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7.26.11 Wealth gap widens between whites, minorities, report says
July 26 -
The wealth gap between whites and minorities has risen to a historic high, according to new census data analyzed by the Pew Research Center, as the collapse of housing prices more severely affected the net worth of African American and Hispanic households. The report, which was to be released Tuesday, shows that the recession wreaked havoc on the wealth of all Americans but that whites lost the least amount as a percentage of their holdings.  Between 2005 and 2009, the median net worth of Hispanic households dropped by 66 percent and that of black households fell by 53 percent, according to the report. In contrast, the median net worth of white households dropped by only 16 percent. The median net worth of a white family now stands at 20 times that of a black family and 18 times that of a Hispanic family — roughly twice the gap that existed before the recession and the biggest gap since data began being collected in 1984. "The lopsided wealth ratios are the largest since the government began publishing such data a quarter century ago," said the report, "Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics."  [More>>washingtonpost.com]

7.26.11 Transcript of Obama's speech: 'Make your voice heard'
The following is the prepared transcript of President Barack Obama's speech Monday night on debt reduction talks, as released by the White House: Good evening. Tonight, I want to talk about the debate we've been having in Washington over the national debt — a debate that directly affects the lives of all Americans. For the last decade, we have spent more money than we take in. In the year 2000, the government had a budget surplus. But instead of using it to pay off our debt, the money was spent on trillions of dollars in new tax cuts, while two wars and an expensive prescription drug program were simply added to our nation's credit card.

As a result, the deficit was on track to top $1 trillion the year I took office. To make matters worse, the recession meant that there was less money coming in, and it required us to spend even more
— on tax cuts for middle-class families; on unemployment insurance; on aid to states so we could prevent more teachers and firefighters and police officers from being laid off. These emergency steps also added to the deficit. Now, every family knows that a little credit card debt is manageable. But if we stay on the current path, our growing debt could cost us jobs and do serious damage to the economy.

More of our tax dollars will go toward paying off the interest on our loans. Businesses will be less likely to open up shop and hire workers in a country that can't balance its books. Interest rates could climb for everyone who borrows money
— the homeowner with a mortgage, the student with a college loan, the corner store that wants to expand. And we won't have enough money to make job-creating investments in things like education and infrastructure, or pay for vital programs like Medicare and Medicaid.  [Full speech>>cnn.com; For a history on the debt and how interest expense has increased the debt see Maravot News National_Debt.html]

7.26.11 Boehner presses debt plan opposed by Democrats; IMF urges raise in debt limit
July 26 -
With a debt-limit deadline now a week away, House Speaker John A. Boehner pressed ahead Tuesday with a two-stage deficit-reduction plan that President Obama and most congressional Democrats reject, and the International Monetary Fund warned of "serious spillovers" worldwide if the US debt ceiling is not raised. Responding to Obama's appeal in a speech Monday night for Americans to contact their members of Congress to urge them to adopt his "balanced approach" to deficit reduction, callers flooded Capitol telephone circuits Tuesday morning, and several lawmakers’ Web sites — including Boehner's — reportedly crashed Monday night as huge numbers of people tried to send them messages. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

7.26.11 Glenn Beck compares victims of Norway attack to Hitler Youth
July 26 -
Former Norway press secretary calls Beck's comments 'a new low,' saying the political camp where at least 85 were killed stands for 'the very opposite of what the Hitler Youth was about.'  Glenn Beck, the American right-wing talk-show host, compared the victims of a shooting at a Norwegian summer camp to Hitler Youth in his radio program on Monday, according to a Daily Telegraph report. The campers were victims of a double attack perpetrated by a conservative extremist last Friday, claiming the lives of over 90 people. At least 85 were killed at the camp alone.

Beck described the brutal incident "as a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler Youth. I mean who sends their kids to a political camp? Disturbing," he added. The Hitler Youth was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party comprised of teens and preteens that existed from 1922 to 1945.  Torbjørn Eriksen, a former press secretary to Jens Stoltenberg, Norway's prime minister, called Beck's comments a "a new low" for the broadcaster, who is known for his controversial, often offensive statements. "Young political activists have gathered at Utoya for over 60 years to learn about and be part of democracy, the very opposite of what the Hitler Youth was about," he told The Daily Telegraph. "Glenn Beck's comments are ignorant, incorrect and extremely hurtful." The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a Washington-based campaign group, called the remarks "absolutely disgusting."  [>haaretz.com]

7.26.11 More deaths, arrests as Syria presses crackdown
(AFP) July 26 -
Security forces in Syria have arrested so many people that the country has become a "huge prison," activists said on Tuesday. Representatives of the protesters who have been waging an unrelenting war of dissent against the regime of embattled President Bashar al-Assad prepared to meet in Istanbul for four days of talks, another activist said. On Tuesday “heavy gunfire” was heard in Homs, a day after two men were shot dead by security forces manning checkpoints in and around the central flashpoint city, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The head of the London-based group, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP a third person, a woman, was also killed on Monday in the northwestern city of Idlib. The woman was riding a motorcycle with her husband and child and they had just driven past a security checkpoint when she was killed, he said, adding that the child was wounded. Meanwhile, the National Organization for Human Rights accused the authorities of turning the country into a “huge prison” by arresting hundreds of people, despite lifting emergency rule in April.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.26.11 Ben Ali allies face court for trying to flee Tunisia
(AFP) July 26 -
Twenty-three allies of ousted Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali appeared in a Tunis court on Tuesday to face charges of trying to flee the country with illegal foreign currencies during the January uprising that led to Ben Ali's ouster. Twenty-three allies of ousted Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and his wife Leila Trabelsi appeared before a Tunis court Tuesday for trying to flee the country last January in illegal possession of foreign currency. A total of 35 people are facing charges but only the 23 Ben Ali associates arrested in January appeared before the court Tuesday. The 23 were arrested and found to be in possession of a large sum in foreign currency as they tried to flee the country on [January] 14, the day Ben Ali and his wife fled into exile in Saudi Arabia following a weeks-long popular revolt. Fourteen men, in handcuffs, and nine women, wearing white full-length robes, entered the tiny courtroom which was packed with journalists and lawyers. The defendants, including Imed Trabelsi, Leila's nephew and one of the most reviled men from the former ruling clan, have been held at the Aouina military base in Tunis since their arrest. "You tried to flee the country on January 11 in possession of foreign currency and jewels," court president Faouzi Jbelli said, before reading out the charges against each of the accused...Since his escape to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali has already been twice convicted and sentenced in trials held in his absence.  [Full story>>france24.com]

7.26.11 Afghan NATO forces 'kill 35 Pakistan Taliban militants'
July 26 -
At least 35 Taliban militants from Pakistan have been killed and several wounded by NATO-led forces inside Afghanistan, officials say. The militants are said to have crossed over into the Afghan province of Paktia to target coalition forces when they came under attack last week. Sources in Pakistan's Waziristan tribal region told the BBC that many of those wounded had now been brought back.  Some are said to be receiving medical treatment in the town of Miranshah. Pakistan has been under severe pressure from the US in recent months to prevent militants based in its tribal regions from crossing into Afghanistan to fight NATO troops based there. Earlier this month Washington said that it was cutting $800m (£500m) in military aid to Islamabad because of "difficulties" in its relationship with Pakistan. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

7.26.11 Nepal arrests man linked to Mumbai blasts
(AP) July 26 -
Nepal's official media say police have arrested a man suspected of links to the triple bomb blasts in Mumbai this month that killed 20 people. The government-run Gorkhapatra newspaper said today the man was arrested over the weekend and was being questioned by the anti-terrorist police unit. Both the police and the government refused to comment on the report. The newspaper identified the man as Muhammad Zahir and said he was believed to be in his 40s. The report also said officials have evidence suggesting the suspect spoke on a mobile phone and sent text messages about the Mumbai blasts.  [>independent.co.uk]
7.26.11 Twelve suspected Qaeda militants killed in southern Yemen
ADEN (AFP) July 26 -
Twelve suspected Al Qaeda militants were killed in overnight bombings and clashes near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province in southern Yemen, a military officer and a local official said on Tuesday. "The Yemeni air force carried out a number of strikes on Al Khamila south of Zinjibar where Qaeda members were hiding ... killing seven and wounding others," the military officer said, adding that various pieces of equipment belonging to the jihadists were also destroyed. Witnesses said that a number of residents were wounded in the strikes, although most had fled before the air raids began. Some houses were also damaged, they said.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

 7.25.11 Norway gunman 'has accomplices'
July 25 -
Norwegian police are investigating claims by Anders Behring Breivik, who has admitted carrying out Friday's twin attacks in Norway, that he has "two more cells" working with him. Mr. Breivik made the claim as he attended his first court hearing following the bombing in Oslo and a massacre on an island youth camp. Police have now revised down the island killings to 68 but increased the bomb death toll by one to eight. Mr. Breivik was held for eight weeks. Oslo police asked for Mr. Breivik to be held in full isolation for the first four weeks. Judge Kim Heger agreed, saying Mr. Breivik could not receive letters or have visitors except for his lawyer. Judge Heger said police must be able to proceed with the investigation into Mr. Breivik's claims without the accused being able to interfere.

Mr. Breivik had earlier said he had acted alone. Prosecutors said that they could not rule out that someone else was involved and confirmed an investigation was underway into Mr. Breivik's claims that he had worked in a cell, or group, and that there were two other cells. Mr. Breivik has been charged under the criminal law for acts of terrorism. The charges include the destabilisation of vital functions of society, including government, and causing serious fear in the population. The judge said Mr. Breivik had admitted carrying out the attacks but had not pleaded guilty to the charges. Judge Heger had earlier ruled that the hearing should be held behind closed doors. He had said: "It is clear that there is concrete information that a public hearing with the suspect present could quickly lead to an extraordinary and very difficult situation in terms of the investigation and security."

There had been concern among many Norwegians that Mr. Breivik would use the hearing to deliver a speech seeking to justify his actions. Instead Judge Heger summarized Mr. Breivik's words in his post-hearing statement. The judge said Mr. Breivik had argued that he was acting to save Norway and Europe from "Marxist and Muslim colonisation."  The BBC's Jon Sopel has been granted the only British TV interview with Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg The gunman had said his operation was not aimed at killing as many people as possible but that he wanted to create the greatest loss possible to Norway's governing Labour Party, which he accused of failing the country on immigration. The bomb in Oslo targeted buildings connected to the Labour Party government, and the youth camp on Utoeya island was also run by the party. In addition to those killed, at least 96 people were injured in the attacks. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See related stories,

indianexpress.com, July 25, "Oslo attacker feared creation of several 'mini Pakistans' in Europe" : KARACHI - The Norwegian terrorist who killed over 90 people in two recent attacks in Oslo, was terrified of the idea of several ‘mini Pakistans’ appearing all over the map of Europe.  A 1,600-page manifesto titled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence," written by Anders Behring Breivik, showed a picture of the future of Europe, citing poor human rights in Pakistan as the fate of the continent. In his doomsday scenario for Europe, Breivik predicted that several "mini-Pakistans" would be created all over Europe by 2083, one in each country due to "Lebanon-style" conflicts, the Express Tribune reports.  "It could be similar to the division of India after World War II, with the creation of one or several Islamic' Pakistan' enclaves," he said. Breivik also claimed that Pakistan is systematically annihilating all non-Muslim communities. He claimed that Hindu girls are being forced to convert to Islam in Sindh. 

He described the situation for Christians in Pakistan as being no better, citing Father Emmanuel Asi of the Theological Institute for Laity in Lahore as saying in 2007 that Pakistani Christians are frequently denied equal rights, the paper said.  The inability of Muslim immigrants to assimilate into European society seems to bother him, which he blamed on Muslim parents not allowing their children to adopt European ways.  He also asked why Muslim girls are considered" off-limits" to everyone, including Muslim boys, and why Muslim men view ethnic Norwegian women as "whores." He railed against multiculturalism, which he blamed for making immigration too easy for Muslims in Europe, the paper said. [end]

koreaherald.com (AP) July 25, "Norway suspect: Serbia bombing 'tipped the scales'" : OSLO, Norway - Anders Behring Breivik said he was a boy when his life's path began to turn. It was during the first Gulf War, when a Muslim friend cheered at reports of missile attacks against American forces. "I was completely ignorant at the time and apolitical but his total lack of respect for my culture (and Western culture in general) actually sparked my interest and passion for it," the suspect in Norway's bombing and mass shooting wrote in his 1,500-page manifesto.  The 32-year-old Norwegian said it was the NATO bombing of Serbia in 1999 that ``tipped the scales'' for him because he sympathized with Serbia's crackdown on ethnic Albanian Muslims in Kosovo. A year later he said he realized that what he called the ``Islamization of Europe'' couldn't be stopped by peaceful means.

Police and Breivik's lawyer says he confessed to, but denied criminal responsibility for, Friday's bombing at government headquarters in Oslo and the mass shooting later that day at an island summer camp organized by the youth wing of the ruling Labor Party. At least 93 people were killed in the attacks. Breivik's manifesto chronicled events that deepened his contempt for Muslims and "Marxists" he blamed for making Europe multicultural. He suggested his friends didn't even know what he was up to, and comments from several people who had contact with the quiet blond man indicate he was right. Jack Levin, a professor at Northeastern University who has written a number of books on mass murderers, said the manifesto helps Breivik show himself as more human. "It makes the killer look like a victim rather than a villain," Levin said. From September 2009 through October 2010, Breivik posted more than 70 times on Dokument.no, a Norwegian site with critical views on Islam and immigration.

In one comment, he entertained the idea of a European Tea Party movement. In December of 2009, Breivik showed up at a meeting organized by the website's staff. "He was a bit strange. As one could see from his postings, he had obviously read a lot but not really digesting it," said Hans Rustad, the editor of the website. But Rustad said he "hadn't the faintest idea" about Breivik's murderous plans. "Other people have the same views on the Net and they don't go out and become mass murderers. So how can you tell?" Rustad told The Associated Press. In the document Breivik styles himself as a Christian conservative, patriot and nationalist. He looks down on neo-Nazis as "underprivileged racist skinheads with a short temper." Part of Breivik's manifesto was taken almost word for word from the first few pages of the anti-technology manifesto written by "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, who is in federal prison for mail bombs that killed three people and injured 23 others across the U.S. from the 1970s to the 1990s. Breivik did not cite Kaczynski, though he did for many other people whose writings he used...

dailymail.co.uk, July 25, "'Vlad the Impaler was a genius' : The crazed and hate-filled 'manifesto' of the mass murderer" : It explains why attractive women must be murdered, hails Vlad the Impaler as a hero and claims the massacre in Norway is only the beginning of a long war. This is the astonishingly detailed 1,500-page manifesto published on the internet by Anders Behring Breivik on Friday, hours before he carried out his attacks which would leave at least 93 dead. The document, named 2083 A European Declaration of Independence because he believes the war to rescue Europe from multiculturalism will last another 72 years...it features a claim that Breivik is just one of 12 members of a secret right-wing anti-mnulticultural, anti-Marxist, anti-feminist, anti-Islamic society, the 'Knights Templar' founded in London in April 2002. The other 11 Knights Templar, he believes, are plotting similar attacks...

7.25.11 Syria passes law to allow political parties
July 25 -
The concession by Assad to quell anti-government protests is blasted by opposition as symbolic and far too late.  Syria's government, under massive pressure to reform or quit, has adopted a draft law allowing for the creation of new political parties alongside the long-ruling Baath party. The multiparty bill approved by the Cabinet late on Sunday follows other concessions Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, has made as part of his efforts to quell more than four months of protests against his government. "The establishment of any party has to be based on ... a commitment to the constitution, democratic principles, the rule of law and a respect for freedom and basic rights," said SANA, the state-run news agency. The draft law, which still needs parliamentary approval, would allow for the establishment of any political party that is not based on religious or tribal lines, or discriminates due to ethnicity, gender or race, the news agency said.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.25.11 US trucking funds reach Taliban, military-led investigation concludes
July 25 -
A year-long military-led investigation has concluded that US taxpayer money has been indirectly funneled to the Taliban under a $2.16 billion transportation contract that the United States has funded in part to promote Afghan businesses. The unreleased investigation provides seemingly definitive evidence that corruption puts US transportation money into enemy hands, a finding consistent with previous inquiries carried out by Congress, other federal agencies and the military. Yet US and Afghan efforts to address the problem have been slow and ineffective, and all eight of the trucking firms involved in the work remain on US payroll. In March, the Pentagon extended the contract for six months. According to a summary of the investigation results, compiled in May and reviewed by The Washington Post, the military found "documented, credible evidence . . . of involvement in a criminal enterprise or support for the enemy" by four of the eight prime contractors. Investigators also cited cases of profiteering, money laundering and kickbacks to Afghan power brokers, government officials and police officers. Six of the companies were found to have been associated with "fraudulent paperwork and behavior."  [More>>washingtonpost.com]

7.25.11 RAF bombs Gaddafi intelligence site
July 25 -
British jets have bombed a key intelligence building being used by the forces of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, the Ministry of Defense said today. The attack on the Central Organization for Electronic Research building in Tripoli came in the early hours of Sunday morning and involved RAF Tornado and Typhoon aircraft. COER is described by the Libyan authorities as an engineering academy, but the MoD insisted that it was a "wholly legitimate" target as it had in fact long been used as a cover for the "nefarious activities" of the Gaddafi regime. Until Libya gave up its weapons of mass destruction program in 2003, COER was used in the development of long-range missiles, and recent surveillance indicated it was still being used by Gaddafi's security apparatus, said the MoD. The Chief of the Defense Staff's communications officer, Major General Nick Pope, said: "British forces, supporting NATO's Operation Unified Protector, helped to maintain the pressure on Colonel Gaddafi's regime by bombing a key intelligence building in Tripoli and inflicting further losses on forces massed against the Libyan people at Zlitan and Gharyan. In the early hours of Sunday morning, Royal Air Force Tornado and Typhoon aircraft conducted a precision strike on the Central Organization for Electronic Research.[More>>independent.co.uk]

7.25.11 Greek default almost certain, warns Moody's
July 25 -
Ratings agency Moody's has cut Greece's debt rating by three notches to Ca on Monday, leaving it just one notch above what is considered default, and said the chance of a default is now "virtually 100%". The ratings agency warned that last week's bailout package agreed by eurozone leaders will make it easier for Greece to reduce its debt, but the country still faced medium-term solvency challenges and there were significant risks in implementing the required reforms. "The announced EU program implies that the probability of a distressed exchange, and hence a default, on Greek government bonds is virtually 100%," the agency said. "[Greece's] stock of debt will still be well in excess of 100% of GDP for many years and it will still face very significant implementation risks to fiscal and economic reform," it added. The ratings agency is wary that the eurozone bailout package sets a negative precedent for investors.  [More>>guardian.co.uk]

7.25.11 World markets fall on US default fears over debt deadlock
July 25 -
Wall Street followed European and Asian markets lower unsettled by deadlock between US lawmakers over a deal to raise Washington's debt limit that is crucial to avoid a default in the world's largest economy. Political brinkmanship in Washington over the the country's $14.3 trillion (£8.8 trillion) debt ceiling pushed gold to a record high of $1,616 a ounce and the Swiss franc rose to a high against the dollar. In New York, the Dow Jones opened down 104 points or 0.8pc at 12,572.36, with the broader S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also sliding. London's FTSE 100 index of leading shares fell 0.3pc to 5918.24, while Germany's DAX slipped 0.1pc and France's CAC 0.4pc. A sharply divided US Congress pursued rival budget plans on Monday that appeared unlikely to win broad support, pushing the United States closer to a ratings downgrade and debt default that would send new shockwaves through global markets. US Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned on Sunday that America risks a major backlash from financial markets unless the outline of a deal to prevent a government default is agreed in the next 24 hours. In Asia Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.8pc, Hong Kong's Hang Seng slid 0.7pc, Seoul's Kospi dropped 1pc and Australia's ASX fell 1.6pc. China's Shanghai Composite slipped by 2.96pc and the Shenzhen Composite was down 3.75pc, with Saturday's rail crash also having an impact. [More>>telegraph.co.uk]
7.25.11 Pakistan bars US embassy staff from entering Peshawar
In an action that would further strain US-Pakistan relations after the killing of Osama bin Laden on its soil by American special forces in May, Islamabad has denied permission to the US embassy staff to enter Peshawar. Quoting US and international aid officials, the Washington Post Sunday said Pakistani authorities have repeatedly denied permission to US embassy employees to enter Peshawar to attend meetings or replace workers at the US Consulate in the city over the past 10 days. Most Pakistanis view the US consulate in Peshawar as a front for CIA operations.  "The widely publicized episodes in Peshawar threaten to become another flash point in a frayed bilateral relationship that US officials had hoped was improving, after fatal shootings by a CIA contractor and the US commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden," the report said.

After the killing of the al-Qaeda leader by US forces and the killing of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore in January, Pakistan expelled more than 100 US army trainers. In retaliation, the Obama administration stopped $800 million in aid to the Pakistani military earlier this month. The Washington Post report quoted US officials as saying that their embassy notified Pakistani police that their employees were driving from Islamabad to Peshawar and should be escorted from the highway into the city. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

7.22.11 Syria cities erupt in protests as pro-democracy marchers call for Assad exit
July 22-
Thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country on Friday renewing demands for the departure of President Bashar Al Assad defying the Baathist regime’s repressive military machine. Al Arabiya TV broadcast live mobile footage from Damascus suburb of Al Kiswa and from cities of Hama and Deraa. Hundreds of demonstrators have marched also in various Kurdish towns in the northeastern province of Hasaka, including Amuda, Derbassiya and Ras Al Aim, said Abdel Karim Rihawi, head of the Syrian League for Human Rights. Protesters have destroyed a statue of late president Hafez Al Assad in a suburb in Hasaka, prompting security forces to open fires, Al Arabiya TV reported. Hundreds more were marching in the southern town of Suweida, and demonstrations were also taking place in the northwestern province of Idlib, particularly in Tastanas and Kafar Nubol. In Damascus, meanwhile, Rihawi said security forces were deployed heavily in the Qabun and Rukneddin quarters and had set up checkpoints at their entrances. At the same time, telephone communications and electricity were cut in Daraya and Douma, just outside the capital. In the central city of Homs residents said At least five civilians were killed overnight as tanks attacked homes.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

7.22.11 Explosion in Oslo government building
July 22 -
An explosion in Oslo has blown out most of the windows of a 17-story government building which contains the Prime Minister's office, according to reports. A witness reported that as many as eight people had been hurt, although the Prime Minister is believed to be safe. Nearby offices in the Norwegian capital are being evacuated. Large amounts of glass and metal have been seen in the street. Police and fire officials have declined to comment on the cause of the explosion. One radio journalist reported from the scene. "I see that some windows of the government headquarters have been broken. Some people covered with blood are lying in the street."  [>news.sky.com]

7.22.11 Rights group criticizes Saudi anti-terror law
July 22-
Amnesty International says that proposed legislation threatens to strangle peaceful dissent in the Gulf kingdom.  A proposed Saudi anti-terrorism law threatens to strangle peaceful dissent in the kingdom, a leading human rights organization says, calling on King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz to reconsider the changes. Under the Draft Penal Law for Terrorism Crimes and Financing Terrorism, the authorities could detain people "potentially indefinitely" without charge or trial, Amnesty International said on Friday, adding it had obtained a leaked copy of the law. The legislation would also give the authorities power to imprison for at least 10 years anybody who questions the integrity of the king or Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul-Aziz, it said in a statement. Mahjoob Zweiri, a professor of Middle East history at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera that this was not a new law. "It was started about five or six years ago and there was a discussion about the law in general, more focused on the threats from al-Qaeda," he said. "But this is now focused on current events within Saudi Arabia and is maybe coming to limit any kinds of movements to criticize the authorities."  [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.22.11 Serbia extradites Goran Hadzic to Hague court
July 22-
War crimes suspect Goran Hadzic has been flown from Serbia to face the UN court at The Hague. A police motorcade, sirens blaring, was earlier seen leaving the Belgrade jail where Mr. Hadzic was being held. Before being taken to the airport, Mr. Hadzic, 52, was allowed to see his sick mother in northern Serbia. Mr. Hadzic led Serb separatist forces during Croatia's 1991-1995 war and was arrested on Wednesday after seven years on the run. The plane carrying Mr. Hadzic has now landed in Rotterdam. Mr. Hadzic was a central figure in the self-proclaimed Serb republic of Krajina in 1992-1993, leading the campaign to block Croatia's independence from Yugoslavia. He faces 14 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including persecution, extermination and torture. He is held responsible for the massacre of almost 300 men in Vukovar in 1991 by Croatian Serb troops and for the deportation of 20,000 people from the town after it was captured. After the war, Mr. Hadzic lived openly in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad until 2004, when the Hague War Crimes Tribunal indicted him and he disappeared...Serbian prosecutor Vladimir Vukcevic said the breakthrough in the hunt for Mr. Hadzic came when he tried to sell a stolen painting by Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani. [Full story>>bbc.co.uk]

7.22.11 50 militants killed in E. Afghanistan: NATO
KABUL, Afghanistan, July 22-
The US-led coalition says more than 50 insurgents have been killed in a military operation at a foreign fighter encampment in eastern Afghanistan. In a statement Friday, NATO says the camp in the Sar Rawza district of Paktika province is a staging area for foreign militants and members of Haqqani network, an insurgent group affiliated with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The coalition says the fighters were moved into Afghanistan by Haqqani insurgents who planned to use them for attacks throughout the country. The coalition says that after getting tips about the camp, coalition forces, including Afghan Special Forces, battled heavily armed insurgents Thursday night and into Friday. The insurgents fought from several sites, including caves and fortified bunkers.  [>thenews.com.pk]

7.22.11 11 killed in violence in Karachi
KARACHI, Pakistan, July 22 -
At least 11 people were killed and 15 others were wounded in a fresh wave of violence in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, officials said on Friday. Last week Pakistan ordered hundreds of extra paramilitary policemen onto the streets of the Arabian Sea port to try to quell the violence.  Political and ethnic violence in Karachi is blamed on supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), based among the Urdu-speaking majority, and the rival Awami National Party (ANP), which represents based migrant Pashtuns from the northwest. "At least 11 people were killed and 15 others were wounded since last night," home ministry official Sharafuddin Memon said, but declined to comment whether they were ethnically-motivated killings. Local police officials confirmed the death toll but did not give details.  [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

7.22.11 Yemen Qaeda chief, 10 soldiers killed in fighting
(AFP) July 22 -
A Yemeni al-Qaeda leader and 10 soldiers have been killed in a south Yemen battle, a military source and medics said on Thursday, as a top official said the US had aided a unit besieged in the south. Ayad Al Shabwani, a leader of the Yemen-based Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), was killed on Tuesday by artillery fire during heavy fighting that continued into Wednesday between the army and suspected Qaeda militants near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, the military source said. He was killed about four kilometers (2.5 miles) east of Zinjibar, the source added. Medical sources said that 10 soldiers had been killed and 33 wounded in the fighting near Zinjibar.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

7.20.11 North Korea holds more than 138,000 people in detention facilities
July 20 -
(Yonhap News) North Korea is holding more than 138,000 people in its detention facilities across the country, a private organization on North Korean human rights said Wednesday. The Database Center for North Korean Human Rights said about 130,500 people are being detained in five harsh political prison camps while the others are languishing in at least 182 ordinary detention centers. It also reported serious violations of human rights in all facilities along with inadequate nutrition and poor sanitary conditions. The findings, based on previous data and new interviews of more than 210 North Korean defectors in South Korea, are the latest reminder of human rights abuses in the North. In May, Amnesty International, a London-based rights group, said North Korea was holding thousands of political prisoners in at least six facilities where they face extrajudicial executions, torture and forced labor. North Korea has denied the accusations of rights abuses, calling them a US-led attempt to topple its regime.  [>koreaherald.com ]

7.20.11 Libyan rebels push towards Zlitan
July 20 -
Rebel forces in Misrata say they are making gains amid heavy fighting, while minefields hamper progress in battle for Brega.  Libyan rebel forces in Misrata, supported by NATO air strikes, launched an offensive towards the government-held town of Zlitan on Wednesday morning, with fighters saying they were making gains amid heavy fighting. "We are now one and a half kilometers from Zlitan," said a rebel fighter, Mohammed Ashanobah, of the Shaheed (Martyr) Brigade. "The revolutionaries attacked at eight this morning." In eastern Libya, rebels continue to try to capture Brega, a key government-held town that is home to an oil refinery. They said they were being hampered in their efforts by extensive minefields. NATO said it destroyed six government artillery pieces around Misrata on Monday and planes hit a further 12 targets on Tuesday, marking a sharp escalation in alliance air strikes around the besieged city. Hikma hospital in Misrata reported seven fighters killed and 14 wounded by midday. Tripoli issued no casualty figures. Among the wounded were two government soldiers brought to the hospital for treatment by the man who shot them. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

7.20.11 Police officers killed in Kandahar gun battle
July 20 -
District police chief among the dead following clash in Kandahar city while bicycle bomb kills four in Mazar-e-Sharif.  A gun battle between Afghan police and anti-government fighters in the southern city of Kandahar has killed up to four police officers, including a district police chief, according to government and hospital officials. Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said Wednesday's clash was sparked by a police operation following a tip-off about the presence of two anti-government fighters — including an alleged senior Taliban commander — hiding in a house in the area. The commander and one other fighter were killed along with three Afghan police officers in the raid, Seddiqi said. "Our police had intelligence about the presence of some terrorists in a house in District 1. Police besieged the house and ordered the terrorists to surrender, but they refused and started fighting," he said. "In the fighting both terrorists including a well-known deaf Taliban commander known as Mullah Kar were killed." But a doctor at Kandahar's Mirwais hospital said four policemen had been killed and three others wounded. In the day's second deadly incident, a blast triggered by a bicycle bomber in Mazar-e-Sharif, in the northern Balkh province, killed four people and injured 12 others, according to security forces. "We are investigating whether the explosive was attached to his body or his bicycle," Sherjan Durani, a spokesman for the provincial police chief, said.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.20.11 Drones inducted into Pakistan Navy fleet
KARACHI, July 20 - [The] Pakistan Navy has inducted the first squadron of drones into its fleet, Geo News reported. Chief of Naval Staff, Admiral Noman Bashir was the chief guest in the induction ceremony. During the ceremony he said the drones would increase the operational capabilities of the Navy. The spokesman for the Navy added that the drones are equipped with sensors and will be used in coastal areas.  [>thenews.com.pk]

7.20.11 China finally ready to admit Pakistan's role in Xinjiang violence
BEIJING, July 20 -
A Chinese government think-tank has finally broken the deafening silence about the role of Pakistan in the continuous spate of violence in China's western province of Xinjiang. There are indications Beijing will now exert pressure on Islamabad to come clean about the support being given to anti-China forces from inside Pakistan.  The think-tank, the Institute of Central Asia at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, has pointed the finger at Pakistan as the source of violence. This is is something both Chinese officials and anti-China bodies like World Uighur Congress always avoid doing. The violence in Hotan, which is next door from the Pakistan border, left nearly 20 dead on Monday, it is now being revealed. The incident showed that Communist Party of China's close relationship with the Jamat-e-Islami and its protective attitude towards Pakistan have both failed to insulate Xinjiang from separatist violence. 

"Located in the southern part of Xinjiang, Hotan is close to the border with Pakistan. Due to their affinity in religion and language, some Uyghur residents there are at risk of being influenced by terrorist groups such as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement," Pan Zhiping, director of the Institute was quoted in the State run Global Times as saying.  An anti-terrorism expert, Li Wei, alluded to Pakistan without specifically mentioning it.
"Signs have shown that the rioters were greatly influenced by overseas terrorist organizations. They adopted a complicated approach to the attack and sought to amplify fears among the public," Li, who works for the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, said.  The World Uighur Congress may have good reasons for not mentioning Pakistan, because the country provides agitating Uighurs a training base and regular supply of arms to fight the Chinese authorities.[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

7.20.11 Foreign aid bill would make Pakistan, other nations pass new tests to receive US funds
July 20 -
A House panel is considering a bill Wednesday that would suspend billions in foreign aid to several governments in the Middle East and beyond until the Obama administration can certify they are not controlled by groups hostile to the United States and its allies. The bill, which provides the blueprint for US foreign aid around the world, contains a big loophole — despite the myriad requirements outlined in the draft, it would allow the president to waive them in the interest of national security. But the provisions, if passed, would impose a new and rigorous set of standards on how US aid is distributed to nations and a leading group known for hosting a thriving anti-American contingent. The proposal would require Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinian Authority to meet specific requirements in order to receive US aid. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., said Wednesday that she hopes the prospect of a funding cutoff will get their attention and put an end to the "games being played with our security."  [More>>foxnews.com]

7.20.11 UN declares Somalia famine in Bakool and Lower Shabelle
July 20 -
The United Nations has declared a famine in two areas of southern Somalia as the region suffers the worst drought in more than half a century. The UN said the humanitarian situation in southern Bakool and Lower Shabelle had deteriorated rapidly. It is the first time that the country has seen famine in 19 years. Meanwhile, the UN and US have said aid agencies need further safety guarantees from armed groups in Somalia to allow staff to reach those in need. Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group which controls large swathes of south and central Somalia, had imposed a ban on foreign aid agencies in its territories in 2009, but has recently allowed limited access. An estimated 10 million people have been affected in East Africa by the worst drought in more than half a century. More than 166,000 desperate Somalis are estimated to have fled their country to neighboring Kenya or Ethiopia. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
7.19.11 Bank of America reports 2Q loss of $9.1 billion on costs related to mortgage settlement
NEW YORK (AP) July 19 -
Things keep getting worse for Bank of America. The nation’s largest bank reported a loss of $9.1billion during the second quarter, partly due to an $8.5 billion settlement with investors. That agreement, reached in June, settled claims that the bank had sold the investors poor-quality mortgage bonds. The Charlotte, N.C. bank has been hamstrung by litigation and demands from investors who want Bank of America to buy back the bonds that it sold years ago. In the quarter, the bank set aside an additional $1.9 billion to fight litigation bringing the total mortgage-related charges in the second quarter to $20.7 billion. The bank does not disclose the total amount reserved for litigation costs. The reported loss available to common shareholders was 90 cents per share, wider than the 85 cents a share loss expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet. Excluding charges related to investor settlements, Bank of America Corp. earned $3.7 billion, or 33 cents per share. That compares with net income of $3.1 billion, or 27 cents a share, in the same quarter last year. The bank’s revenue declined 54 percent to $13.2 billion from $29.1 billion in the same period last year.  [More>>washingtonpost.com]

7.19.11 FBI raids homes of suspected Anonymous hackers
July 19 -
FBI agents conducted raids at four New York residences as well as locations in California Tuesday morning in connection with an ongoing investigation into the hacking group Anonymous, a law enforcement source confirmed for CBS News. The source said that no arrests were made but agents seized computers and computer accessories under search warrants at four homes of suspected hackers in Baldwin and Merrick both on Long island, in Brooklyn and the Bronx. The allegations are that the network of hackers allegedly carried out distributed denial of service attacks on numerous victims including corporations and their websites. The investigation is continuing.

The amorphous, loosely organized group of hackers sympathetic to WikiLeaks has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks against corporate and government websites around the world. The news comes as Anonymous claimed a cyberattack that shut down the website of Rupert Murdoch's Times newspaper. Last month, nineteen-year-old Ryan Cleary was arrested following a joint Scotland Yard-FBI investigation into cyberattacks claimed by Anonymous and a smaller spinoff group, Lulz Security...Last year, an alleged 16-year-old member of the group was arrested  in the Netherlands. In January, five people were arrested for allegedly having ties to Anonymous. Following those arrests, the FBI executed more than 40 search warrants to root out Anonymous members in the US Anonymous, known for attacks on the Church of Scientology and Kiss bassist Gene Simmons, claimed credit for disrupting the websites of Visa and Mastercard in December when the credit card companies stopped processing donations to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.  [More>>cbsnews.com; See also,

foxnews.com, July 19, "Exclusive: More than a dozen suspected 'Anonymous' hackers arrested in nationwide sweep.":
More than a dozen suspected members of "Anonymous" were arrested this morning in states including Florida, New Jersey and California, in what appears to be a nationwide takedown of the notorious hacking group, FoxNews.com has exclusively learned. The arrests are part of an ongoing investigation into Anonymous, which has claimed responsibility for numerous cyberattacks against a variety of websites including Visa and Mastercard...
7.19.11 Syrian military assaults intensify on Homs, 13 killed
AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) July 19 -
Syrian troops and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed 13 people in attacks in the city of Homs on Tuesday, residents said, an escalation of a crackdown against a focal point for pro-democracy protests. Among those killed were three mourners at a funeral for 10 people who were killed by security forces on Monday, the Local Coordinations Committee, an activists group, said. "We could not bury the martyrs at the city’s main cemetery so we opted for a smaller cemetery near the mosque, when the militiamen began firing at us from their cars," one mourner, who gave his name as Abdallah, told Reuters by telephone. He said the bodies had been taken to Khaled Ibn al-Walid mosque in the eastern Khalidiya district of the city. "Khalidiya is totally besieged by the military. We are cut off from the rest of Homs as if we are a separate country." Homs has been a major center of protests against Assad’s rule and tension has run high between the majority Sunni inhabitants and members of the Alawite minority, the same sect as Assad. Khalidiya is inhabited by members of Sunni tribes from rural Homs while the nearby Nozha neighborhood is home to most of the country’s security forces and militiamen, from the Alawite sect. The six deaths reported in Homs' Khalidiya and Bab Amr neighborhoods on Tuesday brought the total death count since the weekend to at least 30, activists and residents said.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.19.11 Gaza-bound boat boarded by Israeli forces
July 19 -
Pro-Palestinian activists aboard French yacht rejected Israeli warnings to change course in effort to break blockade. Israeli naval forces have boarded a French yacht carrying pro-Palestinian activists who had intended to sail to the blockaded Gaza Strip. The vessel is being taken to the port of Ashdod, an Israeli military spokeswoman said on Tuesday. "I can confirm that the yacht has been boarded and that everything went smoothly, there were no casualties," she said. There were no immediate reports of any violence as the marines boarded the Dignite-Al Karama yacht in the eastern Mediterranean. Earlier, Israeli naval vessels had told activists they would take control of the boat unless it left the area, according to an Al Jazeera correspondent. The Israeli navy had said it was in a dialog with the activists on board in an attempt to dissuade them from continuing on their route. "In accordance with Israel government directives, and as previously stressed, the Israel Navy will allow the organizers and passengers to re-track at any point, prior to the boarding of Israel Navy soldiers," the statement said. The 17-passenger boat had declared an Egyptian port as its destination when it left Greek waters on Sunday, but activists on board later said they were redirecting towards the Gaza Strip and hoped to arrive by Tuesday afternoon. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.19.11 Russia's Muslim leader wants less coverage of terrorism
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) July 19 -
Russian TV channels should broadcast less news about terrorism and extremism, the chief mufti of Russia, Talgat Tadzhuddin, said on Tuesday at a meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. "Once an explosion occurs somewhere, it is discussed every hour for at least two days," Tadzhuddin said. He suggested instead that media outlets pay more attention to "the lifestyle of the Russian peoples, their traditions and beliefs." Tadzhuddin also proposed in February the establishment of a" spirituality tax" to raise money for the construction of new mosques and cathedrals. The tax was to be collected from all residents of Bashkiria, regardless of their faith. In April, he suggested adding Islam's crescent to Russia's national emblem. Muslim minorities make up around one seventh of Russia's population. Some analysts suggest that high Muslim birthrates cold mean Islam will become Russia's dominant religion by 2050. [>en.rian.ru]

7.19.11 Seven workers of US NGO kidnapped in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, July 19 -
Seven Pakistani workers of a US NGO were kidnapped by unknown persons in Balochistan province of southwest Pakistan on Tuesday.  The workers were kidnapped in Sarkhab area of Pishin sub-division, about 50 km from provincial capital Quetta, by some persons traveling in two vehicles, officials were quoted as saying by TV news channels.  The workers of the American Refugee Committee were returning to Quetta after visiting a camp for Afghan refugees at the time of the incident.  The kidnapped persons are all residents of Balochistan. The incident occurred in an area located a short distance from the border with Afghanistan.  The police and Levies militia launched a search to trace the kidnapped persons.  No group claimed responsibility for the incident. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

7.19.11 Al-Qaeda claim Iraq suicide attacks that killed 37
(AFP) July 20- Al-Qaeda's
front group in Iraq, in an internet posting, has claimed responsibility for two recent suicide attacks that killed 37 people. A blast on July 5 in the city of Taji north of Baghdad killed 35 people and wounded 28, and a June 26 explosion by a bomber in a wheelchair killed two people and injured 17 at a police station in a nearby town. "One heroic martyr targeted Tarmiyah police station during a meeting," said the statement by the Islamic State of Iraq, posted on Islamist forum Honein on Monday. "This brother who wore a suicide belt and rode a wheelchair blew himself up. The second attack (in Taji) targeted a filthy meeting including security officials and local city council officials." June was the highest monthly death toll for Iraqis so far this year, while the 14 US soldiers killed last month was the highest such figure in three years. Baghdad has blamed al-Qaeda for the increased death toll for Iraqis, which was up 34 percent on May, while the US military holds Iranian-backed Shiite militias responsible for the deadly attacks on its troops.  [>news.com.au]

7.19.11 Japan bans all cattle shipments from Fukushima over radiation fears
TOKYO, July 19 -
Japan on Tuesday suspended cattle shipments from Fukushima Prefecture on fears of radiation-tainted beef in the country’s meat distribution chain, four months after a nuclear accident in the region. The central government told Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato to "halt shipments of all cattle in Fukushima to meat-packing factories," until the safety of the meat can be confirmed, chief government spokesman Yukio Edano told reporters. Around 650 beef cattle are thought to have been contaminated with radioactive caesium from hay they were fed with before being sent to meat processing facilities across Japan since late March. Beef from the cattle, which were mainly from Fukushima, was shipped to most of Japan’s 47 prefectures and some of the meat is thought to have already been consumed. Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Tuesday apologized in the Diet for the issue. "I feel the responsibility for not being able to prevent this from happening and I am very sorry," he said. Hay stored outside is thought to have been contaminated by radioactive materials spewed by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the weeks after it was hit by reactor meltdowns following the the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. [More>>japantoday.com]

7.17.11 US debt talks threaten dollar's safe haven status
July 17 -
The US risks sending tremors through global financial markets and threaten safe haven nature of the dollar and US government bonds should politicians fail to make significant progress on critical trillion-dollar debt talks this week, experts have warned. President Barack Obama and both the Democrats and Republicans in Congress are locked in fraught negotiations aimed at raising the country's $14.3trillion (£8.8trillion) debt ceiling, or the amount it can legally borrow. Although the US Treasury has said it will no longer have the money to pay all its bills after August 2, many believe the talks need to deliver results over the next five days to then allow a further week to finalize details and get the agreement voted through Congress. US government bond investors have so far remained sanguine, believing that American politicians would not risk the government's first default — other than a technical one caused by a procedural mistake in 1979 — in its history. But as the deadline approaches without a deal, that's likely to change. "There have been no signs of concern so far," said John Briggs, a bond analyst at Royal Bank of Scotland. "But as we get late into this week, if we don't see good signs then we'll see prices move."[More>>telegraph.co.uk]

7.17.11 UN flies aid to terrorist-controlled Somalia
July 17 -
The drought in Somalia represents one of the worst humanitarian crises in several years, and the worst-hit areas of Somalia are controlled by an al-Qaeda-linked Islamic group called al-Shabab. For weeks, there has been worry that al-Shabab would not lift its ban on foreign aid, but they finally did Saturday, allowing UN workers unhindered access, the BBC reports. UNICEF spokeswoman Rozanne Chorlton told the BBC she hoped this would encourage other agencies to also deliver aid to the devastated south and central areas of the country controlled by al-Shabab. The Islamist group lifted the ban 10 days ago as long as outside aid groups had "no hidden agenda." "They gave assurances that our access for humanitarian purposes would be unhindered and that we would be able to reach the people who need support most," Ms Chorlton told the BBC.  [More>>cbsnews.com]

7.17.11 Recognition of Libyan rebel council sparks similar moves in Syria and Yemen
July 17 -
Widespread international recognition of Libya’s rebel Transition National Council (TNC) is focusing debate among opponents of autocratic leaders in Syria and Yemen on how to organize a transition to democratic rule in their own countries. Increasingly, the TNC, which won recognition on Friday from the Libya Contact Group made up of more than 30 governments and international and regional organizations, including the United States, the European Union, the Arab League and NATO, is serving as a model for opposition forces elsewhere in the Arab world. A Yemeni youth movement said Saturday that had it established a transitional presidential council with 17 members to replace President Ali Abdullah Saleh once he has been forced to end his 33-year rule.

Mr. Saleh, who is recovering in Saudi Arabia from serious injuries suffered in early June in an attack on his presidential compound in the Yemeni capital Sana’a, insists on returning to Yemen to resume power. He has so far resisted pressure to resign despite months of mass anti-government protests and efforts by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the United States to ease him out of office. The success of the Libyan rebels has also prompted Syrian opposition figures gathered in Istanbul to discuss the formation of a shadow government. The discussion breaks with the opposition’s reluctance until now to identify a leadership because it feared that would provide Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime targets for assassination. Some 2,000 people have been killed in the regime’s brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

7.17.11 New blasts rock the Libyan capital
July 17 -
New blasts come as opposition forces try to regain control of Brega that has switched hands multiple times since March. New blasts have rocked the Libyan capital as leader Muammar Gaddafi vowed to remain in the land of his ancestors in the face of new calls for him to go and with rebels pressing their campaign to oust him. At least 13 blasts were heard before and just after 2300 GMT on Saturday. An AFP journalist was unable to say immediately what the targets had been. State television channel Al Jamahiriya reported that "the colonialist crusader aggressor," a reference to NATO, had raided civilian and military sites in the Ain Zara district and Tajoura in the eastern suburbs of Tripoli. The television, quoting a military source, said there had been victims but did not give any figure. Earlier on Saturday a Libyan medical official said 10 opposition fighters had been killed and 172 more wounded in an attack on a strategic eastern oil town controlled by forces loyal to Gaddafi, the Libyan leader. Mohammed Idris said that fighters entered the frontline town of Brega the night before and that government shelling and land mines killed the men. He also said opposition forces had captured four government soldiers. Brega, nestled at the southeastern tip of the Gulf of Sirte, has changed hands multiple times during Libya's civil war, which soon will enter its fifth month. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.17.11 South Yemen tribes turn against Qaeda allies
ADEN, Yemen (AFP) July 17 -
Tribes with close ties to al-Qaeda in a south Yemen province are turning against the militant group after it seized the city of Zinjibar, bringing only chaos and destruction, tribal sources say. Militants calling themselves “Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law),” who are believed to be linked to al-Qaeda, seized control of most of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, on May 29. The city has since been the scene of heavy fighting with Yemeni security forces, especially the 25th Mechanized Brigade, which until recently was surrounded by the militants. Most of Zinjibar's population has fled the fighting, which has wrought destruction in the city. In the past week, Abyan tribes have regained control of a number of towns previously held by al-Qaeda, said Sheikh Mohammed Ahmed Al Nakhai, a leader of the Nakhiine tribe and the top local official in the town of Mudiyah in Abyan.

"The tribes have formed an alliance in the province to expel al-Qaeda from the cities and villages, as the presence of these militants is a danger to inhabitants," Nakhai said. Tribesmen in Mudiyah were the first to move to expel al-Qaeda, he said, adding that the militants had withdrawn from the town after mediation and tribesmen have set up barricades around the town’s entrances. Tribesmen in other towns including Mehfed and Jaar, which lies just north of Zinjibar, have also pushed al-Qaeda militants out of their areas, he said.

The disastrous situation in Zinjibar was a reason for this tribal alliance against the extremists, as they caused the displacement of tens of thousands of Zinjibar residents and destruction of infrastructure, turning it into a ruin," Nakhai said.
In Mudiyah and elsewhere in Abyan, al-Qaeda had controlled government offices, had gunmen patrolling the streets, and banned publications they did not approve of, residents said. Militants have also killed local tribesmen who were members of the security forces in attacks on checkpoints, and killed holders of military IDs, residents said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.17.11 Afghanistan: Bamiyan province handed to local forces
July 17 -
NATO has handed over control of the central Afghan province of Bamiyan to Afghan security forces. It is the first of seven areas to be passed to local forces under a plan announced by President Karzai in March. Bamiyan is one of the country's most secure provinces but it is a poor region, heavily reliant on foreign aid. The handover is seen as a critical step in a transition of power before foreign troops end combat operations in 2014. Senior Afghan ministers and foreign ambassadors flew down from the capital, Kabul to take part in a transition ceremony that for security reasons was not announced in advance and was not broadcast live. The ceremony was held at Bamiyan's police headquarters. The police will take responsibility for security in the province as there are no army units stationed there. International forces from New Zealand will remain in the area for the time being, but they will be under Afghan control. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

7.17.11 NATO, Afghan army kill at least 13 Taliban
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) July 17 - 
Afghan and NATO officials say at least 13 insurgents have been killed in eastern Afghanistan after gunbattles and a coalition airstrike against a building occupied by Taliban fighters. Coalition spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff says the fighting started during an overnight operation targeting a Taliban leader in the Kuz Kunar district of Nangarhar province. The Afghan-led force, which included coalition troops, came under fire and insurgents refused requests to come out of the building. The fighting ended Sunday after an airstrike. There were no casualties among civilians or security forces, he said. Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, says the bodies of 13 insurgents have been found so far. He says the building was an empty school. [>foxnews.com]

7.17.11 Three rockets from Gaza Strip fired into Israel overnight
July 17 -
Palestinians report 7 injured in IDF attack on northern Strip, IDF denies reports; "Color Red" siren remains silent during Kassam launches. Three Kassam rockets were fired from the northern Gaza Strip overnight Saturday. Two of the rockets exploded in open fields in the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council and one in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council. No injuries or damage was reported. The Color Red rocket siren was not activated to warn of the rockets. Palestinians reported Sunday morning that in response to the rockets, the IDF had struck a home in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun. The IDF spokesperson denied that there was any attack on the Strip. On Friday, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz convened top brass to discuss the escalation in the south, including OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Tal Russo,

Israel Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan and OC Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
Following the meeting, senior officers condemned Hamas for not taking action to rein in other terrorist organizations in Gaza that the IDF believes are behind the recent rocket fire. Since the beginning of last month, some two dozen rockets have been fired into Israel. The recent escalation in rocket fire is viewed in the IDF as part of an effort by global jihad-aligned groups in Gaza to undermine Hamas's authority and rule by attacking Israel. It is believed that Hamas is not currently interested in a large-scale conflict, and therefore is not sanctioning the rocket attacks.

Another possibility is that Hamas is turning a blind eye to the attacks as part of an effort to remind Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the world that it should be taken into account in ongoing efforts to get a diplomatic process back on track. The Hamas leadership in Gaza is also believed to be increasingly frustrated with its failure to establish a unity government with Fatah and by the PA’s plans to declare statehood at the United Nations General Assembly session in September without taking the Gaza-based group into consideration. [>jpost.com]

7.17.11 Roadside bomb kills two in Baghdad
(AP) July 17 -
Iraqi officials say a roadside bomb targeting a security patrol has killed one policeman and a passer-by in western Baghdad. An Iraqi policeman says the blast Sunday morning also wounded three people in the Sunni-dominated Amariyah neighborhood near the capital's airport. A medic at the al-Yarmouk hospital confirmed the casualties. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Insurgents often attack security forces to highlight Iraq's continued vulnerability as US troops prepare to leave at the end of the year. Washington and Baghdad are discussing whether up to 10,000 US troops should remain into 2012. [>independent.co.uk]

7.15.11 Contact Group declares Libyan rebels official government
(AP) July 15 -
The United States joined 30 other nations in formally recognizing Libya's rebel opposition as the legitimate government Friday, a move which could grant them access to billions of dollars in frozen funds. More than 30 nations, including the United States, on Friday declared that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime is no longer legitimate and formally recognized Libya’s main opposition group as the country’s government. In a final statement following a meeting of the so-called Contact Group on Libya, the nations said: the "Gadhafi regime no longer has any legitimate authority in Libya," and Gadhafi and certain members of his family must go. The group said it would deal with Libya’s main opposition group — the National Transitional Council, or TNC — as “the legitimate governing authority in Libya” until an interim authority is in place.The recognition of the Libyan opposition as the legitimate government gives foes of Gadhafi a major financial and credibility boost. Diplomatic recognition of the council means that the US will be able to fund the opposition with some of the more than $30 billion in Gahdafi-regime assets that are frozen in American banks.  [More>>france24.com; See related story,

telegraph.co.uk, July 15, "Libya: military action will intensify while UN presses for end to conflict" :
Military action against Muammar Gaddafi's government will be intensified while a UN envoy presses for negotiations to end the conflict in Libya, William Hague said. Mr. Hague, the foreign secretary, said the UN secretary-general's special envoy to Libya, Abdul Elah Al-Khatib, would be authorized to present terms for Gaddafi to leave power and bring an end to the bloodshed that began with a popular uprising against his 41-year rule in February. "He (special envoy) has taken a central role in this contact group meeting and we see him as the channel for negotiations and for political settlement, while the military pressure on the regime will continue to intensify," Mr. Hague said in an interview with Reuters during an international Libya contact group meeting in Istanbul. Alain Juppe, France's foreign minister, said that the military action will continue through Ramadan unless Gaddafi submits to demands to step down...

7.15.11 Syrian security forces kill 16 in biggest protests to date
AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) July 15 -
Hundreds of thousands hit streets across country calling for ouster of Assad; police fire live ammunition and teargas in Damascus and in southern Syria near the Jordanian border; 3 shot in northern city of Idlibm. Syrian security forces shot dead at least 16 protesters on Friday as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across the country in the biggest protests so far against President Bashar Assad, Al Jazeera reported. Assad, facing the greatest challenge to 40 years of Baath Party rule, has sought to crush demonstrations. But although rights groups say some 1,400 civilians have been killed since March, the protests have continued unabated and swelled in size. "These are the biggest demonstrations so far. It is a clear challenge to the authorities, especially when we see all these numbers coming out from Damascus for the first time," said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Police fired live ammunition and teargas in the capital Damascus, killing five people, and in southern Syria near the Jordanian border, where four people were killed, witnesses sand activists said. Three protesters were shot dead in the northern city of Idlibm, they said. [More>>jpost.com]

7.15.11 Thousands of Israelis and Arabs march in Jerusalem to support Palestinian independence
July 15 -
Several MKs participate in the 'March for Independence,' the first such Jewish-Arab event in 20 years. Approximately 2,000 Palestinians and Israelis took part in the "March for Independence" Friday, calling for the recognition of a Palestinian state. Although the organizers of the march issued a statement saying the march was carried out peacefully, police had to intervene and separate right-wing and left-wing activists.The event was coordinated with the police, and organizers had pledged to prevent any violence from breaking out, despite the expected right-wing counter-protests. Participants in the march held signs quoting South African leader and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela saying "only free men can negotiate," while others bore slogans calling for support of Palestinian independence.[More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

jpost.com, "6 in 10 Palestinians reject 2-state solution, survey finds" ;
73% of 1,010 Palestinians in W. Bank, Gaza agree with 'hadith' quoted in Hamas Charter about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones, trees. Only one in three Palestinians (34 percent) accepts two states for two peoples as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to an intensive, face-to-face survey in Arabic of 1,010 Palestinian adults in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip completed this week by American pollster Stanley Greenberg. The poll, which has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points, was conducted in partnership with the Beit Sahour-based Palestinian Center for Public Opinion and sponsored by the Israel Project, an international nonprofit organization that provides journalists and leaders with information about the Middle East. The Israel Project is trying to reach out to the Arab world to promote "people-to-people peace."

The poll appears to indicate that the organization has a difficult task ahead. Respondents were asked about US President Barack Obama’s statement that "there should be two states: Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people and Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people." Just 34% said they accepted that concept, while 61% rejected it. Sixty-six percent said the Palestinians’ real goal should be to start with a two-state solution but then move to it all being one Palestinian state. Asked about the fate of Jerusalem, 92% said it should be the capital of Palestine, 1% said the capital of Israel, 3% the capital of both, and 4% a neutral international city.

Seventy-two percent backed denying the thousands of years of Jewish history in Jerusalem, 62% supported kidnapping IDF soldiers and holding them hostage, and 53% were in favor or teaching songs about hating Jews in Palestinian schools. When given a quote from the Hamas Charter about the need for battalions from the Arab and Islamic world to defeat the Jews, 80% agreed. Seventy-three percent agreed with a quote from the charter (and a hadith, or tradition ascribed to the prophet Muhammad) about the need to kill Jews hiding behind stones and trees.
But only 45% said they believed in the charter’s statement that the only solution to the Palestinian problem was jihad. The survey’s more positive findings included that only 22% supported firing rockets at Israeli cities and citizens and that two-thirds preferred diplomatic engagement over violent "resistance."...

7.15.11 Deadly car bombs target Iraqi pilgrims
July 15 -
At least two people killed and 11 injured as double car bombing targets pilgrims in southern city of Karbala. Two car bombs have exploded near a Shia Muslim shrine in Iraq's southern city of Karbala, killing two people at a site where an annual pilgrimage is under way, police say. Police confirmed to Al Jazeera that 11 other people were injured in Friday's attack when two vehicles packed with explosives detonated near a Shia shrine. Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from Baghdad, said "the two car bombs were parked in a garage near a shrine and they went off in succession." Initial reports about the exact number of casualties were conflicting. Police said the number of injured varied between 11 and 19. The explosions come as thousands of Shia pilgrims make their way to Karbala to celebrate the birth of Imam Mahdi. The annual pilgrimage in honor of one of the 12 imams revered by Shias, which has attracted at least a million people in the recent years, has often been target of attacks by extremists. "Unlike previous years, Shia pilgrimages in recent months have largely gone by without incidents, most notably the pilgrimage to the Imam Kadhim shrine in Baghdad last month," our correspondent said. [>aljazeera.net]

7.15.11 Saddam half-brothers to be executed within a month
BAGHDAD (AFP) July 15 -
Iraq will execute two of Saddam Hussein’s half-brothers within a month along with three other former regime figures, an official said on Friday after the five were handed over by the US military. The group, transferred to Iraqi custody on Thursday morning, were among 206 high-value detainees still being held by American forces ahead of a US military pullout due by the end of the year. "We received the final 206 Iraqi prisoners being held by US forces, including five senior officials from the former regime," said justice ministry spokesman Haidar al-Saadi. "They (the five officials) will be executed within one month. “They include Watban Ibrahim Hassan and Sabawi Ibrahim al-Tikriti," two half-brothers of the former dictator. Also among the group handed over and slated to be executed were former defense minister Sultan Hashem Ahmed and ex-generals Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti and Aziz Saleh Numan. The five were sentenced to death in different trials from 2007 to 2011. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.15.11 Al-Qaeda's terrorist tool kit now includes training manuals from Pakistani spy agency
July 15 - 
After losing key rounds in what some al-Qaeda operatives call the “intelligence war,” the terrorist network has introduced a new online course in operational security with material from an unusual source: Pakistan’s powerful spy service. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate has long been accused of coddling militant groups, even while helping the CIA kill or capture dozens of senior al-Qaeda operatives including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Now al-Qaeda operatives can study directly from some of the ISI's training manuals, according to a new report by Abdul Hameed Bakier at The Jamestown Foundation...Most disconcerting of all, Jamestown notes, is that the courses were translated from Urdu to English “for the benefit of mujahideen in America and Europe ... an indication of where the mujahideen are planning their future terror attacks.”  [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

7.15.11 24,000 Pentagon files stolen in major cyber breach
WASHINGTON, July 15 - [The] US Defense Department lost 24,000 files to "foreign intruders" in the spring in what appears to be one of the most damaging cyberattacks to date on the US military, a top Pentagon official acknowledged Thursday. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III, who disclosed the March breach during a speech to roll out the Pentagon's new cyber strategy, said the files were taken from a defense contractor. He did not say who was believed to be behind the attack or describe the nature of the files that were stolen. But Lynn said that, over the past few years, all manner of data has been stolen, some of it mundane, some of it concerning "our most sensitive systems, including aircraft avionics, surveillance technologies, satellite communications systems, and network security protocols. It is a significant concern that over the past decade, terabytes of data have been extracted by foreign intruders from corporate networks of defense companies," Lynn said. The Pentagon's vast networks are believed to be the subject of malicious probing every day, but it is often difficult if not impossible to determine the identity of an attacker.  [>thenews.com.pk]

7.13.11 Social Security checks could be delayed without debt-ceiling deal
July 13 -
President Obama's stark warning that Social Security payments may not go out next month is a choice the administration has to make, but entitlement benefits could be withheld if the cash flow dries up over an impasse in Washington on raising the debt ceiling. Obama issued the warning on Tuesday when he said Social Security payments and veterans' checks, among other payments, could be at risk if negotiators don't reach a deal to raise the debt limit above $14.3 trillion by Aug. 2. That's when the Treasury Department says the government will stop being able to borrow money. "because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," Obama said in an interview with CBS News. The warning rippled through Washington, though some continued to question whether the administration was over-hyping the consequences of creeping too close to the cut-off date for borrowing.

Meanwhile, seniors are left wondering whether they'll get their promised retirement benefits. Washington is obligated to pay Social Security benefits, but a Congressional Research Service report last month revealed that the Treasury Department can delay them if necessary. "Social Security benefit payments may be delayed or jeopardized if the Treasury does not have enough cash on hand to pay benefits," reads the report, which notes that the Treasury occasionally needs to issue debt to pay benefits, and a failure to raise the ceiling could make that impossible. A Government Accountability Office report several decades ago also said it is "generally recognized" that, in the event of a national default, the government would be precluded from honoring some obligations
including Social Security benefits, employee wages and other payments.   [More>>foxnews.com]

7.13.11 Turkey warns against Cyprus' EU presidency
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) July 13 -
Turkey will not recognize Cyprus’ presidency of the European Union in mid-2012 unless a deal reunifying the divided island is reached by then, Turkey’s foreign minister warned Wednesday. Ahmet Davutoglu also said Turkey-EU ties would reach a “freezing point” if Cyprus assumes the presidency before any settlement that would allow the Turkish community to be a legitimate representative of a reunified state. Cyprus has been divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and a Greek Cypriot south since 1974 when Turkey invaded after a short-lived coup by supporters of union with Greece. The island joined the EU in 2004, but only the internationally recognized south has membership benefits.

Numerous UN-mediated attempts at reunification have failed, also hampering Turkey’s EU bid.
The latest peace talks, launched almost three years ago, have also produced limited progress and core issues have yet to be discussed, including how to settle territorial adjustments and claims on private property lost after the 1974 war. "If Cyprus takes on the presidency unilaterally by July 2012 by delaying the peace talks and by dragging their feet, this would not only amount to a non-solution, but it would also take Turkey’s relations with the EU beyond a deadlock, toward a freezing point," he told reporters.

"It would be out of the question for us to recognize the southern Cypriot administration’s term presidency in any way," he said.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last week that he expects the Turkish and Greek Cypriot to ramp up talks and to reach agreement by October on all core issues.
Davutoglu said during a visit to Cyprus last week that an accord should be concluded by year’s end followed by referendums in the first months of 2012 that would enable a reunified island to assume a "legitimate (EU) presidency to represent all the island."  [>khaleejtimes.com]

7.13.11 Turkey: Qaeda plot targeting US embassy foiled
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) July 13 -
Police have detained 15 suspected al-Qaeda militants who were allegedly planning to attack the US Embassy in Turkey's capital, the nation's state-run news agency said Wednesday. Turkey's Interior Ministry confirmed the capture of suspected al-Qaeda militants, but would provide no other details about the case. The US Embassy said it had no information about the arrests or the alleged plot. Citing unidentified official sources, the Anatolia news agency said police captured the 15 suspects in Ankara, the western city of Bursa and the nearby town of Yalova, and seized 1,500 pounds of chemicals used in bomb making, two assault rifles, ammunition and maps of Ankara. The suspects were planning to attack the US Embassy in Ankara and unidentified foreign targets, the news agency said. They were brought to police headquarters in Ankara on Tuesday night and were being questioned by anti-terror police, the report said. The police raids came after a six-month surveillance of a key suspect who is believed to have received training with arms and explosives and rented a two-story house in Sincan town on the outskirts of Ankara, Anatolia said. The police captured the suspect on a street of Sincan earlier this week to avoid a possible clash during a raid, the news agency said. [More>>cbsnews.com]

7.13.11 Al-Qaeda plotting internet jihad
LONDON, July 13 -
Al-Qaida is plotting a jihad on the Internet against Britain and the West, and has launched teams to target key computer systems, officials said. Terrorists have even tried to invade Facebook in their "campaign of electronic warfare," The Sun reported.  The Google Earth and Street View applications are being used by the terrorists to plan out atrocities, it said.  Security officials in Britain say cyberterrorism will become an ever growing threat. A 123-page counter-terror report said a special unit called the Tariq bin Ziyad Brigades for Electronic Jihad attacked computers last year.  "Since the death of Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda has called not only for acts of lone or individual terrorism but also for  cyberjihad," it said.  Experts now say there are thousands of terrorist-related websites, and a "few dozen are highly influential" and frequented by terrorists.  "Use of social network sites and video sharing is now commonplace. There have been a number of attempts by terrorist and extremist groups to invade Facebook," it said. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
7.13.11 Terror strikes Mumbai again, at least 17 killed, over 100 injured
MUMBAI, India, July 13 -
Mumbai was rocked by three blasts in Zaveri Bazar, Dadar and Charni Road areas this evening, killing and injuring several people. The terror strike coincided with the birthday of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman in 26/11, who turned 24 today. Kasab has been sentenced to death by a trial court. Home Minister P Chidambaram had indicated that at least 10 people have been killed, but Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan raised that to 13, which itself was raised subsequently to 17. Indian Mujahedin has emerged as the group most likely behind the terror strikes. After initially refusing to take a stand, Home Ministry has now described the blasts in Mumbai as serial bomb blasts. Improvised explosive devices (IED) were used by the terrorists, says the Home Ministry.

PWD Minister Chaggan Bhujbal confirmed that three blasts have occurred. Police sources said the nature and intensity of the blasts was not known.  It is still not clear whether the blasts involved the use of a motorcycles and scooters - no car was used in the blasts. There are reports that one blast happened at a bus stop.  A police official said that an IED was found in an umbrella too.  All the explosions have taken place in heavily crowded areas. The first explosion took place in south Mumbai's Zaveri Bazaar, near the famous Mumbadevi temple, in which some people were injured, said Mumbai Police spokesperson Nisar Tamboli. The bustling market also has a number of jewelery shops.  The second explosion was reported in a taxi in Dadar area, he said, while the third blast reported from Opera House in Charni Road. [>indianexpress.com]

7.13.11 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan attack
July 13 -
Suicide attack kills at least five soldiers in eastern Tagab valley, amid growing calls for France to pull troops out. At least five French soldiers have been killed, along with one civilian, in a suicide attack in Afghanistan, Nicolas Sarkozy, France's president, has said. Four other soldiers were seriously wounded in Wednesday's incident in Joybar in the country's eastern Tagab valley, Sarkozy said in a statement a day after he returned home from a visit to the country. "The French soldiers were protecting a council meeting in the Tagab valley," a statement from the Elysee, the presidential palace, said.  "A terrorist set off a bomb close to the soldiers wounding four other French soldiers seriously and three Afghan civilians." The statement condemned what it called a "cowardly murder" and expressed France's determination to remain part of the NATO-led coalition fighting in Afghanistan. The attack was the deadliest blow to French forces in Afghanistan since an assault on August 18, 2008 that left 10 soldiers dead and 21 injured. In that attack the soldiers' patrol was ambushed by Taliban fighters in Uzbin, in the Sarobi district east of Kabul, the capital.  [More>>aljazeera.net]
7.12.11 Markets rattled by fears of spreading debt crisis
(Reuters) July 12 -
European shares tumbled for the third straight session and the euro slumped to a new four-month low Tuesday amid growing concern that the eurozone's debt crisis may spread to Italy and Spain. Investors dumped the euro, peripheral euro zone government debt, and European shares on Tuesday as officials struggled to contain fears that the euro zone debt crisis was spreading to Italy and Spain. Oil prices also fell. In a bid to keep Italy and Spain from the same fate as Greece, Portugal and Ireland, euro zone finance ministers promised on Monday cheaper loans, longer maturities and a more flexible rescue fund. But they said new measures would be announced "shortly" and set no deadline.

Traders said markets also were under further pressure after new International Monetray Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde failed to comment specifically on resolving Greece's debt problems.Dutch Finance Minister added to investor nerves by saying a selective default for Greece was no longer being excluded. "The topic is still the contagion from the bond markets to the FX markets. Italian and Spanish bonds have opened lower, and yields have gone up more, and this is going one-to-one with the euro," said Marcus Hettinger, global currency strategist at Credit Suisse in Zurich. The euro extended Monday's steep falls to hit a four month low of $1.3863, down over one percent on the day. It plumbed another record low against the Swiss franc and lost 1.5 percent against the yen. [More>>france24.com]

7.12.11 US will confront Iranian threat in Iraq, says US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
BAGHDAD (AP) July 12 -
The US will not "walk away" from the challenge of Iran’s increased arming of Iraqi insurgents who are targeting and killing American troops, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Monday. "We’re very concerned about Iran and the weapons they’re providing to extremists in Iraq," he told a small group of soldiers on his first visit to Iraq as Pentagon chief. "We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue to happen," he said. "This is not something we’re going to walk away from. It’s something we’re going to take on head-on." Mr. Panetta said Iraq must more aggressively go after the Shiite militias that are using what he called Iranian-supplied weapons. Three rockets fired from a mainly Shiite neighborhood hit Baghdad’s Green Zone during Mr. Panetta's visit, Iraqi police said. No casualties were reported.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

7.12.11 Karzai's brother shot dead in Kandahar
July 12 -
Ahmed Wali Karzai, Afghan powerbroker with alleged criminal ties, killed by close associate and security commander.  Ahmed Wali Karzai, half brother to the Afghan president and one of the most powerful men in the country, has been killed in Kandahar city by a close associate, according to government officials and a member of his security team. Wali Karzai, the head of the Kandahar provincial council, was shot dead on Tuesday morning inside his house by Sardar Mohammad, a "dear" friend who regularly visited him, according to the security source and a member of the provincial council. A Taliban spokesman told Al Jazeera that they were behind the killing and had assigned Mohammad to carry it out a "long time" ago. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.12.11 45 killed, as US drone strikes in Pakistan's northwest
PESHAWAR, July 12 - At least 45 militants were killed in Pakistan's restive northwest in one of the deadliest strikes by US drones, signaling Washington's resolve to step up assault on terror groups in this country despite growing strains in ties with its key ally. The unusually heavy barrage of three missile strikes in a span of 12 hours, targeting militant hideouts in north and south Waziristan took one of the largest death tolls in the controversial unacknowledged air campaign.The drone attacks commenced on Monday night when unmanned air craft unleashed nine missiles into a suspected militant compound and a vehicle in north Waziristan, killing 25 militants, local officials were quoted by TV channels as saying. Few hours later, the drone struck again in nearby South Waziristan firing missiles and killing five militants. The drones reappeared early this morning over the area firing two missiles at another compound in North Waziristan killing 15 militants.  It was the second largest death toll in drone campaign. In 2009 a missile attack killed 70 militants in south Waziristan.  The stepped up drone campaign follows on the heels of Obama Administration's announcement that it was suspending more than one-third of the massive USD 2 billion military assistance to Pakistan. [More>>indianexpress.com; See other details,

thenews.com.pk, July 12, "Multiple drone strikes kill 23 in Waziristan" :  WANA, Pakistan -
Twenty-three persons were killed when US drones fired multiple missiles in North and South Waziristan Tuesday, Geo News reported. The attacks killed 23 persons in the past 24 hours.  According to tribal sources, a US drone fired four missiles in total at a van and a house in Darai Nishtar area of Shawal in North Waziristan Agency. The attacks killed fifteen persons while scores were injured. Subsequent reports suggested the US drones continued to fly in the area after attacking the vehicle and house. The other attack took place in the border area of Barmal in South Waziristan where a US drone fired two missiles on a vehicle, killing eight persons and injuring three others.  Earlier on Monday, the US drone had attacked a vehicle and a compound killing twenty-five persons. The missiles were fired at the Pak-Afghan border area of Borvaika in Dattakhel tehsil. All the commuters on the vehicle were killed on the spot. [end]

7.12.11 US ran fake vaccine project in Abbottabad in hunt for bin Laden: Report
LONDON (AFP) July 12 -
US intelligence launched a fake vaccination drive in the Pakistan town where it believed Osama bin Laden was hiding in an effort to gather DNA from members of his family, the Guardian reported on Tuesday.  CIA officials recruited a senior local doctor to organize the campaign after it tracked down a bin Laden courier to what turned out to be the al-Qaeda fugitive's compound in the town of Abbottabad, the British newspaper said.  Before launching the high-risk operation against bin Laden, US officials wanted to test DNA samples from people living at the compound with a sample that they had from his sister.  Doctor Shakil Afridi, who has since been arrested by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, launched the program in Abbottabad's poorest area to make it appear more credible. 

The project then moved swiftly to the Bilal Town suburb, where bin Laden was residing.  "The whole thing was totally irregular," a Pakistani official told the newspaper. "Bilal Town is a well-to-do area. Why would you choose that place to give free vaccines?"
A nurse managed to gain access to the compound but Pakistani sources claim she failed to obtain any DNA samples, the Guardian reported.  Bin Laden was killed on May 2 in a raid that soured US-Pakistan relations.  The Pakistani military on Monday insisted it was capable of fighting Islamic militants without US assistance, hitting back after Washington said it would suspend $800 million worth of security aid.  [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

7.12.11 French PM: Envoys say Gaddafi ready to go
PARIS (AP) July 12 - 
France's foreign minister said Tuesday Paris has had contact with emissaries from Muammar Gaddafi who say the embattled Libyan strongman is "prepared to leave."  Alain Juppe said that while the contacts do not constitute proper negotiations, "everyone (involved in Libya's civil war) has contacts with everyone else. The Libyan regime sends its messengers all over, to Turkey, to New York, to Paris. We receive emissaries who are saying, 'Gaddafi is prepared to leave. Let's discuss it.'"  [More>>foxnews.com]

7.12.11 Is 'Luna Ring' the energy solution or loony pipe dream?
July 12 -
When Tetsuji Yoshida first unveiled a revolutionary plan to generate solar energy on the moon last year, the news received little fanfare. Yoshida envisioned a "lunar ring" or belt made up of solar panels placed around the moon's equator that could power all of planet Earth. The president of space consulting group CSP Japan, a subsidiary of Japanese construction firm Shimizu Corporation, says his plan was featured on NASA's Lunar Science Institute website. But it didn't generate much interest beyond that. That is, until March 11, when a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daichi Power Plant, raising serious questions about the country's energy policy.

...The moon is seen as prime location for solar energy because there is virtually no atmosphere, meaning no bad weather or clouds to keep the sun's rays from the panels. Even in the most ideal situations, Yoshida says solar panels on Earth can only generate one-twentieth of the energy produced in outer space. "In space, there is constant light hitting the solar panels," he said. "When all the energy created from those panels reaches Earth, there will be no need to produce energy from coal, oil, or biomass." The Luna Ring proposed by Yoshida, on behalf Shimizu Corporation, attempts to harness solar energy on a larger scale than previous concepts. It involves building a belt of solar panels around the moon's 6,800 mile equator, and using built-in cables to transmit the power generated by the solar cells, to the near side of the moon – the side, facing the Earth. The electricity would be converted into microwaves and lasers beamed at Earth, and each country would have receivers that allow them to take in the energy and store it. [Full story>>abcnews.go.com]

7.09.11 Over-fished tuna in 'hot water,' study finds
July 9 -
Two more species of tuna have been added to the Red List of Threatened Species. They join the Southern bluefin tuna - listed as critically endangered. The report, published in this week's Science, is the first global assessment of this highly prized family of fish, which are at risk of being over-fished. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) says there is a lack of resolve to protect against overexploitation driven by high prices. Until this latest study, attempts to assess the health of scombrid and billfish populations, families of fish that include tuna and swordfish, have been carried out at a regional scale. This study, which relies on the IUCN Red List criteria to judge the stocks' health, took a more global approach.  Of the 61 species of fish assessed, seven were earmarked as either vulnerable, endangered or critically endangered. All suffer from over-fishing, habitat loss and pollution. Along with the two species of tuna, two mackerel and two marlin joined the Red List.

The 'sapphires of seafood'

Per kilo, bluefins are among the most expensive seafood in the world. "All three bluefin tuna species are susceptible to collapse under continued excessive fishing pressure. The Southern bluefin has already essentially crashed, with little hope of recovery," said one the the study's authors Kent Carpenter the IUCN's Marine Biodiversity manager. Southern bluefin numbers have reached levels that are one twentieth of those recorded before industrial fishing began. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

7.09.11 Ayman al-Zawahri living in Pakistan: Panetta
KABUL, July 9 -
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that Ayman-al-Zawahri was living in Pakistan's tribal areas, adding that he wanted to see Pakistan's action against al-Qaeda Chief. According to a foreign news agency, Panetta, prior to his arrival in Kabul on a surprise visit, said that it was strategically possible to defeat al-Qaeda if the United States could kill or capture up to 20 remaining leaders of the core group and its affiliates. He added that these individuals were in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. [>thenews.com.pk; See more details,

thestar.com.my (Reuters) July 9, "US defense chief says al-Qaeda's defeat 'within reach' "
:  KABUL -
New US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta arrived in Afghanistan on Saturday, saying he believed the strategic defeat of al-Qaeda was within reach if the United States could kill or capture up to 20 remaining leaders of the core group and its affiliates. Panetta, on his first trip since taking over the Pentagon on July 1, told reporters before arriving in Kabul that now was the time
— in the wake of the May killing of Osama bin Laden — to intensify efforts to target al Qaeda's leadership. "We're within reach of strategically defeating al-Qaeda and I'm hoping to be able to focus on that, working obviously with my prior agency as well," said Panetta, who ran the CIA until the end of June. "Now is the moment following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them. Because I do believe that if we continue this effort that we can really cripple al-Qaeda as a threat to (the United States)." 

Panetta declined to offer all the names of al-Qaeda leadership the United States was looking at. But he singled out two men: Anwar al-Awlaki, an American imam who has become a senior leader of al-Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, and Ayman al-Zawahri, who replaced bin Laden as the head of al-Qaeda. Panetta said he believed Zawahri was living in Pakistan's tribal areas, and "he's one of those we would like to see the Pakistanis target." "I would say somewhere around 10-20 key leaders that between Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, AQIM (al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb) in North Africa..those are, if we can go after them, I think we really can strategically defeat al-Qaeda," he said...

7.09.11 Gaddafi reiterates threat of revenge attacks in Europe
(Reuters) July 9 -
Muammar Gaddafi threatened to send hundreds of Libyans to Europe to carry out "martyrdom" attacks in an audio speech on Friday, after warning the continent of a "looming catastrophe" if NATO refused to cease military operations in the country.  Muammar Gaddafi threatened to take the war in Libya to Europe on Friday while rebels came under heavy fire as they renewed their push against his forces. Tens of thousands of Gaddafi supporters rallied in Tripoli's Green Square for Friday prayers, underscoring his refusal to step down after four decades in power and five months of fighting.Large numbers also turned out in the desert town of Sabha, 800 km (500 miles) to the south in an apparent attempt to show that Gaddafi still enjoys support in the areas of Libya he still controls.

In a speech on Libyan television, Gaddafi threatened to send hundreds of Libyans to carry out attacks in Europe in revenge for the NATO-led military campaign against him. "Hundreds of Libyans will martyr in Europe. I told you it is eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. But we will give them a chance to come to their senses," the Libyan leader said in an audio speech.
While the insurgents have advanced on two fronts in the past two weeks, they took casualties on Friday. At least six rebels were killed and 17 injured on the front line near Misrata, on Libya's Mediterranean coast, according to local medical workers. [More>>france24.com; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) July 9, "Libya rebels push to cut off defiant Gadaffi"
Libyan rebels said they were preparing to push forward in their drive on Tripoli from the south and west in a bid to isolate Moamer Gaddafi in the ever-closer capital. But the embattled leader remained defiant, telling supporters on Friday that “the regime in Libya will not fall.” After heavy fighting, rebel fighters captured the desert hamlet of Gualish on Wednesday, taking them closer to the strategic garrison town Gharyan and the last major objective standing between them and Tripoli to the north. For now, they have set their sights on Asablah, 17 kilometres (11 miles) north of Gualish on the road to Gharyan...

7.09.11 New protests rage across Egypt
July 9 -
Demanding faster reforms and prosecution of Mubarak era officials, protesters gather to put pressure on military rulers. Thousands of demonstrators have flooded Cairo's now-iconic Tahrir Square and other rallying points across the country to demand immediate reforms and swifter prosecution of former officials from the toppled government of Hosni Mubarak. Friday's "March of the Million," as protesters are calling the new uprising, is expected to be the biggest demonstration since the fall of Mubarak on February 11. Many Egyptians feel that little has changed since the regime was forced out, and the nationwide protests are the latest calls for the country's interim military rulers to provide a roadmap towards democracy, jobs and infrastructure improvements.

Most of Egypt's political parties and coalitions, including the Muslim Brotherhood, supported widespread calls for the protest to be staged across Egypt. Hundreds of protesters gathered in Suez and Alexandria, among other locations. "The main frustration here is over the release of the officers accused of killing protesters during the revolution is the main focus of the people here," said Al Jazeera correspondent Sherine Tadros from Suez. "What people here are asking for is justice and faster trials of those responsible for the killings of protesters. Tadros added that the military is trying to maintain control and show a visible presence in Suez. "However, they are careful not to overshadow the protesters to make it out in many ways that they are here to stop the protest," Tadros said. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.09.11 Malaysia arrests over 1,400 as people join anti-government rally
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) July 9 -
Malaysian police fired repeated rounds of tear gas and detained over 1,400 people in the capital on Saturday as thousands of activists evaded roadblocks and barbed wire to hold a street protest against Prime Minister Najib Razak's government.  At least a dozen people were hurt in the demonstration for electoral reform in downtown Kuala Lumpur. There were no reports of serious injuries but some analysts said the police action was excessive and would dent Najib's image. We are not criminals, we are just asking for free and fair elections, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, told reporters after her father was knocked down and hurt in a melee when he and his supporters were tear gassed. Many innocent people were injured. We condemn this act of cruelty by UMNO and Barisan Nasional, she said, referring to Najib's party and the ruling coalition.[More>>indianexpress.com]

7.09.11 Afghan guard shoots dead NATO troops - police
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) July 9 - An Afghan guard opened fire and shot dead two NATO troops accompanying a reconstruction convoy traveling in a northern province today, the Afghan police said. The shooting took place in the Darah district of Panjshir province, about 62 miles (99 kilometers) north of the capital, Kabul, according to provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh. The police chief said the guard, who goes by the name Amanullah, was standing outside his home when the convoy passed by. He stopped the convoy, started arguing with the NATO troops and then opened fire, Jangalbagh said.  A third coalition service member was wounded in the shooting. Jangalbagh said another NATO service member fired back and killed Amanullah.  NATO said it was investigating the incident and did not confirm any casualties from the Panjshir shooting. [More>>news.com.au]

7.09.11 Gunmen open fire in bar in northern Mexico; official says at least 17 killed
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) July 9 -
At least 17 people were killed in a bar massacre Friday night in the northern Mexico city of Monterrey when riflemen opened fire on the clientèle and employees, a state forensic investigator said. Monterrey, a major industrial hub, has seen a spike of violence since the Gulf and Zeta cartels began fighting for control of drug traffic there two years ago...Federal police spokesman Jose Ramon Salinas said that high-powered weapons used in the shooting indicated it might have been a drug cartel confrontation. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]

7.08.11 Atlantis blasts off on final flight for Space Shuttle program
July 8 -
Space shuttle Atlantis displayed its power and majesty one final time, rocketing into space from Kennedy Space Center at 11:26 a.m. ET Friday morning despite threatening weather -- marking the final launch after 30 years for NASA's storied fleet of shuttles. Seven million pounds of thrust from the shuttle's rocket booster carried the vehicle into orbit one last time, at speeds of up to 19,000 miles per hour, for an expected meeting with the International Space Station on Sunday.  It was a bittersweet moment for everyone involved. "The sense of history, the legacy of what has happened here over three decades, is palpable," a Mission Control spokesman said before the launch, noting that "30 years and three months ago, it was Columbia on the launch pad awaiting lift off." "America will continue the dream," the launch director said as Atlantis lifted-off on its 33rd and last flight.  [More>>foxnews.com]

7.08.11 Deb debate for dummies: Six keys to understanding the issue
July 8 -
The American government is broke. Rather, like many American families, it uses borrowed money to operate on a daily basis. But unlike the average American, the government doesn't ask a bank or credit card company for more money; it can sell more debt on the open market and raise its own credit limit. The government has sold debt almost since the beginning of the Republic. You can buy it in the form or Savings Bonds. Buy some here. Institutions, governments and professional investors from around the world also buy debt, but in much larger quantities. The Social Security system owns the most U.S. debt. Foreign governments, including China, own 31 percent. With government spending and taxes key political issues, the Republicans and the Democrats cannot agree on how much more money to spend and borrow. If an individual wanted to borrow more, he would ask his bank to raise his credit limit. The government can do this by getting Congress to raise the debt ceiling. And so White House and Congressional negotiators have been in closed-door negotiations for months trying to figure out a way to change the way the government spends money before they agree to borrow more. Here's a simple guide to some key points of the debate:

How much money does the government owe?

The US government owes more than $14.34 trillion dollars and counting. The average citizen's share of that debt is about $46,000. The government reached the legal debt ceiling on May 16, when it owed $14.29 trillion, but the Treasury Department has averted default by placing IOUs in some federal worker retirement accounts. On Aug. 2, this will no longer be permissable, according to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Congress has to approve raising the debt ceiling before then in order for the government to be able to pay all its bills.

How much more does the government need to borrow?

The figures are astronomical. The government pays more than $1 billion each day just on interest on the debt. Overall federal spending is more than $10 billion a day for all the services the government provides.[More>>abcnews.go.com; for background see Maravot News chart on the debt in the sidebar.

7.08.11 North Sudan officially recognizes South Sudan
(Reuters July 8 -
North Sudan officially recognized the independence of South Sudan on Friday, a government minister announced on state television. "The Republic of Sudan declares that it recognizes the state of South Sudan from July 9," said Khartoum's Minister for Presidential Affairs Bakri Hassan Saleh. The south is scheduled to secede from after midnight tonight, a split agreed in the climax of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of north/south civil war. [>france24.com]

7.08.11 Pakistan orders troops in after 80 die in Karachi
KARACHI (AFP) July 8 -
Pakistan Friday ordered 1,000 extra troops to deploy in Karachi with instructions to shoot-to-kill after another 80 people were killed in the deadliest six months of political violence since 1995. Gunfire reverberated in western neighborhoods and thousands of people were stranded, short of food and too frightened to go out on a fourth consecutive day of violence in what is Pakistan’s biggest city and economic hub. The US ambassador to Pakistan voiced concern about escalating instability in the city whose Arabian Sea port is used by the United States to ship supplies to the 150,000 foreign troops fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. The unrest has been blamed on loyalists of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the dominant local party that represents Pakistanis who migrated from India, and the Awami National Party (ANP) of Pashtuns from the northwest. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.08.11 Newspaper 'sacrificed to save one woman'
July 8 -
Staff rage as News of the World is closed over hacking scandal, while Rupert Murdoch refuses to comment on rumors of new Sunday paper. Rupert Murdoch announced the closure of the 168-year-old News of the World yesterday in a desperate attempt to limit the ongoing scandal over phone hacking, as the paper's former editor, Andy Coulson, prepared to be arrested. The shock decision was revealed to staff at Mr Murdoch's News International newspaper in an email from his son James, the News Corp deputy chief operating officer, who said: "The News of the World is in the business of holding others to account. But it failed when it came to itself." Journalists raged that they had been betrayed by Rebekah Brooks, News International's chief executive, who faces calls for her resignation, after revelations that the NOTW under her editorship hacked the phone of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler.[More>>independent.co.uk]

7.08.11 Job growth falters badly, clouding hope for recovery
July 8 -
It’s getting harder to say that this is just temporary. For the second month in a row, employers added a dismally small number of jobs, showing that the United States economy is barely creaking along despite being two years into the official recovery. With all levels of government laying off workers, the Labor Department reported that employers eked out just 18,000 new nonfarm payroll jobs in June. The already low number of jobs created in May was also revised downward to just 25,000, less than half what was originally reported last month. Even as the government’s survey of employers showed that they were adding an anemic number of jobs, a survey of households showed that more people were out of work, causing the unemployment rate to rise to 9.2 percent. Economists were stunned since they had been expecting June to show stronger job creation as oil prices eased and supply disruptions receded in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami and earthquake. Instead, the government’s monthly snapshot of the labor market showed that several sectors, including construction, finance and temporary services, actually shed workers. At the same time, leading indicators like wages and the length of the average workweek, which tend to grow before employers begin adding more jobs, actually contracted. [More>>nytimes.com]

7.08.11 'Air Flotilla' lands, activists taken for questioning
July 8 -
At least 60 pro-Palestinian activists taken from EasyJet, Alitalia flights for police interrogation; 6 left-wing activists arrested after causing disturbance at airport; undercover agents, police deployed at B-G airport. Police diverted two passenger aircrafts that landed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Friday, detaining at least 60 suspected pro-Palestinian activists for questioning.  The flights, one EasyJet from Geneva and one Alitalia, were diverted to Terminal 1, where police combed passengers for pro-Palestinian activists expected to attempt entry into the country as part of the "air flotilla," Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Police believed a bulk of foreign pro-Palestinian activists were on those jets. After police finished checking the flights, passengers not connected to the groups of activists were ferried back to Terminal 3.

The suspected activists
were taken to a separate area of the airport for questioning. Undercover agents and police continue to be deployed at Ben-Gurion Airport as more" air flotilla" participants were expected to arrive. 
Meanwhile, six left-wing Israeli activists were arrested after causing a disturbance in the arrivals area at Terminal Three police added. "Five males and one female are being questioned," Rosenfeld said.  The activists held up signs inside the terminal saying "Welcome to Palestine." Several of them were taken outside by police where they were arrested and attacked by bystanders. Earlier Friday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said that even though hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists taking part in the "air flotilla" were prevented from entering Israel, "the wave was still ahead of us," adding that in the coming hours approximately 100 activists are expected to land in Israel. [More>>jpost.com; See related story,

alarabiya.net, July 8, "200 activists blocked from Israel flights as pro-Palestinians begin new campaign":
Some 200 pro-Palestinian activists have been barred from leaving foreign airports for Israel, where authorities are poised to deport others who manage to fly in, Israeli police said on Friday. After Greece grounded a flotilla that tried to sail in contravention of the Gaza Strip blockade this month, international protesters mobilized to flock to Ben-Gurion Airport, near Tel Aviv, in a challenge to Israel’s curbs on accessing the occupied West Bank...

7.08.11 US '99% sure' top terrorist was killed last month
July 8 -
US officials are increasingly confident that one of the most-wanted terrorists in the world was killed early last month in a drone attack in Pakistan. Ilyas Kashmiri was a senior figure in al-Qaeda and operated his own terrorist group, Harakat-ul-Jihad-Islami (Movement for an Islamic Holy War). One senior US official said they were "99% sure" that the drone attack - on a remote location in the tribal territory of South Waziristan in Pakistan - had eliminated Kashmiri. But the official added that "the folks that make that determination aren't ready to say so definitively," Another official said there was "strong reason to believe that he's dead" but would not elaborate. One reason for caution is that the shadowy Kashmiri was once before declared dead, only to resurface and give an interview that threatened "Mumbai-style" attacks in the West. Early in June, Kashmiri's group said he had been killed by a drone strike late at night while traveling in a convoy. Pakistani officials said nine people were killed in the attack but did not identify Kashmiri as one of them. [More>>cnn.com]

7.08.11 'Half a million' on the streets of Hama
July 8 -
Reports of biggest protest in Syria so far in city that has become focal point of opposition to President Assad's rule. More than 500,000 people have taken to the streets of Hama, according to activists, in what they say is the biggest protest yet against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government. An activist told Al Jazeera on Friday that Hama had become a "tangible example of resistance to injustice" in Syria. Hundreds of thousands also protested last Friday, prompting mass arrests and reports of several deaths when Syrian security forces subsequently moved into the city, Syria's third largest, and the surrounding area. "Hama with all the support it is receiving from all over the country is becoming a role model for peaceful demonstrations and we are protesting here for all of Syria," said the local activist. Friday's protests followed a visit to Hama by Robert Ford, the US ambassador in Syria, who toured the city on Thursday to show solidarity with residents, the US State Department said. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also,

haaretz.com, July 8, "Security forces kill seven as protests continue across Syria" :
Syrian forces shot dead seven people as protesters demonstrated against President Bashar Assad across the country on Friday, a prominent rights campaigner said. Ammar Qurabi, Cairo-based head of the Syrian National Human Rights Organization, said three people were killed in the town of Maarat al-Numaan on the eastern edge of Idlib province, and another was killed in the central Damascus district of Midan. Three additional protesters were killed overnight in Harasta...

7.06.11 Pakistani Taleban attack kills up to 38 Afghans
(AFP) July 6 -
Up to 33 police and five civilians were killed in fighting after Taleban crossed over from Pakistan and attacked a remote region in eastern Afghanistan. Nuristan provincial governor Jamaluddin Badr said about 40 rebels also died in the two days of clashes that followed weeks of tit-for-tat allegations of cross-border attacks that have fanned diplomatic tensions. But the interior ministry contradicted the toll and said 12 policemen had died and another five were wounded. Dozens of rebels who began crossing the border from Pakistan on Tuesday triggered the fight, Badr told AFP, attacking police posts in the Kamdesh district of Nuristan. "The report we have now from the area is that 33 border police and five civilians, two of them women, have been killed," he said.  He said most of the dead rebels were Pakistan Taleban. The interior ministry said that "dozens" of rebels were killed in a clearance operation that lasted several hours, 12 of them Pakistanis. "The situation in the border areas of Kamdesh district has returned to normal and police are strengthening their positions," it said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.06.11 Israel deports five ahead of anticipated influx of pro-Palestinian activists
July 6 - 
600-1,200 activists were expected to attempt entry to Israel as counterpart to the Gaza flotilla. Israeli police have deported five pro-Palestinian activists in the past two days. The activists were sent back to their home countries, France and Belgium. Dozens of Israeli security forces deployed at Ben-Gurion International Airport on Wednesday afternoon, following reports that hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists planned to fly into the country as a counterpart to the Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Between 600 and 1,200 activists are expected to arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport on Thursday night and Friday, on flights from Moscow and New York. Israel Police and Border Police officers are currently spread out across the arrivals hall. Hundreds more security officers plan to be stationed throughout the airport over the coming days in anticipation of the activists' arrival. It is expected that the activists will set up camp across the airport as part of their protest.

Yet the organizers of the flights denied their intention. One of them, Lubna Masarawa, told Haaretz in a phone call from London that the reports are overblown and do not reflect the activists' plans. "The main mistake is the attempt to tie the flights to the flotilla," she said. "There is no connection between the two." The organizers say the idea is to send hundreds of civil society activists to visit the Palestinian Authority. The planning began about a year ago. "The activists will arrive as tourists and ask to pass through border control like any other tourists," Masarawa said. "There is no plan to confront anyone, but a true will to visit Palestinian cities and then the Negev." Elsa Rassbach, another organizer, told Haaretz that "to classify us as hooligans is ridiculous. We are talking about a group of civil society activists whose average age is between 50 and 60." Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Wednesday that security forces must act firmly against the planned protests. "Every country has the right to prevent the entry of provocateurs into its borders," Netanyahu said during a meeting with several heads of Israeli security services at the Ben-Gurion airport. [>haaretz.com]

7.06.11 Afghan civilians killed by British drone
July 6 -
UK defense ministry says four Afghan civilians killed and two injured in attack on Taliban commander in Helmand.  A British Royal Air Force (RAF) drone has killed four Afghan civilians and injured two more during an attack on a Taliban commander, the British ministry of defense has confirmed. The UK defense department verified a report in Britain's Guardian newspaper on Wednesday, which revealed that four civilians died when a Reaper drone being controlled from a US Air force base in Nevada attacked a truck carrying a known commander. "On 25 March, a UK Reaper was tasked to engage and destroy two pick up trucks," the defense ministry said on Wednesday. "Sadly, four Afghan civilians were also killed and a further two Afghan civilians were injured," added the ministry "with deep regret." Two fighters were also killed in the attack. The ministry said the airstrike marked the first time a British Reaper drone has been responsible for civilian deaths since the RAF began using the pilotless aircraft over the war-torn nation in 2007. The revelation may complicate the role of British commanders in Helmand province, as they attempt to secure the trust of local people ahead of a change of soldiers later this month, when Afghan forces take the lead for security in an area now under UK control.  [>aljazeera.net]

7.06.11 Yemen: 40 militants linked to al-Qaeda killed in airstrikes, clashes
SANAA, Yemen (AP) July 6 - 
At least 40 militants linked to al-Qaeda have been killed in two days of airstrikes and clashes with government forces, Yemen's state news agency said Tuesday. The report by the SABA news agency said the government attacks began after militants tried to storm a military camp in the southern province of Abyan, where Islamist fighters have seized control of several towns. The militant takeovers are part of widening chaos in Yemen since protests broke out in February calling for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is being treated in Saudi Arabia for wounds sustained in an attack on his palace last month. The SABA report added that two government soldiers were killed and 20 others injured in the Abyan fighting.  [More>>foxnews.com]

7.05.11 Syrian forces hit Hama as protestors erect barriers and set tires ablaze
(AP) July 5 -
Hundreds of residents of Hama burned tires, erected sand barriers and set up other makeshift roadblocks on Tuesday to prevent the advance of Syrian tanks and soldiers ringing the city, which has become a flashpoint of the uprising against President Bashar Al Assad’s authoritarian regime. On Monday, Syrian forces sealed off Hama and blocked the roads leading to it, an apparent attempt to retake the city one month after security forces withdrew from it. About 300,000 people protested against the regime in Hama last week, a sign the city was edging away from government control. Rami Abdul-Rahman, the London-based director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said security forces killed three people Monday night in Hama. At least 20 were wounded, including Nasser al-Shami, who won a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Hundreds of young men were burning tires and erecting barriers to prevent a military siege, he said, citing witnesses on the ground. Hama, which has a history of militancy against the Assad regime, was targeted by Mr. Assad’s father, his predecessor, in a major government crackdown nearly three decades ago. Hama, which has a history of militancy against the Assad regime, was targeted by Mr. Assad’s father, his predecessor, in a major government crackdown nearly three decades ago. The 14-week uprising against Basher Assad has proved remarkably resilient despite a deadly government crackdown that has brought international condemnation and sanctions. Mr. Assad is facing the most serious challenge to his family’s four decades of rule in Syria. [More>>alarabiya.net]

7.05.11 Gaddafi forces 'intercept arms from Qatar'
July 5 -
Government spokesman says two boats carrying weapons for rebels seized from west of Tripoli. Libyan officials are claiming to have intercepted two boats carrying a cache of weapons from Qatar, reportedly intended for rebels fighting forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. On Monday, Moussa Ibrahim, a government spokesman, said 11 rebels were captured from the boats close to shore near the town of Janzour, just west of Tripoli. "In the early hours of this morning around 4 o'clock our security forces intercepted the submission of many weapons from a ship that raises the Tunisian flag to two small Libyan boats with some Libyan rebels on board the boats," he said. "I was told that this was the load of one major container, so this would be something like one out of ten or something like that," Ibrahim added.

Foreign reporters were later taken to Tripoli's port where they were shown a cache of rifles and ammunition displayed in a tent, but not the captured boats. The weapons included about 100 Belgian-made FN assault rifles, as well as thousands of rounds of ammunition of the same caliber used in the guns. Several of the ammunition boxes were marked in English as coming from the armed forces of Qatar. Qatar has emerged as one of the main supporters of the rebels. And its involvement in the country's civil war has enraged Libyan officials. Mahmoud Jibril, of Libya's Transitional National Council, said on Thursday that foreign deliveries of military hardware would give the rebels a chance to win the battle against Gaddafi quickly and with the least amount of blood spilled.

French supplies

Colonel Thierry Burkhard, French military spokesman, said last week that France had airlifted weapons to Libyan civilians in a mountain region south of Tripoli. The deliveries of guns, rocket-propelled grenades and munitions took place in early June in the western Nafusa mountains, when Gaddafi's troops had encircled civilians. China and Russia have both questioned whether the supplying of weapons breached the terms of the United Nations Security Council resolution that authorizes international action in Libya. Britain's government has insisted that the French decision to supply weapons fell within the terms of the UN resolutions. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.05.11 Fight in Afghanistan to turn eastward: Petraeus
July 5 -
The outgoing commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan said that the focus of the war will shift in coming months from Taliban strongholds in the south to the eastern border with Pakistan where insurgents closest to al-Qaeda and other militants hold sway. On his last Fourth of July in uniform before becoming the new CIA director, Gen. David Petraeus said that come fall, more special forces, intelligence, surveillance, air power will be concentrated in areas along Afghanistan's rugged eastern border with Pakistan. There will be substantially more Afghan boots on the ground in the east and perhaps a small number of extra coalition forces too. "There could be some small (coalition) forces that will move, but this is about shifting helicopters — lift and attack. It's about shifting close-air support. It's about shifting, above all, intelligence, surveillance and recognizance assets," he said in interviews with The Associated Press and three other news outlets.

The US-led coalition has concentrated most of its troops and attention in Helmand and Kandahar provinces in southern Afghanistan. That's where the majority of the more than 30,000 US reinforcements were deployed last year. They have made gains in clearing the territory and now are trying to hold it as the Afghan authorities and international donors rush in with plans for development and better governance. "The priority has been central Helmand province and Kandahar," Petraeus said. "We have made significant progress there. ... It remains a tough fight because the enemy wants to come back and try to regain the momentum the Taliban had until we took it away sometime last fall." "We intend to hang on to those areas and solidify that progress and transition, increasingly, to a greater Afghan presence." That, he said, will allow the coalition to shift focus to the east, which is home to the Afghan Taliban and other groups such as the al-Qaeda affiliated Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

7.05.11 High time Pakistan abandons policy of patronizing Taliban: Ex-AG
The Pakistani establishment and its political leaders must completely abandon the policy of patronizing and strengthening the Taliban and other militant groups because allowing them to increase their hold in the country would amount to the negation of Pakistan, former Attorney General Iqbal Haider has said. "Once again the suggestion to hold negotiations with the Taliban is being urged and pleaded forcefully by the NATO countries, in particular by the US leadership, as well as by some of the political leaders and intellectuals in Pakistan," Haider wrote in a piece for "The News." It is surprising that all these advocates of negotiations either consciously or unconsciously forget the fact that this exercise was undertaken repeatedly on the pretext of “national interest" by General Pervez Musharraf, who had signed about five or six agreements with various groups of Taliban and the extremist religious terrorists forces such as "Fazal Ullah," during his long dictatorial rule, he added.

It would not be prudent now to ignore the consequences of the repeated agreements signed by Musharraf and even by the present elected government in May 2008, which were totally in favor of Taliban, said Haider, a former Senator.  "The catastrophic impact of all these agreements with Taliban is rise and rise of intolerance, militancy and terrorism in more and more territories of Pakistan," he stressed, clarifying that he is using the term "Taliban" for all their factions, groups of al-Qaeda and all the extremists, militant religious or Jihadi forces under whatever name or banner. [>indianexpress. com]

7.05.11 Attacks kill nine Pakistani soldiers
QUETTA, Pakistan (AFP) July 5 -
Attacks killed nine Pakistani soldiers on Tuesday, targeting troops in the militant-infested tribal badlands near Afghanistan and further south on the border with Iran, officials said. The deadliest attack killed five paramilitary troops traveling in a routine convoy between the towns of Turbat and Mand, some 680 kilometers (370 miles) southwest of Quetta, the capital city of Baluchistan province. "Five paramilitary soldiers were martyred and five others were wounded in the bomb blast," a paramilitary commander told AFP. The convoy was en route to a remote border base near the town of Mand, he said requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to media. Local police and security officials confirmed the attack and toll. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Baluchistan has seen a recent upswing in violence linked to a separatist insurgency, sectarian violence and Islamist militancy. A Swiss couple, who were abducted in Baluchistan on Friday, are now believed to have been smuggled into Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border, a notorious haven for Taliban and al-Qaeda. In the tribal belt, three soldiers were killed in North Waziristan, considered a leading militant fortress and where Pakistan is under huge US pressure to launch an offensive against the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.05.11 Dozens killed in two explosions near Baghdad
(Reuters) July 5 -
A car bomb and another explosive that detonated on Tuesday in the crowded car park of a government building in the Iraqi town of Taji left dozens dead. The bombings are the last in a two-day series of deadly attacks against security officials. Two explosions at a municipal government building in the Iraqi town of Taji on Tuesday killed at least 27 people and wounded 50 others, officials said. A car bomb and another explosive detonated in a crowded parking lot of the government building in Taji, about 20 km (12 miles) north of Baghdad, security sources told Reuters. "It was a double explosion. The first was caused by a car bomb. We have no idea what the second was, whether a suicide bomber or a roadside bomb," said Raad al-Tamimi, the head of the Taji municipality. "The place was crowded with people who were going to process official papers and with police and employees," he said. Deputy Health Minister Khamis al-Saad said the blasts killed 27 people and wounded 50. An interior ministry source put the initial toll at 35 dead and 28 wounded. The bombings followed a series of attacks that targeted Iraqi security forces over the last two days, killing at least ten police and soldiers and wounding 22 others. [>france24.com]

7.05.11 WA could follow NSW in granting police powers to lift the veil
July 5 - Western
Australia is expected to follow the lead of New South Wales and give police powers to force motorists, including Muslim women, to remove head coverings, as a global Islamic group decried the move. The NSW coalition Government plans to introduce the legislation in parliament next month after calls from the Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione. If passed, police will have the power to ask any person stopped during routine vehicle checks to remove burqas, niqabs or other head and face coverings at the roadside to verify their identities. NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell made the decision after a Sydney judge last week quashed a six-month jail sentence given to a burqa-wearing mother of seven, Carnita Matthews.  Ms. Matthews had been found guilty of falsely accusing Senior Constable Paul Fogarty of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was pulled over while driving in Woodbine west of the city in June 2010. The video evidence implied otherwise but NSW District Court Judge Clive Jeffreys said it was not conclusively proved Ms Matthews was the one who had made the false statement and quashed the sentence. Mr. O'Farrell said today his Government's plan would clarify the law and give police "powers to establish identity."  [More>>news.com.au]

7.01.11 China arrests 36 for fraud on Alibaba and other sites
July 1 -
Chinese police have arrested 36 people connected with operating an online fraud on Alibaba.com and other websites, the company has said. Those arrested stand accused of duping overseas buyers of more than $6m (£3.7m) by posing as suppliers on the Chinese e-commerce websites. The fraud resulted in the chief executive and chief operating officer of Alibaba quitting earlier this year. Alibaba is China's largest e-commerce group. "The arrest of the suspects hits online scammers hard," said Alibaba.com boss Jonathan Lu. The company said the arrests were made following a 40-day investigation earlier this year. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

7.01.11 US 'extends drone strikes to Somalia'
July 1 -
First such attack reported in East African nation wounds two leaders of anti-government group al-Shabab.  A US drone aircraft is reported to have fired upon two senior members of al-Shabab, the Islamist anti-government armed group, in Somalia last week, marking the first time a US unmanned plane has been used for such an attack inside the country. The strike, said to have been carried out on June 23, is believed to have targeted a convoy of fighters belonging to al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia's weak Transitional Federal Government and impose Islamic law. The attack was not immediately identified as a drone strike, but a senior US military official familiar with the operation told the Washington Post newspaper on Thursday that it had come from such an aircraft. The strike would make Somalia the sixth country where the US has reportedly used drones to conduct attacks. They have also been used in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and far more extensively in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The strike hit the convoy of fighters as it drove along the cost in Kismayo, a southern port town, the AP news agency reported. Two men were wounded, and the US official identified them as senior Shabab members. Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, the deputy defense minister, declined to identify who the fighters were or who carried out the attack, except to say it had been done by a "partner country." Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counter-terrorism expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told Al Jazeera that the attack in Somalia emphasized America's new approach to counter-terrorism, which favors "surgical strikes." Given the location of the attack, in southern Somalia, it's likely the drone was launched from Kenya, he wrote in an email. The US military uses an airfield in Manda Bay, around 300km south of the area of the strike, he wrote. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.01.11 Six killed as protesters flood cities throughout Syria
(AP) July 1 -
The demonstrations are one of the largest outpourings against the regime of President Bashar Assad since the uprisings began more than three months ago.  At least six people were killed in protests as hundreds of thousands of protesters flooded cities around Syria on Friday, activists said. The demonstrations were one of the largest outpourings against the regime of President Bashar Assad since the uprisings began more than three months ago. The demonstrations underscored the resilience of the protesters despite Assad's relentless crackdowns. Syrian rights groups say more than 1,400 people have been killed, most of them unarmed protesters, since mid-March. The regime disputes the toll, blaming "armed thugs" and foreign conspirators for the unrest that has posed the most serious challenge to the Assad family's 40-year ruling dynasty in Syria. Syria-based rights activist Mustafa Osso said huge protest crowds moved into the streets after noon prayers in places across the country, including the capital Damascus. Among the largest rallies was in the central city of Hama, where about 200,000 people went out in the streets, said Omar Idilbi, a spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees, which track the protests in Syria. Idilbi said security forces killed at least three people in another central city, Homs, after opening fire. [More>>haaretz.com]
7.01.11 Twenty civilians killed in Afghan landmine explosion
KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) July 01 -
Twenty Afghan civilians including women and children were killed Thursday when a landmine exploded under a bus they were traveling in, a senior police figure said. "An IED (improvised explosive device) struck a bus, 20 civilians were killed," said Haji Mosa Rasooli, accusing the Taliban of being behind the blast. The Islamist militants, who have been waging a near decade long insurgency against the Afghan government and foreign forces, were not immediately contactable for comment. The blast occurred in the remote and volatile southwestern province of Nimroz. It took place at around 4:00 p.m. (1130 GMT) in the region’s Khash Rod district on the main highway linking Nimroz to Kandahar, the de facto capital of southern Afghanistan. [More>>alarabiya.net

7.01.11 Suspected drug kingpin arrested in Los Angeles
July 1 -
A suspected drug kingpin on the "15 Most Wanted" fugitives list has been arrested in Los Angeles, the US Marshals Service announced Thursday. Keith Hasson, 45, was arrested without incident Wednesday at an apartment northwest of downtown Los Angeles, between Burbank and Thousand Oaks, according to a statement from the Marshals Service. He is reputed to have been the leader of a nationwide cocaine and marijuana trafficking ring that operated from 1999 to 2005 and generated more than $20 million in cash and assets, the statement said. Hasson was wanted on a 2005 open indictment from the U.S. District Court in New Mexico for conspiracy to distribute controlled substances, continuing criminal enterprise and conspiracy to launder money, according to the statement. [More>>cnn.com]

7.01.11 Italy arrests 'The Godfather' clan boss
MAZARA DEL VALLO, Italy, July 1 - 
Italian organized crime police arrested the mafia boss of Corleone, the town in Sicily made famous by "The Godfather" trilogy, the ANSA news agency reported Friday. Gaetano Riina, 79, was arrested along with three other men on charges of extortion and criminal association. Riina is the brother of former Cosa Nostra kingpin Toto Riina, who is serving multiple life sentences for sanctioning dozens of killings, AFP reported. Gaetano Riina was arrested in a dawn raid in the town of Mazara del Vallo, from where he ran the Corleone clan. Corleone was used as the adopted surname of the mafia family in "The Godfather" trilogy, which starred Al Pacino as Michael Corleone. [>foxnews.com]


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