the insurgency is in another country.

Sixth, when Pakistan's government has done "peace" deals with the Taliban in the Pakistani tribal regions in 2005 and 2006 and in the northern region of Swat earlier this year, they were made following military setbacks by Pakistan's army. Those deals then allowed the militants to regroup and extend their control over greater swaths of Pakistani territory. Why would new agreements with the Taliban on either side of the Afghan-Pakistan border yield different results?

Eighth, while the Taliban was never a monolithic movement, it is much closer to al-Qaeda today than it was before 9/11. Yes, there are local groups of the Taliban operating for purely local reasons, but the upper levels of the Taliban have morphed together ideologically and tactically with al-Qaeda. Baitullah Mehsud, for instance, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, sent suicide attackers to Spain in January 2008, according to Spanish counterterrorism officials, and sees himself as part of the global jihad. The Haqqani family, arguably the most important component of the insurgency on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, has ties with bin Laden that date back to at least 1985, according to the Palestinian journalist Jamal Ismail, who has known the al-Qaeda leader for more than two decades. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a commander allied to the Taliban, has been close to bin Laden since at least 1989, according to militants who know both men.

Al-Qaeda was founded in Pakistan two decades ago, and bin Laden has been fighting alongside Afghan mujahedeen groups since the mid-1980s. Al-Qaeda Central on the Afghan/Pakistan border is much less of a "foreign" group with far deeper and older roots in the region than al-Qaeda ever was in Iraq. The Taliban's rhetoric is now filled with references to Iraq and Palestine in a manner that mirrors bin Laden's public statements. The use of suicide attacks, improvised explosive devices and the beheadings of hostages — all techniques that al-Qaeda perfected in Iraq — are methods that the Taliban have increasingly adopted in Afghanistan and have grown exponentially there since 2005. iReport.com: Should there be a deal with the Taliban? One could go on listing examples of the Taliban's ideological and tactical collaboration with al-Qaeda, but the larger point is that separating al Qaeda and the Taliban is not going to be as relatively simple as splintering Iraqi insurgent groups from al-Qaeda in Iraq.
[Full story>>cnn.com; See also Maravot News article 3.08.09 Taliban kill 14 kidnapped Pakistani soldiers, and related reports that have to do with the Taliban's control of the Afghanistan drug trade - the largest in the world and similar to FARC of Columbia]

3.08.09 Iranian police kill six drug traffickers, seize 5 tons of drugs

TEHRAN (RIA Novosti) March 8 - Iranian police have killed six drug traffickers and seized five tons of opium in armed clashes in the country's east, the Iranian media reported on Sunday. The police operation in the Sistan-Baluchestan province on the border with Pakistan was launched on Saturday afternoon and lasted several hours. There have been no reports of casualties among the police, the media reported. Drug traffickers use the territory of Iran for the smuggling of drugs largely produced in Afghanistan.

According to Iranian police, about 30% of narcotic drugs produced in Afghanistan and Pakistan are smuggled into Iran, of which 50% remain in the country and the remaining part is brought to other countries. From April 2008 to January 2009, Iranian police killed 120 drug traffickers and drug dealers and seized over 30,000 tons of drugs. A total of 19 Iranian police and border guards were killed in armed clashes with drug traffickers and drug dealers over that period. The Iranian authorities spend about $600 million a year on the fight against drug trafficking.

3.08.09 NATO soldier killed and two injured in eastern Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (DPA) March 8 - One NATO soldier was killed and two injured in a roadside bomb blast in eastern Afghanistan, the military said Sunday. The soldiers, who were part of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), were attacked during a patrol on Sunday, the alliance said in a statement. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.08.09 Taliban kill 14 kidnapped Pakistani soldiers

ISLAMABAD (AFP) March 8 - Pakistani Taliban have shot dead 14 security personnel, a day after kidnapping them in a tribal region near the Afghan border, an official said today. The Taliban abducted the security personnel yesterday after an exchange of fire in Mohmand Agency, assistant administrative officer Rasool Khan said. Local residents found the bullet-riddled bodies of the security men in the mountainous areas of Omar Banda and Ayesha Kuroona today. The security forces collected the bodies, Khan said.

The security forces also launched a major operation against those responsible for killing the security personnel, witnesses said. Troops blocked all roads in the area and initiated a search to catch the militants. Mohmand Agency is located near the restive Bajaur tribal region. Security officials believe the Taliban sneaked into Mohmand Agency after the army expelled them from Bajaur, where the army claims to have killed over 1,500 militants...The Taliban in Mohmand Agency are led by Omar Khalid. Local media reported in January that Khalid was killed in fighting with security forces but Taliban spokesman Ikramullah Mohmand denied these reports.
[>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related stories, i

indianexpress.com, March 8, "Pakistan releases 12 Taliban prisoners as goodwill gesture" : ISLAMABAD - Pakistani authorities have released 12 Taliban prisoners in the restive Swat valley as a goodwill gesture in the wake of a peace deal signed by the North West Frontier Province Government and religious hardliners. The release of the Taliban prisoners on Saturday coincided with talks between NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and religious hardliners on implementing Shariah or Islamic law in Swat and Malakand areas.

The peace deal signed in February between the NWFP government and Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi, an outlawed hardline group headed by Maulana Sufi Mohammad, envisages the enforcement of Shariah in Swat and Malakand. Information Minister Hussain told the TNSM leaders that the implementation of Shariah and appointment of Qazis for Islamic courts will be finalized after discussions with Chief Minister Amir Haider Khan Hoti.

Following the controversial pact, Sufi Mohammad began parleys with Taliban militants led by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. Several countries, including the US and India, have expressed concern over the peace deal. Though the authorities and the Taliban announced separate ceasefires to facilitate the parleys, the truce has been violated several times by the Taliban. The militants killed two soldiers in an attack on Tuesday. [end]

nytimes.com, March 8, "Obama ponders outreach to elements of the Taliban" : WASHINGTON - President Obama declared in an interview that the United States was not winning the war in Afghanistan and opened the door to a reconciliation process in which the American military would reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban, much as it did with Sunni militias in Iraq. Mr. Obama pointed to the success in peeling Iraqi insurgents away from more hard-core elements of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, a strategy that many credit as much as the increase of American forces with turning the war around in the last two years. “There may be some comparable opportunities in Afghanistan and in the Pakistani region,” he said, while cautioning that solutions in Afghanistan will be complicated...

Maravot News 2.24.09 article
2.19.09 'Taliban earning $200-$300 million annually from Opium trade'

:...The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that "the Taliban have an annual revenue of between USD 200-300 million from a surcharge levied on illicit drug trade."...

arabnews.com, March 8, "Drug networks busted" :
The second gang, including six Saudis and six foreigners, tried to smuggle 903.7 kilograms of hashish into the Kingdom in addition to 450,000 Captagon pills. "These drugs were on their way to the Kingdom but security officers were able to arrest the smugglers and seize the drugs," Al-Turki said. Security officers raided three hide-outs of the smugglers and seized 343 kilograms of hashish, bringing the total amount of hashish busted from the second gang to 1,246 kilograms. In this third drug bust, Al-Turki said, police seized 1.95 million Captagon pills and arrested a numbers of foreigners involved in their sales. The fourth gang tried to smuggle more than 500 kilograms of hashish into the Kingdom, he said...

Maravot News 8.13.08 article 8.13.08 UAE makes 'largest-ever' drug bust in the region...Police in Sharjah, a member of the United Arab Emirates, said on Tuesday they have busted an Afghan drug trafficking gang in possession of 202 kilograms (445pounds) of pure heroin...

Maravot News 10.17.08
10.12.08 Yemen puts on trial 25 Iranian fishermen...Twelve men whose case opened on Saturday are said to have smuggled 3.5 tons of hashish into Yemen, while 13 others who went on trial on Sunday are charged with illegal entry and possession of 20 kilos of hashish...Yemeni authorities say they have seized a total of 27 tons of drugs in the past nine months, mostly from Iranian traffickers trying to move them via Yemen to Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the Gulf.

Maravot News 2.29.08 article
2.28.08 29 militants killed in South Afghanistan...Militants ambushed an opium poppy eradication force in southern Afghanistan, sparking clashes that left 25 Taliban fighters and a policeman dead, police said Thursday...Officials estimate that up to 40 percent of proceeds from Afghanistan's drug trade — an amount worth tens of millions of dollars — is used to fund the insurgency.

Maravot News 1.07.08 article
1.02.08 Five terrorists die when planting bomb in a car in Afghanistan ...In Nangarhar, in the east of the country, Afghan police confiscated 1,030 kg of hashish and arrested three suspects in drug trafficking earlier in the day. Afghanistan, where the Taliban regime was overthrown in the 2001 US-led campaign, has seen a rise in violence in the last two years. The country is also the world's leader in opium trade, with almost all its arable lands being sown with poppy..See related story, indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org, January 2, "US general predicts record poppy haul."

Maravot News 7.23.06 article
7.20.06 Kyrgystan risks becoming narcotics transit-state – drugs tsar ..Kyrgyzstan's drug control chief issued a stark warning Thursday that the Central Asian country could be becoming a transit-country for narcotics as up to five metric tons a year cross its borders. Police say one of the largest drug trafficking routes in the region passes from Afghanistan, the world's biggest opium producer, through Kyrgyzstan and then on to Russia and western Europe.

jamestown.org, "Afghanistan's Drug Trade and how it funds Taliban operations."

cfr.org article "Afghanistan's role in Iran's drug problem."

csmonitor.com, 11.21.2006, "Taliban drug trade: Echoes of Columbia" : ...As Afghanistan's narcotics trade explodes past $3 billion a year, there is concern that the Taliban is becoming another FARC, Colombia's notorious leftist insurgent group that draws much of its funding from the drug trade. The Taliban and FARC the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia both got their start protecting peasants from corrupt governments. There's evidence both initially fought narcotics traffic but then levied taxes on the trade for much-needed cash...

Maravot News article
01.18.09 Al-Qaeda threatens German soldiers in web video ...A sign behind his head identified him as "Abu Talha the German" and he spoke in German, with a slight foreign accent. Whoever tried to make a distinction between al-Qaeda and the Taliban had not understood his enemy, he added.

wikipedia.org, "Planning of the September 11 attacks." and 9-11commission.gov, "National Commission on Terrorist attacks upon the United States."

Maravot News article 10.30.08 Iran threatens US with suicide bombers

3.08.09 Iraq: Suicide bomber targets police, killing 26

BAGHDAD (AP) March 8 - A suicide bomber struck police lined up at the entrance of the main police academy in Baghdad on Sunday, killing more than two dozen people and wounding dozens of others, officials said. The blast was a bloody reminder of the ability of insurgents to stage dramatic attacks as the US begins to draw down its forces. The US military was expected to announce the withdrawal of two more brigades on Sunday. The bomber detonated his explosives near a side entrance of the academy, which is in a mainly Shiite area of eastern Baghdad. One police officer said the bomber was riding a motorcycle when he drove into the line, but the Interior Ministry said the method of attack had not yet been determined.[More>>thejakartapost.com; See also nytimes.com, March 8, "Suicide attack kills 28 in Baghdad."]

3.08.09 The next hit: Quick defaults

March 8 - More FHA-Backed Mortgages Go Bad Without a Single Payment. The last time the housing market was this bad, Congress set up the Federal Housing Administration to insure Depression-era mortgages that lenders wouldn't otherwise make. This decade's housing boom rendered the agency irrelevant. Americans raced to aggressive lenders, seduced by easy credit and loans with no upfront costs. But the subprime mortgage market has crashed and borrowers are flocking back to the FHA, which has become the only option for those who lack hefty down payments or stellar credit. The agency's historic role in backing mortgages is more crucial now than at any time since its founding.

With the surge in new loans, however, comes a new threat. Many borrowers are defaulting as quickly as they take out the loans. In the past year alone, the number of borrowers who failed to make more than a single payment before defaulting on FHA-backed mortgages has nearly tripled, far outpacing the agency's overall growth in new loans, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal data. Many industry experts attribute the jump in these instant defaults to factors that include the weak economy, lax scrutiny of prospective borrowers and most notably, foul play among unscrupulous lenders looking to make a quick buck. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

3.07.09 Lloyd's chief to draw £3m pension

LONDON, March 7 - The Chief Executive of Lloyds Banking Group, Eric Daniels, is set to receive a £3m pension as the Government is forced to take a majority stake in the 244-year-old bank. Mr. Daniels, 58, stands to draw retirement payments of £150,000 a year when he reaches 60. He helped orchestrate the Government-backed rescue of HBOS which was overloaded with toxic assets in the form of bad debts. The merger of Lloyds TSB with the stricken HBOS to form the Lloyds Banking Group was proposed to shore up the ailing giant, which operated Halifax and the Bank of Scotland. Instead the weight of HBOS' bad debts dragged down the newly formed Lloyds Banking Group necessitating the Government to step in and take a majority stake.

Under the agreement, the Government's stake in the bank is expected to leap from 43 percent to about 60 per cent. This could potentially rise to 75 percent further down the line, according to reports last night. Taxpayers now look destined to end up covering the reported £3 million pension pot of the bank's American boss...Sir Fred Goodwin — blamed for crippling the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) after aggressively entering the mortgage markets — agreed to take early retirement in October 2008 after the Government was forced to effectively nationalize RBS. The 50-year-old received a £703,000 a year deal and is under immense pressure to return the cash. So far Sir Fred has resisted any pressure for him to give back his pension despite it being seen a "reward for failure."
[Full story>>timesonline.co.uk]

3.07.09 Morocco severs relations with Iran

March 7 - Morocco has severed diplomatic relations with Iran, accusing the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat of seeking to spread Shia Islam in the predominantly Sunni Muslim kingdom. A statement from Morocco's foreign ministry on Friday accused the Iranian embassy of "intolerable interference in the internal affairs of the kingdom," and of engaging in activities which threatened the religious unity of the country. "The Kingdom of Morocco has decided to break its diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran beginning this Friday," the ministry said.

Monouchehr Mottaki, Iran's foreign minister, said Morocco's decision was unexpected. "The action by the Morocco government is surprising and questionable," Mottaki told reporters. Moroccan local media has repeatedly accused Iran of proselytising in recent years, claims rejected by the Iranian ambassador. The controversy was fuelled recently by comments attributed to an adviser of Iran's supreme leader which questioned the sovereignty of Bahrain, a Gulf Arab state which has a majority Shia population but is ruled by Sunnis.
[More>>aljazeera.net; See also alarabiya.net]

3.07.09 Women in Morocco can advance better: activist

CASABLANCA, Morocco (AFP) March 7 - Opposition to women's rights in Morocco decrease. It was backed by the king and finally passed, a hotly disputed reform to empower women, cast off their vulnerability and set a trend in Muslim North Africa — Morocco's landmark 2004 family law. Five years later, the reform of "Mudawana," as it is called, is "positive overall" but still falls short of expectations, according to the rights' activist and outspoken head of Morocco's Democratic League for Women's Rights (LDDP), Fouzia Assouli. Moroccans today have "embraced the idea of women's rights but we are still behind in terms of society's expectations," she told AFP in an interview ahead of International Women's Day on March 8.

...The 2004 reforms gave women the right to divorce their husbands and to own assets and property obtained during marriage, and clamped down sharply on a man's ability to repudiate his wife. But Assouli said two other points are crying out for more change: the marriage of minors and the practice of polygamy, which are still allowed under a judge's discretion in this country of 34.3 million where an estimated 31 percent of the population is under 14.

..."There is no longer the same sort of opposition as before," Assouli conceded, "but it's time to make changes to the family code to restrict and clarify the power of the judges." The 2004 reforms gave women the right to divorce their husbands and to own assets and property obtained during marriage, and clamped down sharply on a man's ability to repudiate his wife. But Assouli said two other points are crying out for more change: the marriage of minors and the practice of polygamy, which are still allowed under a judge's discretion in this country of 34.3 million where an estimated 31 percent of the population is under 14.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net]

3.07.09 Booby-trapped car kills eight in Pakistan

(AP) March 7 - A bomb-laden car exploded this morning in northwest Pakistan as police tried to pull a body from it, authorities said, killing seven police and a bystander as international fears grow over security and political stability in the nuclear-armed country. Al-Qaeda, Taliban and linked militants have staged numerous attacks against security forces along Pakistan's northwest border with Afghanistan, but today's appeared to be the first to use a body as a lure. It occurred in the Badaber area, where residents recently evicted militants with help from police, prompting threats of retaliation.

The morning blast also came days after gunmen attacked Sri Lanka's cricket team in eastern Pakistan and ahead of expected anti-government rallies later this month involving the main opposition party. The turmoil is of great concern to US and other Western officials, who need Pakistan to focus on fighting militancy. Many militants are believed to use pockets of Pakistan's northwest as bases to plan attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
[More>>independent.co.uk; See related stories;

japantoday.com, March 7, "Taliban cement hard-line law after truce in Pakistan region" : MINGORA, Pakistan - Zeb Gul used to sell music CDs in this mountain town but was driven out of business by Taliban militants who struck a deal with Pakistani leaders desperate to halt their march across the nation. The government insists the Taliban won't be allowed to enforce its harsh version of Islam here, but merchants like Gul know otherwise he switched to selling poultry...With its lush mountain scenery and the country's sole ski resort, the Swat Valley once attracted wealthy Pakistani vacationers and adventurous Westerners. It lies just east of Pakistan's tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan, where al-Qaeda and the Taliban have long held sway.

But over the past 18 months, Taliban militants have battled security forces in Swat, beheading political opponents and burning scores of girls’ schools. Hundreds have been killed in the fighting, which has sent a third of its 1.5 million people fleeing...Despite the truce, violence has continued. Taliban militants killed two Pakistani soldiers this week who they accused of patrolling without first informing them, one of the terms of the truce. The day after the cease-fire was formalized, a TV journalist from Pakistan's most popular news channel was abducted and murdered in an area known to be under militant control...

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, March 7, "Taliban militants shoot down US drone in Pakistan" : MIRANSHAH, Pakistan - Taliban militants on Saturday shot down a pilotless US drone in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan, officials said. Residents and a local police official said two drones were flying low over a village in the South Waziristan tribal district when one of them was hit by militant fire. "We heard the firing by Taliban and then a drone fell down," tribal police official Israr Khan said. Another security official said the drone crashed in a forest near a Pakistani border post. "Apparently a drone has crashed in the nearby forest, we are searching for its wreckage," a security official said. [end]

nytimes.com, March 7, "Obama ponders outreach to elements of the Taliban" :

3.07.09 Obama seeks dismissal of case against John yoo, author of 'Torture Memo"

March 7 - In a California federal court, President Obama's Justice Department is defending former Bush official John Yoo, author of the so-called "torture memo." Yoo is being sued by Jose Padilla, currently serving 17 years in prison for conspiring to provide support to Islamist extremists. Padilla's lawyers say that Yoo's memos on interrogation policies led to his detention and torture. The Obama Justice Department moved to dismiss the case before US District Judge Jeffrey White. "This administration has made no secret of the fact that it disagrees with the previous administration's approach to many legal issues in the national security arena," Matthew Miller, spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a written statement. "Nevertheless, the Department of Justice generally defends employees and former employees in lawsuits that are filed in connection to their official duties."

Justice Department attorney Mary Mason said something similar at the hearing, stating that "we're not saying we condone torture." But she argued that recourse against a government lawyer such as Yoo
who worked for the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel "is for the executive to decide, in the first instance, and for Congress to decide," not the courts, she said. [More>>abcnews.com]

3.07.09 Afghan road blocked in protest against deadly raid

KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) March 7 - Nearly 150 people on Saturday demonstrated in eastern Afghanistan over the deaths of four people killed in a night raid that US-led coalition forces said was targeted at insurgents. Carrying the coffins of the victims, protesters blocked the road between Gardez and Khost for two hours, according to an AFP correspondent. "Death to America, death to the government, death to the governor," the demonstrators chanted, before throwing stones at a convoy of soldiers from the International Strategic Assistant Force (ISAF). The demonstrators said the four dead were not linked to the Taliban. However, the US-led coalition said that the four were killed in a raid on insurgent leaders in Khost, which lies close to the border with Pakistan's northwestern tribal areas, a haven for Taliban and Islamist militants.

"When the combined Afghan and coalition force arrived at the targeted compound, they were engaged by multiple armed militants using small-arms fire in a populated, urban area," it said in a statement. "The combined force returned fire, killing four militants and injuring one," it said. The injured militant was treated by a medical team and was detained, as was one armed militant who had fled the compound on foot, the statement said. A search of the compound uncovered weapons, explosives and improvised explosive device-making materials, which were confiscated, it said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.07.09 IAF bombs Gaza smuggling tunnel after rockets hit Negev

March 7 - The Israel Air Force bombed a smuggling tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday after militants in the coastal territory fired at least three rockets into Israel. The rockets fired from Gaza hit the western Negev, causing injuries or damage. Meanwhile, a member of an Islamic Jihad rocket squad was killed and two others were wounded Saturday in what a Palestinian medic said was an Israeli airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip. [More>>haaretz.com]

3.07.09 Suicide bomber kills 2, self in Algeria

ALGIERS, March 7 - A security official says a suicide bomber blew himself up in a guards’ headquarters in Algeria, killing two people and himself. The official says the man set off an explosives belt when the door was opened to him at the headquarters of the communal guards — a government-armed militia — in the village of Tadmatait in the Kabylie region, east of the capital. The official says a guard, an elderly woman and the attacker died in the Saturday morning attack. The official demanded anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss security issues. Kabylie is a mountainous area where Islamic insurgents still hide even though an insurgency triggered in 1992 has largely ended. [>thenews.com.pk]

3.07.09 Spacecraft blasts off in search of 'earths'

March 7 - NASA launched its Kepler spacecraft just before 11pm Friday in a mission that the agency says may fundamentally change humanity's view of itself. The Kepler spacecraft blasted into space on top of a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The telescope will search our corner of the Milky Way galaxy for Earth-like planets. "This is a historical mission. It's not just a science mission," NASA Associate Administrator Ed Weiler said during a prelaunch news conference. "It really attacks some very basic human questions that have been part of our genetic code since that first man or woman looked up in the sky and asked the question: Are we alone?" Watch iReport video of launch Kepler contains a special telescope that will stare at 100,000 stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region of the Milky Way for more than three years as it trails Earth's orbit around the Sun. The spacecraft will look for tiny dips in a star's brightness, which can mean an orbiting planet is passing in front of it — an event called a transit. [More>>cnn.com; See more details at nasa.gov.]

3.06.09 Continuing job losses may signal broad economic shift

March 6 - Another 651,000 jobs disappeared from the American economy in February, the government reported Friday, as the unemployment rate soared to 8.1 percent — its highest level since 1983. The latest grim scorecard of contraction in the American work place largely destroyed what hopes remained for an economic recovery in the first half of this year, and it added to a growing sense that 2009 is likely a lost cause. Most economists now assume that the soonest American fortunes can improve is near the end of the year, as the Obama administration's $787 billion emergency spending program begins to wash through the economy...Indeed, the monthly snapshot of the national employment picture worsened an already abysmal picture as the government revised upward the number of jobs lost in December and January. The economy has now shed at least 650,000 jobs for three consecutive months, the worst decline in percentage terms over that length of time since 1975. [Full story>>nytimes.com; See related stories:

cbsnews.com, March 6, "Wall Street loses early morning momentum" :
Wall Street gave up an early gain and turned lower Friday as the severity of US job losses began to register with investors. While the February jobs report was worse than analysts' estimates, many market participants had braced for even grimmer data, giving stocks a temporary bounce in the morning which quickly faded...The market has been plummeting this week through barrier after barrier - the Standard & Poor's 500 index tumbled more than 4 percent Thursday to its lowest close since September 1996. "We just don't have very strong buying support," said Darin Newsom, senior analyst at DTN. In midday trading, the Dow Jones industrial average is down 15 points at 6,579. The Standard & Poor's 500 index is down 4 at 679, and the Nasdaq composite index is down 18 at 1,315...

Maravot News "National_Debt.html"
, March 5 - discusses immediate affects of National Debt upon economy.

3.06.09 Olmert: No peace without dividing Jerusalem

JERUSALEM, March 6 - Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned on Friday that it would not be possible to reach a peace accord with the Palestinians if Israel did not cede part of Jerusalem to them. "There won't be peace if part of Jerusalem does not become the capital of the Palestinian state," said Olmert, speaking at Kibbutz Yifat in the Galilee. During Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that were relaunched in 2007, though are currently stalled, the Fatah-controlled Palestinian Authority demanded parts of Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. The demand is highly contentious in Israel, with many rightist politicians stating their total opposition to any division of the city. In a wide-ranging speech, Olmert also mentioned Israel's recent offensive against Hamas in Gaza. [More>>haaretz.com]

3.06.09 Rockets slam South, IAF hits tunnels

JERUSALEM, March 6 - A Kassam rocket slammed into an open field south of Ashkelon overnight Thursday, causing no casualties or damage. Earlier on Thursday evening, a Grad rocket struck near a synagogue in Netivot, causing minor damage, but no casualties. In retaliation, the IDF hit four smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor. The incidents capped a day of violence that saw several Kassam rockets and mortar shells hit the western Negev, beginning shortly after Islamic Jihad vowed revenge for a series of air strikes that killed three of its operatives. On Thursday morning, two Palestinians were killed in an IAF strike in the center of the Gaza Strip.

Islamic Jihad said two of its members were killed in the attack, and a third was wounded. The three men, the group said, were returning to their homes in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza after a night on patrol along the Gaza-Israel border when they were targeted. The IDF said that the group was targeted after they fired an anti-tank missile at an IDF patrol along the security fence. IDF troops entered Gaza and chased after the terrorists while directing an aircraft to their location. The IAF strike came less than 12 hours after senior Islamic Jihad commander Khaled Shalan was killed after a missile struck his car in Gaza. Islamic Jihad spokesman Abu Ahmed vowed that his group would avenge the deaths.

3.06.09 US urges Iran not to hinder Afghan peace

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) March 6 - The US commander of international forces in Afghanistan accused Iran of supporting the Taleban insurgency and urged Teheran to join international efforts to bring peace to its eastern neighbor. "We believe there is certain training support, funding support and there is certain complicity in the narcotics trade," General David McKiernan said on Friday. But McKiernan said he had not seen the introduction in the last year of sophisticated Iranian military equipment of the kind that was sent to Iraq, nor had any Iranian trainers been caught. Iran also had "legitimate" cultural, economic, religious and political ties with its eastern neighbor, he said, adding: "I am hopeful that Iran can be part of the solution as opposed to being part of the problem." [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.05.09 Shares drop sharply on retail data and G.M. audit

March 5 - A day after breaking a five-day losing streak, Wall Street fell to new lows on Thursday as investors reacted to more concerns about the fate of General Motors, dreary retail sales and news that China did not appear poised to increase its stimulus spending. A broad sell-off dragged all sectors of the market lower, hitting financial stocks and transportation companies particularly hard. Producers of basic materials like metals and chemicals, whose shares rose Wednesday on speculation about China's stimulus spending, fell back. At 2pm the Dow Jones industrial average was down 222 points, or 3.4 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was down 3.5 percent. The technology-heavy Nasdaq index was off 3 percent. Stocks in Europe also closed sharply lower. Retailers in the United States began releasing February sales results on Thursday morning, more evidence that shoppers had sharply reduced their spending. But the numbers were not as bad as January, and one retailer, Wal-Mart easily topped expectations. [More.>nytimes.com; Update,nytimes.com: ...The Dow Jones industrial average closed at 6,594.44, down 281.40, or 4.1 percent — its lowest close since April 15, 1997. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 4.25 percent, to its lowest close since September 1996, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq index was off 4 percent. Stocks in Europe also were also off sharply...

Editorial note: For an updated discussion on the affects of the National Debt on this crisis see Maravot.com/National Debt.html.

3.05.09 Citigroup breaks the buck

NEW YORK, March 5 - Shares of the embattled financial firm dip below $1 a share, as investors continue to have a dire outlook for the bank. Citigroup logged another dismal milestone Thursday, as shares of the beleaguered bank slipped below $1 a share. The move, which may have seemed unthinkable just months ago, came as the broader market fell once again toward new 12-year lows due to worries about the health of the banking sector and the broader economy. After falling as low as 97 cents a share during midday trading, Citigroup (C, Fortune 500) pared some losses and were trading at about $1.01, down 11% from Wednesday's close. It marks the lowest level for the bank's stock since Citicorp and Travelers Group merged in 1998 to create Citigroup. [More>>cnn.com]

3.05.09 British house prices fall 2.3% in February

March 5 - Halifax, the mortgage lender, said today that house prices had fallen by 2.3 per cent last month but they were now at their most affordable for six years. The lender said that the average home had lost 17.7 per cent of its value since this time last year and was now at the same level as August 2004. Halifax also said that the house price to earnings ratio, a measure of housing affordability, had fallen from a peak of 5.84 to 4.42 — the same level as February 2003. The Halifax's figures corroborate estimates from the Nationwide Building Society, which said last week that house prices in February fell by 1.8 per cent and were down 17.6 per cent since last year. {More>>timesonline.oc.uk]

3.05.09 US pushing for high-level Afghanistan meeting that would include Iran

BRUSSELS, Belgium, March 5 - The Obama administration is pushing to convene a high-level meeting on Afghanistan this month that could for first time bring together Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her Iranian counterpart. Clinton on Thursday announced the push to hold the meeting during a gathering of NATO foreign ministers, saying it would bring together top diplomats of a broad range of countries including NATO members and "key regional and strategic countries." She said she expected Iran would be invited. The meeting would be held March 31, Clinton said, and the United States was "discussing with the UN the possibility that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon could open the conference and that his special representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, could chair the meeting." [More>>washingtonpost.com]

3.05.09 Pakistan identifies Lanka team attackers

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) March 5 - Pakistan said Thursday authorities had identified the men who ambushed the Sri Lankan cricket team and conceded security breaches in failing to prevent the deadly attack. Dramatic footage of the gunmen making a leisurely getaway from the scene of Tuesday's deadly assault opened the floodgates to criticism that security forces should have done more to prevent an assault that killed eight people. "We have identified the people who did the operation," provincial governor Salman Taseer told a news conference in Lahore, the capital of Punjab. Pakistan is steeped in political violence, and suspicion has fallen mainly on Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Police have brought in around two dozen people for questioning but no leads have been announced.

"We have a lot of information. We have arrested many people, rounded up some suspects... but the final investigation will be presented to me tomorrow; till then I am not in a position to say more," said Taseer. Up to 12 men attacked the convoy of officials, coaches and players, firing automatic weapons, grenades and a rocket launcher as the vehicles approached the cricket ground in the city of Lahore. The attackers fled without a trace. The new footage, captured by closed-circuit cameras, shows two suspects wearing rucksacks and ambling down the road, apparently untroubled after the carnage took place. They then jump on motorbikes and speed off.

Police released sketches of four suspects. No one has claimed responsibility for the assault, which killed eight Pakistanis and wounded 19 people, including seven Sri Lankan players and an assistant coach. Pakistan lawmakers accused the government of a "serious security lapse" and highlighted reports that the authorities were warned of a possible attack...More than 1,600 people have been killed in attacks in Pakistan over the past 22 months, and al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have forged a de facto safe haven in the country's lawless northwest along the border with Afghanistan...Simon Taufel, an Australian umpire caught in the attack, said their bus had been left unprotected once the assault began. "You tell me why supposedly 20 armed commandos were in our convoy and when the team bus got going again, we were left on our own? I don't have any answers to these questions."
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See also:

indianexpress.com, March 5, "Pakistan Interior Minister rules out India's role in Lahore" :..."We have identified the people who have carried out the attack. We are after them," Taseer said adding the Army and the intelligence agency, ISI, are helping in tracking down the gunmen. Taseer said the investigators have found a large amount of weapons. "It was like a small army." ..Investigators questioned five suspects who are believed to have helped the terrorists. The suspects claimed that the attackers had stayed in the city for a month before striking. They are also trying to trace persons whose telephone numbers were found on the SIM cards of the mobile left behind by the terrorists. One of the suspects, a resident of Rehmanpura, had a photograph of one of the attackers, the "Dawn" newspaper said quoting sources...Babar Shahzad, who had reportedly purchased one of the SIMs used by the attackers, and Dilawar Hussain, a teenager, were picked up from a village at Rahim Yar Khan in southern Punjab. The three other suspects were detained in Lahore...

aljazeera.net, March 5, "Pakistan criticized over attacks" : Cricket officials involved in the deadly attacks on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore has criticized the Pakistani security forces. Chris Broad, an International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee, said on Wednesday that he suspected insiders may have helped 12 assailants kill six police officers and a bus driver in Tuesday's attack. Steve Davis and Simon Taufel, two Australian umpires in the same bus as Broad, also said security men deserted them "in their hour of need".

..The comments came as footage from security cameras was released by the television station Geo of several attackers calmly fleeing the scene of the crime down a deserted side street. All of the armed men were shown escaping, none of whom have been apprehended..."When you watch the TV pictures you can clearly see the white van we were in, in the middle of a roundabout and not a sign of a policeman anywhere," Broad said.

"They had clearly gone, left the scene and left us to be sitting ducks. I am extremely angry we were promised high-level security and in our hour of need that security vanished. "I am extremely fortunate to be here today." The surveillance video, broadcast on Pakistani television on Wednesday, showed the attackers walking along the middle of the side street and escaping on motorcycles. The men are seen carrying their assault rifles and are unhindered by any police pursuit. Broad was unclear as to why the Sri Lankan bus seemed isolated during the cricket series.

.."On the first two days [of the Test], both buses left [the hotel] at the same time with escorts," he said. "On this particular day the Pakistan bus left five minutes after the Sri Lankan bus. Why? There were times during the Karachi Test when the Sri Lankans went first and Pakistan went afterwards. After this happened you start to think: 'Did someone know something and they held the Pakistan bus back?' "...

independent.co.uk, March 5, "Pakistan issues sketches of gunmen" : ...Musharraf, who has been keeping a low profile since stepping down as president in August, also told reporters the special police guarding the Sri Lankan team should have responded and killed the attackers in less than three seconds. "That should be the level of training that I expect from an elite force ... we need to improve that standard," former army chief Musharraf said...Authorities have offered a reward of $125,000 for information on the attackers, who were armed with AK-47s, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades...

3.05.09 Bomb kills 12 at livestock market south of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) March 5 - A car bomb exploded Thursday in a crowded livestock market selling sheep, cattle and goats south of Baghdad, killing at least 12 people and wounding dozens, Iraqi police and medical officials said. The parked car exploded at the height of the morning buying and selling at the market on the outskirts of Hillah, 60 miles south of Baghdad, said Iraqi police Maj. Muthana Khalid. The blast scattered bodies and animal carcasses throughout the market, a witness said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.05.09 Taliban militants blow up 16 shops selling music in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, March 5 - Taliban militants blew up 16 shops selling music and DVDs in northwest Pakistan overnight, police said Thursday. "An improvised explosive device planted in a market selling music and DVDs in Takhtbhai town blew up 16 shops overnight," local police official Fazal Mabood said, blaming Taliban insurgents. There were no casualties in the attack in the town, northwest of Peshawar, because the market was closed at the time of explosion, he added. Islamist militants have bombed scores of entertainment shops across the country's northwest in recent years, charging that music and films are contrary to the teachings of Islam.

In the Swat valley, the government last month signed a deal with a pro-Taliban cleric to enforce Islamic law after Islamist hardliners waged a nearly two-year insurgency to enforce their repressive interpretation of Islam. In Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, militants fired at least 20 mortar rounds which landed in open spaces late Wednesday. "Militants tried to hit a police station and other buildings but the rockets missed the targets and landed in open spaces on the outskirts of Peshawar," a local police official, known only as Hakimullah, said. Peshawar is close to Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal zones, which border Afghanistan and where government forces have been battling pro-Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked militants.

3.05.09 Jerusalem mayor rejects Clinton's criticism

JERUSALEM (AP) March 5 - Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday said that US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was ill-informed when she criticized the demolition of Arab houses in the east of the city, insisting the practice was about law and order, not politics. In a visit to the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday, Clinton called Israel's demolition of the illegally built Palestinian homes "unhelpful" and in violation of a US-backed peace plan. Nir Barkat countered that Jerusalem was a victim of a double standard and a campaign of Palestinian disinformation.

"I totally reject the notion that we are kicking people out of their homes, that is not the case," he said. "If you build illegal houses you pay the consequence ... I expect people to obey the law." Barkat said he made his position clear to Clinton personally during her visit. Israel has issued orders for the demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem. Palestinians acknowledge the homes were built illegally but say they cannot receive proper building permits from municipal authorities, and that Israel is using the demolitions as a tool to assert control over the entire city. Speaking to foreign journalists, Barkat denied the home demolitions were politically motivated, emphasizing that since the beginning of the year the city had demolished 28 illegal homes — 17 in the predominantly Arab eastern sector and 11 in the predominantly Jewish western area. [More>>jpost.com]

3.05.09 Russia building anti-satellite weapons

MOSCOW (AP) March 5 - Russia is working to develop anti-satellite weapons to match efforts by other nations, a deputy defense minister was quoted as saying Thursday. Gen. Valentin Popovkin said Russia continues to oppose a space arms race but will respond to moves made by other countries, according to Russian news reports. "We can't sit back and quietly watch others doing that, such work is being conducted in Russia," Popovkin was quoted as saying. Russia already has some "basic, key elements" of such weapons, but refused to elaborate, Popovkin said. Popovkin, who previously was the chief of Russian military Space Forces, reportedly made the statement at a news conference in response to a question about US and Chinese tests of anti-satellite weapons. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

3.04.09 FTSE 100 hits fresh six-year low as gloom over economy intensifies

LONDON, March 4 - London stock market has seen 10 per cent of its value erased since Friday's opening. Renewed fears for the world economy pushed the London stock market sharply lower again yesterday and placed it firmly on track for one of its worst weeks in history. Analysts and traders have begun to talk about a "second leg" to the recession with an acceleration of the pace of decline rather than any stabilisation.

The FTSE 100 index of leading shares finished down 113.7 points at 3,512.09 , a fresh six-year low. Although less dramatic than Monday's panicky movements, the cumulative 8.5 percent-plus drop in equity values over 48 hours is among the market's half-dozen worst performances of modern times. The London stock market has seen 10 percent of its value wiped away since Friday's opening.

Comments by the US Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, that the world could face the possibility of a "prolonged episode of economic stagnation" failed to lift spirits on either side of the Atlantic. The White House economic adviser Christina Romer said that US first-quarter output was looking "pretty lousy."

3.04.09 Obama administration launches housing plan

WASHINGTON (AP) March 4 - Gov't provides details, sets standards for housing plan aimed at helping 9 million borrowers. The Obama administration kicked off a new program Wednesday that's designed to help up to 9 million borrowers stay in their homes through refinanced mortgages or loans that are modified to lower monthly payments. Borrowers, however, are being advised to be patient in their efforts to get help because mortgage companies are likely to be flooded with calls.

Government officials, launching the "Making Home Affordable" program also acknowledge that the initiatives are only a partial fix for a sweeping problem that has helped plunge the US economy into the worst recession in decades. In fact, tens of thousands of homeowners in some of the most battered real estate markets — concentrated in California, Florida, Nevada and Arizona — won't be eligible for the two programs. "It's not intended to prevent every foreclosure or to help every homeowner," a senior Treasury Department official told reporters. "It's really targeted at responsible homeowners."

3.04.09 Report: Wall Street spent $5 billion for political influence

March 4 - A group called Wall Street Watch is out with a report that finds that “Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates made $1.7 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists” between 1998 and 2008. The report, "Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America," concludes that the contributions were "aimed at undercutting federal regulation" and ultimately "led directly to the current financial collapse."

The two men behind the report are California lawyer Harvey Rosenfield of the nonprofit Consumer Education Foundation and Robert Weissman of Essential Information, a Washington nonprofit "that seeks to curb excessive corporate power." The report argues that the lobbying and contributions kept financial derivatives from being regulated, led to the repeal of regulatory barriers between commercial banks and investment banks and kept the government from stepping into halt predatory subprime lending. (The authors list "12 Key Policy Decisions Led to Cataclysm" here.)

3.04.09 20 are detained after Cricket attack

ISLAMABAD, March 4 - A police official in Lahore said Wednesday that about 20 people had been detained in the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in which six police officers were killed and six players were wounded. Nasir Bajwa, the deputy superintendent of police in the Model Town section of Lahore, said the people were detained Tuesday night, hours after the attack. He did not provide any details of the identities of those being held. The owner of a hostel in an area of Lahore close to the attack said the police had detained about 13 students who were at his premises. The owner, Muhammad Ashger, said the students were arrested around midnight. A rocket launcher and clothes with bloodstains were recovered from the hostel, the police said. [More>>nytimes.com]

3.04.09 Stem cell research breakthrough

March 5 - Australian scientists have made a breakthrough in stem cell research which raises the prospect of regrowing damaged sections of a person's liver, pancreas or even their brain. Researchers at the University of NSW have found a way to improve the lifespan and competitiveness of stem cells, overcoming a problem which otherwise saw their regenerative powers fade in about an hour. Adult stem cells were given a gene to make them resistant to chemotherapy, handing them an "advantage" when used to treat damaged tissue in conjunction with the cancer-fighting treatment.

University of NSW Professor Peter Gunning said as the chemotherapy cleaned out damaged cells, resistant stem cells were left behind to complete their amazing process of turning into healthy replacements thereby restoring the tissue. "What has been the realm of science fiction is looking more and more like the medicine of the future," Prof. Gunning said. "The beauty of this technique is that chemotherapy makes space for stem cells coming into muscle and also gives the stem cells an advantage over the locals. It's the first strategy that gives the good guys the edge in the battle to cure sick tissues."

The experimental procedure was used to regrow muscles in a mouse, but Prof Gunning said it could eventually be applied to all tissue-based illnesses in humans such as in the liver, pancreas or brain. It could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of muscle wasting diseases such as myopathy and muscular dystrophy. Prof Cunning said talks were underway with a French research body which could lead to human trials in three to five years.

"In muscle, most stem cells die in the first hour or are present in such low numbers that they are not much help," Prof Gunning said of conventional stem cell processes. "Until now, the new health cells had no advantage over the existing damaged tissue and were getting outcompeted." The research, conducted by Prof Gunning along with Professor Edna Hardeman and Dr. Antinion Lee from the university's School of Medical Sciences, is published in the journal Stem Cells. [>news.com.au]

3.04.09 'Iran trying to deepen Palestinian rift'

RAMALLAH (AP) March 4 - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Iran on Wednesday, charged that it was trying to "deepen the Palestinian split." Talking to reporters after meeting US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Ramallah, Abbas said that "Iran needs to take care of its own issues and stay away from intervening in Palestinian affairs." Clinton, meanwhile, displayed strong public support for the PA president. The PA is the "only legitimate government of the Palestinian people," she said, speaking alongside Abbas. The secretary of state promised vigorous and personal involvement in stalled Mideast peace efforts and criticized Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem as "unhelpful."

In recent days, Israel has issued orders for the demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes in east Jerusalem, saying the homes were built illegally. Palestinians say they cannot receive proper building permits from Israeli authorities, and the planned demolitions are means to assert Israel's control over the disputed city. "Clearly, this kind of activity is unhelpful," Clinton said, adding that she would raise it with the Israeli government as well as municipal officials in Jerusalem. She said such actions violate the "road map," a US-backed peace plan.
[More>>jpost.com; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, March 4, "Iran urges world Muslim 'resistance' against Israel" : TEHRAN - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei urged world Muslims on Wednesday to join the Palestinian "resistance" against Israel. "The only way to save Palestine is resistance," Khamenei said in an address to a global summit organised by Tehran in aid of the war-battered Gaza Strip and the Palestinians. "Support and help to Palestinians is a mandatory duty of all Muslims. I now tell all Muslim brothers and sisters to join forces and break the immunity of the Zionist criminals." Iran's top military commander Mohammad Ali Jafari also declared that the Islamic republic has long-range missiles that can reach Israeli nuclear sites.

"Today the Islamic republic has missiles with a range of more than 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) and all the land of the Zionist regime, including its nuclear installations, is within our range," Jafari, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, told the ISNA news agency. He said the Islamic republic could "firmly retaliate" if it was attacked by Israel, which considers Iran its biggest threat. Khamenei said any negotiations to solve the Israel-Palestinian conflict were fruitless, adding that the United States and Britain committed the "crime of creation and supporting this cancerous tumour (Israel)." [end]

khaleejtimes.com, March 4, "Clinton criticizes Israel over E. Jerusalem demolition" : US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Israel on Wednesday over plans to demolish Palestinian homes in Arab East Jerusalem and said Washington would engage Israeli leaders on Jewish settlements. Calling the planned destruction of more than 80 dwellings "unhelpful," Clinton said after talks with Palestinian leaders: "It is an issue that we intend to raise with the government of Israel and the government at the municipal level in Jerusalem." ...Israel considers all of Jerusalem its "united and eternal" capital, a claim that has not won international recognition. The Palestinian Authority wants East Jerusalem to be the capital of a Palestinian state...

Editorial note: "The creation of Israel involved the creation and independence of Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and a separate territory, "The Corpus Separatum of Jersusalem" governed by the UN" :

We quote from Maravot News 5.10.08, editorial note to article 5.08.08 "British PM: Israel's creation one of the 20th century's 'greatest achievements' " :

With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, after WW I, Middle Eastern states, including Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, including a territory called Transjordan, now known as the West Bank, were created. Wikipedia.org describes how these states were formed: "...The dissolution brought the creation of the modern Arab world and Republic of Turkey. The League of Nations granted France mandates over Syria and Lebanon and granted the United Kingdom mandates over Mesopotamia and Palestine (which comprised two autonomous regions: Palestine and Transjordan). Parts of the Ottoman Empire on the Arabian Peninsula became parts of what are today Saudi Arabia and Yemen."

The creation of Saudi Arabia involved a bargain that realigned the tribal authority of the region, including the transfer of the Hijaz, formerly controlled by the Sherifs of Mecca and heirs of Mohammed, to the Saudis. This arrangement then set the rulers of Mecca as regents over Iraq, Syria and Jordan in exchange for the transfer of the Hijaz to the Saudis. The King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a surviving regent from the League of Nations' arrangement. Their ancestry through the Sherifs of Mecca trace back to Fatima, the daughter of the prophet Mohammed. Other modern descendents of Mohammed are: the Tabaristan Sherifs, the Imams of the Yemen, the Sherifs of Sus, the Filali and the Bani Sa'ad Sherifs of Morocco, Bani Ukhaidhr of Mecca, who was set up as the king of Iraq and subsequently deposed, and the Humdites and Idrisids of North Africa. Among the families originally serving Mecca were the Qoraish (now called Hashemites). The leader of the Qoraish was Zaid, also called Qossay al Mujamma, who had a grandson named Amr-Hashim, and his grandson was Abdullah, father of Mohammed.

On November 2, 1917, the Balfour Declaration, reflecting the view of the British Cabinet, was issued and later incorporated into the the Sèvres peace treaty with Turkey and the Mandate for Palestine. The declaration stated: "...that the British government "view with favour" the establishment in Palestine of "a national home for the Jewish people" on the conditions that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" or "the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." The creation of a national home for the Jewish people was realized through the UN Resolution of November 29, 1947, "The partition of Palestine." The resolution provided for not only the creation of the state of Israel but also the state of Palestine and another territory, "The Corpus Separatum of Jerusalem." The terms of the resolution required that each of the two states, Israel and Palestine, submit to the UN, for approval, their "Declarations of Independence." Israel submitted its "Declaration of Independence " May 14, 1948. The Palestinian declaration of independence has not yet been produced.
(1) Israel's declaration reflects some interesting terms that pledge to protect the rights of all people living in Israel:

(Declaration of the establishment of the state of Israel," 1.13) The State of Israel..will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will endure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations."

The Corpus Separatum of Jerusalem formed perhaps the most interesting part of the UN resolution of 1948, since it set aside a territory stretching from Jerusalem to the Mediterranean Sea that would be governed by the United Nations. The present impasse between the Palestinians and Israel in forming a Palestinian state fulfilling the plans of the UN resolution, "Partition of Palestine," could perhaps be resolved by applying Israel's Declaration of Independence and revisiting the Corpus Separatum of Jerusalem.

Much of this discussion, including a map showing the territories of the UN resolution, is provided in greater detail in a work, "Philistia triumph thou because of me" (1993).

(1) Correction: "The Palestinian Declaration of Independence" was produced in Algiers, Algeria, November 15, 1988; See al-bab.com.

Mel Copeland

3.04.09 Blast hits US base in Afghanistan, several wounded

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) March 4 - A bomb blast exploded outside the main US base in Afghanistan on Wednesday, wounding several people, a US official said. An Afghan governor blamed the attack on a suicide car bomber, and the Taliban claimed responsibility. The blast outside the main base at Bagram did not appear to kill anyone, according to early reports, said Capt. Elizabeth Mathias, a US spokeswoman. The governor of Parwan province, Abdul Jabar Takwa, said the bomber was in a car that exploded after he drove past a police checkpoint. Bagram is in Parwan province. Takwa said that the bomber died in the blast, but he did not have any other casualty reports. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

3.04.09 Suicide bomber kills 3 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) March 4 - A suicide bomber stalked members of a police intelligence unit, waiting for their night shifts to end, then attacked them outside a Baghdad restaurant Wednesday, killing three. The blast was one of a spate of attacks around Iraq — including a suicide car bombing at a police checkpoint in the northern city of Mosul and the ambush-slaying of a Sunni sheik and his family north of Baghdad. Violence in Iraq has dropped dramatically over the past 18 months, and was among the reasons President Barack Obama cited for his decision to end the US combat mission here in August 2010. But there are growing concerns about a possible upward trend in violence after a series of deadly attacks in recent weeks on US and Iraqi troops. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

3.04.09 ICC issues war crimes arrest warrant for President al-Bashir of Sudan

March 4 - An international arrest warrant was issued today for Omar al-Bashir, the President of Sudan, on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, despite fears of a violent backlash that could disrupt the African country's fragile peace process. After eight months of consideration, the three judges decided not to press charges of genocide sought by the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Nevertheless it was a bold move by the International Criminal Court, marking the first time since the world's first permanent court for prosecuting war crimes was founded in 2002 that it has ordered the arrest of a sitting head of state. The prosecutor had asked for arrest warrants on ten charges, including genocide, murder, torture, extermination and rape. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

3.03.09 Japan stocks fall to 26-year low

TOKYO, March 3 - Japanese stocks fell to a fresh 26-year low Tuesday after the Dow Jones industrial average closed below 7,000 for the first time in more than 11 years on growing fears over the health of the U.S. financial sector. The benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average tumbled 104.82 points, or 1.44%, to 7,175.33 in the morning trade, extending further losses after a 3.8% drop Monday. That marked a fresh 26-year low for the Nikkei, which closed at 7,114.64 on Oct. 7, 1982. The broader Topix index also fell 1.67% to 722.32. [More>>japantoday.com; See related story, japantoday.com, March 3, "Toyota asking for government loan."]

3.03.09 Ford sales drive 48% as auto slump persists

NEW YORK, March 3 -  Ford Motor Co.'s US sales fell 48 percent in February, a sign that the new car market could hit the lowest point in more than 27 years as huge rebates and low-interest financing fail to spur fearful consumers to make a major purchase. Ford, the first automaker to report sales Tuesday, said it sold 99,060 vehicles last month, compared with the 192,248 it sold in February 2008. The drop is another indication that mass layoffs, the stock market decline and sliding home values are prompting people to hold on to their cars longer. Those who are buying are more often opting for a used car or truck. It also casts further doubt on the financial viability of General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, making it difficult for them to sell cars and generate critical cash to supplement the $17.4 billion in government loans that are keeping them in business. [More>>cbsnews.com]

3.03.09 Lahore cricket attack copycat of 26/11, says Pakistan

LAHORE, Pakistan, March 3 - The daring attack carried out by ‘trained terrorists’ against the Sri Lankan Cricket team in Lahore bore the hallmarks of the tactics used in the Mumbai Terror strike, according to Pakistani authorities. "The attack resembles the Mumbai attacks," the chief of police in Punjab province Khaled Farooq said, as the Lahore attack brought back memories of 26/11 though of not that scale and magnitude. Eight people, most of them policemen, were killed in Tuesday's attack while the Mumbai strike claimed 183 lives. Lahore police chief Habib-ur Rehman and Punjab Governor Salman Taseer also shared Farooq's assessment saying the incident was similar to Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008.

"I want to say it's the same pattern, the same terrorists who attacked Mumbai," Taseer said. Pakistan-based elements including Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) have been blamed for the 26/11. "That was also a commando action and this is also a commando operation," Farooq said when asked how the attack was similar to Mumbai. "They were trained terrorists and they attacked in a planned manner. The attackers looked like Pashtuns," said Farooq. Khusro Pervez, commissioner of Lahore, said, "It appears that the attackers were fully trained and they used lethal and sophisticated weapons." Information Minister Sherry Rehman said the terrorists were 'prepared, armed and systematic.' " Habib-ur-Rehman said 12 masked gunmen were involved in the attack and they were armed with rockets, hand grenades, kalashnikovs. TV footages also showed backpacks, boxes containing dry fruits and medicines that were left behind by the terrorists before they fled.
[More>>indianexpress.com; See other details, thenews.com.pk, March 3,"Eight dead in attack on Sri Lanka cricketers in Lahore."

3.03.09 Two soldiers killed despite Swat truce

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) March 3 - Two Pakistani soldiers have died following a gun battle with Islamist militants in the northwestern Swat valley the first such incident to violate a ceasefire, officials say. "The militant attack is a clear violation of the peace agreement. The security forces are exercising restraint and complying with the accord," the military said in a statement. The soldiers were escorting a water tanker in Swat valley's Matta district today when they were fired on by a group of militants, a security official said. Troops returned fire in a gunfight that lasted about an hour and left three soldiers injured, he added. "Two of the injured soldiers died later at a medical facility," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity. Muslim Khan, spokesman for Swat militant leader Maulana Fazlullah, said the soldiers were attacked because they moved without giving prior information. [More>>news.com.au]

3.03.09 Israel files UN complaint on rocket-fire

March 3 - Israel's UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev on Monday filed a complaint to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon over the ongoing rocket-fire on Israel from the Gaza Strip. "These ongoing attacks not only hinder efforts to reach a stable and durable cease-fire, but they represent an ongoing threat to the peace and security of Israel, as well as the people of Gaza," she wrote. She specifically noted attacks on the South on Sunday, when a Kassam hit a school in Sderot, as well as a Grad attack on Asheklon on Saturday, in which two civilians were wounded. "Had the school building not been closed for the Jewish Sabbath, there likely would have been many more casualties. As a result of this attack and the ongoing security threat, schools are closed and classes are suspended across Ashkelon which constitutes a humanitarian problem," she noted. [More>>jpost.com]

3.03.09 US to begin talks with Syria

JERUSALEM, March 3 - Signaling a new direction in Middle East diplomacy, the Obama administration will dispatch two senior officials to Syria to begin discussions with the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday. Noting Syria's influence across the region, as well as the troubled history between Syria and the United States, Mrs. Clinton said, "It is a worthwhile effort to go and begin preliminary conversations." The officials, from the White House and the State Department, will follow recent visits by lawmakers, including the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John F. Kerry. Their mission suggests that the administration is pushing for a broader approach to peace negotiations. "We don't engage in discussions for the sake of having conversations," Mrs. Clinton said, after a meeting with the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni. "There has to be a purpose to them, there has to be some benefit accruing to the United State and our allies." [More>>nytimes.com]

3.03.09 DVD piracy linked to terrorism

WASHINGTON (UPI) March 3 - Organized criminal groups are increasingly pirating movies and using the funds to support terrorism, a study from US-based think tank Rand Corp. said. The non-profit policy-analysis organization released a report Tuesday suggesting that organized criminal groups are increasingly turning to the lucrative and largely unprosecuted street sales of pirated movies as a new revenue source, Rand reported. The research, supported by a grant from the Motion Picture Association, involved interviews with more than 120 law enforcement and intelligence officials and a review of 2,000 pages of documents.

The study said there were several cases of criminal groups pirating movies and using some of the funds to support terrorism, including activities by the Irish Republican Army and Hezbollah. "Given the enormous profit margins, it's no surprise that organized crime has moved into film piracy," Greg Treverton, Rand Center for Global Risk and Security director and the report's lead author, said in a statement. "If you buy pirated DVDs, there is a good chance that at least part of the money will go to organized crime, and those proceeds fund more dangerous criminal activities, possibly terrorism."
[>metimes.com; See also rand.org, press release March 3, 2009, "Organized crime is increasingly active in film piracy."]

3.03.09 Death threats sent to French politicians

PARIS, March 3 - Death threats in letters enclosing live ammunition have been sent to President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Justice Minister, Rachida Dati, and five other French politicians. The threats, signed by an unknown group called Solidarity Earth, are being investigated by anti-terrorist police but officials believe they are probably the work of a "disturbed individual." Alain Juppé, the former prime minister, now Mayor of Bordeaux, had one of the threatening messages in a brown envelope on Monday. That contained another envelope, which held a live 9mm round and a rambling 20- line note. The note said, among other things: "You think that you own our lives. No. We own your lives and those of your friends and family." The message threatened President Sarkozy, Mme Dati and the Interior Minister, Michèle Alliot-Marie. [More>>independent.co.uk]


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


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