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9.05.11 Killer typhoon brings new misery to beleaguered Japan
Tokyo, September 5 -
Rescue teams scour center of county after Typhoon Talas; at least 34 deaths reported. Rescuers and search parties scoured central Japan on Monday as the death toll from the worst typhoon to hit the country in seven years climbed to 34, adding more misery to a nation still reeling from its catastrophic tsunami six months ago. Typhoon Talas, which was later downgraded to a tropical storm, lashed coastal areas with destructive winds and record-setting rains over the weekend before moving offshore into the Sea of Japan. In addition to the 34 dead and 55 missing, thousands were stranded as the typhoon washed out bridges, railways and roads. Tens of thousands of households were still out of electricity and land telephone lines remained disrupted Monday night. The scenes of destruction from the typhoon were another unwelcome reminder of Japan's vulnerability to the forces of nature as the country tries to recover from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. [More>>msnbc.msn.com; See also

japantoday.com, September 5, "Rescue teams search for bodies after typhoon leaves 34 dead, 56 missing"
TOKYO - Rescue teams carried out a painstaking search Monday for the missing after a typhoon pounded western Japan leaving at least 34 people dead and 56 unaccounted for in six prefectures, local authorities said. Torrential rain brought by powerful Typhoon Talas, which made landfall Saturday and was one of the deadliest in years, caused rivers to swell and triggered floods and landslides that swept away buildings, homes and roads. Police and firefighters resumed a search for the missing early Monday, warning that the number of victims was set to rise as the continued threat of landslides and damaged access routes hampered relief efforts. In the deadliest typhoon since an October 2004 storm killed nearly 100 people, floods triggered by Typhoon Talas gave rise to scenes eerily reminiscent of the aftermath of the March 11 tsunami that hit northeast Japan...

9.05.11 88 killed in Pakistan floods
ISLAMABAD, September 5 - At least 88 people have died and around eight million affected by floods in Pakistan's southern Sindh province and eastern Punjab province, a top official said. Zafar Iqbal Qadir, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), said that most of the people who lost their homes in Sindh and Punjab have been provided accommodation at different relief camps set up by the government, Xinhua reported.  Food and other necessities are being supplied to the flood-affected areas, he said.  The army and navy as well as UN agencies are also involved in rescue and relief work.  To prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases like malaria, the government has launched a campaign in the flood-hit areas. Media reports said 1,500 dengue cases were registered in Punjab till Saturday.  The meteorological department has predicted more rains in the coming days, which could further aggravate the situation in the flood-hit areas.  In 2010, Pakistan was hit by an unprecedented flood, which claimed over 2,000 lives and affected some 20 million people.  [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

9.05.11 Electric motor made from a single molecule
September 5 - Researchers have created the smallest electric motor ever devised. The motor, made from a single molecule just a billionth of a meter across, is reported in Nature Nanotechnology. The minuscule motor could have applications in both nanotechnology and in medicine, where tiny amounts of work can be put to efficient use. Tiny rotors based on single molecules have been shown before, but this is the first that can be individually driven by an electric current. "People have found before that they can make motors driven by light or by chemical reactions, but the issue there is that you're driving billions of them at a time - every single motor in your beaker," said Charles Sykes, a chemist at Tufts University in Massachusetts, US.  [More>>bbc.co.uk]

9.05.11 Gunfire, explosions at Syrian military airport as more troops defect
September 5 - Heavy gunfire and loud explosions were heard early on Monday in al-Maza military airport on the outskirts of the Syrian capital amid reports of defections among army forces in the area, an activist told Al Arabiya. Bashir al-Dimashqi, a pro-democracy activist from Damascus, said told Al Arabiya that army helicopters were seen flying near the airport and firing on defected army units. Dimashqi said defections among army forces were not uncommon in the area and that soldiers who refuse orders to fire on protesters are often killed. This past Friday, several army units defected in the Damascus suburbs of Douma, Harasta and Kfar Batna. Meanwhile, Syrian troops and security forces on Monday launched an assault on the central cities of Hama and Homs and shot dead at least two people, activists said. [More>>alarabiya.net; See related story,

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) September 5, "Syria forces in deadly raids, Red Cross visits jail"
Security forces on Monday launched deadly raids on Hama and Homs, as the Red Cross gained access to a Damascus jail for the first time in Syria’s uprising. Activists said troops shot dead six people in assaults on the central cities of Homs and Hama, and that at least two more people were reported killed near the Turkish border. The latest bloodshed came as International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) head Jakob Kellenberger ended a visit to Syria, where rights groups say 10,000 people have been arrested since anti-regime protests erupted in mid-March. The ICRC said Kellenberger met President Bashar al-Assad before winding up his visit, a day after the organisation was for the first time granted access to a Syrian detention centre.

9.05.11 US ultimatum to Swiss banks over tax evaders
ZURICH (AFP) September 5 -
US authorities have given Switzerland time until Tuesday to transmit data from tax evaders in the United States who have stashed assets away in Swiss banks, the SonntagsZeitung reported on Sunday.  The United States has asked for detailed information on US nationals who have hidden their money in Switzerland, the paper said, basing its report on a three-page letter from the US deputy attorney general James Cole, dated August 31, addressed to the Swiss authorities. The letter concerned Switzerland's second biggest bank, Credit Suisse, as well as around another 10 banks, notably Julius Baer, Wegelin, and the cantonal banks of Zurich and Basel, the Sunday paper said.  US authorities want all the data concerning private customers and US foundations which have deposited at least $50,000 (around 35,000 euros) in Switzerland between the period of 2002 and July 2010.  This latest request is not the first by US officials. Switzerland's biggest bank UBS was forced to disclose the names of 4,450 US clients for whom it had offered to conceal funds from the eyes of the US tax inspectors. The bank paid a fine of 780 million dollars to avoid losing its banking license in the United States.  According to an anonymous banker quoted by SonntagsZeitung, Swiss banks risk a fine of around two billion Swiss francs (USD 2.5 billion) to settle this latest tax evasion affair.  [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

9.05.11 Elephant tusks worth RM3mil seized in Port Klang
PORT KLANG, Malaysia, September 5 - Two containers containing 695 elephant tusks worth RM3mil were seized by the Customs Department here on Friday, said Customs assistant director-general Datuk Zainul Abidin Taib on Monday. He said the seizure was the second in the space of a fortnight, with 664 elephant tusks worth RM2.3mil seized in Penang on Aug 19. The seizure in Port Klang weighed about 2,000kg, while the Penang haul weighed 1,586kg, he said. All the tusks were hidden amongst recycled crushed plastic in the 20-foot containers. Both shipments were from Tanzania, and had stopped for transshipment in Malaysia with China being its final destination.  [More>>thestar.com.my]

9.05.11 Turkey: Israeli diplomats must leave country by Wednesday
September 5 - Move marks latest step taken by Turkey against Israel following the release of the UN-commissioned report on the 2010 Gaza flotilla raid. Turkey on Monday informed Israel's top diplomat in Ankara that nearly all senior Israeli embassy personnel must leave the country by Wednesday. Ella Ofek, the deputy to the Israeli ambassador to Turkey and the person currently in charge of the Israeli embassy in Ankara, was summoned to the Turkish Foreign Ministry on Monday. Ofek was informed that all Israeli diplomats ranked above the level of second secretary, including the IDF military attaché, must depart Turkey by Wednesday.  [More>>haaretz.com]

9.05.11 Setttlers set fire to West Bank mosque after Israel demolishes illegal structures in Migron
September 5 -
Palestinian Authority condemns attack, says incident is not the first of its kind to be carried out by settlers against mosques, hours after Israel Police destroys three homes in settlement outpost of Migron.  A mosque in the West Bank village of Qusra, south of Nablus, was set on fire Monday morning, hours after Israeli police officers destroyed three illegal structures in the settlement outpost of Migron. According to Palestinian sources, a group of settlers arrived at the village mosque at approximately 3am, threw burning tires toward it, and broke several of its windows. The event is the latest in a series of clashes between settlers and Palestinians in the region. The Palestinian Authority condemned the attack, stating that it is not the first of its kind to be carried out by settlers against mosques in the West Bank, and called on the Middle East Quartet to get involved. According to the Palestinian news agency Ma’an, settlers also threw rocks at Palestinian vehicles near the settlement of Yitzhar, resulting in several instances of smashed windows. The settler attack comes on the heels of response of the demolition of three buildings early Monday morning in the West Bank settlement outpost Migron, 14 kilometers north of Jerusalem. Around 200 settlers assembled and tried to make their way to the structures, hoping to stop the bulldozers in their tracks. Six youths were arrested.  [More>>haaretz.com]

9.05.11 Iran's Bushehr nuclear plant starts powering electrical grid
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) September 5 - Iran's first nuclear power plant at Bushehr has fed its first kilowatts of electricity into the national grid, the plant's constructor said. The plant's unit, whose total capacity stands at 1000 MW, was launched late on Saturday at a capacity of 65 MW, said Russia's Atomstroyexport company. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in mid-August that the plant would go into full operation by the end of the year. The fuel for Bushehr was provided by Russia, which completed the long-delayed construction of the plant last summer. The plant was expected to start operating in February.  [More>>en.rian.ru]

9.05.11 Three key al-Qaeda leaders held
KARACHI, Pakistan, September 5 - Pakistani security forces have nabbed three key Al Qaeda figures from Quetta, Geo News reported.  In an intelligence driven operation by Inter Services Intelligence in coordination with Frontier Corps Balochistan, a senior al-Qaeda leader, Younis Al Mauritani mainly responsible for planning and conduct of international operations, was nabbed along with two other senior al-Qaeda operatives, Abdul Ghaffar Al Shami (Bachar Chama ) and Messara Al Shami (Mujahid Amino) from suburbs of Quetta, Inter Services Public Relations said in a statement. "Al Mauritani was tasked personally by Osama Bin Ladan to focus on hitting targets of economical importance in United States of America, Europe and Australia. He was planning to target United States economic interests including gas/oil pipelines, power generating dams and strike ships/oil tankers through explosive laden speedboats in International waters." The statement said: "Through this critical arrest yet another fatal blow has been delivered to al-Qaeda. This operation was planned and conducted with technical assistance of [the] United State Intelligence Agencies with whom Inter Services Intelligence has a strong, historic intelligence relationship."  [>thenews.com.pk]

9.04.11 Libyan fighters surround Gaddafi desert bastionb
(AFP) September 4 - 
Forces loyal to Libya's new interim leadership said Sunday they were poised to attack the desert town of Bani Walid, where several of Muammar Gaddafi's sons had taken refuge after fleeing Tripoli.  Fighters for Libya's new rulers began an assault to overrun a bastion of Muammar Gaddafi, as secret files shed light on his fallen regime's links to US and British spy agencies. "We are preparing to enter Bani Walid and we will fight," Mahmud Abdel Aziz, a local spokesman for the National Transitional Council told AFP at a checkpoint in Shishan, just dozens of kilometers (miles) north of Bani Walid. A dozen vehicles, including pick-ups mounted with heavy machine guns, were seen heading further south towards Bani Walid while a commander, Ossama Ghazi, also set off on Saturday, saying: "There is fighting." Abdel Aziz said he expected Bani Walid to "fall within hours." "People there have asked for more time but our patience has worn out."  [More>>france24.com; See related story,

guardian.co.uk, September 4, "Libya: Gaddafi sons and loyalist convoys 'have fled strongholds'":
Rebel leaders in town of Tahouna say convoys seen leaving military bases ahead of assault on town expected in days.  Members of the Gaddafi family were believed to have fled the town of Bani Walid on Saturday after residents raised rebel flags in a show of defiance. Rebel leaders in the nearby town of Tahouna said loyalist convoys had been seen leaving military bases ahead of an assault on the town, expected within days. Some were believed to be the remnants of the Khamis Brigades, which were controlled by Muammar Gaddafi's son Khamis until he was apparently killed in a rebel ambush nine days ago. "There was a surprise movement this afternoon,"

Tripoli's rebel military commander, Abdul Hakim Belhaj, said. "The Gaddafi brigades appear to have abandoned their checkpoints."  "The radio station is under the control of the revolutionary people, and flags have been put up on a lot of the high buildings in Bani Walid." Belhaj said the approaches to the town were not yet fully secure, but estimated that 90% of Bani Walid was now backing the rebels. Three of Gaddafi's sons
Mutassim, Saif al-Islam and Saadi are believed to have been staying in the military bases, while the Warfalla tribe, which controls Bani Walid, debated their future. Rebel officials in Tahouna and Tripoli had told tribal leaders that the town would soon be attacked if the tribe did not surrender the Gaddafis...
9.04.11 Fresh deaths reported across Syria
September 4 - Activists say at least 13 people killed as the Red Cross chief visits Damascus to demand access to prisons.  Syrian pro-democracy activists say at least 13 people have been killed in anti-government protests.The reports of the deaths came on Sunday as the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was due to meet senior Syrian officials in the capital, Damascus. Security forces shot dead eight people in Idlib province in the country's northwestern on Sunday, the Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), which groups anti-government activists on the ground, said. "Security forces, backed by the army, carried out an incursion in Khan Sheikhoun and opened fire," the LCC said.  Security forces had surrounded hospitals "to prevent the wounded from being brought in for treatment," according to the LCC. The group said the total death toll on Sunday was 14, with four people also killed in suburbs of the central city of Hama. Deaths were also reported in Homs and in Jisren on the outskirts of Damascus. Activist groups told Al Jazeera that at least seven people died on Saturday, with four of those killed in Idlib, including one soldier who refused to open fire on protesters. [More>>aljazeera.net]

9.04.11 Iran arrests saltwater lake protesters
September 4 - Iranian officials say 60 people have been arrested in protests calling for the government to save a shrinking lake in the north-west of the country. Lake Orumiyeh, one of the world's largest salt lakes, has lost more than half its surface area in 20 years due to drought and the damming of rivers. A local MP says if the lake disappears it will leave behind 10bn tones of salt and displace millions of people. An emergency rescue plan for the lake was rejected by parliament last month. Correspondents say the government has yet to take a position on the future of the lake. Officials quoted by the official Fars news agency said about 200 people took part in protests in Orumiyeh on Saturday and at least 60 were arrested.  Seyyeh Javad Mahmudi, a senior official in West Azarbayjan province, said demonstrators had not applied for a permit to protest. It was the latest in a series of demonstrations over the lake, which is classified as a biosphere reserve by Unesco. Orumiyeh MP Javad Jahangirzadeh urged protesters to continue their campaign, warning that the drying up of the lake could have an irreparable impact on Iran's ecosystem. "If this lake disappears Iran will be in serious danger and this salt marsh may affect the ecosystem," he said, according to the Tabnak news website.  [More>>bbc.co.uk]

9.04.11 Historic rally buoys Israeli social protest movement
(Reuters) September 4 -
Organizers of Israel’s biggest rally for economic reform said on Sunday they will begin to fold their tents but social change will move on, driven by weeks of protests that brought hundreds of thousands to the streets. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, responding to the latest massive demonstrations by a disgruntled middle class in the country’s business center, Tel Aviv, and other cities, stuck fast to his pledge to implement change but not at all costs. “People now know their strength, it is something addictive and it cannot be stopped,” Yonatan Levy, one of the leader of Israel’s new social movement, said on Israel Radio. Organizers said more than 450,000 people took part in Saturday’s protests, maintaining pressure on Netanyahu's government to lower living costs and promote social equality. Police put the number of demonstrators at around 300,000. Rallies on that scale in Israel, with a population of 7.7 million, have been held over issues of war and peace. The grassroots protest movement has swollen since July from a cluster of student tent-squatters into a countrywide mobilization of Israel’s middle class.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

9.04.11 Afghan Taliban free four Turkish engineers
GHAZNI, Afghanistan, September 4 -
Four Turkish engineers kidnapped by Afghanistan's Taliban more than eight months ago were freed overnight after intervention by tribal elders. The men, taken captive in December in eastern Paktia province, were handed to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the neighboring province of Ghazni, an AFP reporter in the area said. "We were kidnapped by the Taliban eight-and-a-half months ago. We're released on the occasion of Eid by Ameer-ul Momineen Mullah Mohammad Omar," one of the captives told AFP, referring to the Taliban leader. The Turk, who gave his name only as Imam, said no ransom was paid and "we were not tortured" while in captivity, before being rushed to Ghazni city.  [More>>thenews.com.pk]

9.04.11 Kurdish militants kill four in southeast Turkey
DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) September 4 - Turkish war planes launched fresh strikes on Kurdish guerrilla positions in northern Iraq on Sunday while in southeast Turkey, Kurdish militants killed two soldiers and two village militia members in separate weekend attacks. The two soldiers were shot dead on Saturday in Tunceli in the latest clash in a province where Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas have been active in recent months.The soldiers came under fire while patrolling in the rural Geyiksuyu area, state-run Anatolian news agency reported, quoting a statement by the provincial governor’s office. The two militia men were shot dead on Sunday morning, according to security officials. They had been on patrol in the mountainous southeast province of Hakkari, which borders Iraq.  Village militia are often recruited from shepherds to guard the remote settlements.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.02.11 US is set to sue a dozen big banks over mortgages
September 1 -
The federal agency that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac is set to file suits against more than a dozen big banks, accusing them of misrepresenting the quality of mortgage securities they assembled and sold at the height of the housing bubble, and seeking billions of dollars in compensation. The Federal Housing Finance Agency suits, which are expected to be filed in the coming days in federal court, are aimed at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, among others, according to three individuals briefed on the matter. The suits stem from subpoenas the finance agency issued to banks a year ago. If the case is not filed Friday, they said, it will come Tuesday, shortly before a deadline expires for the housing agency to file claims.  The suits will argue the banks, which assembled the mortgages and marketed them as securities to investors, failed to perform the due diligence required under securities law and missed evidence that borrowers’ incomes were inflated or falsified.

When many borrowers were unable to pay their mortgages, the securities backed by the mortgages quickly lost value. Fannie and Freddie lost more than $30 billion, in part as a result of the deals, losses that were borne mostly by taxpayers. In July, the agency filed suit against UBS, another major mortgage securitizer, seeking to recover at least $900 million, and the individuals with knowledge of the case said the new litigation would be similar in scope. Private holders of mortgage securities are already trying to force the big banks to buy back tens of billions in soured mortgage-backed bonds, but this federal effort is a new chapter in a huge legal fight that has alarmed investors in bank shares. In this case, rather than demanding that the banks buy back the original loans, the finance agency is seeking reimbursement for losses on the securities held by Fannie and Freddie. [More>>nytimes.com]

9.02.11 Scotland Yard arrests LulzSec hacker 'Kayla'
September 2 - Scotland Yard has arrested two men who together used the online pseudonym "Kalya" and were central figures in the notorious hacker groups Anonymous and LulzSec. Security specialists say Kayla was among those behind the hacking earlier this year of Californian-based Internet security firm HB Gary, which sells services to companies and government agencies, the Wall Street Journal reported. The attack, which involved breaking into the company's computers and releasing tens of thousands of internal emails, represented a watershed in the tactics of those associated with Anonymous. London's Metropolitan Police said the arrests of a 24-year-old and a 20-year-old are part of an ongoing investigation in collaboration with the FBI and other law enforcement bodies in the UK and overseas, into the activities of the online hacktivist groups.  [More>>foxnews.com]

9.02.11 Libya's transitional council outlines 20-month democratic roadmap
LONDON  (AFP) September 2 - A council tasked with drafting a constitution for Libya should be elected within eight months, and presidential and legislative polls would take place in early 2013, a rebel leadership official said Friday.  "We have outlined a clear road plan, a transition period of about 20 months," Guma al-Gamaty, the National Transitional Council’s representative in Britain, told BBC radio.  He said the process of transition was already under way and that the NTC would relocate to Tripoli within a few days.  For the first eight months the council would lead Libya, at the end of which time a council of about 200 people would have been directly elected, Gamaty said. "This council ... will take over and oversee the drafting of a democratic constitution, that should be debated and then brought to a referendum," he said. Within a year of the council being put in place, final parliamentary and presidential elections should take place, he said. "So we have eight months and a year that will take us to final elections with both parliamentary and presidential elections," said Gamaty. "And then hopefully by the end of about 20 months the Libyan people will have elected the leaders they want to lead their country."  [>alarabiya.net]

9.02.11 Libya warned smugglers are looting Gaddafi's guns
September 2 -
West fears heatseeking surface-to-air missiles will fall into terrorists' handsLibya must urgently secure weapons hoarded by the Gaddafi regime amid growing fears that smugglers are exploiting the chaos there to loot hundreds of portable missiles and other small arms, western officials have warned. The US and NATO are pressing the National Transitional Council to make the issue a priority because of concerns that the trade has already begun, with reports that some African mercenaries who fought for Colonel Muammar Gaddafi are returning home laden with weapons. One anxiety is that Gaddafi's remaining stockpile of shoulder-launched missiles could end up in the hands of terrorists. The UK's National Security Council raised the issue with Libyan rebels in March and the Guardian understands that US officials based in Benghazi are now taking a lead in helping to identify where the caches may be, and how best to protect them.   [More>>guardian.co.uk]

9.02.11 'Many killed' in protests across Syria
September 2 - Activists say at least 17 people shot dead by security forces, as the EU steps up pressure on the country's leaders.  Activists say at least 17 people have been killed by security forces across Syria, as protesters took to the streets under the slogan "death rather than humiliation." The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said eight people were killed when security forces intervened to disperse protests in several suburbs of Damascus, including Douma and Arbeen, on Friday. Three other people died in Homs province and three in the eastern city of Deir z-Zor, the UK-based group said. Earlier on Friday, European Union governments agreed to ban imports of Syrian oil in a move to strengthen economic pressure on President Bashar al-Assad and his government. EU foreign ministers met in Poland on Friday, where they discussed a plan first announced two weeks ago to impose sweeping new economic sanctions against Syria, including an embargo on oil imports. David Cameron, the British prime minister, expressed his support for new sanctions against Damascus on Thursday following the "Friends of Libya" conference in Paris. "We need tougher sanctions, more travel bans, more asset freezes, a clear message that the regime and what it is doing is unacceptable," he said.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

9.02.11 Israel: We hope to mend Turkey ties, but will not apologize for Gaza flotilla
September 2 -
A senior source in the Prime Minister's Office insists IDF soldiers did not intend to kill flotilla activists and it regrets the loss of life, but does not apologize for it. A senior source in the Prime Minister's Office stated that Israel has adopted the United Nations report on the 2010 Gaza Flotilla with the reservations that were presented by the Israeli representative to the UN committee, Yoseph Tshachnover. "The report is a professional, serious, and extensive document," said the senior source. "The flotilla was a blatant attempt to break through the naval siege on Gaza. The Palmer Report ratifies the legality of the naval siege and Israel's right to enforce it."  Turkey decided to downgrade its diplomatic ties with Israel to the lowest possible level, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said earlier on Friday, meaning that Israel's ambassador in Ankara would be expelled, following Israel's continued refusal to apologize for a 2010 raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla. Additionally, Davutoglu announced the cancellation of all defense contracts between Israel and Turkey, adding that Ankara would initiate legal action against the Gaza blockade in international courts.  [More>>haaretz.com]

9.02.11 Taliban kidnap 30 Pakistani boys in Afghanistan: officials
PAKISTAN, September 2 - Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan have kidnapped more than 30 Pakistani boys who had mistakenly crossed the unmarked border from the country's lawless northwest, officials said on Friday.  They said the incident took place on Thursday after the group of boys, aged between 12 and 18, left the Gharkhi area of Pakistan's Bajaur tribal region during celebrations marking the Muslim Eid holiday. "These boys inadvertently crossed into Afghanistan while picnicking on the second day of Eid and were kidnapped by militants," senior local administration official Syed Nasim told AFP. Bajaur administration official Islam Zeb said the boys had been abducted by a militant group allied with Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, who led insurgents in Bajaur but is believed to have fled to Afghanistan in 2010.  "The kidnappers belonged to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's (TTP) Faqir Muhammad group, which used to operate in Bajaur," said Zeb.  Two local intelligence officials confirmed those reports. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

9.02.11 France says Palestinian bid for recognition 'dangerous'
(AFP) September 2 - French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Friday that a Palestinian attempt to win state recognition from the United Nations later this month could trigger a "futile and dangerous diplomatic confrontation." French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Friday that a bid by Palestinians to win UN recognition as a state would risk triggering a dangerous diplomatic confrontation. Palestinians, frustrated by the failure of the frozen US-sponsored peace process with Israel, plan to campaign for recognition at the UN General Assembly later this month. "France hopes that they use the occasion for reopening the path to dialog rather than risking a futile and dangerous diplomatic confrontation," Juppe told an annual gathering of French ambassadors.

France is hoping that the 27 countries of the European Union can establish a common position on Palestinian statehood. "The 27 countries should speak with one voice," said Juppe ahead of a meeting later Friday of European foreign ministers in Poland which is expected to debate the question. Washington's push for an elusive peace deal through direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians has foundered on Israel's refusal to stop expanding Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem and the West Bank, occupied since 1967. But the United States insist that Palestinians will only achieve meaningful statehood through a revival of direct peace talks and has warned it will veto the bid in the Security Council.  [>france24.com]

9.02.11 US economy created no job growth in August, data show
WASHINGTON, September 2 -
First time since 1945 that government has reported net monthly job change of zero. Employment growth ground to a halt in August, as sagging consumer confidence discouraged already skittish U.S. businesses from hiring, keeping pressure on the Federal Reserve to provide more monetary stimulus to aid the struggling economy. Nonfarm payrolls were unchanged last month, the Labor Department said Friday. It was the first time since 1945 that the government has reported a net monthly job change of zero. The August payrolls report was the worst since September 2010, while nonfarm employment for June and July was revised to show 58,000 fewer jobs.  "The bottom line is this is bad," Diane Swonk, chief economist with financial services firm Mesirow Financial, told CNBC Friday. Despite the lack of employment growth, the jobless rate held steady at 9.1 percent in August. The unemployment rate is derived from a separate survey of households, which showed an increase in employment and a tick up in the labor force participation rate. While the jobs report underscored the frail state of the economy, the hiring slowdown probably will not be seen as a recession signal as layoffs are not rising that much.  [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

9.01.11 Syrian raid in Hama continues; attorney general resigns in protest
(Reuters) September 1 -
Syrian forces raided homes in Hama for the second consecutive day on Thursday, residents said, hours after the city’s attorney general declared on YouTube he had resigned in protest against the suppression of street demonstrations. Five months of protests have failed to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, who inherited power from his father and retains the loyalty of the core of his armed forces, which are comprised mostly of members of the Alawite minority, Assad’s sect. But demonstrators have been encouraged by the fall of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and rising international pressure on Syria, including a planned European Union embargo on the oil industry, which would disrupt a vital source of income. Residents of Hama said security police and state militiamen, known as shabbiha, raided homes overnight in the al-Sabouniya and al-Marabet districts; the night before, troops backed by tanks arrested dozens in two other neighborhoods of the city.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

9.01.11 'US raids kill al-Qaeda fighters' in Yemen
September 1 - Yemeni officials say up to 30 suspects dead following a drone attack in the southern Abyan province.  Yemeni military and medical officials say at least 30 al-Qaeda suspects have been killed in US air attacks and clashes with Yemeni soldiers in the southern province of Abyan. A military official confirmed on Thursday the deaths of the al-Qaeda-linked fighters, but refused to comment on whether there was any US involvement. The air raids freed a Yemeni military unit besieged in Abyan for several weeks by al-Qaeda groups. A medical official said four Yemeni military officers were also killed in clashes on Wednesday and Thursday...Yemen has repeatedly said its forces are making gains against groups who are suspected of ties to al Qaeda and have taken over two large cities in Abyan, a flashpoint province. But the army has yet to regain control since the region was plunged into almost daily violence some months ago, bloodshed that has driven away some 90,000 residents. [Full story>>aljazeera.net]

9.01.11 Seven dead in NW Pakistan ambush
(AFP) September 1 - Gunmen
have killed seven people, four from the same family, in an ambush of a vehicle in Pakistan's tribal north-west, in a possible sectarian attack. The vehicle carrying eight passengers was on its way from the town of Ali Zai in Lower Kurram to Parachinar on Thursday as the nation celebrated the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, local administration chief Javedullah Khan told AFP today. The victims were all from the minority Shi'ite community, he said. "Gunmen hiding behind the bushes along the road opened fire when (the vehicle) reached Makhizai area," he said, giving the death toll and adding that the eighth passenger was injured. A local security official confirmed the attack in the lawless region, which is often troubled by sectarian violence. No-one immediately claimed responsibility and Khan said authorities had not ruled out the motive being a family vendetta.  [More>>news.com.au]

9.01.11 US money is Taliban's No. 2 revenue source
September 1 - It's no secret that war is expensive, but a report out Wednesday says the U.S. has wasted billions in Iraq and Afghanistan. More tax dollars will go down the drain unless the government makes big changes. CBS News correspondent David Martin reports that in ten years of war, the US has paid contractors $206 billion to do everything from building schools to guarding diplomats. Today, a blue ribbon commission put a number on how much has been lost not to violence but to mismanagement and corruption. Commission on Wartime Contracting Chairman Christopher Shays says: "We are wasting between $30 and $60 billion during the course of our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan." Shays says $30 billion in waste can be documented; Everything from leasing four-wheel vehicles at "grossly exorbitant rates" of about $40,000 a year, to a $124 million prison renovation that was never finished. The larger $60 billion figure includes an estimate of how much money lined the pockets of corrupt officials and even the enemy. The commission was told that except for the opium harvest, US contracts were the Taliban's biggest source of funds. A separate investigation estimated $360 million has ended up in the hands of the Taliban.  [More>>cbsnews.com]

8.31.11 Some companies pay their CEOs more than Uncle Sam, study says
August 31 -
It has become a bipartisan article of faith in some quarters that the income tax on US corporations must be lowered. But for many large US companies, the burden of US taxation pales in comparison with what they pay their chief executives, according to a study released Wednesday by the Institute of Policy Studies, a liberal think tank. Of last year’s 100 highest-paid corporate executives in the United States, 25 earned more in pay than their company recorded as a tax expense in 2010. Those 25 firms reported average global profits of $1.9 billion. Among the 25 were Verizon, Bank of New York Mellon, General Electric, Boeing and eBay. "These individual CEOs are being rewarded for presiding over companies that dodge taxes," said Chuck Collins, one of the study’s co-authors and a senior scholar at the Institute of Policy Studies. Eighteen of the 25 firms last year operated subsidiaries in countries that the US Government Accountability Office and other groups have identified as tax havens, one of the report’s authors said.  [More>>washingtonpost.com]

8.31.11 Turkey's need for Israel's UAVs may unite once close allies
August 31 - Ankara censures Israel for its attacks on Gaza, but does not hesitate to bomb the Kurdish PKK movement in much the same manner. Turkey's patience in the face of frequent attacks by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK ) ended last week, when it began a war targeted at areas with high concentrations of members of the movement, which is defined as a terrorist organization. On Thursday the Turkish army announced that it had killed 100 PKK members in areas along the Iraqi border and inside Iraq as well, a week after the PKK killed eight Turkish soldiers. Turkey censured Israel for its activities in Gaza, but operates in a similar manner against the PKK: It penetrates Iraq's air space and bombs villages or sites suspected of housing PKK members, causing the deaths of innocent people, including women and children. And like Israeli diplomats, Turkey's ambassador was summoned to a reprimand: the Iraqi foreign minister,

Hoshyar Zebari, demanded of the ambassador that his country cease its military activities on Iraqi soil immediately. Members of the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament added the demand for an apology for Turkey's attacks in its country to this reprimand. It appears that Ankara, which brought the term "apology" to the forefront of the new diplomatic discourse, will have to deal with this itself now. According to Turkish sources, in this campaign the Turkish army is using unmanned aerial vehicles acquired from Israel, to which Turkish-made cameras are attached. It turns out that the amount of UAV's in Turkey's hands is insufficient, and it is seeking to purchase more, along with other military equipment, for immediate delivery.  [More>>haaretz.com]

8.31.11 BP frozen out of Arctic drilling as Rosneft turns to ExxonMobil
August 31 - BP was left out in the cold yesterday after its US rival ExxonMobil struck an agreement to explore Russia's oil-rich Arctic continental shelf with Rosneft, moving in just months after the collapse of a similar pact between the state energy giant and the UK group. Exxon's agreement
billed somewhat more modestly as a "strategic co-operation agreement" in contrast to BP's failed "strategic global alliance" will see it jointly explore the same Arctic blocks that BP had planned to exploit as part of its deal earlier his year. Part of the $3.2bn (£2bn) earmarked for exploration under the new deal much of which will come from Exxon will also go towards activities in the Black Sea, Exxon and Rosneft said. The Arctic licenses alone cover around 126,000 square meters, an area roughly the size of the UK North Sea. The agreement was signed by Rosneft president, Eduard Khudainatov, and ExxonMobil development company president, Neil Duffin, in the presence of the Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. ExxonMobil's chief executive, Rex Tillerson, who was also present at the signing in Sochi on the Black Sea coast, said the pact built on the US group's longstanding engagement with Rosneft over the country's Sakhalin-1 project. [More>>independent.co.uk]

8.31.11 Deadly explosions rip through Chechen capital
August 31 -
Eight people, seven of them police, have been killed in two suicide bomb attacks in Chechnya's capital Grozny during celebrations marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. A man detonated an explosive device on Tuesday when a police patrol tried to detain him. A second blast occurred soon afterwards. The state-run RIA news agency said two suicide bombers were behind the blasts. The explosions killed seven police officers and an emergency services worker, and wounded at least 16 people. The scene of the explosion, in a densely populated district of Grozny, 50 meters from a local parliament building, was cordoned off by police.  Residents told the Reuters news agency they heard gun shots after the explosions. A decade after Russian forces drove separatists out of power in Chechnya, the Kremlin is still struggling to contain Islamist armed groups fighting in the north Caucasus.  The violence has now spread from Chechnya to other mainly Muslim regions. None of the Islamist rebel leaders claimed responsibility for the attack. "Today is the most sacred day for all Muslims. On that day a trained and zombified bandit attempted to carry out a terrorist attack," Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader Ramzan Kadyrov told RIA. "The bandits have shown their real face, which only proves that this evil should be eradicated."  [>aljazeera.net]

8.31.11 Suicide car bomb kills 10 in southwest Pakistan
QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) August 31 - A suicide car bomber attacked Shiite Muslims in southwestern Pakistan on Wednesday as they were heading home after morning prayers at the start of an Islamic holiday. The blast killed 10 people, officials said.  The attack occurred in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Baluchistan is believed to be home to many Taliban militants who have targeted Shiites in the past. Extremist Sunni Muslim groups like the Taliban view Shiites as heretics. The bomber was apparently targeting a Shiite mosque but could not get close enough because the road was blocked, said Quetta police chief Ahsan Mahboob.   [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

8.31.11 Headgear ban at NY amusement park sparks scuffles
NEW YORK (AP) August 31 -
A ban on religious and other head coverings on rides at a suburban amusement park on Tuesday sparked scuffles leading to 15 arrests. Rye Playland, just north of New York City, was crowded with roughly 3,000 visitors from a Muslim tour group celebrating the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Islam's holy month of fasting, Ramadan. Disputes broke out after women wearing traditional Muslim scarves called hijabs tried to get on rides that prohibit any head coverings for safety reasons, Westchester County officials said. The women were offered refunds. But then male and female visitors started to argue among themselves, according to a statement from the county executive's office. Two park rangers who intervened were injured and were hospitalized.

The tour operator, the Muslim American Society of New York, had been advised of the rule numerous times before the event, parks Deputy Commissioner Peter Tartaglia said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. The group did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday night.
Tartaglia defended the policy against head coverings on rides as a safety precaution. He said scarves can become entangled in mechanical parts, choke riders or fly off and land in a ride's tracks. He faulted the tour operator for not ensuring the visitors understood the policy. "We respect the religious purpose of wearing it, but we have several rides that you cannot go on with any sort of headgear," he said. The park entrance was closed for two hours as police responded to the scene. More than 6,000 people were in the park at the time. Tartaglia said all the people arrested were later released. Westchester County officials would not say what the charges against them were.  [>

8.31.11 UK University asked to inform on 'vulnerable' Muslim students
LONDON, August 31 - The British Government has introduced new anti-terror guidance under which university staff are being asked to inform the police about Muslim students who are depressed or isolated and hence "vulnerable to extremism." "University staff, including lecturers, chaplains and porters, are being asked to inform the police about Muslim students who are depressed or isolated under new guidance for countering Islamist radicalism," the Guardian daily reported. It said the move has resulted in deep discomfort among university lecturers and student union officials who wish to combat terrorism but say the new strategy is an infringement of students' civil liberties.  Officials implementing the government's revamped Prevent strategy are training front line university employees in how to spot students vulnerable to extremism.  Documents handed to staff claim that students who seem depressed or who are estranged from their families, who bear political grievances, or who use extremist websites or have poor access to mainstream religious instruction could be at risk of radicalization.  [More>>indianexpress.com]

8.30.11 Syrian forces kill seven people on Eid al-Fitr: activists
NICOSIA, Cypress, August 30 -
Syrian forces killed seven people Tuesday when they opened fire in several towns to disperse protesters who emerged from mosques on the first day of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr feast, activists said. The Local Coordination Committees said in a statement that "seven people were killed on the first day of Eid al-Fitr in Syria, including four in the town of Al-Harra and two in Inkhil, in the Daraa province, and one in the (central) city of Homs." Pro-democracy protests that have rattled the autocratic regime of President Bashar al-Assad first erupted in mid-March in the southern province of Daraa. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights meanwhile reported that "three people were killed and nine wounded when security forces opened fire to disperse a huge demonstration in Al-Harra after the (first) Eid al-Fitr prayers" that mark the end of the holy fasting Muslim month of Ramadan.  [More>>thenews.com.pk]

8.30.11 Libya troops held civilians as human shields
NEW YORK (AP) August 30 -
Libyan troops loyal to Moammar Gaddafi forced civilians to act as human shields, perching children on tanks to deter NATO attacks, human rights investigators said. It was part of a pattern of rapes, slayings, "disappearances" and other war crimes that they said they found. Physicians for Human Rights was able to get a team of interviewers into the embattled city of Misrata from June 5-12, just after Libyan rebel forces expelled Gaddafi's loyalists. Interviewing dozens of survivors of the two-month siege, the Boston-based PHR found widespread evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including summary slayings, hostage-taking, rapes, beatings, and use of mosques, schools and marketplaces as weapons depots.

"Four eyewitnesses reported that (Gaddafi) troops forcibly detained 107 civilians and used them as human shields to guard military munitions from NATO attacks south of Misrata," said the report, which was released Tuesday. "One father told PHR how (Gaddafi) soldiers forced his two young children to sit on a military tank and threatened the family: 'You'll stay here, and if NATO attacks us, you'll die, too.'" Physicians for Human Rights was able to get a team of interviewers into the embattled city of Misrata from June 5-12, just after Libyan rebel forces expelled Gaddafi's loyalists.

Interviewing dozens of survivors of the two-month siege, the Boston-based PHR found widespread evidence of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including summary slayings, hostage-taking, rapes, beatings, and use of mosques, schools and marketplaces as weapons depots.  "Four eyewitnesses reported that (Gaddafi) troops forcibly detained 107 civilians and used them as human shields to guard military munitions from NATO attacks south of Misrata," said the report, which was released Tuesday. "One father told PHR how (Gaddafi) soldiers forced his two young children to sit on a military tank and threatened the family: 'You'll stay here, and if NATO attacks us, you'll die, too.'" In at least one instance, PHR reported, three sisters
ages 15, 17 and 18 were raped at Tomina, and their father subsequently slit their throats as an "honor killing" to lift the shame from his family.  [More>>koreaherald.com]

8.30.11 Libya leader gives Gaddafi forces surrender deadline
TRIPOLI, Libya (Reuters)  August 30 -
Libya's interim leader on Tuesday gave forces loyal to deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi a four-day deadline to surrender towns still under their control or face military force.  As the hunt for Gaddafi himself goes on, Libyan officials accused neighboring Algeria of an act of aggression for admitting his fleeing wife and three of his children. Algeria's Foreign Ministry said Gaddafi's wife Safia, his daughter Aisha and his sons Hannibal and Mohammed had entered Algeria on Monday morning, along with their children.  [More>>thestar.com.my; See related stories,

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, August 30, "Libyan rebels demand Algeria return Gaddafi family" : TRIPOLI, Libya - 
Libyan rebels are demanding that Algeria return Moammar Gaddafi's wife and three of his children for trial after they fled, raising tensions between the neighboring countries.  Algeria's decision to host members of the Gaddafi clan is an "aggressive act against the Libyan people's wish," said Mahmoud Shammam, information minister in the rebels' interim government...Rebels also said another Gaddafi son, Khamis, was likely killed last week in a battle south of Tripoli.  "We are determined to arrest and try the whole Gaddafi family, including Gadhafi himself," Shammam said late on Monday night. "We'd like to see those people coming back to Libya." Rebel leaders said they were not surprised to hear Algeria welcomed Gaddafi's family. Throughout Libya's six-month uprising, rebels have accused Algeria of providing Gaddafi with mercenaries to repress the revolt...

alarabiya.net, August 30, "Algeria would hand over Gaddafi to ICC as Libya 'final battle' approaches"
Algeria would hand over Muammar Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court if he entered the North African country, a local newspaper reported on Tuesday, a day after Algiers gave safe haven to members of his family, as the rebels' military chief said the final battle in Libya was imminent...Quoting Algerian sources, the el-Shorouk newspaper said on its website that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika had told government ministers during a cabinet meeting on Monday that Algeria would respect international law on all matters related to the Libyan conflict. "Should Gaddafi try to enter Algerian soil amid talk that the rebels are tightening their grip on the border with Tunisia, and Egyptian (border) restrictions, Algeria would arrest him and hand him over to the International Criminal Court in compliance with international agreements," the newspaper said, according to Reuters. It said the decision was not a reaction to the toppling of the Gaddafi regime but was in accordance with the ICC’s arrest warrants for Gaddafi, his son Seif al-Islam and his intelligence chief over accusations they committed crimes against humanity.

france24.com (AFP) August 30, "Gaddafi still commanding troops, NATO says" :
NATO believes that Muammar Gaddafi still has some command over troops in Libya, and has vowed to continue bombing forces loyal to the fugitive leader until they are no longer a threat to civilians, a military spokesman said Tuesday. NATO vowed Tuesday to keep bombing Muammar Gaddafi forces until they stop attacking civilians, warning that the elusive Libyan leader was still commanding some troops. While rebels sought to talk Gaddafi troops into surrendering in their last stronghold of Sirte, the Western military alliance said its air strikes were now focused near the town, which is the birthplace of the runaway colonel.  "Despite the fall of the Gaddafi regime and the gradual return of security for many Libyans,

NATO's mission is not finished yet," Colonel Roland Lavoie, the operation's military spokesman, told a news briefing via video-link from his headquarters in Naples, Italy. "We remain fully committed to our mission and to keeping the pressure on the remnants of the Gaddafi regime until we can confidently say that the civilian population of Libya is no longer threatened," he said.
  While the whereabouts of Gaddafi remain a mystery, Lavoie said the veteran strongman was still able to direct the movement of troops and weapons, operate radars and fire munitions such as surface-to-surface missiles. "Essentially, he is displaying a capability still to exercise some level of command and control," the spokesman said days after rebels took control of Tripoli...

news.sky.com, August 30, "Gaddafi 'heads south' as family members flee" : Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was last seen heading south of Tripoli after holding meetings in the capital on Friday, the bodyguard of one of his sons tells Sky News. The 17-year-old
a guard for Khamis Gaddafi told Sky's chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay he saw the former dictator at his youngest son's compound at the end of last week. Col. Gaddafi arrived in a car and met Khamis and his daughter Aisha before heading in convoy towards Sabha, said the bodyguard. He also confirmed earlier reports by rebel commanders that Khamis had been killed in an air strike about 37 miles (60km) from Tripoli. Ramsay said the bodyguard confirmed Khamis died when his armored Toyota Land Cruiser was hit by a missile, which was apparently launched from a NATO helicopter. NATO says it has "no information" on Col. Gaddafi's son...

dailymail.co.uk, August 30, "Mad Dog of the desert: Gaddafi 'escaped rebel guns and fled to Sahara stronghold with band of loyal fighters four days ago" : (Report includes maps,  photos & Gaddafi family tree)
Deposed Libyan despot Muammar Gaddafi evaded capture by rebel soldiers bombarding his Tripoli compound and fled into the desert four days ago, it was claimed today. The former dictator, nicknamed Mad Dog, is believed to have headed to Sabha, a Sahara stronghold in the middle of the vast North African country. A captured bodyguard of the tyrant’s military commander son Khamis claims Gaddafi met the senior soldier at a compound in the capital at around 1.30pm on Friday...Sabha, 480 miles south of Tripoli, has been used in the past by Gadaffi as a staging post to greet foreign dignitaries in a traditional Bedouin tent like the one he was raised in. It is also, along with his hometown of Sirte, one of the few remaining settlements that have remained loyal to him. Gaddafi is thought to have escaped Tripoli with a band of faithful fighters – although it is not known how many have joined him. Claims of Gaddafi’s final Tripoli meeting and exodus to Sabha were revealed by Sky News this afternoon after they tracked down the detained bodyguard...
8.30.11 Google users targeted by forged security certificate
August 30 -
Security researchers have discovered a forged internet security certificate designed to allow hackers to spy on Google users’ private emails and other communications. The forgery was first reported by an Iranian web user, which has raised fears it may be part of efforts by the government in Tehran to monitor dissidents. The "man in the middle" attack also further undermines general confidence in the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), a security protocol used to authenticate all kinds of sensitive internet traffic, including online banking. SSL certificates are meant to act as an independent third party to verify that communication between a website and a browser are secure. The forgery was issued to the unknown attackers on 10 July by DigiNotar, a Dutch SSL certificate authority. For more than two months it would have allowed them to set up fake versions of Google websites that appeared genuine to users and their web browsers. This would in turn have allowed the hackers to collect usernames and passwords for their targets’ genuine Google accounts. The forged certificate was valid for google.com and all its sub-domains, including mail.google.com. "Today, when I tried to login to my Gmail account I saw a certificate warning in Chrome," said alibo, a Google user who said he was in Iran and was first to report the attack.[>telegraph.co.uk]
8.30.11 26 militants, 10 soldiers killed in Yemen fighting
SANAA, Yemen (AP) August 30 -
A new round of fierce fighting in southern Yemen killed 10 soldiers and 26 militants, military officials said Monday, the latest battle in a government campaign to retake territory from al-Qaeda-linked fighters. Another 38 militants and about 30 soldiers were wounded in the clashes that took place near the city of Dufas in the southern province of Abyan, they said. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations, said the fighting took place over the past 24 hours. Among the military dead was a colonel. The US and other Western powers have looked on with concern as al-Qaeda gains a strong foothold in southern Yemen.

The US considers the Yemen spur of al-Qaeda as one of the most active in worldwide terror. The "Christmas bomber" who tried to detonate explosives hidden in his underwear on a plane as it landed in Detroit in December 2009 was said to have been trained in Yemen.
Yemen has been wracked by internal conflict for months over popular protests demanding the resignation of longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The al-Qaeda militants have taken advantage of that to take control of several towns and districts in the southern part of the country. Saleh is still in Saudi Arabia, recovering from severe wounds suffered in a June attack on his palace but refusing to resign despite heavy international pressure, leaving the nation in political limbo. On Monday Saleh called again for a presidential election, the state news agency said. The Yemen opposition has turned down such proposals in the past, demanding Saleh’s ouster.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

8.30.11 Report: 'Indiscriminate bombing' in Sudan
August 30 -
Amnesty and Human Rights Watch accuse government of bombing civilians and blocking aid workers in South Kordofan state.  Researchers from both groups traveled to the region and reported government planes dropping bombs in populated areas. "No evident military targets were visible near any of the air strike locations," they wrote.  The bombing has reportedly wounded dozens of people, including a number of women and children. More than 150,000 people have fled their homes since June, with many hiding in caves, abandoned homes and other makeshift shelters. Khartoum has been fighting armed groups for months in South Kordofan, the state which includes the Nuba Mountains region. Sudanese officials insist that their bombing raids have only targeted rebels. Daffa-Alla Elhaj Ali Osman, the Sudanese ambassador at the United Nations, told Al Jazeera last month that rebels were responsible for civilian casualties.

But the report from Amnesty and HRW notes that many of the bombs used are unguided - in some cases, simply rolled out of cargo planes - and cannot be directed at military targets. "Use of weapons in a civilian area that cannot accurately be directed at a military objective makes such strikes inherently indiscriminate, in violation of international humanitarian law," the groups said in their report. The Sudanese government has blocked international aid agencies from entering South Kordofan, and insists that all aid to the region be delivered through the Sudanese Red Crescent. Food supplies are rapidly dwindling, with the World Food Program saying it only has enough stockpiled to feed 23,000 people for ten days. Researchers said many people have been forced to supplement their dwindling food aid with wild berries and leaves.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.30.11 Floodwaters from storm isolate 11 Vermont towns
BRATTLEBORO, Vt., August 30 - Eleven small towns in Vermont remained cut off on Tuesday due to flooded roads and bridges, and emergency workers here and in upstate New York readied for another day of rescue and recovery in the wake of Hurricane Irene’s torrential rains. A convoy of trucks from the Federal Emergency Management Agency was to arrive in Vermont shortly after daybreak, bringing food, water and other supplies for at least seven hard-hit towns. The agency planned to use helicopters to deliver the supplies to cut-off residents, according to Vermont Emergency Management. More than 250 roads and 30 state bridges in Vermont remained fully or partly closed from the flooding, which could start again in some spots as larger rivers, like the Connecticut, continued to rise. In some communities of the Catskills and other rural areas of New York, electrical workers, limited on Monday by floodwaters that were still rising, hoped to gain access for the first time to downed power lines and other damaged infrastructure. A long stretch of the New York State Thruway remained closed for the morning commute due to flooding.  [More>>nytimes.com]

8.29.11 Syrian forces 'kill six' in crackdown
August 29 -
Activists say many others wounded in fresh offensive amid reports of widespread defections by Syrian military personnel.  Syrian security forces have killed at least six people and wounded dozens in raids across the country, as tanks and armored vehicles rolled into various flashpoint areas, according to human rights groups. A child was among five people killed when troops and security forces opened fire during search operations in the Sarmin district of the northwest province of Idlib, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights [SOHR] said on Monday.  A sixth person was killed when security forces raided his home at dawn in the town of Qara outside Damascus during an arrest operation, the Syria-based Local Coordination Committees reported. "There are many wounded because of the indiscriminate shooting in the streets,"Rami Abdulrahman, the head of SOHR, said. He said some 40 people, whose names were on a "wanted list," were detained.

Widespread defections

Opposition activists say security forces have also surrounded the central town of Rastan after reports of widespread defections by soldiers there. A video posted on video-sharing website YouTube, which Al Jazeera cannot independently verify, appears to show 12 army officers switching sides. At least 40 light tanks and armored vehicles, and 20 buses of troops and military intelligence, deployed early on Monday at the highway entrance of Rastan, 20km north of Homs and began firing heavy machine guns at the town, two residents said. Activists and residents have been reporting increasing defections in the Syrian army since the demise of Muammar Gaddafi's rule over Libya, Reuters reported. They claim there have been desertions in the eastern Deir ez-Zor province, the northwestern Idlib province, the Homs countryside and at the outskirts of Damascus. A statement published on the Internet by the Free Officers, a group that says it represents defectors, also said "large defections" had occurred in Harasta; the first reported defections around the capital, where Assad's core forces are based.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.29.11 Libyan revolutionaries free 10,000 from Gaddafi prisons
(AP) August 29 -
A rebel military spokesman says rebels have freed more than 10,000 from Muammar Gaddafi's prisons since entering Tripoli last week. A rebel military spokesman says rebels have freed more than 10,000 from Muammar Gaddafi's prisons since entering Tripoli last week. But Ahmad Bani said that some 50,000 people are unaccounted for. Gaddafi's regime sought to break the uprising that broke out in mid-February by locking up thousands of people. Many have been released, but evidence has emerged that regime forces executed dozens of prisoners as rebels seized the capital. Bani told reporters in the eastern city of Benghazi Sunday that rebels are still searching for Gadhafi. Rebels say many Gadhafi loyalists have fled to Sirte, headquarters of his tribe and his last major bastion. [>gulfnews.com; See related stories,

alarabiya.net, August 28, "
Libyan reberlsd say Sirte will fall within days; NTC chief warns Gaddafi still a danger" : BENGHAZI / DOHA - It will take Libyan rebels no more than 10 days to take control of Sirte, Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown and last major stronghold along the Mediterranean coast, a rebel commander told Reuters on Sunday. Libyan rebel chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil, meanwhile, has warned Gaddafi still posed a danger inside and outside of Libya and urged no let-up in international action against the strongman. "Gaddafi defiance of the coalition forces still poses a danger, not only for Libya but for the world. That is why we are calling for the coalition to continue its support," Abdel Jalil said at a meeting of chiefs of staff of countries militarily involved in Libya, including Qatar, according to AFP. Rebel troops have advanced to within 60 miles of Sirte from the east and are also approaching from Misrata in the west, and will fight for Sirte if negotiations now under way on handing them control of the town fail, he said. "Our aim isn't bloodshed, our aim is liberation," Colonel Salem Muftah al-Refaidy told Reuters during a visit to Benghazi. "We don’t want more bloodshed, especially among the civilians
children, elderly, women."...

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) August 29, "Gaddafi's wife, two sons and daughter in Algeria"
: ALGIERS - Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi’s wife, two sons and a daughter entered Algeria on Monday, the foreign ministry in Algiers announced. "The wife of Muammar Gaddafi, Safiya, his daughter Aisha, and sons Hannibal and Mohammed, accompanied by their children, entered Algeria at 08:45am (0745 GMT) through the Algeria-Libyan border," the ministry said in a statement published by APS news agency, giving no information on the whereabouts of Gaddafi himself. "This information has been brought to the attention of the United Nations Secretary General, the security council president and Mahmud Jibril, president of the executive council of the National Transitional Council (NTC)," the interim administrative body set up by the rebels fighting Gaddafi for power in Libya, the ministry statement said. Earlier Monday the ministry published another statement announcing that Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci had met Jibril on the margins of an Arab League meeting, though Algeria has not formally recognized the NTC as the ruling power in Libya. So far, Algiers has adopted a stance of strict neutrality on the conflict in its neighbor, leading some among the rebels rebels to accuse it of supporting the Gaddafi regime. [end]

8.29.11 Flooding 'an ongoing concern' amid Irene's destruction
BATTLEBORO, Vermont, August 29 - As a much-weakened Irene entered Canada, it left parts of the U.S. East Coast still grappling Monday with dangerous floodwaters, widespread power outages and stranded residents. At least 24 deaths in nine states were blamed on Irene, which fizzled to a post-tropical cyclone and headed over eastern Canada on Monday. Flooding was ongoing, particularly in New England, said Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  "A lot of the activities are moving into recovery phases, but we are still very concerned about the flooding," he told reporters in a conference call. Southern states were affected primarily by power outages and the effects of storm surge, particularly on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where Highway 12 had been chopped into pieces in several place by the pounding surf.  [More>>cnn.com]

8.29.11 Officials: 26 militants, 10 soldiers killed in Yemen fighting
(AP) August 29 -
Military officials say 26 Al Qaeda militants and 10 soldiers, including a colonel, have been killed in fierce fighting in southern Yemen. The officials said Monday that 38 militants and 30 soldiers also were injured when al-Qaeda-linked militants intercepted advancing army troops in Dufas, west of Zinjibar, capital of Abyan province.They say the fighting took place over the past 24 hours. Yemen's militants have taken advantage of the country's political turmoil to seize several towns in the nearly lawless south. Weeks of ground fighting and airstrikes could not dislodge them. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military rules.  [>foxnews.com]

8.29.11 Dozens killed in suicide attack on Baghdad mosque
(AFP) August 29 -
Dozens of people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a Sunni mosque in western Baghdad on Sunday evening, an official said. Khaled al-Fahdawi, an MP from the western Anbar province, was among the dead. A suicide bomber killed 28 people including a member of parliament and wounded 37 others at a Sunni mosque in western Baghdad on Sunday evening, an interior ministry official said. "A suicide bomber entered Umm al-Qura mosque and blew himself up, killing 28 people and wounding 37," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Among the dead were Khaled al-Fahdawi, an MP from western Anbar province allied with the Sunni-backed Iraqiya bloc, he said. Elderly men and children were also among the casualties. The Umm al-Qura mosque, located in the Ghazaliyah neighborhood, is the main headquarters of the Sunni Endowment, which is responsible for maintaining Sunni Muslim religious sites across Baghdad. The head of the Umm al-Qura mosque is Ahmed Abdulghafur al-Samarrai, who is reputed for his sermons against violent extremism. Sunday's attack came towards the end of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, just days before the Eid festival that follows it.  [>france24.com]

8.28.11 Libyan rebels seize eastern town
(AFP) August 28 - LIBYAN
rebels have rejected an offer by Muammar Gaddafi to negotiate and said they have captured the eastern town of Bin Jawwad, forcing regime loyalists to flee after days of fighting. The opposition fighters have threatened to advance westward on the coastal road toward Mr Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte if tribal leaders there don't agree to surrender peacefully. The fighting in the east comes as the rebels consolidated their hold on the capital, Tripoli, some 560km to the west of Bin Jawwad. With Mr. Gaddafi on the run, his spokesman Moussa Ibrahim called The Associated Press on Saturday to say Mr. Gaddafi is still in Libya and offering to have his son, al-Saadi, lead talks with the rebels on forming a transitional government. In the past, Mr. Gaddafi referred to the rebels as "thugs" and "rats." Mr. Ibrahim said he saw Mr. Gaddafi on Friday in Libya but would not give more details. 

Mahmoud Shammam, the information minister in the rebels' transitional council, rejected the offer. "I would like to state very clearly, we don't recognise them. We are looking at them as criminals. We are going to arrest them very soon," he said at a news conference. "Talking about negotiations is a daydream for what remains of the dictatorship." Meanwhile, more signs emerged of arbitrary killings of detainees and civilians by Libyan forces as the rebels swept into Tripoli earlier this week, including some 50 charred corpses found in a makeshift lockup near a military base that had been run by the Khamis Brigade, an elite unit commanded by Gaddafi's son, Khamis. Mabrouk Abdullah, who said he survived a massacre by Mr. Gaddafi's forces, also told The Associated Press that guards opened fired at some 130 civilian detainees in a hangar near the military base, and fired again when prisoners tried to flee.  [>news.com.au]
See also

cbsnews.com (AP) August 28, "Libyan rebels reject offer for Gaddafi talks"
: TRIPOLI, Libya -
Libyan rebels on Sunday rejected an offer by Muammar Gaddafi to negotiate and said they have captured the eastern town of Bin Jawwad, forcing regime loyalists to flee after days of fighting. With his regime crumbling, Gaddafi is on the run, but his chief spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told The Associated Press the Libyan leader is still in Libya...

8.28.11 Syria rejects Arab League statement as Turkey says lost trust in Damascus
August 28 -
Syria on Sunday rejected an Arab League statement demanding an end to the bloodshed in the country as the organization’s chief waited for a green light to travel to Damascus and as Turkish President Abdullah Gul said he has lost confidence in Syria. In a diplomatic note to the organization's secretariat seen by AFP, Syria said the statement amounted to "a clear violation ... of the principles of the Arab League charter and of the foundations of joint Arab action." The Syrian delegation protested that the declaration was issued "despite the meeting having closed with an agreement that no statement would be published or statement made to the press," according to AFP. The statement contained "unacceptable and biased language," the note said, adding Damascus would act as if it had never been published.

The Arab League announced a peace initiative aimed at solving the crisis in Syria where more than 2,000 people have been killed in anti-regime protests, to be delivered in person by its secretary general, Nabil al-Arabi. The 22-member organization’s foreign ministers at a meeting on Saturday night called in the statement for an "end to the spilling of blood and (for Syria) to follow the way of reason before it is too late." They expressed their "concern faced with the grave developments on the Syrian scene which have claimed thousands of victims and wounded." The foreign ministers also called for respecting “the right of the Syrian people to live in security and of their legitimate aspirations for political and social reforms.”

...Turkish President Abdullah Gul, meanwhile, said he has lost confidence in Syria. "In today’s world there is no place for authoritarian rule, one-party governments and closed regimes," Gul said in an interview with Turkeys state-run Anatolia news agency. "These will either be changed by force or by the initiative of those who rule."  [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

8.28.11 3 Syrian opposition forces banned from travel
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) August 28 -
Syrian authorities pursuing a crackdown against President Bashar Assad's critics banned three prominent opposition figures from leaving the country Sunday, and security forces killed two people and arrested several others in northern Syria, activists said. Michel Kilo, Loay Hussein and Fayez Sara were on their way to neighboring Lebanon to take part in a televised panel discussion when they were told by Syrian immigration authorities at the border that they were prohibited from leaving out of concern for their safety in Lebanon.  Hussein denounced what he called an attempt to keep them from speaking on television. The debate was to be aired by the US-funded Al-Hurra television. "This decision negates all talk about transparency and reforms," said Sara. "It is unjustified and illegal," he added. In northern Syria, security forces killed two people and detained scores of others during raids and house-to-house arrests in the Khan Sheikon village. The Local Coordination Committees activist network and the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the deaths. They said similar arrests were made in the eastern Deir el-Zour and reported intermittent gunfire that erupted in several areas across the country. Snipers shot dead one man in the Damascus suburb of Saqba overnight after troops deployed in the restive area, they said.  [More>>foxnews.com]

8.28.11 Syrian opposition decides to take up arms against Assad regime
August 28 -
Leader of Revolutionary Council tell London-based As-Sharq al-Awsat that the only solution to regime's violence is armed uprising.  The leader of the Revolutionary Council of the Syrian Coordination Committees, Mohammad Rahhal, said in remarks published Sunday that the council took the decision to arm the Syrian revolution. Since mid-March pro-democracy protests have engulfed most of Syria calling for political and economic reforms as well as for the ousting of Syrian president Bashar Assad. "We made our decision to arm the revolution which will turn violent very soon because what we are being subjected to today is a global conspiracy that can only be faced by an armed uprising," he told the London-based As-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper. Circumstances no longer allow dealing peacefully with the regime's "crimes," he added. "We will use whatever arms and rocks ... We will respond to the people's calls to arm the revolution," he said. "Confronting this monster (the Syrian regime) now requires arms, especially after it has become clear to everyone that the world only supports the Syrian uprising through speeches," he added. Rahal lashed out some Arab regimes and described them as "cowards." Assad's troops have harshly cracked down on protests against almost five decades of Baath Party rule, killing over 2,200 people and triggering a wide-scale international condemnation.  [>haaretz.com]

8.28.11 Floodwaters surge as Tropical Storm Irene lashes Northeast
NEW YORK, August 28 -
Trees toppled and streets flooded Sunday morning as Irene lashed some of the biggest cities in the Northeast with wind gusts and torrential rains. Even as Irene weakened to a tropical storm, authorities in the region warned that its impact was not waning. "We're not out of the woods yet. Irene remains a large and potentially dangerous storm," US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told reporters. Officials said the storm had knocked out power to more than 4 million people and was responsible for at least 15 deaths in six states. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said flooding in his state was widespread and advised residents to stay indoors.  Streets in downtown Millburn, New Jersey, saw major flooding when the Rahway River overflowed early Sunday morning, said Lt. Peter Eakley, the town's deputy emergency management coordinator. "It's crazy. ... The water is moving between buildings, up, down, all sorts of different directions," Rich Graessle told CNN's iReport. In New York City's lower Manhattan, the Hudson River overflowed, sending massive amounts of water spilling over jogging paths and pouring into at least one nearby apartment building. Water also lapped over the banks of the city's East River early Sunday, but later receded. CNN affiliate WCBS reported serious flooding in Brooklyn. Irene left streets looking barren and desolate in "the city that never sleeps." Shelves upon empty shelves greeted shoppers at stores. Caution tape barricaded the turnstiles at subway stops. [More>>cnn.com]

8.28.11 Five killed, 17 injured in train attack in SW Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (Xinhua) August 28 -
At least five people were killed and 17 others injured when a passenger train was attacked by unknown gunmen Sunday afternoon in southwest Pakistani province of Balochistan, reported local Urdu TV channel Duniya. The attack took place at about 1:30pm local time when a Quetta-to-Peshawar passenger train was attacked near Mach area, some 60 kilometers southeast of Quetta, capital of Balochistan. Many of the injured were in critical condition. At this point, it is not known how many people were involved in the attack and how they had attacked the train. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. Railways, gas pipes, power transmission towers and other infrastructures are frequently attacked in Balochistan. Over the past one year or so, several bomb attacks on railway tracks in the province have been reported, but none of them have caused any casualties as the bombs exploded at [the] wrong time. [>xinhuanet.com]

8.28.11 Suicide bomber strikes near US base in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan, August 28 -
A suspected suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden vehicle detonated Sunday while driving towards Afghanistan's biggest US-run military base, authorities said. The explosion appeared to have happened prematurely on a road about five minutes' drive from Bagram Air Field, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of the capital Kabul, the interior ministry said.  "Again the enemies of Afghanistan failed to achieve their goal. A suicide bomber with his bomb-filled car detonated before reaching his target," the statement said. The Taliban claimed credit for the bombing but said it targeted a convoy of "American spies."  [>thenews.com.pk]

8.28.11 Six killed in attacks across Iraq
(AFP) August 28 -
Bomb and gun attacks across Iraq on Sunday killed six people, among them three policemen, and wounded another nine, security officials said. In the deadliest attack, militants in military uniforms killed three people in a car at a fake checkpoint they set up west of the restive ethnically mixed city of Baquba, an Iraqi army colonel in the provincial security command center said. In another incident in Diyala province, of which Baquba is the capital, two policemen were killed when gunmen opened fire at their checkpoint in Al-Saadiyah town.  And in the main northern city of Mosul, a magnetic "sticky bomb" attached to a police car in the center of the city killed a policeman and wounded four others, local police said.

Meanwhile in Baghdad, three people were wounded by two separate roadside bomb attacks in Zafraniyah and Shuala districts, an interior ministry official said. Two policemen were also wounded when explosives attached to a motorcycle blew up near a petrol station in town of Tuz Khurmatu, 175 kilometers (110 miles) north of the capital. Sunday's violence comes after al-Qaeda's front group in Iraq threatened a campaign of 100 attacks, starting in mid-August, to avenge the death of Osama bin Laden in a US special forces raid in Pakistan in May. Violence is down across Iraq from its peak in 2006 and 2007, but attacks remain common. A total of 259 people were killed in violence in Iraq in July, according to official figures, the second-highest figure in 2011.  [>france24.com]

8.27.11 Hurricane Irene hits, raising fears of storm surge
WILMINGTON, N.C. August 27 -
After several anxious days of dire forecasts that forced much of the East Coast into unprecedented levels of lockdown, a weakened but still ferocious Hurricane Irene made landfall on Saturday morning along the southern coast of North Carolina. It announced itself with howling winds, hammering rains and a gradual, destructive move northward toward the battened-down cities of Washington, New York and Boston.  Shortly after daybreak in Nags Head, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, surging waves ate away at the dunes, while winds peeled the siding from vacated beach houses — as if to challenge the National Hurricane Center’s early morning decision to downgrade Irene to a Category 1 hurricane, whose maximum sustained winds would reach only — only — 90 miles an hour, with occasional stronger gusts. "Some weakening is expected after Irene reaches the coast of North Carolina," an update by the hurricane center at 8am said. "But Irene is forecast to remain a hurricane as it moves near or over the mid-Atlantic states and New England." The massive storm was expected to push out to sea again later Saturday and then head north toward New York, where the specter of an electrical shutdown was added to the list of potential consequences. The region prepared to face powerhouse winds that could drive a wall of water over the beaches of the Rockaway Peninsula and between the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan.  [More>>nytimes.com]

8.27.11 Syrian forces kill 3 as tens of thousands protest
(Reuters) August 27 -
Syrian forces killed at least three protesters as tens of thousands of people marched again to demand the removal of President Bashar al-Assad on a major religious occasion, activists and residents said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), citing witnesses, said more demonstrations had broken out in Damascus overnight and on Saturday morning than at any time since the pro-democracy uprising erupted in March. Two of the three were killed as Assad’s forces fired live ammunition to disperse demonstrators streaming from mosques in the city of Qusair and Latakia port after al-Qadr prayers, the night Muslims believe the Prophet received the Koran. At the al-Rifai mosque in the upscale Damascus Kfar Sousa district, where the main secret police headquarters are located, witnesses said hundreds of security police and militiamen loyal to Assad attacked worshipers who tried to demonstrate as al-Qadr prayers finished around dawn.

"Some of the ‘amn’ (security) went on the roof and began firing from their AK-47s to scare the crowd. Around ten people were wounded, with two hit by bullets in the neck and chest," a cleric who lives in the area told Reuters by phone.
SOHR, headed by dissident Rami Abdelrahman, said Syrian forces fired at a funeral turned protest on Saturday in the town of Kfar Roumeh in the northwestern Idlib province bordering Turkey, injuring at least ten. The organization said another man was killed in raids and house-to-house arrests in the nearby town of Kfar Nubul. "Besides the killings, another tragedy in Syria is the tens of thousands of people arrested since the beginning of uprising, many of whose whereabouts are unknown," Abdelrahman told Reuters.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

guardian.co.uk, August 27, "
Syrian protesters demand UN help to oust Bashar al-Assad" : Opposition activists voice anger over failed attempts to pass a UN security council resolution. On the first Friday protests since Libyan rebels reached Tripoli with the assistance of NATO forces, Syrian protesters have called for international intervention in their struggle against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.  Until now, most Syrian protesters have insisted they do not need outside help, but on Friday in the western city of Homs video footage showed protesters carrying signs telling the UN its silence was killing them, as they expressed their anger at failed attempts to pass a security council resolution in the face of Russian and Chinese objections.  The lack of a UN resolution has been the target of online activists too, with Twitter users trying to make the term #WakeUpUNSC trend popular. A growing number of opposition activists are now calling for a no-fly zone or an international protection force. This stands in stark contrast to just weeks ago when most Syrians refused any form of international action other than sanctions and the cutting of diplomatic ties with Assad and his supporters. But after almost six months of a brutal state crackdown, during which more than 2,200 people have been killed, the image of Libyan rebels in Tripoli's Green Square has led some to change their position. At least two more protesters were killed on Friday as security forces shot at demonstrators in areas including Douma, close to Damascus, and the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. Activists called it the "Friday of patience and determination." ...

8.27.11 Algeria denies report that Gaddafi entered in convoy from Libya
(Reuters) August 27 - Denial follows Egyptian report quoting Libya rebel official as saying Gaddafi, or his senior officials, fled Libya in a convoy of armored cars. Algeria's Foreign Ministry denied on Saturday a report that a convoy of six Mercedes cars had crossed its border from Libya. Egypt's state MENA news agency had quoted a source from the rebel Military Council in the border city of Ghadames as saying the convoy of armored cars crossed the frontier on Friday morning protected by the commander of a desert nomadic military unit that had operated under Muammar Gaddafi. The agency quoted the source as saying that the convoy may have been transporting senior Libyan officials or even Gaddafi himself. "This information (about the convoy entering Algeria) has no basis and we categorically deny it," Algeria's state APS news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

Algeria's Foreign Ministry denied on Friday that it was linking its recognition of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) to a commitment from the council to crack down on Islamist militants. A government source in Algeria had told Reuters on Thursday that it would not yet grant recognition to the NTC, and that it wanted to be certain that Libya's rulers were engaged in fighting al-Qaeda's north African wing. Earlier in the day, Egypt's state news agency quoted a Libyan rebel source as saying a convoy of six armored Mercedes cars which crossed from Libya into Algeria may have been carrying Gaddafi. The chairman of Libya's rebel National Transitional Council, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, later said the rebels have no concrete information on the location of Gaddafi or his sons. Rebel fighters who took control of the Libyan capital this week say Gaddafi and his sons are in hiding and have offered a $1.3 million reward and amnesty from prosecution for anyone who kills or captures him.  [>haaretz.com; See related story,

dailymail.com, August 27, "
Gaddafi 'seen in Zimbabwe on Mugabe's private jet' as Libya rebels march on dictator's home town" :
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has fled Libya to Zimbabwe on a jet provided by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, it was claimed today, as rebels began the march on his home town. President Mugabe's political opponents claim their spies saw Gaddafi arrive in the country on a Zimbabwe Air Force jet in the early hours of Wednesday morning. They say the Libyan dictator was taken to a mansion in Harare's Gunninghill suburb, where agents from his all-female bodyguard were apparently seen patrolling the grounds. "There's no doubt that Gaddafi is here as a 'unique guest' of Mugabe," a spokesman for Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change told the Sun. If he has left Libya, Gaddafi could have fled from an airbase in his home town of Sirte, which has been bombarded by NATO warplanes in recent days. The colonel's bunker in the coastal town was blitzed by cruise missiles fired by British Tornado jets on a long-range sortie last night...
8.27.11 Libyan rebels seize key border with Tunisia
August 27 -
Rebels defeat Gaddafi loyalists at a border crossing with Tunisia, as UN says security remains major concern in capital. Libyan rebels have defeated Muammar Gaddafi loyalists at a border crossing with Tunisia, seizing control of a key checkpoint that could open supply routes into the country. Rebel forces raised their flag late on Friday on the Ras Ajdir border post, the primary crossing between Libya and Tunisia, in a win that will allow them to bring in supplies and aid to the capital, Tripoli. A Tunisian official said loyalists fled as more than 100 rebels arrived. "There were not any real clashes; the loyalists took off and the rebels' flag was raised at the border post," the AFP news agency quoted the official as saying. 

Al Jazeera's Sue Turton, reporting from Tripoli on Saturday, said the capture was an "incredibly important" gain for the rebels. "It shows that they are managing to get rid of what is left of Gaddafi troops in that area, but more importantly it opens a supply route now totally across from the west into Tripoli," she said. In the capital, rebels were consolidating their control on Saturday, but the United Nations said security remained a key concern, with fears of reprisal attacks in a country now awash with small arms. A street-by-street rebel onslaught has pushed most of the remnants of Gaddafi’s army to the southern outskirts of Tripoli, Al Jazeera's correspondents reported, but his forces were still resisting in other areas of the country. Al Jazeera's Turton said the rebels' main focus now in central Tripoli is to clear out any pro-Gaddafi loyalists that may still be hiding.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.27.11 'Mass killing' evidence found in Libya
August 27 -
Sky's chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay has seen evidence in Tripoli of a mass killing which eyewitnesses have blamed on pro-Gaddafi forces.

:: Warning - video contains images of burnt bodies and skeletons

He said he had counted as many as 53 executed bodies in a burnt-out warehouse. Ramsay was shown the building where eyewitnesses who escaped the massacre said people were murdered by pro-Gaddafi forces on August 23 and 24. He said he had also seen the bodies of two soldiers, with their hands tied behind their backs. "Locals believe they refused to fire on the people being held inside the warehouse, and were then murdered," he said.  Salim lives nearby and heard shouting and gunfire at the farm building which he said was next door to a military base. He said that as many as 150 civilians were killed but around ten people escaped. Salim said the military had not allowed anyone to enter the building recently, but local residents investigated after the troops left. He said he believed the massacre was carried out by pro-Gaddafi forces. The discovery of the mass grave came as fears started to grow about the humanitarian situation in Libya.  Earlier, dozens of dead bodies were found at a hospital near Tripoli. They were patients apparently abandoned in their beds at the Abu Salim building when fighting broke out last week. Most of the victims were men and several had been shot, according to reports.  [More>>news.sky.com]

8.27.11 US official: Al-Qaeda's No. 2 killed in Pakistan
WASHINGTON (AP) August 27 - Al-Qaeda's second-in-command, Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, has been killed in Pakistan, delivering another big blow to a terrorist group that the US believes to be on the verge of defeat, a senior Obama administration official said Saturday. The Libyan national who was the network's former operational leader rose to al-Qaeda's No. 2 spot after the U.S. killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden during a raid on his Pakistan compound in May. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last month that al-Qaeda's defeat was within reach if the US could mount a string of successful attacks on the group's weakened leadership. "Now is the moment, following what happened with bin Laden, to put maximum pressure on them," Panetta said, "because I do believe that if we continue this effort we can really cripple al-Qaeda as a major threat."  Al-Rahman was killed Aug. 22 in the lawless Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan, according to the official said, who insisted on anonymity to discuss intelligence issues.

The official would not say how al-Rahman was killed. But his death came on the same day that a CIA drone strike was reported in Waziristan. Such strikes by unmanned aircraft are Washington's weapon of choice for killing terrorists in the mountainous, hard-to-reach area along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Al-Rahman, believed to be in his mid-30s, was a close confidant of bin Laden and once served as the al-Qaeda chief's emissary to Iran. Al-Rahman was allowed to move freely in and out of Iran as part of that arrangement and has been operating out of Waziristan for some time, officials have said. Born in Libya, al-Rahman joined bin Laden as a teenager in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. After Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, they found evidence of al-Rahman's role as operational chief, US officials have said. [>msnbc.msn.com; See other details,

abcnews.go.com (AP) August 27, "US official: Al-Qaeda's No.2  killed in Pakistan" :
...A US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to summarize the government's intelligence on al-Rahman, said al-Rahman's death will make it harder for Zawahiri to oversee what is considered an increasingly weakened organization. "Zawahiri needed Atiyah's experience and connections to help manage al-Qaeda," the official said...
8.27.11 Algeria military school bombing kills 18, wounds 26: defense ministry
ALGIERS (AFP) August 27 -
Eighteen people were killed and 26 wounded in a suicide bombing at the Cherchell military academy west of Algiers, the defense ministry said Saturday revising its own toll given hours earlier. The ministry said 16 officers and two civilians were among the dead. Twenty wounded had been discharged but six people were still in hospital, one in critical condition. The wounded were evacuated to hospitals in the nearby towns of Sidi Ghiles and Tipaza, as well as to the army’s central Ain-Naadja hospital in Algiers. The ministry had earlier revised a toll given Friday by hospital officials of 18 dead and dozens of wounded, saying 11 people died.

No reason was given for the latest revision of the toll. Saturday’s figures were the first to be published by an official source, a day after the twin suicide attack about 100 kilometers (60 miles) west of the Algerian capital around 10 minutes after the breaking of the Ramadan fast. The ministry branded the attack "appalling and terrorist" and attributed it to "criminal gangs" targeting objects that would be of media interest. According to El Watan newspaper, the suicide bombers tried to cause as many casualties as possible by targeting the officers’ mess just as all the soldiers were assembled to break the fast. The bombers, one on a motorcycle, set off explosions a few seconds apart in front of the entrance to the officers’ mess hall, the paper said. Ramadan is generally considered a good time for holy war, or jihad, by Islamist groups.  [More>>alarabiya.net]

8.27.11 ISPR says 25 martyred in Chitral attack
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, August 27 -
The Pakistan Army has confirmed that at least 25 security forces personnel including 16 Frontier Scouts were killed when 200-300 terrorists from Afghanistan attacked seven FC posts in Chitral early Saturday morning. 20 terrorists were killed when security forces retaliated, however two border posts were overrun by the terrorists. According to an ISPR press release, reinforcements have been sent to beef up the security posts.  Reportedly terrorists from Swat, Dir and Bajur organized by Fazlullah and Maulvi Faqir Muhammed with local Afghans attacked security forces in Chitral. Since their expulsion from their native areas, the terrorists have organized themselves in Kunar and Nooristan provinces with the support of local Afghan authorities.  Due to scanty presence of NATO and ANA forces along the Pak-Afghan border, the terrorists are using these areas as safe havens and have mounted repeated attacks against security forces posts and isolated villages. It is pertinent to mention that since last year accurate intelligence about large concentration of terrorists from Pakistan and their local Afghan supporters in Kunar and Nooristan provinces has been shared with NATO and Afghan authorities but no worth while action has been taken against the terrorists and attacks against Pakistani border posts have continued with impunity.  [>thenews.com.pk; See other details, timesofindia.indiatimes.com, August 27, "36 Pakistani soldiers killed."]

8.27.11 Gunment abduct, kill retired colonel in Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) August 27 -
A police official says gunmen kidnapped and killed a retired army colonel in northwestern Pakistan, and a police officer died trying to rescue him. Umer Hayat says the gunmen seized Col. Shakeel Ahmad on Saturday as he was on his way home from morning prayers in the garrison city of Kohat. Hayat says police intercepted the gunmen's car at a checkpoint and engaged them in a firefight. One police officer was killed and two others were wounded. The gunmen escaped and later shot dead Ahmad and abandoned his body alongside a road. No group has claimed responsibility, but the Pakistani Taliban have often targeted soldiers and police in the country.  [>arabtimesonline.com]

8.27.11 Heavy casualties feared in Afghan car bombing
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan, August 27 -
Heavy casualties are feared following a suicide car bombing Saturday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of south Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province, police said.  "The blast took place near Kabul Bank and the telecommunications office some 50 meters from the governor's office. As a result, six police and Afghan army were wounded plus four other civilians," said deputy police chief Kamaluddin Sherzad, quoting initial reports.  "Heavy casualties are feared." He added that many people had gathered at Kabul Bank to collect their salaries ahead of the Eid festival that marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, although it was not clear exactly what the bomber was targeting. The Taliban and other militants have frequently targeted government employees during their ten-year-long insurgency.  [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

8.27.11 Soldiers killed in suspected al-Qaeda ambush
(AFP) August 27 -
Seven soldiers were killed and six wounded on Saturday when suspected al-Qaeda fighters opened fire on a military convoy in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan, according to military sources. Seven Yemeni soldiers were killed and six others wounded on Saturday in clashes with suspected al-Qaeda forces in the southern province of Abyan, a military officer said. The fighting took place near Dofes, a village south of the provincial capital of Zinjibar that has been occupied by extremist elements since the end of May, the source said.  "Al-Qaeda fighters hidden in a wooded mountainous area opened fire on army units heading from Dofes to Zinjibar to try to rejoin the 25th Mechanized Brigade," which is encircled by the Islamists, the source said. "Seven of our soldiers were killed and six others wounded in clashes which continued for several hours," he added.  [More>>france24.com]
8.26.11 Japan nuke plant radiation leak exceeds Hiroshima
TOKYO (AP) August 26 -
Japan's nuclear agency says the amount of radioactive cesium leaked from a tsunami-hit nuclear plant is about equal to 168 of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says the estimate released Friday was requested by a parliamentary panel. But it said a simple comparison between an instantaneous bomb blast and long-term accidental leak is impossible. The report estimated for each of the 16 isotopes leaked from "Little Boy" and 31 of those detected at the Fukushima plant but didn't provide the total. NISA has said the radiation leaked from Fukushima was about one-sixth of what the Chernobyl disaster released in 1986. "Little Boy" was dropped on the Japanese city at the end of World War II.  [>thejakartapost.com]

8.26.11 NATO jets strike pro-Gaddafi forces near Sirte
(AP) August 26 -
British warplanes bombed a large bunker Friday in Muammar Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, his largest remaining stronghold, as NATO focused on loyalist forces battling advancing anti-regime fighters in the area.  British warplanes struck a large bunker Friday in Moammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte, his largest remaining stronghold, as NATO turned its attention to loyalist forces trying to hold back advancing Libyan rebels in the area. The airstrikes came a day after fierce clashes erupted in the Libyan capital, which remained tense as rebels hunted for the elusive leader and his allies, detaining suspected loyalists and raising concerns about human rights violations.Rebels were searching Friday for the remnants of pro-Gaddafi forces in Tripoli’s Abu Salim neighborhood, which saw very heavy fighting the day before.

The rebels had detained seven men and one woman and loaded them into a pickup truck in a rural area between Abu Salim and the airport, saying Gaddafi forces might be trying to blend in with civilians. "Things are still not stable and we are arresting anybody we find suspicious and taking them to the military council," said field commander Fathi Shneibi. Meanwhile, at a clinic attached to an Abu Salim fire station, injured men believed to be Gaddafi supporters or fighters were left moaning and calling for water. Curious neighborhood men climbed the stairs to look at them, but none offered help. One of the wounded said he was from Niger and denied any links to Gadhafi. Asked why he was in Libya, he said, "I really don’t know." He did not give his name. Signs also emerged that the situation can turn far worse. Dozens of decomposing bodies were piled up in an abandoned Abu Salim hospital, a grim testament to the chaos roiling the capital. It was not clear when the men had been killed.

The floors were covered with shattered glass and bloodstains, and medical equipment was strewn about. One room had 21 bodies lying on gurneys, with 20 more in a courtyard next to the parking lot
all of them darker skinned than most Libyans. Gaddafi had recruited fighters from sub-Saharan Africa, but many others from the region are in Libya as migrant workers. It was not clear who had killed the men, but since the uprising began the rebels often suspect sub-Saharan Africans of being mercenaries.  [More>>france24.com; See related story,

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, August 26, "Gaddafi's underground city under Tripoli" : LONDON - 
Fallen Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi had virtually built an underground city under the capital Tripoli, with a vast maze of well hidden reinforced tunnels fanning out for miles in different directions.  "There is a Tripoli above ground and a Tripoli underground," a rebel commander exclaimed as his men stumbled upon what had long been rumored: A elaborate secret underground network.  Outsiders who had never seen the tunnels were shocked at the sight of these long tubes running in all directions beneath the Bab al-Aziziya command center of Gaddafi, assuming that these virtually connected all of Tripoli underground.  The rebel commanders said that the maze of tunnels probably explained Gaddafi's ability to appear anywhere in the city without being seen. The commanders guess that Gaddafi who could have the blueprint fled the city through these, 'The Telegraph' reported.  The tunnels have outlets to two of the houses in Abu Salim district of Tripoli where rebels laid a siege last night after intelligence reports that Gaddafi was hiding there. But the hunt proved fruitless. The tunnels are wide enough to accommodate small vehicles and rebel troops found abandoned golf buggies, which appeared to have been used by Gaddafi, his family and aides to move around quickly and comfortably under the city.  The tunnels which have become an attraction for curious rebels are high enough for two people to walk comfortably abreast, their walls are of thick concrete and doors are of heavy metal. [end]

8.26.11 US envoy: We will stop aid to Palestinians if UN bid proceeds
August 26 -
US Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, tells chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat US "will take punitive measures" against Palestinian Authority if it seeks to upgrade position at UN General Assembly. The United States will stop all financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if they proceed with plans to ask the United Nations for recognition of an independent state in September, a US official warned Friday. US Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubinstein, told chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, that the US would veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for recognition of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip within the June 4, 1967 borders and for UN membership. "If the Palestinian Authority insists on going to the Security Council, the US will use the veto," he told Erekat during a meeting in the West Bank city of Jericho, according to a statement issued by Erekat's office. "And in case the Palestinian Authority seeks to upgrade its position at the UN through the General Assembly, the US Congress will take punitive measures against it, including a cut in US aid," he said. Rubinstein said his country sees the Palestinians' UN bid as "useless," and that it would be better to conclude a peace agreement with Israel through direct negotiations, according to Erekat. [More>>haaretz.com]
8.26.11 Iranians chant 'death to Israel' on 'Quds Day'
TEHRAN, Iran, August 26 -
Tens of thousands of people marched here today at the "Quds Day" rally, an annual regime-sanctioned demonstration in solidarity with Palestinians and against Israel, according to footage aired on state television. The television showed large crowds in major cities, carrying banners of "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." Many demonstrators also brandished portraits of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the founder of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who attended the rally in Tehran, was to give a speech before the Friday prayers at Tehran University.  The "Quds Day" rally is held every year on the last Friday of the Muslim holy month of Ramzan in solidarity with the Palestinians.  [>indianexpress.com]

8.26.11 More deaths as Syrian protests continue
August 26 -
Thousands flood the streets after Friday prayers, braving crackdown by security forces.  Syrian security forces have opened fire on thousands of anti-government protesters in eastern and southern towns, killing at least eight people in an attempt to quell an uprising raging for the past five months. The protests came on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan, a time when many protesters hoped would serve as a breaking point for President Bashar al-Assad's government. Instead, the government's crackdown has intensified dramatically. An activist with the opposition April 17 Movement in Douma, northeast of Damascus, told Al Jazeera that security forces opened fire with live ammunition and tear gas on a large protest of some 6,000 to 7,000 people who marched through the streets.

"Worshipers from about six or seven mosques came together and marched to the square of the Grand Mosque in Douma," said the activist, who calls himself Mohammed al-Ali. "After about an hour people were heading home when secret police and shabiha [thugs] arrived and opened fire." A resident of Deir al-Zour said security forces opened fire to disperse scores of protesters, killing two of them. He named them as 26-year-old Marii Fathi and 22-year-old Oday Bahloul.  "There was shooting in Kanama Street near Jandol cafe and a white security van took their bodies," he said, adding that another youth, Ibrahim Mohammad al-Dukhoul, was taken to hospital with serious gunshot wounds.  In Nawa, a town in the southern Hauran Plain that has seen regular protests, residents and activists said another protester was killed after forces loyal to Assad shot at demonstrators coming out of a mosque. Human rights groups say Assad's forces have killed more than 2,000 people since the uprising against his rule erupted in mid-March, touched off by the wave of revolutions sweeping the Arab world  .[More>>aljazeera.net]

8.26.11 At least 18 die in car bomb attack on Nigeria UN HQ
ABUJA, Nigeria (Reuters) August 26 - 
A car bomb ripped through the United Nations' headquarters in the Nigerian capital of Abuja on Friday, killing at least 18 people, in an attack reminiscent of a June blast claimed by a local radical Islamist sect. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack. "We do not yet have precise casualty figures but they are likely to be considerable," he said, adding that the building housed 26 UN humanitarian and development agencies. "This was an assault on those who devote their lives to helping others," Ban said in a statement to reporters. "We condemn this terrible act, utterly." Security sources and witnesses said the car rammed into the building and blew up, badly damaging parts of an office complex where close to 400 people normally work for UN agencies.  [More>>thestar.com.my]

8.26.11 53 killed in attack on casino in northern Mexico
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) August 26 -
Two dozen gunmen burst into a casino in northern Mexico on Thursday, doused it with gasoline and started a fire that trapped gamblers inside, killing 53 people and injuring a dozen more, authorities said. The fire at the Casino Royale in Monterrey, a city that has seen a surge in drug cartel-related violence, represented one of the deadliest attacks on an entertainment center in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006....Nuevo Leon state Gov Rodrigo Medina told the Televisa network that 53 people had been confirmed dead in the attack. "But we could find more," said state Attorney General Leon Adrian de la Garza, adding that a drug cartel was apparently responsible for the attack. Cartels often extort casinos and other businesses, threatening to attack them or burn them to the ground if they refuse to pay.  [Full story>>japantoday.com; See related story,

msnbc.msn.com, August 26, "Mexico's premier blasts US after casino massacre"
MONTERREY, Mexico - President Felipe Calderon declared three days of mourning on Friday and demanded a crackdown on drugs in the United States after armed men torched a casino in northern Mexico, killing at least 52 people. Survivors from Thursday's attack said armed men burst into the Casino Royale and threatened gamblers before dousing gasoline on the carpets and setting it on fire. "My wife came here for a celebration," a weeping man told Milenio TV. "She was having dinner with her friends." Security camera footage showed four vehicles pulling up outside the front of the casino and waiting while the assailants went into the gambling hall...

8.26.11 Salman Taseer's son kidnapped from Lahore
LAHORE, Pakistan, August 26 -
Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain former governor Punjab Salman Taseer has been kidnapped from Lahore's Gulburg area Friday, Geo News reported. According to police, Shahbaz Taseer was traveling on his regular route from his residence to his office, when he was stopped by four men traveling in a car and on a motorcycle. He was removed from his vehicle and his mobile phones and laptop were thrown back in his car by the kidnappers. After receiving news of the kidnapping, police rushed to the crime scene and surrounded the area.  Sources said that he was traveling with his friend who was later released by the kidnappers. His friend later informed the police about the abduction.  Rangers and police were deployed outside his residence after the incident.  [>thenews.com.pk]

8.26.11 Police targeted in series of Iraq attacks
August 26 -
At least 13 people have been killed in a series of attacks across Iraq - in Basra, Falluja and Baghdad. In the southern city of Basra, a bomber blew himself up near a Shia mosque, killing three and wounding 50 others. Two bomb attacks shook Falluja, west of Baghdad, with several police and army officials killed. In the capital, a car bomb killed one passer-by and wounded 17 others people as an Iraqi army convoy drove through a Shia neighborhood. The blast in Basra, 260 miles (420km) south of the capital, set fire to nearby cars and shops, a police officer at the scene told Reuters. In Falluja, a suicide car bomber targeted a police checkpoint, killing four police officers and wounding five others. Later, three Iraqi soldiers were wounded when a roadside bomb blew up near their patrol. Separate incidents were also reported in the town of Garma, north-west of the capital, when three policemen died and five were wounded in two explosions, and in Mosul, when a soldier was killed by a roadside bomb. In Karmah, west of Baghdad, gunmen attacked a police station, AP reported. After exchanging gunfire, a car bomb exploded near the police station, killing five officers, said the agency. There has been a recent flurry of violence across Iraq, although it is much reduced since a peak in 2006-2007.  [>bbc.co.uk]

8.26.11 Chilean teenager shot dead during protests
August 16 -
Boy, 16, dies in hospital after sustaining gunshot wound during mass demonstrations against Chile's president, Sebastián Piñera.  A Chilean teenager has died after being shot in the chest during huge protests against the president, Sebastián Piñera, in the capital. Local media said the 16-year-old boy was shot near a security barricade as protesters fought police in Santiago on Thursday the second day of a two-day strike against Piñera, which was marked by violent clashes and sporadic looting. "The youth died from a bullet impact in the chest. He died in hospital," a police spokesman said. Local media said witnesses blamed police for firing the shots. "The death of any citizen is a very serious situation," Rodrigo Ubilla, an interior ministry official, said. Led by students demanding free education, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent months to call for wider distribution of the income from a copper price boom in the world's leading copper-producing country. On Thursday, youths blocked roads, threw stones and set fire to piles of rubbish at intersections in Santiago and other cities to block traffic. Police used water cannon and tear gas to defuse the latest social unrest against conservative billionaire Piñera's policies. The government said more than 1,300 people had been detained since Wednesday and several police officers badly wounded two of them shot as violence flared. Dozens of shops and supermarkets were looted, and buses were damaged. Organizers said around 600,000 people joined Thursday's protests across Chile. Reuters reporters estimated the crowds in the capital alone at around 200,000 people.  [More>>guardian.co.uk]

8.26.11 US State Department to allow Canadian pipeline
WASHINGTON, August 26 -
The Obama administration gave a crucial green light on Friday to a proposed 1,711-mile pipeline that would carry heavy oil from Canada across the Great Plains to terminals in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast, saying the project would provide a secure source of energy without significant damage to the environment. In reaching its conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline from the oil sands deposits in Alberta would have minimal environmental impact, the administration dismissed criticism from environmental advocates, who said that extracting the oil would have a devastating impact on the climate and that a leak or rupture in the 36-inch-diameter pipeline could wreak ecological disaster. Opponents also said the project would prolong the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, threaten sensitive lands and wildlife and further delay development of clean energy sources. The State Department said in an environmental impact statement that the pipeline’s owner, Trans Canada, had reduced the risks of an accident to an acceptable level and that the benefits of importing oil from a friendly neighbor outweighed the potential costs. Final approval of the $7 billion project will not come before the end of the year, after public hearings and consultation with other federal agencies. But the State Department report Friday gave every indication that the administration was prepared to see Keystone proceed. The pipeline is expected to open in 2013 unless delayed by lawsuits or other challenges.  [More>>nytimes.com]

8.26.11 Ohio Catholic school cancels Muslim goodwill event
CINCINATTI, Ohio (AP) August 26 - 
Complaints and a request from the archbishop have led a Cincinnati Roman Catholic high school to drop plans for a Ramadan dinner to build goodwill with Muslims. Kirsten MacDougal, president of Mother of Mercy school, says Archbishop Dennis Schnurr received "emotionally charged" emails, mostly from outside the area, and asked the girls' school to cancel its Friday night plans. The event instead will be held at a church parish center. A spokesman for Schnurr tells The Cincinnati Enquirer the complaints centered around the school's partnership with the local chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The US has linked the council to a terror financing case and the FBI won't work directly with its members. Local Council on American-Islamic Relations officials say they work against terrorism and violence.  [>foxnews.com]

8.26.11 Source: Teen in US custody in 'Jihad Jane' plot
A US teen from Pakistan is in secret custody, accused of helping recruit terrorists for the woman known as "Jihad Jane," a person close to the boy's family said Friday. Charges filed last month accuse the 17-year-old of helping Colleen LaRose in her alleged efforts to incite an Islamic holy war. Prosecutors have said LaRose was a convert to Islam who wrote of being driven by an urge to help suffering Muslims. The high school graduate had accepted a full scholarship to Johns Hopkins University, according to the person. He is instead in custody at a youth facility. He could be moved to an adult prison and have his case moved to adult court when he turns 18 next month...The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported on his arrest in Friday editions.  [Full story>>foxnews.com]

8.24.11 Live updates: $1.6 million bounty placed on Gaddafi's head, dead or alive
August 24 -
Rebels have taken Muammar Gaddafi's fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli in heavy fighting that has sent loyalist troops fleeing. Follow our live coverage throughout the day.

The foreign journalists who were imprisoned in the Rixos hotel in Tripoli have finally been allowed to leave by gunmen loyal to Muammar Gaddafi. "We have been holed up together for what seems like an eternity," CNN's Matthew Chance said on Twitter. More than 30 foreign reporters were trapped inside the hotel and had been unable to leave since rebel fighters pushed into the capital.

12.15am The head of the Transitional National Council has given more details about the bounty now on Muammar Gaddafi's head. "The NTC supports the initiative of businessmen who are offering two million dinars for the capture of Muammar Gaddafi, dead or alive," Mustafa Abdel Jalil said overnight. The price comes to $1.6 million and will be given regardless of if the leader is handed over dead or alive. While the whereabouts of Gaddafi and his family remain unknown the strongman yesterday sent an audio message claiming to have walked anonymously through the streets of Tripoli. He called for his loyal followers to cleanse the city of "rats".

11.36pm Libya's rebels are continuing the search for Gaddafi but have now offered a reward for his capture - dead or alive. [More>>news.com.au; See detailed report and many photos of Gaddafi's compound,

dailymail.co.uk, August 24, "Wanted dead or alive: Rebels offer
£1m reward to capture runaway Gaddafi" :  Libyan rebels today offered a £1m reward to capture Gaddafi as the hunt intensified to find the runaway leader. The opposition council in Benghazi hope that the sum will tempt members of Gaddafi's inner circle to turn him in. The rebels will have large amounts of cash available when Libyan assets are unfrozen and they have promised amnesty to anybody who captures or kills Gaddafi. The offer came after the toppled dictator fled his palace in Tripoli and is believed to have escaped through a 2,000 mile network of tunnels running through the country. Leaving behind a deserted mansion, Libyans rummaged through the forbidden home of the leader even taking their children along to see the ruins of the fallen leader's home. As fighting continued, a woman who said she was Gaddafi's only daughter, Aisha, told loyalist television channel Al Orouba today that Libyans must unite against NATO and unite behind her father. "I tell the Libyan people to stand hand-in-hand against NATO," she told the TV station by telephone. "I tell the Libyan people not to fear the armed forces.The leader is in the right."

Despite insistence from the Gaddafi inner circle that they still have the upper hand in the war, the first pictures emerged of rebels rummaging through the luxury confines of Gaddafi's former compound. One Libyan wearing army camouflage sprayed graffiti onto an oil painting hanging above Gaddafi's bed. Lengths of wood from the ceiling collapsed onto the mattress and glass in the room was smashed Elsewhere in the building, sofas in the Gaddafi clan's sitting room were overturned as men wandered through the different rooms. They found a treasured photo album featuring pictures of Gaddafi with other world leaders. Former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is seen on one of the pages.

...Gaddafi last night made a defiant speech from his hideout in which he vowed that the fight against Libyan rebels would end in "death or victory." In a desperate attempt to dent the rebels’ morale after they had ransacked his compound earlier in the day, he also claimed the withdrawal from his Bab al-Aziziya fortress was merely a "tactical move." "I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and ... I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger," Gaddafi said.  In a second statement, he pledged to turn Libya
into "volcanoes, lava and fire"
echoes of Saddam Hussein's parting shot in 1991 when he set fire to oil fields in Kuwait.

...The leader is believed to have escaped his compound in a 2,000 mile network of secret vaults under the capital which lead to key buildings, airports and military bases. One of the underground tunnels is known to surface at the Rixos Hotel 1.5km away where 35 international journalists were trapped. Another tunnel leads to the coastline while a third comes up at Mitiga Airport 7km away. Blockades and checkpoints have been set up around the capital, but if Gaddafi is able to leave Tripoli, he could find a safe haven 500km away in the east in
his home town of Sirte, from which scud missiles were fired at rebels yesterday. Gaddafi could also head 775km south to Sabha, his ancestral home, where he was reported to have built nuclear bunkers in the 1980s. From there he could travel through the desert or fly to neighboring Chad, the country from which he recruited hundreds of mercenaries. There were also suggestions that he could travel west to Algeria although sources today suggest that he has remained in Tripoli...

Related story: alarabiya.net, August 24, "More than 400 killed, 2,000 injured in Tripoli battle: Libya rebel leader" ;
More than 400 people were killed and at least 2,000 injured in the three-day fight to seize control of the Libyan capital Tripoli from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces, Chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council told Al Arabiya on Wednesday. Mustafa Abdel Jalil confirmed the rebels had taken control of Gaddafi’s heavily fortified residential complex Bab al-Azizya, adding that remnants of Qaddafi forces remained entrenched in several neighborhoods of the capital while stressing that battle for Tripoli was not yet over. There were only "pockets of resistance" left in Tripoli along with troops in Sirte, the leader’s historic stronghold.  The whereabouts of Libyan strongman Gaddafi remained unknown Wednesday. Abdel Jalil said he suspected Gaddafi would escape toward the south of the country and possibly out to Algeria or Chad.  Earlier, Abdel Jalil told the Italian La Repubblica daily that Gaddafi will be tried in the country if he is detained..

8.24.11 Engineers check Washington Monument after rare earthquake
WASHINGTON, August 24 -
The Washington Monument remained closed Wednesday as engineers studied ways to repair cracks at the top of the capital's iconic structure one day after a rare 5.8-magnitude East Coast earthquake. Washington's National Cathedral also was closed after sustaining what its staff described as "substantial damage," including numerous cracks in the building's limestone blocks and broken pinnacles on its towers. Most federal buildings and monuments in Washington, however, had reopened by late Tuesday including the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. The quake struck at 1:51pm Tuesday near the town of Mineral, Virginia, about 40 miles northwest of Richmond. Just 3.7 miles deep, it was felt from Georgia to northern New England.  [More>>cnn.com]

8.24.11 Russia likely to suspend space deliveries over loss of Progress freighter
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) August 24 -
Russia may fail to fulfill its obligations in delivering crews to the International Space Station after Wednesday's accident with Russia's Progress M-12M space freighter, a source in Russia's space industry said. The space freighter fell in South Siberia's Altai Republic on Wednesday after failing to separate from the Soyuz-U carrier rocket, the first loss of the Progress freighter in the history of Russia’s space industry. A rocket engine failure is believed to have caused the accident. "The scheduled launches of the [Soyuz] rockets are likely to be suspended because of the space freighter accident... until the reasons [of the accident] are established," the source said. This means that members of the International Space Station's crew are likely to stay at the station longer than planned and that the new crew will not be able to replace them on schedule, he said. After the retirement of the US shuttle fleet earlier this summer, Russian Soyuz craft became the only way for astronauts to reach the ISS until at least the middle of the decade. NASA is paying its Russian counterpart Roscosmos more than $1 billion for crew transport services over the next four years.  [More>>en.rian.ru]

8.24.11 Yemen airstrikes kill 30 militants; 8 soldiers die
SANAA, Yemen (AP) August 24 -
Military and medical officials say airstrikes have killed 30 suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants in southern Yemen. Eight soldiers also died in clashes in the area. The officials say the strikes targeted militants near Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, early on Wednesday. They say 40 militants were also wounded in the operation, which was a “deadly blow” to the militants. The officials say eight soldiers died in the Dufas area, close to Zinjibar. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media. Militants have used Yemen’s political turmoil to overrun Zinjibar and several towns in the south. Government forces have been trying to dislodge them with airstrikes and ground troops.  [>khaleejtimes.com]

8.24.11 Shaky truce threatened by Israeli airstrike
August 4 -
Attacks in Gaza left one Palestinian dead and two others wounded, with Hamas claiming Israeli truce violations. An Israeli air strike in the Gaza Strip killed one Palestinian and wounded two others actions which Hamas said violated their two-day-old truce with the state. Wednesday's missile attack, which targeted a vehicle in Rafah near the border with Egypt, raised fears of a fresh descent into violence scarcely 48 hours after factions had agreed to end rocket fire on southern Israel, on condition that the Israeli Air Force also stopped its raids. The armed branch of the Islamic Jihad movement, Al Quds Brigade, said the dead man was Ismael al-Ismar, one of its leaders. Ismar, 34, died when the missile plowed into his car, witnesses and members of Al Quds Brigade said. An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the strike, saying it had targeted "an activist linked to Islamic Jihad who was implicated in attempted terrorist actions in the Sinai." According to the Israeli military, Ismar had "operated with terror elements in the Gaza Strip which have recently made several attempts to execute terror attacks in the Sinai, on the Israel-Egypt border."  [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.24.11 World mulls new sanctions as Syrian forces enter town near Iraq border
August 24 -
Residents say assault on Deir al-Zor killed at least 40 civilians and that hundreds of people have been arrested in the last three weeks in the province. Armored Syrian forces killed one person and arrested dozens in raids on a tribal region near the border with Iraq on Wednesday, activists said, in their latest effort to subdue dissent against President Bashar Assad. A force of 20-30 tanks and other armored vehicles entered neighborhoods in the town of Mayadeen and the nearby village of Alburhama in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, before withdrawing to the outskirts, they said. "They are mainly hit-and-run raids. The military is trying to avoid reprisals from the population, which is heavily armed. So they go in quickly to arrest people, sabotaging houses of wanted activists they cannot find," a local activist told Reuters by telephone. The authorities have in the past allowed eastern Arab tribes to arm themselves, as a counterweight to Syria's nearby Kurdish minority and partly to bolster support for Assad and his father, the late President Bashar Assad, who are from Syria's minority Alawite sect.  [More>>haaretz.com]
8.23.11 Return of the recluse: North Korean leader in Russia for  talks
(RIA Novosti) August 23 -
Kim Jong-il's train is currently traveling across Russia, and this is bound to pique the interest of those who remember just how rarely the reclusive North Korean leader travels abroad. This once-in-a-blue-moon visit is unlikely to herald any landmark agreements or breakthroughs, though. The agenda of Kim's forthcoming talks with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been in the making for a few weeks now. The two leaders will focus on pipelines and transportation links, but they are unlikely to touch on North Korea's nuclear program, which is better discussed during multilateral talks.

Lost years

Progress in North Korea's rapprochement with the international community stalled in 2002 when Washington accused Pyongyang of pursuing a covert nuclear weapons program in violation of agreements made with the U.S. No conclusive evidence was offered to corroborate those allegations. But there is no need for any proof now - in response to international demands to halt its nuclear research, the North Korean government has brought its program into the open, and it now makes no bones about having made several nuclear warheads.

But let us recall what North Korea was like in 2002. That year, the country's authorities attempted economic reforms along the lines of what the Chinese and Vietnamese did. They began to seriously examine the possibility of reuniting with the South, which has been in discussion since the '50s. The two Koreas began by linking their separate railways across the border in the demilitarized zone. Russia was a third party in this effort as the project involved connecting the Trans-Korean railroad to the Trans-Siberian.

Agreed in principle back in 2001, when Kim Jong-il arrived in Moscow to meet with then-Russian president Vladimir Putin, the project promised a lot of transit benefits to every party and could have become a logistical axis of North Korea's internationally encouraged development as well as of Russian-North Korean economic cooperation, which is still limited largely to Russia's Far East. Kim and Putin met again a year later, in 2002. Their talks in Vladivostok focused on railroads. It became clear that the North Korean regime, similar in many respects to the Stalinist dictatorship, was now on the verge of transforming itself, with assistance from its three neighbors, Russia, China and South Korea. But that process was suddenly upended by the nuclear scandal. Now, nine years on, there are signs that Pyongyang is returning to that point.

One of the very few recent developments since the suspension of North Korea's economic reform has been Gazprom's trans-Korean gas pipeline project. According to foreign experts, its estimated capacity is 10 billion cubic meters over a period of thirty years. The Russian energy giant needs this pipeline primarily for exporting gas to South Korea. But the North also stands to benefit. The project is part of Russia's policy of gas export diversification, which involves not only increasing the share of shipments to the east, but also winning over more customers across Asia.  [More>>en.rian.ru]

8.23.11 Libya rebels celebrate inside Gaddafi's Tripoli compound
(Reuters) August 23 -
Gaddafi forces try to defend Bab Al-Aziziya compound but could not keep up resistance; rebels say they entered Gaddafi's house; Pentagon says rebels in control of majority of Tripoli, Gaddafi forces' capabilities diminished.  Libyan rebels poured into Muammar Gaddafi's compound in Tripoli on Tuesday and were seen firing in the air in celebration, Reuters reporters on the scene said. Pro-Gaddafi forces initially tried to defend the Bab Al-Aziziya compound but could not keep up their resistance, the reporters said. Al Jazeera television reported that Libyan rebels entered Gadhafi's house after breaking into his vast Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli. Earlier on Tuesday, an Al Jazeera correspondent told Reuters that NATO forces began bombarding Gaddafi's Bab Al-Aziziya compound in the Libyan capital.  [More>>haaretz.com; See more details,

msnbc.msn.com, August 23, "NBC's Engel: Rebels have full control of Gaddafi compound."
TRIPOLI, Libya -
'Strategically, this means that Tripoli has fallen,' reporter says from inside site. Rebel forces gained "full control" over Moammar Gaddafi's fortified Bab al-Aziziya compound in Libya's capital Tuesday, NBC News reported. The compound, which was heavily damaged by NATO airstrikes, had emerged as one of the last centers of government resistance. "Strategically, this means that Tripoli has fallen," NBC's Richard Engel said from inside the compound. An Associated Press reporter at the scene said the compound's green gates were blasted open, allowing hundreds of rebels poured into the complex, some driving golf carts as the area resounded with celebratory gunfire. It was not immediately clear whether Gaddafi or members of his immediate family were in the compound when it was breached by the rebels, but the ferocity of the battle led many to speculate that the maverick leader may have been inside.

8.23.11 Nearly 100 PKK members killed in Turkish air raids in north Iraq
ANKARA (Xinhua) August 23 - Some 90 to 100 members of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) were killed during the Turkish air raids in northern Iraq, Turkish military said Tuesday. Jets of the Turkish Air Force conducted several air raids in the past few days on the PKK camps in northern Iraq and the region around Qandil Mountain, Turkish military said in a statement posted on its website. "The Turkish jets hit 13 targets in Metina, Zap, Avashin- Bashyan and Kharkurk on Aug. 20, four targets in Qandil, Gara, Zap and Metina on Aug. 21, and seven targets in Zap, Kharkurk, Avashin- Bashyan and Qandil on Aug. 22," it said. "During the air offensive with the high-tech target acquisition and shooting control systems, the jets hit 132 targets while artillery units shelled 349 targets. Seventy-three hiding places, six shelters, 18 caves, eight depots, 14 buildings, one arsenal, nine anti-aircraft positions and three control points were destroyed," it said. "According to initial information, 90 to 100 terrorists were rendered ineffective. More than 80 terrorists were wounded. They were taken to nearby hospitals and villages in the region. A number of terrorists fled to villages and forced residents in those villages to be a human shield," it said. The PKK rebels attacked a military convoy on Aug. 17 at the Cukurca town in the southeastern province of Hakkari, leaving eight Turkish soldiers and one village guard dead and 15 soldiers wounded.  [More>>xinhuanet.com]

8.23.11 Syrian dissidents set up 'national council'
(AFP) August 23 -
Syrian dissidents gathered here on Tuesday set up a broad-based "national council" to coordinate their campaign to topple President Bashar al-Assad, an activist said. The panel was formed after four days of discussions in this Turkish metropolis, the Syrian opponents told a press conference. "We have given martyrs and some of us are injured... With all these efforts and sacrifices, as a result of this responsibility, a sense of unity has been formed," activist Ahmad Ramadan said. "The council will convene in about two weeks to elect the chair and secretary... When it convenes it will adopt its bylaws," added Louay Safi, a US-based political scientist. The dissidents declined to give out the names of council members and said the body, which brings together all opposition groups both from inside and outside Syria, will elect them after its first meeting. "Coming together of all groups is a must despite all dangers. This delegation will bring different groups together," said Halis Halihi. UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Monday told 2,200 people had been killed since the mass protests in Syria began in mid-March.   [>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

alarabiya.net (Reuters) August 23, "UN to investigate Syria for crimes against humanity"
The United Nations launched a new investigation into Syria on Tuesday for "arbitrary executions, excessive use of force and killing of anti-government protesters" adding pressure on the isolated government of President Bashar al-Assad. Overcoming objections by Russia, China and Cuba, the UN Human Rights Council agreed to the international commission of inquiry into possible crimes against humanity at the end of a two-day emergency session on Syria. "We will not stand by silently as innocent civilians and peaceful protesters are slaughtered by security forces. We are working to ramp up pressure on the Syrian authorities to help ensure that the violence ends," US ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe said in an email response sent to Reuters. Syrian forces shot dead three people in Homs during a visit by a UN humanitarian team on Monday, activists said... 

8.18.11 Stocks tumble on downbeat economic news
August 18 -
The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled as much as 524 points Thursday on increased worries about the stability of lenders in Europe and a report that the world economy is headed into another slowdown. Bank stocks in the US and in Europe were hit by a wave of selling after Sweden's financial regulator said lenders there should expect a worsening in Europe's debt crisis. That could lead to a freeze of lending between banks, cutting off loans to businesses. Meanwhile, investment bank Morgan Stanley cut its global growth forecast for the year to 3.9 percent, down from a previous forecast of 4.2 percent. The bank cited an "insufficient" policy response to Europe's sovereign debt woes and the possibility of fiscal tightening that could make it harder for businesses to borrow. Morgan Stanley, which also cut its China growth forecast for next year, wrote that the US and Europe are "dangerously close to recession." The report stated: "Recent policy errors, especially Europe's slow and insufficient response to the sovereign crisis and the drama around lifting the US debt ceiling, have weighed down on financial markets and eroded business and consumer confidence."  [More>>abcnew.go.com]

See related story, dailymail.co.uk, August 128, "FTSE plunges 4.6% and world markets tumble as eurozone debt crisis spooks traders" :
The FTSE 100 closed 4.5 per cent down today having plunged alongside world markets against a backdrop of the eurozone debt crisis and the ongoing U.S. economic problems. The index dropped 239.37 points to close at 5,092.23. Banks bore the brunt of the selling with Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group and Barclays all down more than 10 per cent on the day. Share prices also tumbled across Europe. France’s CAC-40 index fell 171.4 points or 5 per cent to 3083. That shattered traders' already fragile confidence and meant the Dow Jones industrial index opened 3 per cent or 336 points down at 11,074, compounding losses on the big European indices...Commodity prices also suffered with Brent crude oil in London down more than 1 per cent to 109.2 US dollars a barrel. The most recent slump was sparked by fears that China's central bank is set to raise interest rates a move that would hit demand in the world's second largest economy. But analysts said the fall-out from recent economic developments in Europe, such as weak GDP data in France and Germany, and in the US, following disappointing growth figures and a shock credit rating downgrade, was continuing to damage confidence...

en.rian.ru (RIA Novosti) August 18, "Russian stocks drop 4 pct at closing on fears of recession, poor bank results"
Russia's dollar-denominated RTS stock exchange index dropped 4.79 percent compared to the previous close, while the country's ruble-denominated MICEX index fell 3.73 percent at closing on Thursday amid gloom on international trading floors. As of 18:45 Moscow time, the RTS index amounted to 1,584.20, the MICEX index to 1,452.83. The both indices broke their week lows. Leading European stock indices also plunged on Thursday due to spreading fear of slowing world economic growth and poor bank results...

news.com.au, August 18, "Stocks fall on worries over global economy" : Shares are tumbling around the world on more signs of economic weakness. In the US, the government says more people filed for unemployment benefits last week than were expected. And there are signs that inflation is rising - consumers paid more last month for petrol, food and clothes. The Dow Jones industrial average at one point was down more than 500 points. It's now down 436 at 10,973. All the major market indexes are down more than 4 per cent. Asian markets started the worldwide drop. Japan's Nikkei 225 index fell 1.3 per cent after the country said its exports fell 3.3 per cent in July from a year earlier. Today's drop in stocks marks a return to the volatility that sent the market plunging the first two weeks of August...

8.18.11 US probes Standard & Poor's over mortgages
(AP) August 18 -
The US Justice Department has launched an investigation into the Standard & Poor’s ratings agency over whether it improperly rated mortgage securities in the years before the financial crisis, the New York Times reported on Wednesday. The Justice Department is investigating whether the Standard & Poor’s credit ratings agency improperly rated dozens of mortgage securities in the years leading up to the financial crisis, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The investigation began before Standard & Poor’s cut the United States’ AAA credit rating this month, but it’s likely to add to the political firestorm created by the downgrade, the newspaper said. Some government officials have since questioned the agency’s secretive process, its credibility and the competence of its analysts, claiming to have found an error in its debt calculations.

The Times cites two people interviewed by the government and another briefed on such interviews as its sources. According to people with knowledge of the interviews, the Justice Department has been asking about instances in which the company’s analysts wanted to award lower ratings on mortgage bonds but may have been overruled by other S&P business managers. If the government finds enough evidence to support a case, it could undercut S&P’s longstanding claim that its analysts act independently from business concerns. The newspaper said it was unclear whether the Justice Department investigation involves the other two major ratings agencies, Moody’s and Fitch, or only S&P. S&P and other ratings agencies reaped record profits as they bestowed their highest ratings on bundles of troubled mortgage loans, which made the mortgages appear less risky and thus more valuable.

They failed to anticipate the deterioration that would come in the housing market and devastate the financial system. Companies and some countries, but not the United States, pay the credit ratings agencies to receive a rating, the financial market’s version of a seal of approval. Before the financial crisis, banks shopped around to make sure rating agencies would award favorable ratings before agreeing to work with them. These banks paid as much as $100,000 for ratings on mortgage bond deals, according to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, the Times said. Critics say this business model is riddled with conflicts of interest since ratings agencies might make their grades more positive to please their customers.  [More>>france24.com]

8.18.11 Syria unrest: World leaders call for Assad to step down
August 18 -
The leaders of the US, UK, France, Germany and the EU have all called for Syria's President Assad to step down over his suppression of protesters. US President Barack Obama said: "The time has come for President Assad to step aside." It marks a significant increase in pressure on Mr. Assad for sending in his army against the protesters.  Meanwhile, UN investigators say the use of violence in Syria "may amount to crimes against humanity." In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, the investigators said the UN Security Council should refer the issue to the International Criminal Court. Human rights groups believe about 2,000 people have been killed and thousands arrested since March as Syria's security forces including tanks, helicopters, gunships and snipers try to quell dissent that has broken out in much of the country.  [More>>bbc.co.uk]

8.18.11 IDF strikes Gaza in wake of deadly terror attacks; senior Palestinian militant killed
August 18 -
Strikes come hours after series of deadly terror attacks in southern Israel in which seven people were killed. Israel Defense Forces aircraft struck targets in the Gaza Strip on Thursday evening, hours after a series of terror attacks in southern Israel left seven people dead and dozens wounded. Palestinians in Gaza said that six people had been killed in the strikes including a senior commander in the Popular Resistance Committees. In Jerusalem. Israeli military officials confirmed an airstrike on southern Gaza,  but gave no further details. [>haaretz.com; See background,

khaleejtimes.com, August 18, "Five dead in coordinated attacks on southern Israel"
MITSPEH RAMON, Israel — Gunmen raked a bus with gunfire and blasted two other vehicles Thursday in a spate of attacks in southern Israel that killed five people and hurt 25, Israeli medics and the army said.
Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak quickly laid blame for the attacks on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and pledged that the Jewish state would respond "with all our strength and determination." The military said the first attack involved gunmen who opened fire on a bus traveling near the border, after which a bomb exploded under a military vehicle which rushed to the scene.

An emergency services spokesman told AFP five people were killed in a third attack on a car traveling on route 90, a road which runs along the Jordanian border and ends at Eilat.
"Five Israelis were killed. Four of them were in a car while the fifth was killed nearby," the spokesman said. Security sources said the car was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) near Beer Ora, some 15 kilometers (nine miles) north of Eilat. An Israeli military spokeswoman said a "combined terrorist attack" was currently under way "near the Israel-Egypt border, approximately 20 kilometers north of the city of Eilat." She said at least nine people were injured in the first incident involving a bus. Shortly afterwards, "several people were injured as a result of an explosive device, detonated at an Israel Defense Force that arrived at the scene and drove over it." There were also unconfirmed reports on Israel’s main television stations that an anti-tank missile had been fired across the border from Egypt.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
8.18.11 30 killed in Karachi overnight violence as Pakistan says it can bring Haqqani to peace talks
August 18 - At least 30 people died in overnight violence between rival ethnic groups and criminal gangs in Pakistan’s financial capital of Karachi, police said Thursday, as Pakistan’s military says it can bring the Haqqani militant network to the negotiation table. A former MP for the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Waja Karimdad, was among those killed in the fresh wave of violence in Karachi, where hundreds of additional police and paramilitary troops were deployed last month, according to AFP. Spiraling unrest is a major source of concern in Pakistan’s biggest city, which is used by NATO to ship the bulk of its supplies to troops fighting in Afghanistan and which accounts for around a fifth of the country's GDP. The violence has been linked to ethnic tensions between the Mohajirs, the Urdu-speaking majority represented by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and Pashtun migrants affiliated to the Awami National Party (ANP). Karachi, currently a city of 18 million and the economic powerhouse of the country, has seen its population explode since independence in 1947. Its neighborhoods have been swollen by a huge influx of migrants from across the country, but particularly the deprived, Pashtun northwest, looking for jobs and more recently to escape Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked violence.  [More>>alarabiya.net; See also

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, August 18, "33 killed in Karachi violence"
At least 33 people have been killed in a fresh outbreak of violence in Pakistan's southern of Karachi since Wednesday night, police said.  The victims included Ahmed Karimdad, a former PPP member of national assembly, who was targeted by armed men on motorcycles outside a local restaurant. Police termed it a bout of war between criminal gangs operating in Karachi's oldest neighborhood of Lyari. Violence erupted on Wednesday evening when five residents of Lyari, a stronghold of president Asif Ali Zardari's Pakistan People's Party, were found shot dead.  Officials said that violence in the metropolitan is more of a gang war. "Most of the recent killings happened from clashes between criminal gangs dealing in drugs and extortion rackets. Some of these gangs enjoy political support and backing, but still you cannot term this as a political war as such," Karachi's police chief Saud Mirza said. He acknowledged that some of those killed may have been targeted over their ethnic or political affiliation...

8.18.11 Afghan children among bus blast victim
August 18 - At least 24 dead in minibus blast in west of country, while two killed in attack at US-run base in eastern province.  At least 26 people have been killed and others wounded in two separate bomb attacks in Afghanistan, one in the east and one in the west of the country. On Thursday, a roadside bomb tore through a minibus in Herat in western Afghanistan, killing 24 people, including seven children, local officials said. "We have been in touch with the local police chief in Herat, and he said that at least 24 people were killed in the blast and many of them children," Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford said, reporting from Kabul. "At least nine others were injured and are in very serious or critical condition," he added. The bus, packed with passengers, was traveling between the district of Obe in Herat province and the provincial capital, said Moheyddin Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

The blast was possibly caused by a land mine, Noori said. The incident highlighted the problem of IEDs (improvised explosive device), which foreign and Afghan military say are incredibly difficult to detect, our correspondent noted. The Taliban has denied responsibility for the blast, he said. Meanwhile, a suicide bomber attacked a US-run base used by international forces in Gardez, the capital of eastern Afghanistan's Gardez province, police and the US-led NATO coalition said. The bomber detonated a small truck laden with explosives at the entrance to the military-civilian compound, killing two Afghan security guards, officials said. In a statement e-mailed to the media, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the attack was carried out by a 70-year-old man from Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan.  A coalition spokesman told AFP that the bomber had tried to enter the base in a vehicle but detonated his explosives when he was stopped by guards. The base in Gardez houses small groups of international troops and civilian experts known as Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT), and is one of 20 across the country run by various western nations.  [>aljazeera.net]

8.18.11 Libyan rebels battle for last oil refinery
ZAWIYA, Libya (AP) August 18 -
Dozens of opposition fighters have surrounded Libya's last functioning oil refinery and laid siege to about 100 government troops, part of a push which brought them closer to seizing this strategic western city. A rebel victory in Zawiya could be a turning point in the six-month-old war and leave Moammar Gaddafi nearly cornered in his increasingly isolated stronghold of Tripoli, the capital, just 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the east along the Mediterranean coast. Rebel fighters are now closing in on the capital from the west and the south, while NATO controls the seas to the north. The opposition is in control of most of the eastern half of the country and has declared Benghazi, 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) east of Tripoli, as its de facto capital. Wednesday's fighting focused around the sprawling refinery complex on the western outskirts of Zawiya, a city of 200,000. The rebels, who began their assault on the refinery a day earlier, took control of the facility's three-story administration building, tearing down the  Gaddafi regime's green flag that flew over the grounds. Desperate Gaddafi troops cut off from the main government forces took cover in a residential compound and closed the gates to prevent workers from fleeing, rebels said. The troops barricaded themselves in and positioned snipers on rooftops. An Associated Press photographer inside the refinery with rebel troops heard occasional bursts of gunfire.   [More>>arabtimesonline.com]

8.18.11 Ivory demand sends poaching to record levels
August 18 -
Selling the tusks from a single large male elephant can earn a local poacher the equivalent of 15 years' wages.  Elephant poaching in one of the world's most famous wildlife reserves has reached record levels, to satisfy the growing demand for ivory destined for traders in China, according to a group of elephant experts. The highest poaching rates ever seen in Kenya's Samburu National Reserve were recorded in the first five months of this year. The number of elephants killed in the past two and half years has exceeded the total for the previous 11, according to the experts. Samburu elephants are probably the most studied population in the world, yet this high level of scientific interest has not protected them from poachers who can earn a fortune from selling the ivory tusks of mature males, and even females.

George Wittemyer, of Colorado State University, and David Daballen and Iain Douglas-Hamilton, of Save the Elephants in Nairobi, say in joint letter to the journal Nature that there has recently been a distressing surge in ivory poaching, which has coincided an illegal trade in ivory. "This ivory is mainly destined for China. Effective protection of elephants depends partly on more conservation investment, but mainly on stemming the demand for ivory and eliminating black-market trade – actions that mandate leadership from and co-operation with China," they say. The selective poaching of bull elephants for their valuable tusks has led to a population with double the usual number of females. The ivory tusks of the biggest males can be sold for a price equivalent to 15 years' salary for a local unskilled laborer. But even adult females, with their relatively smaller tusks, are now being targeted, the experts say. About one in every five groups of elephants – which have a matriarchal society – are without any mature females, while the number of orphans in the Samburu reserve has increased rapidly.  [More>>independent.co.uk]

8.18.11 IBM creates chip that mimics brain function
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) August 18 -
Computers, like humans, can learn. But when Google tries to fill in your search box based only on a few keystrokes, or your iPhone predicts words as you type a text message, it's only a narrow mimicry of what the human brain is capable. The challenge in training a computer to behave like a human brain is technological and physiological, testing the limits of computer and brain science. But researchers from IBM Corp. say they've made a key step toward combining the two worlds. The company announced Thursday that it has built two prototype chips that it says process data more like how humans digest information than the chips that now power PCs and supercomputers. The chips represent a significant milestone in a six-year-long project that has involved 100 researchers and some $41 million in funding from the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. IBM has also committed an undisclosed amount of money. The prototypes offer further evidence of the growing importance of "parallel processing," or computers doing multiple tasks simultaneously. That is important for rendering graphics and crunching large amounts of data. The chips are nothing short of an entirely new computing paradigm, perhaps the first in decades, and one which could far surpass the decades-old von Neumann architecture on which today's computers are based.  [More>>cbsnews.com; See also, 03.ibm.com]

8.18.11 Sea-ice shortage sends walruses to land, oil lease areas
WASHINGTON (Reuters) August 18 -
Fast-melting Arctic sea ice appears to be pushing walruses to haul themselves out onto land, and many are moving around the area where oil leases have been sold, the US Geological Survey reports.  Walruses are accomplished divers and frequently plunge hundreds of feet to the bottom of the continental shelf to feed. But they use sea ice as platforms to give birth, nurse their young and elude predators, and when sea ice is scarce or non-existent, as it has been this summer, they come up on land.  Last September, the loss of sea ice caused an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 walruses to venture onto land, and as sea ice melts reached a record last month, US government scientists are working with Alaskan villagers to put radio transmitters on some of the hauled-out walruses to track their movements around the Chukchi Sea. "The ice is very widely dispersed and there is little of it left over the continental shelf," researcher Chad Jay of the US Geological Survey said in a statement on Wednesday. "Based on our tracking data, the walruses appear to be spreading out and spending quite a bit of time looking for sea ice."  [More>>msnbc.msn.com]


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