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The Chart Showing the National Debt above is still valid: "The debt to the penny," publicdebt.treas.gov.
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News Headlines & Trends

4.06.08 Important Taliban commander Abdul Jabbar arrested in Qandhar

KABUL, April 6- ...The Afghan officials said that Taliban commander Abdul Jabbar was arrested from Qandhar while going to Pakistan. He was an associate of Taliban leader Mulla Dad Allah and the master-mind of the attacks in the southern areas of the country. [Full story>>thenews.com.pk]

4.06.08 French Muslim war graves defaced

April 6 - Vandals have desecrated 148 Muslim graves in France's biggest WWI cemetery, officials have said. A pig's head was hung from one headstone and slogans insulting Islam and France's Muslim justice minister were daubed on other graves. President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned the attack as a "hateful act" and the "most inadmissible kind of racism."

About 78,000 colonial subjects of France, including many Muslims from North Africa, died in the war. The Notre Dame de Lorette war cemetery, near Arras in northern France, is on the site of some of WWI's largest battles. About 100 police officers have been sent to the cemetery to investigate the incident. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

4.06.08 'Indian baby born with two faces doing well'

NOIDA, India (AFP) April 6 - The parents of an Indian infant girl born with two faces say that she is eating and breathing normally despite having two pairs of eyes and lips and two noses. The baby, who is yet to be named, was born to factory worker Vinod Kumar and his wife Sushma three weeks ago in northern India and has been drawing a stream of curious observers and others who consider her a deity in this deeply religious Hindu-majority country.

..."She's fed through one mouth and sucks her thumb with the other. We use whichever mouth is free to feed her," the 24-year-old Kumar told AFP, adding she is eating and breathing normally. Doctors said it was an extremely rare case, with the girl having two skulls joined together, and that separating them was out of the question.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.06.08 Hike in world prices sparks deadly riots in Africa

DAKAR (AFP) April 6 - African governments are nervously confronting a mounting wave of often deadly social unrest caused by the soaring cost of food and fuel. Forty people died during price riots in Cameroon in February. There also have been deadly troubles in Ivory Coast and Mauritania and other violent demonstrations in Senegal and Burkina Faso - where a nationwide strike against price rises is to start Tuesday.

Egypt warned of tough measures against anyone taking part in a general strike called for Sunday to protest soaring inflation and low pay. Governments across the continent — where the crisis ranges from 100,000 percent inflation in Zimbabwe to Morocco, where subsidies for key commodities have grown fivefold over six years — are becoming anxious about public anger. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related stories,

xinhuanet.com, April 6, "Asian countries looking for ways amid soaring rice prices" and
Maravot News, April 5, "In Egypt, upper crust gets the bread."]

4.05.08 Airline terror trial: 'Heathrow, Canary Wharf, and nuclear plants in bomb plot'

April 5 - Attacks on nuclear power stations, oil and gas terminals, Canary Wharf and Heathrow's control tower were being considered by leaders of the plot to blow up seven transatlantic airliners in mid-flight, a court was told yesterday. Documents found on computer memory sticks at the home of an alleged terrorist ringleader contained a list of targets across Britain – including the gas pipeline between Britain and Belgium. The man, Assad Sarwar, was said to be in contact with terrorist leaders overseas and visited Pakistan a month before his arrest as preparations for the airline attacks were being finalized. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

4.05.08 $240 million in internet fraud last year

WASHINGTON (UPI) April 4 - Nearly $250 million worth of individual losses from Internet fraud was reported by Americans to the FBI last year, the bureau said. The figures were released by the Internet Crime Complaint Center, a partnership between the FBI and the non-profit National White Collar Crime Center, in its seventh annual report on Internet crime this week. The $239 million loss represents a 20 percent growth from fraud losses reported to the center in 2006, and officials say it represents just a fraction of the total costs of cybercrime to the US economy. [More>>metimes.com]

4.05.08 Christian priest shot dead in Iraq

April 5 - A priest from the Assyrian Orthodox church in Iraq has been shot dead in the capital, officials say. Youssef Adel, a priest with the Saint Peter's Church in Karrada neighbourhood, was killed in a drive-by shooting on Saturday at about noon (0900 GMT). A medical officer said his body had been taken to the Ibn Nafis hospital in the city centre.

The Christian community in Iraq has suffered an increasing number of attacks in recent months. Last month, the body of Paulos Faraj Rahho, a Chaldean Catholic archbishops from Mosul, was found in a shallow grave in the city two weeks after having been kidnapped. Iraqi Christians, with Chaldeans forming the largest group, numbered an estimated 800,000 before the US-led invasion. It is now half that size, with people leaving the country due to the poor security situation.

4.05.08 Pirates seize French ship off Somalia

PARIS (AP) April 5 - France's military is keeping close tabs on a French luxury yacht seized by pirates off Somalia's coast, and officials hope to avoid using force to free the 30 crew members, the prime minister said Saturday. Attackers stormed the 288-foot Le Ponant on Friday as it returned without passengers from the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, toward the Mediterranean Sea, officials with French maritime transport company CMA-CGM said...Pirates seized more than two dozen ships off Somalia's coast last year. [Full story>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

4.05.08 Study shows Botox may move from face to brain

WASHINGTON, April 4 - Researchers have found that botulinum neurotoxin type A, which is more commonly known as Botox, the popular wrinkle eraser, can migrate into the central nervous system after it's injected into the skin, according to latest issue of The Journal of Neuroscience available on Friday. The discovery by Italian researchers has raised new concerns about how the toxin works and what unintended consequences it may have. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

4.05.08 In Egypt, upper crust gets the bread

CAIRO, April 5 - The line started forming before dawn, as soon as the day's first call to prayer had faded from the trash-strewn streets of the Egyptian capital's Zelzal neighborhood. Men began pounding on the green metal shutters of the district's sole bakery. "Aish! Aish!" — Bread! Bread! — the stubble-faced men yelled, shouting through the grillwork at bakers laboring over a dented, gas-fired oven. Cursing and pushing, the men thrust crumpled currency through the spaces in the grille. "Have mercy! Have mercy on us!" a woman in a dusty black head scarf and abaya yelled.

Across Egypt this year, people have waited in line for hours at bakeries that sell government-subsidized bread, sign of a growing crisis over the primary foodstuff in the Arab world's most populous country. President Hosni Mubarak has ordered Egypt's army to bake bread for the public, following the deaths of at least six people since March 17 — some succumbing to exhaustion during the long waits, others stabbed in vicious struggles for places in line. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

4.04.08 UN warns of 'very grave' problems in Iraq

AMMAN, Jordan (AFP) April 4 - A top UN official warned on Friday of "very grave" humanitarian problems in Iraq, including a lack of food and the internal displacement of more than two million people. "There are very grave humanitarian problems, the most serious is the internal displacement of the Iraqis... this is a phenomenon which we believe has slowed down significantly in recent months," UN Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes told a news conference in Amman.

The UN refugee agency said on Tuesday that the number of internally displaced Iraqis had risen to more than 2.77 million people by the end of March, five years after the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Two million Iraqis have also fled to neighboring Jordan and Syria, where social and health services are struggling with the influx.

Holmes, who is in Jordan on his way to Iraq, said basic services in many areas in Iraq “are still deteriorating. For example there are four million people who do not have enough food, only 40 percent of the population have reliable access to safe drinking water and one third of people are cut off from essential health care, life saving medication and basic immunization," he said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.04.08 Russia to allow NATO Afghan transit

April4 - Russia has agreed to allow NATO to use Russian land to deliver non-lethal supplies to alliance troops in Afghanistan, but not troops or air transit arrangements as initially sought by the military alliance. The deal was announced at a summit between the alliance leaders during which they held talks with Vladimir Putin, Russia's president. Moscow has been irked by the alliance's eastward expansion and Friday's announcement followed a promise by NATO on Thursday to delay the eventual membership of Ukraine and Georgia until talks in December. [More>>aljazeera.net ; See also rian.ru, April 4, "Wrap: Putin warns NATO over expansion but says new Cold War impossible."]

4.04.08 Exclusive: Chinese police kill eight after opening fire on monks and Tibet protesters

BEIJING, April 4- Chinese paramilitary police have killed eight people after opening fire on several hundred Tibetan monks and villagers in bloody violence that will fuel human rights protests as London prepares to host its leg of the Olympic torch relay this weekend. Witnesses said the clash – in which dozens were wounded – erupted late last night after a government inspection team entered a monastery in the Chinese province of Sichuan trying to confiscate pictures of the Dalai Lama.

Officials searched the room of every monk in the Donggu monastery, a sprawling 15th century edifice in Ganzi, southwestern Sichuan, confiscating all mobile phones as well as the pictures. When the inspectors tore up the photographs and threw them on the floor, a 74-year-old monk, identified as Cicheng Danzeng, tried to stop an act seen as a desecration by Tibetans who revere the Dalai Lama as their god king.

A young man working in the monastery, identified as Cicheng Pingcuo, 25, also made a stand and both were arrested. The team then demanded that all the monks denounce the Dalai Lama, who fled China after a failed uprising in 1959. One monk, Yixi Lima, stood up and voiced his opposition, prompting the other monks to add their voices. At about 6.30pm, the entire monastic body marched down to a nearby river where paramilitary police were encamped and demanded the release of the two men. [More>>timesonline.co.uk; See China's report, xinhuanet.com, April 4, "Riot in Tibetan-inhabited Garze leaves one official injured."]

4.04.08 American songbirds are being wiped out by banned pesticides

April 4 - The number of migratory songbirds returning to North America has gone into sharp decline due to the unregulated use of highly toxic pesticides and other chemicals across Latin America. Ornithologists blame the demand for out-of-season fruit and vegetables and other crops in North America and Europe for the destruction of tens of millions of passerine birds. By some counts, half of the songbirds that warbled across America's skies only 40 years ago have gone, wiped out by pesticides or loss of habitat. [More>>independent.co.uk]

4.04.08 80,000 jobs cut in March; unemployment rate rises

April 4 - The economy shed 80,000 jobs in March, the third consecutive month of rising unemployment, presenting a stark sign that the country may already be in a recession. Sharp downturns in the manufacturing and construction sectors led the decline, the biggest in five years. The Labor Department also said employers cut far more jobs in January and February than originally estimated. The unemployment rate ticked up to 5.1 percent from 4.8 percent, its highest level since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005. More Americans looked for work than in February, when many simply took themselves out of the job market. But employment opportunities remained sparse. [More>>nytimes.com]

4.04.08 Every click you make

April 4 - Internet Providers Quietly Test Expanded Tracking of Web Use to Target Advertising. The online behavior of a small but growing number of computer users in the United States is monitored by their Internet service providers, who have access to every click and keystroke that comes down the line. The companies harvest the stream of data for clues to a person's interests, making money from advertisers who use the information to target their online pitches.

The practice represents a significant expansion in the ability to track a household's Web use because it taps into Internet connections, and critics liken it to a phone company listening in on conversations. But the companies involved say customers' privacy is protected because no personally identifying details are released...Although common tracking systems, known as cookies, have counted a consumer's visits to a network of sites, the new monitoring, known as "deep-packet inspection," enables a far wider view — every Web page visited, every e-mail sent and every search entered. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

4.04.08 Airline bomb plotters made martyrdom videos, court hears

April 4 - Members of the alleged terrorist gang accused of plotting to blow up seven transatlantic flights made martyrdom videos in which they pledged to take revenge for American and British foreign policy in Muslim lands, a court was told today. Content from the six videos made by the alleged plotters and discovered by police was read out and played to the jury in the trial of eight men accused of planning to kill thousands of people in a series of simultaneous attacks late in 2006.

Each of the videos featured a suspect sitting in front of black flags with Arabic writing. The first shown to the jury was made by Umar Islam, who said that he intended to carry out mass-murder to take "revenge for the acts of the USA in the Muslim lands and their accomplices, such as the British and the Jews." He says in the film, which was discovered during a search of his Kia car by police in 2006, that innocent people deserved to die because they had not "put down" their leaders. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

4.02.08 Egypt bans German mag for 'insulting Islam'

CAIRO, April 2 - Der Spiegel says Islam is a Christian sect. Egypt has ordered the seizure of a special edition of the German news magazine Der Spiegel after it was deemed to be insulting to Islam and the Prophet Mohammed, newspapers reported on Wednesday. The March 25 special issue of Der Spiegel quotes a German "orientalist" who says that Islam is a Christian sect and contains several images and comments insulting to the Prophet Mohammed, the state-run daily Al-Gomhuriya reported. The magazine also quotes the German scholar as saying that Islam incites violence and terrorism.

Egyptian Information Minister Anas al-Fiqi took the decision "to defend Islamic values and confront attempts to damage the prophet, the Muslim religion and religion in general," Al-Gomhuriya said. It reported Fiqi as saying Egypt would not allow in any publication damaging to monotheistic religions "because that is nothing to do with the freedom of information that the West talks about." In February, Egypt banned the sale of four international newspapers — Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Die Welt, Britain's The Observer and the US daily Wall Street Journal — for publishing cartoons of the prophet.
[>alarabiya.net; See related story:

spiegel.de, April 1, "Geert Wilders is no right-wing populist"
: ...What the debate over his film "Fitna" reveals most clearly is the West's cowardice toward Islam...Unfortunately, one needs to point out at this juncture that it's not Wilders' obsessive arrogance that has robbed him of his private life, but the memory of how and why director Theo van Gogh was murdered, namely by a Dutch-born Muslim of Moroccan heritage. He, too, probably liked sitting in cafes drinking coffee peacefully — until one fine morning, when he set off to kill the "provocateur" van Gogh, who would presumably still be alive today if he hadn't been so silly as to make an "anti-Islamic" film.

...Wilders is as "one-sided" as any filmmaker trying to compress reality into a documentary film. His film is as "anti-Islamic" as Michael Moore's are "anti-capitalist." The hostility does not lie in the eye of the beholder, but rather in the nature of the film's subject. Part of the ritualistic response of Muslim communities to the observation that Islam is not always a peaceful religion is invariably the threat of violence, should the "insult" not be retracted — regardless of whether it was made by the pope, a politician or a poet.

...A similar thing happened recently in Sudan, when a British woman innocently named a teddy bear Muhammad. Or when Salman Rushdie was knighted by the British queen. Muslims were outraged and Europeans sought cover until the storm had blown over. And now the "right-wing populist" Wilders is being sacrificed on the altar of appeasement policy. He is no cineaste, and his film is certainly no masterpiece. It is, however, a brute challenge to us to at least recognize reality.

Editorial note: It is interesting that the alarabiya.net article began with the comment, "Der Spiegel says Islam is a Christian sect." The Koran contains many statements saying that it was recited (Koran means "recital") to confirm the Jewish Scriptures and the Gospel. Witness:

Koran, AL-AHQAF 46:12 - Yet, before it the Book of Moses [Torah] was revealed, a guide and a blessing to all men. This book confirms it.
Koran, The Table 5:44 - ...After those prophets we sent forth Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming the Torah already revealed, and gave him the Gospel, in which there is guidance and light, corroborating that which was revealed before it in the Torah, a guide and an admonition to the righteous.
Koran, IMRANS 3:45 - The angels said to Mary: "Allah bids you to rejoice in a Word from him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary..."

It may be that much of the offence being experienced by Muslims has to do with the failure of teachers to communicate to Muslims what the words "Jewish Scriptures, Torah, Gospels, and Messiah" mean and what the Koran means when it claims to "confirm" another or the teachings of another. One cannot contradict a document or a teaching that one confirms. In the Koran we see not only a confirmation of the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) and Gospel (New Testament) but also an acknowledgment of Jesus as the Messiah. The term, "Messiah," means "anointed one" in Semitic tongues, such as Arabic and Hebrew. The term was translated into Greek as "Christ," after which the term "Christian" was introduced. Christians are followers of the teachings of Jesus the Messiah (Christ).

There are instances in Jewish history where false Messiah's have come forth. Among them is Jesus who is viewed by Judaism as not being the Messiah whom the prophets identified. Jews still await the Messiah and pray at the "Wailing Wall" in Jerusalem until the Messiah comes. When he comes, they believe he will go up to the Temple Mount and rebuild the Temple which was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans. Suliman II believed that the Jewish Messiah would destroy the Dome of the Rock mosque and raise the Temple in its place, so he sealed the main gate to the Temple Mount, called the Golden Gate, and placed a Muslim cemetery before the gate. Muslims believe that this will prevent the Messiah from entering the Temple Mount.

One may wonder whether the angels reciting the Koran to Mohammed intended, by their confirmation of the Old and New Testaments, that those documents be honored. If one concludes that the angels honored the Old and New Testaments (Bible) and expect the faithful to the Koran to do so, it would also be appropriate to honor others who honor those books. I don't understand how anyone can err in following the Koran by saying that the Koran requires you to follow Christ; i.e., be a Christian. We also note that the only place where the term "Messiah" has been used is in the Bible. To understand fully what the term means and how to identify the "Messiah" one must refer to the Bible. Since the Koran establishes its foundations upon the Bible it may be that to fully understand the intent of the Koran one must fully understand the Bible.

This may be a place where Islam and Christians may find an agreement, where the weary may rest. See also our comments, Maravot News 3.29.08 Website withdraws Dutch anti-Islam film. A link to the Koran is in our sidebar. Our quotes from the Koran are from the Penguin Classics edition, 1984, translated by N.J.Dawood.

Mel Copeland

4.02.08 Scientists create Britain's first hybrid embryos

April 2 - Scientists confirmed last night that they have created human-animal "hybrid" embryos for the first time in Britain in an effort to develop new stem-cell treatments for disorders such as Parkinson's disease, stroke and diabetes. The scientists merged human genetic material with cow egg cells that had most of their own genetic material removed. The resulting hybrid embryos were genetically 99.9 per cent human and 0.1 per cent cow. The research is still preliminary and has not yet been verified in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, but scientists at Newcastle University insisted the results were valid, the hybrid embryos surviving for three days in the test tube. [More>>independent.co.uk]

4.02.08 Scientists discover 10 new planets outside solar system

WASHINGTON, April 1 - An international team of astronomers has found 10 new extra-solar planets, planets that orbit stars other than our sun, University of California, Santa Barbara, announced on Tuesday. The new international collaboration is called "SuperWASP," for Wide Area Search for Planets. In the last six months the SuperWASP team has used two batteries of cameras, one in Spain's Canary Islands and one in South Africa, to discover the 10 new extra solar planets.

Two participating astronomers from the U.S. are Rachel Street and Tim Lister, who are working at the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network (LCOGTN), affiliated with UCSB. "The flood of new discoveries from SuperWASP will revolutionize our understanding of how planets form," said Lister in the statement released by UCSB. In order to discover these planets, astronomers look for "transits," moments when the planets pass in front of the star, like an eclipse, as viewed from the Earth. This technique of locating the planets gives more information about the formation and evolution of the planets than the gravitational technique.

4.01.08 Villagers find scores of al-Qaeda victims

ZAHAMN, Iraq, April 1 - No less than 52 bodies have been found so far in shallow graves in an area of northern Iraq, the remains of people murdered by al-Qaeda during a two-year reign of terror. For the farmers of Diyala province's breadbasket it is a stark reminder of the Islamist group's brutality. The search began in an abandoned pomegranate orchard on the outskirts of Zahamm last week when US soldiers received information about the killing field by a man who claimed to have escaped from al-Qaeda's "jail" there last summer.

Only about one-third of the orchard has been searched so far. Two nearby orchards also believed to be burial grounds will also be searched, raising the prospect that the Zahamm farms could collectively rank as one of the largest al-Qaeda killing fields found in Iraq.

4.01.08 Iraqi casualties at highest level since August

BAGHDAD (Reuters) April 1 - Fighting between Iraqi security forces and Shia militiamen last month has driven civilian deaths in the country to their highest level in more than six months, government figures showed on Tuesday. A total of 923 civilians were killed in March, up 31 percent from February and the deadliest month since August 2007, according to data compiled by Iraq's interior, defence and health ministries and obtained by Reuters.

The figures will be a blow to the Iraqi government and the United States, which have pointed to reduced overall levels of violence in recent months as evidence that a major security offensive has made significant progress. Hundreds of people were killed and many more wounded in last week's fighting after Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered a crackdown on Shia militiamen in the southern city of Basra. Many of the dead were civilians caught in the crossfire. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.01.08 UBS chairman quits amid new £10bn writeoff

April 1 - UBS chairman Marcel Ospel fell on his sword this morning as the Swiss banking giant announced a humiliating SwFr15 billion (£7.57 billion) rights issue to shore up its crumbling balance sheet. The bank revealed that it had lost a further $19 billion (£9.6 billion) in US real estate and related structured credit positions, bringing the total damage from the US sub-prime implosion to about $37 billion.

The fresh injection of capital is fully underwritten by J P Morgan, Morgan Stanley, BNP Paribas and Goldman Sachs and follows a SwFr13 billion capital injection only four months ago from the Singaporean Government fund GIC and a mystery Middle East investor. It also emerged today that Lehman Brothers raised $4 billion through issuing convertible shares in an attempt to shore up confidence in the investment bank after its shares crashed by 48 per cent on March 17 on speculation it would follow Bear Stearns into collapse. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

4.01.08 Turkish police detain 45 in al-Qaeda crackdown: report

ISTANBUL, April 1 - Turkish anti-terror police on Tuesday detained 45 people on suspicion of belonging to the al-Qaeda extremist network and planning attacks, Anatolia news agency reported. The suspects, rounded up in simultaneous operations in eight districts of Istanbul, were being questioned by police, the report said. A court was to decide later whether they should be charged and jailed pending trial or released. In January, police raided 18 locations in southeast Turkey on intelligence that a local al-Qaeda cell was planning car bomb attacks. Four alleged militants and a policeman were then killed in a gunfight, and 17 suspects arrested. [More>>turkishpress.com]

4.01.08 In Gaza, Hamas's insults to Jews complicate peace

GAZA, April 1 - In the Katib Wilayat mosque one recent Friday, the imam was discussing the wiliness of the Jew. "Jews are a people who cannot be trusted," Imam Yousif al-Zahar of Hamas told the faithful. "They have been traitors to all agreements — go back to history. Their fate is their vanishing. Look what they are doing to us." At Al Omari mosque, the imam cursed the Jews and the "Crusaders," or Christians, and the Danes, for reprinting cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. He referred to Jews as "the brothers of apes and pigs," while the Hamas television station, Al Aksa, praises suicide bombing and holy war until Palestine is free of Jewish control.

Its videos praise fighters and rocket-launching teams; its broadcasts insult the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, for talking to Israel and the United States; its children's programs praise "martyrdom," teach what it calls the perfidy of the Jews and the need to end Israeli occupation over Palestinian land, meaning any part of the state of Israel. Such incitement against Israel and Jews was supposed to be banned under the 1993 Oslo accords and the 2003 "road map" peace plan. While the Palestinian Authority under Fatah has made significant, if imperfect efforts to end incitement, Hamas, no party to those agreements, feels no such restraint. [More>>nytimes.com; See related story, alarabiya.net, April 1, "Hamas TV puppet 'kills' President Bush."]

3.31.08 Wen: Channels for dialogue with Dalai Lama always open

VIENTIANE, March 30 - The channels for dialogue between the Chinese government and Dalai Lama are always open, said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao here on Sunday. As long as Dalai Lama abandons the claim for "Tibet independence," especially uses his influence to stop the violence in Tibet, and recognize both Tibet and Taiwan as inseparable parts of China, the Chinese government is to continue resuming dialogues with him, the Chinese premier said. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

3.31.08 French extremists dream of jihad in Iraq

PARIS (AP) March 31 - Boubakeur el Hakim traded his Paris neighborhood of boulangeries and halal butcher shops for the insurgent camps of Iraq. When he came home, he told his war stories to other young men on the forgotten edges of French society, allegedly persuading some to follow in his footsteps. His younger brother did, and died fighting US forces.

After years of investigation by French authorities, el Hakim, 24, went on trial this month in a case exposing how the Iraq war has sucked radical youths from Europe to a battlefield where they have learned skills that officials fear may one day be used in domestic terror attacks. Along with four other young Frenchmen, a Moroccan and an Algerian, el Hakim is accused of funneling French Muslim fighters to Iraq. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

3.31.08 Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan

KABUL (AFP) March 31 - Two British soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force were killed in southern Afghanistan when they were hit by an explosion, ISAF said Monday. The two were on patrol when they were killed on Sunday, the 39-nation ISAF said in a statement. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.31.08 Arab summit alarmed by rise in 'Islamophobia'

DAMASCUS (AFP) March 31 - Arab leaders gathered in Damascus for an annual summit expressed concern on Sunday about what they said was rising Islamophobia around the world amid Muslim anger at a Dutch film linking Islam to terrorism.

"The growth of ferocious attacks against Islam and the rise of Islamophobia are a deep source of concern, particularly given that the offences to Muslims are increasing in countries known for their pluralism and acceptance of difference," Arab leaders said in a final statement. "The intense polarization the world has seen requires more work in order to reduce the increasing gap between cultures and civilizations."
[More>>alarabiya.net; See also metimes.com, March 31, "Arab summit: Big words, little substance."]

3.31.08 MDC claims it is heading for clear victory over Mugabe in Zimbabwe election

March 31 - Zimbabwe's main opposition party claimed today to be heading to a clear victory over Robert Mugabe after presidential and parliamentary elections. Official results from Saturday's election only trickled out, however, prompting accusations that the veteran President was trying to fix the poll results in a desperate bid to cling to power.

With 24 of the 210 parliamentary seats so far declared by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Mr. Mugabe's Zanu-PF was level-pegging with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai, on 12 seats each. No official figures were given for the presidential contest. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

3.31.08 Huge payoff for Rock chief, despite bank's £167m loss

March 31 - The former boss of Northern Rock will be entitled to a £760,000 payoff despite the bank being rescued by the Government, it was confirmed today. Adam Applegarth, who stepped down as chief executive of the mortgage lender in December, could receive £63,333 a month for up to a year under the severance deal, the nationalized lender's 2007 annual report said. The document also revealed that Northern made a loss of £167.6 million during the year as it tried to fight off nationalization, compared to a £626.7 million profit the year before. [More>>independent.co.uk]

3.31.08 Treasury rolls out overhaul of financial regulators

March 31 - The Bush administration on Monday introduced the broadest overhaul of Wall Street regulation since the Great Depression, presenting a 218-page proposal that would, for the first time, create a set of federal regulators with authority over all players in the financial system. The plan is unlikely to be put in place anytime soon, and in presenting the blueprint, Henry M. Paulson Jr., the secretary of the Treasury, insisted the changes were intended to address long-term problems with the way Washington oversees financial markets, rather than a quick fix for the current crisis. [More>>nytimes.com]

3.30.08 Iraq's Sadr orders followers off streets

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) March 30 - Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr called on his followers on Sunday to stop battling government forces after a week of fighting in Iraq's south and the capital threatened to spiral out of control. The government immediately welcomed Sadr's statement, saying it would help the authorities impose security in Iraq.

A government crackdown on Sadr's followers in the southern oil port of Basra has sparked an explosion of violence that risks undoing recent improvements in Iraq's fragile security and jeopardizing US plans to withdraw troops. "Because of the religious responsibility, and to stop Iraqi blood being shed ... we call for an end to armed appearances in Basra and all other provinces," Sadr said in a statement given to journalists by his aides in the holy Shia city of Najaf. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.30.08 Al-Qaeda recruiting 'western' fighters - CIA boss

WASHINGTON (Reuters) March 30 - Al-Qaeda is training fighters that "look western" and could easily cross US borders without attracting attention, CIA Director Michael Hayden said on Sunday. The militant Islamist group has turned Pakistan's remote tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan into a safe haven, and is using it to plot further attacks against the United States, Hayden said.

"They are bringing operatives into that region for training — operatives that wouldn't attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles (airport outside Washington) with you when you were coming back from overseas," Hayden said during an interview on NBC's television show Meet the Press. "(They) look western (and) would be able to come into this country without attracting the kinds of attention that others might," Hayden said, without offering further details. {More>>thestar.com.my]

3.30.08 Putin flags underground tunnel link to the US

LONDON, March 30 - Russian President Vladimir Putin is to raise plans for a tunnel to link his country with the US when he meets his American counterpart, George W. Bush, next Sunday. The 103km tunnel would run under the Bering Strait between Chukotka, in the Russian far east, and Alaska; the cost is estimated at $71 billion. Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea Football Club and Governor of Chukotka, has invested $173 million in the world's largest drill but has denied that it is linked with the development.

Proposals for such a tunnel were approved by Tsar Nicholas II in the early 20th century but were abandoned during the Soviet era. If finally built, the tunnel would allow rail connections between London and New York. A Kremlin spokesman confirmed last week that Mr. Putin seeks to build "a real bridge" between Russia and the US when he meets Mr. Bush at the Black Sea resort of Sochi.

3.30.08 'Israel pledges to remove 50 West Bank roadblocks'

March 30 - Israel and the Palestinians on Sunday agreed to a series of "concrete steps" aimed at paving the way for a final peace agreement later this year, beginning with a pledge to remove some 50 roadblocks in the West Bank, US officials said. The officials, traveling with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also said the Palestinians had agreed to step up their efforts to "prevent terror" in the West Bank.

...It continued by saying Israel would remove 50 travel barriers located in and around Jenin, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Ramallah. Israel also promised to dismantle one permanent roadblock, and - as reported last week - will allow the deployment of 700 Jordanian-trained Palestinian police in Jenin and let them take delivery of armored vehicles.
[Full story>>jpost.com]

3.29.08 Sadr urges support for 'resistance'

March 29 - Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia leader, has called on Arab countries to support his militia's battle against "US occupation" as clashes between Shia groups and Iraqi government troops entered their fifth day. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also thestar.com.my, March 29, "Maliki says Sadrist foes, "worse than al-Qaeda.' "]

3.29.08 Summit exposes Arab world rift

AMMAN, Jordan, March 29 - The Arab world was virtually split in two on Friday after more countries reduced their level of participation at the weekend Arab summit in the Syrian capital, where officials and heads of state began arriving to struggle with a slew of critical problems plaguing their region. In a last-minute announcement, Yemen and Jordan said they were downgrading their level of representation at the 20th annual summit, to vice president and ambassador, respectively, dropping the number to only 11 presidents and monarchs from the 22 member states said to be taking part. [More>>metimes.com]

3.29.08 Website withdraws Dutch anti-Islam film

THE HAGUE (AFP) March 29 - An Internet site said Saturday it had removed anti-Islam film 'Fitna' by far-right Dutch MP Geert Wilders after receiving threats to its staff amid protests by Muslim nations and the UN chief. The Britain-based Liveleak.com said it pulled down the video, which can still be seen on other websites, including youtube.com. The film was posted to the Internet on Thursday.

"Following threats to our staff of a very serious nature, and some ill informed reports from certain corners of the British media that could directly lead to the harm of some of our staff, Liveleak.com has been left with no other choice but to remove 'Fitna' from our servers," the site said in a statement. "This is a sad day for freedom of speech on the net but we have to place the safety and well being of our staff above all else," the online statement said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; See related story, alarabiya.net, March 29, " 'Satanic Verses' play premieres in Germany." and earlier report, Maravot News, March 28, "Online: A violent view of Islam."]

3.29.08 Hope for end to Russia cave siege

March 29 - Fresh talks are under way to persuade 28 doomsday cult members in Russia to end a five-month cave siege after seven sect women came to the surface.. The women were allowed to leave with cult leader Pyotr Kuznetsov after he was brought to the scene to negotiate. The True Russian Orthodox Church members barricaded themselves into the cave in the Penza region, about 650km (400 miles) south-east of Moscow. They are waiting for doomsday, which they believe will occur in May. The members entered the cave in October and have refused to come out. [More>>bbc.co.uk ; See also rian.ru]

3.28.08 Asian rice crisis starts to bite

March 28 - Cambodia has become the latest Asian country to impose restrictions on exports of rice – the staple food for half the world's population. The government announced the two-month export ban to ensure "food security" on Thursday, blaming surging overseas demand — particularly in Africa and the Middle East — for the skyrocketing cost of rice. Worldwide rising demand has seen rice stocks plummet to their lowest in about three decades, with average prices doubling over the last five years. Earlier this month the UN secretary general warned that global food stocks had fallen to their lowest level in decades, driving prices up and threatening millions with starvation.

That is worrying governments — especially in the poorer Asian nations where a rise of even a few cents can for millions mean a difference between surviving or going hungry. Earlier this month, the rising cost of rice brought protesters onto the streets of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta. And recently the Philippines, the world's top importer of rice, asked Vietnam, the world's number two exporter, to guarantee supplies. [More>>aljazeera.net]

3.28.08 Online: a violent view of Islam

THE HAGUE, March 28 - A Dutch lawmaker known for his outspoken opposition to immigration posted a graphic film depicting Islam as a religion of violence on a maverick video-sharing Web site Thursday night after government and religious officials spent weeks trying to prevent its release. The 15-minute film splices verses from the Koran with videos of mutilated bombing victims, the World Trade Center attack, the beheading of a man by masked gunmen and an Afghan woman draped in a pleated blue burqa being shot in the head.

"It is not a provocation, it is tough reality — a reality that some Muslims might not find comfortable," Geert Wilders, a member of the Netherlands' far-right Party for Freedom, told reporters after the Web site LiveLeak.com received so many hits within the first hour of posting the film that the video temporarily froze. "I think I have made a very decent film, within the boundaries of the law. This is a call for debate; that is how people should respond."

Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had warned Wilders that the film, called "Fitna," the Arabic word for chaos or strife, could imperil the country's national interests and endanger its soldiers and other citizens abroad. In recent weeks, news that the film would soon be released set off violent protests in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other predominantly Muslim countries.
[More>>washingtonpost.com ; See also abcnews.go.com, March 28, "Uproar over anti-Islam film falls flat" — article includes an interpretation of the "Fitna" citations by Muslim expert, Mohammad Al-Hayek. A Koran in English, on line: quod.lib.umich.edu]

Editorial note: Wilders' film addresses a reality behind the conflict between Islamists and Western civilization. Maravot News follows trends in world news. One such trend involves the violence (and its sources) promoted by Islamists against the West. While the causes of conflict can be political, racial, economic, tribal, or centuries-long biases, such as the bigotry against the Jews, often those conflicts become solidified through religious fervor. With regard to the religious (Islamist) conflict, the following are a few stories that Maravot News has recorded:

3.23.08 Beat up infidel tourists, says Muslim cleric
3.16.08 US magazine distributes free anti-Prophet book
3.06.08 Brutal land where homosexuality is punishable by death
3.05.08 Terror 'how to' book released by al-Qaeda
2.27.08 Imam from Va. Mosque now thought to have aided al-Qaeda
2.26.08 'Osama bin London' gang guilty of terror training
2.17.08 Bulgarian mufti's office hit by anti-Islam graffiti
2.16.08 Suspected Danish cartoon rioters torch cars
2.08.08 Violations of 'Islamic teachings' take deadly toll on Iraqi women
2.07.08 Abu Hamza: Muslim cleric to be extradited to US (report includes his teachings)
2.07.08 Archbishop of Canterbury calls for Sharia law in the UK
2.07.08 Hamas calls suicide bombing in 'self-defence'
2.06.08 Muslim graves latest target of Austria extremists
2.06.08 Analysis: US cuts critique of Islam film (contains Maravot News links to Islamic verses that promote violence against infidels).

The stories listed above relate to reports recorded by Maravot News in the last 30 days — an example of what was reported during the past four years. There is no doubt that violence and hatred against the West continues to be taught in mosques, and there is no doubt that the violence and hatred that is taught can be traced to the Koran. There is also a growing trend of reaction against Islam. Compare these stories with the story that came out of Kosovo: 2.19.08 Politics & policies: Kosovar Islam unveiled., a story that offers hope in a reconciliation between Islam and the West. What is not being discussed is the fact that the Koran claims it was recited to confirm that the Jewish Scriptures and Gospel are true (See also Maravot News 11.25.04 Why the Crusade & Jihad?). The Gospel of Jesus, of course, condemned violence and argued "turning the other cheek" and upheld the Golden Rule, "Do not to others what you would not have done to you," which he compared to being like "loving God with all your heart and soul." Such teachings can soothe the fury incited by others — as from the Koran — if they are given a chance.

Mel Copeland

3.28.08 UN rights council passes Islamic resolution on religious defamation

GENEVA (AP) March 28 - The top UN rights body on Thursday passed a resolution proposed by Islamic countries saying it is deeply concerned about the defamation of religions and urging governments to prohibit it. The European Union said the text was one-sided because it primarily focused on Islam.

The UN Human Rights Council, which is dominated by Arab and other Muslim countries, adopted the resolution on a 21-10 vote over the opposition of Europe and Canada. EU countries, including France, Germany and Britain, voted against. Previously EU diplomats had said they wanted to stop the growing worldwide trend of using religious anti-defamation laws to limit free speech. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

3.28.08 US airstrike kills at least 4 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) March 28 - A US helicopter fired a Hellfire missile during fighting in a Shiite militia stronghold of Baghdad on Friday, while US pilots conducted their first airstrikes on the southern city of Basra to aid Iraqi forces battling powerful Shiite militias. The American air support marked a sharp escalation in the fight — so far led by Iraqi security forces — to cripple armed factions that the Pentagon accuses of links to Iran. It also suggested that the four-day-old ground offensives by Iraqi troops and police are struggling against strong militia resistance. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

3.28.08 Shia-Sunni clashes intensify in NW Paksitan

KOHAT, Pakistan (Reuters) March 28 - Sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims intensified in a tribal region of northwest Pakistan on Friday, with at least 22 people reportedly killed in gun battles, a senior official said. "Dead bodies are lying inside houses and in fields," said Qalb-e-Hassan, a newly elected provincial legislator from Kohat town. Fighting overnight was concentrated in three villages of Kohat district of North West Frontier Province. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.27.08 US steps up unilateral strikes in Pakistan

March 27 - The United States has escalated its unilateral strikes against al-Qaeda members and fighters operating in Pakistan's tribal areas, partly because of anxieties that Pakistan's new leaders will insist on scaling back military operations in that country, according to US officials. Washington is worried that pro-Western President Pervez Musharraf, who has generally supported the US strikes, will almost certainly have reduced powers in the months ahead, and so it wants to inflict as much damage as it can to al-Qaeda's network now, the officials said.

Over the past two months, US-controlled Predator aircraft are known to have struck at least three sites used by al-Qaeda operatives. The moves followed a tacit understanding with Musharraf and Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kiyani that allows US strikes on foreign fighters operating in Pakistan, but not against the Pakistani Taliban, the officials said. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

3.27.08 Defense officials: Hezbollah rockets can reach almost all of Israel

JERUSALEM (AP) March 27 - With Iranian backing, Hezbollah guerrillas have dramatically increased their rocket range and now threaten most of Israel, according to senior Israeli defense officials. The Lebanon-based militant group has acquired new Iranian rockets with a range of around 300 kilometers (185 miles), the officials said. That means the guerrillas can strike anywhere in Israel's heavily populated center and reach as far south as Dimona, where Israel's nuclear reactor is located. [More>>haaretz.com]

3.26.08 Slab of Antarctic ice shelf collapses

March 26 - Satellite images show that a large hunk of Antarctica's Wilkins Ice Shelf has started to collapse in a fast-warming region of the continent. The area of collapse measured about 160 square miles (415 square km) of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, according to satellite imagery from the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Centre. That's a larger area than Australia's Gold Coast, which is 383 sq km.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is a broad sheet of permanent floating ice that spans about 5000 square miles (13,000 square km) and is located on the southwest Antarctic Peninsula about 1000 miles (1600km) south of South America.


"Block after block of ice is just tumbling and crumbling into the ocean," Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, said. "The shelf is not just cracking off and a piece goes drifting away, but totally shattering. These kinds of events, we don't see them very often. But we want to understand them better because these are the things that lead to a complete loss of the ice shelf." [More>>news.com.au]

3.26.08 Eight civilians killed in Afghan blast: police

KANDAHAR, March 26 - Eight Afghan civilians were killed when a bomb-filled car exploded near a crowded bazaar in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, police said, in an attack claimed by the Taliban. The blast took place in Gereshk district, in volatile Helmand province — the country's biggest opium producing region which has seen much of the violence in the years-long Taliban insurgency. [More>>thenews.com.pk ; See related story, metimes.com, March 26, "Afghanistan's opium dilemma."]

3.26.08 Iraq PM gives 72 hour deadline to Shia fighters

BAGHDAD (AFP) March 26 - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave Shia militiamen a 72 hour deadline to lay down their arms as they battled Iraqi and US troops for a second day Wednesday in Baghdad and the second city of Basra. Fighting broke out at dawn in strongholds of the Mahdi Army militia of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr after raging through the previous day.

Police have confirmed seven people killed in Basra while unconfirmed sources put the death toll at 40 and the number of wounded at 200. The death toll of 40 was not independently confirmed. At least 20 people died in the clashes in the militia's Baghdad bastion of Sadr City, Iraqi security officials said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.25.08 Saudi king says he'll convene interfaith conference with Jews

March 25 - Saudi King Abdullah's desire to convene a meeting between Jewish, Christian, and Muslim religious communities was reported Tuesday by the official Saudi Arabian News Agency. "I invite representatives of all the monotheistic religions to meet with their brothers in faith," the king was quoted as saying. The theme of the expected conference was reported to be "respect among the religions."

The news agency reported that senior Muslim leaders authorized the idea and consultations would be made with Islamic religious authorities from other countries. The king went on to say that "with God's help we will meet our brethren from other religions, including those who believe in the Torah and in the Gospel, in order to find ways to defend humanity."

This, he said, comes after humanity has lost its morality, sincerity and steadfastness. Also, the religions were confronted by challenges such as dealing with the disintegration of the family and ever-expanding Atheism, he said. King Abdullah revealed that he had been preparing the convention for two years and discussed it with the Pope when he visited the Vatican a year ago. Abdullah has not determined a specific date for the meeting.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger expressed his satisfaction over the announcement. "Our hands are extended to any peace initiative and to any dialogue that will bring about an end to terrorism and violence," he said in a statement. "I have said on numerous occasions that the true path to the peace that we long for is through interfaith dialogue." [>jpost.com ;See also arabnews.com]

3.25.08 Dutch MP wants ban on ritual slaughter

DUBAI, March 25 - A Dutch lawmaker has called for an end to the ritual slaughter of animals, saying she means no offence to either the Jewish or Islamic faiths. MP Marianne Thieme, who is also the head of the Dutch Animal Party, told the German News Agency Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) that the religiously-prescribed method of slaughter is "inhumane" and causes "unnecessary stress" to the animals.

Instead of slaughtering animals while they are alive, Thieme said they should be made unconscious using an electric shock first.
According to Jewish and Muslim rituals, the animal's throat is slit using a single strike, cutting the arteries that connect the brain to the spine. Animals only enter the slaughter area when it is their turn, so they do not witness the killing of other animals...Some 800,000 Muslims and 30,000 Jews live in the Netherlands, out of a total population of 16.4 million. A small percentage of both groups eat meat that is ritually slaughtered.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net]

3.25.08 Iraq's Sadr threatens civil revolt after deadly clashes

BASRA, March 25 - Iraq's radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Tuesday threatened a countrywide campaign of civil revolt as security forces battled his militiamen in the southern city of Basra. Fighting raged from early morning in areas of Basra controlled by Sadr's Mahdi Army militia as troops and police launched a major crackdown on armed groups in the oil hub, considered the nerve centre of Iraq's national economy. At least four people were killed and 18 wounded, said police Major Abbas Youssef.

Fighting also erupted in Baghdad when Mahdi militiamen attacked offices of the rival Badr militia, while in the west of the capital hundreds of Sadr supporters took to the streets to protest the arrests of Mahdi Army members. An AFP correspondent said fighting in Basra subsided in the afternoon, although gunfire could still be heard and warplanes and helicopters flew over the city of 1.5 million people. Sadr, in a statement read by his representative Hazam al-Aaraji in the holy city of Najaf, warned he would launch protests and a nationwide strike if attacks against members of his movement and ”poor people” are not halted. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

3.25.08 Court backs Texas in dispute with Bush

March 25 - The Supreme Court today said President Bush does not have to power to order state courts to reopen a death penalty case involving a foreign national because of a judgment of the World Court. The court held 6-3 that judgments of the international court are not binding on U.S. courts and President Bush's order that courts in Texas comply anyway does not change that.

The court's decision, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., was a rebuke to the government in a case that involved the powers of all three branches of government, the intricacies of treaties and the international debate over the death penalty. The case involved the Vienna Convention, but Roberts wrote that pact not only does not give the president to "unilaterally make treaty obligations binding on domestic courts," but it also "implicitly prohibits him from doing so." [More>>washingtonpost.com]


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


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