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8.15.11 Gaddafi defiant, rebels poised to strangle capital
ZAWIYAH, Libya (Reuters) August 15 -
Muammar Gaddafi urged Libyans on Monday to free the country from" traitors," as rebels in the west began to strangle a major lifeline to his capital.  His broadcast appeal was made over a bad telephone line from an undisclosed location. In the following hours, a senior figure in his government showed up in Cairo with his family. Egyptian sources said Nasser al-Mabrouk Abdullah, identified as Gaddafi's deputy minister of security, flew to Cairo airport with nine relatives from the Tunisian island resort of Djerba. He told officials he was on holiday and there was no immediate comment from Tripoli on his move to Egypt. Unnamed envoys of Gaddafi's government were reported to have held talks with rebels at a Djerba hotel on Sunday, on a possible resolution of the 6-month-old civil war.  A dramatic advance on Saturday won rebels control of the town of Zawiyah, 50 km (30 miles) west of Tripoli on the coast, enabling them to halt food and fuel supplies from Tunisia. Tripoli was under no immediate threat, but rebels are now in their strongest position since the uprising against 41 years of Gaddafi rule began in February.  [More>>thestar.com.my]

8.15.11 Up to 66 killed and 238 injured across Iraq in bloodiest day this year
BAGHDAD, Iraq ( AFP) August 15 -
Attacks in more than a dozen cities across Iraq on Monday killed 66 people, including 34 in twin blasts in the southern city of Kut, in the bloodiest day in Iraq this year. The surge of violence raises questions over the capabilities of Iraq’s forces after its leaders agreed to open talks with the US over a military training mission to last beyond a projected year-end American withdrawal. The attacks, in which more than 238 people were wounded, were quickly condemned by parliament speaker Osama Al Nujaifi, who blamed security leaders for unspecified “violations.”  In Monday’s worst attack, a roadside bomb in the center of Kut, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, at 8:00am (0500 GMT) was followed minutes later by a nearby car bomb, medical and security officials said.

...In Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit, meanwhile, three policemen were killed and at least seven others were wounded when two suicide bombers blew up their explosives-packed vests inside the city's anti-terror headquarters...In the restive province of Diyala, north of Baghdad, eight people were killed and 35 wounded in a series of attacks in provincial capital Baquba and five other cities, Diyala health department spokesman Faris Al Azzawi said...Two car bombs, the second of which was detonated by a suicide attacker, were also detonated in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, provincial police chief General Abdul Karim Mustafa said. A provincial health spokesman said seven people were killed and 60 wounded.

A car bomb east of Karbala, another holy city in Iraq's south, killed two and wounded nine others, provincial council chief Mohammed Al Mussawi said. Separate explosions in the disputed northern city of Kirkuk killed one and wounded 14, while twin blasts in the western city of Ramadi left one dead and injured seven others. A car bomb and three roadside bombs killed two people and wounded 20 in Baghdad, and bomb attacks in Taji and Balad, just north of the capital, killed one and injured 14. Twin blasts in the northern city of Mosul also left one dead and three wounded, police said, and an explosion in the town of Iskandiriyah, south of Baghdad, injured four.  [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

8.15.11 Syrian forces step up attacks on Latakia and Homs
(AP) August 15 -
Syrian activists say the military has fired on fleeing residents in Latakia on the third day of a land- and sea-borne assault on the port city, while there have been reports of gunfire in the flashpoint city of Homs. Syrian troops besieged residential areas of two key cities Monday, firing on residents as they fled for safety and killing at least two people during broad military assaults to root out dissent against President Bashar Assad’s autocratic regime, witnesses said. Assad has dramatically escalated the crackdown on a 5-month-old uprising since the start of the holy month of Ramadan, a time of piety and reflection when many Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Despite blistering international outrage, the regime is trying to establish firm control in rebellious areas by unleashing tanks, snipers and - in a new tactic - gunboats that fire from the sea.The military assault in the port city of Latakia was in its third day Monday after gunboats joined ground troops Sunday for the first time in the uprising. Nearly 30 people, and possibly more, have been killed in the city since Saturday, activists say. Soldiers also stormed the area of Houla in the central city of Homs, which has seen massive protests in recent months. A sniper killed an elderly man, according to the London-based Observatory for human rights, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria.  [More>>france24.com; See related stories,

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) August 15, "Jordan tells Syria to stop violence 'immediately" :  AMMAN -
Jordan urged Syria on Monday to "immediately" stop violence and start implementing reforms, as more than 2,000 people have been reported killed in a government crackdown on the pro-democracy revolt. "Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit today telephoned his Syrian counterpart Adel Safar and told him that violence must stop immediately," the state-run Petra news agency reported. "Bakhit said Syria should listen to reason and start implementing reforms." Petra quoted the premier as saying that "world anger and rejection of the bloodshed in Syria are growing."...

bbc.co.uk, August 15,"Syria unrest: Palestinian refugees flee camp, says UN"
Activist Alexander Page (not his real name) says troops are shooting "anything that moves." Thousands of Palestinian refugees are fleeing a camp in the Syrian port of Latakia which is being shelled by government troops, a UN agency says. A spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works agency (Unrwa) told the BBC that more than 5,000 of the 10,000 refugees were on the move. He said at least four people had died, urging immediate access to the site.  Some 30 people have reportedly died in Latakia in a three-day military attack. Syria says it is tackling gangs. On Monday, there were also reports of a clampdown in the capital Damascus, with people being arrested randomly in the Jobar district. More than 1,700 people have reportedly died and more than 30,000 have been detained in the six-month uprising against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad...

8.15.11 Shell reveals size of North Sea oil spill
August 15 -
Shell has revealed that a leak at one of its North Sea platforms has pumped more than 200 tons of oil into the water. Five days after it first learned of the leak, Shell has revealed that 1,300 barrels worth have spilled from the Gannet Alpha platform, which is 112 miles east of Aberdeen. The oil spill is the biggest in UK waters for more than a decade. In the year 2000, a number of leaks resulted in a combined spillage of 524 tons over the course of the year. The last single incident in UK waters that caused a major oil spill took place in 1993 when the Braer oil tanker ran aground off Shetland, whilst carrying 85,000 tonnes of crude oil. Shell maintains that the oil spill which is in a flowline system that serves the platform is under control.  [More>>news.sky.com]

8.15.11 Stop coddling the super-rich
(op-ed by Warren Buffett) August 15 -
Our leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched. While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors. These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species.

It’s nice to have friends in high places. Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent. If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot. To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.  [More>>nytimes.com]

8.15.11 Hacking group attacks San Francisco transport system
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) August 15 -
An international group of hackers has broken into the website of the San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit District and leaked thousand of user names, addresses, phone numbers and passwords belonging to subscribers, myBART.org reported. The attack, carried out by the notorious Anonymous group, came after the transport agency threatened to sever mobile phone access to prevent a planned protest a week ago. Anonymous also said it sympathized with the riots and looting in England last week, describing the disorder as "a product of decades of neglect inflicted on your country by various governments." "We are Anonymous, we are your citizens, we are the people, we do not tolerate oppression from any government agency," it said. It apologized "to any citizen that has his information published," the hackers said in a site statement.  "You should go to BART and ask them why your information wasn't secure with them." An agency spokesman said BART was contacting affected passengers and urged them to change passwords that were revealed in the leak.  [>en.rian.ru]

8.14.11 21 dead in raid on Syrian port- activists
(AFP) August 14 - Syrian
warships and security forces have killed 21 people in an assault on the port city of Latakia, activists said, even as world leaders demanded an immediate end to the ruthless crushing of dissent. Security forces also surged into the Damascus suburbs of Saqba and Hamriya overnight, cutting off communications, firing shots and making arrests, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights today. "Warships are attacking Latakia and explosions have been heard in several districts," the group said, adding that the main target was Ramleh suburb of the eastern Mediterranean port city. Twenty-one people were killed and dozens of others seriously wounded, it said. The group said Palestinians also figured among the casualties of the assault on Ramleh, which is home to Palestinian refugees in Al-Ramal camp. [More>>news.com.au]

8.14.11 Gunmen abduct American from Lahore
ISLAMABAD, August 14 -
Around a dozen gunmen abducted an American national after breaking into his house in Lahore's upscale Model Town locality on Saturday. Police said Warren Weinstein had told his staff that he was moving out of the country by Monday and wrapping up his latest project.  US embassy spokesman Alberto Rodriguez said Islamabad-based Weinstein worked for a private firm but frequently visited Lahore. "The embassy in Islamabad is working with the authorities in Lahore on the issue," he added. Police said Weinstein had been in Pakistan for five years and is the country director of J E Austin Associates that works with the US government's aid arm involved in development work in the country's tribal areas along the Afghan border. They refused to speculate on the motive behind the abduction.  Militant organizations have targeted foreigners but such abductions have been rare. Criminal gangs mostly carry out abductions for ransom that are common in Pakistan. Taliban had claimed that it had abducted a Swiss couple from Baluchistan province last month.  Lahore police's Abdul Razaq Cheema said a group of nearly 10-12 people abducted Weinstein. "All guards and servants working at the house were taken into custody. We are investigating whether the abductors had inside support," Cheema said. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

8.14.11 Blast razed hotel; 11 killed
JAFFERABAD, Pakistan, August 14 -
A powerful blast that brought down the two-story building of a hotel killed at least 11 people and hurt 21 others in Dera Allayar area of Jafferabad, Geo News reported. The blast was so powerful that the building was razed to the ground and majority of the casualties were due to the building collapse. According to the sources, some unknown militants hid the explosives-filled bag inside the hotel and blasted it with a remote control. Locals have retrieved at least 11 dead bodies from the rubble and a crane is now being used for rescue. Ambulances reached the spot very late and the nearby hospitals lacked first aid treatment facilities that compounded the pain of the injured brought there later they were shifted to Larkana and Jacobbad hospitals.  [>thenews.com.pk]

8.14.11 18 Pakistanis killed on Independence Day
QUETTA, Pakistan  (AFP) August 14 -
Bomb, gun and rocket attacks killed 18 Pakistanis in flashpoints bordering Afghanistan on Sunday as the country celebrated Independence Day, officials said. Fourteen civilians were killed and 16 wounded when a bomb ripped through a roadside restaurant in the town of Dera Allah Yar, part of the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan, police said. After most of those trapped under debris from a collapsed roof were recovered, district police chief Javed Gharshin told AFP that 14 people had been killed and 16 others wounded. Gharshin said four suspects had been arrested in connection with the bombing. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, about 400 kilometres (250 miles) southeast of Quetta, the provincial capital, which came as Pakistan celebrated the 64th anniversary of independence from Britain. Elsewhere in the province, gunmen on motorcycles shot dead a local journalist in the town of Khuzdar, police said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

8.14.11 Suicide bombers, gunmen kill 22 in central Afghanistan
PARWAN, Afghanistan (Reuters)  August 14 -
Taliban suicide bombers killed at least 22 people in a bold attack on a governor's compound in central Afghanistan during a security meeting on Sunday, officials said, with gunbattles and several blasts heard before the assault was put down. A Reuters witness and others nearby reported hearing at least five explosions as Afghan security forces inside the compound of Parwan governor Abdul Basir Salangi fought back. Afghanistan's Interior Ministry said 22 people were killed and 34 wounded. The dead included 16 government employees and six police, it said in a statement. Parwan lies about an hour's drive northwest of the capital, Kabul, another worrying sign of the reach of the Taliban and other insurgents. Eight days ago, a rocket-propelled grenade fired by the Taliban brought down a NATO helicopter in another central Afghan province near Kabul, killing 30 US troops and eight Afghans in the worst single incident for foreign forces in 10 years of war.  [More>>gulfnews.com]

8.14.11 Twin blasts kill 5 Iraqi army personnel in Baghdad
BAGHDAD (AP) August 14 -
A pair of bombs hit an Iraqi army patrol in north Baghdad, killing five security personnel and injuring 10 other people, security and medical officials said. Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Baghdad’s military operations command, said the first roadside bomb went off while the patrol was traveling through the Sunni neighborhood of Azamiyah. The second bomb exploded when security forces rushed to the scene seconds later. Two army officers and three soldiers were killed in the attack at about 8am, al-Moussawi said. He didn't say how many people were wounded. But a police officer and a doctor at a nearby hospital said six civilians and four soldiers were wounded. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. Violence has significantly dropped in Iraq since 2008, but attacks still occur, particularly in Baghdad, where al-Qaeda militants appear determined to show they are not a spent force. They often target Iraqi security forces as a way to undermine security and to destabilize the country. [>khaleejtimes.com]

8.12.11 Stocks: A higher, calmer day
NEW YORK, August 12 -
Stocks are moving higher Friday. That's the second day in a row. What happened, Wall Street? Finally tired of the market's roller-coaster ride?  Stocks have haven't moved the same direction for two consecutive days in more than a week, not even by a long shot. On Monday, the Dow sank 635 points, then rallied 430 points Tuesday. On Wednesday, it plunged 520 points, just to end 423 points higher in Thursday's session. The moves marked the first time in history that the Dow had closed with a net change of more than 400 points for four straight sessions. But it seems that investors were taking a break from the wild swings. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) gained 136 points, or 1.2%, having briefly touched above the 200-point mark. The S&P 500 (SPX) added 10 points, or 1%, and the Nasdaq composite (COMP) increased 17 points, or 0.7%. "It's hard to say given how volatile the last couple of weeks have been, but it looks like we could have found a bottom earlier this week," said Matt King, chief investment officer at Bell Investment Advisors. At the end of Wednesday's session, stocks had tumbled so far that they were just shy of bear market territory defined as a 20% drop from recent highs [More>>cnn.com]

8.12.11 UK riots: teenager charged with BlackBerry incitement
August 12 -
A teenager from Essex has been charged with using the instant messaging service BlackBerry Messenger to encourage others to take part in riots. The 18-year-old, from Clacton, was accused of intentionally encouraging or assisting in the commission of an offense under the Serious Crime Act 2007, Essex police said. She allegedly sent a message on BBM on Monday Aug 8 encouraging friends in the seaside town to copy scenes of violence and looting that were spreading across England. The unnamed teenager has been bailed to appear at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on Sept 1. Her case is among the first in which police have specifically cited BBM. A 27-year-old man from Southampton was also charged with inciting violence via the service yesterday. Attention has focused on BBM, provided to BlackBerry owners by the Canadian firm RIM, since it emerged that users were passing around messages that encouraged rioting by appointment.  [More>>telegraph.co.uk; See related story,

dailymail.co.uk, August 12, "Destroyed in a day: The before and after pictures that show the devastating extent of the riots" :These extraordinary photos show the true extent of the destruction caused by the widespread rioting. Before the disturbances these were businesses and homes, with one having survived two World Wars. But after ransacking stores the rioters gleefully set properties alight, cheering at their handiwork as they saw flames engulf the buildings. Their actions have left not only charred shells where homes and livelihoods used to stand, but also a deep scar on England's streets.  The House of Reeves has stood on the same corner in Croydon for 140 years, surviving both World Wars. It was targeted by rioters as violence spread across the capital on Monday evening. Flames ripped through the historic building and spread to neighboring businesses as firemen battled desperately and in vain to quell the inferno. Now the Reeves family, who have owned the business for five generations, will have to demolish the remains and rebuild...

8.12.11 Court sentences 23 Ben Ali relatives to prison terms
(Reuters) August 12 -
A Tunisian court on Friday sentenced 23 relatives of deposed leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali to prison terms of between four months and six years. His former security chief was acquitted on charges of forging passports to aid Ben Ali's escape. Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali’s feared former security chief was acquitted on Friday on charges of forging passports to help relatives of the deposed Tunisian leader and his wife escape with cash and jewelery. A Tunisian court dropped the case against Ali al-Seriati, but he remains in custody pending more serious charges of trying to sow strife in the wake of the revolution that sparked the "Arab Spring" protests that spread across the region. Ben Ali’s overthrow after weeks of protests electrified millions across the Arab world, who suffered similarly from high unemployment, repressive governments and rampant corruption.

Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, accused of involvement in killing protesters, went on trial earlier this month, appearing in a hospital bed behind a courtroom cage. The scene enthralled the Arab world but dismayed Tunisians who have seen high-profile allies of Ben Ali escape the country and are concerned about what they see as the slow pace of legal proceedings in the seven months since their revolution. Exiled to Saudi Arabia, Ben Ali and his wife are being tried in absentia, frustrating Tunisians thirsty for accountability after 23 years under what was widely termed "The Family." In the same session, the court sentenced 23 relatives of Ben Ali and his wife, Leila Trabelsi, to jail terms ranging between four months and six years. Leila Trabelsi was sentenced to six years in absentia and Ben Ali’s powerful son-in-law Sakher Materi was sentenced to four years in absentia.  [More>>france24.com]

8.12.11 UN alarmed by Libya's rising civilian toll as rebels claim victory in key oil port
August 12 -
UN leader Ban Ki-moon on Thursday expressed alarm over the rising number of civilian casualties in the Libya conflict, including those inflicted in NATO airstrikes, as the Libyan rebels said they captured a key oil terminal that has repeatedly changed hands in the 6-month-old civil war. Without specifically naming any side, Mr. Ban called on “all parties” to use "extreme caution" in the battle, said a UN statement. Mr. Ban also stepped up calls for a political solution to the conflict, in which rebels have sought to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi's four-decades-old regime...Libyan rebels battling Colonel Qaddafi’s troops along the country’s Mediterranean coast, meanwhile, said they captured a key oil terminal Thursday that has repeatedly changed hands in the 6-month-old civil war. Rebel spokesman Mohammed Al Rijali said he was with the fighters in Brega when they gained control of the strategic port city, 125 miles (200 kilometers) southwest of the de-facto rebel capital of Benghazi, after three weeks of intense fighting.  [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

8.12.11 Activists: Assad forces kill 13 during Friday prayers across Syria
August 12 -
Turkish President Abdullah Gul warns Assad not to leave reforms until it is too late; US calls for countries to stop buying Syrian oil; Switzerland's Vitol, Trafigura supply fuel to Syria. Syrian security forces shot dead ten protesters during attacks on pro-democracy demonstrations across the country on Friday, and fired live ammunition at protesters coming out of a main mosque in the besieged city of Deir al-Zor, activists and witnesses said. The Local Coordination Committees activists' group said it had the names of two protesters killed in Syria's commercial hub of Aleppo, one in the city of Homs, three in suburbs of the capital Damascus and two in the northwestern province of Idlib on the border with Turkey.

"Military intelligence directed their AK-47s at the mosque, hitting the main air-conditioning unit, which caught fire. The whole neighborhood is echoing with the sound of bullets," said one witness, an engineer who lives near Harwil Mosque. "Worshipers are running to take cover in alleyways," he said by phone. A resident of Hama also said protesters came under fire in the central Syrian city. Hama was stormed by the army at the start of the month in an assault which killed more than 100 people, according to activists and rights groups. British-based activist Rami Abdel Rahman also reported clashes in Hama and said tens of thousands of people were protesting in the city of Homs.  [More>>haaretz.com]

8.12.11 Three dead in Iraq, spate of bombs hit Baghdad
BAGHDAD, August 12 -
Twin bomb attacks in western Iraq killed three people Thursday evening while a string of four explosions in Baghdad wounded 10 others, security and medical officials said. A total of 39 people were wounded in violence on Thursday. In the capital, two bombs went off near alcohol shops in the commercial district of Karrada in central Baghdad, wounding four civilians, an interior ministry official said. The two explosions, which were followed by sirens and gunfire, could be heard in central Baghdad. Another bomb targeted an army patrol in Dura in the south of the capital, wounding three soldiers, while a fourth exploded in Al-Amil neighborhood in south Baghdad, wounding three civilians, the official said. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

8.12.11 Mexico arrests trafficker accused of 600 killings
TOLUCA, Mexcico (AP) August 12 - 
Mexican police arrested the suspected leader of a brutal drug gang called "The Hand with Eyes" and he has confessed to helping carry out or ordering more than 600 murders, authorities said Thursday. Oscar Osvaldo Garcia Montoya, 36, was arrested in an overnight raid on a presumed safe house on the outskirts of Mexico City, State of Mexico Attorney General Alfredo Castillo said at a news conference. "The Hand with Eyes" is one of the groups blamed for bringing the drug violence typical of northern Mexico to Mexico City and its surrounding areas.  The organization is known for extreme violence, including decapitations. Many of its victims have been drug dealers and rivals killed as the group fought for control of drug sales in Mexico state, an area that includes many of the poor suburbs ringing the capital. Castillo said Garcia is a deserter from the Mexican marines who worked as a bodyguard for major cartel figures including Edgar Valdez, aka "La Barbie," a top assassin for the Beltran Leyva cartel until he was arrested in 2010. With the capture or death of Valdez and most of the leaders of the Beltran Leyva cartel, Garcia split off and formed his own group.  [More>>foxnews.com]

8.12.11 Embryo inside prehistoric reptile fossil
WASHINGTON (AFP) August 12 -
A fossil of a prehistoric water reptile has an embryo inside, providing the first evidence that plesiosaurs gave birth to live offspring rather than laying eggs, a US study said overnight. The 78-million-year-old fossil of the Polycotylus latippinus, a four-flippered swimmer something like a snake-turtle combination, is now on display at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Scientists have long suspected that the large creatures, which once were among the top predators in the world's oceans, were not built for climbing on land and laying eggs, but had no evidence to show otherwise until now. "This fossil documents live birth in plesiosaurs for the first time, and so finally resolves this mystery," said co-author Robin O'Keefe of Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. The 4.7 meter-long fossil on display contains an embryonic skeleton, including little ribs, 20 vertebrae, shoulders, hips and paddle bones, said the study in the journal Science. Several other types of aquatic reptiles from the same Mesozoic period have been known to give birth to live offspring instead of eggs, a behavior that lends itself to a more social lifestyle, similar to that of dolphins.  [More>>news.com.au]

8.11.11 Stocks open higher after big selloff
August 11 -
US stocks opened higher in New York this morning after the The Dow Jones industrial average fell 520 points Wednesday over debt fears here and in Europe. At 10:40am Thursday, the Dow rose 241 points, or 2.3 percent, to 10,951. Investors reacted positively to a bit of good news among the gloom: New US claims for unemployment benefits dropped to a four-month low last week, the government reported Thursday. Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 395,000, the Labor Department said, the lowest level since the week ended April 2. The markets here and abroad were also buoyed by an announcement that French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will meet in Paris next Tuesday to discuss eurozone governance and other international issues.  Investor worries over French banks have weighed on the stocks over the past two days. US stocks skidded Wednesday on new worries about government debt in Europe, losing all of Tuesday's rally and then some. Gold, which surged to yet another new high yesterday, fell back $20 to $1,764 an ounce this morning. [More>>abcnews.go.com; See related story,

independent.co.uk, August 11, "Europe's banks in freefall as fear stalks the markets" :
Fear gripped Europe's banks yesterday as shares in French and Italian lenders dived on concerns they would be crippled by the eurozone crisis. Société Générale led French banks down as market rumors about its financial position sent its shares tumbling more than 20 per cent during the trading session. SocGen, France's second-biggest bank, was forced to issue a statement denying speculation that it was in trouble.  Shares in Unicredit and Intesa, two of Italy's biggest banks, were suspended because of volatile trading. Fears about Italy's sovereign debt burden sent the banks down 9.4 per cent and 13.7 per cent respectively. French banks were hit by rumors that France was about to follow the US and lose its top AAA credit rating.

SocGen shares closed down almost 15 per cent and have nearly halved in the last four weeks. BNP Paribas, France's biggest bank, fell 9.5 per cent. SocGen also suffered after a typographical error in a Reuters chart sparked concerns that the bank, a big bullion trader, was trying to raise cash by selling gold futures cheaper for 12 months than for one month. Later, rumors swept the market that an unlisted French insurer was in financial difficulty and had sold its big holding of SocGen shares. SocGen last week revealed a slump in second-quarter profit as the bank was hit by its big exposure to Greece. The bank also admitted it was unlikely to meet its 2012 profit forecast. A SocGen spokesman said there had been no change since the profit warning, adding: "SocGen categorically denies all the market rumors."

The eurozone crisis is in danger of spreading from peripheral countries such as Greece and Portugal to major economies such as Italy, Spain or even France. Fears about which banks might be hit by holdings of bonds issued by troubled countries have caused inter-bank lending costs to rocket. Simon Maughan, an analyst at MF Global, said: "Basically, the banks have stopped lending to each other again because of stories that one or another of them has gone under and that has created a liquidity problem." The situation is reminiscent of market turmoil following the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, when plunging share prices and soaring costs of funding and debt sent the sector into meltdown...

8.11.11 PM: Rioters face eviction from council homes
August 11 - David Cameron has warned council tenants they could be evicted if they are found to be involved in rioting in English towns and cities.  The Prime Minister said the trouble after four nights of extensive violence had been "criminality pure and simple" and pledged to do "whatever it takes" to restore order. He also told MPs:

:: Police will be given new powers to demand suspected criminals remove face masks.
Reinforced police numbers will remain on the streets of London this weekend.
Anyone convicted of rioting should go to jail.
The Government are looking at whether it is possible to stop people plotting disorder through social media websites.
A £10m recovery scheme to help local councils deal the damage caused by rioting in English towns and cities has been launched.

Mr. Cameron revealed that more than 1,200 people have been arrested across the country.  [More>>news.sky.com]

8.11.11 US, Taliban peace talks collapse over leaks: report
LONDON, August 11 -
The secret peace talks between the United States and the Taliban leadership have broken down after details of the negotiations were leaked, [a] British daily newspaper reported quoting Western diplomats. The breakdown in the talks at such an early stage has led to recriminations and claims that the details of the meetings and the identity of the Taliban's chief negotiator were deliberately leaked by 'paranoid' Afghan government figures. Absolute confidentiality had been a key condition for the meetings which were held in Germany and Qatar earlier this year between Tayeb Agha, Taliban leader Mullah Omar's former private secretary, and senior officials from the US State Department and Central Intelligence Agency. [>thenews.com.pk]

8.11.11 Over 3,000 terrorists held in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, August 11 -
Pakistani law enforcement agencies arrested 3,143 terrorists over the past three years, with a majority of the arrests being made in the restive northern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.  A total of 4,240 weapons were seized from the arrested terrorists, including rocket launchers, missiles, suicide jackets, bombs, grenades, mines and anti-aircraft guns.  Of the total arrests, 2,101 terrorists were detained in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 231 in Punjab, 145 in Sindh, 343 in Balochistan, 130 in Islamabad, 106 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 80 in the tribal belt and five in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, an official said. A total of 505 people were killed and 1,720 injured in terrorist attacks in Punjab during the past two years, the official said.  [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

8.11.11 Bali bombing suspect extradited to Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) August 11 -
An Indonesian militant who allegedly made the explosives used in the 2002 Bali bombings was escorted home under tight security Thursday, more than six months after he was captured in northwest Pakistan. Umar Patek had a $1 million bounty on his head when authorities caught up with him Jan. 25 in Abbottabad the same town where Osama bin Laden was killed in a US commando attack four months later. Indonesia's anti-terrorism chief, Ansyaad Mbai, told The Associated Press it did not appear to be a coincidence that they were in the same place. "It's further evidence of the link between the Southeast Asian terror network and al-Qaeda," he added, hours before the 41-year-old boarded an Indonesian plane sent to a Pakistani air force base. Patek touched down outside Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, on Thursday morning and was taken straight to a police detention center in the West Java town of Kelapa Dua where he will await trial, he said. No date has been announced.

Indonesian officials say Patek has confessed to playing a key role in the 2002 Bali bombings, which killed 202 people, many of them foreign tourists, including 88 Australians. He also admitted to making the bombs used in a string of Christmas Eve attacks on churches in 2000 that claimed 19 lives, they say. But because tough anti-terror laws passed after the Bali blasts cannot be applied retroactively, he will likely be charged with illegal possession of explosives, Mbai said. Even though that charge also carries a maximum penalty of death, there are concerns he might get off easy. Indonesia, the nation with the most Muslims in the world, has been hit by a string of terrorist attacks blamed on Patek's regional militant group, Jemaah Islamiyah, but none as deadly as the Bali blasts.

A highly praised anti-terrorism campaign in the country of 240 million has seen hundreds of suspects arrested and convicted in recent years, but Patek is one of the biggest to have been captured alive. His arrest in Abbottabad raised questions over whether he was there to meet bin Laden, something that would challenge theories that the al-Qaeda chief was cut off from his followers. US officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue, have said it appeared to be a coincidence. But Mbai countered that Wednesday. Several other militants
from Asia and Europe to the Middle East also were arrested in the same region of northwest Pakistan at the time of Patek's arrest, he said. They had gathered there in hopes of meeting bin Laden, but it was not clear if they'd succeeded or were planning a new terror strike. "Patek was very valuable for the US," Mbai said. "He helped lead authorities to bin Laden."  [>thejakartapost.com]

8.11.11 Syrian forces kill five in swoop on northern towns
AMMAN, Jordan (Reuters) August 11 - Syrian forces killed at least five people in an assault on two northern towns on Thursday, activists said, pursuing a military campaign to crush protests against President Bashar al-Assad despite new US sanctions and regional calls to end bloodshed.  The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it had the names of five people killed and 16 wounded in morning raids by security forces backed by tanks on Qusair, near the Lebanon border, after overnight protests calling for Assad's removal. Another activist group, the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Union, said it had identified at least nine people, including a woman and a baby, killed by random gunfire in Qusair. Around 14 tanks and armored vehicles also swept into Saraqeb, a town on Syria's main north-south highway that has seen daily demonstrations, and 100 people were arrested by the security forces, residents said by telephone. Syria's north, particularly Idlib province abutting Turkey, has been one of the hotbeds of the demonstrations across the country for more political freedoms, inspired by popular revolts against repressive ruling elites elsewhere in the Arab world.  [More>>thestar.com.my]

8.11.11 TEPCO says it has lost contact with 143 nuclear plant workers
TOKYO, August 11 - Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said Thursday that it has not been able to locate 143 individuals working to restore the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since May. The utility said it has no idea if the 143 have been exposed to radiation and to what level. According to a report from TEPCO given to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, TEPCO hired many of the workers through subcontractors from all over Japan for limited periods and kept no records of their addresses. On any given day, TEPCO said it has had up to 1,000 workers on rotating schedules at the stricken power plant. Asahi Geino reported in May that subcontractors were hiring day laborers to work at the plant. The daily remuneration was three times that of regular day jobs if within the grounds of the reactor complex, and 1.5 times higher if within the wider area now restricted due to high radioactivity. While safety measures are in place to keep workers’ daily exposure to radiation within safe levels, claims for compensation due to sickness from overexposure are unlikely to be paid out, the magazine reported.  [>japantoday.com]

8.11.11 Animal's genetic code redesigned
August 11 - Researchers say they have created the first ever animal with artificial information in its genetic code. The technique, they say, could give biologists "atom-by-atom control" over the molecules in living organisms. One expert the BBC spoke to agrees, saying the technique would be seized upon by "the entire biology community." The work by a Cambridge University team, which used nematode worms, appears in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. The worms from the species Caenorhabditis elegans are 1mm long, with just a thousand cells in their transparent bodies. What makes the newly created animals different is that their genetic code has been extended to create biological molecules not known in the natural world.  [More>>bbc.co.uk]

8.11.11 Fastest plane ever launches in Mach 20 test
August 11- An unmanned DARPA hypersonic glider a prototype for a global strike weapons program launched on its second test flight Thursday (Aug. 12) in a bid to fly at the mind-blowing speed of Mach 20. The DARPA glider, called the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop a Minotaur 4 rocket at 7:45am PDT. According to DARPA updates, the test flight appeared to go well until the glide phase, when monitoring stations lost contact with the HTV-2 vehicle. "Range assets have lost telemetry with HTV2," DARPA officials wrote in a Twitter post about 36 minutes after launch. The HTV-2 vehicle was expected to reach suborbital space, then re-enter Earth's atmosphere and glide at hypersonic speed to demonstrate controllable flight at velocities of around Mach 20, which is about 13,000 mph. At that speed, more than 20 times the speed of sound, a vehicle could fly from New York City to Los Angeles in 12 minutes, DARPA officials said. A video animation of the HTV-2 flight test depicts how the the hypersonic vehicle was expected to pop free of its rocket, then soar through Earth's atmosphere for an inevitable, and intentional, plunge into the Pacific Ocean at the end of its mission.  [More>>cbsnews.com]

8.11.11 Deadly explosion rocks Beirut suburb
(AFP) August 11 - An explosion ripped through a car park in a predominantly Christian suburb of Lebanon's capital Beirut on Thursday, killing two people. Local media reports said the victims were handling explosives inside a vehicle when the blast occurred. A blast ripped through a parking lot in a Christian suburb of Beirut on Thursday, killing two people, a security official told AFP. "Two people were killed in the blast that took place in a parking lot, near a commercial center," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The two victims were identified as Ihsan Dia and Hassan Nassar. Lebanese television said they were believed to have been handling explosives inside their vehicle when the blast went off. A witness told AFP he saw rescuers carrying away from the site a man whose arm and leg had been torn off in the explosion.  [More>>france24.com]

8.11.11 Woman bomber strikes NW Pakistan, 5 dead in another bombing
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, August 11 -
A woman covered in a head-to-foot burqa carried out a suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing herself and another woman. A woman covered in a head-to-foot burqa carried out a suicide bombing in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing herself and another woman, police said, adding to security challenges confronting the US ally. The bombing occurred near a police check post just yards away from where a remote-controlled bomb hit a police van, killing four policemen and a child, less than an hour earlier. The woman, said to be 25 years old, was wearing an explosive-laden vest and blew herself up in the heart of the main northwestern city of Peshawar. "She exploded the vest as she came close to the check post. One policeman was wounded," police official Tariq Omar told Reuters. He said a 60-year-old woman was also killed in the suicide bombing and police were investigating whether she was an accomplice or a passer-by. Fourteen people were wounded in the earlier attack on the police van. The bomb, concealed in a push-cart, exploded as the van passed by. [More>>gulfnews.com]

8.11.11 5 ISAF soldiers killed in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (Xinhua) August 11 - Five soldiers with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops were killed in south Afghanistan on Thursday, a statement released by the alliance here said. "Five International Security Assistance Force service members died following an improvised explosive device attack in southern Afghanistan today," the statement added. However, it did not identify the nationalities of the victims, saying it is ISAF policy to defer casualty identification procedures to the relevant national authorities. Troops mostly from the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia have been serving in the southern provinces where Taliban militants are active. More than 380 NATO soldiers with majority of them Americans have been killed since the beginning of this year in the militancy- plagued Afghanistan.  [More, with Special Report: Afghanistan Situation>>xinhuanet.com; See also msnbc.msn.com, August 11, "Pentagon: Five US troops killed in Afghanistan."]

8.09.11 Wall Street rallies, bolstered by Fed hopes
NEW YORK, August 9 -
Bargain hunters are pushing stocks up in midday trading, and the Dow briefly rose above 11,000. The Dow Jones industrial average is up 180 points, or 1.7 percent, at 10,990. On Monday, it had its worst day since 2008, plunging 634.76 points. The S&P 500 is up 26, or 2.3 percent, to 1,145. The Nasdaq is up 74, or 3.1 percent, at 2,432. Investors worried about the first-ever downgrade to the US credit rating, the slowing US economy, debt problems in Europe and rising inflation in less-developed countries. Hope that the Federal Reserve may announce more help for the economy in the afternoon also lifted stocks.  "Prior to the recent turmoil, we had thought the Fed would stand pat" at its policy meeting on Tuesday, said Paul Dales, senior US economist with Capital Economics. "But now some action seems likely." The central bank already has kept its key interest rate close to zero since 2008. The Fed in June ended a $600 billion program to buy Treasurys as a way to support the economy. Some Fed officials oppose another round of so-called quantitative easing because it could lead to higher inflation.  [More>>cbsnews.com; See related stories,

bbc.co.uk, August 9, "Shares back up in volatile trade" :
European shares have recovered heavy losses made in a volatile morning's trading, as US markets opened higher. The leading Dow Jones index opened up 1.2% at 10,939.12. Some indexes, like London's FTSE 100, that had fallen up to 5.5%, were positive by the time Wall Street opened - although trading remained nervy. Traders are on edge about the levels of debt facing the US and some eurozone countries, and the impact this could have on their already weak economies. Those worries helped spark this week's share market rout after the US government's credit rating was downgraded over the weekend from the top AAA grade. Traders are now looking for help from the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, whose open markets committee (FOMC) has begun a policy meeting and is due to make a statement later...

aljazeera.net, August 9, "European markets follow Asian slide" : European stocks lose after Asian slump, but US stocks rise at opening as US Federal Reserve huddles into meeting. Global markets are still reacting to fears of further economic struggles in the United States and the Eurozone countries. European markets followed Asian shares downwards on Tuesday as panicked investors continue to dump stocks and push gold to another day of record highs. But exchanges in Europe recovered heavy losses made in the volatile trading in the morning, while stock markets in the Middle East and Asia have been the most hit so far...

thestar.com.my, August 9, "Asian markets extend losses" :
KUALA LUMPUR - Investors continued to prefer gold over equities despite assurances by policymakers from Asia and Europe in taking action to stem another global financial crisis. Asian markets closed lower on Monday in reaction to last Friday's downgrade by Standard & Poor's of US sovereign credit while European markets fluctuated between gains and losses in volatile trade. Spot gold soared US$41.94 or 2.54% to US$1,705.89 at 5pm. The precious metal had earlier advanced to an all-time high of US$1,715.17. Silver advanced US$1.52.  The local bourse's benchmark index closed down 1.80% to 1,496.99 after hitting an intra-day low of 1,476.24 while Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 3.70% to 2,884. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 dropped 2.18% to 9,097.56, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 2.17% to 20,490.57, Shanghai's A share index slid 3.79% to 2,526.82 and Seoul's Kospi Index tumbled 3.82% to 1,869.45. At Bursa Malaysia, losers outpaced gainers 1,051 to 67 while 99 other counters were traded unchanged...

koreaherald.com (AP) August 9, "Asia to keep buying US debt despite downgrade"
: BEIJING - China and other governments have little choice but to keep buying US Treasury debt to store swelling foreign reserves even after Washington's credit rating was cut by Standard & Poor's. Some governments such as Germany and Australia have stronger credit ratings than the United States following Friday's downgrade to AA+ from AAA. But they don't sell enough debt to absorb the mountains of cash that China, Japan and others stockpile. Shifting money to stocks might offer a better return but can be politically volatile _ and high risk as current market turmoil shows. "The feasible choices are very limited," said Jun Ma, Deutsche Bank's chief China economist. "Either some markets are too small or those markets are bigger risks than the US Treasury." Governments from China to Switzerland to Mexico have poured billions of dollars from exports, oil sales and other sources into Treasury debt, boosting foreign ownership to $4.5 trillion as of April...

8.09.11 China's inflation climbs to 37-month high
(Xinhua )August 9  - China's inflation unexpectedly accelerated to a 37-month high in July, putting the government in a tough position as it faces the daunting task of taming prices and ensuring growth amid a faltering global economy. The country's Consumer Price Index (CPI), a main gage of inflation, surged 6.5 percent in July year-on-year, up from a three-year high of 6.4 percent in June, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Tuesday. The stubbornly high inflation rate has been driven by increasing food costs, which rose by 14.8 percent in July from a year ago. The price of pork, a staple food in China, soared by nearly 57 percent in July. The Chinese government has made stabilizing prices a top priority in the second half. To soak up liquidity, the central bank has ordered the nation's banks to set aside a record high of 21.5 percent of their cash in reserves and increased benchmark interest rates five times since October. However, the government will be reluctant to tighten further given that the faltering global economy could impact on growth in China, said Liu Ligang, director of economic research department of ANZ Greater China. The world's second-largest economy has shown signs of cooling down, with GDP decelerating to 9.5 percent in the second quarter from 9.6 percent in the first three months. Manufacturing growth also slowed to a 29-month low in July. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

8.09.11 London riots: 16,000 police take to streets
August 9 -
The number of police officers on London's streets tonight trying to prevent further rioting and looting is almost being trebled to 16,000. After police were vastly outnumbered on Monday night with just 6,000 officers on patrol amid "sickening" scenes of violence, the Prime Minister announced the increase in Downing Street. All Metropolitan Police leave has been canceled and special constables have been asked to work. Reinforcements are being provided by 26, or 60%, of the country's other forces. Sky's crime correspondent Martin Brunt said the Met was considering a change of tactics and that officers may even be issued with plastic bullets. Brunt said: "Police have promised to swamp the streets and act tougher if there's another night of rioting in the capital. A change in tactics could include the use of plastic bullets (baton rounds) to clear looters and vandals. Such a weapon has been available to police in the past three nights, but commanders have resisted using them."  [More>>news.sky.com]

8.09.11 Syrian tank assaults reportedly kill 30 as Turkey joins world reproach
August 9 - Turkish FM meets with Assad, says his fate will be similar to that of Gadhafi if he does not stop 'butchering his people'; Syria forces kill five civilians as army moves into town near Turkish border.  Syrian forces killed at least 30 civilians in tank assaults on Tuesday and moved into a town near the Turkish border, activists and witnesses said, even as Turkey's foreign minister pressed President Bashar Assad to halt assaults on protests against his rule. The Syrian National Organization for Human Rights said 30 civilians were killed by tank assaults in the countryside around the city of Hama and in a town near Turkey.  The Organization, headed by dissident Ammar Qurabi, said in a statement that 26 people were killed and dozens wounded when troops backed by tanks and armored vehicles overran Soran and other villages north of Hama, the focus of a 10-day assault to crush street protests against Assad's autocratic rule. Four people were also killed in Binnish, around 30 km (19 miles) from the border with Turkey, in a similar attack on the town that has witnessed an escalation in protests demanding the removal of Assad during the fasting month of Ramadan, the organization said. These reports come after Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met Syrian President Bashar Assad to press for a halt to the crackdown in which activists say at least 1,600 civilians have died, making it one of the bloodiest of the upheavals sweeping the Arab world.  [More>>haaretz.com]

8.09.11 Blasts rock Libyan capital, rebels in political crisis
August 9 - Several powerful blasts rocked Libya's capital today, as the executive branch of Libya's rebel government was sacked in a political crisis a week after their military chief's assassination.  The explosions in the Fernej district of southwest Tripoli struck at between 1:00am (2300 GMT) and 2:00am, sending flames shooting into the night sky, an AFP correspondent said. They were followed by a series of smaller blasts, suggesting an arms depot had been hit. Two other explosions followed at around 6:00am, he said.  In the rebel capital of Benghazi in eastern Libya, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the National Transitional Council (NTC), sacked the entire executive office of his government yesterday, officials said.  He dismissed several top ministers, including those responsible for finance, defense and information while calling for root and branch reform.  Mr. Mustafa Abdel Jalil has disbanded the executive office," spokesman Shamsiddin Abdulmolah told AFP, adding that prime minister Mahmud Jibril would be tasked with creating a reformed body.  It was the latest dramatic phase in the turmoil sparked by the assassination of rebel military commander General Abdel Fatah Yunis, amid his return to Benghazi under arrest in late July.  [More>>indianexpress.com]

8.09.11 Brazil moves to prevent 'massacre' of Amazon tribe by drug traffickers
August 9 - Brazilian indigenous protection officers to make emergency visit to isolated community facing threat from heavily armed gangs.  The head of Brazil's indigenous protection service is to make an emergency visit to a remote jungle outpost, amid fears that members of an isolated Amazon tribe may have been "massacred" by drug traffickers. Fears for the tribe's wellbeing have been escalating since late July when a group of heavily armed Peruvian traffickers reportedly invaded its land, triggering a crisis in the remote border region between Brazil and Peru. On 5 August Brazilian federal police launched an operation in the region, arresting Joaquim Antônio Custódio Fadista, a Portuguese man alleged to have been operating as a cocaine trafficker. But after the police pulled out, officers with the indigenous protection service (Funai) decided to return fearing a "massacre." They claimed that groups of men with rifles and machine guns were still at large in the rainforest. Reports suggest the traffickers may have been attempting to set up new smuggling routes, running through the tribe's land.  [More>>guardian.co.uk]

8.09.11 DNA building blocks found in meteorites
August 9 - For 50 years, scientists have debated whether the components of DNA — the molecule central to all life on Earth — could spontaneously form in space. A new analysis of a dozen meteorites found in Antarctica and elsewhere presents the strongest evidence yet that the answer is yes. Meteorites are space rocks that have fallen to the ground, and the new report bolsters the notion that heavy meteorite bombardment of the early Earth may have seeded the planet with the stuff of life. "[M]eteorites may have served as a molecular kit providing essential ingredients for the origin of life on Earth and possibly elsewhere," write the authors of the report out today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While life has not been found beyond Earth, all earthly plants and animals rely on DNA to store genetic information. At the center of the ladder-like DNA molecule lie ring-like structures called nucleobases. It’s these tiny rings that scientists at NASA and the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington found in 11 of 12 meteorites they scrutinized. Two of the meteorites in particular, called Murchison and Lonewolf Nunataks 94102, contained a trove of nucleobases, including those also found in DNA. But these meteorites and also held an extraterrestrial secret: related but exotic nucleobases never seen before, said Michael Callahan, the NASA scientist who analyzed the space rocks. Analysis of dirt and ice found near the meteorites showed no evidence of these exotic nucleobases. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

8.09.11 Solar explosions could impact Earth
August 9 - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is keeping an eye on a set of solar storms and explosions that could disrupt satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment here on Earth in the next few days. While activity had reportedly returned to somewhat normal levels when solar winds calmed Monday morning, another explosion Tuesday was three times larger than the February 15 flare, which, until now, was the most significant flare of this solar cycle. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is reporting that the most recent flare, the third in the past three days, “will likely generate bright auroras as far south as Pennsylvania and could possibly upset electronic equipment, especially in space.”

Solar flare may disrupt your GPS

The real forecast worth taking a look at, however, is the one for 2013, when solar activity levels are expected to peak with the next "solar maximum" within the 11-year activity cycle. Electric and magnetic interference from solar storms blasting electrically charged particles into the Earth’s magnetic field can cause major interferences on earth. Already this year, there have been reports of lost high-frequency radio communication with aircraft near the Arctic, along flight paths where pilots depend on such communication for flight safety and guidance.  [More>>cnn.com]

8.08.11 Stocks slump in first US trading since downgrade
August 8 -
Stocks on Wall Street plummeted on Monday, following global markets lower, as skittish investors reacted to last week’s unprecedented downgrade of the United States’s credit rating. The declines, reflecting the first opportunity for investors to sell since Standard & Poor’s cut its rating on the nation’s debt late last Friday, set the equity market on track to extend losses that were beginning to recall the days of the 2008 financial crisis. They also reflect anxiety over the United States economy and Europe’s debt woes.  Following on from a dismal showing in European and Asian markets, the broader United States market as measured by the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index was down 43.88 points, or 3.66 percent, in afternoon trading.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 314.85 points, or 2.75 percent, and the Nasdaq was down 94.94 points, or 3.75 percent. The S.&P. 500 was down about 14 percent over the last 11 sessions, one analyst noted, bringing back echoes of the last financial crisis. Last week represented the worst five-day trading period since November 2008.  "The rapidity of the decline and its force now rivals almost anything we've seen in the post-war era," said Dan Greenhaus, the chief global strategist for BTIG. "We have fallen so far and so quickly that we are up there with the most vicious sell-offs." The market took a sharper turn downward less than an hour into New York trading as Standard & Poor’s announced additional downgrades, including cuts to the debt ratings of the housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. 

Financial stocks fared the worst in early afternoon trading, showing declines of more than 5 percent. Bank of America was down about 15 percent, and Citigroup was down more than 8 percent. The downgrade of the United States’s debt to AA+ from AAA has global implications, said Alessandro Giansanti, a credit market strategist at ING in Amsterdam. "We can see that this may force the US to move more aggressively to cut spending," he said, something that could drive the already weak economy into recession and weigh on the economies of all of its trading partners. "That’s the main driver" of the stock market declines, he said.  [More>>nytimes.com; See also,

abcnews.go.com, August 8, "Fannie and Freddie downgraded; states next?"Standard & Poor's today downgraded the debt of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and 10 of 12 Federal Home Loan Banks that were propped up by the federal government after the financial crisis of 2008. S&P reduced their ratings one notch, to AA+ from AAA, its very highest rating. The agencies guarantee or own more than half of the $5 trillion in U.S. mortgage debt. The announcement was no surprise in light of S&P's downgrade of the government's debt on Friday evening, but the U.S. stock market already spooked by Friday's news reacted negatively anyhow. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped nearly 375 points after the announcement before recovering somewhat. And the price of gold, considered a safe haven in uncertain times, topped $1,700 per ounce for the first time ever. "The downgrades of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reflect their direct reliance on the US government," Standard & Poor's said in a statement...What's next then? "The states and locality ratings will be next because of the interest rates benchmarked against U.S. treasuries so there is a linkage between that debt," he said. "In an environment of budget austerity this is not good for states and localities. This will trigger another closer look at state and local finances. Some states that were in trouble already and some in the bubble."...

bbc.co.uk, August 8, "Fear grips global markets again" :
Global stock markets have extended the heavy losses suffered last week in the first day of trading since Standard & Poor's downgraded the US on Friday. On Wall Street, the Dow index was down 2.5% amid concerns about a possible double-dip recession in the US. The UK's FTSE ended down 3.4% to 5,069, its lowest close since July 2010. But yields on Spanish and Italian bonds fell sharply after the European Central Bank (ECB) intervened to try to stop the eurozone debt crisis spreading. The ECB's announcement that it intended to buy up government bonds saw the yield on Spanish 10-year bonds fall from more than 6% to about 5.2% an indication that investors think it is less risky to lend Spain money. Yields on Italian bonds fell by a similar amount...

thestar.com.my, August 8, "Asian markets extend losses" : KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Investors continued to prefer gold over equities despite assurances by policymakers from Asia and Europe in taking action to stem another global financial crisis. Asian markets closed lower on Monday in reaction to last Friday's downgrade by Standard & Poor's of US sovereign credit while European markets fluctuated between gains and losses in volatile trade. Spot gold soared US$41.94 or 2.54% to US$1,705.89 at 5pm. The precious metal had earlier advanced to an all-time high of US$1,715.17. Silver advanced US$1.52...

8.08.11 AIG to sue Bank of America over mortgage bonds
August 8 -
The American International Group is planning to sue Bank of America over hundreds of mortgage-backed securities, adding to the surge of investors seeking compensation for the troubled mortgages that led to the financial crisis. The suit seeks to recover more than $10 billion in losses on $28 billion of investments, in possibly the largest mortgage-security-related action filed by a single investor. It claims that Bank of America and its Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial units misrepresented the quality of the mortgages placed in securities and sold to investors, according to three people with knowledge of the complaint. A.I.G., still largely taxpayer-owned as a result of its 2008 government bailout, is among a growing group of investors pursuing private lawsuits because they believe banks misled them into buying risky securities during the housing boom. At least 90 suits related to mortgage bonds have been filed, demanding at least $197 billion, according to McCarthy Lawyer Links, a legal consulting firm. A.I.G. is preparing similar suits against other large financial institutions including Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Deutsche Bank, said the people with knowledge of the complaint, as part of a litigation strategy aimed at recovering some of the billions in losses the insurer sustained during the financial crisis.  [More>>nytimes.com]
8.08.11 "Pakistan nationals helped Taliban shoot down US helicopter'
LONDON, August 8 -
Four Pakistani nationals had helped the Taliban shoot down a US military helicopter in Afghanistan, which killed 30 Navy Seals and other troops, an Afghan government official has claimed.  Citing intelligence "gathered from the area," the official blamed Taliban commander Qari Tahir for masterminding the attack.  He said that Tahir lured US forces to the scene by telling them there was a Taliban meeting taking place there.  "Now it’s confirmed that the helicopter was shot down and it was a trap that was set by the Taliban commander," the Telegraph quoted the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, as saying.  "The Taliban knew which route the helicopter would take," he added. The official said that intelligence also showed that the Chinook helicopter was brought down by multiple shots including "modern weapons." He further said that the Hamid Karzai government in Afghanistan “thinks this was a retaliation attack for the killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.” According to reports, of the 30 Americans killed, there were 22 Navy Seals, three Air Force combat controllers and a dog handler, his dog and four crew-members. Most of the Seals belonged to the same elite unit that killed Bin Laden, although they were not the same people who participated in the May 2 raid in Pakistan.  [>indianexpress.com' See related story,

thenews.com.pk, August 8, "ISI nexus with Haqqani makes it tough for US: McCain" :
WASHINGTON: Noting that Pakistan's spy agency ISI continues to co-operate with the dreaded Haqqani network and Taliban, US Senator John McCain has said that continuation of terrorist safe haven in that country would make it tough for America to succeed in the war against terrorism. "We have to have a realization that the present sanctuary situation in Pakistan cannot continue. Otherwise, it places enormous burdens on our ability to succeed," McCain told NBC. McCain said continuation of terrorist sanctuary now in Pakistan with the Haqqani network, the ISI cooperation with other groups including Taliban, is a major problem in this war against terrorism...

8.08.11 Arab nations condemn Syria as crackdown mounts
BEIRUT (AP) August 8 -
Arab nations joined the international chorus of condemnation against President Bashar Assad’s regime Monday, with Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia pulling out their ambassadors as a besieged Syrian city came under fresh artillery fire.  The renewed violence in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour comes a day after at least 42 people were killed there in an intensifying government crackdown on protesters.The international community has sharply condemned the government crackdown, imposing sanctions and demanding an immediate end to the attacks. France and Germany renewed their condemnation Monday. "We heard very loud explosions, and now there’s intermittent gunfire," an activist in the city said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. He said people were too terrified to take the wounded to government hospitals, instead treating them at home or in makeshift hospitals.

But in a sign of growing outrage, Syria’s Arab neighbors joined the mounting criticism, voicing their concerns about a crackdown that intensified on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan — a time of introspection and piety characterized by a dawn-to-dusk fast.
Late Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s king — whose country does not tolerate dissent and lent its military troops to repress anti-government protests in neighboring Bahrain — said he was recalling his ambassador in Damascus for consultations, and demanded "an end to the killing machine and bloodshed." "Any sane Arab, Muslim or anyone else knows that this has nothing to do with religion, or ethics or morals; spilling the blood of the innocent for any reasons or pretext leads to no path to ... hope," King Abdullah said in a statement.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

8.08.11 Fighting rages on several Libyan fronts
August 8 -
Opposition under attack near Zlitan in north, while Gaddafi fighters launch operation to retake Bir al-Ghanam in west. At least three Libyan opposition fighters have been killed in clashes near the northern town of Zlitan, just 160km from Tripoli, the capital, as government troops fought rebel forces for control of the town. Several other opposition forces were injured in the fighting on Sunday, Al Jazeera's Andrew Simmons reported, as troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi continued an assault against anti-government fighters. Opposition forces were also under attack in the newly captured town of Bir al-Ghanam, a strategic location in western Libya 85km from Tripoli, where Gaddafi forces launched an offensive to regain control of the town. The opposition forces are attempting to get closer to Tripoli, and they expressed hope earlier this week that they would reach the capital before the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Al Jazeera's Zeina Khodr, reporting from Bir al-Ghanam just after rockets began falling on the frontline, said that there was a sense that the opposition fighters were better organized and better trained than earlier in their campaign to topple Gaddafi.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.08.11 London riots: Theeresa May meets police as Hackney violence erupts
August 8 -
Home Secretary Theresa May is meeting police chiefs about rioting in London with new violence erupting in Hackney. Skirmishes broke out between police and groups of young people in the area around Mare Street. Mrs. May returned early from holiday after violence broke out over the weekend following the police shooting of a man in Tottenham. More than 100 people were arrested and 35 officers were injured in two nights of rioting and looting. A peaceful protest in Tottenham on Saturday over the fatal shooting by police of Mark Duggan, 29, was followed by violence which spread into Sunday. A BBC journalist said the latest violence started when a man was stopped and searched by police but nothing was found. About eight riot vans have been drafted in and there are up to 200 police officers in riot gear, in the area. Groups of people began attacking the police at about 16:20 BST, throwing rocks and a bin at officers. Police cars were also being smashed by youths, who were armed with wooden poles and metal bars. Looters also smashed their way into a JD sports store before police lines dispersed the group. Planks of wood taken from a lorry were then hurled towards riot officers.  [>bbc.co.uk; See also

news.sky.com, August 8, "Fresh violence erupts on streets of London"
Violence has broken out on the streets of London for a third day with skirmishes between youths and police in Hackney. People could be seen attacking shops and windows, and objects including chairs and pieces of wood were thrown at officers in riot gear. At one point several people broke into the back of a stationary lorry.They pulled its contents out onto the road, and some hurled it at police, while others used it to smash windows of a parked bus. Pictures from Sky's helicopter showed a police line, running at the youths trying to disperse them. Officers are also coming under attack in Lewisham town center, according to Sky sources. Police patrols are being stepped up across the capital to try to prevent further unrest after two nights of rioting and looting in several parts of London. Many officers have voluntarily abandoned scheduled leave to help deal with possible unrest, said the Metropolitan Police...

8.08.11 Israelis link ancient sword to fall of Herod's temple
(AFP) August 8 - Israeli archaeologists have discovered a Roman sword from the time of the destruction of the second Jewish temple in 70 AD, officials said on Monday as Jews prepared to mourn the anniversary. The Israel Antiquities Authority said that the 60-centimeter (23.6-inch) long weapon and its leather scabbard were found during excavations in a 2,000-year-old drainage channel in the City of David, in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan just south of Jerusalem's Old City walls. It said in a statement that the channel, which funneled rainwater to the biblical pool of Siloam, "served as a hiding refuge for the residents of Jerusalem from the Romans during the destruction of the Second Temple."

A spokeswoman told AFP the find was made last week. According to Jewish tradition, the first temple, built by King Solomon, was razed by the Babylonians on the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av. 586 BC. The second temple, built on the same site by King Herod, is said to have been destroyed on the same date in 70 AD, as Roman forces put down a Jewish revolt. Observant Jews mark the day, which begins at sunset on Monday, by reading from the Book of Lamentations, fasting for 24 hours and refraining from sex and entertainment in an annual ritual of mourning.  [More>>france24.com]

8.05.11 'Dozens killed in Hama as Syrian tanks, snipers deployed'
August 5 -
Assad gov't continues bloody crackdown on resistant city, report says; 200 already reported dead; 4 others killed across Syria. Dozens of people were killed Friday in the northeastern Syrian city of Hama, a city that has seen some of the most violent elements of President Bashar Assad's bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters, pan-Arab news channel Al Arabiya quoted human rights activists as saying.  Snipers were seen on the roofs of buildings, activists told Al Arabiya, and tanks were deployed in various districts of the city. On Thursday, armed forces shot dead four people near Damascus and in southern Syria after nightly Ramadan prayers, activists said, as the United States sharpened criticism of the Assad regime's fierce crackdown against anti-government protesters.

Three protesters were killed and at least ten wounded in the town of Nawa near Deraa, cradle of the five-month uprising against 41 years of Assad family rule, according to Abdullah Abazeid of the Syrian Revolution Coordinating Committees.
The Local Coordination Committees, another activist organization, said one more person was killed in the Damascus suburb of Qadam when four buses full of security police surrounded a demonstration there and fired at the crowd. The reports come amid an ongoing military siege of the central city of Hama in which activists say some 200 people have been killed in recent days. The city
where in 1982 Assad's father Hafez waged a ruthless counter-insurrection against the Muslim Brotherhood that killed tens of thousands has been virtually snuffed out, with water and electricity cut off and residents unable to connect with the outside world.  [More>>jpost.com]

8.05.11 Deadly firefight over Somalia famine aid
August 5 -
At least 10 people killed as troops and residents loot truckloads of food for famine victims in capital Mogadishu. At least 10 Somalis, among them refugees, have been killed in a firefight in Mogadishu after troops and residents looted truckloads of food meant for famine victims, witnesses say. The witnesses said government troops fired shots and fought amongst themselves as they looted maize and oil on Friday. Earlier, one witness said he saw a soldier killed and dozens of refugees wounded at Badbaado camp, home to some 30,000 refugees.    "At least 10 people died and 15 others were wounded," Aden Kusow, himself a refugee, told the Reuters news agency from Badbaado camp. "Seven of those died in the camp. The other three died outside as they fled. Most of those who died are refugees." About 100,000 refugees have reached the capital in the last two months and hundreds more are streaming into the city, hoping to escape the brunt of the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in decades.  News of the firefight came as Turkey called for the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference to hold an emergency meeting on the famine in Somalia, according to Ahmet Davutoglu, the country's foreign minister.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.05.11 Libya denies report Gaddafi's son Khamis killed by NATO
TRIPOLI / BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) August 5 -
The government of Muammar Gaddafi denied a rebel report on Friday that a NATO air strike had killed the Libyan leader's powerful son Khamis, commander of one of the government's most loyal and best-equipped units.  Government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said the report of Khamis Gaddafi's death was a ploy to cover up the killing of a civilian family in Zlitan, a battlefront city where Gaddafi forces are trying to halt the rebel advance on Tripoli. "It's false news. This is a dirty trick to cover up their crime in Zlitan and the killing of the al-Marabit family. They invented the news about Mr. Khamis Gaddafi in Zlitan to cover up their killing," he told Reuters.  A rebel spokesman said the air strike had killed 32 Gaddafi loyalists in Zlitan, where Khamis Gaddafi's elite 32nd Brigade is believed to have been leading the stand to defend the approaches to Tripoli, 160 km (100 miles) away. "We have information that in Zlitan, a leadership building was attacked by NATO and 32 Gaddafi men were killed, among them his son, Khamis," the rebel spokesman said. NATO was not able to confirm the report of Khamis Gaddafi's death. NATO said on Thursday that it had struck at a command-and-control target in the Zlitan area.  [More>>thestar.com.my]

8.05.11 IDF redeploys Iron Dome as  rocket fire from Gaza increases
August 5 -
IDF deploys missile defense system near Ashkelon; Sdot Negev Regional Council chairman: We are stepping toward the month of September, but we have security problems. The Israel Defense Forces redeployed the Iron Dome missile defense system near Ashkelon on Friday following days of heightened rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. The Iron Dome's deployment comes a day after Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vaknin, sent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak a letter imploring them to redeploy the missile defense system. Earlier in the week, Meir Yifrach, the chairman of the Sdot Negev Regional Council cautioned that "we are stepping toward the month of September, but we have security problems." Yifrach continued, saying "I have eight towns where the schools and the kindergartens are not protected. I have warned security forces about this, but I have yet to receive an answer." The IDF has attacked several targets in the Gaza Strip in response to the firing of Grad rockets at Israel in the last several days, most recently attacking five locations early Friday morning.[More>>haraatz.com]
8.04.11 Dow plunges 512 points; Worst fall since 2008
NEW YORK, August 4 -
Fears about the global economy led to the biggest panic in financial markets since the 2008 financial crisis. The Dow plunged nearly 513 points Thursday, its biggest point decline since falling 677 on Dec. 1, 2008 in the midst of the financial crisis. The last time the market recorded a larger percentage drop was in early 2009. Only three of the 500 stocks in the Standard & Poor's 500 index had gains. Oil fell by 6 percent. The yield on the two-year Treasury note hit a record low as investors sought out relatively stable investments. All three major stock indexes are down 10 percent or more from their previous highs, a drop-off that is considered to be a market correction. A drop of 20 percent or more signifies the start of a bear market, an extended period of stock declines. The Dow Jones industrial average was down 512.76 points, or 4.3 percent, to 11,383.68. Thursday's losses turned the blue-chip stock index negative for the year. The S&P 500 — the benchmark for most mutual funds — lost 60.20, or 4.8 percent, to 1,200.14. It is now down 12 percent from its recent high of 1,363 reached on April 29. The Nasdaq composite shed 136.68, or 5.1 percent, to 2,556.39. Investors are increasingly concerned about the possibility of another recession in the US and a debt crisis in Europe.  [More>>cbsnews.com; See related stories,

guardian.co.uk, August 4, "World stock markets in turmoil"
Almost £50bn was wiped off the value of Britain's 100 biggest companies on a day of global stock market mayhem triggered by a deepening of the eurozone crisis and fears for the US economy.  After a day of massive stock market falls in Europe and the US of a kind not seen since the depths of the last economic downturn, traders said the atmosphere was reminiscent of the banking crisis of October 2008. Wall Street endured one of its worst days since the height of that crisis, with the Dow Jones Industrial Index closing more than 500 points or 4.3% lower at 11,383 in heavy volume, as it resumed a two-week streak interrupted only briefly on Wednesday. It was the biggest single-day loss since 2008. "For many traders this week has felt like the start of the banking crisis in 2008, which would go some way to explaining the panic selling we have seen today," said Will Hedden, sales trader at IG Index. The fall on Wall Street is expected to cause further falls in the FTSE 100 index of leading shares on Friday, after the index fell to its lowest close, 5393.14, since September 2010 yesterday. The futures market was predicting a further 100 point fall...

aljazeera.net, August 4, "Asian markets plunge in early trade" : The fall follows a sharp selloff on US and European markets amid fears of another world economic downturn. Asian markets have tumbled following the global plunge over concerns about Europe's debt crisis and US economic growth. Tokyo shares plunged 4.09 per cent in early trade on Friday, following a sharp selloff on US and European markets. The Nikkei index at the Tokyo Stock Exchange dropped 395.09 points in eight minutes to stand at 9,264.09, before the initial sharp plunge stopped. The broader Topix index of all first section shares traded 3.50 per cent or 28.93 points lower at 797.43, off the earlier low of 794.16. South Korean shares also opened down 4.0 per cent on Friday, at their lowest level since March. The benchmark KOSPI index was at 1,937.17, down 81.30 points. The index had lost 7.1 per cent in the three sessions from Tuesday to Thursday, one of the steepest falls among major Asian markets. Similarly, Australian stocks plunged more than four per cent in early trade on Friday following carnage on US and European markets overnight over fears of another world economic downturn...

8.04.11 Palestinian Authority using US aid to help pay millions in salaries to jailed terror suspects, Report finds
August 4 -
The Palestinian Authority is spending more than $5 million per month in salaries for 5,500 convicted and alleged terrorists imprisoned in Israel -- payments that defy congressional rules for US funding to the PA, according to a new report from an Israeli research institute. Palestinian Media Watch released a report last week that found that all Palestinian and Israeli minority Arabs in Israeli prisons for terror acts have been legally receiving a monthly salary from the PA under a new law passed in April that simply “formalizes what has long been a PA practice.”  "The US funds the PA’s general budget. Through the PA budget, the US is paying the salaries of terrorist murderers in prison and funding the glorification and role modeling of terrorists," the report reads. The average salary of a prisoner is greater than Palestinian civil servants – prisoners on average receive $3,200 a month compared with $2,800 for civil servants.  [More>>foxnews.com]

8.04.11 IAF hits several Gaza targets in response to rockets
August 4 -
Palestinians report buildings on fire in Khan Yunis; IDF Spokesperson confirms strikes on four tunnels in central Strip, strike in South. The Israeli Air Force struck a number of targets in the Gaza Strip early Friday morning, following several strikes earlier Thursday and increased rocket fire emanating from the Strip in recent days. The IDF Spokesperson confirmed that the IAF struck four terror tunnels and one terror activity base in the central Gaza Strip. Another target was struck in the southern strip. Palestinian sources reported that several buildings were on fire in Khan Yunis following the strike but there were no reports of injuries at the time of this report. The IDF Spokesperson noted that the attacks were precision strikes and came as a response to the rocket fire in recent days. It added that the IDF holds Hamas responsible for maintaining calm in Gaza.  [More>>jpost.com]

8.04.11 29,000 Somali children under 5 dead in famine according to US estimates
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) August 4 -
The drought and famine in Somalia have killed more than 29,000 children under the age of 5, according to US estimates, the first time such a precise death toll has been released related to the Horn of Africa crisis. The United Nations has said previously that tens of thousands of people have died in the drought, the worst in Somalia in 60 years. The UN says 640,000 Somali children are acutely malnourished; a statistic that suggests the death toll of small children will rise. Nancy Lindborg, an official with the US government aid arm, told a congressional committee in Washington on Wednesday that the US estimates that more than 29,000 children under the age of 5 have died in the last 90 days in southern Somalia. That number is based on nutrition and mortality surveys verified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  [More>>alarabiya. net]

8.02.11 Senate passes debt plan, sends bill to Obama
WASHINGTON, August 2 -
The US Senate passed a last-minute compromise plan to raise the nation's debt ceiling Tuesday, sending the bill to President Barack Obama to be signed into law only hours before what would have been an unprecedented default. The bill, which imposes sweeping new spending cuts over the next decade, was approved in a 74-26 vote; 60 votes were required for passage. The measure was approved by the House of Representatives on Monday by a 269-161 vote, overcoming opposition from unhappy liberal Democrats and tea party Republicans. If the current $14.3 trillion debt limit is not increased by the end of the day, Americans could face rapidly rising interest rates, a falling dollar and shakier financial markets, among other problems. Regardless, the federal government could still face a credit rating downgrade.  [More>>cnn.com]

8.02.11 Syrian deaths escalate as Assad forces pursue protesters
August 2 -
Security forces of President Basher Al Assad, offering Syrians no respite during Ramadan, escalated their pursuit of pro-democracy civilians on Tuesday afternoon, widening their assaults in virtually every city and town. There was general agreement among activists and authoritative foreign monitors that the death toll in Syria was touching 200, and that hundreds more were injured in fierce attacks by tanks and heavy armored vehicles. The latest fatalities could push the overall death toll well beyond 2,000 since the Assad regime started a brutal new campaign against pro-democracy activists four months ago.

The fatalities would include nearly 400 soldiers that the Assad regime said were killed by "gangsters" among the anti-regime activists, a claim that stretches credulity. A two-day assault by Syrian government forces on anti-government protesters in the city of Hama was widely condemned in the West and led four European nations to circulate a new draft resolution at the United Nations Security Council condemning Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s actions in the latest international effort to compel the regime to stop using violence against protesters.

According to an Al Arabiya correspondent, the UN Security Council will reconvene at 10am in New York to discuss a revised text submitted by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal to address the bloodiest crackdown in the uprising. The Security Council met Monday evening at UN Headquarters in New York, but there were disagreements among members of the 15-member body over the language of the initial draft text. [More>>alarabiya.net]

8.02.11 Taliban suicide bombers attack guest house
August 2 -
Four security guards and three attackers killed, as Taliban claims responsibility for incident in Kunduz province.  Four security guards have been killed after three suicide bombers attacked a guest house frequented by foreigners in Kunduz province of northern Afghanistan, police officials say. "Ten people, including civilians and an Afghan police officer, were wounded in the early morning attack," Abdul Rahman, senior Kunduz police official, said on Tuesday. Mubobullah Sayedi, a spokesman for the governor of Kunduz province, said one of the gunmen blew himself up outside the two-story building shortly after dawn, while two other attackers rushed inside. Security forces battled for two hours before the attackers were eventually killed. It was not immediately clear if foreigners were among the wounded, but those staying at the guest house escaped through the rear of the building. Sarwar Husseini, a provincial police spokesman, said German aid workers often stayed in the house, but the identity and number of foreigners staying there at the time of the attack was not clear.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.02.11 60 die in Karachi, MQM theratens Zardari government
KARACHI, Pakistan, August 2 - Violence escalated further in Pakistan's biggest city where 34 people were killed in political and ethnic violence over the last 24 hours, and MQM leader Altaf Hussain gave an ultimatum to the country's leadership to put an end to the bloodbath. As mayhem continued in the financial hub, reports said nearly 60 people have been killed since Friday in the city that has been in the grip of violence for the past few months. Thirty-four people lost their lives over the last 24 hours in the ongoing wave of target killings, including five in overnight shootings incidents, a report in the Express Tribune said. The worst hit was Surjani Town where unidentified gunmen set on fire a few houses, shops and resorted to indiscriminate firing in which two persons were killed and several injured. Police said violence quickly spread to other areas and as many as 20 people were killed in incidents of violence in Orangi, Surjani Town, Pak Colony, Landhi, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Korangi and other areas.
In another incident, men armed with sophisticated weapons attacked a factory with more than 1500 factory workers trapped inside. They also torched motorbikes while firing constantly.  [More>>indianexpress.com]

8.02.11 Suspect in 20 tourist deaths arrested in Mexico
MEXICO CITY (AP) August 2 -
An alleged drug trafficker suspected of helping abduct and kill 20 Mexican tourists has been arrested in the resort city of Acapulco, federal police said Tuesday. Moises Montero Alvarez, nicknamed "The Korean," was captured Monday along with a 21-year-old and two teenagers believed to be accomplices. Alvarez is suspected of being a leader in the local Independent Cartel of Acapulco. Alvarez, 42, is accused of helping to carry out the Sept. 30 kidnapping of 20 vacationing men from Michoacan state. Some of the men's decomposed bodies were later identified in a mass grave by relatives. Authorities believe the tourists had been mistaken by drug traffickers for members of the rival La Familia cartel. Alvarez is also suspected of ordering the killings of rival cartel members at in the port of Acapulco, the kidnapping of police officers and the April 7 burning of a supermarket that left at least one man dead. He was previously arrested in 1999 on extortion charges, police said.   [More>>cbsnews.com]

8.02.11  23 hurt as car bomb explodes near Iraqi church; two other attacks on Chrisitans foiled
SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq (AP) August 2 -
A car bomb outside a Christian church wounded 23 people Tuesday as security forces found and disabled vehicles packed with explosives outside two other churches in northern Iraq. The bombing and the two averted attacks in the northern city of Kirkuk signal continued violence against Iraqi Christians, nearly 1 million of whom have fled since the war began in 2003. "The terrorists want to make us flee Iraq, but they will fail," said the Rev. Haithem Akram, the priest of one of the churches that was targeted. "We are staying in our country. The Iraqi Christians are easy targets because they do not have militias to protect them. The terrorists want to terrorize us, but they will fail," he added. The car blew up outside the Syrian Catholic church at about 6am, severely damaging the church and nearby houses, police Col. Taha Salaheddin said. The parish's leader, the Rev. Imad Yalda, was the only person inside at the time of the blast and was wounded. The 22 other wounded were people whose nearby homes were hit by the blast, Kirkuk police chief Maj. Gen. Jamal Tahir said. Following the blast at the Syrian Catholic church, police discovered two more car bombs parked outside the Christian Anglican church and the Mar Gourgis church, both in downtown Kirkuk.  [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

8.02.11  US is 'parasite' on global economy: Russian PM Putin
LAKE SELIGER, Russia, August 2 -
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Monday of living beyond its means "like a parasite" on the global economy and said dollar dominance was a threat to the financial markets.  "They are living beyond their means and shifting a part of the weight of their problems to the world economy," Putin told the pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi while touring its lakeside summer camp some five hours drive north of Moscow.  "They are living like parasites off the global economy and their monopoly of the dollar," Putin said at the open-air meeting with admiring young Russians in what looked like early campaigning before parliamentary and presidential polls.  [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

8.01.11 HSBC to axe 30,000 jobs despite pre-tax profits rise
August 1 -
Banking giant HSBC has said it will cut another 25,000 jobs by 2013 and exit operations in 20 countries as it looks to save billions of dollars. The announcement came as the bank reported pre-tax profits for the first six months of the year of $11.5bn (£7bn), up 3% on the $11.1bn the bank made a year earlier. HSBC said it did not expect any of the new job cuts to fall in the UK. The bank had already announced 5,000 job cuts, 700 of which are in the UK. Together, the job cuts amount to about 10% of HSBC's total workforce, although the company stressed it will also be recruiting staff by 2013.   [More>>bbc.co.uk]

8.01.11 Pleasing few, debt deal to go to vote
WASHINGTON, August 1 -
Democratic and Republican leaders in the Congress began making their final arguments on behalf of Sunday’s debt ceiling deal to skeptical members in advance of votes in both chambers that could come as early as Monday afternoon.  With only one day left before Tuesday’s looming deadline that carries the threat of a federal default, Vice President Joseph R. Biden arrived at the Capitol for back-to-back, closed-door meetings with Democratic lawmakers in the House and Senate. Republicans in the House and Senate also huddled in advance of the votes. The last-minute wrangling on Monday morning reflected the lack of enthusiasm for the debt deal as lawmakers, party activists and pundits expressed relief but little excitement for a compromise that appears to have left few partisans eagerly promoting the deal as the one that they wanted. On the Senate floor on Monday, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said, "People on the right are upset. People on the left are upset. People in the middle are upset." But he called it a "remarkable agreement which will protect the long-term health of our economy."   [More>>nytimes.com; See also:

washingtonpost.com, August 1, "CBO confirms debt deal would save at least $2.1 trillion" :
The Congressional Budget Office confirmed Monday that the debt-reduction deal struck by the White House and congressional leaders would cut deficits by at least $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years, if lawmakers approve the plan. The independent budget analysts affirmed that the package contains up-front savings of $917 billion, the same level as initially proposed in legislation offered by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) last week. And the CBO analysis credited President Obama and the congressional leaders with at least $1.2 trillion in savings for the follow-on work to be done by a special committee....

cbsnews.com, August 1, "Debt deal likely to put hurt on states, poor" : HARTFORD, Conn. - The cost of the compromise needed to raise the federal debt ceiling likely will inflict more fiscal pain on states still struggling to recover from the recession and the end of federal stimulus spending. President Barack Obama and Republicans sealed a deal Sunday to avoid the nation's first financial default and raise the debt limit while slashing more than $2 trillion from federal spending over a decade. Obama said that, if enacted, the agreement would mean "the lowest level of domestic spending since Dwight Eisenhower was president" more than half a century ago. While the details of the spending cuts to states remain unclear, lawmakers from both parties have discussed the need to cut or impose caps on so-called discretionary spending over the next decade. That could mean wide-ranging cuts in federal aid to states, affecting everything from the Head Start school readiness program, Meals on Wheels and worker training initiatives to funding for transit agencies and education grants that serve disabled children...

Maravot News "National Debt.html"
: "The consequences of national indebtedness." Included in the Maravot News discussion is a table showing yearly interest paid from the 1976 Carter administration ($37.1b) to the 2009  Obama administration ($383b). (A portion of the table is reproduced here.
Debt *
Deficit - / Surplus +

+ 236.2
Bush II
Bush II
Bush II
Bush II
Bush II
Bush II
Bush II
Bush II
- 1.417 trillion*

Average interest in the Reagan, Bush I, Bush II and Clinton administrations was ~5% of the debt. Interest paid in 2010 was $413.9 billion. Current interest paid in FY 2011 (Nov. 2010-June 2011) is $385.1 billion. If interest paid each year on the public debt (currently $14.342 Trillion) were to be ~$400 billion then the total interest expense paid during the next ten years would be ~$4 trillion.

The CBO data of a $2.1 trillion savings over the next 10 years seems to be about half the interest payments that will accrue.

- 1.294  trillion*

Mel Copeland
 (*pdf of 2010 financial report)

8.01.11 Record high radiation at crippled Japan nuke plant
TOKYO (AFP) August 1 -
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said Monday it had monitored record high radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crippled by the March 11 quake and tsunami. TEPCO said radiation levels reached at least 10 sieverts per hour near the debris left between the number one and number two reactors of the plant at the center of the ongoing nuclear crisis. The previous record was three to four sieverts per hour monitored inside the number one reactor on June 3. "Three plant workers were exposed to a dosage of four millisieverts while they were monitoring radiation," a TEPCO spokeswoman said. "We are still checking the cause of such high levels of radioactivity." The government and TEPCO say they remain on target to bring the reactors to a safe state of cold shutdown by January at the latest now that a water circulation system has been established.  [More>>koreaherald.com]

8.01.11 Deadly Syrian crackdown continues
August 1 -
Fresh attacks reported in Deir ez-Zor, a day after 142 people reported killed in Hama and elsewhere in the country.  Syrian forces have killed nearly 142 people, including at least 100 when the army attacked the flashpoint protest city of Hama to crush dissent on the eve of Ramadan, political activists say. A witness in Deir ez-Zor told Al Jazeera that government forces launched fresh attacks on the town early on Monday morning.  "Military forces stormed the city from the west side and 25 people are killed and more than 65 injured," the witness said. "Artillery and anti-aircraft weapons are being used. The situation in the city is very bad, and medical and food supplies are low." Deir ez-Zor, Syria's main gas and oil-production hub in the east, has become a rallying point for protests along with Hama. Sunday's attack on Hama was one of the "deadliest days" since the protests erupted, Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said.

Hama 'massacre'

Death tolls provided by the observatory and other human rights groups showed at least 142 people were killed across Syria, most of them falling in Hama. "The number of those wounded is huge and hospitals cannot cope, particularly because we lack the adequate equipment," Abdel Rahman quoted a Hama hospital source as saying. He said the crackdown on Hama came after more than 500,000 people rallied in the city on Friday following Muslim prayers during which a cleric told the congregation "the regime must go."  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.01.11 'Extremists' blamed for attacks in China
August 1 -
Government says the group it holds responsible for deaths of 11 civilians in Xinjiang, had trained in camp in Pakistan.  The Chinese government has claimed Muslim activists trained in Pakistan were behind weekend attacks that killed 11 civilians in the Xinjiang region. In response, the autonomous regional government on Monday announced a crackdown on "illegal religious" activities at the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Ten civilians were killed in knife attacks and two small blasts during the weekend in Kashgar, a city in south Xinjiang, where the Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic minority, dominate. The regional government said in a statement on Monday that a preliminary inquiry has shown "a group of religious extremists trained in overseas terrorist camps were responsible for the attacks." The statement continued: "An initial police investigation found that the leaders of the group behind the attack had learned about explosives and firearms in Pakistan at a camp of the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement. This was another violent terrorist action by a small group of foes organized and planned under special conditions." Captured suspects had confessed that the ringleaders had earlier fled to Pakistan and received firearms and explosives training before infiltrating back into China, the government website said.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.01.11 Yemeni airstrikes kill 15 suspected militants
August 1 (AP) -
Yemeni military officials say government airstrikes have killed at least 15 suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants in southern Yemen. They says the airstrikes early Monday also destroyed a tank seized by militants and several artillery positions in the Dufas area near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with army rules. The airstrikes are the latest in an ongoing government campaign to try to dislodge al-Qaeda-linked militants from Zinjibar and Jaar, another city in Abyan. Emboldened by the turmoil from nearly six months of unrest, the militants have been seeking to capture and hold territory in Yemen's nearly lawless south. Yemen is home to the world's most active al-Qaeda branches.  [>foxnews.com]

8.01.11 Foreign forces deny killing four Afghan police
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AFP) August 1 -
An air strike by foreign forces overnight killed four Afghan policemen, a governor in the country’s troubled east said Monday, although the NATO-led coalition denied they were police. The incident happened at a post in rugged and insurgency-hit Nuristan, the province’s governor Jamaluddin Badr said. A spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it believed a total of three men had been been killed in a group that were not police but who had obtained police uniforms. He added that one of the men was wearing women’s clothes and they had connections to insurgents. Badr said that the incident took place in the early hours of Monday.

"NATO coalition helicopters bombed our police post. Four policemen were killed, two were injured and the remaining 12 police were detained and taken to Bagram," the governor said, referring to the giant international military base near Kabul. "I don’t know who provided them with the wrong intelligence," he added, saying the officers wore police uniforms and an Afghan flag was flying at the post when they were attacked. In response, an ISAF spokesman said: "We don’t think they were any sort of police... none of them had any sort of credentials." He added that their mobile phones indicated they had been in contact with Taliban fighters. Three were killed and 10 were captured, the spokesman said. Infiltration of the Afghan police and army by the Taliban is a major problem which has been linked to a string of major attacks in recent months. Friendly fire deaths are also relatively frequent in Afghanistan, where foreign and Afghan forces are battling a 10-year insurgency led by the Taliban.[>khaleejtimes.com]

8.01.11 Five killed in bomb attack in India
NEW DELHI (RIA Novosti) August 1 - Five people were killed when a powerful bomb went off in a market in the Indian state of Manipur on Monday, police said. The bomb exploded in the Sangakpam market in the capital, Imphal around 2 p.m., killing five people on the spot. Twenty people were also injured, a police spokesperson said. The Manipur government had tightened security in Imphal and other areas after a militant attack on Sunday. No one was injured in this attack.  [>en.rian.ru]

8.01.11 Another CIA station chief exits Islamabad
WASHINGTON, August 1 - Yet another CIA station chief in Islamabad is reported to have left Pakistan last week amid continuing wrangles between intelligence agencies of the two countries in the aftermath of the Raymond Davis episode and the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad.  US mandarins said the station chief, who cannot be named under American secrecy laws, left due to an illness, but officials from both sides dropped enough hints to suggest his exit was part of a broader ailment afflicting intelligence cooperation between the two sides, including a widening trust deficit. The departing station chief served just over seven months in Islamabad in what appears to have been a turbulent period in the relationship starting with the Raymond Davis episode, in which a CIA contractor shot his way out of trouble by killing two Pakistanis.  The station chief, then new to his post, is said to have played a key role in pressuring Pakistan into releasing Davis, who returned to [the] US in exchange for blood money to the relatives of the victims. From that time onward, ties between the chief spook and his US counterpart went downhill. The raid that killed Osama a few weeks later, in which the station chief also played an important role by developing local CIA assets, is said to have further enraged the Pakistanis.   [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

7.31.11 95 dead in Syrian army attack on Hama: Activist
NICOSIA, July 31 -
At least 95 people were killed on Sunday when the military launched an attack on the flashpoint protest city of Hama in central Syria, a human rights activist said.  Ammar Qorabi, who heads the National Organization for Human Rights, reported the toll and also said army attacks across the country killed at least 121 people and wounded dozens more.  Earlier, Rami Abdel Rahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a death toll in Hama of 45, but said that number could rise because of the number of seriously wounded and a lack of medical supplies. [>timesofindia.indiatimes; See more details, telegraph.co.uk, July 31, "Syria: at least 95 dead as army attacks Hama."]

7.31.11 China: Unrest in Kashgar, Xinjiang, leaves 15 dead
July 31 -
Weekend unrest in Kashgar, in China's western Xinjiang region, has left at least 15 people dead, state media say. The violence began on Saturday when two men killed a truck driver, then drove his lorry into pedestrians and attacked them with knives, killing six. One of the attackers also died. On Sunday an explosion killed three people and police shot dead "four suspects", the Xinhua agency said. Xinjiang has a Muslim Uighur minority and has seen serious ethnic tension. The BBC's Martin Patience in Beijing says there are reports of further clashes in the city on Sunday. A local official was quoted as saying that both of Saturday's attackers were Uighurs. According to tianshannet.com, a Xinjiang government-run website, the assailants hijacked a truck waiting at traffic lights, stabbing the driver to death before plowing the vehicle into bystanders. They then got out of the vehicle and started attacking people at random, the report said. It said the crowd then turned on the men, killing one of them. The second man was captured. State-run news agency Xinhua said the attack had been preceded by two explosions.  [More>>bbc.co.uk]

7.31.11 At least six killed, 12 wounded in blast in south Afghanistan
KABUL, July 31 -
At least six people were killed and another 12 wounded in a suicide bomber attack in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, the press secretary of the local governor said on Sunday. The attack occurred early on Sunday near the police chief's compound in the city of Lashkar Gah when a suicide bomber detonated a car bomb, governor's spokesman Daoud Ahmadi said. Six policemen were killed in the explosion, while 12 people, including ten police officers and two civilians, were injured. A one-year baby was among those wounded in the blast, he said. The Afghan Pazhwak news agency has reported that the death toll from the militants' attack has reached ten people while the number of those wounded has reached 15. The explosion destroyed two police cars, a public security police vehicle and several civilian vehicles that were parked close to the site of the blast, the agency said.  [>en.rian.ru]

7.31.11 27 rifles stolen from California military base
FORT IRWIN, Calif. (AP) July 30
More than two dozen assault rifles have been stolen from a Southern California military base, and investigators sought the public's help as they looked to arrest suspects and recover the weapons, federal officials said Friday. Twenty-six AK-74 assault rifles and one Dragunov sniper rifle were stolen from a supply warehouse at Fort Irwin in San Bernardino County on July 15, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives says in a statement. Some arrests have been made and one rifle has been recovered, but the agency is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to further arrests, the statement said. "Community participation is necessary to improve the likelihood that ATF and our law enforcement partners will track down the firearms as well as the criminals who have sought to destabilize our community through illegal activity," ATF Special Agent in Charge John A. Torres said in the statement.  [More>>foxnews.com]
7.27.11 Another famine, another humanitarian band-aid
July 27 -
The food crisis in East Africa has seen a renewed drive for urgent international aid – as it has in the past. But while humanitarian assistance can provide short-term relief, it does not address Somalia’s long-term malaise. The scenes are haunting, yet familiar: anguished mothers stream into packed refugee camps bearing malnourished children and harrowing tales of human survival, aid officials issue pleas for more international aid, donor countries cough up new promises, the usual bunch of celebrities sing their usual humanitarian tunes, and of course the journalists record it for an audience that has seen it all before. We've been there, done that and now we’re doing it all over again. This time for Africa or the Horn of Africa, to be precise. As it was 26 years ago, when Irish singer Bob Geldoff galvanized the globe with his star-studded Live Aid fundraiser for the Ethiopian famine relief effort.

The epicenter of the latest crisis is Somalia, where the UN has declared famine in two southern areas of the impoverished, war-wrecked country.  On Wednesday, the UN hosts a donor conference in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi in an attempt to come up with the $1.6 billion that the UN estimates will be required to assist around 11 million people across swathes of Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti. Wednesday’s conference was announced at Monday’s UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) emergency meeting in Rome, where French Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire warned that, "If we don't take the necessary measures, famine will be the scandal of this century." But the biggest scandal, according to seasoned analysts, is that once again the international community looks set to address the problem with a short-term, billion dollar humanitarian band-aid while failing to address Somalia’s chronic insecurity and political instability. A consistent topper on the lists of the world’s failed states, Somalia has entered its third decade without a national government, leading Foreign Policy magazine to call its unending woes "the stuff hopelessness is made of."  [More>>france24.com]

7.27.11 Assad on the rampage: Syrian forces kill 11 people, including a child, near Damascus
(AFP) July 27 -
Syrian security forces shot dead at least 11 people, including a child aged seven, in a swoop on the town of Kanaker near Damascus early Wednesday, a human rights activist said. "The security forces raided homes at dawn on Wednesday and during the operation 11 people were shot dead and more than 250 arrested," said Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights, reached by telephone from Nicosia. Mr. Qurabi provided AFP with the names of the victims. He said the operation in Kanaker, a town of 25,000 people, was backed by "a bulldozer and army tanks" and targeted people aged between 15 and 40. He added that at least 11 vehicles were used to carry away those arrested in the swoop. According to Mr. Qurabi, the raid was an “act of vengeance” because inhabitants had supplied provisions to anti-regime protesters in the southern city of Daraa, the main hub of protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s hardline rule, when it was besieged by troops earlier this year. The authorities have used deadly force to quell dissent, with at least 1,486 civilians reported killed since the uprising began mid-March, thousands arrested and thousands more fleeing the country, human rights groups say. Some rights groups say at least 12,000 people have been detained since the anti-regime protests erupted, but it is unclear how many are still being held and how many have been released. [More>>alarabiya.net]

7.27.11 UK expels Gaddafi diplomats and recognizes Libya rebels
July 27 -
William Hague has said the UK will recognize the Libyan rebel council as the "sole governmental authority," as Gaddafi-regime diplomats are expelled. The Libyan charge d'affaires was called to the Foreign Office earlier to be told he and other diplomats must leave. Instead the UK will ask the National Transitional Council to appoint a new diplomatic envoy. It follows similar moves by the US and France. The UK previously said it recognized "countries not governments." But Mr. Hague said it was a "unique situation" and said recognizing the NTC could help "legally in the unfreezing of some assets." [More>>bbc.co.uk]

7.27.11 Kandahar mayor killed by suicide bomber with explosives in turban
July 27 -
Taliban suspected, though Karzai ally may have been victim of grudge over destruction of illegally built homes. Afghan insurgents appeared to continue their assassination campaign against key public figures on Wednesday with the killing of the mayor of Kandahar. Ghulam Haider Hamidi was targeted by a suicide bomber who got into the municipality compound in Kandahar City with explosives concealed under his turban. The technique was first used earlier this month in a mosque in the city during a memorial service for Ahmed Wali Karzai, a regional strongman and half-brother of the president. Abdul Manan, a municipality employee, said the mayor had emerged from his office into the garden, where he made a call on his mobile phone. The assassin grabbed him and detonated the bomb. "I rushed outside and saw the mayor was lying still on the ground," said Manan. "Another headless body was next to him and the mayor had deep wounds on his face and chest," The death of Hamidi will raise further concerns about whether military gains by the US military in the Kandahar region, particularly in districts adjoining the city, will be undermined by the remorseless killing of top public figures.  [More>>guardian.co.uk]

7.27.11 Up to 100,000 flee Pakistan border offensive
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) July 27 -
Up to 100,000 people have fled their homes in a district of Pakistan bordering Afghanistan after the military launched an offensive against Islamist militants, officials said Wednesday. Thousands of families escaped from Kurram district after the operation began early this month in a region where Pakistani militants and Taliban groups active in Afghanistan have bases and training camps. "We have so far registered at least 9,944 families — up to 100,000 people," senior government official Sahibzada Anis, who is supervising help for the refugees, told AFP. He said that about 1,800 families were living in temporary camps but many others had moved either to relatives’ houses or into rented premises. "These camps have been set up in schools and colleges, which are closed for summer vacations," he said. "The government may extend vacations if the operation prolongs in Kurram." When it launched the offensive, the army vowed to clear Kurram of all militants, including those behind suicide attacks and the kidnapping and killing of locals. Pakistan’s seven tribal districts bordering Afghanistan are rife with a homegrown insurgency, and are also strongholds of the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives. [>khaleejtimes.com]

7.27.11 15 million hectares of forests destroyed from 2,000 to 2,009: FWI
JAKARTA, July 27 -
Indonesia lost 15 million hectares of forests from 2000 to 2009, a study conducted by Forest Watch Indonesia (FWI) says. "In 2000, Indonesia had 103 million hectares of forest, but only 88 million hectares left in 2009. Therefore, the speed of deforestation during those years was 1.5 million hectares per year," said FWI executive director Wirendro Sumargo on Wednesday. "That is the fastest tropical deforestation in the world," he added. He explained that among the 15 million hectares of forest destroyed, 5.5 million hectares were in Kalimantan. "he worst condition was in Central Kalimantan, which lost 2 million hectares," he said....According to the study, deforestation was mainly caused by oil palm plantations and pulp companies....A previous study conducted by FWI showed that from 1985 to1997, Indonesia lost 21.6 million hectares of forest, with the speed of deforestation at 1.8 million hectares per year. (aaa)  [Full story>>thejakartapost.com]

7.27.11 North Korea demands peace treaty with US
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) July 27 - 
North Korea demanded Wednesday that the United States sign a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War, as a senior North Korean diplomat visited New York to negotiate ways to restart six-nation nuclear disarmament talks. In an editorial marking the 58th anniversary of an armistice that ended the 1950-53 war, the North's official Korean Central News Agency insisted a peace treaty could go a long way toward resolving a deadlock over Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear weapons. North Korea has long called for a peace treaty with the United States. The armistice left the Korean peninsula in a technical state of war. Its latest push comes as North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan makes a fresh attempt to reopen six-nation talks that were last held in December 2008. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton invited Kim to New York to meet with US officials later this week only after nuclear envoys from the rival Koreas held surprise talks last week. [More>>foxnews.com]


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