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08.18.10 Editorial: Obama's Islamic America

August 18 (Washington Times) What country is he talking about? President Obama says Islam has always been part of America, which raises the question, does the president know something about American history that we don't? It has become customary for presidents to offer greetings to various religious communities on the occasion of their most holy days. Presidents Ford and Carter both issued Ramadan messages, as did Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush. The Ramadan greeting became intensely political during Mr. Bush's tenure because he was seeking to dispel the charge that the war on terrorism was a crusade against Islam.

But Mr. Obama has used the occasion of Ramadan to rewrite US history and give Islam a prominence in American annals that it has not earned. In this year's greeting, Mr. Obama said the rituals of Ramadan "remind us of the principles that we hold in common and Islam's role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings. Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality. And here in the United States, Ramadan is a reminder that Islam has always been part of America and that American Muslims have made extraordinary contributions to our country."

That Islam has had a major role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings may come as a surprise to Muslim women. Young Afghan girls who are having acid thrown in their faces on the way to school might want to offer their perspectives. That Islam is "known" for diversity and racial equality is also a bit of a reach. This certainly does not refer to religious diversity, which is nonexistent in many Muslim-majority states. This is a plaudit better reserved for a speech at the opening of a synagogue in Mecca. Most puzzling is the president's claim that "Islam has always been part of America." Islam had no influence on the origins and development of the United States. It contributed nothing to early American political culture, art, literature, music or any other aspect of the early nation.
[More>>washingtontimes.com; See related stories,

msnbc.msn.com, August 18, " 'No regrets' on mosque issue, Obama says" : President weighs in as poll of N.Y. state shows strong opposition. NEW YORK - With the controversy still swirling over plans for a mosque near the former World Trade Center, President Obama said Wednesday that he had "no regrets" about his involvement in the debate. Answering a reporter's question at a political event in Columbus, Ohio, the president initially paused, then turned to a TV camera and said, "The answer is — no regrets."...A poll released Wednesday showed that a majority of New York state voters remain opposed and indicated the issue will be a factor for many in November elections. The Siena College poll showed 63 percent of the state's voters surveyed oppose the project, with 27 percent supporting it. That compares with 64 percent opposed and 28 percent in favor two weeks earlier, results that are within the polls' sampling margins. A CNN/Opinion Research poll released last week found that nearly 70 percent of Americans opposed the mosque plan, while 29 percent approved...

foxnews.com, August 17, "What about the Ground Zero Church? Archdiocese says officials abandoned project" : The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America accused New York officials on Tuesday of turning their backs on the reconstruction of the only church destroyed in the Sept. 11 attacks, while the controversial mosque near Ground Zero moves forward. The sidelined project is the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a tiny, four-story building destroyed in 2001 when one of the World Trade Center towers fell on top of it. Nobody from the church was hurt in the attack, but the congregation has for the past eight years been trying to rebuild its house of worship. While the mosque project cleared red tape earlier this month, negotiations between the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the church stalled last year -- and will not be revived, according to government officials. Though the particulars of the two projects are completely different and on the surface unrelated, the church and its supporters see a disconnect in the way the proposals have been handled... 

Maravot News article with editorial note 08.15.10 With remarks on Mosque, Obama enters risky debate

08.18.10 George Soros slashes exposure to US equities

August 18 - George Soros has slashed the amount of money he is willing to gamble on the fortunes of the US stock market in the second quarter as market volatility increased. The legendary investor's Soros Fund Management – which has approximately $25bn (£16bn) under management – reduced its equity investments by 42pc to $5.1bn by the end of June, down from $8.8bn at the end of March. The asset allocation decisions were made during a period in which the Standard & Poor's 500 index the broadest US equity index fell 12pc. The fact that Mr. Soros – best known as the man reputed to have made $1bn by "breaking the Bank of England" during the 1992 fiscal crisis has decided to make such a concerted shift out of equities will send a clear message to other investors. Gone are Soros's investments in Petrobras, Brazil's oil giant, with investments in bellwether stocks such as Wal-Mart, JP Morgan Chase and Pfizer drastically reduced, cut by 99pc, 97pc and 95pc respectively. Of those equities that do remain, the fund's holding in a gold exchange traded fund constitutes his largest investment, some 13pc of the equity portfolio, worth $638m. [More>>telegraph.co.uk; See related story,

cbsnews.com (AP) August 16, "China reduces holdings of Treasury debt in June"
: China reduces holdings of Treasury debt for second month; total foreign holdings increase. WASHINGTON - China reduced its holdings of US Treasury debt for a second straight month in June while the holdings of Japan and Britain rose. China's holdings fell by $24 billion to $843.7 billion, a decline of 2.7 percent, the Treasury Department said Monday in a monthly report on debt holdings. Total foreign holdings of Treasury securities rose $45.6 billion to a total of $4 trillion, an increase of 1.2 percent. The debt figures are being closely watched at a time when the US government is running up record annual deficits. A drop in foreign demand would lead to higher interest rates in the United States. The yield on Treasuries rises when fewer people invest in them...

08.18.10 Scientists find oldest record of animal life on Earth

August 18 - Fossils from Australia show animal life on Earth began at least 650 million years ago, 70 million years earlier than previous estimates, Princeton University scientists report. Princeton geosciences professor Adam Maloof and graduate student Catherine Rose came upon the fossils while researching a massive ice age, known as the “snowball effect,” that left much of the planet covered in ice 635 million years ago. Scientists had thought animal life could not have survived that ice age. But as they inspected a glacial deposit in south Australia, they found the fossils of the sponge-like ocean reef animals. [More>>cnn.com]

08.18.10 Suicide car bomber in southern Afghanistan kills 4, including a district police chief

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) August 18 - A suicide bomber rammed a car into a police vehicle Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, killing a district police chief, two other policemen and a civilian — the latest attack targeting those with links to the government or international forces. The police chief of Daman district in Kandahar province where Afghan and NATO forces are ramping up security was among those killed in the incident on a bridge leading into Kandahar city, according to Dr. Mohammad Rasool at Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar. Five other Afghan policemen and a civilian were wounded. The bridge, which recently was rebuilt, was the site of two bomb attacks against NATO forces in recent months. [More>>foxnews.com]

08.18.10 It's time US realized value of peace

BEIJING (Xinhuanet) August 18 - The United States seems to be flexing its military muscles in Northeast Asia and the South China Sea for some time now, especially after the sinking of the Republic of Korea's (ROK) corvette, Cheonan, on March 26. Ignoring Beijing's repeated opposition, the US and the ROK held a military exercise in the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea, precariously close to China's maritime boundary, last month. On Aug. 8, on its way back from the joint drill, American nuclear-powered super-carrier USS George Washington hosted a delegation of Vietnamese military officers about 320 km off the Vietnamese port of Danang in the South China Sea. A couple of days later, American destroyer USS John S. McCain docked in Vietnam for a four-day "non-combat" exchange program.

What is particularly noteworthy is the fast developing military ties between the US and Vietnam, which fought a bloody war for two decades (by far the bloodiest Cold War military conflict). Interestingly, the US warships' visit to Vietnam has been described as a "commemoration" of the 15th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between the former enemies. And then came the news that the US and Vietnam were in "advanced talks" over a nuclear deal. An article, Concerned about China's rise, Southeast Asia nations build up militaries, in the Aug. 9 edition of The Washington Post says: "The nations of Southeast Asia are edging closer strategically to the US as a hedge against China's rise and its claims to all of the South China Sea."

So, the US intervention in the South China Sea disputes isn't incidental. It's the outcome of the Barack Obama administration's "return to Asia" strategy. Some American analysts argue that China expanded its influence in Southeast Asia as the US was focused on the "war on terror" after the 9/11 attacks. Their logic is simple: any potential challenger to Washington in Eurasia should be the target of US global strategy.

08.18.10 Mind-controlling parasites go back millions of years

August 18 - Unnerving variety of creatures evolved ability to control brains. Mind control by parasite sounds like the stuff of science fiction, but not only have scientists revealed that it is real across a range of animals including perhaps humans they now even have fossil evidence suggesting it has taken place for millions of years. An unnerving variety of parasites have evolved the ability to control the brains of victims to help the parasites spread. For instance, the protozoan known as Toxoplasma gondi makes rats love cat urine so that it can spread among its feline hosts and it may influence human culture as well, making people more prone to certain forms of neuroticism. Another case of parasite mind control involves the fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which essentially turns ants into zombies. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

08.17.10 Terrorist tapes found under CIA desk

(AP) August 17 - Video shows interrogation of 9/11 plotter in secret overseas prison. The CIA has tapes of 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in a secret overseas prison. Discovered under a desk, the recordings could provide an unparalleled look at how foreign governments aided the US in holding and questioning suspected terrorists. The two videotapes and one audiotape are believed to be the only remaining recordings made within the clandestine prison system. The tapes depict Binalshibh's interrogation sessions at a Moroccan-run facility the CIA used near Rabat in 2002, several current and former US officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recordings remain a closely guarded secret. When the CIA destroyed its cache of 92 videos of two other al-Qaeda operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, being waterboarded in 2005, officials believed they had wiped away all of the agency's interrogation footage. But in 2007, a staffer discovered a box tucked under a desk in the CIA's Counterterrorism Center and pulled out the Binalshibh tapes.

A Justice Department prosecutor who is already investigating whether destroying the Zubaydah and al-Nashiri tapes was illegal is now also probing why the Binalshibh tapes were never disclosed. Twice, the government told a federal judge they did not exist. The tapes could complicate US efforts to prosecute Binalshibh, 38, who has been described as a "key facilitator" in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. If the tapes surfaced at trial, they could clearly reveal Morocco's role in the counterterrorism program known as Greystone, which authorized the CIA to hold terrorists in secret prisons and shuttle them to other countries. More significantly to his defense, the tapes also could provide evidence of Binalshibh's mental state within the first months of his capture.

08.17.10 Palestinian hurt in shooting at Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv

August 17 - Palestinian man seeking asylum threatens embassy staff, takes hostages; guards shoot attacker in the leg. An initial investigation into a shooting incident at the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday revealed that a Palestinian man who entered the embassy seeking asylum had threatened the embassy staff and had been shot in his leg. The man was lightly hurt. The investigation revealed that the man, 32-year-old Nadim Injaz from Ramallah, had barricaded himself inside the British embassy four years ago, threatening to shoot himself in the head. Injaz served a year in prison and was released only two weeks ago, Channel 10 reported. Local media reported that the attacker had taken two hostages and had threatened "to kill any Jews" who entered. [More>>haaretz.com]

08.17.10 China 'extending military reach'

August 17 - China has increased spending on its military and expanded the reach of its military operations abroad, according to a new report from the US defence department. The report (pdf), an annual study sent to the US congress, estimated China's military spending in 2009 at $150bn, an increase of roughly 7.5 per cent from the previous year. Some of China's expanded military efforts have been positive, the report found. "Some of these missions and associated capabilities have allowed the [Chinese army] to contribute to international peacekeeping efforts, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," the report said. "[But] others appear designed to improve the [army's] ability for extended-range power projection." Taiwan remains a particular area of focus.

The Chinese army upgraded many of the more than 1,000 short-range missiles aimed across the Taiwan Strait, the report found. "China continues to deploy many of its most advanced systems to the military regions opposite Taiwan," it said. But China has also expanded its military operations beyond its immediate territory, like carrying out anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden. The study also said that China has an active programme to build aircraft carriers, and that construction on the first one could begin later this year. It also reported that China plans to expand its fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
[More>>aljazeera.net; See other details,

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, August 17, "China deploys new CSS-5 missiles on border with India"
: WASHINGTON - China has moved new advanced longer range CSS-5 missiles close to the borders with India and developed contingency plans to shift airborne forces at short notice to the region, according to Pentagon. Despite increased political and economic relationship between India and China, the Pentagon in a report to the US Congress said, tensions remain along the Sino-India borders with rising instances of border violation and aggressive border patrolling by Chinese soldiers. However, a senior Defense Department official told reporters that the US has not observed any anomalous increase in military capabilities along the Sino-India border. Noting that China continues to maintain its position on what its territorial claim is, the official said, the two capitals Beijing and New Delhi have been able to manage this dispute, in a way, using confidence-building measures and diplomatic mechanisms to be able to maintain relative stability in that border area...

08.17.10 10 killed in Afghan bomb attacks

KABUL, August 17 - Three NATO soldiers were killed Tuesday in Taliban-style bomb attacks in Afghanistan, while separate bombs killed seven civilians including at least three women and a child, officials said. Two foreign soldiers were killed in an attack in eastern Afghanistan, a troubled region which sees regular Taliban attacks, the NATO force said in a statement. Another died in a similar attack on Tuesday, in the west of the country. The nationalities of the casualties were not disclosed, in line with NATO policy. Most of the troops in eastern Afghanistan are Americans, while an Italian contingent is based in the western province of Herat. More than 2,000 foreign troops have now been killed in Afghanistan since a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime in late 2001. Afghan police said the civilians were killed in two separate roadside bombs.

One remote-controlled device on a motorcycle parked on a bridge in the southern city of Ghazni detonated prematurely on Tuesday, killing two passers-by and wounding another five, including two children, police said. The blast took place just as a police convoy was about to pass, said Mohammad Osman, commander of Afghanistan's southeastern police zone. In a similar incident late Monday, a roadside bomb ripped through a civilian vehicle in Shindand district, in the western province of Herat, killing five civilians and wounding two, said Lal Mohammad Omarzai, the district chief. "Three women, a man and a child were killed and two other women were hurt," he said. Omarzai blamed the attack on "enemies of Afghanistan", a term used to refer to Taliban militants whose insurgency against Afghan and NATO forces has been turning increasingly bloody.

08.17.10 Karzai orders guard firms to disband

KABUL, Afghanistan, August 17 - President Hamid Karzai issued a decree on Tuesday ordering the disbanding of private security forces in Afghanistan by the end of the year. The decree, however, provides an exception for private security firms working inside of compounds used by international groups, embassies, businesses and nongovernmental organizations, The Associated Press reported. Such guards "will have to stay inside of the organization's compound and will have to be registered with the Interior Ministry," the decree says, according to The A.P. Even so, the ban would appear to constitute a significant change in the security makeup of the country. There are at least 24,000 private armed guards working for 52 security companies registered with the country, some foreign but most Afghan, who escort convoys of supply trucks across dangerous roads to NATO military bases, protect government and military buildings, and provide protection for political leaders and others. [More>>nytimes.com; See also

washingtonpost.com, August 17, "Afghan security firms denouce Karzai's ban" :
KABUL - The Watan Group's trained fighting force of 2,000 men, armed with rifles and rockets, battles daily to secure the most dangerous roads in Afghanistan so that critical supply convoys can reach US and NATO troops across the country. Up to 50 guards, paid about $600 monthly, are killed in Taliban ambushes each month, during fighting so fierce that the Afghan army and police often refuse to help, said brothers Ahmad and Rashid Popal, who own the company. Now, Afghan President Hamid Karzai wants to do away with Watan Group and 51 similar firms, both foreign and domestic, which employ more than 30,000 guards working mostly for Western entities...

08.17.10 Taliban militant linked to US sailors' deaths killed - NATO

August 17 - The US-led force in Afghanistan said it had killed a militant leader who was linked to the kidnapping and killing of two American sailors late last month. The sailors were kidnapped after leaving a military base in Logar province, south of the capital Kabul, in late July. Their bodies were found separately days later. The Taliban later claimed responsibility for their deaths. A NATO statement said: "An Afghan and coalition security force killed Bilal, a highly active Taliban facilitator responsible for improvised explosive device and indirect fire attacks against Afghan civilians and Afghan and coalition forces. The facilitator had direct ties to the Taliban network involved in the recent kidnapping and murders of two US Navy sailors. It is currently unknown what role, if any, Bilal played in the kidnapping," the statement added. There are close to 150,000 international, mainly US troops based in Afghanistan, fighting an insurgency headed by the Taliban since the 2001 fall of the Islamic militants from power. [>news.com.au]

08.17.10 Bomber kills 57 Iraq army recruits; judges targeted

BAGHDAD (Reuters) August 17 - At least 57 recruits and soldiers were killed and 123 wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up at an army recruitment centre in Baghdad on Tuesday, two weeks before the end of the US combat mission in Iraq. The blast, which tore through a line of recruits, was one of the bloodiest this year and occurred as suspected insurgents also launched an assassination campaign against judges in the Iraqi capital and a volatile province north of Baghdad. The bloodshed added to tensions that have simmered following an inconclusive election more than five months ago that has yet to produce a new government. Insurgents have been targeting Iraqi police and soldiers as they prepare to take full responsibility for security on Sept. 1, when the United States ends a 7-1/2 year combat mission. US troop numbers will be reduced to 50,000 for a training mission before a full withdrawal planned for next year. "We were lined in a long queue. There were also officers and soldiers. Suddenly an explosion happened. Thank God only my hand was injured," recruit Saleh Aziz told Reuters Television while doctors in al-Karkh hospital treated his wounds. A total of 57 people died and 123 were wounded in the attack on an army base near Baghdad's central Maidan square, the media office of the Health Ministry said. [More>>thestar.com.my]

08.17.10 Tunisia cafés welcome the non-fasting

TUNIS, August 17 - Black curtains maintain customers' privacy. As controversy rages on the right to break the fast in public in several Muslim countries, Tunisia opened its cafés to non-fasting nationals and tourists during the holy month of Ramadan. While several cafés open during the day in Ramadan on the grounds that they serve tourists, Tunisians who do not fast also frequent those places for a cup of coffee or a light snack in a closed place in order not to offend observers of the holy month. In Ramadan, café windows are usually draped in black curtains or covered with newspapers and keep their doors closed so that passers by wouldn't see the clients eating, drinking, or smoking cigarettes. There is no law that bans cafés from opening during Ramadan days, said owner of a café at Habib Bourguiba Street in the heart of the capital Tunis. "People who cannot fast for health reasons and tourists have the right to find a place to eat and drink during the day," he told Al Arabiya. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.17.10 Vietnam, US hold first ever defense talks

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) August 17 - Former foes Vietnam and the United States held their first ever defense talks on Tuesday, which a senior US official called extremely productive and successful. "I was struck by the open and frank discussions that we were able to have even though this is the first time that this dialogue was held," Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert Scher told a joint news conference with Vietnamese Vice Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh. The talks came as the two countries celebrate the 15th anniversary of their normalization of relations after being enemies in the Vietnam War. Last week, an American warship, the USS John S. McCain, docked in Vietnam and the two navies conducted training exercises a sign of growing military ties. "This dialogue ... represents the next significant, historic step in our increasingly robust defense relationship which is based on mutual trust, understanding and respect for independence and sovereignty," Scher said. He said the two sides talked about how they could better cooperate in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, search and rescue, international peacekeeping and [m]aritime security. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

08.16.10 'Viva Palestina' Gaza flotilla to sail

August 16 - Anti-Israel activist Galloway says 3 ships to leave Sept. 18. A flotilla of ships titled the "Viva Palestina" convoy will leave from London, Casablanca in Morroco and Doha in Qatar on September 18, according to an opinion article by George Galloway in Friday's edition of the British socialist daily the Morning Star. The flotilla will seek to break Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Galloway states in the article that now that the siege on Gaza is being condemned by the EU, UN, many governments and every major international aid agency, "we are at a moment when pressure can be brought to bear as never before to frustrate Israel's moves to crush the Palestinians." [More>>jpost.com]

08.16.10 American freelance writer arrested in Turkey

ISTANBUL, Turkey, August 16 - Turkish authorities have arrested an American freelance writer for allegedly having ties with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, which Turkey and the United States classify as a terrorist organization. Jake Hess, 25, of New Hampshire, was working on stories involving the mistreatment of Kurds as well as translating for a human rights organization in the predominately Kurdish city of Diyarbakir when he was arrested there last week, his lawyer said. On Monday, Hess was at a foreigners' detention facility awaiting deportation. A US Embassy spokesman in Ankara said Hess "asked us not to share any information on his case." Kurds, who make up roughly 15 percent of Turkey's population, have increasingly been demanding cultural and social rights. Local journalists who pursue stories on problems facing the Kurdish community are routinely harassed by authorities. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

08.16.10 China leapfrogs Japan as world's second-largest economy

(AP) August 16 - After decades in second place, poor growth and a shaky recovery have seen Japan slip below China in the world's financial super-power table in the second quarter of 2010. Japan lost its place as the world's No. 2 economy to China in the second quarter as receding global growth sapped momentum and stunted a shaky recovery. Gross domestic product grew at an annualized rate of just 0.4 percent, the government said Monday, far below the annualized 4.4 percent expansion in the first quarter and adding to evidence the global recovery is facing strong headwinds. The figures underscore China's emergence as an economic power that is changing everything from the global balance of military and financial power to how cars are designed. It is already the biggest exporter, auto buyer and steel producer, and its global influence is expanding. [More>>france24.com]

08.16.10 US charges Britain's Barclays Bank with violating sanctions against Cuba, Iran

August 16 - Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Barclays Bank on Monday, alleging that it violated US financial sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya, Sudan and Burma for more than a decade and accusing the British bank of knowingly aiding banks in those countries with potentially $500 million in transactions from March 1995 to September 2006. In papers filed in federal court in the District, the US government alleged that Barclays, through its US dollar clearing operation at its New York branch, followed directions to omit the names of banks in sanctioned countries when sending payments to the United States, stripped off identifying information, routed payments through an internal account to hide links to those countries and deliberately used less transparent "cover payments." [More>>washingtonpost.com]

08.16.10 Scientists reveal bacteria have 'noses'

August 16 - Common bacteria have "noses" that respond to smells, scientists said. A study shows how certain bugs detect the presence of rivals by picking up whiffs of chemicals in the air. The discovery means lowly bugs are now known to possess four of our familiar five senses. They can "see" by responding to light, "feel" by reacting to physical touch, "taste" through direct contact with environmental chemicals, and "smell" by detecting airborne molecules. The only sense missing is hearing. In laboratory tests, scientists found that two rival species of soil bacteria, Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus licheniformus, both reacted the same way to the smell of ammonia given off by the other. Each bug began to generate biofilm, or "slime," whereby bacteria join together to colonise an area and push out any potential competitor.

The response decreased as the distance between the two bacterial colonies got bigger. Ammonia is one of the simplest sources of nitrogen, a key nutrient for bacterial growth. Professor Grant Burgess, director of the Dove Marine laboratory at the University of Newcastle, said: "The sense of smell has been observed in many creatures, even yeasts and slime moulds, but our work shows for the first time that a sense of smell even exists in lowly bacteria. "From an evolutionary perspective, we believe this may be the first example of how living creatures first learned to smell other living creatures...Bacterial infections kill millions of people every year, and discovering how your bacterial enemies communicate with each other is an important step in winning this war..."
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

08.16.10 NATO kills Qaeda group leader in Afghanistan

KABUL / RHABAT, August 16 - Militant group tells France it will avenge its fighters. The NATO force in Afghanistan said Monday it had killed an al-Qaeda cell leader after he was pin-pointed by alliance aircraft while carrying out an attack on a police post. Abu Baqir, described as "a dual-hatted Taliban sub-commander and al-Qaeda group leader," was killed on Sunday when his truck was targeted in an airstrike in northern Kunduz province, a hotbed of the insurgency. Another militant was also killed and several others captured while seeking treatment for their injuries in a local hospital, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.16.10 Afghan couple stoned by Taliban for adultery

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) August 16 - A man and woman were publicly stoned to death by the Taliban in Afghanistan's once-peaceful north over an alleged love affair, a provincial government official said on Monday. If confirmed, Sunday's executions in Kunduz province would be the first of their kind by the Taliban in the area and follow a call last week by Afghan clerics for a return to sharia and capital punishments carried out under the Islamic law. They also come a week after officials said the Islamist militants publicly flogged and executed a woman accused of adultery in northwestern Badghis province.

"The two were stoned to death in a bazaar of Dasht-e Archi district on the accusation of committing the act of adultery," said Mohammad Omar, the governor of Kunduz. The Taliban arrested the two, who were each engaged to be married to other people, at the request of their families after they tried to elope, said district police chief Hameed Agha. The hardline Islamists, who drew international criticism for such punishments when they ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, have distanced themselves from the incident in Badghis. A spokesman for the group said on Monday he was not aware of the Kunduz incident. Sharia prescribes punishments such as stonings, lashings, amputations and execution. A gathering of clerics, meeting last week to discuss reconciliation with the Taliban, expressed support for such punishments, known as "hodud."
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) August 16, "Nobel laureates seek action on Iranian mother's execution"
: PARIS - Public figures including Nobel laureates and Hollywood stars published a letter of support Monday for Iranian mother-of-two Sakineh Mohammadi-Ashtiani who is facing execution for adultery. "Urgent intervention is necessary to prevent an execution that observers believe is imminent," said a text published in France's Liberation newspaper, signed by dignitaries including Nobel Laureates Wole Soyinka and Jody Williams. Other names included Czech author Milan Kundera, pop star and anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof and actresses Juliette Binoche and Mia Farrow. They called for "the renunciation of any kind of execution, freedom without delay and recognition of her innocence," after Mohammadi-Ashtiani, 43, last week made an apparently coerced televised confession...

08.16.10 Pakistan's 'image deficit' hurting aid funds flow: UN

GENEVA, August 16 - Relief agencies are having trouble obtaining funds to help millions of Pakistan flood victims as the country suffers from an "image deficit," a UN spokeswoman said on Monday. "We note often an image deficit with regards to Pakistan among Western public opinion," said Elizabeth Byrs, spokeswoman of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. "As a result, Pakistan is among countries that are poorly financed, like Yemen," she added. The United Nations has been struggling to obtain USD 460 million to provide emergency aid to six million victims of the country ravaged by heavy flooding. Only a fifth of the required funds have been pledged since the appeal was launched on August 11. Melanie Brooks, spokeswoman of the humanitarian group Care International stressed that the UN must explain to donor states that "the money is not going to go to the hands of the Taliban." [More>>indianexpress.com; See related story,

msnbc.msn.com, August 16, "Flood victim: Pakistan treating us like 'dogs' "
: SUKKUR, Pakistan - Protesters block highway to demand aid: 'We are dying of hunger here.' Pakistani flood victims, burning straw and waving sticks, blocked a highway on Monday to demand government help as aid agencies warned relief was too slow to arrive for millions without clean water, food and homes. Public anger has grown in the two weeks of floods, highlighting potential political troubles for an unpopular government overwhelmed by the disaster that has killed at least 1,600, made two million homeless and in total has disrupted the lives of at least a tenth of its 170 million people.

Hundreds of villages across Pakistan in an area roughly the size of Italy have been marooned, highways have been cut in half and thousands of homeless people have been forced to set up tarpaulin tents along the side of roads. "We left our homes with nothing and now we're here with no clothes, no food and our children are living beside the road," said protester Gul Hasan, clutching a large stick...Dozens of stick-wielding men and a few women tried to block five lanes of traffic outside Sukkur, a major town in the southern province of Sindh.

Villagers set fire to straw and threatened to hit approaching cars with sticks. On Sunday night, hundreds of villagers burned tires and chanted "down with the government" in Punjab province. "We are dying of hunger here. No one has showed up to comfort us," said Hafiz Shabbir, a protester in Kot Addu. But aid has failed to keep pace with the rising river waters. Only a quarter of the $459 million aid needed for initial relief has arrived, according to the United Nations. That contrasts with the United States giving at least $1 billion in military aid last year to its regional ally to battle militants..

08.16.10 Iran to build 10 uranium enrichment plants in mountain strongholds

August 16 - Iran has announced that is it to build ten new uranium enrichment plants within protected mountain strongholds as part of its nuclear programme and will start work on the first site in March. The move is a response to sanctions imposed on Iran in an attempt to stop it from producing enriched uranium, which can be used as fuel for nuclear power plants but for weapons if produced in higher levels. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also issued an edict ordering the government to offer only "minimum levels of cooperation" with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN nuclear watchdog. [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

08.15.10 Hamas, 10 other groups reject all forms of compromise with Israel

August 15 - Joint statement comes ahead of a possible round of direct peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Eleven militant Palestinian groups based in Syria warned on Sunday against a "concession and compromise" policy ahead of a possible round of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The message from the groups, which include Gaza rulers Hamas as well as the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine factions, appeared directed at Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas is under pressure to enter direct negotiations with Israel, after months of US-brokered proximity talks between the two sides. Damascus-based Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal said Sunday that the factions' representatives issued the statement after discussions held at his house in the Syrian capital and that they rejected all forms of compromise with Israel. [More>>haaretz.com]

08.15.10 With remarks on Mosque, Obama enters risky debate

PANAMA CITY, Fla. August 15 - Faced with withering Republican criticism of his defense of the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near ground zero, President Obama quickly recalibrated his remarks on Saturday, a sign that he has waded into even more treacherous political waters than the White House had at first realized. In brief comments during a family trip to the Gulf of Mexico, Mr. Obama said he was not endorsing the New York project, but simply trying to uphold the broader principle that government should "treat everybody equally," regardless of religion. "I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," Mr. Obama said. "I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about." But Mr. Obama’s attempt to clarify his remarks, less than 24 hours after his initial comments at a White House iftar, a Ramadan sunset dinner, pushed the president even deeper into the thorny debate about Islam, national identity and what it means to be an American — a move that is riskier for him than for his predecessors.

From the moment he took the oath of office, using his entire name, Barack Hussein Obama, as he swore to protect and defend the Constitution, Mr. Obama has personified the hopes of many Americans about tolerance and inclusion. He has devoted himself to reaching out to the Muslim world, vowing, as he did in Cairo last year, "a new beginning." But his "new beginning" has aroused nervousness in some, especially those who disagree with his counterterrorism policies, or those more comfortable with a vision of America as a white and largely Christian nation, and not the pluralistic melting pot Mr. Obama represents. The debate over the proposed Islamic center in Manhattan only intensified on Saturday, as the conservative blogosphere lighted up with criticism of Mr. Obama, and leading Republicans — including Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker; Representative John A. Boehner, the House minority leader; and Representative Peter T. King of New York — forcefully rejected the president’s stance.

Mr. Gingrich accused the president of "pandering to radical Islam." Mr. Boehner said the decision to build a mosque so close to ground zero was "deeply troubling, as is the president’s decision to endorse it." And Mr. King flatly said the president "is wrong," adding that Mr. Obama had "caved in to political correctness." Indeed, the criticism was so intense that the White House ultimately issued an elaboration on the president's clarification, insisting that the president was "not backing off in any way" from the comments he made Friday night. "As a citizen, and as president," Mr. Obama said then, "I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."
[More>>nytimes.com; See other details:

dailymail.com, August 15, "'Provacative, insensitive and uncaring' : Fury after Obama backs mosque near site of September 11 disaster" : Barack Obama has been hit by a furious backlash from victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks after he backed plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero. The proposed site for the 13-storey building is close to where almost 3,000 people died nine years ago after Muslim hijackers flew two jet airliners into the World Trade Center. Mr. Obama expressed his support for the mosque, which will replace a building damaged by the attacks, at a White House meal celebrating Ramadan...His speech on Friday was heavily criticized by a group representing the families of victims of the terrorist attack, who called the plan a "deliberately provocative act that will precipitate more bloodshed in the name of Allah."

Debra Burlingame, a sister of a pilot killed when his plane was flown by a terrorist into the Pentagon and a spokesperson for  victims' families, said: "Barack Obama has abandoned America at the place where America's heart was broken nine years ago, and where her true values were on display for all to see." Peter King, a Republican congressman in New York, said the President had been wrong to back the plan, adding: "It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of Ground Zero." Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was killed at the World Trade Center, condemned the President for a "gross lack of sensitivity to the 9/11 families and to the people who were lost." Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner said the decision to build the mosque wasn't an issue of religious freedom, but a matter of respect. "The fact that someone has the right to do something doesn't necessarily make it the right thing to do. That is the essence of tolerance, peace and understanding," he said.

New York Republican Congressman Peter King added: "President Obama is wrong. It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero." Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene of Florida said: "President Obama has this all wrong and I strongly oppose his support for building a mosque near ground zero especially since Islamic terrorists have bragged and celebrated destroying the Twin Towers and killing nearly 3,000 Americans. "Freedom of religion might provide the right to build the mosque in the shadow of ground zero, but common sense and respect for those who lost their lives and loved ones gives sensible reason to build the mosque someplace else." However, Colleen Kelly, who lost her brother Bill in the 9/11 attacks, disagreed and claimed a mosque would be "a fitting tribute." "This is the voice of Islam that I believe needs a wider audience. This is what moderate Islam is all about," she said...

Editorial note: "Need for an international discussion on Islam and its conflict with the West." It is unfortunate that most Muslims and Christians have age-old misunderstandings about Islam. At the foundation of the misunderstandings is an assumption that the Koran is a covenant by another god, other than that of the Judeo-Christian faiths. The fact is the Koran claims in many places that it was written to confirm that the Jewish Scriptures and Gospel [sic. the Bible] are true. It also points out Jesus as the Messiah (Gr. Christ). On this foundation alone one ought to conclude that the Koran cannot contradict that which it claims to confirm. However, the Koran advocates violence against nonbelievers, a practice certainly against the teachings of Christ.

Islamic scholars also argue that the Koran honors Jesus only as a prophet. Contradicting their argument is the fact that the Koran honors Jesus as the Messiah and a review of verses in the Old Testament will produce a conclusion that the Messiah is more than a prophet, viewed as another King David, even of his seed, who will emerge to rule in the Latter Days (aka Day of Resurrection, Last Day). Another feature of the Koran actually focuses on the "Latter Day" event, saying it was written also to warn of the Last Days, a day of resurrection (as discussed by the Biblical prophets).

While the Koran presumes to advocate and confirm the teachings of the Old Testament and Gospel of Christ, there are many teachings in that document
and from Islamic scholars' interpretations that contradict the covenant of the scriptures.

There has been a large outreach by Muslim scholars to the Christian ministry with the objective to resolve the current Islamaphobia spreading around the world in response to the violence of Islamists. We have argued that a full discussion should take place, focusing on the intent of the Koran, as the Koran lists its purpose, and any discrepancies between the teachings of the Koran and the document it claims to confirm / represent. Requirements of this discussion are listed in "The Allah Controversy." The argument in "The Allah Controversy" begins with the government of Malaysia's court case that assumes that Allah is not the same god as the God of the Bible.

For background information on the Ground Zero mosque and Obama's appointment of its controversial imam as a US ambasador to Muslim nations see Maravot News article 08.10.10
Anti-mosque bus ad approved by NYC transit x

Mel Copeland

08.15.10 Bloody weekend as 18 die in Iraq attacks

(AFP) August 16 - An Iraqi pharmacist back from studies in the United States was among at least 18 people killed in a spate of attacks across the country over the weekend. More than 20 others were wounded in the violence, the latest in a surge of killings in August and as Muslims observe the holy dawn-to-dusk fasting month of Ramadan, when insurgents typically step up attacks. The escalation has fuelled security concerns at a time when the United States aims to withdraw the last of its combat troops by the end of August. Mohammed Ali al-Deen, who just returned to Iraq three weeks ago after completing a pharmacy course in Washington DC, was gunned down late on Saturday at his home in Noamaniyah, in the central province of Wasit, police said. It was not immediately clear why Mr. Deen, 34, who studied at George Washington University, was targeted.

..In a pre-dawn attack yesterday, three Sunni Muslims were gunned down as they exited Abid Wais mosque in Jurf al-Sakhr, 50 kilometres south of the capital in the mainly Shi'ite province of Babil. The drive-by shooting, which also left one person wounded, took place after worshippers emerged from Ramadan prayers which follow a communal meal ahead of another day-long fast...A traffic policeman and a civilian were also killed, and a police officer was wounded, when a roadside bomb exploded near Al-Shaab stadium in the east of the capital, a doctor at Ibn Nafis hospital said. Another person was killed and seven others wounded by three roadside bombs in northern Baghdad, interior and defence ministry officials said. In Mosul, one Iraqi soldier was killed and another wounded in a shooting at a security checkpoint in the east of the restive northern city, 350 kilometres from the capital, police said. That followed violence on Saturday in which six policemen and an anti-Qaeda militiaman was killed and one policeman was wounded, security officials said. The latest unrest, in which well over 100 people have been killed so far this month...
[Full story>>news.com.au; See also

alarabiya.net, August 15, "Gunmen kill Iraq policemen, set bodies ablaze"
: BAGHDAD - Third time in two weeks policemen's bodies are burned. Gunmen attacked two police checkpoints in Baghdad on Saturday, killing four policemen and burning two bodies in public, an Interior Ministry source said in a reminder of insurgency strength in the Iraqi capital. Insurgents shot the two policemen as they sat in their car in eastern Baghdad, the official said, and then set it on fire, while two others were killed by silenced pistols at a checkpoint in the west of the Iraqi capital. Saturday's incident was the third time in two weeks that members of the security forces' bodies have been burned after being killed by insurgents...

08.15.10 S. Korean president proposes three-stage reunifications with DPRK

SEOUL (Xinhua) August 15 - South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Sunday proposed a three-stage reunification with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), and called for developing new relationship with Japan. Lee made the remarks at the celebration of the country's 65th National Liberation Day, or 65th anniversary of Korea's independence from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule. Lee said that the current inter-Korean ties demand a new paradigm, and it is "imperative that the two sides choose coexistence instead of confrontation, progress instead of stagnation." He proposed that Seoul and Pyongyang should build an inter-Korean "peace community" first to assure security and harmony on the Korean Peninsula, then work for an "economic community" for a comprehensive exchange and mutual prosperity. And after this, the two sides can establish a genuine "national community," Lee said. [More>>xinhanet.com]

08.15.10 Two Islamist militants killed in clashes with army forces

(AFP) August 15 - Lebanese troops killed two Islamist rebels on Saturday, including a leading figure in Fatah al-Islam, an al-Qaeda-inspired group that fought the Lebanese army in 2007. Lebanese troops on Saturday killed two Islamist militants including a head of an al-Qaeda-inspired group which fought a battle with the army in 2007 that cost hundreds of lives, a military spokesman said. "Abdel Rahman Awad, one of the key leaders of Fatah al-Islam," was killed along with another militant known as Abu Bakr during clashes in the eastern Bekaa Valley region, the spokesman told AFP. A judicial source said Abu Bakr was Awad's key deputy who provided military training to members of Fatah al-Islam, a shadowy group said to be inspired by al-Qaeda.

In 2007, Fatah al-Islam fought a fierce battle against the army at Nahr al-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon that raged for more than three months and cost 400 lives, with 168 soldiers among the dead. Judicial authorities accuse Awad of having "incited" militants to carry out attacks two years ago in the port city of Tripoli, near the Palestinian camp, that killed 21 people, including 13 soldiers...Several extremist groups are suspected of having taken refuge in the north and east of the country, and in the 12 Palestinian camps scattered across Lebanon of which Ain el-Hilweh is the largest.
[Full story>>france24.com]

08.15.10 Al-Qaeda leader says Turkey kills Muslims

CAIRO, August 15 - Al-Qaeda's No. 2 offered his condolences in an audio message issued on Sunday for the nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists killed in a confrontation with Israeli commandos, but slammed the Turkish government for its support of Israel. The 20-minute Arabic language recording from Ayman al-Zawahri, which was posted on a website frequently used by militants, is the latest effort by al-Qaeda to expand its message to Muslims beyond the Arab world. The Egyptian-born al-Zawahri called on the Turkish people to pressure their government to cut its military and economic ties with Israel and pull its forces out of Afghanistan, where Turkish troops serve as part of the NATO mission. "The Turkish government shows sympathy with the Palestinians through statements or sending some relief aid, but actually it recognizes Israel, engages in trade, carries out military training and shares information with it," he said. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.15.10 Local Qaeda leader surrenders in Yemen

SANAA (AFP) August 15 - A local al-Qaeda leader in Yemen who sheltered foreign militants, including Saudis, has surrendered to authorities, a Yemeni security official said on Sunday. Jamaan Safian was responsible for the organization's activities in the Al-Jawf province, northeast of the capital Sanaa, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.15.10 Afghan police seize explosives at Pakistan border

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) August 15 - Afghan police said Sunday they had seized 17 tones of explosives hidden in paint and pickle tins at a customs office on the southern border with Pakistan. The explosives had been trucked from the Pakistani city of Quetta to Afghanistan's Spin Boldak and were brought to the official customs point for tax payment, police chief General Shafique Afzali told AFP. Two people were arrested but Afzali said it was unclear if the pair were merely transporting the goods or were involved in militant activities. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related stories,

washingtonpost.com, August 15, "NATO strike kills 2 fleeing militants"
: KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO forces killed two insurgents who had attacked a police station in northern Afghanistan by hitting their truck with an airstrike as they fled the area, the coalition said Sunday. Three pickup trucks full of gunmen launched an attack on the main police station in Kunduz province's Aliabad district on Saturday afternoon, said Deputy Provincial Police Chief Abdul Rahman Aqtash. "They started a gunbattle that lasted for about one and half hours," Aqtash said, with both police reinforcements and NATO air support called in...

cnn.com, August 15, "Suspected Taliban commander among 2 detained" :
KABUL, Afghanistan - A suspected Taliban commander operating in Afghanistan's Panjwa'i district was one of two suspected Taliban insurgents detained in Kandahar province on Saturday, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said Sunday. "The commander provided guidance and direction to Taliban fighters conducting improvised explosive device attacks and ambushes against Afghan civilians and Afghan and coalition forces," ISAF said in a statement. The two suspected insurgents were detained by an Afghan and coalition security force, which targeted a compound north of the village of Gari in Kandahar district to search for the commander. Afghan forces called on all residents to exit the compound and then secured the commander, detaining the two after questioning residents. No shots were fired, ISAF said. [end]

08.15.10 US missile strike kills 12 militants in Pakistan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, August 14 - Taliban commander among dead. US missile strike on a militant compound in Pakistan's tribal district on the Afghan border killed 12 rebels and wounded five others on Saturday, local security officials said. The United States has intensified missile strikes by drone aircraft in Pakistan's lawless Pashtun tribal lands in an effort to curb violence in Afghanistan, much of which US officials say comes from militant sanctuaries on the Pakistani side. Most of the missile attacks this year were carried out on militant targets in North Waziristan region. In the latest strike, the missiles hit a house used by militants as a hideout near Mir Ali, the second major town of the region. "We have reports that 12 militants were killed in the attack. The death toll could be more," an intelligence official in the region told Reuters. He said Amir Moawia, an important Pakistani Taliban commander, was among the dead. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.13.10 German economy sees 'record' growth of 2.2%

August 13 - The German economy grew by 2.2% in the three months to the end of June, its fastest quarterly growth in more than 20 years, official figures show. "Such quarter-on-quarter growth has never been recorded before in reunified Germany," the national statistics office, Destatis, said. The main reason for the higher-than-expected growth was strong exports, helped by a weaker euro. The eurozone economy grew by 1% during the quarter. This compares with growth of 0.2% in the first three months of the year, the area's official statistics agency, Eurostat, said. The French economy grew by 0.6% in the second quarter, also up from 0.2%, while the Spanish economy grew by 0.2%, compared with 0.1% in the previous three months. The pace of growth in the Italian economy remained the same, at 0.4%. Greece, however, saw its economy shrink by 1.5% during the quarter. The country's government has instigated a series of far-reaching austerity measures recently, designed to reduce its high budget deficit.[More>>bbc.co.uk]

08.13.10 Wall Street weighs two US reports

August 13 - The various economic reports released Friday were in much the same vein as those that Wall Street had been seeing throughout the week. The reports — business inventories, retail sales and the consumer price index — reinforced the point that the pace of the recovery was sluggish. Markets responded by trading for much of the morning within a narrow range as investors examined the mixed batch of readings, particularly with retail spending, to try and get a clearer picture of the economy. As earnings season winds down, traders are increasingly relying on the indicators for some hint of how the American economy is performing. All of the Friday's reports were essentially in line with expectations; there were few surprises. "But if you take the totality of the last couple of weeks, it is providing more concern over the strength of the recovery," said Paul Ballew, a former Federal Reserve economist who is a senior vice president for Nationwide Insurance. [More>>nytimes.com]

08.13.10 Global CO2 emissions fall in 2009: IWR Institute

FRANKFURT, Germany (Reuters) August 13 - CO2 output eased due to economic crisis. Global carbon dioxide emissions in 2009 fell 1.3 percent to 31.3 billion tons, showing the first year-on-year decline in this decade, German renewable energy institute IWR said on Friday, based on official information and its own research. The private institute, which is located in Muenster and advises German ministries, said climate-harming CO2 output eased due to the worldwide economic crisis and as investments increased in the use of renewable energy sources for electricity, heat and transport fuels. ut the it upheld a recommendation made last year that global investments in renewable energy should be quadrupled to 500 billion Euros ($644.2 billion) a year for the world to reverse the runaway trend in CO2 pollution.

IWR posted a table for 65 countries' carbon dioxide emissions in 2009 and its related investment recommendations, expressed in billions of euros annually per country. These are based on calculations of how much it believes each country should spend on renewable, due to its output, in order to stabilize overall fossil fuels consumption. The figures are based on a scenario of European carbon emissions permits priced at 16 Euros a ton. The current market price for the permits, called EU Allowances, is around 14.5 Euros.

08.13.10 Russian fuel supply to Iran fixes nuclear issue - France

PARIS (RIA Novosti) August 13 - The shipment of Russian fuel to the Bushehr nuclear reactor shows that Iran has no reason to continue its nuclear activity, the French Foreign Ministry said on Friday. The Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) said earlier on Friday the first reactor at the Bushehr NPP would be loaded with nuclear fuel on August 21. "The supply of Russian fuel to this reactor is another reason why the Islamic Republic should halt its dangerous nuclear activity in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution," ministry spokeswoman Christine Fages said. "Iran can only use Russian fuel that is specifically adapted to this reactor." She said Iran's uranium enrichment activity could not be reasonably justified by the Bushehr reactor. [More>>en.rian.ru; See also

foxnews.com, August 13, "Russia says it will begin fueling Iran's first nuclear plant next week"
: ...Russia signed a $1 billion contract to build the Bushehr plant in 1995 but it has dragged its feet on completing the project. Moscow has cited technical reasons for the delays, but analysts say Moscow has used the project to press Iran to ease its defiance over its nuclear program. Russian officials say, however, that UN sanctions against Iran, including a new, more stringent set approved in June, don't directly prevent Moscow from going ahead with the Bushehr project. It has argued that the Bushehr project is essential for persuading Iran to cooperate with the UN nuclear watchdog and fulfill its obligations under international nuclear nonproliferation agreements...

08.13.10 'Turks hit PKK with chemical weapons'

BERLIN, August 13 - Report: German newspaper says photos of dead Kurds confirm use. German politicians called on Thursday for an international investigation into the reported use of chemical weapons by the Turkish military. The weapons were used against members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), according to the online edition of the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel. "Turkey needs to urgently look into these accusations," said Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee in the Bundestag and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party. Polenz recommended an international investigation to examine the deaths of eight Kurdish activists from the PKK. Claudia Roth, co-chair of the German Green party, echoed Polenz's criticisms, seconding his call for an investigation. MP Andrej Hunko urged the German Foreign Ministry to file a complaint against Turkey with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague. A forensic report from Hamburg University Hospital confirmed that the eight Kurds had been murdered by "the use of chemical substances." [More>>jpost.com]

08.13.10 More than 10,000 Chinese set human domino record

BEIJING (AP) August 13 - More than 10,000 people in northern China have set a world record for the longest chain of human dominoes. Arranged in lines, they slowly collapsed backward onto each other in sequence from a sitting position like a line of toppling dominoes. The 10,267 people who took part wore color-coordinated clothes that spelled out in English and Chinese the name of the city of Ordos in Inner Mongolia where the record attempt was made Thursday. The monitor the Guinness World Records, Wu Xiaohong, declared the new record. It beat the record set a decade ago in Singapore by more than 1,000 people. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

08.13.10 Two British soldiers killed in Afghanistan

August 13 - Sapper from 21 Engineer Regiment killed today and member of Gurkha Reinforcement Company dies after incident on Tuesday. Two British soldiers have been killed after separate incidents this week in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence confirmed today. One man was killed in the Sangin district of Helmand province today, while the other died yesterday from wounds reportedly received in a Chinook helicopter crash in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Helmand, on Tuesday.

The soldier killed in Sangin was serving with 21 Engineer Regiment when he was killed in a gunfight, the MoD said. "He was shot by small arms fire whilst supporting the 40 Commando Royal Marines Battle Group," said Lieutenant Colonel David Southall. "He died a sapper, doing his duty amongst his comrades as he sought to improve security for the people of Afghanistan. His courage and sacrifice will not be forgotten." The soldier who died yesterday was from the Gurkha Reinforcement Company, 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (Cheshire). He was injured on Tuesday, reportedly when a Chinook helicopter crashed into a wall next to where he was sleeping.

08.11.10 US trade deficit and disappointing global reports send stocks into sell-off

August 11 - Stocks were deeply in the red Wednesday after the US trade deficit widened unexpectedly and a string of weak economic reports from Asia and Europe heightened concerns that the global recovery is veering off track. The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted nearly 220 points, or 2.11 percent, with all 30 component stocks lower. The Nasdaq was down 2.83 percent and the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was off 2.5 percent. Stocks across a broad range of industries, from aerospace and technology to retail, declined despite strong earnings reports from large companies. Investors drove yields on 10-year Treasury notes to one-year lows, falling below 2.7 percent before they recovered slightly. They sold off commodities like oil and copper. And pushed the dollar to a 15-year low against the yen even as it strengthened against the euro. The chaos in financial markets came a day after the Federal Reserve did an about-face in its efforts to wind down aggressive measures to boost the economy. The Fed announced Tuesday that it would use money from maturing mortgage-backed bonds to buy government bonds. The central bank hopes that this will help cut interest rates on mortgages and other loans, which might increase borrowing and encourage growth. [More>>washingtonpost.com; See related story,

telegraph.co.uk, August 11, "Bank of England lowers UK growth forecast" :
The economy will be growing by about 3pc year-on-year in the second half of 2011, according to the Bank's August Inflation Report. This compares with the 3.5pc it was forecasting in the May report. Mervyn King, the Bank's governor, said Britain was facing a "choppy recovery." "The UK recovery is likely to continue, but the overall outlook is weaker than that presented in the May Report, reflecting the softening in confidence, the persistence of tight credit conditions and the faster fiscal consolidation," he said However, despite the downgrade, the Bank remained more optimistic on growth than City economists and the Office for Budget Responsibility, which was created by the Government to produce forecasts free from ministerial interference...

08.11.10 Russia wildfires threaten nuclear waste sites

August 11 - Officials say no significant danger to nuke waste facilities, but blazes may churn up Chernobyl dust. Russian emergency workers have increased forest patrols in a western region previously contaminated by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, trying to prevent wildfires from spreading harmful radiation, officials said Wednesday. At least six wildfires were spotted in the Bryansk region this week - the part of Russia that suffered the most from the Chernobyl catastrophe in what was then Soviet Ukraine - and fire crews quickly extinguished all of them, Emergency Situations Ministry spokeswoman Irina Yegorushkina said. Her agency also had reported sporadic wildfires last week, saying all had been put out.

Hundreds of soldiers dug a trench over the weekend around the Sarov nuclear base, one of Russia's primary nuclear weapons facilities, as a precaution against advancing fires. Officials said Sunday that the situation was "stabilized," according to a report in The Guardian. Russia's first atomic bomb was built at Sarov in 1949. On Tuesday, the operator of Russia's nuclear waste facilities said the 17 locations under his charge were safe from the wildfires, according to China's Xinhua news agency. Andrei Chizhov, head of safety for RosRao, said one of the waste management company's 17 plants was just four miles from a fire, but that the operator, "adopts all necessary preventive measures" to ensure their safety under such circumstances.

08.11.10 Russia resumes gasoline sales to Iran

SINGAPORE / MOSCOW / ANKARA (Reuters) August 11 - Russian oil giant LUKOIL has resumed gasoline sales into Iran in partnership with China's state-run firm Zhuhai Zhenrong, even as the United States urges the international community to be tough with Tehran. Iran is the world's fifth-largest oil exporter but lacks adequate refining capacity to meet domestic demand for motor fuel, forcing it to import up to 40 percent of its requirements. Russia and China, both permanent members of the UN Security Council, signed up to the latest round of UN sanctions on Iran, but refused to support measures that targeted the Islamic Republic's oil and gas sector. The US has since passed additional unilateral sanctions allowing it to penalize fuel suppliers to Iran, measures criticized by both Beijing and Moscow. [More>>alarabiya.net]

08.11.10 'Superbug' alert as resistant gene hits UK

August 11 - A 'superbug' that is resistant to the most powerful antibiotics has reached the UK. Scientists are warning the bug, an enzyme called New Delhi-Metallo-1 (NDM-1), could spread across the world as nothing is being developed to treat it. There has been 37 reported cases in the UK, mainly among patients who travelled to areas of Asia for cosmetic surgery, transplants and cancer treatment. The bug can exist inside different bacteria, like E.coli, and cause infections in other parts of the body. It can also move from one bacterium to another and experts are concerned it may attach itself to more dangerous diseases and cause them to become resistant to antibiotics. The scientists, writing in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, said: "It has an alarming potential to spread and diversify." Dr. David Livermore, one of the researchers and who works for the UK's Health Protection Agency (HPA), said: [More>>news.sky.com; See also

indianexpress.com, August 11, "Scientists find new superbug spreading from India"
: LONDON - People who embark on health tourism trips to India and Pakistan to get cheaper medical treatment risk picking up and spreading a new superbug, according to an international team of scientists. The researchers found a new gene called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, in patients in Asia and in Britain. NDM-1 makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, including the most powerful class called carbapenems. With international travel for healthcare on the rise, the scientists said they feared this new superbug could soon spread around the world. In a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal on Wednesday, the researchers found that NDM-1 is becoming more common in Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan and is starting to be imported back to Britain in patients returning from these countries. India also provides cosmetic surgery for other Europeans and Americans, and it is likely NDM-1 will spread worldwide, the scientists, led by Timothy Walsh from Britain's Cardiff University, wrote in a report of their findings...

08.11.10 Boeing envisions hybrid planes in 2030

CHICAGO (Xinhua) August 10 - Imagine flying across the US in an aircraft that is partly powered by electricity, weighs lighter, flies quieter and releases less green house gas emissions than any commercial airplanes ever made. Well, that could soon come true in 2030. Boeing Co., the Chicago-based aerospace giant, is working on a concept plane called the SUGAR Volt as part of NASA's N+3 program, which aims to explore what aircraft three generations beyond current ones may look like. SUGAR stands for Subsonic Ultra-Green Aircraft Research. The SUGAR Volt, similar in appearance as a 737, is a twin- engine aircraft with hybrid propulsion technology that has the potential to change the aviation industry by reducing green house gas emissions and lowering fuel usage. The concept plane reduces fuel burn by more than 70 percent and total energy use by 55 percent when battery energy included. It can also cruise on battery or biofuel power when flying. [More>>xinhuanet.com; For background information see aviationweek.com, May 14, 2010, "Hopes and hurles for airliners by 2030."]

08.11.10 Anti-terror ad calls on public to inform on people using only cash

August 11 - Britain's police force has released a radio ad calling on suspicious citizens to inform on their neighbours for using only cash or keeping their curtains closed. Just not cricket, says the UK’s advertising watchdog. An anti-terrorism radio ad, calling on Britons to report their neighbours if they keep their curtains closed or pay for things in cash, has been banned by the UK advertising watchdog. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the ad would cause "serious offence" to ordinary law-abiding citizens. The ad, which can still be heard on the Metropolitan Police website (mp3), describes a man who "likes to keep himself to himself," doesn’t have a bank card and keeps his curtains closed. [More>>france24.com]

08.11.10 Saudi al-Qaeda leader urges killing of Christians

DUBAI (AFP) August 11 - A Saudi leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has urged sympathizers in the Saudi security forces to kill Christians living in the kingdom, in an audio message released on Wednesday. The purported audiotape, posted on a website used by Islamists, also repeated an often-made call to overthrow the Saudi government and called for attacks on Israel. "Those of you who work in guarding the tyrants of princes or ministers, or the compounds inhabited by Christians, or can reach them, should seek God's help and kill them," said AQAP's number two, Said al-Shihri. Shihri, a former inmate of the US military detention centre in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, claimed that AQAP has received correspondence from members of Saudi armed forces asking for "guidance." He urged the Qaeda followers, however, to make sure that they avoid killing Muslims by mistake during their attacks. "Fear God with regards to Muslims' blood... even if that was a reason to postpone your attack," he said. Shihri also urged any followers in the armed forces to attack Israel from the northwestern tip of Saudi Arabia on the Gulf of Aqaba, across the water from the Israeli resort of Eilat. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.11.10 Radical cleric Bashir, accused of terrorism, could face death penalty

(AFP) August 11 - Controversial Indonesian cleric Abu Bakar Bashir (pictured) has been charged with planning high-profile assassinations and attacks targeting foreigners at luxury hotels in Jakarta, police said Wednesday. Indonesian police said Tuesday top radical Islamist preacher Abu Bakar Bashir could face the death penalty over his alleged role in terror plots with al-Qaeda-linked militants. Bashir, who was arrested on Monday, is accused of funding and training extremists who were planning a wave of attacks in Jakarta. "Our investigators found evidence that Abu Bakar Bashir had been actively involved in terror plots and activities including the training," National police spokesman Edward Aritonang said.

Police have arrested 102 terror suspects, of whom 66 were detained, in a series of raids nationwide since discovering the training facility in Aceh, northern Sumatra island. Aritonang said they found that several Islamic groups from regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) to Jamaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) had also chosen Bashir as the leader for a new terror cell dubbed "al-Qaeda in Aceh." The cell had planned a series of attacks, including using car bombs, on at least two embassies, several international hotels and the police headquarters in the capital. The police discovered "al-Qaeda in Aceh" in February and killed its leader Dulmatin, a JI militant, in March.

08.11.10 Gunmen use kids to lure Iraqi soldiers into trap

BAGHDAD (AP) August 11 - Gunmen burst into a house north of Baghdad early Wednesday, killed three people and then sent the surviving children to lure in soldiers from nearby Iraqi army checkpoint, killing eight. The pre-dawn incident in the volatile Diyala province underlines the unrelenting dangers that members of Iraq's security forces still face as American troops prepare to reduce their numbers by the end of the month and end all combat operations. It also shows the constantly evolving and sophisticated tactics of insurgents that American and Iraqi officials say have been seriously debilitated since the deaths of their top leaders last spring. The town's mayor, Sheik Ahmed Al Zarqushi, told The Associated Press that gunmen broke into the house at about 1 a.m. in the town of Sadiyah, 60 miles (95 kilometers) north of Baghdad and killed a man and two women inside. They then sent the two children to a nearby Iraqi army checkpoint to tell the soldiers about their parents’ bodies. "When the Iraqi army forces arrived and broke into the house, the house blew up killing eight soldiers and wounding four others," he said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.11.10 Spinal fluid test provides Alzheimer's diagnosis

August 10 - Scientists have taken a step towards developing an early screening test for Alzheimer's disease. Researchers in the US have discovered the presence of "biomarkers" in the cerebrospinal fluid which surrounds the spinal cord enabling them to predict with 90 per cent accuracy the presence of the disease. Tests showed that a "signature" consisting of three biomarkers present in the fluid of 90 per cent of patients with Alzheimer's disease was also found in more than a third of "normal" older adults, who showed no sign of mental deterioration. The finding suggests these adults were in the earliest stages of the disease, before clinical symptoms had appeared. In the future, if medicines are developed which can effectively slow its development, the test might be used to select patients for preventive treatment. The findings are published in the journal Archives of Neurology. An editorial said there was now "ample evidence" that analyses of the cerebrospinal fluid had "value." [More>>independent.co.uk]

08.10.10 IAEA says Iran uses new machines to enrich uranium

VIENNA (Xinhua) August 9 - Iran has used a second set of centrifuge machines to enrich uranium to 20 percent purity at its Natanz facility, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said on Monday. The move would make Iranian efforts to enrich uranium to higher levels more efficiently, said the Vienna-based UN nuclear watchdog. Western countries have long suspected Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs under the cover of a nuclear energy program. However, Iran insists its enrichment activity is only for peaceful purpose. Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said on Sunday Iran is ready to participate in negotiations based on a nuclear fuel swap deal. Iran, Turkey and Brazil signed an agreement on May 17, in which Iran committed itself to giving 1,200 kg of its 3.5-percent enriched uranium to Turkey in exchange for 20-percent enriched uranium to be used as fuel in the research reactor in Tehran. [>xinhuanet.com]

08.10.10 Anti-mosque bus ad approved by NYC transit

August 10 - Banner shows plane flying toward World Trade Center towers in close proximity to planned Islamic center. New York City's transit agency has approved a bus advertisement that objects to a planned mosque near ground zero and that depicts a plane flying toward the World Trade Center towers. The ad was paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, an organization that opposes radical Islamic influence in the United States. The group's executive director says she doesn't find the advertisement offensive. "This is a great victory for freedom of speech, and we are grateful to our attorneys David Yerushalmi and Robert Muise for mounting such an effective defense against politically correct censorship," said a statement posted on the group's website, "Stop Islamization of America."

The group sued the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to demand it accept the advertisement, which was approved Monday. MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz says the agency doesn't endorse the advertisement's views.
[More>>w/background links cbsnews.com: See related story,

foxnews.com, August 10, "Ground Zero mosque Imam to represent US"
: He's the Imam behind the controversial Mosque scheduled to be built near Ground Zero, and he will be traveling the world representing the United States. It turns out the Obama administration thinks Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is the right man to participate in a State Department trip to Muslim countries in the Middle East. "The State Department has no responsibility to send fruitcakes around as if they are representatives of America," says former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, who told Fox News that Imam Rauf should be dumped from the trip and that the State Department should investigate how he was included in the first place.

"I am just amazed that he could be selected to represent our country speaking around the world," Bolton observes. Imam Rauf has been a lightning rod for many. While Time magazine called him "The Moderate Imam Behind The 'Ground Zero Mosque,'" he recently refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization and he has said that the United States was partly to blame for the terrorist attacks on 9-11. In an interview with "60 Minutes," in 2001, Rauf claimed that US policies were quote, "an accessory" to the 9-11 attacks.

He also was quoted in a 2008 interview for "Malaysia Matters" saying that "when people feel they've been humiliated, when people feel they've been frustrated, when people feel they've been ignored, when people feel justice is not meted, then they feel the need to conflagrate." The controversy over the Mosque, and the Imam's views, haven't stopped the Obama administration from planning to send him soon as part of a special State Department cultural program, that reportedly includes stops in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi...

08.10.10 Unstable lake threatens mudslide-ravaged China town

ZHOUQU, China (Reuters) August 10 - Engineers battled on Tuesday to drain an unstable lake created by China's deadliest landslide in decades, fearing it could burst and swamp devastated areas where people are still hunting for survivors. At least 702 people died in northwestern Gansu province when a torrent of mud and rocks engulfed swathes of the small town of Zhouqu at the weekend, and another 1,042 are missing, an emergency relief official, Tian Baozhong, told reporters there. Officials have warned for years that heavy tree-felling and rapid hydro development were making the mountain area around Zhouqu more vulnerable to land slips, government reports show. Locals kept waiting and weeping beside buried and destroyed homes where their relatives and friends were trapped, hoping at least to find the remains of loved ones. [More>>thestar.com.my]

08.10.10 Two Pakistani TV channels say shut over anti-Zardari reports

KARACHI, August 10 - Two key Pakistani television channels were shut in southern Pakistan on Tuesday amid protests by ruling party workers over reports against the country's embattled president, the channels said. "Geo television remains off the air in Karachi and other parts of Sindh province," its managing director, Azhar Abbas told AFP. Workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) staged a protest outside its office in Karachi, he said. A graffiti campaign has also been launched against Geo in Karachi while bundles of the Jang daily and English language The News owned by the same group were snatched and burnt in other cities and towns, he added. "The cable operators have been threatened, their offices have been attacked, while hawkers have been warned that copies would be torched if they sell our newspapers," he said. "It is all being done by PPP activists and I am 100 percent sure the government is behind this campaign," Abbas said. It happened only in Sindh, President Asif Ali Zardari's home province. However, the government denied involvement, saying it opposed such attacks. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

08.10.10 As Pakistanis flee flood zone, officials decry lack of international aid

ISLAMABAD, August 10 - Hundreds of thousands of people fled an ever-expanding flood zone Tuesday as Pakistan's leaders called for a greater international response to what they say is the worst natural disaster in the country's history. With rains continuing to fall and rivers surging, authorities were closely watching several key dams that are at or near capacity. The Sukkur dam in the southern province of Sindh was considered especially vulnerable; any breach could unleash a torrent of water that would wipe out entire towns and villages. With the floods bearing down, people were on the move, traveling by car, donkey and on foot to escape the danger zone. The evacuations included areas of Hyderabad, a city of 1.6 million people that is directly in the flood's path. Although the flooding was concentrated in northwestern Pakistan when it began two weeks ago, it has spread southward in recent days to inundate areas of Sindh and southern portions of Punjab. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

08.10.10 Afghan and UK forces seize Taliban stronghold

August 10 - Afghan soldiers have raised their country's flag over a former Taliban stronghold seized in a joint operation with UK forces. Sayedebad in central Helmand province was taken on August 2 by British soldiers from 1st Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment (1 Lancs). The Afghan flag is now flying over the town, and a shura, or gathering of elders, involving more than 60 tribal leaders and government representatives took place yesterday.

The capture of Sayedebad, located between Nad-e Ali and Marjah in Helmand, was a key objective of Operation Tor Shezada, meaning "Black Prince", which began on July 30. Lieutenant Colonel Frazer Lawrence, commanding officer of 1 Lancs, said there had been little resistance from insurgents and described the operation as "a huge success." He said the taking of Sayedebad by NATO and Afghan forces was "a huge step forward" for local people.

08.10.10 Suicide bombers hit Afghan capital

August 10 - Two suicide bombers have attacked a residential area of central Kabul, killing at least five people, police and security sources said. One suicide bomber blew himself up and the other would-be attacker was shot and killed, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry told Al Jazeera. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on Tuesday, which apparently targeted Hart Security and Logistics, a contracting company based in London. "It happened in a part of Kabul that is named the 'ring of steel,' Al Jazeera's Clayton Swisher reported from the Afghan capital, referring to the heavily secured inner-ring of the city. An official with Hart Security in London told Al Jazeera that "there was an incident in the vicinity of our villa in Kabul.  Some locals have been injured. And the police have cordoned off the area."  Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said four suicide bombers equipped with hand grenades, rockets and assault rifles launched the attack against Hart security, which killed "many foreigners." Police and government officials said there were not more than two attackers and no foreigners had been hurt. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related story,

france24.com (AP) August 10, "UN report shows rise in civilian deaths, most insurgents"
: A much-awaited UN report released Tuesday said the number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan rose 31 percent in the first six months of 2010. About 76 percent of the casualties were by anti-government forces. The number of civilians killed or wounded in the Afghan conflict rose 31 percent in the first six months of the year, and anti-government forces caused about three-quarters of the casualties, the United Nations said in a report Tuesday. "The human cost of this conflict is unfortunately rising," Staffan De Mistura, the top UN envoy in Afghanistan, said about the report released in Kabul. "We are worried. We are concerned. We are very concerned about the future because the human cost is being paid too heavily by civilians. This report is a wake-up call." According to the UN report, 1,271 Afghans died and 1,997 were injured mostly from roadside bombings in the first six months of the year. The UN in Afghanistan said anti-government forces were responsible for 76 percent of the casualties up from 53 percent last year...

08.10.10 DPRK proposes joint inspection group with US on warship sinking

PYONGYANG (Xinhua) August 10 - The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday proposed a joint inspection group with the US to investigate the sinking of the South Korean warship "Cheonan" in late March, the official KCNA news agency reported. The DPRK put forward the proposal in the fourth round of the DPRK-US colonel-level military working contact, the report said. According to the KCNA, the contact, held in Panmunjom on Tuesday, was preparing for the DPRK-US general-level talks. The DPRK proposed a Korean People's Army (KPA)-US joint inspection group to "probe into the truth behind the Cheonan case." It suggested the heads of the joint inspection group from the two sides should be high-ranking general-level officers appointed by the KPA and US forces. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

08.10.10 Iran digging mass graves for US troops if they attack

TEHRAN (AP) August 10 - Iran has dug mass graves in which to bury US troops in case of any American attack on the country, a commander of the elite Revolutionary Guard said Tuesday, warning that a military strike would spark an "extensive war" in the region. The announcement appears to be a show of bravado after the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Advolutionary Guard, Gen. Hossein Kan'ani Moghadam, said graves for any attacking US troops have been dug in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan province, where Iran buried Iraqi soldiers killed during the ruinous 1980-88 war between the Islamic republic and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's regime."The mass graves that used to be for burying Saddam's soldiers have now been prepared again for US soldiers, and this is the reason for digging this big number of graves," Moghadam said, according to the semiofficial Fars news agency. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

08.10.10 Iran threatens to drop trade in 'filthy' foreign currencies

(AFP) August 10 - Iran has given warning that it will stop all trade and oil exports in dollars and euros in retaliation against Western sanctions over its nuclear program. "We are going to remove dollar and euro from our foreign currency basket and replace them with [Iranian] rial and all other currencies of the countries which accept to cooperate with us," First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi reportedly told a meeting of education officials. "These currencies are filthy, and we will no longer sell our oil in dollar and euro."  The daily Doniye e-Ektesad did not say when the plan would go into effect or how Iran was going to implement the decision as the second largest exporter in the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), in an energy market dominated by the dollar. Mr. Rahimi also said Iran would limit its purchases from the European Union, which amounted to 27 percent of Iranian imports in 2009, according to official EU statistics. He said this would mainly affect Iran's food imports, such as wheat and soybeans. [More>>news.com.au]

08.10.10 Portugal makes the leap to renewable energy

LISBON, August 10 - Five years ago, the leaders of this sun-scorched, wind-swept nation made a bet: To reduce Portugal's dependence on imported fossil fuels, they embarked on an array of ambitious renewable energy projects — primarily harnessing the country's wind and hydropower, but also its sunlight and ocean waves. Today, Lisbon's trendy bars, Porto's factories and the Algarve's glamorous resorts are powered substantially by clean energy. Nearly 45 percent of the electricity in Portugal's grid will come from renewable sources this year, up from 17 percent just five years ago. Land-based wind power — this year deemed "potentially competitive" with fossil fuels by the International Energy Agency in Paris — has expanded sevenfold in that time. And Portugal expects in 2011 to become the first country to inaugurate a national network of charging stations for electric cars. "I've seen all the smiles — you know: It's a good dream. It can't compete. It's too expensive," said Prime Minister José Sócrates, recalling the way Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister, mockingly offered to build him an electric Ferrari. Mr. Sócrates added, "The experience of Portugal shows that it is possible to make these changes in a very short time." [More>>nytimes.com]


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