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08.09.10 Netanyahu accuses Turkey of ignoring Gaza flotilla warnings

August 9 - Israel's prime minister tells inquiry that raid on aid convoy in which nine activists died was conducted in self-defence. Turkey failed to act in response to appeals at "the highest level" to prevent a confrontation between Israeli forces and activists aboard the Gaza aid flotilla, Israel's prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, today told an inquiry into the lethal clash. Netanyahu, the first witness to testify at the state-appointed inquiry, said continuous diplomatic efforts were made in the weeks running up to the flotilla's departure to avert a confrontation. "Ultimately the Turkish government did not prevent the attempt by the Marmara [the flotilla's lead ship] to break the naval blockade [of Gaza]," he said. "Nor did we hear any public message from the Turkish government aimed at calming the excitability of the activists aboard the ship. "It appears that the Turkish government did not see in the prospect of a clash between Turkish activists and Israel something that clashed with its interests."

...Netanyahu told the inquiry that contacts between his office and the highest levels of the Turkish government continued for two weeks ahead of the flotilla's arrival. He personally appealed to a senior figure in the Egyptian government to intercede on 27 May, he added. He accused Turkey of "bolstering its solidarity and cooperation with Iran in the days before the flotilla" through a meeting between the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on the nuclear issue. Netanyahu told the inquiry, headed by the retired supreme court judge Jacob Turkel, that he was convinced it would conclude that Israel acted in accordance with international law. His appearance, he said, was "the best proof of the standards according to which Israeli democracy operates." Ahead of the raid, the prime minister asked that supreme effort be made to avoid casualties during the operation, he said. "The raid was a last resort, and the instructions were to conduct it with as little friction as possible."
[Full story>>guardian.co.uk; For background stories, testimonies and videos see Maravot News:

Maravot News 6.25.10 articles : 06.18.10 'We will throw them into the sea' : IHH head calls for violence, "martyrdom" in new 'Marmara' footage. New footage from the Mavi Marmara was released by the Foreign Ministry on Friday afternoon, this time showing IHH head Bülent Yildirim inciting to violence against Israeli commandos hours before the encounter that claimed the lives of nine Turkish passengers...

Maravot News article and background links 06.11.10 'Marmara' captain: I opposed violence

Maravot News 06.24.10 'Lebanon government may cancel flotilas'

Maravot News 06.09.10 Probe: Erdogan knew Gaza flotilla would be violent

Maravot News 06.08.10 Arabs urged to 'break' Israel borders. (article with background stories)

08.09.10 Report: US downgrades Saudi arms deal over Israeli concerns

August 9 - Wall Street Journal says US to sell Saudis 84 F-15 fighter jets in $30 billion deal, but without long-range weapons systems. The Wall Street Journal said Monday that the United States had signed on to sell dozens of F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia, but that details in the final deal had been negotiated to quell Israeli concerns over the possible exchange. Last month, a senior defense source told Haaretz that Israel was trying to prevent the United States from selling new F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in order to upgrade the 150 F-15s already in the Saudi air force.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak raised the deal in meetings with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Advisor General Jim Jones over a month ago in Washington. It was also reported that Israel made its reservations clear at a meeting in Tel Aviv between top Israeli defense officials and a delegation led by US under secretary of defense for policy Michele Flournoy. According to the Wall Street Journal report, the Obama administration in fact agreed to sell advanced F-15 fighter jets to the Saudis, however excluding long-range weapons systems as well as other components in order to quiet Israel's concerns.

08.09.10 Death rate doubles as acrid smog chokes Moscow

(AFP) August 9 - After days of official silence on the scale and toll of the wildfires disaster, Russian officials acknowledged Monday that the daily mortality rate in Moscow had doubled as an acrid smog caused by a massive heatwave enveloped the city. The daily mortality rate in Moscow has doubled and morgues are filled almost to capacity amid an acrid smog caused by the worst heatwave in Russia's thousand-year history, officials said Monday. The acknowledgment, which broke days of official silence on the toll, came after media reports accused authorities of covering up the scale of the disaster that has forced many Muscovities to flee the Russian capital.

The smog from the peat and forest fires burning in the countryside around 100 kilometres (60 miles) outside the city has choked Moscow for days and is seeping into apartments, offices and even underground into the metro. In usual times 360-380 people are dying each day. Now it is around 700," the head of the city's health department, Andrei Seltsovsky, said in televised remarks. Out of 1,500 spaces in city morgues 1,300 were currently occupied, the state RIA Novosti news agency quoted Seltsovsky as saying. Russia's top meteorological official, Alexander Frolov, said the heatwave was the most severe in the country's millenium-long history

08.09.10 A frenchman declared terrorist fugitive

JAKARTA, Indonesia, August 9 - National Police's Detachment 88 Anti-Terror Squad have declared a French nationality man as a terrorist fugitive for providing a car used as a car bomb, a press conference was told on Monday. National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Edward Aritonang said the man was the one who bought a Mitsubishi Galant car, which had been prepared by the suspect to be a car bomb. "This man is a French, and his wife was from Morocco. He bought the car and handed it over to the arrested suspects," Edward said, refusing to disclose his identity. The police arrested a number of terrorists suspects in a series of raids in several locations in West Java on Sunday. The raids ended with the arrest of the prominent firebrand Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir on Monday. Edward added the police had been coordinating with the Interpol to search for the man. [>thejakartapost.com; See related story,

aljazeera.net, August 9, "Indonesian cleric in terror arrest" : Abu Bakar Bashir, the Indonesian Muslim cleric once imprisoned for his links to the group behind the Bali bombings, has been arrested for alleged involvement with a new armed group. His lawyer, Muhammad Ali, said he was arrested early on Monday in West Java's Ciamis district. Authorities discovered the new group in February and said it was allegedly planning to assassinate Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia's president. Indonesian police said the cell, that calls itself al-Qaeda in Aceh, was also plotting a Mumbai-style attack on foreigners at luxury hotels in the capital, Jakarta, and several high-profile assassinations.

"I received a report from security last night that certain elements with bad intentions were lurking in the Ciwidey area [west Java] to do something against me," Yudhoyono was quoted as saying by the Antara state news agency. Dozens of suspects linked to the group have been arrested or killed in recent months. Rumors have circulated for weeks that Bashir, a fiery preacher known for propagating hatred against foreigners, was next on the list...

08.09.10 Two killed, including police, in Baghdad blast

BAGHDAD, August 9 - Two people were killed, including a traffic policeman, in a roadside bomb at a police station in western Baghdad on Monday, an interior ministry official said. Ten others including seven traffic policemen were wounded in the attack which occurred in the morning at the traffic police's Ghazaliyah bureau, the official added. The attack was the latest in a string of shootings and explosions that have targeted traffic officers in the capital, worsening already severe gridlock during rush-hour. Traffic policemen, who typically do not wear bullet-proof vests or carry any weapons but a pistol, have begun wielding Kalashnikov assault rifles in recent days in response to the apparently increased threat. [>thenews.com.pk]

08.09.10 Mosque once used by 9/11 attackers shut down

BERLIN (AP) August 9 - A Hamburg mosque once frequented by some of the 9/11 attackers was shut down today because German authorities believed the prayer house was again being used as a meeting point for Islamic radicals. The Taiba mosque was closed and the cultural association that runs it was banned, Hamburg officials said in a statement. "We have closed the mosque because it was a recruiting and meeting point for Islamic radicals who wanted to participate in so-called jihad or holy war," said Frank Reschreiter, a spokesman for Hamburg's state interior ministry.

He said that 20 police officers were searching the building and had confiscated material, including several computers. He was not aware of any arrests. However, the homes of leading members of the cultural association were searched and the group's assets were confiscated, the Hamburg state government said in a statement. Authorities have said the prayer house, until two years ago known as the al-Quds mosque, was a meeting and recruiting point years ago for some of the Sept. 11 attackers before they moved to the United States. Ringleader Mohamed Atta as well as Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah had studied in Hamburg and frequented al-Quds mosque. Reschreiter said Monday marked the first time the mosque had been closed, and that it had been under observation by local intelligence officers for "quite a long time."
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See more details,

spiegel.de, August 9, "Closure of Taiba Mosque: Hamburg hate preachers lose their home"
: ...Hamburg Interior Minister Christoph Ahlhaus described the mosque as "a focal point for the jihadist scene." The Taiba society had "spread an ideology that was hostile to democracy" in sermons, courses, seminars and via the Internet, Ahlhaus said. The mosque claimed to represent the original and only true form of Islam, unadulterated by the temptations of the modern world. That is why many worshippers who prayed there didn't mind being called Islamists and fundamentalists. After all, they argued, this was where the foundations of Islam were being taught. Many of them are convinced that most Islamic countries are ruled by tyrants. A caliphate, like the one the Taliban had established in Afghanistan before 2001, is the only truly Islamic form of government, they said. Many visitors approved of the "Islamic resistance" now being waged against foreign forces, including German troops, in Afghanistan...

Related story:

Maravot News 08.08.10 Across nation, mosque projects meet opposition x

08.09.10 Taliban flogs, executes pregnant woman

HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) August 9 - The Taliban publicly flogged and then executed a pregnant Afghan widow by shooting her three times in the head for alleged adultery, police said. Bibi Sanubar, 35, was kept in captivity for three days before she was shot dead in a public trial on Sunday by a local Taliban commander in the Qadis district of the rural western province Badghis. The Taliban accused Sanubar of having an "illicit affair" that left her pregnant. She was first punished with 200 lashes in public before being shot, deputy provincial police chief Ghulam Mohammad Sayeedi told AFP. "She was shot in the head in public while she was still pregnant," Mr. Sayeedi said. The execution is a grim reminder of the Taliban's harsh six-year rule from 1996 to 2001 in Afghanistan. [More>>news.com.au]

08.09.10 Iran slaps 20-year jail terms on seven Bahai members

PAARIS (AFP) August 9 - Iran has sentenced seven leading members of its Bahai religious minority to 20-year jail terms, French and US members of the faith told AFP on Monday. The United States and the European Union had criticized Iran's detention of the Bahai members, and their reported jailing will revive calls for Tehran's Islamic regime to respect religious freedom. "On Sunday, authorities announced 20-year sentences orally to the defendants' lawyers," said Sophie Menard, spokeswoman for the Bahai community in France, adding that the group was awaiting confirmation of the terms. "The lawyers have begun proceedings to seek an appeal, which ought to allow them access to the written judgements," she explained. Iran arrested seven Bahai leaders in May 2008 and this year put them on trial on charges ranging from spying for foreigners, spreading corruption on Earth, undermining Islam and of cooperating with Israel. All those accused denied the charges. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.09.10 Pakistan floods leave 1,600 dead, 2mn homeless

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) August 9 - Landslides triggered by the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years are hampering already troubled relief efforts, with aid workers using donkeys or traveling on foot to reach millions in desperate need of help. Poor weather has made it difficult for helicopters to deliver food to some parts of the Swat Valley, northwest of the capital Islamabad and among the areas first hit by the deluge. Many roads have been destroyed and landslides have added to the isolation of many areas. The catastrophe, which has put unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari on the defensive and raised the profile of the military which is spearheading relief efforts, has killed more than 1,600 people and left two million homeless. [More>>indianexpress.com; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, August 9, "Pakistan floods, Russia heat match climate trends"
: OSLO - Devastating floods in Pakistan and Russia's heat wave match projected trends of ever more extremes caused by global warming even though it is impossible to blame mankind for single severe weather events, scientists said. This year is on track to be the warmest since reliable temperature records began in the mid-19th century, beating 1998, mainly due to a build-up of greenhouse gases from fossil fuels, according to the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO). "We will always have climate extremes. But it looks like climate change is exacerbating the intensity of the extremes," said Omar Baddour, chief of climate data management applications at WMO headquarters in Geneva. "It is too early to point to a human fingerprint" behind individual weather events, he said. Recent extremes include mudslides in China or temperature heat records from Finland to Kuwait...

msnbc.msn.com, August 9, "Mudlslides devastate China town" :
Death toll rises to 337 and over 1,000 people are still missing. ZHOUQU, China -The death toll from a massive landslide triggered by floods in China's northwest has risen to 337, the country's state media said on Monday. The Communist Party chief of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Gansu province also told the state-run Xinhua News Agency that more than 1,100 people were still missing. The disaster struck Sunday as a debris-blocked swollen river burst, swamping entire mountain villages in the county seat of Zhouqu and ripping homes from their foundations. It is the deadliest incident in China's worst flooding in a decade...

08.09.10 Mumbai oil spill continues, containers tumbled into water

MUMBAI, India, August 9 - A foreign cargo ship, which collided with another vessel about 10 km off Mumbai harbour, tilted further spilling oil for the third day today as Navy and Coast Guard made hectic efforts to contain the leak. "MSC Chitra has tilted 80 degrees and the total oil spill is nearly 50 tones," Arun Singh, Commandant (Operations), Coast Guard said. He said so far, 300 containers carrying oil have tumbled into the water. A worried Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said, "This is a serious issue. We have already filed cases against the captains of the two ships which are from abroad. Today, I am going to have an aerial look at the accident site." "We are trying to contain the leak as far as possible," he said. Two Panamanian cargo ships — MSC Chitra and MV Khalijia-111 — collided on Saturday off the Mumbai coast causing an oil spill from one of the vessels. Thirty three crew members, including two Pakistanis, were rescued following the incident. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.09.10 Gasoline from thin air?

August 8 - An enzyme found in the roots of soybeans could be the key to cars that run on air. Vanadium nitrogenase, an enzyme that normally produces ammonia from nitrogen gas, can also convert carbon monoxide (CO), a common industrial byproduct, into propane, the blue-flamed gas found on stoves across America. While scientists caution the research is still at an early stage, they say that this study could eventually lead to new, environmentally friendly ways to produce fuel — and eventually gasoline — from thin air...Farmers like plants that contain A. vinelandii because the bacteria use a suite of enzymes to turn unusable atmospheric nitrogen into vital ammonia and other chemicals. Other plants can then take up those chemicals and use them to grow. Ribbe and his co-authors isolated one particular enzyme, vanadium nitrogenase, to convert nitrogen into ammonia. Then the California scientists removed the nitrogen and oxygen the enzyme is used to and filled the remaining space with CO. [Full story>>abcnews.go.com]

08.08.10 Deaths in Ramadi car bomb blast

August 8 - A car bomb has exploded in the centre of the Iraqi city of Ramadi, killing at least eight people and wounding another 32, an Iraqi police source has said. The explosion occurred outside a restaurant in a busy area of Ramadi, which is about 100 kilometres west of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. Sources told Al Jazeera that the suicide bomber targeted a police patrol and at least two officers were among the dead. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar province which was the site of some of the worst violence following the US-led invasion in 2003. While the level of attacks in Anbar has declined, security in the province remains precarious. Two other car bombs blew up in the city of Falluja, about 50km west of Baghdad, killing at least four people and injuring 21. Police said one car bomb was left behind by gunmen who robbed a currency exchange merchant of $85,000 at his home. The other exploded near a police patrol. A police source said the blast killed two people and wounded 11 others. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related story,

bbc.co.uk, August 8, "The death toll from a Basra market blast rises to 43"
: The death toll from a series of explosions in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on Saturday has risen to 43, officials have said. One blast was initially reported to have been caused by an exploding generator, but officials now say it was a roadside bomb. Two car bombs were also used in the coordinated attack, they said. In a separate incident on Sunday, a suicide bomb blast killed six people in the city of Ramadi east of the Baghdad...

08.08.10 Across nation, mosque projects meet opposition

August 8 - While a high-profile battle rages over a mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, heated confrontations have also broken out in communities across the country where mosques are proposed for far less hallowed locations. In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting. In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby. In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise — the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off. In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law...Feeding the resistance is a growing cottage industry of authors and bloggers — some of them former Muslims — who are invited to speak at rallies, sell their books and testify in churches. Their message is that Islam is inherently violent and incompatible with America.
[Full story>>nytimes.com; Related stories,

news.sky.com, August 7, "Fighting extremism: Anti-terror camp opens" : Muslims are taking part in the UK's first anti-terrorism summer camp as part of a "spiritual war" against al-Qaeda recruiters. The three-day conference in Coventry is expected to attract around 1,300 young Muslims for sessions teaching religious arguments against extremists. The event has been organized by the Pakistan-based Minhaj ul-Quran organization whose leader, Dr. Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, has launched a fatwa or religious ruling against terrorism. His fatwa is described as a "resolute theological position, based on Islam's primary sources, on the necessity of eliminating terrorism." During the summer camp, held at Warwick University, the document will be studied and a series of debates and talks about its content will be heard.

Background stories:

Maravot News, "The Allah Controversy."

08.07.10 Westerners in Saudi face attack threat: US

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) August 7 - The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia said Westerners face possible attack from unidentified extremists in the central province of Al Qassim, in the first warning of its kind this year. "We have received credible information that an unidentified extremist(s) in Saudi Arabia may be planning to attack Westerners working and living in Al Qassim, Saudi Arabia," the embassy said in a statement posted on its website. "The timing and method of potential attacks are currently unknown," said the statement dated Aug. 4, urging US citizens to "exercise prudence and enhanced security awareness at all times."

Qassim is among the most conservative regions in the kingdom. The key US ally is ruled by the Al Saud family in alliance with clerics from the austere Wahhabi school of Islam. Mansour Al Turki, spokesman for security affairs at the Interior Ministry, said he could not immediately comment. Militants carried out attacks against Western targets, government symbols and oil facilities between 2003 and 2006. The attacks included suicide bombs at Western housing compounds, the interior ministry's headquarters in Riyadh and oil and petrochemical companies, plus an attempt to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant at Abqaiq in 2006.

A large-scale security crackdown and a rehabilitation programme of militants sponsored by pro-government clerics have helped Saudi security services to stay ahead of plots to destabilize the country's absolute monarchy in recent years. But concerns over the security situation in the kingdom resurfaced after its top anti-terrorism official, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, was slightly hurt in a suicide attack in his house in September by a Saudi posing as a repentant militant returning from Yemen. Saudi Arabia arrested 113 mainly Saudi and Yemeni al-Qaeda-linked militants in March, including two suicide bomb teams.
[>khaleejtimes.com; For more information on the Wahhabi sect see globalsecurity.org.]

08.07.10 6 Americans on medical mission slain in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, August 7 - Six Americans and two other foreigners on a medical mission were shot and killed by the Taliban who ambushed their vehicles in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, a charity said Saturday. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in Pakistan that they killed the foreigners because they were "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity." Dirk Frans, director of the International Assistance Mission, said the eight-member medical team, which also included one German, one Briton and two Afghan interpreters, was driving to Kabul from an eye clinic in northeastern Nuristan province when they were killed in Badakhshan province to the north. The group had decided to head through Badakhshan to return to the capital because they thought that would be the safest route, Frans said.

"This tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan people as IAM has been doing since 1966," according to a statement released by the nonprofit Christian organization. "We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year." Among the dead was team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York who has been working in Afghanistan for more than 30 years, Frans said. Little was expelled by the Taliban government in August 2001 after the arrest of eight Christian aid workers — two Americans and six Germans — for allegedly trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. He returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban government was toppled in November 2001 by US-backed forces.

08.07.10 US, UN blacklist Ilyas Kashmiri, HuJI

WASHINGTON, August 7 - The US in conjunction with the United Nations has designated al-Qaeda-linked HuJI as a foreign terrorist organization and slapped sanctions on its commander Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, who was close to 26/11 plotter David Headley, for carrying out terror activities in India and Pakistan. Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and Kashmiri have been involved in a series of terrorist activities in India, including the attack on the Hyderabad mosque in 2007 that killed 16 people and the March 2007 Varanasi terrorist strike that left at least 25 people dead and another 100 injured. Kashmiri's name also cropped in 26/11 and he was in close contact with Headley, who has confessed to his involvement in the Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans. While Secretary of State Hillary Clinton designated HuJI as a foreign terrorist organization, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner slapped sanctions on Kashmiri. Simultaneously, the UN also announced a similar sanction against HuJI and Kashmiri at its headquarters in New York. [More>>indianexpress.com; See related story, jpost.com, August 4, "US adds more names to Iran terror list."]

08.07.10 Iraqi Qaeda offers cash to lure former allies

BAGHDAD, August 7 - Sahwa fighters angry over govt failure to pay salaries on time. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has begun offering cash to lure back former Sunni allies angry over the government's failure to give them jobs and pay their salaries on time, according to Sunni tribesmen and Iraqi officials. The recruitment drive adds to worries that the terror network is attempting a comeback after the deaths of its two top leaders in April and is taking advantage of a summer of uncertainty. The political stalemate in Baghdad is entering its sixth month after inconclusive elections, just as the US military is rapidly drawing down its forces. Al-Qaeda's strategy is to provoke the Shiite majority into launching revenge attacks a development that could re-ignite open warfare, split the Iraqi security forces along sectarian lines and cement al-Qaeda's leadership role among Sunnis. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.07.10 Iran meddles in Iraq more than any other: poll

BAGHDAD (AFP) August 7 - Poll shows Iraqis believe Tehran trying to fill void in govt. Iran more than any other foreign state is meddling to fill a void in Iraqi politics five months after a general election left the war-wracked nation without a new government, a poll said Saturday. The poll carried out by the Asharq Research Centre, a private Iraqi company, was a representative nationwide sample of people aged 18 and above in the country's 18 provinces. Asked about the present political hiatus which appears to show no immediate prospect of resolution, 41.2 percent of 12,000 people questioned said Tehran was hindering Iraq's chances of establishing a new government in Baghdad.

In comparison, 31.5 percent of respondents pointed the finger at the United States, 11.6 percent at Gulf states, and 8.9 percent at Saudi Arabia. Turkey (5 percent) and Syria (2.3 percent) were also blamed for interfering. Iraq has been governed since 2005 by Shiite-majority rule since the U.S.-led invasion that two years earlier toppled the Sunni-dominated regime of now executed dictator Saddam Hussein. Saddam's opponents and many of those that make up the current caretaker government in Baghdad, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, spent years in exile in Shiite-led Iran during Saddam's reign.

08.07.10 Six Iraqi police killed in night of violence

August 7 - Raid on insurgent bomb workshop in Baghdad turns into overnight siege, while checkpoint is attacked outside Falluja. Gunmen killed five Iraqi policemen in an overnight shootout that lasted until dawn at a suspected bomb workshop in western Baghdad, security officials have said. Separately, a policeman was killed at a checkpoint outside Falluja. In the Baghdad shootings, police who trailed suspects to a house in the mostly Sunni neighborhood of Saidiya came under fire from an unknown number of gunmen. The shooting lasted for hours until dawn, when the gunmen slipped away through a rear entrance, according to two Baghdad police officers and an interior ministry official. When the house was searched one gunman was found dead with a pistol at his side. Seven policemen and six residents were wounded, including two women and a 14-year boy, officials said. An emergency room worker at Yarmouk hospital confirmed the casualties. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

08.07.10 Massive ice island beaks off Greenland

August 7 - A piece of ice four times the size of Manhattan island has broken away from an ice shelf in Greenland, according to scientists in the US. The 260 square-kilometer (100 square miles) ice island separated from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland early on Thursday, researchers based at the University of Delaware said. The ice island, which is about half the height of the Empire State Building, is the biggest piece of ice to break away from the Arctic icecap since 1962 and amounts to a quarter of the Petermann 70-kilometer floating ice shelf, according to research leader Andreas Muenchow.

"The freshwater stored in this ice island could keep the Delaware or Hudson rivers flowing for more than two years. It could also keep all US public tap water flowing for 120 days," Muenchow said. Muenchow's team is studying ice in the Nares Strait separating Greenland from Canada, about 1,000 kilometers south of the North Pole. Satellite data from NASA's MODIS-Aqua satellite revealed the initial rupture which was confirmed within hours by Trudy Wohlleben of the Canadian Ice Service, according to the University of Delaware website. Muenchow said the island could block the Nares Strait as it drifts south, or break into smaller islands and continue towards the open waters of the Atlantic.

08.07.10 Iranian facing stoning speaks: 'It's because I'm a woman'

August 7 - Exclusive: Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani accuses authorities in Tehran of lying about charges in attempt to execute her in secret. In an exclusive interview with the Guardian, the woman whose sentence of death by stoning triggered an international outcry has accused the Iranian authorities of lying about the charges against her to pave the way to execute her in secret. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, 43, was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery but it was commuted to hanging after an international outcry. Her initial sentence was for "having an illicit relationship outside marriage" but Iranian officials have claimed that she was also found guilty of murdering her husband and should still face death by stoning. In the interview, which took place through an intermediary who cannot be named for security reasons, she said: "They're lying. They are embarrassed by the international attention on my case and they are desperately trying to distract attention and confuse the media so that they can kill me in secret." [More>>guardian.co.uk]

08.07.10 Ahmadinejad: 9/11 terror attacks death toll was exaggerated

August 7 - Iranian President says no Zionists were killed in the World Trade Center because "one day earlier they were told not go to their workplace." Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Saturday the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks were exaggerated in a fresh broadside at the United States just days after US President Barack Obama voiced willingness to talk to Iran. Well-known for his anti-American and anti-Israeli rhetoric, the hardline populist Ahmadinejad also repeated his denial of the Holocaust, on which the consensus of historians is that six million Jews were exterminated by Nazi Germany. Ahmadinejad said the Sept. 11 attacks with hijacked airliners on New York and Washington D.C. had been trumped up as an excuse for the United States to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. Speaking at a Tehran conference, Ahmadinejad said there was no evidence that the death toll at New York's World Trade Center, destroyed in the attacks, was as high as reported and said "Zionists" had been tipped off in advance. [More>>haaretz.com]

08.07.10 Turkish court annuls coup warrant

August 7 - The arrest warrant issued against 102 Turkish military officers, including 25 serving admirals and generals, over an alleged 2003 coup plot have been annulled. A court in Istanbul accepted a request from lawyers for the officers to have the warrant cancelled, the Anatolia new agency reported on Friday, without providing details of the judge's decision. The warrant was issued against the military leaders on July 23, after authorities discovered an alleged plot, reportedly code-named Operation Sledgehammer. Officers in Turkey's secular military were said to have hatched the plan after the Justice and Democracy Party (AKP), which has roots in a now-banned Islamist party, won power in 2002. The AKP's rise to power concerned the military, which has unseated four governments since 1960, under the auspices of protecting Turkey's secular constitution. [More>>aljazeera.net]

08.07.10 Pirates abandon sugar ship Syria Star seized off Horn

August 7 - Pirates have abandoned a sugar cargo ship a day after seizing it in the Gulf of Aden, the EU naval task force operating off Somalia says. Two members of the 18,838-tonne Syria Star's crew of 22 Syrians and two Egyptians were injured during the hijacking. EU Navfor said it was giving medical assistance to the two members. The pirates, who abandoned their own skiff during the hijacking, apparently left on a lifeboat. [>bbc.co.uk]

08.06.10 Chinese missile could shift Pacific power balance

ABOARD THE USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (AP) August 11 - Nothing projects US global air and sea power more vividly than supercarriers. Bristling with fighter jets that can reach deep into even landlocked trouble zones, America's virtually invincible carrier fleet has long enforced its dominance of the high seas. China may soon put an end to that. US naval planners are scrambling to deal with what analysts say is a game-changing weapon being developed by China an unprecedented carrier-killing missile called the Dong Feng 21D that could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 1,500 kilometers (900 miles).

Analysts say final testing of the missile could come as soon as the end of this year, though questions remain about how fast China will be able to perfect its accuracy to the level needed to threaten a moving carrier at sea. The weapon, a version of which was displayed last year in a Chinese military parade, could revolutionize China's role in the Pacific balance of power, seriously weakening Washington's ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea. It could also deny US ships safe access to international waters near China's 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

While a nuclear bomb could theoretically sink a carrier, assuming its user was willing to raise the stakes to atomic levels, the conventionally-armed Dong Feng 21D's uniqueness is in its ability to hit a powerfully defended moving target with pin-point precision. The Chinese Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to the AP's request for a comment. Funded by annual double-digit increases in the defense budget for almost every year of the past two decades, the Chinese navy has become Asia's largest and has expanded beyond its traditional mission of retaking Taiwan to push its sphere of influence deeper into the Pacific and protect vital maritime trade routes.

08.06.10 China defends business ties with Iran

BEIJING, August 6 - China facilitates Iran's dangerous policies: US. China has defended its business dealings with Iran after a senior US official called on Beijing to follow UN sanctions against the Islamic republic to the letter. The statement from a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman published in state media Thursday also came after a senior US lawmaker called for sanctions to be imposed on Beijing over its major investments in Tehran's energy sector. "China's trade with Iran is normal business exchange, which will not harm the interests of other countries and the international community," the spokeswoman, Jiang Yu, was quoted as saying by the China Daily. "As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China has always observed the council's resolutions," Jiang Yu added. In June, the UN Security Council imposed a fourth set of sanctions on Iran over its disputed nuclear drive, which the West and Israel say is a covert weapons drive, and especially over its refusal to freeze uranium enrichment. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.06.10 New al-Qaeda chief is former US resident

August 6 - Operative lived in US for 15 years, now head of global operations. A suspected al-Qaeda operative who lived for more than 15 years in the United States has become chief of the terror network's global operations, the FBI says, marking the first time a leader so intimately familiar with American society has been placed in charge of planning attacks. Adnan Shukrijumah, 35, has taken over a position once held by September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was captured in 2003, Miami-based FBI counterterrorism agent Brian LeBlanc told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. That puts him in regular contact with al-Qaeda's senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden, LeBlanc said.

Shukrijumah and two other leaders were part of an "external operations council" that designed and approved terrorism plots and recruits, but his two counterparts were killed in US drone attacks, leaving Shukrijumah as the de facto chief and successor to Mohammed, his former boss. "He's making operational decisions is the best way to put it," said LeBlanc, the FBI's lead Shukrijumah investigator. "He's looking at attacking the US and other Western countries. Basically through attrition, he has become his old boss." The FBI has been searching for Shukrijumah since 2003. He is thought to be the only al-Qaeda leader to have once held permanent US resident status, or a green card. Shukrijumah was named earlier this year in a federal indictment as a conspirator in the case against three men accused of plotting suicide bomb attacks on New York's subway system in 2009. The indictment marked the first criminal charges against Shukrijumah, who previously had been sought only as a witness.

...Before turning to radical strains of Islam, Shukrijumah lived in Miramar with his mother and five siblings, excelling at computer science and chemistry courses while studying at community college. He had come to South Florida in 1995 when his father, a Muslim cleric and missionary trained in Saudi Arabia, decided to take a post at a Florida mosque after several years at a mosque in Brooklyn, New York. At some point in the late 1990s, according to the FBI, Shukrijumah became convinced that he must participate in "jihad," or holy war, to fight perceived persecution against Muslims in places like Chechnya and Bosnia. That led to training camps in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, where he underwent basic and advanced training in the use of automatic weapons, explosives, battle tactics, surveillance and camouflage.
[Full story>>jpost.com]

08.06.10 WikiLeaks posts huge encrypted file to Web

LONDON (AP) August 6 - At 1.4 gigabytes, the file is 20 times larger than the batch of 77,000 secret US military documents about Afghanistan that WikiLeaks dumped onto the Web last month. Online whistle-blower WikiLeaks has posted a huge encrypted file named "Insurance" to its website, sparking speculation that those behind the organization may be prepared to release more classified information if authorities interfere with them. At 1.4 gigabytes, the file is 20 times larger than the batch of 77,000 secret US military documents about Afghanistan that WikiLeaks dumped onto the Web last month, and cryptographers say that the file is virtually impossible to crack — unless WikiLeaks releases the key used to encode the material. "There's no way that anyone has any chance of figuring out what's in there," Paul Kocher, president of US-based Cryptography Research, said Thursday. That hasn't stopped bloggers and journalists from speculating. Some say the files could be the 15,000 or so intelligence reports which WikiLeaks says it's held back for vetting. Others, pointing to its enormous size, say it could be a compilation of the 260,000 classified diplomatic cables allegedly accessed by Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning. [More>>gulfnews.com]

08.06.10 Ban on wheat exports sends global prices skyrocketing

(AP) August 6 - Russia's decision to ban wheat exports for the rest of the year sent prices for the grain soaring Thursday to the highest level in two years. The rally in wheat also helped drive up prices for corn, oats and soybeans. That's good news for US farmers, whose wheat will help make up some of the shortfall in exports from Russia and other countries with damaged crops such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Canada. "The American farmer is walking into a gold mine because America is one of the few countries in the world that grew a good wheat, corn, and soybean crop. We have a ton in storage," said Tom Grisafi, who trades commodities on the Chicago Board of Trade. The sharp rise in commodity prices this summer also makes it more likely that US shoppers will have to pay a bit more for bread, cereal or pasta in the next two to six months, said Ephraim Leibtag, an economist with the US  Department of Agriculture. [More>>france24.com]

08.06.10 Hamas leaders in Syria urge West Bank operatives to kidnap Israeli settlers

August 6 - IDF West Bank division commander, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, has warned Israeli settlers to be on alert for possible abduction attempts across the territory. The Israel Defense Forces West Bank division commander, Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, has warned Israeli settlers to be on alert for possible abduction attempts across the territory. The IDF said intelligence has shown Hamas leaders in Damascus are pressuring  followers in the West Bank to abduct Israeli settlers and citizens. The IDF added that it believes such a kidnapping would be used by Hamas as a bargaining chip for short-term gains and not for major negotiations such as in the case of abducted soldier Gilad Shalit, who has been in captivity for four years and for whom Hamas wants hundreds of prisoners. [More>>haaretz.com]

08.06.10 US optimistic end in sight in drive to permanently seal oil well

August 6 - As the cement hardens Friday in the crippled oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, federal officials are sounding increasingly optimistic that the end is in sight in the drive to permanently seal the well. BP finished pouring cement down the well on Thursday in an operation known as a "static kill," completing the job earlier than expected. The process took six hours. The cement was poured on top of 2,300 barrels of heavy drilling mud sent down from a ship on the surface Tuesday, pushing oil back into the well reservoir. Before word came that the cementing had been completed, retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen said the development would amount to a "significant milestone" in the long-running fight against the BP oil spill. Allen is the federal point man in the oil spill effort. He said the cementing phase of the "static kill" operation is not the end of the process, "but it will virtually assure us there's no chance of oil leaking into the environment." [More>>cnn.com]

08.06.10 Pakistan floods affect 12 million

August 6 - About 12 million people have now been affected by Pakistan's worst floods in 80 years, disaster officials have said, raising previous estimates by three times. Nadeem Ahmed, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority, said that the figure only applied to the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and central Punjab provinces, with figures from the southern Sindh province not yet available. Previous estimates had said that four million Pakistanis have been affected, a reflection of the rapidly growing scale of the disaster. The new figures come as Pakistan braces for yet more rains in areas already badly hit by torrential monsoon downpours that have caused devastation, washing away villages and destroying swathes of agricultural land. "We're forecasting widespread rains in the country, especially in flood-affected areas," Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, director general of Pakistan's meteorological department, said. More than 1600 people been killed by the floods, which started last week when torrential monsoon downpours hit the north-west of the country. Swollen rivers are carrying a huge volume of water south, raising fears that further destruction lies ahead. [More>>aljazeera.net]

08.06.10 Seven more gunned down in Karachi target killing

KARACHI, Pakistan, August 6 - Seven more people were shot dead in different areas of Karachi since last night that brings the..toll to 92. At least 92 people have been killed and more than 230 wounded in violent incidents erupted since Monday. Several houses, shops and a factory were also set ablaze by unknown persons on Thursday night. The killings [were] reported in Baldia Town, Machar Colony, Korangi quarters, Eid Gah, Ibrahim Haidri and Orangi Town areas whereas [the] situation remained tense in Qasba Colony, Orangi Town, Pirabad, Aligarh Bazar and Kati Pahari areas. [>thenews.com.pk]

08.06.10 Saddam Hussein deputy Tariq Aziz calls for US forces to stay in Iraq

BAGHDAD, August 6 - Exclusive: In his first interview since the fall of Baghdad, Tariq Aziz accuses Barack Obama of "leaving Iraq to the wolves." Saddam Hussein's most loyal deputy, Tariq Aziz, has accused Barack Obama of "leaving Iraq to the wolves" by pressing ahead with a withdrawal of combat troops in the face of festering instability and a surge in violence. In his first interview since he was captured shortly after the fall of Baghdad more than seven years ago, Iraq's former deputy prime minister and long-time face to the world said the United States would cause the death of Iraq if it continued to withdraw its combat forces. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

08.06.10 Ships on alert after Japanese tanker attack report

LONDON (AP) August 6 - A suspected militant strike on a Japanese tanker illustrates how vulnerable merchant ships are to attack on the high seas with navies already stretched fighting Somali piracy, analysts and shipping sources said on Friday. There have been growing concerns for maritime security after the United Arab Emirates state news agency said earlier on Friday that investigators had found traces of explosives on the Japanese tanker damaged near the Strait of Hormuz last week. A militant group called the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, which is linked to al-Qaeda, claimed responsibility. Security analysts based in the Gulf, some sceptical of the group's claim, said they believed the state news agency report. While the 333-metre-long M.Star Japanese owner Mitsui O.S.K. could not confirm details of the WAM report pending completion of its own investigation, the latest development has raised risks for ships. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See also

france24.com, "Oil tanker blast the result of 'terrorist attack,' UAE sources say"
: An explosives-laden boat carried out a "terrorist attack" that damaged a Japanese oil tanker in the Strait of Hormuz last week, the United Arab Emirates, where the ship docked for repairs, said on Friday. "The investigation and examination conducted by special teams have shown the tanker was attacked with explosives, prepared using traditional methods, which were loaded on a boat that approached the ship," a UAE coastguard spokesman said on the official WAM news agency. "UAE explosives experts... found a dent on the starboard side above the water line and remains of homemade explosives on the hull," when they inspected the ship off the UAE port of Fujairah, the official said...

08.06.10 US charges 14 with aiding al-Qaeda in Somalia

WASHINGTON - More in US captivated by extremist ideology: Attorney General. US prosecutors unveiled charges on Thursday against several individuals for aiding the militant al-Shabaab group, an al-Qaeda-affiliated Somali organization that has gained prominence in recent months. Fourteen people, including a number of US citizens, were indicted, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced. Some of those charged are believed to be in Somalia fighting for the Shabaab, which has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks in Uganda last month. Holder said four separate indictments unsealed in various locations charge the 14 "with terrorism violations for providing money, personnel, and services" to the group. The indictments "shed further light on a deadly pipeline that has routed funding and fighters" to the Shabaab, Holder said. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.06.10 Suicide attack kills six Afghan police

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (AFP) August 5 - A suicide attacker rammed a car bomb into a joint Afghan-NATO military convoy in northern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least six police, an official said. The officers were on a patrol in the insurgent-troubled Imamsaheb district or northeastern Kunduz province when they came under attack, district administrator Mohammad Ayoub told AFP. "Six policemen were killed and several others, including two US soldiers, were injured," he said. NATO's International Security Assistance Force could not immediately confirm the attack. Ayoub said the bomber was driving a car filled with explosives, which detonated on hitting the convoy. [>arabtimesonline.com]

08.03.10 Consumer spending stalls, threatens recovery

WASHINGTON, August 3 - Factory orders drop, home sales show more signs of slowing. Talk about the new normal. Americans are  shopping less, saving more, working harder without getting paid more — if they even have a job — and not even thinking about buying homes. A government report Tuesday offered more evidence that the recovery is being stalled by sluggish consumer spending. Personal spending was unchanged in June, reflecting a third straight month of lackluster consumer demand. Incomes were also flat, the weakest showing in nine months. The disappointing Commerce Department report on spending and income was among a raft of data released Tuesday that confirmed the economy ended the April-to-June quarter on a weak note.

Factory orders dropped 1.2 percent in June to a seasonally adjusted $406.4 billion, the Commerce Department said. It was the second consecutive decline after nine straight months of gains. Lower demand for steel, construction machinery and aircraft dragged down the figure. And the number of buyers who signed contracts to purchase homes fell in June. The National Association of Realtors said its seasonally adjusted index of sales agreements for previously occupied homes dipped 2.6 percent to a reading of 75.7. That was the lowest on records dating back to 2001 and down nearly 19 percent from the same month a year earlier.

08.03.10 Politician's assassination paralyzes life in Pakistan's Karachi

ISLAMABAD (Xinhua) August 3 - Life was paralyzed Tuesday in southern port city of Karachi in Pakistan following assassination of a politician Raza Haider on Monday evening and 46 more subsequent deaths overnight, as the city is still in grip of fear in continuing violence amid lurking fears of possible terrorism. Irate protestors torched 35 vehicles around the city, as over 130 people were wounded in a widespread violence that also went wild in other urban centers of Sindh including Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur, as soon as the news of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) member of southern Sindh provincial assembly Raza Haider's assassination spreaded, local media reported...Police said that over 700 persons have been killed in Karachi in the continuing target killing and subsequent violence since January this year. Over 60 people were killed in July while another 90 lost their lives due to continuing target killing in the month of June. [Full story>>xinhuanet.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, August 3, "Over 20 workers of outlawed outfits arrested in Karachi"
: KARACHI - More than 20 workers of outlawed religious outfits were arrested during overnight raids of special investigation unit and CID in different areas, Karachi Police chief Wasim Ahmad told Geo News. Wasim Ahmad said crack down launched against banned religious organizations after killing of Sindh Assembly member Raza Haider. He said solid proofs have been found regarding killing of Haider, which hinted that network of outlawed organizations Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Sipah-e- Sahaba involvement in the assassination of Raza Haider. CCPO Karachi said foolproof security arrangements will be made for the namaz-e-Janaza of Raza Haider as intelligence reports said that terrorists could target funeral prayers. [end]

08.03.10 Controversial 'Ground Zero Mosque' gets green light from NYC Landmarks Commission

August 3 - Board members unanimously declined landmark status for future site of Islamic center. The controversial Islamic center proposed to be built near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks won a major victory today when a New York City board voted unanimously to allow the demolition of a building to make way for construction. The city's Landmarks Preservation Commission's vote rejected the landmarking of a 19th century building with its Italian Renaissance Palazzo style that most recently served as a Burlington Coat Factory. That designation would have prevented its demolition and foiled plans to build a 13-story Islamic community center that includes a prayer room. Critics have called the proposed facility a mosque and said construction so close to the site of the World Trade Center where 3,000 people died in an attack by militant Muslims was insensitive and an insult. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

08.03.10 We are 'losing war against the Taliban,' Zardari says

August 3 - Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has said in an interview that the international community is "losing the war against the Taliban," ahead of a visit to the UK overshadowed by a diplomatic spat with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari said Tuesday that the international community is losing the war against the Taliban, ahead of a visit to Britain which has been heavily criticized for taking place while his country suffers the effects of catastrophic flooding. His trip comes amid a damaging diplomatic row over comments made by Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron last week during a visit to India. Cameron stated that Pakistan must not be allowed to "promote the export of terror whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world." In an interview Tuesday with left-leaning French daily Le Monde, Zardari added fat to the fire by saying that "the international community, to which Pakistan belongs, is losing the war against the Taliban. This is above all because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds." Zardari added that the US and NATO-led coalition forces had "underestimated the situation on the ground" in Afghanistan, Pakistan's neighbor. [More>>france24.com]

08.03.10 Troops die in Israel-Lebanon clash

August 3 - At least three Lebanese and one Israeli soldier have been killed during an exchange of rocket and gunfire along the border between the two countries. A journalist was also killed, and four more Lebanese soldiers wounded by Israeli shelling on Tuesday. The Israeli army did not say how the Israeli soldier was killed. "The Israelis fired four rockets that fell near a Lebanese army position in the village of Adaisseh and the Lebanese army fired back," a Lebanese security official in the area said. Hezbollah's Al Manar television station said a high-ranking Israeli soldier was also killed in the border incident. The report could not be independently verified, and the Israeli army refused to comment. Lebanese news sources reported that the journalist killed was Assaf Abou Rahhal, from the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar. Lebanese witnesses said that Israeli shells are continuing to hit Adaisseh village. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also

jpost.com, August 3, "IDF soldier, 4 Lebanese killed in northern border clashes" :
Exchange of fire between IDF and LAF troops prompts Israel and Lebanon to cite violations of UN Resolution 1701; IDF says it gave UNIFIL notice of plans to cross fence for maintenance work. One IDF soldier was killed and another critically wounded during an exchange of fire with Lebanese forces on the northern border on Tuesday. Netanya-resident Lt.-Col. Dov Harari, 45, a reserves battalion commander, died in the clashes. Captain Ezra Lakia, from the village of Harif, was said to be critically injured.

On the Lebanese side at least four were killed, three soldiers and one journalist, according to a Lebanese security official. Speaking on condition of anonymity under military guidelines, the Lebanese official said IDF shelling struck near a military vehicle in the border town of Adaisseh, setting it on fire and killing three soldiers inside the vehicle. Lebanese reports said the conflict began when an IDF patrol attempted to uproot a tree on the Lebanese side of the border. Other reports said the Israeli soldiers were attempting to plant cameras. According to Israeli reports, the IDF was performing necessary maintenance work across the fence, but still within Israeli territory, since the fence does not always exactly parallel the border

08.03.10 Six guards beheaded in Afghan bank robbery

KABUL, August 3 - Six private security guards were poisoned and then beheaded in northern Afghanistan during a bank robbery, a police spokesman said on Tuesday. The incident happened at Kabul Bank's branch in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, said Sherjan Durani, a spokesman for the provincial police chief. "This morning when the staff of the bank came to their office, they found six beheaded bodies of the guards that were locked inside a room," Durani said. Initial information revealed that an unknown number of robbers, who had been invited by the guards for dinner, first poisoned the security personnel and then beheaded them, Durani said.

Cash worth more than $200,000 was missing, he said. Elsewhere in the northern region, a roadside bomb killed four civilians and injured three others in Faryab province on Monday, NATO and an Afghan official said. The civilians were trying to help police, who had been attacked by insurgents, when their vehicle was struck by the bomb, NATO said in a statement. Afzal Emamzada, a provincial senior police official, said those killed in the incident in Qaisar district, were tribal elders. More than 400 civilians have been killed and 860 injured by Taliban roadside bomb attacks since the beginning of this year, according to NATO records.

08.03.10 Qaeda fighters kill 5 police in Baghad

BAGHDAD, August 3 - Al-Qaeda fighters killed five policemen at a Baghdad checkpoint on Tuesday and planted the black flag of the terror network's front group in Iraq, an interior ministry official said. The flag-planting was the second such move in less than a week and comes as concerns mount that Iraq's security may be deteriorating after the government said more people died in violence in July than in any month since May 2008. "Around 5:30am (0230 GMT), men with silencer pistols shot dead five policemen at a checkpoint in Mansur neighbourhood before planting the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq," the ministry official said. [>thenews.com.pk]

08.03.10 Suicide bomber wounds soldiers in Yemen attack

SANAA (Reuters) August 3 - A suspected al-Qaeda suicide bomber attacked an office for security forces in south Yemen on Tuesday, wounding eight soldiers, officials and witnesses said, days after the group promised further strikes on the government. A man sped up on a motorcycle to the office in the southern city of Dalea before stopping suddenly and blowing himself up, witnesses who were in a nearby market told Reuters by telephone. A senior figure in the provincial government said the blast "bears the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda attack," adding that eight soldiers were wounded. Al-Qaeda in Yemen previously focused high-impact strikes on foreign targets, but has started to target the state in response to enhanced US-Yemeni cooperation in a crackdown on the militant group that has included air strikes and raids. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.02.10 Ahmadinejad calls for "face to face talks" with Obama

TEHRAN (Xinhua) August 2 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Monday that he is ready to hold face to face talks with his US counterpart Barack Obama on global developments at the upcoming UN General Assembly, the official IRNA news agency reported. "I would like to declare my readiness to have face to face talks in the presence of world media with the US president at the (upcoming) UN General Assembly," Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying. Making the remarks in a meeting with Iranian expatriates in Tehran, he said "Iran calls for talks with the US based on mutual respect and justice at the highest level," said IRNA. The Iranian president has previously reiterated his readiness for public debates on international issues with US President Barack Obama. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

08.02.10 Extremist group hires town hall for rant against democracy

August 3 - An extremist Muslim group banned in several countries was cleared by police and a local council to use a town hall to spread its message. The radical Hizb ut-Tahrir — Party of Islamic Liberation — paid Melbourne's Moreland Council $300 to use Brunswick Town Hall for an Israel-bashing conference in which it claimed that armed conflict was a legitimate response to defend the Islamic "caliphate" against the West. The extremist group has previously said insurgents fighting against Australian and other Coalition troops in Iraq had a "universal right and religious duty." It is banned in Russia, Germany, China, Egypt and Jordan as an organization capable of inciting terrorism. Just last month the controversial group sparked protests when they held a meeting in Sydney urging all Muslims to shun democracy...Hizb ut-Tahrir's mantra is "democracy is a bankrupt and irrational idea" and "all indicators are pointing to the decline and inevitable collapse of Western ideology." [Full story>>news.com.au]

08.02.10 Cuba to lay off 1 million 'excess' public sector workers

HAVANA, Cuba (RIA Novosti) August 2 - Cuba will start slashing one million excess jobs in the public sector, Cuban President Raul Castro said on Monday. "After months of investigations held under a program to renew the Cuban economic model, the Council of Ministers has adopted a number of measures aimed at reducing the number of surplus workplaces in the state sector," Castro told the country's parliament. The country's leader said that one million workplaces in Cuba are surplus — some 20% of the country's employable population. Currently, the vast majority of Cuba's economy is in state hands. Castro's move is aimed at limiting the number of state workers and expanding self-employment. Castro said he would launch new wage and salary regulations early next year, but did not give specific details. [>en.rian.ru]

08.02.10 Pakistan floods kill up to 1,500

PESHAWAR, August 2 - Flash floods triggered by torrential monsoon rains have killed up to 1,500 people in Pakistan, a government minister in the northwest told reporters. "There are 774 deaths registered with us, but the total number killed in the flood is 1,200 to 1,500," Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of northwest province Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told a news conference in Peshawar. "There are 129 people still missing," he added. Pakistan's largest charity, the Edhi Foundation, and a northwest cabinet minister had earlier put the death toll at more than 1,200. Officials in other provinces who earlier gave a combined death toll of 128 effectively pushed the overall nationwide toll to more than 1,300. [>indianexpress.com; See more details,

bbc.co.uk, August 2, " '2.5m people affected' by Pakistan floods officials say"
:The US government has been dropping food parcels by air. Up to two-and-a-half million people have been affected by devastating floods in north-west Pakistan, the International Red Cross has said. Rescuers are struggling to reach 27,000 people still cut off by the floods, which are the worst in 80 years. At least 1,100 people have died and thousands have lost everything. "In the worst-affected areas, entire villages were washed away without warning by walls of flood water," the Red Cross said in a statement...

08.02.10 Five rockets slam into Israeli resort of Eilat

(AFP) August 2 - Five rockets slammed into the southern Israeli resort of Eilat on Monday but there were no immediate reports of casualties, army radio reported. Israeli police confirmed that a series of explosions had taken place in Eilat but could not confirm a rocket attack. "There were a number of explosions heard in and around Eilat," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. "As yet, nothing has been found on the ground," he added. The radio said at least one of the rockets had landed in the sea. [>khaleejtimes.com; See other details,

jpost.com, August 2, "Jordan: 1 dead in rocket attack"
: Jordan condemned Monday the firing of a rocket that struck near the Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba in which a Jordanian man was killed and four others were injured. The rocket was one of six which struck the area, including a second rocket in Jordan, one near Eilat, two in the Red Sea and one in the Sinai Peninsula. In a statement released by the Jordanian Information Ministry the rocket attack was called a "terror attack," Jordan promised to continue in its war against terror...Eilat Police sappers said that the Grad-type Katyushas were Iranian-made, with a range of some 20 kilometers. The rockets reportedly weighed 6 kilograms each...

08.02.10 Israel fears Turks could pass its secrets to Iran

JERUSALEM (Reuters), August 2 - Israel's Barak makes rare intelligence complaint. Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak has voiced concern that once-stalwart ally Turkey could share Israeli intelligence secrets with Iran, revealing a deep distrust as Ankara's regional interests shift. The leaked comments by Barak cast doubt on how much Israel is willing or able to reconcile with Turks outraged at its navy's killing of nine of their compatriots aboard an aid ship that tried to run the Gaza Strip blockade on May 31. Until relations soured, Turkey had been the Muslim power closest to the Jewish state, a friendship largely based on military cooperation and intelligence sharing. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.02.10 Five millennia on, Iceman of Bolzano gives up DNA secrets

August 2 - Nearly 20 years after the dead man's head was found peeping from a melting Alpine glacier, investigators have finally seen fit to contact his relatives. This doesn't indicate sloth on the part of the Italian authorities, but instead, advances in DNA technology that may lead scientists to living descendants of the South Tyrol's 5,300-year-old mummified man. Oetzi the iceman, who today resides in a sterile, glass box at 7C in 100 per cent humidity, is by far the oldest mummified person ever found — those of ancient Egypt are at least 1,000 years younger. He is the permanent star exhibit in a museum in the town of Bolzano.

In this grotesque but timeless state, researchers have been able to extract DNA from a bone in his pelvis. And this week it was announced they had sequenced his entire genome and that the hunt was now on to find Oetzi's descendants — and evidence of genetic changes that have occurred since Neolithic times. With Oetzi's complete genetic map for their perusal, Dr. Albert Zink, the director of the Iceman Institute in Bolzano, and his colleagues said it might also be possible to shed light on hereditary aspects of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer. "There are key gene mutations that we know are associated with diseases such as cancer and diabetes and we want to see if Oetzi had them or whether they arose more recently," he said.

08.02.10 In speech on Iraq, Obama reaffirms drawdown

ATLANTA, August 2 - Nearly eight years after he denounced what he called a "dumb war" in Iraq and nearly two years after he won the White House promising to end it, President Obama marked the formal conclusion of the combat mission in a country still finding its way in a new era. "As a candidate for president, I pledged to bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end," Mr. Obama told a convention of Disabled American Veterans in Atlanta on Monday. “Shortly after taking office, I announced our new strategy for Iraq and for a transition to full Iraqi responsibility. And I made it clear that by August 31, 2010, America's combat mission in Iraq would end. And that is exactly what we are doing — as promised and on schedule.” By the end of this month, the American force in Iraq will have shrunk to just 50,000 troops, from 144,000. The remaining "advise and assist" brigades will officially focus on supporting and training Iraqi security forces, protecting American personnel and facilities and mounting counterterrorism operations. Those 50,000 troops are due to leave by the end of 2011. [More>>nytimes.com]

08.02.10 Suicide bomb kills Afghan children

August 2 - A suicide car bomber has killed at least five children during an apparent assassination attempt in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. The bomber was reportedly targeting Ahmadullah Nazick, the governor of Dand district, south of Kandahar city, but the explosives detonated early, and Nazick's convoy was undamaged. A roadside bomb went off nearby after police arrived to help the wounded, injuring two officers. "I dropped down. Then I heard a second explosion," Nazak said on Monday. "It hit our car, but it didn't injure me." No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but targeted killings have become  increasingly common this year in Kandahar. At least 27 people — all of them government officials or Afghan employees of foreign contractors — were assassinated in the first four months of 2010. That trend has continued over the summer, most notably with the June assassination of Haji Abdul Jabar, the governor of Arghandab district north of Kandahar. US officials have repeatedly delayed plans for a major military offensive in Kandahar. [More>>aljazeera.net]

08.02.10 Two UK servicemen killed in Afghanistan

August 2 - Two British servicemen were killed in southern Afghanistan in separate incidents, the Ministry of Defence said today. Next of kin were informed. A soldier, from 1st Battalion Scots Guards, was killed by small arms fire in the Lashkar Gah District of Helmand Province yesterday. A Royal Marine, from 40 Commando, died in an explosion while on foot patrol in the Sangin District of Helmand Province yesterday. The families of the two soldiers have been informed. Spokesman for Task Force Helmand, Lieutenant Colonel David Southall, said: "It is with great sadness I inform you that a soldier from 1st Battalion Scots Guards was killed in Lashkar Gah District of Helmand Province yesterday afternoon. Commanding his men, he was killed in action by small arms fire whilst providing security to the Afghan people..." [More>>independent.co.uk]

08.02.10 Rabid dogs kill 78 in holiday hotspot of Bali

BALI, Indonesia (AP) August 2 - Putu Valentino Rosiadi should have started third grade this month. But instead of buying a new school uniform and notebooks, his father mournfully cradles a black-and-white photo. The 8-year-old was next door when a stray dog jumped him in May, ripping its teeth into the boy's right calf. He was stitched up at a local hospital and sent home. His family was told no cases of rabies had been reported in their area. Earlier this month, a high fever hit him. Valentino died two days later. "He was delirious. There was foam coming out of his mouth," said the boy's father, Komang Suda, 32. "Every time we tried to give him water, it was like he went into shock. He was shaking and very agitated." A rabies epidemic has gripped Bali, an island of 3 million people and one of Asia's top tourist destinations. Seventy-eight deaths have officially been logged in the past two years, including that of a 40-year-old woman a week ago, and many other deaths have likely gone unreported. [More>>foxnews.com]

08.02.10 Wildfires force state of emergency for 500 Russian towns

VORONEZH, Russia, August 2 - Russian authorities have imposed a state of emergency around about 500 towns and villages because of wildfires burning across the west of the country, officials said Monday. Most of the fires — among the worst ever to hit the region — were started accidentally by people burning garbage, dropping cigarettes, or failing to extinguish campfires or barbecues properly, Emergency Situations Ministry representative Irina Andrianova said. Nearly 700 fires are burning, covering about 115,000 hectares, she said. That is nearly 450 square miles. A hectare is about the size of a baseball field or an international rugby pitch. [More>>cnn.com]

08.02.10 5 more dead in Kashmir; Center rallies behind Omar

SRINAGAR, August 2 - A fresh wave of protests in the Kashmir Valley on Monday claimed five lives as police opened fire to disperse rampaging mobs who indulged in stone pelting, attacked government buildings and looted weapons from police. Defying curfew, stone-pelting protesters took to streets in several places in south Kashmir and attacked police stations and CRPF camps in the Valley where 20 people have been killed in violence since last Friday. One protester was killed in police firing after agitators attacked a police post and attempted to set it afire in Kulgam district. In adjacent Sangam in Anantnag district, one person was killed when CRFP personnel retaliated to heavy stone throwing at their camp, police said, adding another person died in a stampede following the firing. At Kakpora, in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, police opened fire on a group of stone-pelting protesters who were indulging in ransacking, killing one of them. One person was killed in Kralpora in north Kashmir's Kupwara district when police fired on a mob which looted arms from a police post. The agitators managed to flee with four rifles. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.02.10 Researchers uncover 'oldest' dog remains in Swiss cave

(AFP) August 2 - Researchers have found that fragments of a dog's skull and teeth discovered in a cave in Switzerland date back more than 14,000 years in what could be the oldest known remains of man's best friend. The fossils were among a haul of archaeological finds uncovered in 1873 in the Kesslerloch cave in northern Switzerland, Swiss news agency ATS said Monday. But it was only last year that researchers at Germany's Tuebingen University took a closer look at them, it said. "During a recent re-analysis of the faunal remains, we identified a cranial fragment and teeth of the domestic dog," the researchers said in an article in the International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. "The large maxillar fragment was directly dated to ...14,100-14,600 BP (Before Present)," it said. [More>>france24.com]

07.31.10 FDIC shuts banks in Fla., Ga., Ore., Wash.

WASHINGTON (AP) July 31 - Regulators close 5 banks, raising total number of failures for year to 108. Regulators on Friday shut banks in Florida, Georgia, Oregon and Washington, lifting to 108 the number of US banks to fail this year as the industry has struggled to cope with mounting loan defaults and recession. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over the banks: Bayside Savings Bank in Port Saint Joe, Fla., with $66.1 million in assets; Coastal Community Bank, based in Panama City, Fla., with $372.9 million in assets; NorthWest Bank and Trust, based in Acworth, Ga., with assets of $167.7 million; Cowlitz Bank in Longview, Wash., assets of $529.3 million; and LibertyBank, based in Eugene, Ore., assets of $768.2 million. [More>>cbsnews.com]

07.31.10 Greenland ice cap melt is accelerating

July 31 - A British research team studying the Greenland ice sheet has discovered evidence of a rapidly accelerating rate of melt. Dr. Alun Hubbard, leading a team from the universities of Swansea and Aberystwyth said the ice sheet in their region had lowered six metres in just a month. The phenomenon is caused by surface melt, a vicious cycle in which melted ice brings about further thawing of the cap beneath it. As the ice turns to liquid, its surface reflectivity decreases, absorbing more of the heat from the sun, and accelerating the melt. Frozen ice has an "albedo,"or reflectivity, of around 80%, whereas open water reflects only around 20% of the sun's rays.

Sky News flew in with the team to their base on the inland ice, near to the town of Kangerlussuaq. The frozen crevasses of the fracturing ice sheet create an almost lunar landscape — a desolate horizon stretching in every direction as far as the eye could see. Greenland's ice sheet holds 10% of the world's freshwater reserves — at its centre it is more than 3 km thick. Its rate of reduction has tripled in the last ten years. Dr. Hubbard's team have been doing seismic testing - dropping explosive charges beneath the ice to try to map the dynamics below. The research has been partly funded by the British-based Royal Geographical Society.

07.31.10 Monsoon floods in north-west Pakistan wreak havoc

(AFP) July 31 - Some 800 people have died in north-west Pakistan over the last several days as monsoon rains triggered floods and landslides in some of the country's most remote areas. The UN said that almost a million people have been affected. Rescue workers and troops in northwest Pakistan struggled Saturday to reach thousands of people affected by the country's worst floods in living memory, as the death toll rose to 800. Hundreds of homes and vast swathes of farmland were destroyed in the northwest and Pakistani Kashmir, with the main highway to China reportedly cut and communities isolated as monsoon rains caused flash floods and landslides.

The United Nations said almost a million people had been affected by the flooding, and at least 45 bridges destroyed around Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Television footage and photos shot from helicopters showed people clinging to the walls and roof tops of damaged houses as gushing waters rampaged through inundated villages. Carrying their belongings and with children on their shoulders, some even walked barefoot through the water to seek safety. "This is the worst ever flood in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the country's history," provincial information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said. "The death toll in floods and rain-related incidents has risen up to 800 across the province," he said.

07.31.10 Oil spill highlights conflict-of-interest issue within investigation agency

July 31 - David Dykes — the federal regulator now leading his agency's investigation of the BP oil spill — has spent five years as a senior investigator and office chief enforcing oil industry safety in the Gulf of Mexico. For much of that time, his brother was a top executive at an energy company with significant activities under Dykes's purview. But David Dykes did not formally recuse himself from matters involving his brother's company. No rule required him to do so. Unlike many federal agencies that make employees distance themselves from matters involving friends, relatives or former bosses, the nation's chief oil regulatory agency had no such policy. Now, in the wake of the BP disaster, Congress is pressing the agency formerly called the US Minerals Management Service to clamp down on potential conflicts of interest.

The case of David and Rodney Dykes highlights the challenges of the task. The oil industry of the Gulf Coast is an insular world in which rig foremen and the federal inspectors charged with regulating them sometimes work side by side, or grew up in the same towns and even homes. Investigations into the BP spill have focused on whether MMS regulators properly oversaw the Deepwater Horizon rig or merely accepted company assurances that the rig was safe. An inspector general investigation in May showed that MMS regulators in the gulf sometimes viewed themselves more as industry friends and fishing buddies than policemen. In one office, they took free trips, sporting tickets and gifts from industry officials they were supposed to be monitoring, the investigation found.

07.31.10 Hamas vows revenge after Israel kills commander in Gaza strike

July 31 - Palestinian witnesses report one dead and 13 injured in heaviest strike on Hamas-linked targets since Operation Cast Lead, as Israel retaliates for rocket attack on Ashkelon. Hamas on Saturday vowed revenge after one of its senior commanders was killed in Israeli air strikes on Hamas-linked targets in the Gaza Strip on Friday night. "This new stupidity won't easily pass. We promise revenge for the blood of our martyr," the al-Qassam Brigades said in a leaflet faxed to reporters. The Hamas operative, a 40-year-old member of Hamas' military wing, was killed in an explosion near the Nuseirat refugee camp south of Gaza City in the center of the Hamas-controlled strip. Another 13 Palestinians were hurt. The dead man is believed to be Issa al-Batran, a commander of Hamas forces in the central Gaza region. Batran, thought to have been involved in manufacturing rockets, has been the target of a number of Israeli assassination attempts, the most recent of which, in January, killed wife and five children. [More>>haaretz.com]

07.31.10 NATO troops surround Taliban sheltering in Afghan town

July 31 - Allied soldiers launch new attack to clear almost 200 insurgents from Sayedabad in Helmand province. Hundreds of British troops, backed up by Afghan forces, launched a new attack on Taliban-led insurgents in an attempt to "squeeze" them out of a pocket in central Helmand province, the Ministry of Defence said today. Operation Tor Shezada Black Prince involving troops from the 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment, was described as relatively small. It was designed to clear insurgents from Sayedabad to the south of Nad Ali, where British troops have been engaged in stabilization and counter-insurgency operations since the beginning of this year, and Marjah, which has been the focus of operations by US marines. Some 180 insurgents had sought refuge in Sayedabad from where they were launching attacks on British and US forces, defence officials said. They reported little resistance, suggesting that Taliban fighters had "melted away" in advance. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

07.31.10 Jewish group opposes ground zero mosque

NEW YORK, July 31 - New York tighten security over Ramadan. The leading Jewish civil rights group in the U.S. has come out against the planned mosque and Islamic community center near the World Trade Center's ground zero terror attack site, saying the location is "counterproductive to the healing process." The Anti-Defamation League said it rejects any opposition to the center based on bigotry and acknowledged that the group behind the plan, the Cordoba Initiative, has the legal right to build at the site. But the ADL said "some legitimate questions have been raised" about funding and possible ties with "groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values." "Ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right," the ADL said in a statement. "In our judgment, building an Islamic center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain unnecessarily and that is not right." [More>>alarabiya.net; See also nytimes.com, July 31, "Jewish group opposes Muslim center near Ground Zero."]

07.31.10 4 killed, 11 wounded in bombing south of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (AP) July 31 - Iraqi officials say a roadside bomb has killed four Iraqis, including three soldiers, and wounded 11 people south of Baghdad. The blast took place on Saturday near the municipal offices in Rashid district just south of the Iraqi capital, as soldiers were responding to an earlier explosion in the same area. Police and hospital officials say the three soldiers and a bystander succumbed to their wounds in a Baghdad hospital. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. Violence has dramatically dropped in Iraq since 2008, but insurgent attacks are still a daily occurrence at a time when US forces are withdrawing and leaving the country's nascent forces alone in charge of security. [>khaleejtimes.com]


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