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April 21 - Grim weather up North may be making men more prone to prostate cancer, new research suggests. Scientists believe a combination of cold temperatures and lack of sun could help explain higher rates of the disease in northerly parts of the world. Poor exposure to the sun's rays can lead to vitamin D deficiency, which may increase prostate cancer risk, it is claimed. At the same time, cold weather might help to slow the degradation of cancer-triggering industrial pollutants, say US researchers.
04.21.10 IMF: Global recovery stronger than anticipated
April 21 - The world economy is rebounding from recession "better than we thought likely" and will expand by more than 4 percent this year, the International Monetary Fund's top economist said Wednesday. Growth is uneven. China is projected to grow by a world-leading 10 percent in 2010, while major European nations are expected to grow by a combined 1 percent. The United States is projected to grow by 3.1 percent — better than the 2.3 percent average growth projected by the IMF for the advanced economies. The IMF's forecast of 4.2 percent growth in world output in 2010 represents a marked increase from its projection in January of 0.3 percent growth for the year. For 2011, the IMF now forecasts growth of 4.3 percent. By contrast, the global economy shrank by 0.6 percent in 2009 as world trade slumped and credit froze, the IMF said. [More>>washingtonpost.com]
04.21.10 GM pays back government loans from US, Canada
DETROIT, April 21 - GM CEO says repayment of loan portion of its government aid packages shows carmaker recovering. General Motors Co. has repaid $8.1 billion in loans it got from the US and Canadian governments, a move its CEO says is a sign the automaker is on the road to recovery. CEO Ed Whitacre announced the repayments Wednesday at GM's Fairfax Assembly Plant in Kansas City, Kan., where he said GM is investing $257 million in that factory and the Detroit-Hamtramck plant. He was to meet with top lawmakers in Washington on Wednesday afternoon.
04.21.10 Palestinians losing faith in Obama administration, poll finds
April 21 - Palestinian hopes that US President Barack Obama will bring an end to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory have significantly declined in recent months, a public opinion poll published Wednesday has found. Only 9.9 percent of Palestinians now believe that Obama's policies will increase chances of achieving a "just peace," down from 23.7 percent in October last year and 35.4 percent in June. The poll also found that over 78 percent of Palestinians interviewed believe the US-Israel dispute over the issue of West Bank settlements is "not serious." [More>>haaretz.com]
04.21.10 Iran occupation of UAE islands like Israel's: FM
ABU DHABI, April 21 - UAE likens Iran's control of islands to Israeli occupation. The foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday likened Iran's control of three disputed Gulf islands to Israel's occupation of Arab territories. "The occupation of any Arab land is an occupation," Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahayan said in a question-and-answer session of the consultative Federal National Council, according to WAM state news agency. "There is no difference between Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon, the West Bank or Gaza, as occupation remains occupation... No Arab land is more precious than another," he said, referring to the islands of Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb and Abu Mousa. "As an Emirati, it is normal that I should be... more sensitive about an occupied part of the UAE than other Arab territories. Otherwise, one would be fooling himself," the minister said.
04.21.10 'Revolutionary Guards - terrorists'
BERLIN, April 21 - Top European intellectuals and politicians to call for blacklisting. A broad swath of prominent European intellectuals and politicians, crisscrossing Germany, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, are slated to announce on Wednesday that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) should be put on the European Union terror list, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The European "Stop the Bomb" coalition, which advocates aggressive European-based sanctions against the Iranian government, organized the petition.
04.21.10 Sahara states move against al-Qaeda
April 21 - Four Sahara desert countries are set to open a joint command headquarters in the south of Algeria to counter a growing al-Qaeda threat, the Algerian defence ministry says. The command headquarters for Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger will be based in Tamanrasset, about 2,000km south of Algiers, the Algerian capital, it said. The announcement on Wednesday followed a meeting last month of senior officials from regional governments that the US hailed as a step towards confronting al-Qaeda. Western countries say that unless the region's fractious governments join forces to combat al-Qaeda, the Sahara could become a safe haven for "terrorists" like Yemen and Somalia. [More>>aljazeera.net]
04.21.10 Legislation under way to ban full face veil from public places
PARIS (AFP) April 21 - The Elysée presidential palace said Wednesday that the government will present to ministers in May a bill to ban face-covering veils — such as niqab veils and burqas, which cover the body from head to toe — from public places. The French government is drawing up a law to ban the full-face Islamic veil from all public spaces, despite a warning from experts that it could face a legal challenge, a spokesman said Wednesday. The spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy's government, Luc Chatel, said the bill would be presented to ministers in May and would go beyond a mere ban on women wearing the niqab and the burqa while dealing with French officials. "We're legislating for the future. Wearing a full veil is a sign of a community closing in on itself and a rejection of our values," he said. [More>>france24.com]
04.20.10 UK flights grounded again by new ash cloud
April 20 - Britain will in effect remain a flight-free zone until at least 1am tomorrow, with just a handful of flights operating in the north of the country. Skeleton services operated from Scotland and Newcastle this evening but aviation officials said the rest of Britain's airspace would remain closed until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh will remain open today, and Glasgow and Teesside will reopen at 7pm. Airports in the south of the UK will stay closed until at least 1am tomorrow. Flights will be allowed through closed airspace at above 20,000ft. [More>>timesonline.co.uk; See details of European flight schedules, france24.com, April 20, "European airspace at 18:00GMT: the France 24 survival guide."]
04.20.10 Supreme Court overturns law banning depictions of animal cruelty
April 20 - Justices vote 8 to 1 in dogfighting video case, call law 'substantially overbroad.' The Supreme Court today invalidated a federal law that had criminalized the sale of certain depictions of animal cruelty, including violent dogfighting videos. An 8-1 majority on the Court said that the law was "substantially overbroad, and therefore invalid under the First Amendment," affirming the right of free speech in the face of some government-imposed restrictions. The government had argued that showing animals being mutilated, tortured or killed was so explicit that it should be banned. But today Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said "We disagree." [More>>abcnews.go.com]
04.20.10 Sherpas to clean up Mt. Everest death zone
KATMANDU, April 20 - A team of Nepalese Sherpa climbers will attempt to bring down thousands of kilograms of garbage from the Mt. Everest death zone in May, the team's leader said Monday. This is the first time the death zone, a term denoting the part of the world's tallest peak from 8,000 meters to the top, will be cleaned. "We plan to bring down between 2,000 to 3,000 kilograms of garbage and the body of a Swiss climber who died in the zone in 2008," team leader Namgyal Sherpa, who has climbed the 8,848 meter peak seven times, said. The 20-member team of seasoned Nepalese climbers led by Namgyal Sherpa plans to reach the top May 15 and start the cleaning campaign. [>japantoday.com; See more details,
04.20.10 Tuna sushi in US busts recommended levels of mercury
(AFP) April 20 - Tuna sushi bought at a range of US restaurants and supermarkets had mercury that breached levels set by health watchdogs, a study published said. The offending samples included bluefin tuna, the hugely-prized species that has been plunged into a fierce conservation battle, the researchers reported in the British journal Biology Letters. One hundred sushi samples were collected from 54 restaurants and 15 supermarkets in New York, New Jersey and Colorado, comprising "akami" (lean red tuna) as well as "toro" (fatty tuna). The species were identified using a DNA fingerprint test and the samples were then tested for mercury levels. [More>>news.com.au]
04.20.10 Iran missile could reach US by 2015: Pentagon
WASHINGTON, April 20 - A US Defense Department report has warned that Iran could fire a missile at the United States by 2015, and adds that the Iranians have gone to great lengths to protect their nuclear infrastructure from physical destruction. "With sufficient foreign assistance, Iran could probably develop and test an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the United States by 2015," Fox News quoted the new 12 page unclassified report, as saying. The report further claims that Iran's military strategy is designed to defend against external or “hard” threats from the United States and Israel. "Iran continues being a disruptive force inside Iraq. Iran also offers strategic and operational guidance to militias and terrorist groups to target US Forces in Iraq and undermine US interests," the report said.
04.20.10 Lieberman: Jerusalem is our eternal capital, it will never be divided
April 20 - Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Tuesday that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the State of Israel and that it will never be divided — "neither directly nor indirectly." Addressing a group of foreign diplomats at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, the foreign minister quoted a speech made by former prime minister Menachem Begin, explaining that Begin's remarks reflected the connection that Jews around the world feel toward Jerusalem — a connection that still exists today. "Today," he said, "I stand before you in Jerusalem, and confirm Begin's words: the city will remain our capital and will never be divided." Lieberman stressed that the government of which he is a member seeks peace as long as there is a genuine partner. "The State of Israel has proven time and again that it is prepared to pay a high price for peace with its neighbors and has already evacuated territory three times its size," he said. "We must now create a new reality in the region based on security for Israelis, economic prosperity for Palestinians, and stability for both. Only then will it be possible to negotiate a final agreement between the parties." [More>>haaretz.com]
04.20.10 Syria warned on 'missile transfer'
April 20 - The US has summoned a senior Syrian diplomat in Washington over the potential transfer of Scud missiles to Lebanon's Hezbollah. US officials branded the move "provocative behavior," and said the transfer of the missiles to Hezbollah, which the US calls a terror outfit, could be a threat to both Lebanon and Israel. "The United States condemns in the strongest terms the transfer of any arms, and especially ballistic missile systems such as the Scud, from Syria to Hezbollah," said a statement issued by Gordon Duguid, a state department spokesman, on Monday. "The transfer of these arms can only have a destabilizing effect on the region, and would pose an immediate threat to both the security of Israel and the sovereignty of Lebanon." The Syrian diplomat was not named, but Damascus denied the transfer, saying Israel might be using the accusation as a pretext for a military strike against it. [More>>aljazeera.net]
04.20.10 Al-Qaeda's two top Iraq leaders killed in raid
BAGHDAD, April 19 - "Devastating blow" to al-Qaeda in Iraq: Joe Biden.
04.17.10 Airport crisis spreads as ash moves east
PARIS, April 17 - Travelers endured spreading chaos on Saturday, as an Icelandic volcano continued to spew ash that winds pushed south and east over an increasing portion of the European continent, causing more airports to shut and thousands of flights to be canceled. Volcanologists had no reliable prediction of how long the eruption would continue, as travelers scrambled for train reservations, rental cars and hotel rooms. Others simply searched for comfortable benches in airports, which were considerably calmer and emptier than on Friday as passengers realized that no flights would be going in or out. Europe's three largest airports — London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris-Charles de Gaulle — were all shut on Saturday, with officials hoping that flights could resume sometime Sunday or, more likely, Monday.
04.17.10 New tech sees dead people
April 17 - Technology can detect chemicals released by decomposing bodies. A spooky sounding technology is finding old, unmarked graves. Using hyperspectral imaging, scientists from McGill University have found unmarked animal graves with special cameras that measure changes in the light coming from soil and plants. Hyperspectral imaging collects and processes light from across the electromagnetic spectrum, including visible light as well as ultraviolet and infrared light. The research could help police solve missing persons cases or reveal new mass graves from hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago.
04.17.10 Mueller: Home-grown extremists as threatening as al-Qaeda
April 17 - The warning, from the FBI Director, Robert Mueller, came as the former President Clinton drew parallels between the Oklahoma City tragedy and a recent upsurge in anti-government rhetoric. Fifteen years after the Oklahoma City bombing, the specter of domestic terrorism has returned to haunt the Obama administration, with a warning from the FBI that "home-grown and lone-wolf extremists" now represent as serious a threat as al-Qaeda and its affiliates, The Times reported on Saturday. The warning, from the FBI Director, Robert Mueller, came as the former President Clinton drew parallels between the Oklahoma City tragedy and a recent upsurge in anti-government rhetoric, while American television audiences heard Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, describe the "absolute rage" that drove him to plan an attack that killed 168 men, women and children.
4.17.10 Burqa bombers kill 41 at Kacha Pukha refugee camp
(AFP) April 18 - Two suicide bombers dressed in burqas have struck a crowd of displaced people collecting aid handouts at a camp in northwest Pakistan, killing at least 41 and wounding more than 60. The bombers struck minutes apart yesterday in the Kacha Pukha camp on the outskirts of the garrison city of Kohat, a registration centre for people fleeing Taliban violence and Pakistani army operations close to the Afghan border. The attacks underscored the grave threat posed by extremists despite stepped-up Pakistani offensives and a significant increase in US drone attacks targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked commanders in the nearby tribal belt. "We have 41 dead in the twin suicide bombing. There are 64 injured," local police chief Dilawar Khan Bangash told AFP by telephone. He said the bombers walked into the crowd wearing burqas, the loose-fitting head-to-toe outfit that obscures the face, worn by conservative Muslim women in parts of northwest Pakistan and Afghanistan. [More>>news.com.au]
04.17.10 Top leaders urge all-out efforts to save lives
BEIJING (Xinhua) April 17 - The death toll has climbed to 1,339 from a devastating earthquake in northwest China's Qinghai Province, with another 332 still missing, rescuers said Saturday. The 7.1-magnitude quake, which struck the Yushu County in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yushu at 7:49am Wednesday, has also left 11,849 injured, 1,297 severely, Xia Xueping, a spokesman for the rescue headquarters, told a press conference. China's central leadership on Saturday urged all-out efforts to rescue trapped people in the quake zone in northwestern Qinghai Province. It is at a critical time for the relief work that requires "enhanced strength and efforts to search every village and household" to search for and save survivors and make sure that no blind spot is left in the quake zone, it was agreed at a meeting attended by members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China(CPC) Central Committee. [More>>chinadaily.com.cn; See also chinadaily.com.cn, April 17, "Hundreds of quake victims cremated."]
04.17.10 Use of nukes prohibited by religion: Khamenei
April 17 - Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in Tehran on Saturday that the use of nuclear arms is "haram," an Islamic term meaning "prohibited by religion." "We consider the use of nuclear arms as haram," Khamenei said in a message read out by an aide at the start of a two-day nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran hosted by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. "Only the US government has committed an atomic crime. The world's only atomic criminal lies and presents itself as being against nuclear weapons proliferation, while it has not taken any serious measures in this regard," Khamenei said.
Iran hosts nuclear disarmament meet
Iran is hosting a two-day nuclear disarmament conference in Tehran starting on Saturday that will be attended by several foreign ministers and representatives from the United Nations. At the Tehran conference, we will discuss nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and the use of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes, which are the bases of the Non-Proliferation Treaty," Iran's atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi was quoted as saying on Friday. Salehi has also said in recent days that the conference would serve as preparation for the next NPT review meeting in New York early next month, which Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki plans to attend. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, under whose presidency Iran has refused to abandon its controversial nuclear programme despite three sets of UN sanctions, will deliver the opening address. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
04.17.10 Extramarital sex causes earthquakes: Iran cleric
April 17 - A senior Iranian cleric has claimed that dolled-up women incite extramarital sex, causing more earthquakes in Iran, a country that straddles several fault lines, newspapers reported on Saturday. "Many women who dress inappropriately ... cause youths to go astray, taint their chastity and incite extramarital sex in society, which increases earthquakes," Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi told worshippers at Tehran Friday prayer. "Calamities are the result of people's deeds," he was quoted as saying by reformist Aftab-e Yazd newspaper. "We have no way but conform to Islam to ward off dangers." The Islamic dress code is mandatory in Iran, which has been under clerical rule for more than three decades. Every post-pubescent woman regardless of her religion or nationality must cover her hair and bodily contours in public. Offenders face punishment and fine. But this has not stopped urban women from appearing in the streets wearing tight coats and flimsy headscarves and layers of skillfully applied makeup. Iran is prone to frequent quakes, many of which have been devastating. [>alarabiya.net]
04.17.10 Report: Egypt blows up Gaza smuggling tunnel
April 17 - Palestinian sources said on Saturday that Egyptian forces had blown up a smuggling tunnel beneath the border with the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported. There were no casualties, said the sources, who also reported the discovery by Egypt of a second tunnel, used to smuggle vehicles. Egypt has now shut down six vehicle-smuggling tunnels, which cost an estimated half a million dollars each to dig, Israel Radio said. Last week Hamas ordered the temporary closure of hundreds of smuggling tunnels around the town of Rafah, which straddles the border between the Sinai peninsula and the Gaza Strip. [More>>haaretz.com]
04.16.10 Barack Obama ends NASA space race with slow road to Mars
April 16 - President Obama tries to quell dispute over his cuts to manned space exploration with promise of 'leap into the future.' President Obama promised a "leap into the future" for NASA yesterday in a speech designed to quell a growing dispute over his cuts to manned space exploration, and to persuade critics that America will eventually put astronauts on Mars. Despite cancelling Constellation, the $108 billion (more than £69 bn) programme that aimed to get astronauts to the Moon by 2020 and the Red Planet by 2030, he outlined a series of "stepping stone" destinations where NASA will first seek a foothold in deep space using humans and robots. A landing on Mars will come sometime after the mid-2030s — at least five years after the date Constellation aimed for — but NASA will spend more time before then "looking at not just where we can go, but what we’re going to do when we get there."
04.16.10 US accuses Goldman Sachs of fraud in mortgage deals
April 16 - Goldman Sachs, which emerged relatively unscathed from the financial crisis, was accused of securities fraud in a civil suit filed Friday by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which claims the bank created and sold a mortgage investment that was secretly devised to fail. The move marks the first time that regulators have taken action against a Wall Street deal that helped investors capitalize on the collapse of the housing market. Goldman itself profited by betting against the very mortgage investments that it sold to its customers. The suit also named Fabrice Tourre, a vice president at Goldman who helped create and sell the investment. In a statement, Goldman called the S.E.C. accusations "completely unfounded in law and fact" and said the firm would "vigorously contest them and defend the firm and its reputation."
04.16.10 How volcanoes can change the world
PALISADES, New York, April 16 - The recent volcanic eruption in Iceland is stranding hundreds of thousands of air travelers at Heathrow Airport in the UK and other airports across northern Europe, due to its voluminous clouds of volcanic ash that can clog airplane engines and limit visibility. However, this is by no means the first such volcanic eruption in Iceland to affect human activities. Long before the advent of air travel, the eruption of Iceland's Laki volcano in 1783-84 had profound effects on climate, not just in Iceland but around the globe. Volcanologists Thorvaldur Thordarson and Stephen Self estimated that a comparable event in the modern era would release enough ash and other eruptive materials into the atmosphere that the resulting ash cloud and sulfuric haze would probably disrupt air travel over much of the Northern Hemisphere for about five months. But there were impacts well afield of Iceland and Europe at the time of Laki. Besides releasing clouds of ash into the atmosphere that can disrupt visibility and damage airplane engines, eruptions can cool the climate with the reflection of incoming solar radiation from the troposphere by volcanic sulfur-rich ash, which can decrease temperatures significantly for months or years in some cases. [More>>cnn.com; See related stories,
04.16.10 A 2nd garbage patch: Plastic soup seen in Atlantic
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, April 15 - A 2nd garbage patch: Plastic soup resembling Pacific blight found floating in North Atlantic. Researchers are warning of a new blight at sea: a swirl of confetti-like plastic debris stretching over a remote expanse of the Atlantic Ocean. The floating garbage — hard to spot from the surface and spun together by a vortex of currents — was documented by two groups of scientists who trawled the sea between scenic Bermuda and Portugal's mid-Atlantic Azores islands. The studies describe a soup of micro-particles similar to the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a phenomenon discovered a decade ago between Hawaii and California that researchers say is likely to exist in other places around the globe.
04.16.10 Hospital suicide bombing kills 10 in southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta
April 16 - A suicide bomber blew himself up in the main hospital in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta today, killing 10 people and triggering chaos and panic on the wards. Police said it appeared to be a sectarian attack linked to the nearby shooting of a Shi'ite banker whose body had been brought to the hospital shortly before the bomb blast. Quetta, capital of insurgency-hit southwestern Baluchistan province, has seen frequent violence pitting militants from the majority Sunni and minority Shi'ite communities. City police chief Ghulam Shabbir Sheikh put the death toll at 10, including four policemen and a cameraman with a private television station. More than 30 people were wounded, including at least four journalists and a local MP. "It appears to be sectarian violence," provincial police chief Qazi Abdul Wahid said. The victim of the shooting was Arshad Zaidi, the son of a local Shi'ite community leader, who was sprayed with bullets by gunmen on a motorbike as he left the bank. [More>>news.com.au]
04.16.10 4 dead, 3 hurt in NWA missile attack
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, April 16 - Four people [were] killed and three others injured in a missile attack in Tal Khel area in North Waziristan on Friday. According to sources, [a] drone fired seven missiles at a house and two cars. [>thenews.com.pk]
04.15.10 Foreclosure rates jump 35 percent
LOS ANGELES, California, April 15 - Record number of homes lost in first three months of 2010, new report shows. A record number of US homes were lost to foreclosure in the first three months of this year, a sign banks are starting to wade through the backlog of troubled home loans at a faster pace, according to a new report. RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday that the number of US homes taken over by banks jumped 35 percent in the first quarter from a year ago. In addition, households facing foreclosure grew 16 percent in the same period and 7 percent from the last three months of 2009. More homes were taken over by banks and scheduled for a foreclosure sale than in any quarter going back to at least January 2005, when RealtyTrac began reporting the data, the firm said.
04.15.10 Jobless claims in another surprise surge
NEW YORK, April 15 - The number of Americans filing for unemployment insurance for the first time jumped for the second week in a row, according to government data released Thursday. There were 484,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week ended April 10, up 24,000 from an unrevised 460,000 the previous week, according to the Labor Department's weekly report. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected new claims to fall to 440,000 in the latest week. The number of new claims was the highest since the week ended Feb. 20, when initial claims totaled 486,000. [More>>cnn.com]
04.15.10 Volcano ash spreads Europe flight chaos
April 15 - All flights in and out of the UK and several other European countries have been suspended as ash from a volcanic eruption in Iceland moves south. Up to 4,000 flights are being cancelled with airspace closed in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark among others. The UK's air traffic control service (Nats) said no flights would be allowed in UK airspace until at least 0700 BST on Friday amid fears of engine damage. Safety group Eurocontrol said the problem could persist for 48 hours. The volcano is still spewing ash and the wind direction is expected to continue bringing clouds into UK and European airspace for some time to come. The UK's airspace restriction was the worst in living memory, a Nats spokesman said. Some 600,000 people are thought to have been affected. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
04.15.10 Sun's magnetic field may have caused freezing winter
April 15 - It was the coldest winter in England since 1963 — the coldest in Scotland since 1914 — and weeks of ice, snow and sub-zero temperatures from last December to March defied predictions by climate -change scientists of milder, wetter winters. So what happened? One theory suggests that last winter's cold temperatures were part of a pattern that is set to continue because of a complex interaction between the Sun's magnetic field and the high-altitude jet stream which dominates Britain's weather system. The jet stream normally brings mild, damp westerly winds over Britain during winter but this year it went into "blocking" mode, sweeping back on itself and allowing a bitterly cold north-east wind to blow over the country, bringing ice and snow with it.
04.15.10 Hamas executes two suspected informants
GAZA CITY, April 15 - Executions first since Hamas seized Gaza Strip. The Hamas rulers of Gaza have executed two Palestinians convicted of collaborating with Israel despite objections from human rights groups, hospital and other sources said on Thursday. The two were executed by a firing squad overnight, said Samir Zakut of the Palestinian Al-Misan human rights group...The Palestinian rights group al-Mizan identified the executed men as Mohammed Ismail and Nasser Abu Freh. London-based Amnesty International had urged Hamas not to carry out several death sentences against Palestinians convicted of murder and of collaborating with Israel. Amnesty said proceedings in Hamas military courts do not meet international legal standards...Under Palestinian law, execution orders can be carried out only with presidential approval. But Hamas does not recognize Abbas's presidency, and the executions represented a further challenge by the group to his authority. [Full story>>alarabiya.net]
04.15.10 Syria denies it gave Hezbollah Scud missiles
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) April 15 - Syria warned Thursday that Israel was paving the way for new military action in the region with its allegation that Damascus is providing Scud missiles to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Israeli defense officials have said they believe Hezbollah has Scud missiles capable of hitting all of Israel and earlier this week, Israeli President Shimon Peres accused Damascus of providing the weapons. Syria strongly denied the charge, saying it "believes that Israel aims through these claims to further strain the atmosphere in the region," according to a statement from the Foreign Ministry. It added that Israel could be setting the stage for a possible "Israeli aggression in order to run away from the requirements of a just and comprehensive peace."
04.15.10 Report: Blast kills 3 foreigners, 3 Afghans
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) April 15 - Attack aimed at compound for workers in Kandahar. Three foreigners and three Afghan soldiers were killed in a suicide bombing in the southern city of Kandahar on Thursday night, the president's half-brother, Ahmed Walid Karzai, said. But Reuters, quoting a police official, said the victims were seven foreign workers, believed to be British. The explosion at a compound shared by foreign companies blew out windows across the city. The blast came hours after a car bomb exploded outside a Kandahar hotel and injured at least eight people. Kandahar is the main city of Afghanistan's volatile south. NATO forces are expected to launch a major operation in and around the city this summer in a bid to root out insurgents. [>msnbc.msn.com; See details,
04.15.10 Ousted leader leaves Kyrgyzstan
April 15 - Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the ousted president of Kyrgystan, has left the country for neighboring Kazakhstan, following a week-long political standoff with opponents, while the interim government has said that he has submitted a request to resign. Bakiyev arrived in the southern Kazakh city of Taraz on Thursday from where he will continue settlement talks with opponents who have seized power from him, his aide said. "The president of Kyrgyzstan has flown to Kazakhstan, where he will conduct negotiations on the settlement of the crisis," Ravshan Dzhamgyrchiyevm, one of Bakiyev's aides, told the Reuters news agency. Local media sources said that the deposed president departed on a cargo aircraft at 1320 GMT from the airport in the southern Jalal'abad region. His brother, Zhanybek, accompanied him, according to Russia's ITAR-TASS state news agency...The interim government called his departure a "deportation" in a statement. It said that Bakiyev had submitted a request to resign and reports added that Baktybek Kaliyev, a former defence minister and a key Bakiyev ally, had been arrested. These claims were not confirmed by Bakiyev's side. The interim government also said it would later seek Bakiyev's transfer to a Kyrgyz or international court for trial. [Full story>>aljazeera.net]
04.14.10 Star Wars: Neil Armstrong, Obama spar over NASA's future
April 14 - The first man to walk on the moon has blasted off at the Obama administration's stripped-down space plans, describing the president's proposals as "devastating." But supporters of the president's latest plan, which will be unveiled on Thursday, insist all systems are go for an accelerated rocket program that sets new goals for the American effort in outer space. Moonwalk icon Neil Armstrong, in an open letter co-signed by Apollo Commanders James Lovell and Eugene Cernan, wrote on Tuesday that "The … decision to cancel the Constellation program, its Ares 1 and Ares V rockets, and the Orion spacecraft, is devastating.
04.14.10 Obama frustrated over stalled Mideast peace
WASHINGTON, April 14 - Washington cannot force Mideast peace deal: Obama. President Barack Obama voiced frustration early Wednesday over stalled Middle East peace efforts, saying Israelis and Palestinians may not be ready to resolve their conflict no matter how much pressure Washington exerts. Obama, speaking to reporters after hosting a nuclear security summit, made clear he harbored little hope for swift progress toward Middle East peace, more than a year after taking office and declaring it a high priority for his administration. US-led peace moves have been stymied by a dispute over Jewish settlement construction on occupied land that has strained ties between Washington and its close ally Israel, and by divisions among the Palestinians.
04.14.10 McCain: US should pull the trigger' on Iran
April 14 - Arizona Senator says US has been backing away from Iran conflict; warns Tehran will get Nukes without bolder action. Senator John McCain said the United States has been backing away from a brewing fight with Iran, while that country moves ever closer to having nuclear weapons. McCain opened a Senate hearing Wednesday by saying that Iran will get the bomb unless the United States acts more boldly. Speaking figuratively, the Arizona Republican says the US keeps pointing a loaded gun at Iran but failing to "pull the trigger."
04.14.10 Kasakhstan: World Bank cash gives new hope for Aral Sea
MOSCOW, April 14 - One of the world's worst environmental disasters is being successfully reversed thanks to millions of pounds from the World Bank. The Aral Sea in Kazakhstan has shrunk by 90% since the rivers that feed it were diverted. But ecologists say the water is coming back — giving hope to those who still try to survive in the area. Crunching through the salty desert, it is hard to believe it was once a fertile sea. Rusty hulks of metal sit barren in the salt and dust — the Aral Sea is now a graveyard for ships. The fish that gave livelihoods have been replaced by camels. The problem started in the 1970s when the Soviet government diverted two rivers feeding the Aral Sea to cotton fields. The sea began to shrink until, starved of water, it became a parched desert...But, thanks to a loan of £42m to build dams, the entire area should be filled with water once again within five years...The dam is already working — the shoreline was 90km away — now it's 50. But it is still some distance from civilization so fishermen have to camp here for weeks at a time. [Full story>>news.sky.com; For background on the Aral Sea disaster see Maravot News 4.11.10 article 04.04.10 UN chief shocked by shrinking lake.
04.14.10 Hamas orders Gaza smuggling tunnels shut under Egyptian pressure
April 14 - Hamas on Wednesday ordered Gaza residents to shut smuggling tunnels along the border with Egypt indefinitely, residents and tunnel operators said Wednesday. Gaza sources told Haaretz that the decision to close the tunnels was a response to an urgent request from Egyptian security services following warnings of planned terror attacks in the Sinai Peninsula. Closure of the tunnels was temporary, the sources said, adding that Hamas feared Israel would bomb the tunnels if they were not shut down. The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, normally open on Wednesdays and Thursdays to Gazans traveling abroad for medical treatment, was also closed.
04.14.10 Missile strike kills 4 in North Waziristan
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, April 14 - A missile fired by pilotless US drone Wednesday killed four suspected militants in North Waziristan tribal region. According to reports, two missiles were fired on a vehicle, killing four people. [>thenews.com.pk]
04.14.10 Sunni cleric, 4 others killed in Baghdad attacks
BAGHDAD (AP) April 14 - Gunmen killed a Sunni cleric outside a Baghdad mosque where he had just finished leading morning prayers in the latest wave of attacks in the Iraqi capital that left five people dead on Wednesday. Violence has picked up in the political vacuum following March 7 national election that produced no clear winner and set off extended political wrangling. Iraqi and US officials have blamed the spate of attacks on al-Qaeda in Iraq or other extremists seizing on gaping security lapses created by the political deadlock. The 48-year-old Sheik Ghazi Jabouri was gunned down in a hail of automatic-weapons fire outside the Al Rahman mosque in the primarily Sunni-neighborhood of Azamiyah in north Baghdad at about 5am, a police officer said. An army officer confirmed the report. Both officers said witnesses reported seeing a group of gunmen on foot, but could not say exactly how many were involved. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
04.14.10 DNA analysis traces whale meat from Japan to US, S. Korea
TOKYO, April 14 - Meat from whales killed as part of Japan's "scientific" hunt was served last year in upscale sushi restaurants in Los Angeles and Seoul, according to a DNA analysis published Wednesday. A global ban on whaling was imposed 14 years ago, but Japan has courted controversy for years by invoking an exception in the ban for scientific research and by dispatching a whaling fleet that harpoons several hundred whales a year. The fleet brings home thousands of tons of whale meat that are sold across Japan, but which cannot legally be sold to buyers in the United States or South Korea.
04.13.10 Arabs urge Palestinians to resist Israeli expulsion threat
CAIRO (AFP) April 13 - The 22-member Arab League called on the Palestinians on Tuesday to refuse to heed amended orders from the Israeli military that could trigger deportations from the occupied West Bank. The pan-Arab organization pledged its "full support for Palestinian steps in the occupied territories to resist this decision." Its statement called on Palestinians “to reject and not cooperate and acquiesce in it.” An Israeli newspaper said amendments to an existing order on preventing infiltration could apply to Palestinians living in the West Bank without official ID cards issued by Israel, as well as to Israelis and foreigners working in areas under limited Palestinian control. The Israeli military insisted that the new orders merely formalise existing procedures and said there would be no new wave of deportations from the territory. [>khaleejtimes.com]
04.13.10 Israelis warned to leave Egypt's Sinai region
April 13 - Israel has issued an "urgent" warning to its citizens to leave Egypt's Sinai Peninsula immediately over kidnap fears. The Israeli prime minister's anti-terror office said there was "concrete evidence" of an expected terror attempt to seize Israelis in the region. In an unusually strong statement, it said "all Israelis residing in Sinai" should leave now and return home. It also called on families of Israelis touring Sinai to contact them and tell them about the travel warning. [More>>news.sky.com]
04.13.10 Top Saudi religious authority defines terrorism
DUBAI, April 13 - New fatwa criminalizes terrorist acts all over the world. Saudi Arabia's supreme religious body, the Senior Clerics Council, issued a Fatwa on Monday defining the term "terrorism." While defining terrorism as a whole the Senior Ulema Council decided that the events of Sept. 11, 2001 in the United States were indeed terrorist attacks. The reason it has taken years to define terrorism was because of the difficulty to separate from liberation or independence movements. Included in the definition of terrorist acts in the new fatwa are, "targeting of public resources, hijacking of airplanes, blowing up buildings and also al-Mofsdon fe al-Ard (to do mischief on earth)," according to the London-based newspaper Asharq Alawsat.
04.13.10 IDF kills at least 3 Gazan attackers
April 13 - Islamic Jihad operatives spotted planting bombs along border. IDF soldiers shot and killed at least three Islamic Jihad operatives Tuesday morning who were spotted planting explosive devices along the border with the Gaza Strip and near the Kissufim Crossing. A military force later crossed into Gaza and located the bodies of the terrorists who were carrying grenades, rifles and explosive devices, said the army. After noticing three suspicious-looking people approaching the fence, a Givati force fired at the group using light arms and mortar shells. Military helicopters also fired at the suspects. According to a report from Gaza, the IDF troops advanced 200 meters into the Palestinian territory near Al-Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip. The Islamic Jihad reported that the group was attempting to plant explosive device in order to "stop the Israelis' advancement." [More.>jpost.com]
04.13.10 Syria is shipping Scud missiles to Hezbollah
April 13 - Two reports from recent days in a Kuwaiti daily shed new light on the recent tension between Israel and Syria and Lebanon. According to the newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam, Syria has recently shipped ballistic missiles of the Scud type to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon. The newspaper further reported that the United States administration has postponed "until further notice" the appointment of a new ambassador to Damascus. The US has not posted an ambassador in Syria since 2005, and the appointment of Ambassador Robert Ford was supposed to get Senate approval on Monday, but did not. According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, the decision to postpone the appointment was made following the transfer of truckloads of scud missiles from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, in a shipment sanctioned by the Syrian government.
04.13.10 Iran still ready to discuss nuclear fuel swap
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) April 13 - Tehran is still open to discussion on a nuclear fuel swap with any supplier, an Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Tuesday. According to Fars news agency, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said the country's "priority is to obtain fuel" for a Tehran medical research reactor. Under a UN-backed proposal, the fuel for the research reactor was to be provided by an international consortium in exchange for Iran's low-enriched uranium. However, Tehran says the West has failed to provide guarantees that the fuel will actually be delivered. Mehmanparast indicated that Iran was still open to a swap. [More>>en.rian.ru]
04.13.10 15 dead in Basilan blasts
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines, April 14 - Abu Sayyaf bandits took their campaign of terror to the heart of Basilan on Tuesday, setting off bombs at a Roman Catholic cathedral, school grandstand and three other places, and clashing with government forces in Isabela City. At least 15 people, including the brother of Abu Sayyaf leader Purudji Indama, were killed in the attacks staged by armed men wearing police and military uniforms, reports said Monday night. Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad appealed to local residents to stay calm and pray as he called on military and police officials to run after those responsible for the attacks, which happened for the first time in the city after more than 20 years.
Citing reports of bomb experts, Mendoza said in a phone interview that an improvised explosives device (IED) inside the van "was prematurely triggered." Three Abu Sayyaf members on board the vehicle, including Benzar who was seated at the rear portion, were killed in the blast, he said. He said responding Marine soldiers were fired upon by the armed men. "Two of the Marines were initially wounded and later died," he said. "Our troops were being fired at by snipers. Some residents told us they saw at least eight armed men leaving the campus," Mendoza told reporters in Manila. The attackers also fired at houses as they fled, he said. Two more men wearing police uniforms were captured by the soldiers near the grandstand, he told local journalists. Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, Western Mindanao Command chief, said the armed men belonged to the Abu Sayyaf.
While the fighting was going on, another bomb placed under a motorcycle went off at the rear portion of Santa Isabel Cathedral on J.S. Alano Street at around 11am Mendoza said. Five people were wounded, he said...Jumoad said three other explosions rocked the city plaza, the house of Judge Leo Principe and the vicinity of City Hall. [Full story>>newsinfo.inquirer.net]
04.13.10 Pakistan strike kills 71 civilians, official says
PESHAWAR (AP) April 13 - Up to 71 civilians were killed in a weekend strike by Pakistani jets near the Afghan border, survivors and a government official said Tuesday — a rare confirmation of civilian casualties that risks undercutting public support for the fight against militants. The government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said authorities had already handed out the equivalent of $125,000 in compensation to families of the victims in a remote village in the Khyber tribal area. Also Tuesday, a village elder claimed 13 civilians had been killed in US missile strike on Monday night elsewhere in the northwest, contesting accounts by Pakistani security officials that four militants were killed...Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas on Monday denied that any of the dead in the Pakistani air force attack were civilians, saying the army had intelligence that militants were gathering at the site of the strike. The victims were initially reported to be suspected militants. [Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
04.13.10 Headscarf row re-opens old wounds for Algerians
ALGIERS (Reuters) April 13 - A decision by Algeria's government that women should pose for passport photographs without their Islamic headscarves has re-opened wounds still raw after nearly two decades of Islamist militant violence. Algeria's secular-minded government says that as part of the introduction of new biometric passports, all women should be photographed without the veil, a requirement that has angered the country's influential religious traditionalists. "We are in an Islamic country and the state should not be issuing laws that contradict our religion," said Abderahmane Chibane, the head of the Muslim Ulema Association which groups leading Islamic scholars.
04.12.10 Obama appeals to world powers to keep nukes out of terrorist hands
April 12 - President Obama arrived at the nuclear security summit in Washington Monday to begin enlisting the help of dozens of countries in keeping nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists. He met with King Abdullah II of Jordan and then Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak of Malaysia, with several more one-on-ones scheduled for the rest of the afternoon. But the design of the summit, one of the largest international gatherings ever held on US soil, leaves Obama's hands tied in some big areas. Iran and North Korea — the two countries whose rogue nuclear programs have been front-and-center in the global debate — were not invited, though their nuclear programs are expected to be part of the discussion. And India and Pakistan — countries whose competition for nuclear material could develop into a Cold War-style weapons buildup — are not expected to get heavy scrutiny.
04.12.10 NY bomb suspect held in Pakistan
WASHINGTON (AP) April 12 - A fourth suspect in a disrupted plot to bomb New York City subways has been arrested in Pakistan, law enforcement officials said Monday. The principal suspect in the case, Najibullah Zazi, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with investigators, key developments that prosecutors hope will help them trace the plot back to its roots in Pakistan, where Zazi and former friends from high school allegedly traveled in 2008 to seek terror training. After returning to the United States, the plotters allegedly hoped to detonate bombs on trains at two of the city's biggest subway stations: Times Square and Grand Central Terminal, according to the two officials...Zazi, a Colorado airport van driver, admitted that he tested bomb-making materials in a Denver suburb before traveling by car to New York intending to attack the subway system to avenge US military involvement in Afghanistan. [Full story>>msnbc.msn.com]
04.12.10 UN warns Pakistan aid projects in jeopardy
ISLAMABAD (AFP) April 12 - The United Nations on Monday warned it may have to shut down aid projects in Pakistan, after receiving only a fifth of the funds requested in an appeal for more than half a billion dollars. The United Nations launched the 537-million-dollar appeal in February to feed and assist more than one million people displaced by conflict in Pakistan's northwest and in border areas with Afghanistan. "The response by the international community to this appeal is inadequate," UN humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, Martin Mogwanja, told a news conference in Islamabad.
04.12.10 15 militants including foreign commander killed in Jandola
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, April 12 - Fifteen militants including a commander were killed in a clash with security forces in Jandola area adjacent to South Waziristan while a security man also embraced shahadat. According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), militants launched an assault on a check post of security forces in FR Jandola area located near South Waziristan, killing a security man. Security forces repulsed forcefully and killed 15 militants including a commander identified as Usmanullah. Those killed included nationals from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya and Uzbekistan. [>thenews.com.pk; See other details,
04.12.10 Civilians killed as US troops fire on Afghan bus
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 12 - American troops raked a large passenger bus with gunfire near Kandahar on Monday morning, killing as many as five civilians and wounding 18 and sparking anger in a city where winning over Afghan support is considered pivotal to the war effort. The American-led military command in Kabul called the killings a "tragic loss of life" and said troops fired not knowing the vehicle was a bus and believing that it posed a threat to a military convoy clearing roadside bombs from a highway. The killings triggered a vitriolic anti-American demonstration, infuriated officials and appeared likely to harm public opinion on the eve of the most important offensive of the war, in which tens of thousands of American and NATO troops will try to take control of the Kandahar region, the spiritual home of the Taliban, this summer. Hundreds of demonstrators poured into the area around a station where the damaged bus was taken on the western outskirts of Kandahar. They blocked the road with burning tires for an hour and shouted "Death to America" and "Death to infidels" while also condemning the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, according to people in the area. [More>>nytimes.com; For a commentary on Islamic perceptions of "infidels" and barriers to peace between Moslems and other faiths, see Maravot News "The Allah Controversy."]
04.12.10 Arab League chief: Israel making it harder to establish peace
(DPA) April 12 - Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa on Monday condemned an Israeli move which could see thousands of Palestinians expelled from the West Bank. On Sunday Haaretz revealed that a new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years. Moussa told reporters in Damascus that "it is hard to establish real peace in the region due to the Israeli measure." His comments followed a meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "We reject such measures and we call on the international community to bear responsibility," Moussa said, adding that an Arab League meeting will be held to discuss the situation. During his earlier meeting with al-Assad, the Arab League chief had discussed the developments in the Palestinian territories as well as the results of last month's Arab League summit. During the summit, Moussa had urged the 22-nation bloc to talk to Iran to address differences and engage it directly over concerns about its growing influence in the region and its disputed nuclear energy program. [More>>haaretz.com]
04.12.10 Yemen tries rebel supporters for spying for Iran
SANAA, April 12 - Four men face death penalty if convicted. Yemen put four Shiite rebel supporters on trial on Monday on charges of spying for Iran in a move that could strain a truce to end a northern war that drew in neighboring oil giant Saudi Arabia last year. Muamar al-Abdali, 35, Walid Sharafeddin, 33, Abdullah al-Duleimi, 43, and Sadeq al-Sharafi, 26, were charged with "providing the Iranian side with photographs of security installations, military camps, ports, islands and maritime installations harming" Yemen, according to the charge sheet. Sanaa has repeatedly accused elements in Iran of backing the rebels, a charge Tehran has strongly denied. [More>>alarabiya.net]
04.12.10 Not such a short hop: the tiny bird that soared into the record books
April 12 - British scientists' lightweight tags reveal the incredible journey of the world's smallest globetrotting high-flyer. At first glance, the ruddy turnstone looks barely strong enough to live up to its name let alone to migrate from one end of the world to the other. It is little bigger than a song thrush and weighs in at somewhat less than a 250g stick of butter but the wading bird has a hard-won reputation as one of nature's greatest migrating animals. Now a technological breakthrough by scientists at the British Antarctic Survey has at last allowed researchers to track the routes taken by the birds and to see exactly how far and fast they fly.