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7.21.09 Clinton sees threat in N. Korea ties to Myanmar

BANGKOK, Thailand, July 21 - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, arriving here for a meeting of Southeast Asian nations, expressed concern on Tuesday about what she called growing evidence of military cooperation between North Korea and Myanmar, which she said could destabilize the region. Declaring that she takes the reports of such cooperation "very seriously," Mrs. Clinton said that expanded military ties between the countries would "pose a direct threat" to Myanmar's neighbors. She singled out Thailand, an ally of the United States and the host of the regional meeting, as being vulnerable to the reclusive and heavily armed dictatorship in Myanmar.

Suspicions about North Korea's relationship with Myanmar deepened recently when a North Korea freighter appeared to be steaming toward Myanmar. American officials, believing the ship might be carrying weapons or other illicit cargo, tracked it until it reversed course. North Korea is already suspected of supplying Myanmar with small arms and ammunition, but some intelligence analysts contend that North Korea is also helping Myanmar pursue a nuclear weapons program. They cite as possible evidence newly published photos circulated by Burmese dissident groups of what some analysts assert are a network of giant tunnels outside Myanmar's jungle capital, Naypyidaw, built with help from North Korean engineers.

7.21.09 Iran police detain protesters in Tehran clash - witness

TEHRAN (Reuters) July 21 - Iranian riot police clashed with hundreds of pro-reform protesters in central Tehran on Tuesday and detained dozens of demonstrators, a witness said, in the latest unrest over last month's disputed election. The witness said demonstrators were chanting slogans against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the government, including: "Ahmadinejad resign, resign" and "Death to dictators."

"Police [are] beating protesters who had gathered in Tehran's Haft-e Tir square in defiance of a ban on such demonstrations following the June 12 election, which the opposition says was rigged in favour of Ahmadinejad," the witness said. "Riot police are taking dozens of protesters into their cars and they are taking them away," the witness said. "There are hundreds of riot police and plainclothes (security forces), beating people who gathered to support (opposition leader Mir Hossein) Mousavi," the witness said. [More>>thestar.com.my; See related story,

cbsnews.com, July 21, "Iran unrest escalates to clash of clerics" : While street protests continue, battle over Iran's future may be waged among powerful religious leaders.   Iran's election dispute has moved beyond the drama of mass street protests to a new phase: a fight for power within the ruling religious establishment itself. The conflict escalated as the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, backed by hard-line clerics and the Revolutionary Guard, issued a warning to the opposition in general and powerful cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani in particular.

"The elite should be watchful, since they have been faced with a big test. Failing the test will cause their collapse," Khamenei said Monday in a speech marking a religious holiday. "Anybody who drives the society toward insecurity and disorder is a hated person in the view of the Iranian nation, whoever he is." The opposition was emboldened when Rafsanjani stepped into the fray with a Friday prayer sermon that sharply criticized the leadership's handling of the postelection crisis. He has re-ignited the opposition, emerging as its leading patron.

"You are facing something new: an awakened nation, a nation that has been born again and is here to defend its achievements," opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi said Monday in comments that appeared pointed directly at Khamenei, in a tone rarely used toward the supreme leader. Mousavi, whose loss in recent presidential elections triggered mass protests, also derided the claim by Khamenei and hard-line clerics that the protest movement was a tool of foreign enemies. "Who believes that (protesters) would conspire with foreigners and sell the interests of their own country?" he said. "Isn't this an insult to our nation?"

7.21.09 Chinese websites close amid tightening controls

BEIJING (AP) July 21 - Several Chinee Internet sites and parts of popular web portals went offline Tuesday amid tightening controls that have already left mainland web users without access to Facebook, Twitter and other well-known social networking sites. China stepped up its crackdown on social networking sites in March over online allegations surrounding the treatment of Tibetans, and the blockages continued through the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations and the recent ethnic riots in Xinjiang. The harsh measures are also thought to be part of efforts to ensure social stability ahead of the 60th anniversary of communist rule on Oct. 1, when Beijing will mark 60 years of communist rule.

Digu and Zuosa, two Chinese websites that offer micro-blogging services similar to Twitter, were both shut down for maintenance, according to notices posted on their homepages. A Digu spokeswoman who would only give her surname, Zhang, said the site was offline so it could be moved to a new server. She said it would be down for at least a week. "It's a sensitive period, so we are not in a rush to re-open it," Zhang said, adding that some Digu users had recently tried to post politically sensitive material to the site and that the company had to censor such content. She wouldn't give any specific examples. Zuosa employees did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment about the sites' closure.

7.21.09 Taliban commander killed in Afghanistan

July 21 - A senior Taliban insurgent commander has been killed in an operation led by Afghan National Security Forces and supported by Australian special forces troops. Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General Mark Evans said with the phase of that operation now complete it could be revealed that Mullah Amanullah Akhund was killed after insurgents opened fire on a combined Australian and Afghan patrol. [More>>news.com.au; See related story,

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, July 21, "Suicide attacks in Afghanistan, 6 killed" : KHOST - Taliban suicide bombers, most of them disguised in burkas, tried to storm government buildings and a military base in two Afghan cities on Tuesday, killing six people, officials said. The attacks in Gardez and Jalalabad came amid a surge in violence ahead of presidential and provincial elections on August 20, when President Hamid Karzai will stand for re-election despite criticisms about security and corruption. Taliban militants have increasingly used coordinated suicide and gun attacks in their fight against Karzai's government. Six suicide bombers, some of them also carrying guns, tried to enter several government buildings in Gardez in Paktia province but were shot dead before reaching their targets, provincial spokesman Rohullah Samoon said...

7.21.09 Fourteen killed in Iraq bomb attacks

BAGHDAD (AFP) July 21 - Fourteen people were killed in a spate of bomb attacks in Baghdad and the western city of Ramadi on Tuesday, one of the worst days of violence in Iraq since US troops left its cities three weeks ago. Nearly 100 people were wounded in the attacks, which nearly claimed Iraq's Water Resources Minister, just a day after seven police officers and a soldier were killed. A one-year-old baby and a girl of eight were among four people who died when a bomb exploded at a market in the capital's Shia slum district of Sadr City, police and the defence ministry said. Thirty-four others were wounded. Police defused another bomb in the same market. Another four people, all workers, were killed and 31 wounded in an earlier twin bomb attack in Sadr City, a sprawling neighbourhood in northeastern Baghdad. [More w/several other bombings listed>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.21.09 Lebanon arrests Islamists plotting attacks

BEIRUT, July 21 - Network allegedly also planning attacks outside Lebanon. The Lebanese army said on Tuesday it had uncovered a militant Islamist network that had been plotting to carry out attacks against United Nations peacekeepers in southern Lebanon and the army itself. The army, in a statement, said it had detained the cell's 10 members. A security source said the men belonged to the al-Qaeda-inspired Fatah al-Islam group which fought a 15-week battle with the army in 2007. The network, made up of members of different Arab origins and most of whom came from outside Lebanon, also planned to help "wanted terrorists" get out of the Ain al-Helweh Palestinian refugee camp where many of them are holed up.

"Our investigation has shown that this network was planning to smuggle wanted terrorists out of Ain al-Helweh (refugee camp) ... smuggle Fatah al-Islam fighters into Ain al-Helweh, to carry out attacks from Lebanon on targets abroad and create terrorist cells to monitor UNIFIL and the army in order to carry out terrorist attacks on them," the army statement said. The security source told Reuters the ringleader of the arrested group, a Syrian national, had been found with six forged passports.

7.21.09 Backyard astronomer discovers black spot on Jupiter

July 21 - Armed with a home-made telescope and enjoying clear night skies in the southern hemisphere, an amateur Australian astronomer made an extraordinary discovery in his backyard at the weekend: a dark "scar" the size of the Earth that had suddenly appeared on the planet Jupiter. Anthony Wesley was enjoying his usual evening stargazing from the yard of his rural home in Murrumbateman, near Canberra, when he noticed something different on the gas planet at about 1am on Monday morning (4pm Sunday BST) through his personally designed 14.5in telescope.

Mr. Wesley told The Times that he had discovered the strange dark blob in between running inside to watch the final rounds of British Open golf on television. "About 11pm I went inside to have a break and watch the golf, and by the time I came back out at about 1am the impact point had rotated around into view," he said. "I couldn't believe it. I thought, "That wasn't there before" and then I realized Jupiter had actually been hit by something." ...Yesterday NASA confirmed Mr. Wesley's discovery and released their own images. The pictures, taken by the American space agency's infrared telescope in Hawaii, show a scar in the atmosphere near Jupiter's south pole. [Full story>>timesonline.co.uk; See NASA photos, nasa.gov]

7.21.09 Asia gets ready for eclipse

BANGKOK, July 21 - Millions of people across Asia will witness the longest total solar eclipse that will happen this century, as vast swaths of India and China, the entire city of Shanghai and southern Japanese islands are plunged into darkness Wednesday for about five minutes. Streams of amateur stargazers and scientists are traveling long distances to witness the once-in-a-lifetime event. Astronomers hope the eclipse will unlock clues about the sun, while an astrologer in Myanmar predicts it could usher in chaos. Some in India are advising pregnant relatives to stay indoors to follow a centuries-old tradition of avoiding the sun's invisible rays.

The eclipse will appear first at dawn in India's Gulf of Khambhat just north of the metropolis of Mumbai. It will move east across India, Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and China before hitting the Pacific. The eclipse will cross some southern Japanese islands and be last visible from land at Nikumaroro Island in the South Pacific nation of Kiribati. Elsewhere, a partial eclipse will be visible in much of Asia. For astronomers, it will be a chance for a prolonged view of the sun's corona, a white ring 600,000 miles (1 million kilometers) from the sun's surface. The previous total eclipse, in August 2008, was two minutes and 27 seconds. This one will last 6 minutes and 39 seconds at its maximum point.

7.20.09 Stimulus funds spent, but where are the jobs?

BILOXI, Miss., July 20 - The ongoing troubled state of the economy was clearly and instantly on display at the annual summer gathering of the non-partisan National Governors Association which is taking place on the Mississippi Gulf Coast this year. Fewer than half of the nation's 50 governors attended the gathering this year, including the group's chairman, Gov. Ed Rendell, D-Penn. Before introducing a videotaped message from Rendell, the incoming NGA chairman, Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vt., opened the first session on Saturday by stating Rendell needed to stay put in Harrisburg to deal with his state's "economic and fiscal crisis."

The appearance of taking a taxpayer-funded trip down to a casino/resort hotel on the gulf coast and how that would play back home was also likely to be weighing on the minds of many governors who chose not to attend the meeting. The Obama administration's public campaign for passage of the stimulus back in February was centered on depicting it as a jobs bill, but the desire to guard against waste and abuse may be causing the slower pace at which some of those transportation dollars, the key component of the jobs-creating portion of the bill, are hitting the states.
[Full story>>abcnews.go.com]

7.20.09 Khatami calls for Iran referendum

July 20 - Iranian reformists, among them Mohammad Khatami, the former president, have called for a referendum to resolve the crisis that has gripped the country since last  month's disputed presidential election. Khatami, whose 1997-2005 presidency saw a thaw in the Islamic republic's relations with the West, hit out on Monday at the conduct of the June 12 vote that saw Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, his hardline successor, returned to power. Khatami expressed concern that "public confidence in the system has been damaged," the ILNA news agency reported.

He said calls by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, another former president, for a consensus between reformists and conservatives on resolving the crisis were the "minimum requirement for getting out of the current situation." A group of reformist clerics founded and led by Khatami said a referendum was essential to restore public confidence.

"As millions of Iranians have lost confidence in the electoral  process, the Association of Combatant Clerics insist on the organization of a referendum ... by independent bodies," the group said in a statement. Under the Iranian constitution only Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader, can organise a referendum. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.20.09 Apollo's 'Giant leap for mankind' honored

July 20 - 40 Years Later, Moon Landing Remains Benchmark of American Achievement. The measure of what humanity can accomplish is a size 9 1/2 bootprint. It belongs to Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon. It will stay on the moon for millions of years with nothing to wipe it away, serving as an almost eternal testament to a can-do mankind. Apollo 11 is the glimmering success that failures of society are contrasted against: "If we can send a man to the moon, why can't we ..."

What put man on the moon 40 years ago was an audacious and public effort that the world hasn't seen before or since. It required rocketry that hadn't been built, or even designed, in 1961 when President John F. Kennedy declared the challenge. It needed an advance in computerization that had not happened yet. NASA would have to learn how to dock separate spaceships, how to teach astronauts to walk in space, even how to keep them alive in space
all tasks so difficult experts weren't sure they were possible.

Forty years later, the moon landing is talked about as a generic human achievement, not an American one. But Apollo at the time was more about US commitment and ingenuity. Historian Douglas Brinkley called the Apollo program "the exemplary moment of America's we-can-do-anything attitude." After the moon landing, America got soft, he said, looking for the quick payoff of a lottery ticket instead of the sweat-equity of buckling down and doing something hard.

7.20.09 Tajiks say 5 foreign terrorists killed in clash

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan, July 20 - Five militants were killed in a gunfight at a remote military checkpoint near Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan, officials said Monday. Law enforcement agencies issued a joint statement Monday claiming the perpetrators of the attack, which happened Thursday, were suspected terrorists with Russian citizenship. The statement said two of the attackers, aged between 20 and 26, were from Russia's largely Muslim southern fringe, which is beset by daily violence blamed on Islamist insurgents. Regarding the others, one was ethnic Kazakh, one hailed from Tatarstan in Russia, and another was an ethnic Russian, the statement said...Some analysts have speculated that security operations along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan may have compelled militants to return to their home countries in ex-Soviet Central Asia. [Full story>>thejakartapost.com]

7.20.09 Indian taught Hindi to Mumbai attackers: Kasab

MUMBAI, July 20 - Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, on Monday claimed an Indian named Abu Jindal had taught him and the nine slain terrorists Hindi during their training in Pakistan. Kasab, who confessed to his crime before a special court, said during their training in Pakistan, Jindal taught them Hindi in the camps. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said, "I have asked the police to verify the name Jindal and his involvement in the case." Kasab told the special court that he decided to confess to his crime as he came to know that Pakistan has admitted that he was its national. ( Watch ) [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

7.20.09 26/11, 9/11 terrorists living in Afghanistan: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, July 20 - Pakistan has termed as baseless the US allegations regarding the presence of culprits involved in terror incidents in the US and India living in Pakistan. Reacting to the statement given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alleging that the perpetrators of US 9/11 and Indian 26/11 are in Pakistan, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said these culprits were not in Pakistan but in Afghanistan instead. Talking to the media in New Delhi, Clinton had asked Pakistan to act against the culprits of the Mumbai attacks, adding that terrorism was a major problem, which threatened global peace. Pakistan said that it was moving "systematically" in probing the Mumbai terror attacks to bring the perpetrators to justice and there should not be an "iota of doubt" about its intentions. [More>>indianexpress.com]

7.20.09 Eight killed in Iraq violence

MOSUL, Iraq (AFP) July 20 - Eight people were killed, including six police officers, in attacks in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Ramadi on Monday, security and medical officials said. In one attack, a policeman and a civilian were killed in a drive-by shooting targeting a police patrol in the centre of Mosul, the capital of the northern province of Nineveh. Two traffic policemen were also shot dead — one in central Mosul and the other outside his house. A fourth policeman was killed when a roadside bomb placed on a main road in southern Mosul exploded as he tried to defuse it. In the western city of Ramadi, three people were killed — including two policemen — in a car bomb blast, the second attack there in a week. Four other people were wounded, including two other police officers, in the bombing near the provincial government headquarters in the city centre. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.20.09 Bomb kills 11 civilians in Afghanistan: officials

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) July 20 - Eleven civilians were killed and two others wounded when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb planted by insurgents in southwestern Afghanistan, a local government official said Monday. The blast ripped through a minivan Sunday in Farah, a southwestern province troubled by attacks linked to Taliban militants, deputy provincial governor Mohammad Yunus Rasouli told AFP. [More>>arabtimesonline.com; See related story,

cbsnews.com, July 20, "4 US troops killed in Afghanistan bombing" : NATO says four more Americans have been killed in Afghanistan. A NATO statement says the four died Monday when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Afghanistan. The statement does not give nationalities, but US spokesman Lt. Robert Carr confirms all four were Americans. At least 30 US troops have now died this month - two more than the toll for June 2008, which had been the deadliest month for the American force in Afghanistan. At least 55 international troops have been killed in Afghanistan in July, the deadliest month of the war for the NATO mission...

7.20.09 Police hold parents of suspected perpetrator of Jakarta bombings

JAKARTA, July 20 - Indonesian police picked up Monday the parents of a suspected perpetrator of last week's bombings at two luxury hotels in Jakarta in which nine people died and 53 others were injured. The state-run news agency Antara reported that the father, 60, and mother, 57, of Nur Said were collected by police at 5:30am from their house in the village of Katekan in Central Java Province.

Said, 35, was a guest in Room 1808 on the 18th floor of the JW Marriott Hotel where soon after the bombings at the Marriott and the Ritz-Carleton hotels police discovered an unexploded, active bomb in a laptop bag. Said's cousin Rosyid Ridho, 32, told Antara he did not know where his uncle and aunt were taken. Neighbors told Antara that Said works as a Koran-reading teacher in the Central Java provincial capital Semarang. Neighbors described him as having been a ‘‘nice, friendly and patient’’ person. It is believed the police want to obtain DNA samples from Said's parents.

7.19.09 Police may have found Jakarta bomber's laptop

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 19 - Indonesian police have recovered a laptop that they believe belonged to one of the bombers of Friday's twin hotel attacks in Jakarta, the country's official news agency said Sunday. The laptop contained information and codes that the attackers may have used to communicate with each other, the state-run Antara News Agency said. The computer was found in a room at the Ritz Carlton, one of two hotels targeted Friday. The other site was the JW Marriott. The blasts killed nine people including at least two presumed suicide bombers and wounded more than 50.

Anti-terrorism officials are investigating the links between the attacks and Noordin M. Top, the suspected leader of a small Jemaah Islamiyah splinter group. The group has ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist network, but so far there has been no claim of responsibility for the latest attack. Top is reportedly an officer, recruiter, bomb-maker, and trainer for the group, which was involved in a previous attack on the Marriott
in August 2003 as well as attacks on a Bali nightclub in 2003 and the Australian embassy in Jakarta in 2004, according to the FBI. [More>>cnn.com]

7.19.09 Lakhvi mastermind of Mumbai attacks: Pakistan admits in dossier

NEW DELHI, India, July 19 - Suspecting involvement of locals in 26/11, Pakistan has sought from India the interrogation reports of two terrorists Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin held in connection with the terror attack while giving details of the probe conducted by it. In the 36-page dossier, that contains some annexures [annexes?], Pakistan has informed India about the case details of five terrorists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander and "mastermind" Zaki-ur Rahman Lakhvi, who have been arrested, sources said.

Besides Lakhvi, the arrested Pakistanis have been identified as Hammad Amin Sadiq, Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu Al Qama, Abdul Wajid alias Zarrar Shah and Shahid Jamil Riaz. All the five had provided logistic and other kinds of support to the 10 Mumbai attackers, nine of whom were killed during the gunfights with security personnel. Ajmal Amir Kasab, the only surviving terrorist, was arrested. Lakhvi has been identified as "commander of LeT" and the "mastermind of terrorist attacks on Mumbai," Pakistan has noted, agreeing with India's contention.

7.19.09 Iran's controversial first VP walks out

TEHRAN, July 19 - Hardliners opposed Mashaie's appointment. Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's controversial choice for first vice president, walked away from the job following hardliners' intense opposition to his appointment, Al Arabiya reported Sunday. Mashaie called it quits "three days after his appointment" as first vice president in one of the shortest lived diplomatic posts in Iran. There was no immediate independent confirmation of Mashaie's resignation. On Friday, Ahmadinejad announced Mashaie's appointment, replacing Parviz Davoudi and igniting a series of strong outbursts from hardliners opposing this choice.

"It is imperative to terminate the appointment of Mashaie as first vice president in order to respect the wishes of the majority of the people," said Hossein Shariatmadari, managing director of the hard-line Kayhan newspaper who was appointed by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "When people found out about the appointment, they viewed this move as one taken not just in bad taste...but as one which shows indifference (towards them)," he wrote in an editorial.
[More>>alarabiya.net; See also,

khaleejtimes.com, July 19, "Ahmadinejad's first VP pick walks away" :
...Mashaie, whose daughter is married to Ahmadinejad's son, is a controversial figure who last year earned the wrath of hardliners, including supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for saying Iran is a “friend of the Israeli people.”

7.19.09 US condemns video of captured G.I.

KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) July 19 - The US military denounced on Sunday the release of a video showing a soldier captured in Afghanistan, describing the images as Taliban propaganda that violated international law. The video shows Private Bowe Bergdahl in traditional Afghan dress, being prompted in English by his captors to call for US forces to be withdrawn from Afghanistan. The US military confirmed the identity of the Ketchum, Idaho native, saying he served with the 1st Battalion of the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment. His identifying dog tags are displayed to the camera by his captors in the video. "We condemn the use of this video and the public humiliation of prisoners. It is against international law," US military spokesman Colonel Greg Julian said. "We are doing everything we can to return this soldier to safety." The US military has been distributing leaflets this week seeking the release of Bergdahl, missing since late June. [More>>nytimes.com]

7.19.09 Netanyahu: Israel rule over Jerusalem not up for discussion

July 19 - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel's sovereignty over Jerusalem was not a matter up for discussion. The prime minister's comments came after the U.S. State Department told Israeli envoy Michael Oren that Israel must halt a construction project in East Jerusalem. Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting that Jerusalem is the united capital of Israel and that all citizens are allowed to purchase property in any part of the city they choose. "Imagine what would happen if someone were to suggest Jews could not live in or purchase [property] in certain neighborhoods in London, New York, Paris or Rome," he said.

"The international community would certainly raise protest. Likewise, we cannot accept such a ruling on East Jerusalem," Netanyahu told ministers. This is the policy of an open city, he said, and Israel would not accept a stance that counters that civil right. "Israeli Arabs are not forbidden from buying houses in west Jerusalem and Jews must be granted the same right in the eastern part of the city," he added. Netanyahu said that he had made this stance clear to US President Barack Obama, declaring that the issue of construction in Jerusalem could not be linked to the discussion on settlements.
[More>>haaretz.com;See also:

haaretz.com, July 19, "Shin Bet: Qatar sheikh funding Hamas activities in Jerusalem" : Qatar-based Sheikh Yousuf Qaradawi has allocated $21 million to a charity funded by Hamas to allow the Palestinian group to buy land and set up infrastructure in Jerusalem, Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin said on Sunday. Qaradawi, an 82-year-old Egyptian-born Muslim scholar with strong links to the Muslim Brotherhood, is a keen supporter of suicide bombings in Israel, which he describes as "martyrdom operations. Abbas aide Rafiq Husseini dismissed the report. "We wish there was Arab money to buy threatened houses," he told The Associated Press, "but that's not the case." Qaradawi could not be reached for comment.

Diskin made the comments during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. He also told the ministers that the Palestinian Authority and its security forces have been working actively to thwart the sale of Palestinian land to Jews, particularly in East Jerusalem...The Shin Bet chief's briefing came after it emerged that the United States has demanded Israel halt a construction project in East Jerusalem, which would see a hotel converted into housing units. The Jerusalem municipality said it signed a deal for the project under completely legal terms, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated Sunday that Jerusalem would not be included in any discussion on settlement construction. But the PA responded harshly to Netanyahu's declaration, saying peace was impossible without Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital.

7.19.09 Two police, 35 militants killed in Afghan unrest

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, July 19 - Afghan commandos backed by foreign forces killed 35 militants in southern Afghanistan, the defence ministry said Sunday, as a suicide bomber killed two police at a border post. The bombing on Sunday at Torkham, a key border crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan in Nangarhar province, was the latest in a surge of violence weeks ahead of the war-torn country's second presidential elections.

"There was a suicide attack on one of our police posts in Torkham. A police officer and policeman have been killed," regional border police commander Mohammad Zaman Mamozai said, adding that another officer was wounded. The defence ministry meanwhile announced that Afghan commandos backed by international forces and war planes had killed 35 rebels in raids on Taliban hideouts in the southern province of Kandahar on Saturday.

7.18.09 Shuttle, space station crews have record-setting rendezvous

July 18 - It's the biggest meeting ever so far from Earth. Shortly before 4 p.m. ET Friday, the seven crew members of the Space Shuttle Endeavour opened a hatch and entered the international space station, where they greeted the six crew members who were already there with hugs. "It's pretty exciting to have 13 crew members aboard the International Space Station," said ISS Flight Engineer Koichi Wakata, a Japanese astronaut who is slated to return to Earth aboard the shuttle. The space station's crew was expanded to six less than two months ago, after the latest module was added. Prior to that, its standard crew size was three.

The Endeavour docked with the space station at 1:47 p.m. ET on the 34th anniversary of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project's docking, the beginning of US and Russian cooperation in space. The hatches between the two spacecraft were opened at 3:48 p.m. ET and Endeavour astronauts Mark Polansky, Doug Hurley, Christopher Cassidy, Julie Payette, Tom Marshburn, Dave Wolf, and Tim Kopra joined space station crew members Wakata, Gennady Padalka, Michael Barratt, Roman Romanenko, Frank De Winne and Robert Thirsk to form the first-ever 13-member crew.

7.18.09 New images of Moon landing sites

July 18 - A US spacecraft has captured images of Apollo landing sites on the Moon, revealing hardware and a trail of footprints left on the lunar surface. The release of the images coincides with the 40th anniversary of the first manned mission to land on the Moon. The descent stages from the lunar modules which carried astronauts to and from the Moon can clearly be seen. The image of the Apollo 14 landing site shows scientific instruments and an astronaut footpath in the lunar dust. It is the first time hardware left on the Moon by the Apollo missions has been seen from lunar orbit. The pictures were taken by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) spacecraft, which launched on 18 June. The spacecraft is carrying three cameras on board: one low-resolution wide-angle camera and two high-resolution narrow-angle cameras mounted side-by-side. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See more photos, nasa.gov]

7.18.09 Four million British identities are up for sale on the internet

July 18 - The identities of more than four million Britons are being offered for sale on the internet, The Times has learnt. Highly sensitive financial information, including credit card details, bank account numbers, telephone numbers and even PINs are available to the highest bidder. At least a quarter of a million British bank and credit card accounts have been hacked into by cybercriminals, exposing consumers to huge financial losses. Most of the personal data has been gathered as a result of "phishing" — a process whereby members of the public are duped into handing over their key details, such as user names, passwords and credit card details.

Unsuspecting victims hand over the information by e-mail to people posing as reputable sources such as banks or online stores. Other data has been stolen after criminals infect a person's personal computer with viruses and then raid it for information. They are then sold to the highest bidder on online forums or hacking websites. Individual credit card details have been sold for as little as 30p. The Times has also learnt that the communications and e-mail systems of some of Britain's biggest public bodies and private companies are open to possible attacks.

This is because the corporate e-mails and passwords have been sold to cybercriminals. The details of policemen, doctors and military personnel are also at risk. The information being traded on the web has been intercepted by a British company and collated into a single database for the first time. The Lucid Intelligence database contains the records of four million Britons, and 40 million people worldwide, mostly Americans. Security experts described the database as the largest of its kind in the world.

7.18.09 Iranian editorial shows deepening clerical rift

TEHRAN / WASHINGTON, July 18 - Editor accuses Rafsanjani of backing "law-breakers." A hard-line editor considered to be close to Iran's top authority accused a powerful cleric on Saturday of backing "law-breakers," in comments highlighting the deepening divisions in the Islamic Republic after a disputed election. Hossein Shariatmadari, editor-in-chief of the Kayhan daily, also criticized former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani for saying Iran was in crisis during a sermon on Friday.

In apparent defiance of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Rafsanjani said many Iranians had doubts about the official result of the June 12 vote and he also took issue with the way the authorities had handled the poll and its aftermath. As he led Friday prayers at Tehran University for the first time since the election, tens of thousands of protesters outside used the event to stage the biggest show of dissent for weeks.
[More>>alarabiya.net ; See related post:

twitter.com, July 18 (#IranElection):Slide show of the 257 known political prisoners in Evin's Ward 209. The Flower of Iran http://tinyurl.com/mtqqzo.

7.18.09 Suicide bomber kills three Afghan soldiers

KABUL, Afghanistan, July 18 - A car packed with explosives rammed an army vehicle in troubled southern Afghanistan Saturday, killing three soldiers, the latest attack in a surge of violence ahead of the nation's presidential polls. Three other troopers were wounded in the suicide attack in Shahjoy, an insurgency-wracked district in the province of Zabul, the defence ministry said in a statement. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

7.18.09 Kashmir should be part of India, Pakistan discussions: Clinton

PAKISTAN, July 18 - Ahead of her talks with the Indian leadership, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the disputes between India and Pakistan should be looked at with "fresh eyes" and that Kashmir should "certainly" be on the agenda of discussions between the two countries. Clinton, who will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders in New Delhi on Monday, said the meeting between Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on Thursday has "ignited the hope" that both countries will pursue a dialogue again.

"I think that the disputes between India and Pakistan, which are historical and long-standing, should be looked at with fresh eyes, and there should be an effort to build some mutual trust," Clinton told 'Dawn News' in an interview. On the Kashmir issue, she affirmed the US position that it wants India and Pakistan to resolve all such issues bilaterally and that Washington is ready to support the steps that both the countries take together.

7.18.09 3 terrorists killed in last 24 hours: ISPR

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, July 18 - The security forces continued Sunday the search and clearance operations during [the] last 24 hours in Swat and Malakand. According to a press release issued by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), during search operation at Shangla and Shakardara, the security forces recovered 3 rockets of RPG-7, one 81 mortar, IEDs and ammunition.

Security forces carried out search operation at Chamtalai and killed 2 terrorists including terrorist commander Abu Bakar. Security forces conducted search operation in area around Kanju Township and killed a terrorist and apprehended 4 suspects. Security forces conducted search operation at Bajkata near Daggar of Buner and destroyed 7 terrorists hide outs. Terrorists fire raided at Jandola, resultantly a soldier embraced shahadat. An IED exploded during [a] routine search near Jani khel Fort, resultantly 3 soldiers were injured.

The security forces continued relief activities, as 10,104 cash cards were distributed on 16 July amongst the IDPs of Malakand. So far 84,952 families of IDPs have been repatriated and Rs 220 millions deposited by various Army Formations and establishments so far in the Army Relief Fund. This money is being spent for procurement of relief items i.e., ration, medicines and cooler/fans for IDPs.
[>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com, July 18, "Pakistan warplanes, troops kill 12 Taliban" ; PESHAWAR - Pakistani warplanes and troops Saturday killed at least 12 militants and destroyed Taleban training centres in the restive northwest, officials said. Six militants were killed in an air strike in Orakzai tribal district, a stronghold of Taleban warlord Baitullah Mehsud's deputy Hakim Ullah. "The air strike destroyed two training centres for militants in Orakzai," a paramilitary spokesman told AFP. Two security officials said at least six militants had died. "Six militants of Hakim Ullah group have been killed in the air strike," a security official told AFP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to journalists.

Pakistan has also carried out air strikes against Mehsud's hideouts in South Waziristan, with commanders vowing to hunt down the warlord's militant network in the remote northwest region known as a base for Taleban and al-Qaeda rebels. In a daily update Pakistan military said that during the last 24 hours three militants, including a commander identified as Abu Bakar, were killed during a search operation by security forces in northwestern Swat valley...

7.18.09 Somali attackers seize aid workers

July 18 - Three foreign aid workers have been kidnapped by armed Somali men in a raid on a Kenyan border town, according to an official and local Somali residents. An unknown number of assailants entered the town early on Saturday and seized the three, residents in Mandera said. Resident Abdi Mohamed said: "I got up to gun shots, and it was over in a very short time. "There had been no resistance at all except from a guard whom they shot in the head. He is at the hospital now."

"The authorities in Mandera [in Kenya] told us that those aid workers had been kidnapped. We're now going to run after them," Sheikh Osman, an al-Shabab official in the neighboring district in Somalia, said. Al Shabab officials said the kidnappers were moving deeper inside the country and had been sighted in the Berdale district of the Bay region in south-central Somalia. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related story,

en.rian.ru, (RIA Novosti) July 18, "Over 5,000 pirates operate off Somali coast - Russian Navy" :
MOSCOW - At least five large groups of pirates, totaling over 5,000 people, are operating in the Gulf of Aden, the first deputy chief of the Russian Navy General Staff said on Saturday. "Pirates have become more daring and aggressive recently - there were instances when they seized vessels right in front of the ships that were responsible for the security of commercial shipping," Vice Admiral Oleg Burtsev said in an interview on Ekho Moskvy radio station.

According to the United Nations, Somali pirates collected $150 million in ransom payments from ship owners last year, while overall losses from piracy were estimated at $13-16 billion, including the soaring cost of insurance and protection for vessels, as well as sending ships on longer routes to avoid high-risk areas. Somali pirates said on Saturday they had released a German ship after receiving a ransom of $1.8 million. The German Foreign Ministry confirmed that a German-owned ship had been released. Around 35 warships from the navies of 16 countries are currently deployed off Somalia's coast to counter frequent pirate attacks on vital commercial lanes...

7.18.09 Japan starts sales of biofuel made from rice

TOKYO (RIA Novosti) July 18 - The Niigata Prefecture in Japan has pioneered the sales of a mixture of gasoline and bioethanol made from rice for animal feed, local media said on Saturday. The Mainichi Daily News newspaper said that bioethanol, produced from brown rice and blended with gasoline at a ratio of up to 3 percent, makes a mixture that "is equivalent to regular gasoline both in quality and mileage, and will be available in a similar price range" The new biofuel will be initially sold at 19 gas stations in the Niigata Prefecture, the paper said.

"The project will also promote effective utilization of rice paddies that are left uncultivated due to the government's rice-reduction program," Mainichi Daily quoted the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations Zennoh (JA Zennoh) as saying. JA Zennoh is expecting annual sales of about 33,000 kiloliters of the rice-based biofuel. Japanese oil companies started selling gasoline blended with bioethanol in 2007 in some retail markets in the country, but none of the mixtures was previously made with the use of rice. Japan's annual gasoline demand is estimated at 60 million kiloliters. [More>>en.rian.ru]

7.18.09 Feds shut banks in Calif., Ga. and S. D.

WASHINGTON (AP) July 18 - Regulators Close 4 Banks, Raising Total of Failed Federally-Insured Firms This Year to 57. Regulators on Friday shut two banks in California and two smaller banks in Georgia and South Dakota, boosting to 57 the number of federally insured banks to fail this year. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was appointed receiver of the four banks. The two biggest were Temecula Valley Bank, in Temecula, Calif., with $1.5 billion in assets and deposits of about $1.3 billion as of May 31 and Vineyard Bank, National Association, of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. It had assets of $1.9 billion and $1.6 billion in deposits as of March 31.

The two smaller banks were First Piedmont Bank, based in Winder, Ga., which had about $115 million in assets and $109 million in deposits as of July 6 and BankFirst, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., with around $275 million in assets and $254 million in deposits as of April 30. The FDIC said all of Temucula's deposits will be assumed by First-Citizens Bank and Trust Company of Raleigh, N.C. The bank also will purchase essentially all of the assets. San Diego-based California Bank & Trust agreed to assume the deposits of Vineyard Bank, excluding about $134 million from brokers. California Bank & Trust will purchase about $1.8 billion of assets. The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition.

7.17.09 Bank of America, Citigroup report large second-quarter profits

July 17 - Bank of America and Citigroup this morning became the latest megabanks to report large profits in the second quarter, even as financial analysts cautioned that the results conceal the extent of ongoing problems in the financial industry. The largest banks are profiting from the success of some lines of business, such as trading in financial products and helping companies raise money. But the basic business of banking, lending money to borrowers, remains deeply troubled.

Bank of America posted earnings of $3.22 billion for the second quarter, or 33 cents a share. That was down from $3.41 billion, or 72 cents a share, during the same period last year but represented a large turnaround from the bank's autumn struggles. Citigroup reported a $4.3 billion profit, or 49 cents a share, reversing a loss during the same period last year of $2.5 billion, or 55 cents a share. The profit, however, came largely from the $6.7 billion gain on the sale of a majority interest in its Smith Barney brokerage.

7.17.09 Rafsanjani: Clear up election doubts

July 17 - Top Iranian cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani criticized hard-liners at the main Islamic prayers Friday, urging them to free opposition supporters arrested in the post-election crackdown and to clear up doubts over the disputed vote. Rafsanjani, a former president who sits on two powerful clerical ruling bodies, made the comments during his sermon before tens of thousands of opposition supporters, with opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi sitting in the front row.

The opposition packed the prayer hall to make a show of strength at the weekly Islamic prayers, which broadcast live on radio and are one of Iran's most important and symbolic political platforms. It was Rafsanjani's first time delivering the sermon since the June 12 election. In recent weeks, hard-line clerics have been using the sermon to tell Iranians to fall in line behind Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and accept the election victory of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Rafsanjani urged unity and appeared to blame hard-liners for disrupting unity by not listening to the controversy over the election, which was declared a victory for Ahmadinejad but which Mousavi claims to have won. "Doubt has been created (about the election results)," Rafsanjani said. "There are two currents. One doesn't have any doubt and is moving ahead with their job. And there are a large portion of the wise people who say they have doubts. We need to take action to remove this doubt." He said the turmoil following the elections "was a bitter period ... all were the losers." He criticized hard-liners for the crackdown on post-election protests, saying they should show sympathy for those arrested..."It's not necessary ... to keep individuals in jail. Let them join their families. We should not let enemies criticize or laugh at us ... for keeping our people in jail," he said.
[Full story>>jpost.com; See also,

aljazeera.net, July 17, "Rafsanjani: Iran in crisis" :
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian president, has said that Iran is in "crisis", referring to the upheaval in the country following last month's disputed presidential election. Delivering a sermon during Friday prayers at Tehran University, Rafsanjani, a known critic of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the current president, also called on the authorities to free those detained during the post-poll protests.

...lireza Ronaghi, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tehran, said: "Rafsanjani said we must preserve the Islamic nature of our government and without the people's votes and trust, the government cannot be Islamic. "And that's the argument that Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi [another defeated presidential candidate] have been putting forth. He's trying to open a way for solving the standoff, and give a convincing option for those dissatisfied with the election outcome."...

khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) July 17, "Iran opposition stages fresh protests in Tehran" : TEHERAN - Defiant supporters of Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi staged fresh demonstrations in Tehran Friday, witnesses said, after a powerful cleric called for the release of detainees held in a post-election crackdown. Thousands of Mousavi supporters, shouting “Ya Hossein, Mir Hossein!” and "Allahu Akbar" (God is Greatest) demonstrated at various locations around Tehran university where Friday prayers were led by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The demonstrations were held in defiance of a ban on such gatherings ordered by the Iranian authorities in the wake of deadly unrest sparked by the disputed June 12 re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Witnesses said riot police and Islamist vigilantes were deployed on various streets near the university to prevent the demonstrations, but protesters managed to evade them to stage brief gatherings. Witnesses said several people had been arrested and that police had fired rubber bullets to disperse some crowds...

twitter.com, July 17 - (IranRiggedElect) BBC persian pics of Friday's sermon: http://bit.ly/7IR9l

witter.com, July 17 - (IranRiggedElect) A great video compilation of Tehran's protest on July 17 http://bit.ly/G4tRd (youtube.com video)

witter.com, July 17 - (IranRiggedElect) Many top iranian politicians were at the sermon on Friday, including Abdollah Nouri who hasn't gone for 11 yrs.

witter.com, July 17 - (IranRiggedElect) Independent: "Something profound has changed: Iranians losing their fears" http://bit.ly/19g4Xy

witter.com, July 17 - (#IranElection) Brave images from citizen-journalist at Tehran University protest today: http://bit.ly/1a68qN

7.17.09 Militants eyed in Indonesian hotel bombings

JAKARTA, Indonesia, July 17 - The nearly simultaneous suicide bomb attacks at two American hotels on Friday showed that Islamic terrorist groups, though significantly weakened in Indonesia in recent years, still had the means to mount deadly assaults in one of the most heavily secured areas in Indonesia's capital. Indonesian officials said it was too early to identify those behind the attacks at the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels, which killed eight people and wounded at least 50 more. But they appeared to be focusing on domestic militants, possibly individuals or splinter groups loosely tied to Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda-linked Southeast Asian terrorist network.

The attacks were a blow to the Indonesian government, which had been credited for cracking down on Jemaah Islamiyah and keeping Indonesia free of terrorist attacks since late 2005. The explosions took place 10 days after President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, riding a wave of popularity for fighting corruption and restoring a measure of stability, was overwhelmingly re-elected to a second term. Mr. Yudhoyono said at a news conference that the "bombings were perpetrated by terrorist groups,” but said he could not say whether “these groups are the same ones" behind previous attacks. He said they may have been linked to the electoral campaign, during which threats were made against him.

Jemaah Islamiyah led several attacks against Western-linked sites in Indonesia earlier this decade, including one in 2003 against the same Marriott that was targeted Friday. A bombing at a nightclub in Bali killed 202 people in 2002; a year later, another car bomb at the Australian embassy here killed 9 people. Many of Jemaah Islamiyah's leaders and foot soldiers have been arrested or executed in recent years, not only in Indonesia but also in other Southeast Asian countries. But one leader, Noordin Mohammed Top, a Malaysian-born extremist said to be leading a splinter group, remains free and is believed to be in Indonesia.

A senior Indonesian counter-terrorism official said that while Jemaah Islamiyah was no longer the force it once was, small groups of militants, some with ties to Mr. Noordin, still operated inside the country. Some had been arrested in the last month, he said, including most recently in Cilacap in Central Java. "They’re not linked in a hierarchical way with J.I.," the official said of Jemaah Islamiyah, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. "But they exchange information and expertise. They all maintain the same belief: that there should be an Islamic state with Shariah law in Indonesia."
[More>>nytimes.com; See also,

thestar.com.my (Reuters) July 17, "How the guests in hotel room 1808 may have struck" : JAKARTA - The bombers that attacked two luxury hotels in Indonesia's capital on Friday checked into one of their targets a couple of days before, posing as paying guests to crack tough security cordons usually in place...Police said the Marriott device was planted by people who had checked in as guests and had probably assembled the device in their room. "Room 1808 had become their post since the 15th," National police chief General Bambang Hendarso Danuri told a news conference. While he wouldn't immediately draw a connection to JI, Danuri said the bombs were made in the same way as an unexploded device found recently in Central Java. Local media said that bomb was found in a house thought to be owned by the father-in-law of Noordin Top, a senior JI leader who remains at large...

Maravot News 7.08.08 (background story)
7.04.08 South Sumatra terrorist suspects linked to Noordin JAKARTA, July 4 - Police said Thursday the nine terror suspects arrested in South Sumatra recently had connections to fugitive Jamaah Islamiyah figures Noordin Moh. Top and Mas Slamet Kastari. National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Abubakar Nataprawira said the police's anti-terror squad captured nine people in the South Sumatra capital of Palembang during a series of raids Tuesday and Wednesday. The raids followed the June 28 arrest of MH, who was wanted in Singapore for terrorism, in Sekayu district in the South Sumatra regency of Musi Banyuasin...

Maravot News 3.24.7 (background story) 03.21.07 Indonesian police catch terror suspect Indonesian police may have captured one of Indonesia's prime terror suspects, wanted for helping protect Bali bombings mastermind Noordin Mohammed Top. Indonesian officers from the Detachment 88 anti-terror squad, which Australia helped set up after the Bali bombings, killed one terror suspect and injured another during the ambush on a Yogyakarta street last night. The men are believed to be members of the network of prime terror suspect Abu Dujanah, wanted for helping protect Noordin Top Indonesia's most wanted terrorist...

7.17.09 Briton jailed for plotting suicide bombing

LONDON (Reuters) July 18 - A British Muslim convert was jailed for at least 10 years today for plotting to blow up a shopping centre using his own homemade "suicide vest." Isa Ibrahim, 20, a student from Bristol in southwest England, was arrested in April last year after police received what they described as a "landmark" tip-off from a member of the local Muslim community. During a search of his home, police found a quantity of hexamethylene triperoxide diamine a high explosive that can be made from household ingredients and the same substance as used in the deadly London suicide bomb attacks of July 7, 2005.

Also found in his one-bedroom apartment were an electrical circuit capable of detonating the explosive and a half-made suicide vest. Detectives said his intended target was a busy shopping centre in Bristol...Ibrahim denied plotting a bomb attack but pleaded guilty to a charge of making an explosive substance. He said he thought suicide bombing was wrong and had only intended to put a film of the suicide vest being detonated on the YouTube website.
[Full story>>news.com.au; See more details,

timesonline.co.uk, July 17, "Former public schoolboy Isa Ibrahim convicted for planning 'carnage.' : A former public schoolboy who converted to an extremist strand of Islam and built a viable suicide bomb vest was convicted today of planning "carnage" at a crowded shopping centre. Andrew Ibrahim, 20, who changed his name to Isa in 2007 after his religious conversion, was arrested after members of the Muslim community in Bristol became concerned about his behavior and contacted police. Ibrahim, the son of a hospital consultant, was convicted of making an explosive with intent to endanger life or cause serious injury to property in the UK in April 2008. He was also found guilty of a charge of preparing terrorist acts by purchasing material to make an explosive, making that explosive, buying material to detonate the explosive, carrying out “reconnaissance” before the act and "making an improvised suicide vest in which to then detonate an explosive substance."...

independent.co.uk, July 17, "The bomb plotter with a teddy bear collection" : ...There was little reason to expect the bright but gawky young man from a well-heeled suburb of Bristol to stand out from his peers. His English mother, a university administrator, and his Egyptian-born father, Nassif, a consultant pathologist, had ensured their son and his elder brother, Peter, spent their childhood in a settled and privileged environment. When not living in the £800,000 family home in the commuter village of Frenchay, Andrew was sent to a series of private schools including Downside, the select Catholic public school near Bath whose former pupils include Auberon Waugh, Rocco Forte and Barclays Bank chief executive John Varley.

But beneath the veneer of an expensive education and efforts to strike a pose as a follower of popular culture, there was a disturbed and isolated young man whose adolescent search for identity and slow slide into a drug addiction became twisted into alternative persona - that of a would-be suicide bomber intent on mass murder in a crowded shopping centre.

A jury at Winchester Crown Court decided today that Ibrahim, who within a year of appearing on his MySpace page as a thoroughly Western youth had adopted the beard and garb of a strictly observant Muslim, was entirely serious in his preparations for an attack, which included producing a powerful homemade explosive and making himself three different sizes of suicide vest. The claims of his defence lawyer that he was not a bomber but a "prat" playing out the role of a fundamentalist were rejected out of hand.

Unlike the perpetrators of the 7/7 attacks in 2005 or several subsequent attempts to kill scores of people in Britain, Ibrahim had no links with Pakistan or a track record of training trips to al-Qaeda camps. Instead, he fitted into an emerging sub-section of self-taught and rapidly self-radicalized "clean skins" who are nearly impossible to trace. In less than three months, Andy Ibrahim, the teetotal public schoolboy who dyed his hair to look like the lead singer of American rock band Linkin Park and one glued his own pubic hair to his chin in class in homage to his favorite television programme, South Park, had become Isa Ibrahim, a chemistry student struggling with a crack and heroin habit whose Internet-based researches into Islam had led him to believe suicide bombing was justified and Britain was the "inside of a dirty toilet" — a phrase borrowed from the cyberspace preachings of fundamentalist preacher Abu Hamza...

Maravot News 2.07.06 (background story) 02.07.06 Muslim cleric Abu Hamza sentenced to 7 years jail: The British Muslim cleric whose North London mosque figured in some of the most important terrorism cases of the last decade was sentenced to seven years on Tuesday for charges including inciting murder. Egyptian-born Abu Hamza al-Masri was convicted on 11 counts, also including stirring up racial hatred in his sermons and possessing a handbook "of use to terrorists." and thestar.com.my, "Terrorist training camps might exist in UK – police" : LONDON (Reuters) - Police say they uncovered evidence of terrorist training camps in Britain after raiding Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri's north London mosque, which they believe was a global magnet for Islamic militants...

7.17.09 'Iran arms path to Hamas hit hard by Gaza war'

July 17 - Iran's smuggling network to Gaza has shrunk following Operation Cast Lead, and international awareness of the issue has increased, according to Western and Israeli intelligence sources. According to Western intelligence reports, Iran has been maintaining a robust arms smuggling system into the Gaza Strip as part of the support it extends to Hamas. This support is set up in a modus operandi similar to the one Iran has employed for two decades in helping Hezbollah in Lebanon through Syria.

The route through which arms are moved from Iran to Gaza seems to have become more complicated. Currently, it appears weapons shipments are dispatched through Bandar-Abbas, a southern Iranian port. From there the shipments are transported to Yemen, through the Persian Gulf. The weapons go from Yemen to a Sudanese port, from where they are transported by professional smugglers to Egypt and onto the Sinai peninsula. From Yemen to Sudan, the arms are transported inside the hulls of medium-sized civilian boats.

7.17.09 US drone suspected of killing 5 militants in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, July 17 - A suspected US drone attack killed five militants Friday when a missile was fired on a Taliban stronghold into a village in northwest Pakistan, Pakistani government sources told CNN. They said three people were wounded in the attack in North Waziristan, a mountainous region that borders Afghanistan. An official from the Political Agent Office said one missile from the drone hit the home of Abdul Majid in Garhiwam Bahadur Khel. He said the house was used by the Taliban as a Jihadi center. The Political Agent Office represents the Pakistani government in the area. Pakistan's Interior Ministry also confirmed the strike and deaths. The ministry said the home and a vehicle outside were destroyed. A resident, Din Muhammad Mehsud, said the eight victims were the only people in the house. A group of Taliban members had just gone out. [>cnn.com]

7.17.09 'Indirect fire' kills 3 US troops in Iraq

BASRA, Iraq (AP) July 17 - The US military said Friday that three of its soldiers were killed in an attack on a base outside Iraq's second largest city of Basra, in the south. Also, two Iraqis were killed and at least two dozen others were injured in bombings in Baghdad as huge crowds of pilgrims gathered to commemorate a revered Shiite saint. In Karmah, 50 miles west of the capital, the daughter and granddaughter of a police officer died in a bombing at his home. [More>>cbsnews.com]

7.17.09 Afghan bomb kills 11, including children

(AFP) July 17 - A Taleban bomb attack killed 11 civilians, including children and toddlers, going to a shrine in Afghanistan on Friday, police said following a surge of attacks ahead of key elections. The explosives ripped through a civilian pick-up vehicle taking a group of men, women and children to visit a centuries-old tomb in Spin Boldak district in Kandahar province, just a few kilometres from the Pakistani border. "Three women, three men and five children were killed," General Saifullah Hakim, a senior border police official, told AFP.

"All of them were civilians. They were going to a shrine when their vehicle was hit by a newly planted bomb," he added. Police said three women were wounded and evacuated to hospital. "Today at around 9:00am, a mini-van struck a roadside bomb in the Wanaki area of Spin Boldak," General Abdul Raziq, border police chief for Zabul and Kandahar provinces, told AFP, confirming the death toll. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.16.09 On Capitol Hill, Paulson is assailed over Merrill deal

July 16 - Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. came under sharp criticism on Thursday for his role in forcing Bank of America to complete its acquisition of Merrill Lynch, as lawmakers questioned the lack of disclosure and use of taxpayer money in the deal. The bank's chief executive, Kenneth D. Lewis, was also assailed during a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating the additional $20 billion bailout that Bank of America received for completing the Merrill deal. Several lawmakers accused Mr. Paulson of misleading Congress about how government money in the banking bailout would be used.

The committee's Democratic chairman, Representative Edolphus Towns of New York, called the Merrill deal "a marriage of convenience" in which "Ken Lewis got what he wanted and the Treasury and Fed got what they wanted." "Ken Lewis appears to have manipulated this unaccountable system to his benefit," Mr. Towns said in his opening statement. "The problem is that while all this was going on, the American people, investors and Congress were kept in the dark," he said...At Thursday's hearing, several lawmakers repeatedly questioned how the government was handling bailout money from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, asserting that Congress had been misled about how the money would be used.
[Full story>>nytimes.com]

7.16.09 Foreclosures up 15% since January 2009

(AP) July 16 - The number of US households on the verge of losing their homes soared by nearly 15 percent in the first half of the year as more people lost their jobs and were unable to pay their monthly mortgage bills. The mushrooming foreclosure crisis affected more than 1.5 million homes in the first six months of the year, according to a report released Thursday by foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc. The data show that, despite the Obama administration's plan to encourage the lending industry to prevent foreclosures by handing out $50 billion in subsidies, America's housing woes continue to spread. Experts don't expect foreclosures to peak until the middle of next year. Foreclosure filings rose more than 33 percent in June compared with the same month last year and were up nearly 5 percent from May, RealtyTrac said. [More>>cbsnews.com; See related story,

abcnews.go.com, July 16, "JPMorgan Chase earns $2.7 billion in second quarter" : Jubilant Wall Street: Two Major Banks This Week Shocked Investors With Their Earnings; Is a Recovery Here? Wall Street got another pleasant surprise this morning, when JPMorgan Chase reported a second-quarter profit of $2.7 billion, an increase of 36 percent from the same period last year. That's right. The nation's largest bank (by market capitalization) posted a profit, leading some to see this as a strong sign that the battered banking industry, and the US economy as a whole, might finally be on the road to recovery.

Today's earnings report, which exceeded analyst expectations, comes two days after Goldman Sachs reported a $3.44 billion profit in the second quarter. Investors now look ahead to tomorrow's earnings reports from Bank of America, Citigroup and General Electric, which has a large lending arm...Both JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs
as well as all other major US banks borrowed money at the end of 2008 from the federal government to help shore up their balance sheets. JP Morgan received $25 billion in TARP funds last fall, and Goldman received $10 billion...

7.16.09 Defense official: Israel readying for attack on Iran

July 16 - Israel's recent deployment of warships across the Red Sea should be seen as serious preparation for an attack on Iran, an Israeli defense official told the Times of London on Thursday. "This is preparation that should be taken seriously. Israel is investing time in preparing itself for the complexity of an attack on Iran. These maneuvers are a message to Iran that Israel will follow up on its threats," the official was quoted as saying.

Earlier this week, two Israel Navy gunboats openly sailed through the Suez Canal into the Red Sea. The ships that passed through the Suez Canal on Tuesday were two Sa'ar 5 gunboats, the Hanit and the Eilat. This follows a similar incident in late June, when an Israeli Dolphin-class submarine passed through the canal, later returning the same way. The move, apparently coordinated with Egypt, is seen as a warning message to Middle Eastern radicals, first and foremost Iran.

7.16.09 Protesters' blood will not go in vain: Mousavi

TEHRAN, July 16 - Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi vowed not to let the blood of protesters killed in postelection crackdown go in vain as he met with the family of a young man shot to death during the turmoil, reformist Web site reported Wednesday. Mousavi, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that he will attend Tehran's main Friday prayer services this week for the first time, a key symbolic assertion of the opposition's presence after the crackdown. The sermon Friday is due to be delivered by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a powerful cleric in Iran's leadership who has not performed the sermon since the turmoil erupted following the disputed June 12 presidential election. Rafsanjani is a top rival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and is believed to be a strong behind-the-scenes backer of Mousavi. "I'll join you (for prayers) on Friday July 17," Mousavi said, according to his Web site ghalamnews.ir. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

alarabiya.net, July 16, "Iran may prevent Moussavi from forming party" :
DUBAI - Iran may prevent Iran's opposition leader Mir Hossein Moussavi from forming an opposition party, sources told Al Arabiya Thursday amid reports that he will attend Friday prayers in his first official public appearance since last month's disputed presidential election. A statement posted late Wednesday on his website confirmed a media report earlier this week that he would attend the prayers at Tehran University to be led by former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a rival of re-elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad...

7.16.09 Iran's nuclear agency chief resigns

July 16 - The head of Iran's nuclear agency has resigned, Iranian media has reported. Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, who led Iran's nuclear programme for more than a decade, also reportedly stepped down from his position as one of the vice presidents for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president. The ISNA news agency said on Thursday that Aghazadeh had handed in his resignation letter three weeks ago, but no reason was given for the move. No successor has yet been appointed. The resignation came ahead of a promised shake-up of the government. Ahmadinejad said last month that he would be making "considerable changes" to his cabinet. Aghazadeh is thought to be close to Mir Hossein Mousavi, the Iranian opposition leader who claimed the results of last month's presidential elections were rigged, as well as an ally of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who backed Mousavi. The former nuclear chief served as executive deputy to Mousavi in the 1980s, and was Iran's oil minister from 1985 to 1997 before being appointed to head the atomic organization under Mohammad Khatami. [>aljazeera.net]

7.16.09 UN worker, bodyguard killed in Pakistan refugee camp

ISLAMABAD July 16 - A senior police official says a UN employee and a bodyguard have been killed in a shooting at a refugee camp in northwest Pakistan. Local police chief Ghayoor Afridi said gunmen shot the UN employee and his bodyguard Thursday at the Kacha Garhi camp near Peshawar. Afridi said the assailants tried to kidnap the UN official and opened fire when he resisted. Afridi said two Pakistanis working for the UN were also wounded in the attack. [More>>japantoday.com]

7.16.09 French hostage handed to Somali group

(Reuters) July 16 - A Somali group has handed over one of two French hostages to al-Qaeda-linked Al Shabaab militants to avoid clashes between the two bands, rebels and officials said. Gunmen from an Islamist faction in President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's security forces seized the two in a Mogadishu hotel on Tuesday, then handed them to Hizbul Islam insurgents. But Al Shabaab — which is also fighting the Somali government — demanded that Hizbul Islam give the French security men to them...Western security services view Al Shabaab as a proxy for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in the failed Horn of Africa state, which has been mired in conflict since 1991. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.16.09 Indian, French Navies free 14 hostages from Somali pirates

July 16 - Demonstrating excellent coordination in the last six days, the Indian and French Navies together ensured the safe release of 14 Indian hostages whose dhow (wooden ship) was hijacked by pirates off the coast of Somalia. "The close coordination between the two Navies helped in freeing 14 crew members of an Indian dhow 'MV Nafeya' after it was hijacked by pirates off Boosasso near Somalia at 1100 hours on July 10 by seven pirates armed with RPGs and AK47s ," Indian Navy officers said in New Delhi. The dhow, registered in Porbandar, Gujarat and operating n UAE, was hijacked by the pirates after it had dropped cargo at a Somalian harbour and was proceeding towards Dubai. After capturing the Indian dhow, officials said, the pirates attempted to hijack a Liberian tanker ship 'MV A Elephant' near Bab-el-Manbeb on July 13. [More>>indianexpress.com]

7.16.09 NASA refurbishes video of moon landing

(AP) July 16 - With the help of Hollywood, those historic, grainy images of the first men on the moon never looked better. NASA unveiled refurbished video Thursday of the July 20, 1969, moonwalk restored by the same company that sharpened up the movie "Casablanca." NASA lost its original moon landing videotapes and after a three-year search, officials have concluded they were probably erased. That original live video was ghostlike and grainy. NASA and a Hollywood film restoration company took television video copies of what Apollo 11 beamed to Earth 40 years ago and made the pictures look sharper. NASA emphasized the video isn't "new" — just better quality. [More>>cbsnews.com; See video, youtube.com and 1.nasa.gov, "Apollo Moon landing - 35th anniversary."]

7.16.09 The watery grave of Europe's monsters

July 14 - Fossils dredged up from the North Sea are revealing the exotic creatures that roamed the continent thousands of years ago. A dozen white, plastic fish boxes stand jumbled on the floor of a former fish-gutting plant in the pretty town of Urk in the northern Netherlands. Each box overflows with what appear to be large, serrated pebbles or small serrated boulders. In fact, they are the fossilized teeth of mammoths. Some are as big as melons. Others are the size of cricket balls the molars of baby mammoths, which died prematurely from hunger, or the claws and fangs of a predator, 40,000 years ago.

All around is a prehistoric boneyard. Propped against the walls are immense, curved mammoth tusks or mammoth thigh bones, five feet high. On the shelves are fragments of the jaw bone of a woolly rhinoceros and the skull and horns of a 10,000-year-old, extinct species of giant bison. All have been scooped accidentally from the bed of the North Sea by Dutch beam trawlers in the last few months. Most are destined to be sold on to specialist sites on the internet.

They are just a fragment of an immense North Sea bone harvest
a "by-catch" of fossils. In the past 18 years, powerful Dutch beam trawlers and dredgers are estimated to have landed 200 tones of the fossilized remains of animals from a score of different species (and the remains and artefacts from human beings of two different species). In the past 40 years, it is estimated, Dutch trawlers have landed 15,000 mammoth teeth alone. This, in turn, is probably only a minuscule fraction of a treasure-trove of prehistory which lies still undiscovered under the grey waves between the coasts of England and the Netherlands.

The fact that the lower North Sea was once (until about 7,500 years ago) a land bridge between Britain and the continent is well enough known. What has only recently and gradually become accepted
by scientists who for many years ignored the evidence on their own watery doorsteps is that the area now covered by the North Sea was not just a barren "land bridge". It was for tens of thousands of years a teeming plain of Ice Age wildlife, equivalent to the richest game reserves of Africa.

Dick Mol, a Dutch customs official and amateur paleontologist who has become one of the greatest living experts on the "lost world" of the North Sea, calls it "a Serengeti with its coat on". The man who runs the fossil clearing station at Urk is Albert Hoekman, 44, a former fisherman who now works part-time as a collector and wholesaler of bones to the world fossil trade. Mr. Hoekman is a key member of a network set up by Mr. Mol and his friends. He visits fishing boats when they arrive in ports all over the Netherlands each Thursday and Friday morning and buys their by-catch of bones. He tries to ensure that historically or scientifically interesting fossils are set aside for examination by experts. The rest go for sale on the internet or directly to museums or collectors.

...A team of paleontologists from Birmingham University
Vincent Gaffney, Simon Fitch and David Smith has mapped a part of this vanished world, by computerising seismic survey data from the oil industry. In a book published last year, Europe's Lost World; the Rediscovery of Doggerland, they electronically pulled away the shrouds of sea-water and mud to trace the river valleys, giant lakes and the low hills of a "paradise lost" as large as the United Kingdom. [Full story>>independent.co.uk; See related story,

strangemaps.wordpress.com, "The dykes of Doggerland.": ...(From a 1930's article of Mechanix Illustrated) ...
Under the title North Sea Drainage Project to Increase Area of Europe, a caption reads: “If the extensive schemes for the drainage of North Sea are carried out according to the plan illustrated above, which was conceived by a group of eminent English scientists, 100,000 square miles will be added to the overcrowded continents of Europe. The reclaimed land will be walled in with enormous dykes, similar to the Netherland dykes, to protect it from the sea, and the various rivers flowing into the North Sea will have their courses diverted to different outlets by means of canals.”...


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


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