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News Headlines & Trends

04.29.10 Exxon profit up 38% as oil prices rise

(AP) April 29 - Exxon Mobil said Thursday its quarterly profit jumped 38 percent as oil prices rose in the first three months of the year. That marks the first year-over-year increase in profit for Exxon since it posted a record of $14.83 billion in the third quarter of 2008. Still, earnings remain significantly below that level. During the first three months of this year, the company had a profit of $6.3 billion, or $1.33 a share. That compares with $4.55 billion, or 92 cents a share, in the comparable period last year. Two years ago, Exxon earned $10.89 billion in the first quarter. Revenue rose 41 percent to $90.25 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.41 a share on revenue of $96.41 billion. [More>>nytimes.com]

04.29.10 Government vows aggressive action on oil spill

April 29 - Federal funds freed: Cabinet officials to travel to Gulf Coast Friday as oil expected to hit US coastline. The Obama administration pledged an all-out response Thursday to the massive oil spill now expected to reach the Gulf Coast within a day and dispatched top officials to the region to help coordinate defenses against the potential environmental disaster. "We are being very aggressive and we are prepared for the worst case," Coast Guard Rear Adm. Sally Brice-O'Hara said at the White House. President Obama, speaking at an event for the 2010 National Teacher of the Year, said he had been receiving frequent briefings on the situation and that he is prepared to use the resources of the Department of Defense if necessary to deal with the oil spill. [More>>cbsnews.com; See related story,

timesonline.co.uk, April 29, "Oil spill off US coast is worse than we thought, BP admits" :
BP has conceded that the extent of an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico may be much worse than originally thought. The oil giant was responding to a warning from US officials that the amount of crude leaking from the sunken Deepwater Horizon rig could be five times greater than early estimates. "I would say the range is 1,000 to 5,000 barrels a day," Doug Suttles, BP's chief operating officer for exploration and production, said. His remarks followed the discovery of a third leak at the site of last week's explosion, which led the US Government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to increase its estimate of the amount of oil spilled into the ocean to 5,000 barrels of oil a day...

04.29.10 Israel official: Accepting Palestinians into Israel better than two states

JERUSALEM, April 29 - Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Thursday that he would rather accept Palestinians as Israeli citizens than divide Israel and the West Bank in a future two-state peace solution. Speaking during a meeting with Greece's ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis, Rivlin said that he did not see any point of Israel signing a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority as he did not believe PA President Mahmoud Abbas "could deliver the goods." Referring to the possibility that such an agreement could be reached, Rivlin said: "I would rather Palestinians as citizens of this country over dividing the land up." Late last year, Rivlin said in a Jerusalem address that Israel's Arab population was "an inseparable part of this country. It is a group with a highly defined shared national identity, and which will forever be, as a collective, an important and integral part of Israeli society." [More>>haaretz.com]

04.29.10 Mideast nearing 'explosion,' Jordan's Abdullah says

(DPA) April 29 - Jordan's King Abdullah II warned Thursday that the situation in the Middle East could "explode" due to Israel's building of settlements in East Jerusalem. "I am afraid the tension could develop into an explosion with all parties paying the price," the monarch said in a speech to the annual conference of Jordanian ambassadors. His comments came ahead of a meeting this weekend of the Arab League in Cairo, which may herald the resumption of indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Abdullah accused Israel of "playing with fire" by carrying out unilateral actions in East Jerusalem which the Jewish state captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. "Israel should choose between living in an isolated fortress in the region or reaching peace with all Arab and Islamic states in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative," he said. The Arab peace plan, which was launched at the Arab summit conference in Beirut in 2002, offers Israel recognition by all Arab states if it pulled out from all the Arab territories it occupied in the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem.

Two weeks ago, Abdullah told the Chicago Tribune that a war could break out in the Middle East this summer if no progress is made in restarting Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. "If we hit the summer and there's no active [peace] process, there's a very good chance for conflict, and nobody wins when it comes to that," Abdullah said.

04.29.10 Pakistan moves 100,000 troops from LoC to fight Taliban: Report

WASHINGTON, April 29 - Pakistan has moved 100,000 troops from its borders with India, thinning the lines, to bolster its campaign against Taliban and other militants on its restive border with Afghanistan, the Pentagon said. The mass shifting of troops is an acknowledgement of the fact that terrorism and internal insurgency were posing more threat[s] to Pakistan now, the Pentagon said in a report to the US Congress. "More than 100,000 PAKMIL troops were moved from the eastern border with India. This unprecedented deployment and thinning of the lines against India indicates that Islamabad has acknowledged its domestic insurgent threat," the department said in its latest report on Afghanistan. The Pentagon did not specify the regions' from where the troops had been pulled out, but said it estimated that more than 140,000 Pakistani forces were now taking part in the ongoing offensive against the Taliban in Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region, known as FATA. [More>>indianexpress.com; See related story,

bbc.co.uk, April 29, "Pakistan Taliban militants 'reapper' in Swat valley
:Taliban militants have resumed targeted killings of local leaders in Pakistan's troubled Swat valley, officials have told the BBC. Pakistan's army declared the Swat valley free of militants after carrying out an anti-Taliban operation in 2009. A Pakistani army spokesman said three people had died in attacks over the last 10 days. Local journalists say that seven have died in 15 days. The militants were effectively in control of the region from 2007...

04.29.10 Afghan lawmaker says relative killed after US soldiers raided her home

KABUL, April 29 - A member of the Afghan parliament said US soldiers raided her home and killed her relative early Thursday morning, the latest controversial allegation of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The confrontation at the home of lawmaker Safiya Sidiqi set off an angry protest in the Surkh Rod district of eastern Afghanistan, with residents blocking the highway to Kabul for hours and shouting "death to America." In a statement, NATO officials said a patrol with international and Afghan troops killed "one armed individual," while chasing a Taliban facilitator in the district. They said they tried to get him to lower his gun with hand signals and commands through a translator. "The individual ignored the repeated commands, raised his weapon and aimed at the combined force, and then was shot and killed," the statement read. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

04.29.10 Egypt mufti sanctions mingling of the sexes

DUBAI, April 29 - If it is within limits of public decency norms. A simmering controversy among religious scholars in Saudi Arabia on whether sex segregation is permissible in Islam spilled over into Egypt, where the country's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa has thrust his voice behind moderates sanctioning mixed gender environments. Gomaa argues that Islam does not prohibit the mingling of males and females in public places, including schools and universities, provided it is within limits of shared public decency norms. "There is no problem in mingling if a woman abides by the rules of Islam," he said. "A woman is advised to wear clothes that are neither tight nor revealing."

The same, he added, applies to men "since Islam demands that both men and women stay away from anything that might instigate them into falling prey to sinful behaviors." Gomaa's statements came in response to a question asking his opinion on the issue of gender segregation, which has divided some prominent Muslim clerics in the neighboring Saudi Arabia. Recently Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, head of Mecca's branch of the religious police body known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, infuriated hardline religious scholars by sanctioning the mixing between men and women.

04.29.10 Qaeda 'postman' dispatched Iraq chiefs to deaths

BAGHDAD (AFP) April 29 - An al-Qaeda messenger unwittingly dispatched two top Islamist commanders to their deaths this month, when a US-backed force tracked him to their den and killed them, investigators told AFP on Thursday. Abu Omar Al Baghdadi and Abu Ayub Al Masri, who had direct links with Osama bin Laden, were killed in a shootout when a joint Iraqi-US force raided their safehouse north of Baghdad on April 18. Baghdadi was the political leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) while Masri, an Egyptian militant, was the insurgent group's self-styled 'minister of war.' The pair, according to investigators, did not use cell phones or the Internet but relied on their own postman who relayed messages between them and other insurgents.

Once a week the man, whose identity was not revealed, sat in a Baghdad cafe where he discreetly made contact with insurgents, delivering messages from Baghdadi and receiving others for the top al-Qaeda operative. Iraqi officials learned of the messenger's existence on March 11 when security forces captured Munaf Abdul Rahim Al Rawi, the al-Qaeda chief in the Iraqi capital who was known as the 'governor of Baghdad.'...The drone followed the courier as he boarded a van loaded with vegetables heading south for the Lake Tharthar region where the al-Qaeda commanders were holed up, the officer said...
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

04.29.10 Two police killed in blast in Russia's Dagestan

MANHACHKALA (RIA Novosti) April 29 - Two police officers were killed and seven wounded in a blast near a police station in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Dagestan on Thursday, a police spokesman said. "According to preliminary information, a Lada Priora car exploded near a police station killing two and wounding seven policemen," he said. He added that the car blew up when police stopped it to inspect the driver's documents. Russia has been fighting militants in the North Caucasus for almost two decades, including two brutal wars against separatists in Chechnya. [>en.rian.ru]

04.28.10 Coast Guard to set fire to oil leaking in the gulf

NEW ORLEANS (AP) April 28 - The Coast Guard planned to set fire to oil leaking from the site of an exploded drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday, a last-ditch effort to get rid of it before it reaches environmentally sensitive marshlands on the Louisiana coast. Fire-resistant containment booms will be used to corral some of the thickest oil on the surface, which will then be ignited, said Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Prentice Danner. It was unclear how large an area would be set aflame, what would used to do it and how far from shore the first fire would burn. The slick was about 20 miles east of the the mouth of the Mississippi River. About 42,000 gallons of oil a day are leaking into the Gulf from the blown-out well where the Deepwater Horizon exploded and sank last week. Eleven workers are missing and presumed dead. The cause of the explosion has not been determined. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

04.28.10 Higher oil prices lift Royal Dutch shell's profits by 60 percent

April 28 - Royal Dutch Shell announced a 60 percent increase in profits this morning, propelled by higher oil and gas prices and growth in production. Shell, Europe's biggest oil company, said that the current cost of supply profits, a key industry measure which strips out fluctuations in the price of energy, reached $4.8 billion in the three months to March 31, up from $3 billion a year ago. The performance was boosted by a 6 percent increase in the Anglo-Dutch company's oil and gas production, which hit 3.59 million barrels per day after the ramp-up of the Sakhalin II project in Russia and Parque das Conchas in Brazil. Together these are producing an extra 120,000 barrels of oil per day, Shell said. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

04.28.10 Political grandstanding: Wall Street slams Goldman Sachs hearings

April 28 - Professionals on Wall Street reacted to senators' dramatic grilling of Goldman Sachs executives with mild annoyance, although Tuesday's hearing may have scored some points with voters on Main Street. "Grandstanding of the highest order," said Sean Gambino, a veteran Wall Street trader, referring to politicians' aggressive, nearly 11-hour questioning of execs including Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein and 31-year old executive director Fabrice Tourre. Gambino added that Sen. Carl Levin, who as chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations led the hearings, "has zero fundamental understanding about how markets work."

...In a few corners of the financial world, however, some dissenting opinions could be heard. Keith McCullough, former hedge fund manager and owner of securities research firm Hedgeye in New Haven, Conn., says the scrutiny on Goldman Sachs may reveal some ugly truths. "Goldman's conflicted and compromised money machine of an opaque past is finally going to be held accountable to one question: What is it that you do to make all that money?" Senators in Washington seemed intent to find an answer to the same question with their examination, directed at seven former and current Goldman employees, including Blankfein, "Fabulous Fab" Tourre and C.F.O. David Vinair. Throughout, the men defended themselves against unyielding criticism that they exploited the US housing bubble at the expense of unwitting clients.
[Full story>>abcnews.go.com]

04.28.10 Greece crisis: Fears grow that it could spread

April 28 - The head of the International Monetary Fund has warned that the crisis in Greece could spread throughout Europe. Dominique Strauss-Kahn said that every day lost in resolving Greece's problems risks spreading the impact "far away." World financial markets, recovering slightly on Wednesday, have been badly hit by fears of contagion from Greece. Mr. Strauss-Kahn was speaking at a news conference in Berlin after trying to persuade reluctant German politicians to back the terms of a rescue deal. But even as politicians were trying to resolve the crisis, Europe's debt problems were flaring elsewhere. The Standard & Poor's ratings agency delivered more bad news by downgrading Spain's debt to AA from AA+. The agency said Spain's growth prospects were weak after the collapse of a credit-fuelled housing and construction bubble. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

04.28.10 Regulators approve first offshore wind farm in US

BOSTON, April 28 - After nine years of regulatory review, the federal government gave the green light Wednesday to the nation's first offshore wind farm, a highly contested project off the coast of Cape Cod. The approval of the 130-turbine farm gives a significant boost to the nascent offshore wind industry in the United States, which has lagged far behind Europe and China in harnessing the strong and steady power of ocean breezes to provide electricity to homes and businesses. With Gov. Deval Patrick standing beside him, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced at a news conference at the Massachusetts Statehouse that the government had approved a permit for Cape Wind Associates, a private venture, to build the farm.

"I am approving the Cape Wind project," Mr. Salazar said. "This will be the first of many projects up and down the Atlantic coast." The Cape Wind turbines would lie in Nantucket Sound, about five miles from the nearest shoreline, and cover 24 square miles, roughly the size of Manhattan. The tip of the highest blade of each turbine would reach 440 feet above the water. But the project is hardly shovel ready. Several regulatory hurdles remain, and opponents of the wind farm have vowed to go to court, potentially stalling Cape Wind for several more years.

04.28.10 Swiss want to speed up return of looted assets

BERNE (Reuters) April 28 - Switzerland on Wednesday unveiled a bill aimed at speeding up the return of assets locked in Swiss accounts to the countries they were looted from, amending legislation after a series of embarrassments. A loophole in the system meant the Swiss repeatedly failed to confiscate and hand over to Haiti, one of the world's poorest countries which suffered a devastating earthquake in January, nearly $6 million belonging to former ruler "Baby Doc" Duvalier held in Switzerland...Switzerland, which no longer accepts such illicit assets and has introduced strict money-laundering rules, has returned to countries over the past 15 years more than 1.7 billion Swiss francs that once belonged to corrupt politicians. This included assets from Nigeria's ex-ruler Sani Abacha, former Philippine's president Ferdinand Marcos and the former head of Peru's secret service Vladimiro Montesinos. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

04.28.10 Quick Colon Cancer test could cut deaths by 40%

April 28 - 5-Minute Flexi-Scope Test Could Save Thousands of Lives, British Researchers Say. A five-minute colon cancer test could reduce the number of deaths from the disease by about 40 percent, a new study says. British researchers followed more than 170,000 people for about 11 years. Of those, more than 40,000 had a "flexi-scope" test, an exam that removes polyps, small growths that could become cancerous. The test involves having a pen-sized tube inserted into the colon so doctors can identify and remove small polyps. Researchers used the test on people in their 50s. In the UK, government-funded colon cancer screening doesn't start until age 60.

Researchers compared those results to more than 113,000 people who were not screened. They found the flexi-scope test reduced peoples' chances of getting colon cancer by one third. It also cut their chances of dying by 43 percent. Researchers said the test needed to be done just once in a person's lifetime. The results were published online Wednesday in the medical journal, Lancet. It was paid for by Britain's Medical Research Council, National Health Service Research & Development, Cancer Research UK and KeyMed.
[More>>cbsnews.com; See also independent.co.uk]

04.28.10 'Muslims, Asians not welcome buy my house'

April 28 - A former right-wing leader in Australia has ignited a controversy by openly declaring that she would not sell her property to Asians who lived overseas, and to Muslims who she believes are not "compatible with our culture." The former leader of Australia's One Nation party, that rode on an anti-immigration sentiment, Pauline Hanson has put her house on sale, and she says Asians and Muslims need not bother putting in any offers. Hanson had put up for sale her million-dollar property in Coleyville, southwest of Brisbane and announced she was moving to Britain earlier this year. Hanson, whose fame stems from her hardline anti-immigration views when she entered parliament in 1996, told a radio channel today that she would not allow certain members of the Australian community to purchase the property.

Asked if she would be prepared to sell the property to a Muslim, she said she would not. "Because I don't believe that they are compatible with our way of life, our culture," she told Seven's Sunrise programme, when asked why. "And I think we are going to have problems with them in this country further down the track, so I have no intention of selling my home to a Muslim," she said. Asked if Asians were welcome to express interest in the property, Hanson said she would not sell the home to an Asian who lived overseas. But she had no problem with selling the property to "an Australian who is of Asian background." "No problems whatsoever," she said.

04.28.10 Egypt court convicts 26 men of links to Hezbollah

April 26 - An Egyptian court on Wednesday convicted 26 men of planning attacks inside Egypt and of being linked to Lebanese group Hezbollah. Judge Adel Abdel Salam Gomaa of the emergency state security court sentenced the men who included Lebanese, Palestinians, Egyptians and one Sudanese to prison terms ranging from six months to 25 years. Gomaa said the investigation proved the group intended "to strike Egypt's economy, destroy the bonds between its people and create chaos and instability throughout the country." The court's sentences may not be appealed. Only the president can overturn its verdict. The 26 detainees in the were arrested in late 2008 and early 2009 and charged with conspiring to carry out attacks against the Suez Canal and tourist sites within Egypt, spying for a foreign entity and possession of explosives. [More>>haaretz.com]

04.28.10 Iraqis tortured, raped in illegal prison: HRW

BAGHDAD, April 28 - Inmates sodomized with brooms and pistol barrels. Torture, beating and sodomizing inmates with brooms or pistol barrels were the norm at an illegal prison run by a military unit under the command of the Iraqi prime minister's office, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, in a harrowing report reminiscent of the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib. The watchdog interviewed 42 men who were recently transferred from a jail where they say the brutality took place to another detention facility in Baghdad, after details of misconduct were passed to the government..."The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna," the watchdog's deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said, referring to the west Baghdad prison where the men were held until recently. "The government needs to prosecute all those responsible for this systematic brutality." [More>>alarabiya.net]

Editorial note:
Another prison system in the Middle East that is known for torture is Evin Prison in Iran. See Maravot News for recent YouTube testimony of young woman raped and mutilated.

04.28.10 Women with suntans will be arrested, Iran police chief warns

april 28 - The warning follows recent comments made by a hard-line Iranian cleric, who claimed women dressed in revealing clothing were disturbing young men and causing earthquakes. Women with suntans are violating Islamic law and will be arrested in Iran, the capital city's police chief was reported by The Daily Telegraph as saying Wednesday. "The public expects us to act firmly and swiftly if we see any social misbehavior by women, and men, who defy our Islamic values," Brigadier Hossien Sajedinia said. "In some areas of north Tehran we can see many suntanned women and young girls who look like walking mannequins," he continued.

"We are not going to tolerate this situation and will first warn those found in this manner and then arrest and imprison them." The warning follows recent comments made by a hard-line Iranian cleric, who claimed women dressed in revealing clothing were disturbing young men and causing earthquakes. A preacher has also told the residents of Iran's capital Tehran to leave the city. "Go on the streets and repent for your sins. A holy torment is upon us. Leave town," said Ayatollah Aziz Khoshvaqt during a recent sermon in northern Tehran.
[>foxnews.com; See background stories, Maravot News 04.25.10 Iran: The list of 101 journalists who have been jailed]

04.28.10 Top Saudi clerics rebuff outspoken religious cop on prayer

(AFP) April 28 - Saudi Arabia's top Islamic rule-makers reiterated on Wednesday that Muslims should pray in congregation in mosques, rebuffing an an outspoken religious police official who nearly lost his job for saying that praying alone is fine. The Standing Committee for Scientific Research and Issuing Fatwas weighed in on the controversy over prayer sparked last week by Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, the reformist head of the religious police, or muttawa. The committee cited Islamic tradition and texts to argue that congregational prayer in a mosque is a must, saying that even in a town with only three men, they must pray together, the official SPA news agency reported.

"These days some newspapers publish articles by some authors who brush aside the importance of group prayer in the mosque," the committee of top clerics said in remarks carried by the SPA. "There is no doubt that it is obligatory to follow the evidence from the Koran and the Sunnah which both call for group prayer in a mosque," they said. In an interview last week, Ghamdi had said Muslim men were not obligated to undertake the prayers in congregations, in or outside mosques. That outraged the country's highest cleric Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh and within two days the president of the religious police
whose cops have the duty to press men to attend prayers announced Ghamdi had been replaced. [More>>france.24.com]

04.28.10 12 civilians killed in Afghanistan bomb blast

KABUL, April 28 - A Taliban-style bomb has killed 12 civilians when their van struck the device in eastern Afghanistan. The victims were heading home from a shopping trip on Wednesday when they hit the bomb, known as an IED or improvised explosive device. "Twelve people including women and children and men, were killed in that explosion," said Dawlat Khan Qayomi, district chief of Tani, in Khost province. [>thenews.com.pk]

04.28.10 Police: Suicide bomber kills 4 in NW Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 28 - A suicide car bomber rammed into an armored police vehicle in northwest Pakistan's main city on Wednesday morning, killing four officers and wounding 11 other people, police said. The attack underscored the persistent threat of militancy to US-allied Pakistan, despite army offensives in the tribal regions along the border designed to clear out Taliban and al-Qaeda havens. The attack occurred at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Peshawar and also damaged some nearby houses, said Liaquat Ali Khan, a senior police official. Four civilians in the houses were among the wounded, he said. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

04.28.10 Putin launches oil extraction in Russian Caspian

KORCHAGIN OIL PLATFORM, Caspain Sea (RIA Novosti) April 28 - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visited an oil platform on the Russian part of the Caspian Sea on Wednesday to launch industrial oil production by Russia's largest independent oil producer, LUKoil. In mid-September 2009, LUKoil completed construction of a maritime platform for oil storage and loading onto tankers from the Korchagin field on the Caspian Sea. The field lies around 180 km (112 miles) from Astrakhan and 240 km (149 miles) from Makhachkala and has recoverable reserves estimated at 28.8 million metric tons (211 million barrels) of oil and 63.3 billion cu m of natural gas.

The offshore deposit could yield a maximum annual output of 2.5 million (18 million barrels) of oil and 1 billion cubic meters of natural gas. From 1999 to 2005, LUKoil discovered six oil and gas deposits in the northern part of the Caspian Sea, with total reserves of 4.7 billion barrels of oil equivalent. Eventually, LUKoil plans to begin development on other deposits in the Russian part of the Caspian. LUKoil CEO Vagit Alekperov said in September 2009 total investment in hydrocarbon extraction in the Russian Caspian would reach $12 billion in the next six and a half years.

04.28.10 Rights activists killed in Mexico

April 28 - Two human rights activists have been killed in a paramilitary attack on an aid convoy travelling to a breakaway region of southern Mexico, the convoy's organizers have said. Gunmen opened fire on the convoy as it was carrying food and water to a blockaded indigenous community in Oaxaca state.  At least three others were injured in the attack, which took place outside the town of La Sabana en route to the San Juan Copala municipality,which has declared itself autonomous, the convoy's organizers told Al Jazeera.   VOCAL, a human rights group involved in organizing the convoy, released a statement stating that two activists had been shot dead by gunmen who oppose the declaration. "Regrettably, as information is coming in, we know that two comrades lost their lives in this paramilitary attack," the statement said. "This armed attack is a product of the conditions of institutional violence and impunity that paramilitary groups enjoy in this region."  [More>>aljazeera.net]

04.27.10 Russia and Norway strike Arctic sea border deal

OSLO (Reuters) April 27 - Russia and Norway agreed on the course of their Arctic maritime border on Tuesday, after four decades of talks, paving the way for the disputed area to be opened for oil and gas exploration. Until now, Europe's two top energy suppliers have not been able to tap into a remote and inhospitable region of the Barents Sea that lies between other proven oil and gas deposits. In a surprise announcement, visiting Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the Arctic neighbors had agreed to "close the question" of the demarcation of their sea border off Europe's northern tip, and were preparing final documents. "I hope more projects in the energy sphere will arise ... This would be quite a practical result," Medvedev told a joint news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg said: "This is a historic day. We have reached a breakthrough in the most important outstanding issue between Norway and the Russian Federation." The preliminary deal envisages splitting roughly in half an area of the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean covering some 175,000 sq. am (68,000 square miles). A final accord is due later this year, Stoltenberg said. Much of the disputed zone is located between Gazprom's huge Shtokman gas discovery on the Russian side, a reservoir that alone holds enough gas to meet the world's entire consumption for a year, and two oil and gas fields off Norway in which Norway's Statoil has stakes.

04.27.10 Yemen arrests dozens of al-Qaeda suspects

SANAA (Reuters) April 27 - Yemeni police arrested dozens of al-Qaeda suspects in sweeps a day after a suicide bomber tried to kill Britain's ambassador to Yemen, security officials said on Tuesday. In Yemen's turbulent north, three people were wounded as rebels exchanged fire with pro-government tribes who cut a main road to the capital. Among those taken into custody, the officials said, were seven Yemenis who had close relations with the bomber, who died when he attacked the convoy of British Ambassador Tim Torlot on Monday. The seven men, as well as the bomber, had all been arrested for suspected al-Qaeda ties following the September 11, 2001 attacks on US targets, but were released after two years in prison, according to the officials. Yemen has been battling al-Qaeda and other militant groups eroding its stability for years. The group's regional wing, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, is based in Yemen and has previously threatened and attacked embassies. Monday's attack "bore the hallmarks of al-Qaeda," Yemen's interior ministry said. [>khaleejtimes.com]

04.27.10 France arrests five over 'jihadi' web posts

PARIS (AFP) April 27 - French anti-terror officers arrested five suspected Islamic extremists Tuesday after they allegedly posted comments on radical websites calling for Jihad or Muslim holy war. The five, all French-born men aged between 25 and 30, were arrested in simultaneous dawn raids in the southern city of Marseille, Brittany and the Paris suburbs, according to officials connected to the inquiry. The arrests formed part of an inquiry by the Paris anti-terrorism court. All five men have been remanded in custody and their homes and computers were searched by specialist officers, the officials said. [>arabtimesonline.com]

04.27.10 Military's Hypersonic Falcon Missile test a dud?

April 26 - On the heels of last week's top-secret X37-B launch, the US Air Force launched -- and ultimately crashed an experimental hypersonic glider theoretically capable of hitting Mach 20. It was a watershed week for conspiracy theorists, with President Barack Obama throwing his support behind several major upgrades to the country's rapid-response strike capability. On the heels of the top-secret X37-B launch, the US Air Force launched an even more secret experimental hypersonic glider able to travel more than 4,000 miles in 30 minutes from launch. The craft dubbed the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 was launched via a Minotaur 4-Lite rocket Thursday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the Air Force announced.

Conspiracy theorists have long reported on a secret project known as "Aurora"
a hypersonic spy plane capable of speeds up to Mach 6 (3,700 mph). The Falcon seems to be the culmination of that project, but it's capable of much, much more, according to a fact sheet from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The sheet explains that once the vehicle accelerates into the upper atmosphere, it is designed to separate from its booster and glide across the Pacific at around 13,000 mph, or nearly Mach 20.

The test vehicle launched last week reached Mach 5 on launch, and was designed to crash and sink into the sea and sink near Kwajalein Atoll, 2,000 miles south-west of Hawaii, 30 minutes later and 4,000 miles from the launch site...The glider's speeds of 3,600 mph are more than seven times faster than the Tomahawk guided missiles that were too slow to kill Osama bin Laden at an Afghanistan training camp in 1998. The White House has requested almost $250 million for research into hypersonic technologies which harness shock waves generated by a fast-moving missile to increase its speed further.
[Full story>>forxnews.com]

04.26.10 US drone strike kills 8 in Pakistan: officials

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, April 26 - A US missile attack destroyed a suspected Taliban-linked hideout in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt on Monday and killed at least eight militants, local security officials said. It was the second such strike in 48 hours, as the United States pursues Taliban fighters and other al-Qaeda-linked groups that have carved out strongholds in the rugged North Waziristan district on the Afghan border. Three missiles struck a compound mid-morning in the Khushali Toorkhel area, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) east of Miranshah, North Waziristan's main town. "The target was a militant compound belonging to followers of a local rebel commander Haleem Khan, and the US drone fired three missiles," a senior Pakistani security official said.

"Eight militants were killed and several others sustained injuries in the strike," another security official said. Officials initially put the death toll at four, but said it was likely to rise. Pakistani security officials said most of the dead were militants from the Mehsud tribe in neighboring South Waziristan, from which top leaders and many footsoldiers in Pakistan's main Tehreek-e-Taliban faction are drawn. Officials said that Khan, the local rebel commander, was not among the dead. He is believed to have ties to Taliban-linked Afghan warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who is reputed to control up to 2,000 fighters in the region who stage attacks over the border against foreign forces stationed in Afghanistan.

04.26.10 Polygamy stokes France's Muslim veil debate?

April 26 - She was fined for driving a car with a veil covering all but her eyes. Now, her husband is suspected of polygamy. The situation appears to be a boon to President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is trying to rush through controversial legislation forbidding burqa-style Islamic veils that cover the face on the grounds they don't respect French values or women's dignity. But it has stoked debate and might backfire on legal grounds. Many Muslims fear a law banning face-covering veils because they say targeting the tiny minority of women who cover their faces stigmatizes France's entire Muslim community at an estimated 5 million people, the largest in western Europe. The revelation last week that a police officer cited a 31-year-old woman in Nantes for driving with apparel that hinders vision provided a taste of what is in store for France if a measure banning face-covering veils is passed, as expected. [More>>indianexpress.com]

04.26.10 Israeli forces kill wanted Hamas man

y'BEIT AWWA, West Bank (AFP) April 26 - Israeli forces on Monday killed a wanted Hamas man who had been hiding in a house in the southern West Bank, police and the army said. A team comprised of border police, soldiers and members of the Shin Bet domestic intelligence, "eliminated Ali Suweiti," a border police spokesman said. The army said the force surrounded the house in Beit Awwa where Suweiti had holed up and urged him to surrender. He refused "and opened fire at the forces" who returned fire, the army said in a statement. "The Hamas man continued to fire at the force, and was ultimately killed." [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

04.26.10 Out for the count: Why levels of sperm in men are falling

April 26 - Levels of 'viable' sperm in human males are falling and scientists believe they now understand the cause. Infertility can begin in the womb, says Steve Connor. If scientists from Mars were to study the human male's reproductive system they would probably conclude that he is destined for rapid extinction. Compared to other mammals, humans produce relatively low numbers of viable sperm sperm capable of making that long competitive swim to penetrate an unfertilized egg. As many as one in five healthy young men between the ages of 18 and 25 produce abnormal sperm counts. Even the sperm they do produce is often of poor quality. In fact only between 5 and 15 per cent of their sperm is, on average, good enough to be classed as "normal" under strict World Health Organization rules — and these are young, healthy men.

By contrast, more than 90 percent of the sperm of a domestic bull or ram, or even laboratory rat, are normal. Human males also suffer a disproportionately high incidence of reproductive problems, from congenital defects and undescended testes to cancer and impotency. As these also affect fertility, it's a minor miracle men are able to sire any children at all. In fact, an increasing number of men are finding themselves childless. Among the one in seven couples now classed as infertile, the "male factor" has been found to be the most commonly identified cause...There is now an emerging consensus among some experts that whatever it is that is exacerbating the problems of male infertility, it probably starts in the womb. It is not the lifestyle of men that is problem, but that of their mothers.
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

04.26.10 Iraq panel wipes out votes, result in doubt

BAGHDAD, April 26 - Affected candidates have month to appeal. An Iraqi judicial panel has invalidated the candidatures of 52 people who stood in Iraq's March 7 general election, an official said, casting a shadow over the slim lead of a Sunni-backed alliance. "Their participation in the election is considered cancelled," said Ali Mahmud, spokesman for the justice and accountability panel chaired by former deputy prime minister Ahmed Chalabi. "The appeal panel has rejected appeals from the 52 candidates which the justice and accountability panel discovered," Mahmud said. One of the names barred for alleged ties to Saddam Hussein's banned Baath party was a winner in the March 7 ballot for the cross-sectarian bloc of ex-premier Iyad Allawi, which rode strong Sunni support to gain a two-seat lead in the election. [More>>alarabiya.net]

04.26.10 EX Estremist fights jihadist ideology

April 26 - 60 Minutes: Maajid Nawaz explains how home-grown jihadists are recruited. When it comes to terrorism and extremism, intelligence agencies in the US and Europe have been grappling with the bewildering phenomenon: that a surprisingly large number of Islamic radicals are relatively well off and well-educated Westerners. To look into this, we recently went to Great Britain, where there are more supporters of al-Qaeda than anywhere else in the West. In London we met a British Muslim, Maajid Nawaz, who told us that what is turning so many of his countrymen into radicals is something called the "narrative," that says the United States is out to destroy Islam. It's an ideology Islamic radicals subscribe to. We asked Nawaz, a former true believer: exactly what is the narrative? [>cbsnews.com Full Segment: Jihadists And "The Narrative" ; See Maravot News related report, "The Allah Controversy," for other details involving interpretations of the Koran.]

04.26.10 Morocco dismantles terror network

April 26 - 24 suspects were allegedly preparing to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan. Moroccan security services dismantled a cell of 24 suspected terrorists with ties to al-Qaeda who are believed to have been plotting killings and attacks and preparing to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, the official news agency said Monday. The suspects were rounded up in recent days after some members of the alleged cell assaulted a police officer in the city of Casablanca, Morocco's economic capital, the MAP news agency said. The suspects "were preparing to commit murders and acts of sabotage in the country, including against security services and foreign interests in Morocco," MAP said, quoting a statement from the Interior Ministry.

Four of those arrested had already served prison time on terror-related charges, the agency said. Some of the men were being interrogated by a prosecutor, it said. The Interior Ministry said some cell members were getting ready to head to Iraq and Afghanistan to battle foreign troops there. Other suspects were on the verge of joining Islamist militants in Somalia and in the Sahara and Sahel desert regions, where an al-Qaeda offshoot known as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has been increasingly active in recent months.

AQIM is accused of kidnapping a French national and his Algerian driver in Niger last week. A tourism haven and a strong Western ally, Morocco has stepped up efforts to crack down on suspected terrorists since a string of suicide bombings killed at least 45 people in Casablanca in 2003. Dozens of people have been arrested since and several hundred suspects await trial on terror-related charges.

04.26.10 Ahmadinejad: UN Security Council is 'satanic'

(AP) April 26 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday labeled as "satanic" the United Nations Security Council and the right of veto held by its five permanent members, Iran's Students news agency ISNA reported. Ahmadinejad, who often rails against the West, said the power of veto held by the United States, China, Britain, France and Russia was aimed at "oppressing and destroying the true nature of mankind and are satanic tools," ISNA said. His comments came amid escalating tension in the Islamic Republic's long-running dispute with the West over Tehran's nuclear program, with the United States pushing for new UN sanctions against the major oil producer. Washington and its allies suspect Iran is seeking to develop nuclear bombs. Tehran denies the charge and says its nuclear work is aimed at generating electricity. [More>>haaretz.com]

04.26.10 'Boobquake' Today: Can cleavage cause earthquakes?

April 26 - Tens of thousands of women commit to event on Facebook. It promises to be a "scientific experiment" like none you've ever seen. To test an Iranian cleric's claim that immodestly dressed women are responsible for earthquakes, tens of thousands of women around the country plan to show off an extra bit of skin today. It all started a week ago, when Purdue University senior Jennifer McCreight, 22, wrote a blog post about some "supernatural thinking" put forward by Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, an Iranian prayer leader. "Many women who do not dress modestly … lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which [consequently] increases earthquakes," he was quoted as saying during Friday prayers in Tehran. Put off by the cleric's comment, the genetics major turned to her blog and declared that it was "Time for a Boobquake."

"On Monday, April 26th, I will wear my most cleavage-showing shirt," she wrote. "I encourage other female skeptics to join me and embrace the supposed supernatural power of their breasts. … With the power of our scandalous bodies combined, we should surely produce an earthquake." Her boob-baring comments quickly took the Internet by storm.

Boobquake Facebook Page Attracts Tens of Thousands of Women. By the end of the week, more than 100,000 women had pledged their support on the event's Facebook page and the hashtag #boobquake was a trending term on Twitter.
[More>>abcnew.go.com; See related story Maravot News April 25, 2010, "Iran: The list of 101 journalists who have been jailed" and Twitter links on Iranian women's rights' issues. Two reports there are of interest: The first is the video "On Cruel Islam" of a young woman convicted to three years in prison for not wearing the headscarf. She was raped five times in prison and her leg was horribly mutilated by the guards. The other story is "Iran's announcement for candidacy on the UN Women's Rights Commission." ]

04.26.10 'Suicide bomber' targets British Ambassador to Yemen

April 26 - The British Ambassador to Yemen was attacked by a suicide bomber in the capital, Sanaa, today but escaped unharmed, officials said. Tim Torlot, 52, a career diplomat who has served in the volatile Arab state since July 2007, was being driven in his armored vehicle when his two-vehicle convoy was attacked by a suspected al-Qaeda suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt. "The failed terrorist attack that targeted the British Ambassador in Sanaa carries the fingerprints of al-Qaeda," said the Yemeni Interior Ministry. The British Embassy was closed briefly in January after Yemeni intelligence sources said that an al-Qaeda cell close to the capital was planning to attack it and the US Embassy. The Yemeni Army later attacked the cell and killed several of its members. Two of Mr. Torlot's Yemeni police escort and a bystander were injured in this morning's blast but the bomber — who, witnesses said, was dressed in a school uniform — was the only fatality. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

04.26.10 Sudan's president wins re-election while facing international arrest warrant

KHARTOUM, Sudan, April 26 - Sudan's president won another term in office Monday, becoming the first leader to be elected while facing an international arrest warrant for alleged crimes he orchestrated in the western region of Darfur. Omar al-Bashir, who was seeking to boost his legitimacy at home, was widely expected to win in the first round for another five years in office after his most credible challengers pulled out from the race complaining of fraud. But his tainted re-election was likely to raise questions over his international standing and among his opponents, and was unlikely to alter Sudan's isolation. Al-Bashir can't travel freely because he risks being arrested to face charges in front of the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

Sudan's first multiparty presidential, parliamentary and local elections in 24 years were a key requirement of a 2005 peace deal that ended a 21-year civil war between the predominantly Arab and Muslim north and rebels in the Christian-animist south. The fighting left 2 million people dead and many more displaced. The elections set the road for the crucial 2011 referendum where the south will decide whether it wants to secede. International observers said the vote failed to meet international standards because of delays, intimidation and faulty lists, but they did not call for a revote. Instead the observers recommended that lessons drawn from the process be applied to next year's vote on southern independence.

04.26.10 Somali militants push toward pirate stronghold

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) April 26 - Fighters from Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked militant group moved into the northern region where Somali pirates operate early Monday, residents said, forcing pirates to flee and raising the specter of an insurgent attempt to close down the piracy trade. The pirate gang holding a kidnapped British couple fled into a forest to escape the militants, a self-proclaimed pirate chieftain said. Paul and Rachel Chandler were bundled into a car early Monday after militants neared the town of Haradhere, said Maslah Yare, who leads the pirate gang that is holding the Chandlers. Somali pirates and insurgents are two separate groups. If al-Shabab militants take control of pirate strongholds, the 300-plus foreign hostages that pirates hold could be in greater danger. [More>>foxnews.com]

04.25.10 Iran: The list of 101 journalists who have been jailed

Compiled by EA’s German Bureau. There may be even more names of detainees, as the list does not include the staff of Kalemeh, who were imprisoned last summer (most were subsequently released). Conversely, some of these journalists, may now have been freed on bail:

1. Adnan Hassanpour, Aso
Arrested: 25 January 2007
2. Mohammad Seddigh Kaboudvand, Payam-e Mardom
Arrested on: 1 July 2007
3. Mojtaba Lotfi, a freelance journalist
Arrested: 8 October 2008
4. Hossein Derakhshan, a freelance journalist, Blogger
Arrested: November 2008
5. Nader Karimi Jooni, Jahan-e-Sanat, Sharq, Gozaresh, Fekr and Siasat-e-Rooz
Arrested in: December 2008
6 Ahmad Zaid-Abadi, a freelance journalist
Arrested on: June 2009

[More>>enduringamerica.com via twitter: EANewsFeed @#IranElection]

Related stories, twitter.com,  

@#IranElection RT: Young lady raped FIVE times + look what happened 2 her leg http://youtu.be/ggQXpeSQ-rg
@#IranElection @abcnews RT: Purdue student's 'boobquake' is Web sensation http://bit.ly/agiqZ7
RT @iran_news: Iran announces its candidacy for Women's Rights Commission http://bit.ly/c9w3AB #iran #iranElection

04.25.10 Iranian technocrats, disillusioned with government, offer wealth of intelligence to US

April 25 - Iran's political turmoil has prompted a growing number of the country's officials to defect or leak information to the West, creating a new flow of intelligence about its secretive nuclear program, US officials said. The gains have complicated work on a long-awaited assessment of Iran's nuclear activities, a report that will represent the combined judgment of more than a dozen U.S. spy agencies. The National Intelligence Estimate was due last fall but has been delayed at least twice amid efforts to incorporate information from sources who are still being vetted. Director of National Intelligence Dennis C. Blair said in a brief interview last week that the delay in the completion of the NIE "has to do with the information coming in and the pace of developments."

Some of the most significant new material has come from informants, including scientists and others with access to Iran's military programs, who are motivated by antipathy toward the government and its suppression of the opposition movement after a disputed presidential election in June, according to current and former officials in the United States and Europe who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence gains. "There is a wealth of information-sharing going on, and it reflects enormous discontent among Iranian technocrats," said a former US government official who until recently was privy to classified reports about intelligence-gathering inside Iran. He said that among senior technocrats in the nuclear program and other fields, "the morale is very low."

04.25.10 Iran Guards test missiles, warn enemies

TEHRAN (Reuters) April 25 - Iran's Revolutionary Guards test-fired five missiles during war games in a waterway crucial for global oil supplies on Sunday, and a commander warned the Islamic Republic's enemies they would regret any attack. Iran, which is locked in a dispute with the West over its nuclear programme, often announces advances in its military capabilities and tests weaponry in an apparent bid to show its readiness for any strikes by Israel or the United States.

...Semi-official Fars News Agency said Guards’ naval units fired five missiles at a target, without making clear if they were newly designed missiles. "Despite the different places from which the missiles were fired , they all hit the target simultaneously and completely destroyed it," Fars said. The missiles were surface-to-surface and surface-to-sea...Iran, a predominantly Shia  Muslim state, has said it would respond to any attack by targeting US interests in the region and Israel, as well as closing the Strait of Hormuz. About 40 percent of the world's traded oil leaves the Gulf region through the strategic narrows.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

04.25.10 'Iran, Zimbabe strike nuke deal'

April 25 - UK paper: African nation to trade uranium ore deposits for oil. Iran has struck a nuclear mining deal with Zimbabwe, The Sunday Telegraph reported Sunday as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was visiting Africa. According to the UK paper, the deal was sealed in Teheran in March by a close aide of Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe. The agreement will reportedly entail Zimbabwe to provide Iran with access to deposits of uranium ore in return for oil. "Iran secured the exclusive uranium rights last month, when the minister of state for presidential affairs, Didymus Mutasa, visited Teheran," a Zimbabwean official told the Telegraph. Iran's president is in Africa this week to build alliances to evade stronger UN sanctions for his country's nuclear program, ease its international isolation and strengthen its economy. [More>>jpost.com]

04.25.10 Sunken oil rig off Louisiana coast is leaking

NEW ORLEANS, April 24 - The Coast Guard discovered Saturday that oil is leaking from the damaged well that fed a massive rig that exploded this week off Louisiana's coast, while bad weather halted efforts to clean up the mess that threatens the area's fragile marine ecosystem. For days, the Coast Guard has said no oil appeared to be escaping from the well head on the ocean floor. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Mary Landry said the leak was a new discovery but could have begun when the rig sank on Thursday, two days after the initial explosion. "We thought what we were dealing with as of yesterday was a surface residual (oil) from the mobile offshore drilling unit," Landry said. "In addition to that is oil emanating from the well. It is a big change from yesterday ... This is a very serious spill, absolutely."

A robotic camera has determined a pipe leading from the well is leaking oil at an estimated rate of 1,000 barrels — or about 42,000 gallons a day, reports CBS News correspondent Don Teague. That's still much less than the worst-case scenario. By comparison, Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons in Alaska's Prince William Sound in 1989 — the worst oil spill in US history. The oil has formed a 20-by-20-mile slick — about 25 times larger than it appeared to be a day earlier, Landry said. Coast Guard officials say they have a third of the world's oil spill cleanup ships in the area already, and they're fighting the spill. The hope is they can contain and skim that oil off the surface until workers can shut off the flow.

04.25.10 Clashes erupt as extreme rightists march through East Jerusalem

April 25 - Hundreds of police officers deployed in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan on Sunday as extreme Israeli rightists set out to march in an attempt to demonstrate Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem. The march began just as US Middle East envoy George Mitchell met Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem for a second round of talks since Mitchell's arrival in the region. Since Thursday, Mitchell has also held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as part of an attempt to launch indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. In anticipation of violence in East Jerusalem, police dispatched a helicopter, a zeppelin and an observation balloon as precautionary measures in the volatile region.

Silwan residents flooded the streets in efforts to prevent the march from going ahead. Palestinian flags were hung in the windows and dozens of shoes were scattered in the streets as a symbol of protest. Dozens of masked men rioted in the streets, lighting tires on fire and hurling stones at police officers in the area. As the march began, the masked men hurled two firebombs at right wing activists. Some 50 activists, headed by extreme rightists Itamar Ben Gvir and Baruch Marzel, marched from the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City to the center of Silwan, protesting what they termed "illegal construction" in the area. The construction they referred to is the building of Palestinian homes without city permits. "We've proven to Netanyahu, Obama and Mitchell that we're the bosses in Jerusalem," said Ben Gvir during the march. Prior to the event, the right wing activist said in a radio interview that "There is no doubt that the fact that Mitchell is in the area only pushes us to try harder."

04.24.10 New cost estimate for bank bailouts: $87 billion

(AP) April 24 - Treasury Secretary sends letter to Congress reducing cost estimates for financial assistance to banks, other companies. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is telling Congress that the administration believes the final cost of the government's heavily criticized financial bailout effort could be as low as $87 billion. Geithner made the new estimate in a letter Friday to congressional leaders that was obtained by The Associated Press. A year ago, officials were estimating the bailout could cost as much as $500 billion.

The new estimate said the biggest losses will occur from the government's support of mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That loss was put at $85 billion followed by a loss of $49 billion from providing help to homeowners facing the threat of losing their homes through foreclosures. Geithner's letter estimated that the government would lose $48 billion through the support provided to insurance giant American International Group and another $28 billion would be lost through the billions of dollars in assistance provided to General Motors, Chrysler and their auto financing arms. The biggest offset to those losses will be earnings of $115 billion that the administration expects the Federal Reserve to realize from the extraordinary assistance it has given to provide liquidity to the financial system.

04.24.10 Goldman e-mails: 'Serious money' to be made

WASHINGTON (Reuters) April 24 - Firm boasted about money it was making as housing market collapsed. Goldman Sachs "made more than we lost because of shorts," Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in a November 2007 e-mail. Goldman Sachs officials discussed making "serious money" in 2007 off the subprime crisis as mortgages were starting to falter in rapid numbers, according to a collection of e-mails released by a Senate panel on Saturday. "Of course we didn't dodge the mortgage mess. We lost money, then made more than we lost because of shorts," Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said in an e-mail dating from November 2007.

"Sounds like we will make some serious money," said Goldman Sachs executive Donald Mullen in a separate series of e-mails from October 2007 about the performance of deteriorating second-lien positions in a collateralized debt obligation, or CDO. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations is holding a hearing on Tuesday with Blankfein and other Goldman executives, scheduled to testify about the role Goldman Sachs played in the financial crisis. The firm has been sued for civil fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its marketing of a CDO.

04.24.10 GM could be in hot water with FTC over truth in advertising

April 23 - General Motors is running ads on all the major networks this week claiming it has repaid its bailout from the taxpayers "in full." But the claim isn't standing up to scrutiny from lawmakers and government watchdogs who have found that the automaker was able to repay the bailout money only by dipping into a separate pot of bailout funds. [More>>foxnews.com]

04.24.10 Greece pleads for loan lifeline amid riots

April 24 - Greece is anxiously awaiting news from the International Monetary Fund about its urgent plea for a £39bn lifeline to pull itself out of debt. The IMF has promised to move quickly in response to Greece's request — the first ever from a country which has the euro as its currency. There are concerns across the eurozone that other states may need bailing out. Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou made his appeal to the IMF during a visit to a remote Aegean island, saying it was a "national and pressing necessity" to call for the aid. Under the deal, the IMF would lend Greece £8.6bn while eurozone countries would provide £26bn at an interest rate of around 5%. But Germany has warned that it would only give assistance if the euro itself was seen to be under threat. Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people took to the streets in the cities of Athens and Thessaloniki in protest about the government's appeal to the EU and the IMF, which would mean further cutbacks. [More>>news.sky.com]

04.24.10 Road to radicalism: The man behind the 'South Park' threats

April 24 - (Fox News exclusive): By all appearances, Zachary Adam Chesser was the boy next door. He played football and was on the crew team at one of the best high schools in the country. He even studied Japanese. He was hardly the sort of boy you'd expect would suggest on a radical Islamic website that the creators of the edgy cartoon series "South Park" will be targeted for death. But Chesser also had a dark side. He was a "loner," a former classmate said, one who frequently drew pictures of Satanic figures in his notebooks and had just a few friends, most of them male. "He was definitely sort of weird," the classmate told FoxNews.com. "He was very into violent industrial music, borderline Satanic bands and stuff like that. He had dark undertones in his interests."

Two years later, Chesser is literally a changed man. He now uses an alias and has a new set of hobbies. He now likes to be called Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, and his primary interest in this world appears to be Islamic radicalism. Last week, Chesser, 20, posted a warning on the website RevolutionMuslim.com following the 200th episode of "South Park," which included a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad disguised in a bear suit. The young man, who just two years ago was studying foreign languages at George Mason University, wrote on the site that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the cartoon's creators, "will probably end up" like Theo van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a film critical of Islamic society.

04.24.10 Is India a global trash can?

April 24 - At the start of the millennium, the picturesque Spanish city of Barcelona decided to ‘go green’ and free its historic land of waste. And so, 103.7 metric tones of Barcelona's garbage — from shredded plastic carry bags to used diapers and napkins — arrived last August at the nondescript port of Tuticorin in southern India. The three stinking containers were promptly sent back to Barcelona by alert Customs officials. However, for the last eight months, 72.59 metric tones of trash ranging from optical fibre waste to used oil cans and rubber hoses from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia have been lying at the Tuticorin dock, reeking. Last year alone, nine containers of hazardous waste imported from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Barcelona by three different companies in Tamil Nadu were caught at the port in a clear pointer to rural India becoming a waste bin for the developed world.

This year, too, 20 containers of hazardous waste from Greece and Reunion, a French colony, imported by a paper factory in southern Tamil Nadu, were “resent” from the Tuticorin port. Used syringes, juice cartons and blood-stained napkins collected by the municipal councils in suburban London were found in a pile of rubbish dumped in a well in a farm at Kemmarampalayam in Coimbatore in August 2008. But why are the developed nations dumping their garbage on Indian soil? Simply because shipping municipal waste to India is about four times cheaper than recycling it in their own land. While it costs Rs 12,000 to recycle a tonne of rubbish after segregation in Britain, shipping the rubbish to India costs just about Rs 2,800. Cement factories in Tamil Nadu also import toxic garbage on the pretext of using it as fuel. These consignments are booked innocuously as ‘mixed waste paper, plastic scrap or latex’ to hoodwink customs.

04.24.10 Militants killed in Afghan raids: officials

KABUL, April 24 - Afghan security forces backed by NATO troops and air power killed around 20 Taliban insurgents in a region of northern Afghanistan that is becoming increasingly restive, officials said Saturday. In one NATO air attack late Friday in the Char Dara district of Kunduz province, which borders Tajikistan, a militant commander and another fighter were killed, said Daud Ibrahimi, a senior security official. Ibrahimi said the rebel commander, identified as Mullah Silab, was the most senior Taliban commander in the district, where the rebels have intensified their activities in recent years. Two other militants associated with Silab were captured, he added. Other raids overnight Friday killed a rebel "group commander" named Hamza and a dozen of his men in Dasht-i-Archi district, another troubled region in Kunduz, he said. Several other militants were killed in a clash with police in the province's Imam Saheb district, Ibrahim said. [>thenews.com.pk]

04.24.10 China expands naval power to waters US dominates

YALONBAY, China, April 24 - The Chinese military is seeking to project naval power well beyond the Chinese coast, from the oil ports of the Middle East to the shipping lanes of the Pacific, where the United States Navy has long reigned as the dominant force, military officials and analysts say. China calls the new strategy “far sea defense,” and the speed with which it is building long-range capabilities has surprised foreign military officials. The strategy is a sharp break from the traditional, narrower doctrine of preparing for war over the self-governing island of Taiwan or defending the Chinese coast. Now, Chinese admirals say they want warships to escort commercial vessels that are crucial to the country's economy, from as far as the Persian Gulf to the Strait of Malacca, in Southeast Asia, and to help secure Chinese interests in the resource-rich South and East China Seas. [More>>nytimes.com]

04.23.10 'Very smart' piglet Gidget helps train guide dogs

April 24 - A three-month-old Australian piglet could be the world's first pig to help canines train to become guide dogs. Gidget the piglet attends training sessions at the Association of Australian Assistance Dogs in Mareeba, northern Queensland, for the past three weeks as a training distraction for the dogs, The Cairns Post reports. Owners Sarah Plowman-Ah Chee and her husband, Lester, said the piglet was given to their son, Augustine, as a baptism gift. Gidget shares her home with a horse named Beth, a pony named Tony, silky rooster Ralph, Penny the hen and a goat named Mona Lisa.

Sarah Plowman-Ah Chee said the piglet understands there is rest and play time, and slips into different modes when she works with the dogs. Director of training Liz Oehm said she always wanted to train a pig, and Gidget taught the guide dogs to work with an unusual distraction. She said pigs were used in training for other animals, but in Australia it was definitely a first for a pig to be in training with about 10 dogs. "They (dogs) just think she's another one of them except she snorts," Oehm said. "Pigs smell differently to dogs and are very, very smart."

04.23.10 Bombs kill 64 in Iraq after al-Qaeda deaths

BAGHDAD (Reuters) April 23 - A series of bombs targeting Shi'ite areas rocked Baghdad on Friday, killing at least 56 people in an apparent backlash after Iraq touted a series of blows against a weakened al-Qaeda-led insurgency. Eight people were also killed by bombs in the Sunni west of the country, less than a week after Iraqi security forces backed by US troops killed al-Qaeda's top two leaders in Iraq. Thirteen blasts hit different areas of the Iraqi capital around the time of Muslim prayers, mostly near Shi'ite mosques and at a marketplace, an Interior Ministry source said.

Three bombs targeted worshippers outside the main office of fiery anti-American Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the crowded Sadr City slum. Those blasts killed 39 people and wounded 56, generating denunciations of the security forces. Some youths threw stones at an Iraqi army vehicle. "Why do they always target us? We are peaceful people. We come to pray and then go on our way," one survivor told Reuters Television in an angry tirade, without identifying himself.

04.23.10 Killer fungus spreading in US, Canada

WASHINGTON, April 23 - A potentially deadly strain of fungus is spreading among animals and people in the northwestern US and the Canadian province of British Columbia, researchers reported on Thursday. The airborne fungus, called Cryptococcus gattii, usually only infects transplant and AIDS patients, but the new strain is genetically different, the researchers said. "This novel fungus is worrisome because it appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people,” said Edmond Byrnes of Duke University in North Carolina, who led the study. "The findings presented here document that the outbreak of C gattii in Western North America is continuing to expand throughout this temperate region," the researchers said in their report, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Pathogens.

"Our findings suggest further expansion into neighboring regions is likely to occur and aim to increase disease awareness in the region." The new strain appears to be unusually deadly, with a mortality rate of about 25% among the 21 US cases analyzed, they said. “From 1999 through 2003, the cases were largely restricted to Vancouver Island,” the report reads. "Between 2003 and 2006, the outbreak expanded into neighboring mainland British Columbia and then into Washington and Oregon from 2005 to 2009. Based on this historical trajectory of expansion, the outbreak may continue to expand into the neighboring region of Northern California, and possibly further." The spore-forming fungus can cause symptoms in people and animals two weeks or more after exposure. They include a cough that lasts for weeks, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, fever, nighttime sweats and weight loss. It has also turned up in cats, dogs, an alpaca and a sheep.

04.23.10 Militants kill four 'US spies'

MIRANSHAH, April 23 - Militants have killed four men, beheading two and dumping the bodies in Pakistan's northwest tribal belt after accusing them of spying for the United States, officials said Friday. The bodies were found by the side of a road in Khadi village, 25 kilometres (15 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town in the tribal North Waziristan region near the Afghan border, local police officer Kalam Khan told AFP. He said that two bodies were headless, while the remaining two had multiple bullet wounds. Two of the men were Afghans while the others were local tribesmen who had been kidnapped from Miranshah three weeks ago. A local intelligence official said that a note found near the bodies said "all those spying for the US and Pakistan will suffer the same fate." [>thenews.com.pk]

04.23.10 6 police, 1 civilian dead in Juarez shootout

April 23 - A noon shootout left six police officers and a civilian dead on the streets of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Friday, city officials said. Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said five of the dead were federal police officers and one was a female city officer, all part of the joint police task force formed to combat drug violence in the border town. Another federal officer was gravely wounded, Reyes said, and a city officer was wounded but not with life-threatening injuries. A civilian was hit by shrapnel but those injuries were also not serious, he added. Reyes said the incident began when two patrol cars, one from federal police and one from city police, stopped several people they had been investigating. Gunmen in three other cars attacked the police convoy with a variety of weapons, including AK-47s, he said, based on bullets and shell casings found on the scene. [More>>cnn.com]

04.23.10 Feds: al-Qaeda ordered NYC bomb plaot

NEW YORK, April 23 - Suspect pleads guilty to charges of planning attack on city's subway. Prosecutors say two al-Qaeda leaders met with New York terror suspects in Pakistan and ordered them to conduct a suicide bomb attack on city subways. Assistant US Attorney Geoffrey Knox identified them as senior operative Saleh al-Somali and Rashid Rauf. Both died in strikes in the past year in Pakistan. Knox made the disclosure in Brooklyn federal court Friday as Zarein Ahmedzay pleaded guilty to the suicide bomb plot last September. Ahmedzay said in court in Brooklyn that he had received orders from leaders of the al-Qaeda terrorist network to carry out the foiled plot in September 2009 to bomb Manhattan subway lines. He also pleaded guilty to providing material support to al-Qaeda. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

04.22.10 Is the X-37B the start of war in space?

April 22 - It's one of the most anticipated space launches since the original manned space shuttle Columbia blasted off in 1982. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been sunk into it over nearly 20 years of research and development. It's the X-37B.

And unfortunately, that's all we can tell you, because the unmanned spacecraft, which looks like a small shuttle, is one of the US military's most tightly guarded secrets. Built by Boeing's Phantom Works division, the X-37 program was originally headed by NASA. It was later turned over to the Pentagon's research and development arm and then to a secretive Air Force unit. And when it launches tonight (local time) in a nine-minute window between 23:52 and 00:01 GMT (09:52 - 10:01 AEST), only a very select few in the US military will know what its "unspecified payload" is. We do know it can circle the Earth for more than nine months. "In all honesty, we don't know when it's coming back," US Air Force spokesman Gary Payton told reporters yesterday.

04.22.10 Iraq captures senior al-Qaeda leader: spokesman

BAGHDAD (Xinhua) April 22 - Iraqi security forces captured the al-Qaeda leader of Baghdad province who is accused of masterminding most of the deadly attacks in Baghdad in the past two years, a military spokesman said on Thursday. The security forces working with the intelligence arrested al-Qaeda leader of Baghdad (Wali Baghdad in Arabic), Munaf Abdul Raheem al-Rawi, also named Falah Abu Haider, Major General Qassim Atta, spokesman for Baghdad Operations Command, said. The arrest took place in Hutteen neighborhood in southern Baghdad on March 11, Atta told a press conference.

The captured leader was born in 1975 and joined al-Qaeda in Iraq network in 2003. He was appointed as the al-Qaeda leader for Baghdad province in 2008 by the head of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq, Abu Omer al-Baghdadi, who was announced killed together with another top al-Qaeda leader Abu Ayyub al-Musri in northern Iraq a few days ago, Atta added. He said that al-Rawi is responsible for masterminding major attacks in Baghdad in the past two years, including deadly suicide bombings against Iraqi ministries, major hotels of Baghdad, foreign embassies, Muslim mosques, Christian churches, polling centers during March 7 elections and attacks against Iraqi security forces.

Atta showed the televised news conference photographs of a man believed to be al-Qaeda leader of Baghdad. Two days ago, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the US military announced the killing of two top al-Qaeda leaders, Abu Omer al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Musri in a nighttime rocket attack on a safe house near the city of Tikrit, capital of Salahudin province. Local analysts believe the latest killing announcements of top al-Qaeda leaders can be seen as victories for the country's security forces, who were blamed for failing to protect civilians against terrorists.

04.22.10 Series of explosions shake Bangkok, tensions rise

BANGKOK (Reuters) April 22 - A series of explosions shook Bangkok's business district on Thursday, wounding at least six people, witnesses said, raising tensions during a showdown between thousands of troops and anti-government protesters. It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts that hit several spots in an area packed with heavily armed troops and studded with banks, office towers and hotels. Witnesses said at least one foreigner was among the wounded, and at least one of the explosions hit outside the headquarters of Charoen Pokphand Group, Thailand's biggest agribusiness group. Another landed near the Dusit Thani Hotel. Hundreds of troops, many armed with M-16 assault rifles, have poured into the area since Monday to stop thousands of anti-government protesters from marching to the bustling district that also houses go-go bars. [More>>thestar.com; See also,

bangkokpost.com, April 22, "Silom blasts caused by M79 grenades" 
; The five attacks in three areas of Silom on Thursday night were by M79 grenades, the government's Centre for the Resolutions of Emergency Situations (CRES) said. CRES spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said one of the grenades hit the roof of the Sala Daeng skytrain station, the second was in front of Dusit Thani hotel and the third was in front of Bank of Ayudhya. "The grenades were likely launched from the direction of the Ratchaprasong intersection, but it's also possible that they were launched from Lumpini park," Col. Sansern said...

04.22.10 'Sikh extremism rising in Canada'

April 22 - A former Canadian cabinet minister and one-time provincial premier warned on Thursday that Sikh extremism blamed for the 1985 Air India bombing is rising in this country. "It's getting worse," opposition Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh, who is himself Sikh, said. "It's more entrenched, it's more sophisticated and sometimes it's double-faced," he said in an interview. His comments echo concerns reportedly expressed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper over growing support by Canadian Sikhs for militants in Punjab. The two leaders spoke on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last week. They also come after a riot at a Sikh temple in Brampton, Ontario over proposed management changes, and after organizers of an annual Sikh festival in Surrey, British Columbia warned Dosanjh and another Canadian Sikh politician, both known for their moderate views, not to attend a parade. [>indianexpress.com]

04.22.10 None hurt in Eilat rocket attack

April 22 - Factory sustains damage as 2 Katyushas explode over Jordanian border. Two Katyusha rockets fired at the southern city of Eilat from Jordan landed on the Jordanian side of the border in Aqaba, Jordanian authorities confirmed on Thursday. No casualties were reported in the attack. According to an initial inquiry, one of the rockets landed in an industrial zone and damaged a factory The IDF said it was investigating the source of the attack, stressing that there was no evidence to suggest either of the rockets hit Israeli territory. In 2005, a rocket fired from Jordan landed next to the Eilat airport and two others missed a US Navy vessel docked at the nearby Jordanian port of Aqaba. No one was reported hurt it those attacks. A group linked with al-Qaeda claimed responsibility. [>jpost.com]

04.22.10 Ash cloud highlights Gulf's fragile food security

DUBAI (Reuters) April 22 - Fresh food sector seeks options outside Europe. Europe's ash cloud which halted air freight for more than six days exposed how fragile food security is in the Gulf region and food importers should diversify source markets, traders said on Wednesday. Gulf nations mainly reliant on food imports have intensified efforts over the last year to buy and lease farmland in developing nations to secure food supplies. "The fact that the most of the Gulf region is so reliant on imports to meet domestic demand means it is more affected by the ash cloud in terms of stocking shelf space at grocery stores," said Shonil Chande, food and drink analyst at Business Monitor International.

Europe mainly exports luxury food products to the Gulf and halted air freight meant fresh produce ran low on supermarket shelves, traders said. "The situation is really bad, we import the majority of our food from Europe and right now the only option is some charter flights but they are charging double the normal rate," Gapesh Gerash, manager at Dubai-based Barakat Vegetables and Fruits, which imports 2,000 kg in air freight from Europe four times a week. Gulf food traders were taken by surprise by the scale of the volcanic ash cloud and its impact on air freight, leaving traders scrambling to find alternative source markets for produce.

04.22.10 Muslim group warns 'South Park' creators of death

NEW YORK, April 22 - A radical Muslim group has warned the creators of “South Park” that they could face violent retribution for depicting the prophet Muhammad in a bear suit during last week's episode. The website RevolutionMuslim.com has since been taken down, but a cached version shows the message to "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The article's author, Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, said the men “outright insulted” the religious leader. The posting showed a gruesome picture of Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch filmmaker who was shot and stabbed to death in an Amsterdam street in 2004 by a fanatic angered by his film about Muslim women. The film was written by a Muslim woman who rejected the Prophet Muhammad as a guide for today's morality.

"We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show," Al-Amrikee wrote. "This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them." The posting listed the addresses of Comedy Central's New York office and Parker and Stone's California production office. It also linked to a Huffington Post article that described a Colorado retreat owned by the two men.
[More>>japantoday.com; See also cbsnews.com (AP) April 22, "Radical Muslim group warns 'South Park' creators"

04.22.10 Dozens of gunmen storm Mexican Holiday Inn, kidnapping at least 6 people

April 22 - Dozens of gunmen have kidnapped at least six people after storming a Holiday Inn hotel in Mexico. Police said the heavily-armed gang ran from room to room before abducting a receptionist and four guests in the northern city of Monterrey, the country's third-largest city. The US consulate in Monterrey has denied media reports that an American woman was among the kidnapped. [More>>foxnews.com; See more details,

latimes.com, April 22, "Monterrey hotel attacked in Mexico kidnappings."
: The hotel assault was reportedly mounted by up to 50 gunmen who seized cars to block streets, slowing the police. At least three people were kidnapped in the attack bearing hallmarks of drug violence. MEXICO CITY - In a bold predawn attack, gunmen stormed a hotel Wednesday in the heart of the northern city of Monterrey and kidnapped at least three people, officials said.

Mexican media said up to 50 hooded gunmen arrived in a convoy and burst into the downtown Holiday Inn, seizing guests and employees. Law enforcement officials, offering only scant details by late afternoon, said it was not immediately clear whether a fourth person was seized or how many gunmen took part in the 3 a.m. attack. Authorities offered no motive for the kidnappings, but the attack bore the hallmarks of Mexico's drug gang violence...

04.22.10 Human torpedoes blamed for ship strike

April 22 - An elite North Korean suicide squad of human torpedoes has been blamed for the sinking of a South Korean ship in mysterious circumstances. Korea's Defence Intelligence Command had alerted the navy weeks ahead of the sinking that North Korean suicide squads were being deployed, according to reports in Seoul. These "human torpedo" squads were said to involve small submarines. They are navigated so close to the target that their torpedoes or explosives blow up both the target and the attackers. And they can be timed to explode while the attackers escape from the vessel, the mass-circulation South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported. The attack by North Korea was in retaliation for an earlier defeat, the report added. [More>>news.sky.com]


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