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News Headlines & Trends

4.21.11 US debt outlook downgrade casts shadow over Chinese dollar assets

BEIJING (Xinhua) April 20 - Safety worries were raised about the assets of China, the biggest holder of United States Treasury bonds, after a key credit agency cut the outlook on the US sovereign debt to negative. China, which has always demanded that the US ensure the security of its dollar assets, expressed concerns after Standard & Poor on Monday lowered the long-term US credit outlook from "stable" to "negative" and warned of risks, including spiking deficits and public debt. Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Tuesday that China had "noted" the S&P's move and expressed hope that the US administration could adopt "responsible policies and measures" to protect the interests of investors. The safety of the country's dollar assets has been a long-standing concern of both the Chinese government and economists, as a large amount of the nation's three-trillion-US dollar foreign exchange reserves are US government debt. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

4.21.11 NATO asks Libya's neighbors for assistance in fight against Gaddafi

April 21 - Western powers involved in a military operation in Libya have asked the country's neighbors for help in defending rebels against President Muammar Gaddafi's regime, Algeria's Elkhabar paper reported on Thursday. The paper said the NATO-led coalition asked for assistance after admitting that it had underestimated the combat capability of Gaddafi's troops. NATO asked Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, Niger and Chad to close their borders to high-ranking officials and other representatives of Gaddafi's regime, and prevent imports of military and dual purpose products, including four-wheel drives. The paper also said that the United States had asked Algeria for permission to use Algerian airspace for NATO military and transport aircraft in case of a possible ground military operation. But since the country already refused a similar request from France, appeal is unlikely to be accepted, the paper said. [More>>en.rian.ru; See related story,

alarabiya.net, April 21, "NATO strikes Tripoli suburbs"
: Seven civilians were killed and 18 wounded in a NATO air raid that targeted the southwestern Tripoli suburb of Khellat al-Ferjan in the early hours of Thursday, official Jana news agency reported, as the United States said it would not send military advisers to Libya despite decisions by France, Britain and Italy to do so. An earlier report by the state al-Libiya TV said the Khellat al-Ferjan area, where three explosions could be heard, was the “target of barbarian crusaders’ raids that left martyrs and wounded among the residents and destroyed their homes.” NATO warplanes also carried out air raids on Wednesday at Bir al-Ghanam, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the Libyan capital, that left four people dead among the civilian population, according to Jana...

4.21.11 Government bans residents from staying within 20-km zone around nuclear plant

FUKUSHIMA, Japan, April 21 - The government decided Thursday to prohibit residents from staying within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to enhance control of evacuees amid continued fear of radiation leaks. Prime Minister Naoto Kan told Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, during their talks at the prefectural office, to upgrade the current evacuation instruction for residents relevant to the no-entry ban, which comes into effect Thursday midnight. Sato, emerging from a 35-minute meeting with Kan, told reporters he called on the premier to thoroughly explain the new step to the municipalities that will be designated as legally-binding "caution areas." Under the law, the heads of cities, towns and villages, who receive a directive from the prime minister, set such a no-entry zone, where people other than those engaged in disaster relief are prohibited from entering or are ordered to leave, with punishment for violators. [More>>japantoday.com]

4.21.11 Mullen: Pakistan's ISI spy agency has 'militant links'

April 21 - The US military's top officer, Adm. Mike Mullen, has accused Pakistan's spy agency of having links with militants targeting troops in Afghanistan. He said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) had a "long-standing relationship" with a militant group run by Afghan insurgent Jalaluddin Haqqani. The comments came as he held talks in Islamabad on Wednesday. Pakistani officials are also in the US for talks. Pakistan routinely rejects charges of collusion with militants. The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that US officials have in the past spoken anonymously or in circumspect terms about associations between the Pakistani establishment and insurgents. But that with this blunt statement Adm. Mullen has for the first time claimed a clear link between the two, our correspondent says. "It's fairly well known that the ISI has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network," Adm. Mullen told Pakistan's Dawn newspaper. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

4.21.11 Pakistani court upholds gang-rape acquittals

April 21 - All but one of six suspects freed in case of Mukhtaran Mai, a woman who allegedly was gang-raped in name of "honour." Five men accused of gang-raping a Pakistani woman in 2002 under orders from a village council have been acquitted by the Supreme Court of the country, their lawyer says. Abdul Khalique, the sixth suspect in the case, had his life sentence upheld, Malik Saleem, the defence lawyer, said on Thursday. The rape of Mukhtaran Mai in 2002 drew international attention after she decided to speak out about her ordeal, defying Pakistani norms. She alleged that she had been gang-raped on the orders of a village council in the name of "honour" in Muzaffargarh district. The gang-rape was to be punishment because her brother who was 12 years old at the time had been judged to have offended the "honour" of a powerful clan by allegedly having an affair with one of its women. Following the judgement, Mai said she had "lost faith" in the legal system, and she was now worried that the acquitted men would harm her. Saleem said the five were acquitted because of the lack of eyewitness testimony. [More>>aljazeera.net]

4.21.11 Bomb kills three police in Afghanistan

JALALABAD, April 21 - Three policemen were killed and six others wounded on Thursday when a bomb planted inside their minibus exploded in eastern Afghanistan, local officials said. The blast claimed by the Taliban took place in Jalalabad, the de facto capital of eastern Afghanistan, which borders Pakistan and frequently witnesses heavy fighting. Militants have launched a string of recent attacks against Afghan security forces, who are due to take increased responsibility from foreign troops as they withdraw in a transition due to conclude in 2014. "The explosive material was set in the bus and went off when the policemen were en route to work" Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, provincial spokesman said. "There were three police officers killed and six others wounded in the incident." He added that an investigation had been launched. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack, telling AFP: "Our man planted the bomb inside the car and it killed nine policemen and injured two others." [More>>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

indianexpress.com, April 21, "Fears rising over Taliban infiltrating Afghan police, army"
: KABUL - The Afghan police and military are scrambling to find ways to root out insurgents lurking within their ranks. Screening of new recruits and soldiers has been intensified following fears over Taliban infiltration in the Afghan national security forces. Insurgents dressed in Afghan military uniforms attacked three heavily secured government locations earlier this week. The latest attack came Monday on the Defense Ministry's headquarters in downtown Kabul and killed two Afghan soldiers. According to the New York Times, the attacks have caused concern among Afghan officials, who are uneasy about their own safety and the fate of a country whose military and police forces they worry might be infused with enemy insurgents. Some Senate members on Wednesday called for the resignation of the Defense Minister, Abdul Rahim Wardak, calling him incapable of defending his own ministry, much less the country...

4.21.11 Somali pirates hijack Italian-owned ship with 21 crew

NAIROBI, Kenya (Xinhua) April 21 - Somali pirates have seized an Italian bulk carrier with 21 crew members, approximately 350NM South East of Salalah, Oman, in the Indian Ocean waters, the European Union anti-piracy mission said on Thursday. EU Naval Force Somalia spokesman Paddy O'Kennedy said the MV Rosalia D'Amato was hijacked early Thursday with a crew of 6 Italians and 15 Filipinos. He said the 74,500 tonne Italian flagged and owned vessel was on its way to Bandar Imam Khomeini, Iran from Paranagua, Brazil when it was attacked by a single skiff. "There is no further information about the crew at present," O' Kennedy said. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

4.21.11 Bible edits leave some feeling cross

April 21 - New versions reflect modern scholarship but revive some reservations. Easter may sound a little different this year. It's purely a coincidence, but U.S. Catholics and Protestants alike are being introduced this Easter season to separate "official" updated translations of the Christian Bible, which arrive in the year the magisterial King James Version celebrates its 400th birthday. But with millions of dollars in publishing revenue and the trust of millions of churchgoers hanging in the balance, the new versions aren't being met with universal acceptance. While the changes may seem small, they are resounding throughout Christianity, whose many denominations formed or broke off from others over clashing interpretations of God's word. The two new translations touch on some of the most sensitive issues behind those differences, particularly on the inequality of women in society and on the divinity of Mary and — by extension — the birth of Jesus...Most controversial is its revision of Isaiah 7:14 to predict that the messiah will be born to a "young woman," not to a "virgin," a characterization that some critics say casts doubt on the miraculous nature of Jesus' birth. The conference of bishops explained that it had concluded that the original Hebrew ("almah") more accurately meant "maiden" or "young woman" and pointed out that several other modern translations agree, including the Revised Standard Version, the monumental 1950s translation that was the basis for many of the Protestant revisions in use today. [Full story>>msnbc.msn.com]

Editorial note: "Almah vs betulah." The gospels interpret the word "almah" as a virgin, basing the "virgin birth" on the interpretation. Almah does mean "young unmarried girl" or a maiden. In contrast, the word "betulah" means "virgin." We must recognize, however, that 2000 years ago a young girl was expected to be a virgin until she is married. We recall the controversy over Mary's pregnancy before marriage to Joseph the carpenter. In such a case Jewish law would have inquired into the nature of the pregnancy, whether she was impregnated in a field or in the city. If in a field, her cries against the "rape" might not have been heard, but in the city her cries against the rape should have been heard. In the latter case the raped girl and the male offender would be stoned to death. Such proceedings against Mary or Joseph are not remembered in the Gospels, however. The "immaculate conception" story thus does not appear to carry the full context of Mary's pregnancy. We examined this in more detail (in 1999) in our alma.html.

Mel Copeland

4.20.11 Civilians killed in Misurata fighting

April 20 - Deaths reported in besieged Libyan city as US offers "non-lethal" aid to rebels fighting Gaddafi forces. At least five civilians have been killed in a day of fierce clashes between pro-government troops and rebel forces in the western city of Misurata. The fighting in Libya's third largest city on Wednesday follows weeks of clashes that have left hundreds of people dead and threaten to plunge the city into a humanitarian crisis as food and medical supplies dry up. "Fierce fighting is taking place now on the Nakl el-Thequeel road which leads to the port. Gaddafi forces have been trying to control this road to isolate the city," Abdelsalam, a rebel spokesman, said. "NATO has been inefficient in Misurata. NATO has completely failed to change things on the ground." He said "violent fighting" had also erupted on Tripoli Street, a main thoroughfare and another key battleground. "I'm hearing explosions now. A large number of snipers are positioned there," Abdelsalam said. "Civilians cannot come out for fear of being shot dead." Tim Hetherington, a photojournalist who was the codirector of an Oscar-nominated war documentary, Restrepo, also died in the fighting in Misurata, doctors said. Chris Hondros, a Getty photographer, was in critical condition in intensive care, doctors at the hospital where he was being treated said. Eight people had been killed in Misurata on Tuesday, mostly civilians, according to rebels. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related stories,

france24.com, April 20, "France, UK, Italy to send military advisers to Libya" :
France said on Wednesday that it will send a small military liaison team to play an advisory role to rebel leaders in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, but says it is not considering putting ground troops on the battlefield...

bbc.co.uk, April 20, "Libya: UN warns of blurring aid and military operations"
: The UN's aid chief has warned against blurring the lines between military operations and relief work in Libya. Valerie Amos said there was no need yet to accept an EU offer of military escorts to protect aid deliveries. Meanwhile, Oscar-nominated Tim Hetherington was one of two Western photojournalists killed in a mortar attack in the besieged city of Misrata....

4.20.11 Qatari arrest of Swiss TV journalists sparks concern about World Cup press freedom

April 20 - The recent arrest in Qatar of a Swiss television crew has sparked concern about freedom of the press when the Gulf state hosts the World Cup, the world's biggest sporting event, in 2022. The arrests have revived criticism of world soccer body FIFA's controversial decision to award Qatar the hosting of the tournament. The arrests are also likely to become an issue in the FIFA presidential election campaign of Mohamed Bin Hammam, the Qatari head of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), who is challenging long-standing FIFA president Sepp Blatter in elections scheduled for June 1. [More>>alarabiya.net]

4.20.11 Genetic breakthrough may stop mosqitoes spreading malaria

April 20 - Scientists have figured out a way to block the spread of malaria using genetically-modified (GM) mosquitoes that carry synthetic genes to curb the transmission of the blood parasite when the insect bites its human host. The development is seen as a potential breakthrough in preventing the spread of one of the world's most dangerous diseases. Malaria kills up to a million people a year, mostly children living in Africa where the disease is endemic, and strikes down a further 500 million victims who fall seriously ill. A decade ago, scientists created the first GM mosquitoes but their potential use in stemming the transmission of malaria has been stymied by the theoretical inability of the engineered insects to out-compete the non-GM mosquitoes living in the wild that actually harbour the blood parasite.

However, a new study has shown that it is possible for GM mosquitoes to rapidly pass on malaria-blocking genes to wild mosquitoes with the help of a second gene that spreads the GM trait within the sperm-producing cells of male mosquitoes. The plan is to physically attach the synthetic gene, called the homing endonuclease gene, to an anti-malaria gene and insert the entire genetic construct into male GM mosquitoes released into the wild. The endonuclease gene should then ensure that nearly all the sperm cells produced by these GM males will carry the anti-malaria trait into the next generation of mosquitoes.

4.20.11 Alps records worst April snow cover ever

GENEVA, April 20 - The Alps has the worst snow cover ever recorded for April thanks to the spring heatwave. The unusually high temperatures coupled with the latest Easter for 68 years mean a disastrous end of season for many businesses, particularly those in lower resorts. Snow depths are up to 80 per cent less than average. This follows record-breaking temperatures across the Alps in both January and February. Season staff have been laid off early and many resorts have been forced to close already because of the lack of snow. In France, the ski resort of Chamonix recorded the hottest April day since records began in 1951 when the mercury hit 79.5F (26.4C) on April 9. In Bourg St. Maurice temperatures have soared to 83.5F (28.6C) and at the snow research centre in the Chartreuse the hottest April temperatures for 40 years have been recorded. [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

4.20.11 Bees sting elderly couple to death in Texas

MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) April 20 - An elderly South Texas couple died and their son was injured after a swarm of bees attacked them on their remote ranch, authorities said on Wednesday. William Steele, 95, and his wife, Myrtle, 92, died and their son, Richard, 67, was injured after bees attacked them as they tried to clean a hunting cabin on their ranch near Hebbronville on Monday, an investigator with the Jim Hogg County Sheriff's Office said...Espinoza said they were likely Africanized honey bees -- often called "killer bees" for their aggression -- which are common in south Texas. The bees are hybrids from swarms originally introduced to Brazil from Africa, which absconded in the 1950s. They spread north through South and Central America, crossing into south Texas in 1990, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The bees swarm more frequently than native bees, and are extremely defensive. The USDA advises untrained individuals against trying to remove swarms. If attacked, individuals should run away quickly and not stop to help others. [Full story>>masnbc.msn.com]

4.20.11 Mass protests resume in Syria despite government concessions

April 20 - Demonstrations erupt in Homs where more than 20 oppositions have been killed since Monday, even after Damascus passed legislation Tuesday ending 48-year emergency law. Syrians took to the streets in large numbers again on Wednesday in the central city of Homs, where activists say more than 20 pro-democracy protesters have been shot dead since Monday by soldiers and irregular forces. Protesters' chants demanded "the downfall of the regime," defying a heavy deployment of security forces and an order by officials to stop all forms of demonstration. The protest went ahead despite a concession by the government, which approved legislation on Tuesday ending the state of emergency in force in Syria for the last 48 years. In the city of Banias, in what was seen as another attempt to mollify protesters, the chief of the security police was sacked, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. [More>>haaretz.com]

4.20.11 Fresh wave of violence claims five lives in Karachi

KARACHI, Pakistan, April 20 - Five people were killed today in Pakistan's biggest city in the fresh wave of violence and target killings and the paramilitary forces asked for more resources and a free hand to tackle the situation. Three traders were gunned down this morning by motorcycle-borne unknown assailants at Rashid Minhas road in the heavily populated Gulshan-e-Iqbal town. "All three were fruit and vegetable merchants and were doing business in Karachi for a while now," the son-in-law of one of the victims told reporters. The police also recovered a bullet-riddled body of police a constable from a graveyard in Malir while another one person was shot dead in Ranchore Lines area. As the wave of target killings continued unabated in the city, the top brass of the Pakistan Rangers told a parliamentary committee they could eliminate this menace in a month's time if they were given more powers and a free hand. [More>>indianexpress.com]

4.20.11 Three Aghan civilians die in NATO air strike: officials

ASADABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) April 20 - A child was among three civilians who died in a NATO air strike in eastern Afghanistan, which also killed 14 insurgents, local officials said Wednesday. The attack by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) happened late Tuesday in the Dangam district of Kunar province, provincial governor Fazlullah Wahidi told AFP. "Fourteen militants, among them some Arab and Pakistani nationals, and three civilians have been killed in last night's air strikes," Wahidi said. District governor Hamish Gulab said the civilians were two women and a child who died when a missile hit a gathering of insurgents in a house. An ISAF spokesman confirmed that its troops had carried out air and ground operations on targets in Dangam, but added: "We are still gathering information." [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com, April 20, "French marine killed, 9 wounded in Afghanistan"
: PARIS - The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy says that a marine corporal was killed in Afghanistan and nine others were wounded in an explosion. Their armored vehicle was struck Wednesday during an operation in the Kapisa region where French soldiers are engaged as part of a NATO mission. The victims’ identities were not revealed. They were members of a marine infantry regiment. A statement from Sarkozy expressed France's determination to continue its role in the international force. The death brought to 55 the number of French killed in Afghanistan since 2001. [end]

4.17.11 Wealthy Americans see drop in federal taxes

WASHINGTON (AP) April 17 - High-earning Americans pay less in taxes than in previous years; nearly half of US households will pay no income taxes at all. As Monday's tax filing deadline nears, ponder this: The super rich pay a lot less taxes than they did a couple of decades ago, and nearly half of US households pay no income taxes at all. The Internal Revenue Service tracks the tax returns with the 400 highest adjusted gross incomes each year. The average income on those returns in 2007, the latest year for IRS data, was nearly $345 million. Their average federal income tax rate was 17 percent, down from 26 percent in 1992. Over the same period, the average federal income tax rate for all taxpayers declined to 9.3 percent from 9.9 percent.

The top income tax rate is 35 percent, so how can people who make so much pay so little in taxes? The nation's tax laws are packed with breaks for people at every income level. There are breaks for having children, paying a mortgage, going to college, and even for paying other taxes. Plus, the top rate on capital gains is only 15 percent. There are so many breaks that 45 percent of US households will pay no federal income tax for 2010, according to estimates by the Tax Policy Center, a Washington think tank. The sheer volume of credits, deductions and exemptions has both Democrats and Republicans calling for tax laws to be overhauled.

4.17.11 Gaddafi shells eastern Libyan city, move into rebel-held western city

AJDABIYA, Libya, April 17 - Troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi on Sunday shelled the rebel-held city of Ajdabiya, a strategic eastern town that has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks. The government bombardment of Ajdabiya marked a setback for the rebels, who were forced to retreat a day after having advanced as far as the outskirts of the oil town of Brega, about 60 miles to the west. On Sunday, dozens of vehicles, some of them rebel trucks with heavy machine guns mounted in the back, could be seen fleeing Ajdabiya toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, about 100 miles to the north. Last month, Gaddafi's troops encircled Ajdabiya with tanks, armored personnel carriers and heavy artillery before NATO airstrikes decimated the forces besieging the city and allowed the rebels to reclaim the town and push west. The NATO-led air campaign has kept rebels from being defeated on the battlefield by the better trained and equipped government forces, but it still has not been enough to completely turn the tide. The rebels have been unable to reach Gaddafi's heavily defended hometown of Sirte, the gateway to the regime-controlled western half of the country. [More>>foxnews.com]

4.17.11 Egypt dissolves Mubarak's political party

(AP) April 17 - An Egyptian court Saturday ordered the country's former ruling party to be dissolved and the confiscation of its assets, in line with a main demand of the protest movement that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak. An Egyptian court ordered the dissolving of the country's former ruling party and the confiscation of its assets on Saturday, meeting a major demand of the protest movement that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Activists have been pressing Egypt's ruling military to abolish the National Democratic Party, fearing that even after the fall of Mubarak on Feb. 11 and the arrest of many of its top leaders remnants of the party could still try to hold power in the country. In particular, the NDP could still have been a powerful contender in the first post-Mubarak parliament elections due in September. The court verdict ordering its dissolving appeared to signal that the military was moving more quickly to meet protester demands after a dramatic rise in tensions between the two sides. Activists had increasingly accused the military which took power after Mubarak's ouster of protecting remnants of his regime. The order came only days after Mubarak and his sons were put under detention for investigation on allegations of corruption and involvement in the killing of protesters. [More>>france24.com]

4.17.11 "Wear a headscarf or we will kill you' : How the 'London Taliban' is targeting women and gays in bid to impose sharia law

April 17 - Women who do not wear headscarves are being threatened with violence and even death by Islamic extremists intent on imposing sharia law on parts of Britain, it was claimed today. Other targets of the "Talibanesque thugs," being investigated by police in the Tower Hamlets area of London, include homosexuals. Stickers have been plastered on public walls stating: "Gay free zone. Verily Allah is severe in punishment." It is believed Muslim extremists are behind a spate of attacks being investigated by police, according to the Sunday Times. An Asian woman who works in a pharmacy in east London was told to dress more modestly and wear a veil or the shop would be boycotted. When she went to the media to talk about the abuse she suffered, a man later entered the pharmacy and told her: "If you keep doing these things, we are going to kill you." The 31-year-old, who is not a practising Muslim, said she has since been told to take holiday by the pharmacy owners and now fears she may lose her job. [More>>dailymail.com]

4.17.11 Yemeni women protest against Saleh's remarks for second day

April 17 - For the second day in a row, thousands of Yemeni women took to the streets in several of the country's provinces to condemn remarks made by President Ali Abdullah Saleh comments they saw as an attack on their honor. In a short speech given to his supporters on Friday, Saleh said women who were protesting against his regime were violating Yemeni cultural norms that prohibit women mixing with men who are not direct relatives. He called it forbidden behavior in Islam and advised women to stay home. Demonstrations were organized across Yemen on Sunday, in what was being called the "Day of Honor and Dignity." "Look Saleh, at the power of women," said Raiofa Nasser, a female activist who took part in Sunday's march in Sanaa, the country's capital. "Many women were avoiding the protests, but since Saleh's verbal attack on women, we will not go home and will continue protesting until he is forced to leave the presidency." [More>>cnn.com]

4.17.11 Mexico gang leader 'captured over killings'

April 17 - A member of the powerful Zetas gang cartel arrested in connection with the deaths of more than 140 people. The Mexican Navy has said it has captured a suspected leader of the Zetas drug gang allegedly behind the mass killings of more than 100 people in northeastern Mexico. Martin Omaar Estrada Luna, said to be the local leader of the gang, was captured on Saturday. He is accused of masterminding the murders of 145 people in Tamaulipas state near the US border. Their remains were discovered in a mass grave earlier this month. A navy statement said Estrada Luna, alias "El Kilo," is also the main suspect in the massacre of 72 central and south American migrants last August, also in the same township of San Fernando in Tamaulipas. He was one of six people arrested in a navy operation on Saturday, the statement added. [More>>aljazeera.net]

4.17.11 Syria protests persist despite Assad's promise of reforms

(Reuters) April 17 - Protests reach Syria's second city Aleppo, which has thus far been mostly free of protests; people call for freedom during independence day rally after Assad says intends to lift the country's decades-old emergency law. Protests erupted Sunday in several Syrian cities, including Suweida and Aleppo, with thousands of demonstrators calling for greater freedom a day after President Bashar Assad promised to lift the decades-old emergency laws. Thousands of protesters in the southern town of Suweida participated in a rally to mark Evacuation Day, commemorating the departure of the last French soldiers 65 years ago and Syria's proclamation of independence. Supporters of Assad were present alongside protesters, declaring loyalty to the president. [More>>haaretz.com]

4.17.11 Fresh political violence kills 10 in Karachi

KARACHI, Pakistan, April 17 - Fresh political violence in Pakistan's commercial capital has claimed 10 lives, as target killings continue unabated here despite shoot at sight orders by the government and law enforcement authorities, police said today. Police and rescue officials confirmed that since last morning 10 people were killed and the victims included a former union vice nazim belonging to the Jamaat-e-Islaami party. Interior minister, Rehman Malik this week said after holding meetings in Karachi to review the situation in the city that law enforcement agencies had been given orders to shoot on sight extortionists and target killers. The government also claims to have arrested several suspected target killers in clean up operations who have been interrogated by security agencies. Police said a man was found dead at an isolated place in Saadi town and was later identified as Junaid Zahidi, 46, who was a worker for the JI and also a former Union council naib nazim in Gulshan town. Police said others killed in different parts of the city included workers of the Mutthaida Qaumi Movement, MQM Haqiqi and Awami National Party. "Eight people were killed during the day on Saturday while since midnight we have found two more bodies," a rescue official said. Target killings in the city which claimed around 557 victims in 2010 have become a big challenge for the provincial and central government. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

4.17.11 Three NATO soldiers killed in blast

(AP) April 17 - Three more NATO troops were killed in attacks in Afghanistan on Saturday, making a total of eight fatalities on one of the deadliest days for the international coalition this year. The three deaths announced by NATO came from two separate bomb attacks in the south on the same day five service members were killed in a suicide bombing by a Taliban sleeper agent at a US base in the east. NATO officials have said they expect a particularly violent spring and summer in Afghanistan as insurgents try to pour back into areas taken over by international troops over the winter. Fighting usually increases in Afghanistan as the weather warms and insurgents trek back over the mountainous border with Pakistan. This year, NATO has pushed further into Taliban strongholds in the south and has said its goal is to hold these areas so militants cannot re-establish themselves. [More>>news.com.au]

4.17.11 Gunmen, bombs kill six in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) April 17 - Bombs and gunmen killed six people in Iraq on Sunday, four of them from the same family, security sources said. The four family members parents and two daughters in their 20s were all shot in the head overnight by gunmen who spared a third, seven-year-old daughter, interior ministry and security officials said. "This was probably a terrorist crime, which we are investigating," said Baghdad security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta. Also on Sunday, magnetic "sticky bombs" attached to cars killed two civilians and wounded another in Kirkuk, a violence-prone, religiously and ethnically diverse northern province, senior police officials said. In the western part of Kirkuk, police said they found the corpse of the leader of an anti-al-Qaeda militia who was kidnapped a week ago. It was unclear when he was slain. Violence has sharply fallen in Iraq since its peak during sectarian killings of 2006 and 2007, but bombings, shootings and kidnappings remain common. The UN envoy to Iraq, Ad Melkert, said this month that violent incidents still occur on average 25 times per day although the number was "a lot lower than what it used to be." [>thenews.com.pk]

4.14.11 Fuzzy Math? Ahead of key vote, estimate shows budget bill saves less than advertised

April 14 - The $38 billion in budget cuts touted by Republicans over the weekend might end up being less. A lot less.  According to a Congressional Budget Office estimate, the hard-fought budget deal funding the government for the rest of the year saves only $352 million from non-war accounts this year. The new figure has rankled conservative lawmakers who thought they had extracted a fair amount of concessions out of the other side of the aisle. It wasn't the $61 billion in cuts they had originally sought, but House Speaker John Boehner and his deputies insisted $38 billion in cuts was the best deal they could get, with the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on the other side of the negotiating table. But the CBO analysis showed the savings mostly won't materialize this year, potentially spelling trouble for the deal as it approaches a floor vote Thursday, though Boehner insists it'll pass. 

About $8 billion in immediate cuts to domestic programs and foreign aid are offset by nearly equal increases in defense spending. When war funding is factored in the legislation would actually increase total federal outlays by $3.3 billion relative to current levels.  To a fair degree, the lack of immediate budget-cutting punch is because the budget year is more than half over and that cuts in new spending authority typically are slow to register on deficit tallies. And Republicans promise that when fully implemented and repeated year after year, the cuts in the measure would reduce the deficit by $315 billion over the coming decade. The CBO study confirms that the measure trims $38 billion in new spending authority relative to current levels, but many of the cuts come in slow-spending accounts like water-and-sewer grants that don't have an immediate deficit impact. Other cuts come in areas where the government was unlikely to spend the money anyway, CBO suggested. 

Editorial note: "Lack of interest in the contribution of interest on the debt to US economic woes." While Congress and the president quibble over $38 billion cuts per year, there appears to be complete ignorance on one of the major contributors to the US deficit: the cost to service our 14.3 trillion public debt. (As of 4.14.2011 the debt is 14.272 trillion.) Interest paid on the debt so far in the first six months of the 2011 fiscal year is: $215.58 billion. Interest on the debt has ranged from 2006-2010 about 427 billion per year; 2011 should be in the same range, ~ $430 billion, assuming interest rates on US bonds remain the same. During the Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and Bush II years, interest rates averaged about 5%. If rates should rise to 5 %, interest on the 14.3 trillion would be $715 billion. Thus, the greatest threat to paying down the debt at the moment would be a rise in interest rates.

Mel Copeland

4.14.11 Obama: Cut spending, raise taxes on wealthy

WASHINGTON (AP) April 14 - President's speech salted with calls for bipartisanship, but also bristled with GOP attacks. President Barack Obama coupled a call for $4 trillion in long-term deficit reductions with a blistering attack on Republican plans for taxes, Medicare and Medicaid on Wednesday, laying down markers for a roiling debate in Congress and the 2012 presidential campaign to come. Obama said spending cuts and higher taxes alike must be part of any deficit-reduction plan, including an end to Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. He proposed an unspecified "debt failsafe" that would go into effect if Congress failed to make sure the national debt would be falling by 2014 relative to the size of the overall economy. "We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt," the president said in a speech at George Washington University a few blocks from the White House. "And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs and win the future." [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

4.14.11 Rebels warn of 'massacre' in Misurata

April 14 - Artillery barrage kills at least 23 in besieged Libyan port city, rebels claim, and prevents Qatari ship from docking. Rebels have warned of an impending "massacre" by troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi if NATO does not intensify its attacks on government forces in and around Misurata, which has been besieged for weeks. Libyan government forces launched a heavy attack against the coastal city on Thursday, with dozens of Grad rockets, killing at least 23 people, a rebel spokesman said. Misurata, Libya's third-biggest city, is the only major rebel stronghold in the west of the country. It has been the scene of major fighting between rebels and Gaddafi's forces for several weeks. "They fired Grads at a residential area called Kasr Ahmad near the port this morning.

They fired at least 80 rockets on that area," Abdelbasset Abu Mzereiq told Reuters by telephone. He later clarified that those killed had been civilians and not rebel fighters as earlier understood. The death toll from the 90 minute artillery barrage was likely to rise, the spokesman added. "They keep killing civilians. Yesterday we lost five civilians in the shelling and 37 were wounded." Gaddafi loyalists were firing shells on Tripoli Street, a thoroughfare which cuts to the city centre from the western outskirts, eyewitnesses told Al Jazeera. The rocket assault on the residential area near the rebel-controlled port had also prevented a Qatari vessel from docking, another rebel spokesman said. It was not immediately clear what the ship was carrying.

4.14.11 Goldman Sachs misled Congress after duping clients, Senate panel chairman says

(Bloomberg) April 13 - Goldman Sachs misled clients and Congress about the firm's bets on securities tied to the housing market, the chairman of the U.S. Senate panel that investigated the causes of the financial crisis said. Senator Carl Levin, releasing the findings of a two-year inquiry yesterday, said he wants the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission to examine whether Goldman Sachs violated the law by misleading clients who bought the complex securities known as collateralized debt obligations without knowing the firm would benefit if they fell in value. The Michigan Democrat also said federal prosecutors should review whether to bring perjury charges against Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and other current and former employees who testified in Congress last year.

Levin said they denied under oath that Goldman Sachs took a financial position against the mortgage market solely for its own profit, statements the senator said were untrue. "In my judgment, Goldman clearly misled their clients and they misled the Congress," Levin said at a press briefing yesterday where he and Senator Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, discussed the 640-page report from the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Much of the blame for the 2008 market collapse belongs to banks that earned billions of dollars in profits creating and selling financial products that imploded along with the housing market, according to the report. The Levin-Coburn panel levied its harshest criticism at investment banks, in particular accusing Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank AG of peddling collateralized debt obligations backed by risky loans that the banks’ own traders believed were likely to lose value.

4.14.11 Police arrested on suspicion of protecting cartel hitmen

{Reuters) April 14 - Mexican security forces have arrested 16 police officers who are suspected of protecting the hitmen working for the Zetas drug cartel who allegedly massacred at least 116 people in San Fernando near the US border. Mexican security forces arrested 16 municipal police officers accused of protecting drug gang hitmen who massacred dozens of people near the US border, the country's Attorney General said on Wednesday. Soldiers have uncovered at least 116 corpses since last week in mass graves in the town of San Fernando near Texas, in one of the most gruesome finds so far in Mexico's drug war. Attorney General Marisela Morales said the brutal Zetas drug cartel was behind the atrocity and offered rewards of up to 15 million pesos ($1.2 million) for help tracking down several of the gang’s local leaders. [More>>france24.com]

4.14.11 Suicide squad kills three Afghan police

KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) March 14 - Three Afghan policemen were killed Thursday when militants struck at a police training centre in the second suicide attack to hit eastern Afghanistan in as many days. The incident in Paktya province, which borders Pakistan, was one of three suicide strikes targeting government officials or the military across Afghanistan early Thursday. Insurgents are stepping up attacks on Afghan security forces, whose role will increase as US-led NATO troops prepare to hand over responsibility for security in seven areas from July and prepare to withdraw by 2014. "Three suicide bombers attacked the local police training centre in Aryoob Zazai district," said Rohullah Samoon, a spokesman for the governor's office. "One of the attackers managed to detonate his suicide vest, as a result of which two local police and one national policeman were killed and two national policemen were injured. The second suicide attacker was gunned down before blowing up himself. The third attacker escaped and police are looking for him," he added. It came just one day after a suicide bomber killed 10 people, including a well-known elder, at a tribal gathering in the eastern province of Kunar. The Taliban claimed responsibility for Thursday's attack, as well as for a bombing 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of Kabul which targeted the office of a senior local official, injuring four people including three police. [>thenews.com.pk]

4.12.11 Saudi women use web to demand voting rights

DUBAI, April 12 - A group of women in Saudi Arabia has launched a website to campaign for the participation of women in municipal elections. The initiative, called "Baladi," has so far attracted over 2,000 members and, according to organizers, the campaign is independently run by women with support from different parts of the Kingdom, the Arab News report said. The organizers said that they want women to be able to participate in the running of municipal services due to the role they play in society in general. The campaign cites the important roles higher authorities are assigning women and also the achievements of Saudi women over the years. According to organizers, women have already taken up leading positions and thus should be able to participate in municipal elections. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

4.12.11 First woman fined for flouting 'burqa ban'

(AFP) April 12 - French police fined the first woman for wearing a full-face Islamic veil on the same day the ban came into force, a police source said Tuesday. The woman, in the Mureaux district of Paris, was fined 150 euros. French police fined a woman for wearing a full-face Islamic veil, the first reported enforcement of a ban on the garment on the day it came into effect, a police source said Tuesday. The young woman, born in 1983, was fined 150 euros (216 dollars) "without incident" in a shopping centre in Mureaux, northwest of Paris, early Monday evening, the source said, without elaborating on exactly what she was wearing. France on Monday became the first country in Europe to apply a ban on the wearing of full-face coverings, including the Islamic niqab. At least two niqab-wearing women were arrested the same day for protesting the ban. French police have voiced fears the law will be impossible to enforce, since they have not been empowered to use force to remove head coverings, and could face resistance in already tense immigrant districts. [More>>france24.com]

4.12.11 Japan nuclar disaster tops scale

TOKYO, April 12 - Japan's prime minister vowed to wind down the month-long crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant "at all costs" Tuesday after his government officially designated the situation there a Chernobyl-level nuclear accident. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he wants the plant's owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, to produce a timetable for bringing the disaster to an end, "and they will be doing that soon." And a day after his government warned that thousands more people would need to be evacuated from the surrounding region, he pledged to provide jobs, housing and education for those uprooted by the accident...Japan declared the Fukushima Daiichi crisis a Level 7 event on the international system for rating nuclear accidents Tuesday, putting it on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union. The top-scale designation was based on the massive release of radioactivity since the accident began, particularly in its early days, and classifies Fukushima Daiichi a "major accident" requiring long-term countermeasures. [Full story>>cnn.com]

4.12.11 France and Britain urge stronger NATO action in Libya

PARIS, April 12 - France and Britain urged NATO on Tuesday to intensify airstrikes against Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi's forces and called on the alliance to do more to shield noncombatants from loyalist attacks. The remarks could well embolden rebels who have proved unable to hold on to terrain captured from loyalist forces in weeks of advances and retreats along the coastal highway leading westward from the insurgents’ redoubts in eastern Libya. The comments by William Hague, the British foreign secretary, and Alain Juppé, the French foreign minister, also appeared to signal a rift within the alliance only eight days after it assumed command from the United States for the air campaign over Libya. NATO rejected the French and British criticism. "NATO is conducting its military operations in Libya with vigor within the current mandate. The pace of the operations is determined by the need to protect the population," it said on Tuesday, according to Reuters. [More>>nytimes.com; See related story,

foxnews.com, April 12, "Libya town shelled as France urges NATO action"
: AJDABIYA, Libya - Muammar Qaddafi's forces fired rockets along the eastern front line and shelled the besieged city of Misrata on Tuesday as France said NATO should be doing more to take out the regime's heavy weaponry targeting civilians. Several rockets struck Ajdabiya, the main point leading into the rebel-held east, and witnesses also reported shelling in Misrata, the only major city in the western half of Libya that remains under partial rebel control...

4.12.11 Israel speeds up third Iron Dome battery in wake of Gaza attacks

April 12 - Additional anti-missile system would be ready in 6 months; recent rocket, mortar volleys also prompt Netanyahu to OK shelters for Ashkelon educational institutions. The Israel Defense Forces announced Tuesday it would accelerate the introduction of a third Iron Dome anti-rocket battery, following weeks of intensified conflicts along Israel's border with the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. The IDF's announcement came on Sunday after the cabinet, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, discussed ways to speed up the process of protecting Negev communities from Gaza rocket fire. At the meeting, Netanyahu decided to allocate funding to purchase four more batteries of the Iron Dome missile defense system. The US Congress recently approved over $200 million in funding for Iron Dome, but Netanyahu said Israel would allocate the budget immediately rather than waiting for the American funds to come through. [More>>haaretz.com]

4.12.11 Alassane Ouattara heralds 'dawn of new hope'

April 12 - Ivory Coast president-elect calls on fighters to lay down their arms and promises dignified treatment for Laurent Gbagbo. The president-elect of Ivory Coast has heralded "the dawn of a new hope" after the arrest of his rival Laurent Gbagbo. In a television address to the nation, Alassane Ouattara, said his predecessor would receive "dignified treatment," and called on fighters in Ivory Coast to lay down their arms. "After more than four months of post-electoral crisis, marked by so many human lives lost, we are finally at the dawn of a new era of hope," Ouattara said on Monday night. He said Gbagbo, his wife Simone and the former president's entourage would be investigated by Ivorian authorities. He said he intends to establish a truth and reconciliation commission and called on all fighters to put down their arms. The UN's top human rights body on Tuesday appointed three independent experts to lead an investigation into allegations of serious abuses by both sides. Sporadic shooting was heard from the French military base in Abidjan in the early hours, but on a smaller scale than in recent days. A convoy of French military vehicles left the base at about 8am local time. The streets appeared quiet and calm. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

4.12.11 Syrian opposition says 200 killed in protests

AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) April 12 - Assad's security forces crack down on pro-democracy protesters; Syrian rights group petitions Arab League to impose sanctions. Syria's main human rights movement said the death toll from pro-democracy protests against President Bashar Assad had reached 200 and urged the Arab League to impose sanctions on the ruling hierarchy. Syria, the latest Arab country shaken by mass uprisings against authoritarian rulers, has witnessed unprecedented protests across the tightly-controlled country for the last three weeks. Assad has responded with force witnesses say security forces have opened fire on protesters vague pledges of reform and attempts at appeasing minority Kurds. Protests have shown no sign of abating but have not yet reached the levels seen in Tunisia and Egypt where leaders were ultimately overthrown. [More>>jpost.com]

4.12.11 Bomb attacks kill 5, wound 6: Iraqi officials

BAGHDAD (AP) April 12 - Police and health officials say bombings in a town west of Baghdad have killed five people, including three family members of a former pro-government Sunni fighter. Police officers say that bombs planted around the house of Ahmed Jassim in the town of Khan Dhari went off at 5:30am, killing his wife and two sons and wounding the former Sons of Iraq militiaman and his daughter. The Sunni group battled al-Qaeda at the peak of Iraq's war. Minutes later, a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi army patrol that was rushing to Jassim's house, killing two soldiers and injuring four others. A local doctor confirmed the casualty figures. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. [>khaleejtimes.com]

4.12.11 Penguins suffer as Antarctic krill declines

April 12 - A number of penguin species found in western Antarctica are declining as a result of a fall in the availability of krill, a study has suggested. Researchers, examining 30 years of data, said chinstrap and Adelie penguin numbers had been falling since 1986. Warming waters, less sea-ice cover and more whale and seal numbers was cited as reducing the abundance of krill, the main food source for the penguins. The findings appear in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) is a shrimp-like creature that reach lengths of about 6cm (2in) and is considered to be one of the most abundant species on the planet, being found in densities of up to 30,000 creatures in a cubic-metre of seawater. It is also one of the key species in the ecosystems in and around Antarctica, as it is the dominant prey of nearly all vertebrates in the region, including chinstrap and Adelie penguins..."The West Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) and adjacent Scotia Sea support abundant wildlife populations, many of which were nearly [wiped out] by humans," they wrote. "This region is also among the fastest warming areas on the planet, with 5-6C increases in mean winter air temperatures and associated decreases in winter sea-ice cover." [Full story>>bbc.co.uk]

4.07.11 Libyan rebels hit by NATO air attack

April 7 - Second such incident in less than a week leaves five fighters dead, in country's eastern oil town of Brega. A NATO air attack has hit a Libyan rebel position near the eastern oil town of Brega, killing at least five fighters, according to rebel fighters and a hospital worker. Thursday's attack also left at least 10 others wounded, witnesses and correspondents of the AFP news agency said. Medical workers carried uniforms soaked in blood from one of hospital rooms. And some rebel fighters were weeping on their knees in the corridor. It was the second time in less than a week that rebels blamed NATO for bombing their comrades by mistake. Thirteen died in an air raid not far from the same spot on Saturday. A Reuters news agency reporter saw bloodstained stretchers being brought out of the hospital in Ajdabiya, where those wounded in the attack were being treated. Ajdabiya lies about 80km from Brega. "We were standing by our tanks and NATO fired two rockets at us," said one, Salem Mislat. "NATO are liars. They are siding with Gaddafi." But rebels have accused the alliance of failing in their mission to protect civilians while a chief rebel spokesman said coalition warplanes had killed 13 people, four of them civilians, in an air raid near Brega on April 1. [More>>aljazeera.net]

4.07.11 Israeli system intercepts Gaza rocket for first time

ASHKELON, Israel (AFP) April 7 - Israel's Iron Dome short-range missile defence system on Thursday intercepted a rocket fired from Gaza for the first time, over the city of Ashkelon, an AFP correspondent said. A military source confirmed the rocket had been brought down by the unique multi-million-dollar system, which came into operation on March 27, the first time a short-range interceptor has been deployed anywhere. As the rocket came in from Gaza, the interceptor missile streaked up into the sky to hit it with the two trails converging in an explosion, said the AFP correspondent. A military source told AFP this was the first time that Iron Dome had hit a rocket in an actual combat operation. It was not immediately clear what kind of rocket it was.

The rocket fire from Gaza came after Palestinian militants in Gaza fired an anti-tank rocket at an Israeli school bus, critically wounding a teenager. Later militants fired dozens of mortars and rockets into Israel. Israel responded with air raids and tank shells, killing one Palestinian and wounding 25 The first Iron Dome battery was deployed outside Beersheva, just days after the southern desert city was hit by several Grad rockets fired from Gaza. Ashkelon, which has a population of some 113,000, has also recently come under attack from Grads, which have a range of up to 50 kilometers (30 miles). The defence system, the first of its kind in the world and still at the experimental stage, is not yet able to provide complete protection against the hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel, officials have said.
[>khaleejtimes.com; See also

jpost.com, April 7, "Teen critically hurt in Negev attack; IAF strikes Gaza"
: Driver also injured as anti-tank missile hits bus outside Kibbutz Sa'ad in Sha'ar Hanegev; 45 rockets, mortars explode within 3 hours. An anti-tank missile shot from the Gaza Strip directly hit a school bus outside Kibbutz Sa'ad in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council on Thursday, injuring two people. Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the IDF to respond speedily and to attack using all means necessary. An Israeli attack helicopter machine-gunned a target in Gaza City after the missile attack, for the first time since Operation Cast Lead. A Reuters correspondent said the sound of heavy fire from the helicopter was audible in the center of the city. IDF forces struck back at various locations throughout the strip. Three people were killed and at least eight people, including a 4-year-old girl were injured in IDF and IAF strikes, Palestinian medics said. An IAF F-16 warplane bombed a major Hamas security compound, rocking Gaza City with a big explosion and wounding at least one person there...

4.07.11 Israel arrests 100 Palestinian women in latest round-up

(AFP) April 7 - Israeli troops arrested 100 Palestinian women in an overnight raid Thursday, the latest in a series of round-ups around the West Bank city of Nablus in search of those responsible for the murder of a Jewish settler family last month. Israeli troops stormed a village near near Nablus early Thursday, arresting more than 100 women as they hunted the killers of an Israeli family, local officials said. Hundreds of troops entered Awarta shortly after midnight and imposed a curfew after which they began rounding up the women, local council head Tayis Awwad told AFP. They continued to conduct house-to-house searches through the night, he said. Palestinian security sources confirmed the same information. The army has been conducting frequent raids on the village for the past four weeks, arresting scores of villagers following last month's murders of a family living in the nearby settlement of Itamar. [More>>france24.com]

4.07.11 Gunmen and suicide bombers launch deadly attack Kandahar poliice compound

(AP) April 7 - A coordinated attack on a police building in Kandahar killed six security officers Thursday, the region's police chief said. Elsewhere, the man who fatally shot two US soldiers earlier in the week was killed in a joint operation, NATO said. Suicide bombers and gunmen stormed a police compound in southern Afghanistan Thursday, opening fire and setting off explosions in a coordinated attack that killed six Afghan security forces. American Black Hawk helicopters and at least eight US armored vehicles rushed to support dozens of Afghan troops battling the assailants at the three-building police complex in restive Kandahar province. One suicide bomber pretended to be an ambulance driver and detonated his explosives after wounded officers were placed inside the marked rescue vehicle, said Kandahar Police Chief Khan Mohammad Mujahid. A total of three bombers blew themselves up, said Zalmai Ayubi, a spokesman for the provincial governor, while a fourth man exchanged fire with Afghan troops. "I heard a blast and after that continuous fighting with rocket launchers," said Kandahar provincial policeman Ashrafullah Agha. After a third large explosion, Agha cut off the interview. Attacks and fighting in Afghanistan have intensified recently, with insurgents coming from neighboring Pakistan as the annual spring fighting season gets under way. [More>>france24.com]

4.07.11 US offers $5 million for info leading to militant Llyas Kashmiri

WASHINGTON (AFP) April 7 - US officials have offered a reward of up to USD 5 million for information on Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, head of a Pakistani group linked to al-Qaeda and suspected of launching a 2006 suicide attack on the US consulate in Karachi. The state department said Kashmiri "is the commander of the terrorist organization Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami (HUJI), which supports al-Qaeda" and that the group has led training camps for the launching of several attacks in India and Pakistan. The group is believed to have ordered the March 2, 2006 suicide bombing at the US consulate in Karachi that killed four people, including US diplomat David Foy, and injured 48 others. In January 2010, a US federal grand jury indicted Kashmiri for terrorism-related offenses in connection with a plot to attack the Jyllands-Posten newspaper in Denmark following uproar over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed.

Last August, Kashmiri was placed on a US list as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" and HUJI was labeled a "Foreign Terrorist Organization." HUJI and Kashmiri have also been added to a United Nations blacklist of individuals and entities linked to the al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Kashmiri was born in 1964 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. He is approximately six feet tall and weighs about 90 kilogram. He has black hair and been seen with a thick beard dyed white, black, or red at various times. He has lost sight in one eye, and often wears aviator-style sunglasses. He is missing an index finger, according to the state department.

4.07.11 Al-Qaeda coming back to Afghanistan: report

WASHINGTON, April 7 - Al-Qaeda militants are returning to eastern Afghanistan and setting up bases for the first time in years, exploiting a withdrawal of US troops in the area, US media reported Wednesday. The trend has alarmed US officials who had seen al-Qaeda as a seriously weakened force in Afghanistan with only a couple of dozen fighters on the ground, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unnamed US, Afghan and Taliban sources. In September, the United States bombed an al-Qaeda training camp in the Korengal valley, killing two senior al-Qaeda figures, a Saudi and Kuwaiti, the NATO-led coalition told the Journal. One of Saudi Arabia's most wanted militants was also reportedly killed in the strike by US fighter jets. The bombing raid illustrated the revival of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that has occurred over the past six to eight months, just as the US military has pulled troops back from remote eastern outposts that had been deemed strategically irrelevant. Instead, US and coalition commanders have said they want to focus their troops on populated areas in the east while handing over security duties in more rural areas to Afghan forces. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

4.07.11 Bodies found as Mexicans march against drug violence

April 7 - Protests in more than 20 Mexican cities against drug-related violence have been interrupted by news of the discovery of 59 bodies. The bodies were found in Tamaulipas state by police investigating the abduction of bus passengers. The area is a hotspot in the violence related to drug trafficking that is ravaging parts of Mexico. The violence was condemned by protesters in the main square in Mexico City, who chanted: "No more blood!" Some called for President Felipe Calderon to resign, saying his strategy had exacerbated the bloodshed. About 35,000 Mexicans have died in drug-related violence since the president began deploying the army to fight the cartels in December 2006. The demonstrations were inspired by poet and journalist Javier Sicilia, whose son was killed last week. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

4.06.11 TEPCO to inject nitrogen into No. 1 reactor to prevent explosion

FUKUSHIMA, April 7 - Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on Wednesday prepared to inject nitrogen into one of the reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex to reduce the potential risk of a hydrogen explosion, while it succeeded in stopping highly radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean from the plant. The nitrogen, an inert gas, is expected to be injected into the No. 1 reactor's containment vessel, a process that could take several days. Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the government's nuclear agency, denied during a morning press conference that there is an "immediate danger" of explosion. In addition to the task of maintaining the relative stability of all six reactors at the nuclear complex, TEPCO has also been engaged in efforts to stop highly radioactive water from leaking into the sea and cleaning up contaminated water within the plant. At 5:38am, highly contaminated water, which had been confirmed as leaking into the sea from around a cracked pit located near the No. 2 reactor water intake on Saturday, stopped flowing after TEPCO injected around 6,000 liters of chemical agents including sodium silicate, known as "water glass." [More>>japantoday.com]

4.06.11 Libya protesters & Gaddafi forces fight on coast road

AJDABIYAH, Libya, April 6 - Gaddafi sends message to Obama: report. Libyan protesters reported heavy fighting with the forces of Muammar Gaddafi on the Mediterranean coast road on Wednesday as both sides tried to break a stalemate in the seven-week war. The Libyan leader sent a message to US President Barack Obama "following the withdrawal of America from the crusader colonial alliance against Libya," Libya's official news agency JANA said on Wednesday. No further details were given.

Mohammed al-Masrafy, a member of an opposition special forces unit, said clashes began at 6am (0400 GMT) after Gaddafi's forces were resupplied with ammunition and moved eastwards out of the oil port of Brega. He told Reuters after returning to the eastern town of Ajdabiyah there was heavy fighting with machine-guns and other weapons. "The rebel army is about 60 kms from here," he said. That would put them about 20 kms from Brega, the focus of a week-long see-saw battle. Gaddafi's forces mounted a sustained assault on Tuesday that pushed the rebels about half way back to Ajdabiyah, gateway to their stronghold of Benghazi. As rebels in pick-ups piled with weapons headed west from Ajdabiyah and civilians fleeing the fighting passed them in the opposite direction, anger mounted over alleged lack of air strikes by NATO.
[More>>alarabiya.net; See related stories,

khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) April 6, "Gaddafi using human shields to curb air strikes"
: AJDABIYAH - Muammar Gaddafi is using human shields to foil air strikes on his forces, NATO officials said on Wednesday as rebels angry at alleged Western inaction battled anew to advance on the key coast road. In their eastern heartland, the ragged, ill-trained rebels set out again to recapture terrain lost in a headlong retreat from Gaddafi's superior firepower, reporting heavy fighting west of their frontline town of Ajdabiyah as both sides sought to end a seesaw stalemate in the oil-producing state's civil war...

nytimes.com, April 5, "Photos found in Libya show abuses under Gaddafi"
: ZAWIYAH, Libya - In the second-floor office of a burned-out police station here, the photographs strewn across the floor spun out the stories of the unlucky prisoners who fell into the custody of the brutal government of Col. Muammar el-Gaddafi. Some depicted corpses bearing the marks of torture. One showed scars down the back of a man dressed only in his underwear, another a naked man face down under a sheet with his hands bound. The faces of the dead bore expressions of horror. Other pictures showed puddles of blood, a table of jars, bottles and powders and, in one, a long saw. In a labyrinthine basement, workers were clearing out burned books and files. One room contained a two-liter bottle of gin. Gesturing into another room that was kept dark, a worker mimicked a gun with his hands and murmured "Gaddafi," suggesting it was an execution chamber.

Journalists discovered the photographs and records on an official trip to this devastated city, where Gaddafi forces battled rebels for nearly a week to retake control. They were the latest reminder of the long record of arbitrary violence against civilians that now overshadows the government's efforts to broker an end to the international airstrikes and domestic rebellion threatening Colonel Gaddafi's four decades in power. As Colonel Gaddafi's son, Seif al-Islam, promised in a television interview to usher in a new era of constitutional democracy in which his father would be a mere figurehead "like the queen of England," the prosecutor for the International Criminal Court escalated international pressure on the government by declaring that it had deliberately ordered the killing of civilians in a bid to hold back the democratic revolution sweeping the region...

foxnews.com, April 6, "Rights groups call on UN to oust Swiss official who allegedly backed Gaddafi 'prize'" :
Dozens of human rights and watchdog groups are calling on the United Nations to expel from its ranks a Swiss official who allegedly had a hand in creating the al-Gaddafi International Prize for Human Rights more than two decades ago. The prize, as its title suggests, is named after Libyan strongman Muammar al-Gaddafi, whose efforts to mow down rebels and protesters triggered an internationally backed no-fly zone and military intervention last month. Over the years, the award bearing his name has gone to such controversial and dubious figures as Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Louis Farrakhan and French Holocaust denier Roger Garaudy... 

4.06.11 Ivory Coast: Quattara forces storm Gbagbo residence

April 6 - Forces opposed to Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo have launched a final assault on his presidential residence. He has been negotiating departure terms with the UN while under siege by troops loyal to his rival Alassane Ouattara. But France's foreign minister said talks had failed, blaming Mr. Gbagbo. Gunfire and fighting have been heard at Mr. Gbagbo's residence in Abidjan. Mr. Gbagbo insists he won November's run-off vote, but election officials found Mr. Ouattara was the winner. That result was certified by the UN, but Mr. Gbagbo has refused to leave office. Mr. Gbagbo and his family are believed to be sheltering in the bunker of the presidential residence, which was controlled by his troops. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

4.06.11 Al Jazeera demands release of journalists

April 6 - Three journalists working for this network have been imprisoned illegally by Libyan authorities for weeks. Al Jazeera is calling on Libyan authorities to set free Ahmad val ould Eddin, Ammar Al-Hamdan, and Kamel Al Tallou, who were detained last month while covering the ongoing conflict in the country. Libyan authorities have not provided any information about why the journalists are being held. The three were held near Zintan in the northwest of the country and then imprisoned in Tripoli. [More>>aljazeera.net]

4.06.11 'PA, Hamas systematically abuse Palestinian journalists'

April 6 - Human Rights Watch cites attacks on reporters, Gaza man detained after finding man Hamas claimed was killed by Israelis was alive. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas systematically abuse Palestinian journalists, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Wednesday. "Severe harassment by Palestinian Authority and Hamas security forces targeting Palestinian journalists in the West Bank and Gaza has had a pronounced chilling effect on freedom of expression," Human Rights Watch said, calling on the PA and Hamas to "hold their security forces to account for systematic, severe abuses." [More>>jpost.com]

4.06.11 NATO forces 'kill three Afghans in road crash, shooting'

KABUL, April 6 - NATO-led forces killed two civilians in a road accident and shot dead a third civilian after an angry crowd hurled stones at their military convoy following the crash, Kabul police said Wednesday. [>thenews.com.pk]

4.05.11 Inflation inflicting pain, as wages fail to keep pace with price hikes

April 5 - Inflation is back, with higher prices for food and fuel hammering American consumers, and this time it really hurts. It's not just that prices are rising — it's that wages aren't. Previous bouts of inflation have usually meant a wage-price spiral, as pay and prices chase each other ever upward. But now paychecks are falling further and further behind. In the past three months, consumer prices have been rising at a 5.7 percent annual rate while average weekly wages have barely budged, increasing at an annual rate of only 1.3 percent. And the particular prices that are rising are for products that people encounter most frequently in their daily lives and have the least flexibility to avoid. For the most part, it's not computers and cars that are getting more expensive, it's gasoline, which is up 19 percent in the past year, ground beef, up 10 percent, and butter, up 23 percent. Inflation is typically the symptom of an economy overheating.

Workers can't keep up with the demand for the vast array of things they make. Abundant dollars pursue scarce goods and services, forcing prices and wages up. The solution is simple enough: Central banks, such as the Federal Reserve, increase interest rates, applying brakes to the economy. But the current price spike is in some ways more pernicious than the last great US inflation — the steep increases of the 1970s — and harder for policymakers to address. Today, raising interest rates might make a weak economy even weaker, stifling what meager growth there has been in wages. Moreover, higher interest would make the nation's massive budget deficits even more expensive to finance, taking an additional toll on the economy.

4.05.11 10 fastest-dying US industries

April 5 - Newspapers and textiles, you's expect. But manufactured housing? If you had to warn away some earnest youth from choosing a doomed career, which should it be? Buggy-whip design? Ventriloquism? Tooth-Darkening? A new — and abysmally depressing — report by the market research company IBISWorld names 10 US industries, which, if not actually dead, are heading that way fast. Some, such as manufactured housing, theoretically could get better and enjoy a healthy future. Others, though, such as record stores, cannot: They might just as well strap on a "Do Not Resuscitate" sign and pull down the shades. "While the US economy is headed further into recovery, not every industry is performing well," writes the report's author, Toon Van Beeck. Every industry, he says, goes through its own lifecycle — growth, maturity and decline. IBIS combed its data base of some 700 industries and studied 200 that were in decline. From those it identified 10 that it considers "standouts." All the following, says Van Beeck, are "on the verge of extinction:"

Record retailers
Dealers in manufactured housing
Wired telecommunications carriers
Textile mills
Newspaper publishers
Apparel manufacturers
DVD, game & video rental stores
Providers of video postproduction services
The photofinishing industry
Renters of formal wear and costumes.


4.05.11 Pakistan 'can do more to fight extremists'

April 5 - Pervez Musharraf has told Sky News the Pakistani government needs to work harder to combat Islamic extremists within its borders. The former president, who has been based in London since he resigned in 2008 amid the threat of impeachment, said Islamabad had effectively "turned a blind eye" to militants. He said it was in the country's strategic interest to fight terrorism — and the government needed to take a tougher line on internal extremists. "Unfortunately it is because of a degree of appeasement being carried out by the government and not taking very strong action against these extremists," he told Sky's Adam Boulton. "Because the moment you give them this leeway of appeasing or turning a blind eye to whatever they are doing, they then get more encouraged." His comments come as Prime Minister David Cameron visits the country in an attempt to patch up relations after he last year claimed Islamabad was "looking both ways" on terrorism. Mr. Cameron announced £650m worth of aid for education in Pakistan, with the money to be spent training teachers and getting an extra four million children to school. [More>>news.sky.com; See related story,

indianexpress.com, April 5, "Religious extremism, the mantra for political power in Pakistan"
: A young teenager walked up to a bus stand in lower Dir, Northwest Pakistan, on Monday, and blew himself up, killing at least six people. This happened a day after a blast at the 13th century Sakhi Shah Darbar shrine near Dera Ghazi Khan that claimed 50 lives, and left many more fighting for their lives. The militant organization Tehreek-e-Taliban has claimed responsibility for these attacks that have been carried out in retaliation for military operations in the northwest region of the country. Pakistan is very evidently going through a process of vertical polarization. With an overflow of fanaticism, as is evident from outrageous daylight murders of the type that have happened in the last two days and in which young impressionable teenagers have been used with sadistic impunity, the country seems to have irrevocably crossed over to the path of religious extremism with all forms of liberalism having been reduced to an abysmal minority.

... Now, the predecessors of Baitullah Mehsud are carrying the flag of fundamentalism and looking for an opportunity to also figure in the prestigious Time magazine. Maulvi Faqir Mohammad is the undisputed lord of the ring in Bajaur Agency and Haji Mangal Bagh Afridi, the leader of Lashkar-e-Islam rules the Khyber Agency. Dara Adam Khel, a mere 35 kilometers south of Peshawar, is controlled by Tariq Afridi a former member of Sepah-e-Sahaba, he provides sanctuary to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, an anti-Shia organization and to Jaish-e-Muhammed, a Kashmir oriented extremist group. Maulana Fazlullah, popularly called "Mullah Radio" had actually seized the whole of Swat and its surrounding districts and established a parallel government, before being subdued recently.

All of these and other such militant groups are involved in local violence, kidnappings, bomb blasts, killings and extortion. In their areas of influence the militant leaders have gained so much influence that they can enter cities and abduct/ kill people with impunity. The situation in big towns and cities is no better. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, is a follower of Dawat-e-Islami, a Karachi based fundamentalist party, yet he had been cleared to join the special forces of the Punjab police in 2002 and had been assigned the most sensitive duty of guarding the Governor. Ninety-seven percent of Pakistan lives in fear of the three percent who subscribe to a militant and terrorist ideology and who have been given a free run by the Pakistani government and the Pakistani Army to create mayhem within the nation and beyond its territories...

4.05.11 Radioactive fish found in east Japan

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) April 5 - Japan's Fisheries Ministry has found high levels of radioactive iodine and cesium in fish caught near the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant, Kyodo news agency reported on Tuesday. One kilogram of young launce caught near the town of Kitaibaraki on the Ibaraki Prefecture on Monday contained 526 bequerels of radioactive cesium, 500 bequerels more than the legal limit, and 1,700 bequerels of iodine. The Ibaraki authorities urged people to stop eating fish, while fisheries minister Michihiko Kano said the government would toughen inspections of marine products caught in the area. The Tokyo Electric Power Company has been struggling to contain the flow of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. It said that 7.5 million times the legal limit of radioactive iodine has been detected in samples of seawater near the plant. [>en.rian.ru]

4.05.11 Arctic ozone levels in never-before-seen plunge

April 5 - The ozone layer has seen unprecedented damage in the Arctic this winter due to cold weather in the upper atmosphere. By the end of March, 40% of the ozone in the stratosphere had been destroyed, against a previous record of 30%. The ozone layer protects against skin cancer, but the gas is destroyed by reactions with industrial chemicals. These chemicals are restricted by the UN's Montreal Protocol, but they last so long in the atmosphere that damage is expected to continue for decades. "The Montreal Protocol actually works, and the amount of ozone-depleting gases is on the way down, but quite slowly," said Geir Braathen, a senior scientist with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), which coordinates ozone data globally. "In the meantime, we have some winters that get much colder than before and also the cold periods last longer, into the spring," he told BBC News. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

4.05.11 Unrest in Yemen seen as opening to Qaeda branch

WASHINGTON, April 5 - Counterterrorism operations in Yemen have ground to a halt, allowing al-Qaeda's deadliest branch outside of Pakistan to operate more freely inside the country and to increase plotting for possible attacks against Europe and the United States, American diplomats, intelligence analysts and counterterrorism officials say. In the political tumult surrounding Yemen's embattled president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, many Yemeni troops have abandoned their posts or have been summoned to the capital, Sana, to help support the tottering government, the officials said. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group's affiliate, has stepped in to fill this power vacuum, and Yemeni security forces have come under increased attacks in recent weeks. A small but steadily growing stream of Qaeda fighters and lower-level commanders from other parts of the world, including Pakistan, are making their way to Yemen to join the fight there, although American intelligence officials are divided on whether the political crisis in Yemen is drawing more insurgents than would be traveling there under normal conditions. Taken together, these developments have raised increasing alarm in the Obama administration, which is in the delicate position of trying to ease Mr. Saleh out of power, but in a way to ensure that counterterrorism operations in Yemen will continue unimpeded. [More>>nytimes.com]

4.05.11 Gaddafi forces take Brega

April 5 - Rebel forces retreat over 20km east towards Ajdabiya, as Gaddafi troops mount fresh offensive to take key oil town. Libyan rebel forces have abandoned the oil town of Brega and are heading east toward Ajdabiya in the face of a renewed offensive by troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. Both sides exchanged heavy fire on Tuesday, but just a day after rebels had taken over a residential part of the city, they were forced to retreat. Opposition forces said they came under rocket and artillery fire while they attempted to fight back with mortars and rockets of their own. "When you see this, the situation is very bad. We cannot match their weapons," said Kamal Mughrabi, 64, a retired soldier who joined the opposition army. "If the [coalition] planes don't come back and hit them we'll have to keep pulling back." Early in the day, a coalition airstrike targeted eight government vehicles that were advancing on opposition positions, rebel officer Abdel-Basset Abibi said. Al Jazeera's Hoda Abdel-Hamid, in Ajdabiya, reported that opposition forces had been pushed back 20-30km east of Brega towards Ajdabiya by the Gaddafi forces' mid-morning offensive. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) April 5, "Strikes destroy 30 percent of Libya military power."]

4.04.11 Libya: Rebels move on Brega as Gaddafi aide holds talks

April 4 - Libyan rebels are advancing towards the eastern oil town of Brega, reports say, in renewed fighting with forces loyal to leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, who currently hold the territory. Brega has changed hands several times in the past month. Senior Libyan envoy Abdul Ati al-Obeidi is now in Turkey for talks. He has said Col Gaddafi wants the fighting to end. Meanwhile, Italy has become the third country to recognise the rebel council as Libya's legitimate government. Mr. Obeidi, Libya's deputy foreign minister, held talks in Athens on Sunday. He is reportedly keen to open a dialogue with the international community. The BBC's Wyre Davies, who is on the road close to Brega, says the rebels appear to be more buoyant and organized than recently, while the sounds of gunfire and weaponry can be heard from the front line a few kilometers away. Rebel fighters are charging towards the front line, our correspondent says, clearly bolstered by the presence in their ranks of more and more soldiers who have defected from Col Gaddafi's army. But the rebels remain poorly trained and equipped, he adds, and even if they manage to take Brega there still seems no realistic prospect of an advance on Tripoli, the Libyan capital. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

4.04.11 TEPCO dumps 10,000 tons of low radioactive water into Pacific

TOKYO, April 4 - Tokyo Electric Power Co. began disposing of a total of 10,000 tons of water containing low-level radioactive substances in the Pacific Ocean on Monday from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to make room to store more highly polluted water filling the No. 2 reactor turbine building, as the water is hampering the plant's restoration work, it said. Separately from the contaminated water kept in a waste processing building, the company also said it plans to release 1,500 tons of groundwater, also containing radioactive materials, near the No. 5 and No. 6 reactors. The government said the water disposal will pose ‘‘no major health risk’’ and is inevitable in order to secure safety. [More>>japantoday.com]

4.04.11 17 dead in Yemen, Saleh slips out of US favor

SANAA, Yemen (AFP) April 4 - Yemeni security forces shot dead at least 17 protesters on Monday as Gulf states offered their mediation and Washington reportedly pulled the plug on embattled President Ali Abdullah Saleh. "The death toll has gone up to 17," said Sadeq al-Shujaa, head of a makeshift field hospital at a square in central Taez after security forces opened fire on demonstrators marching on the local governorate headquarters. Witnesses said the demonstrators stormed the courtyard of the governorate and that plainclothes gunmen and rooftop snipers also took part in the gunfire to push them back. The bloodshed, a day after another protester was shot dead in Taez, 200 kilometers (125 miles) from the capital, sent the death toll to more than 100 in a crackdown on protests in the impoverished state since late January. With the rising death toll, Saleh, a longtime US ally in Washington's fight against al-Qaeda, appears to be losing American support. The US government is taking part in efforts to negotiate the president's departure and a transitional handover of power, according to a report in the New York Times on Sunday. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

4.04.11 Afghan 'policeman' guns down ISAF soldiers

April 4 - Local official claims two American soldiers were shot by an Afghan border policeman they were training. An Afghan border policeman has shot dead two soldiers from the NATO-led coalition in northern Faryab province. Abdul Sattar Bariz, the deputy governor of the province, said the victims were American soldiers, killed at a checkpoint by a member of the Afghan Border Police on Monday. "He killed the two trainers while they were teaching them, in Faryab city," Bariz told the Reuters news agency by telephone. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it was investigating the deaths. "According to initial reporting, an individual in an Afghan Border Police uniform fired on the ISAF members inside a compound. The individual who fired the shots fled the scene," an ISAF statement said. The uniform does not prove conclusively the attacker was a policeman because Afghan security force outfits are readily available in markets across the country. Their sale is technically illegal, and insurgents have sometimes worn them during attacks. On a number of previous occasions, members or purported members of the Afghan security forces have killed their foreign counterparts. [More>>aljazeera.net]

4.04.11 Thousands demonstrate in Morocco for rights, justice

CASABLANCA, Morocco (AFP) April 4 - About 4,000 people demonstrated in Morocco's biggest city Casablanca Sunday to demand more democracy and reform, an AFP reporter said, in the latest in a wave of protests. Police said about 2,500 people took part in the demonstrations while organizers put the figure at 10,000. Demonstrators chanted "No to corruption," "End social injustice," and "The people want an end to authoritarianism." Most were from the February 20 pro-reform movement, named after the date of the first nationwide protest in a series of demonstrations this year, while the main Islamist movement Justice and Charity was also represented. Some demonstrators demanded the repeal from the constitution of Article 19 which makes King Mohammed VI the highest religious authority in Morocco. [More>>alarabiya.net]


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