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9.08.09 World's first floating wind turbine opens in Norway

OSLO, Norway (AFP) September 8 - The world's first floating full-scale offshore wind turbine has been inaugurated in the North Sea off the coast of Norway, Norwegian energy giant StatoilHydro said Tuesday. The turbine known as Hywind, which measures 65 metres (213 feet) tall and weighs 5,300 tones, lies some 10 kilometers (seven miles) off the island of Karmoey near the Scandinavian country's southwestern coastline, the company said. It rests upon a floating stand that is anchored to the seabed by three cables. Water and rocks are placed inside the stand to provide ballast. StatoilHydro plans to test Hywind over the next two years before it looks to set up any more floating wind turbines with international partners.

StatoilHydro sees Japan, South Korea, California, the east coast of the United States and Spain as some of the potential markets to where this technology could be exported. Hywind can be used in waters from 120 metres to 700 metres deep allowing it to be placed much further away from the shore than static wind turbines already in operation...A total of 400 million kroner (46 million euros, 66 million dollars) has been invested in the 2.3-megawatt floating turbine, making it a far more expensive option than its fixed counterpart.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com; See also statoilhydro.com press release]

9.08.09 US company and China plan solar project

September 8 - Chinese government officials signed an agreement on Tuesday with First Solar, an American solar developer, for a 2,000-megawatt photovoltaic farm to be built in the Mongolian desert. Set for completion in 2019, the First Solar project represents the world’s biggest photovoltaic power plant project to date, and is part of an 11,950-megawatt renewable-energy park planned for Ordos City in Inner Mongolia. The memorandum of understanding between Chinese officials and First Solar, the world’s largest photovoltaic cell manufacturer, would open a potentially vast solar market in China and follows the Chinese government’s recent moves to accelerate development of renewable energy. When completed, the Ordos solar farm would generate enough electricity to power about three million Chinese homes, according to First Solar.

First Solar, based in Tempe, Ariz., is also likely to build a factory in China to make thin-film solar panels, said Mike Ahearn, the company’s chief executive. "It is significant that a non-Chinese company can land something like this in China," Mr. Ahearn said in an interview. Most proposed large-scale solar projects use solar thermal technology, which deploys mirrors to heat a liquid to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. But as photovoltaic technology becomes more cost-competitive, utilities are turning to companies like First Solar for big solar power farms. Such projects generally have fewer environmental impacts and can be brought online faster than solar thermal plants. "This is nuclear power-size scale,” Mr. Ahearn said of the China project. “A two-gigawatt solar project, if this is connected and is economical at the grid level, demonstrates that solar on a large scale really does work."
[More>>nytimes.com; See firstsolar.com press release; See related story, Maravot News 7.14.09 article

7.12.09 €400bn energy plan to harness African sun ..."Within 6 hours deserts receive more energy from the sun than humankind consumes within a year." ...Energy experts have calculated that Desertec could meet at least 15 percent of Europe's needs, and be up and running by 2019. By 2050, they estimate the contribution could be between 20 and 25 per cent. Although no host countries have been named, Desertec envisages a string of solar-thermal plants across North Africa's desert. The plants would use mirrors to focus the sun's rays, which would be used to heat water to power steam turbines...

9.08.09 Taliban 'targeted schoolboys' in fatal attack

(AFP) September 8 - Taliban militants shot dead four schoolchildren and wounded six others in an apparent sectarian attack in a remote tribal town in northwest Pakistan, officials and residents say. The students were going to school in Atmankhel town of Orakzai district when the militants opened fire, killing four boys and wounding six others, local administration official Asmatullah Khan said. "It appears to be a sectarian attack as the slain students belonged to the minority Shiite sect of Islam," he said. "The attackers were Taliban." [More>>news.com.au]

9.08.09 US drone attack kills three in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, September 8 - At least three persons were killed and two others injured on Tuesday when an American drone attacked a militant hideout in Pakistan's volatile North Waziristan tribal region, the second such strike in the area in the past 24 hours. The drone fired at least two missiles at a target near Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan Agency, officials were quoted as saying by TV news channels. The identity of those killed in the missile strike could not be immediately ascertained. Local residents said they had seen drones hovering over various areas in North Waziristan since Monday. Five persons were killed and several others injured when a US drone carried out an attack in a remote area near Mir Ali, a key town in North Waziristan Agency, on Monday. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See more details,

thenews.com.pk, September 8, " US drone attack kills ten in N. Waziristan" :
MIRANSHAH - Ten persons were killed and several others injured when a US drone fired missiles into North Waziristan region on Tuesday, the second such strike in as many days. According to sources, the drone launched two missiles on a house of a tribesman named Ismail Khan in Syedgai. The drone is still flying across the area after the strikes. Five militants, all believed to be Uzbeks, were killed in Monday's strike in the same region. [end]

Related story:

thenews.com.pk, September 8, "Gunship helicopters kill 6 extremists in Orakzai Agency" : PESHAWAR - Six extremists were killed in the shelling by gunship helicopters in various areas of Orakzai Agency. According to the sources, gunship helicopters pounded extremists’ hideouts in Atmankhel, Satorikhel and Firozkhel areas of Orakzai Agency. In the shelling, six extremists were killed and three of their major hideouts destroyed, sources said. [end]

9.08.09 Deaths in Kabul airport blast

September 8 - At least three people have been killed in a suicide bombing at the international airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul. At least six civilians were injured in the attack early on Tuesday, the interior ministry said. Three American soldiers and a Belgian soldier were also wounded, according to a military spokesman. Witnesses said a suicide car bomber rammed into the main gate of the airport at about 8:30am local time [04:00 GMT]. [More>>aljazeera.net]

9.08.09 Suicide bombers kill at least 17 in Iraq

BAGHDAD, September 8 - Suicide attackers struck near a Shiite mosque north of Baghdad and a checkpoint west of the capital on Monday as bombings killed at least 17 people nationwide. The violence was concentrated in former Sunni insurgent strongholds that have seen a sharp decline in violence after local tribal leaders turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Despite the relative calm, a series of deadly bombings have raised concerns about a resurgence of violence as the US military scales back its presence, with a full withdrawal planned by the end of 2011. [More>>japantoday.com]

9.06.09 London G20 meeting rejects plan to cap bankers' bonuses

September 6 - But a new "clawback" scheme means they can be forfeited if deals later prove unsuccessful. Bankers blamed for the global financial crisis will see their pay packages limited under a blueprint for steering the international economy towards recovery, it emerged yesterday. But finance ministers from both rich and developing countries failed to agree [to] a controversial French-German plan to impose a cap on the amount financial sector workers can receive in bonus payments in future. Although the cap proposal was thrown out in the face of objections from the Americans and the British, the G20 agreed [to] a "clawback" scheme to ensure that bonuses are linked to the long-term success of deals and could be forfeited if they fail to deliver over a period of years. Ministers also pledged to keep in place stimulus measures to boost the global economy, warning that the fledgling recovery which provided the backdrop to their meeting was by no means assured. [More>>independent.co.uk]

9.06.09 Sole informant guided decision on Afghan strike

HAJI SAKHI DEDBY, Afghanistan, September 6 - To the German commander, it seemed to be a fortuitous target: More than 100 Taliban insurgents were gathering around two hijacked fuel tankers that had become stuck in the mud near this small farming village. The grainy live video transmitted from an American F-15E fighter jet circling overhead, which was projected on a screen in a German tactical operations center four miles north of here, showed numerous black dots around the trucks each of them a thermal image of a human but without enough detail to confirm whether they were carrying weapons. An Afghan informant was on the phone with an intelligence officer at the center, however, insisting that everybody at the site was an insurgent, according to an account that German officers here provided to NATO officials.

Based largely on that informant's assessment, the commander ordered a 500-pound, satellite-guided bomb to be dropped on each truck early Friday. The vehicles exploded in a fireball that lit up the night sky for miles, incinerating many of those standing nearby. A NATO fact-finding team estimated Saturday that about 125 people were killed in the bombing, at least two dozen of whom but perhaps many more were not insurgents. To the team, which is trying to sort out this complicated incident, mindful that the fallout could further sap public support in Afghanistan for NATO's security mission here, the target appeared to be far less clear-cut than it had to the Germans. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

9.06.09 Arrest made in slayings of US citizens in Mexico

MEXICO CITY, Mexico, September 6 - The Mexican military has detained a suspected leader of a notorious drug-trafficking family in connection with the July slayings of two US citizens. Jose Rodolfo Escajeda, known as El Rikin, was taken into custody Friday in Nuevo Casa Grandes, in Chihuahua state, according to a military statement. Escajeda is an alleged ringleader of a drug-trafficking family that runs a 120-mile smuggling corridor on Mexico's border with Texas, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. He has been indicted by the US government, DEA said.

US citizens Benjamin LeBaron and his brother-in-law, Luis Widmar, were beaten and shot to death after armed men stormed into their home in the town of Galeana, Mexico. Local media reported in July that a note found on LeBaron indicated the slayings were in retribution for the capture of 25 drug suspects in a nearby town. The LeBaron brothers belonged to the "Community of LeBaron" in Galeana, a township founded by excommunicated Mormons. LeBaron's younger brother, Eric, was kidnapped in May and returned unharmed a week later. The incident prompted Banjamin LeBaron to become a nationally recognized anti-crime activist who moved the local community to take a stand. [>cnn.com]

9.06.09 90 arrested as far-right rally in Birmingham descends into violence

BIRMINGHAM, England, September 6 - More than 90 people have been arrested in Birmingham city centre after a right-wing group protesting against Islamic extremism clashed with counter-demonstrators, West Midlands Police revealed today. About 200 people were involved in the violence yesterday afternoon when members of the English Defence League (EDL) fought with anti-fascists and youths of South Asian descent. Police said that all those arrested were males aged 16 to 39, and were held on suspicion of criminal damage and violent disorder.

As shoppers looked on, gangs of men and youths hurled bottles at one another and pelted riot police with bricks in the New Street area of the city, close to the main train station. The disorder — which followed similar violent scenes at an EDL protest last month — spilled on to the adjoining Bennetts Hill, a street lined with pubs popular with shoppers...Publishing details of the protest plans on its website, the English Defence League had urged supporters to avoid being drawn into violent clashes. It said: “We would like to state that anyone who wishes to cause trouble, or use this demonstration to voice any other issues other than Islamic fundamentalists, radical Islam and Sharia will be turned away. [Full story>>timesonline.co.uk]

9.06.09 123 militants killed in Pakistan tribal belt clashes

ISLAMABAD, September 6 - At least 123 militants have been killed and over 50 injured in fresh anti-terror operations launched by Pakistani security forces to flush out Taliban fighters from their hideouts in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. Pakistani security forces killed three militants in a gun battle in the restive Malakand division in the country's northwest while nine militants and a 10-year-old boy trained by the Taliban voluntarily surrendered, officials said today. Acting on a tip-off regarding the presence of militants near Alpurai in Swat valley, troops conducted a cordon and search operation in the area. During a subsequent exchange of fire, the security forces killed three militants and apprehended two more.

...Paramilitary troops killed 43 militants yesterday in the Khyber tribal region, where a crackdown on the banned Lashkar-e-Islam and other militant groups was launched six days ago, reports said today. The operation was launched after a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a border post on August 28, killing 22 members of a militia. Fifty seven rebels were killed and over 100 others arrested in the Khyber agency earlier, [said]Tariq Hayat Khan, the chief administrator of the region. Officials suspect that militants who had fled the offensive in Swat are now hiding in Khyber agency.

A total of 46 homes of militants and 16 hideouts have also been destroyed in the semi-autonomous tribal region. Officials said only three security personnel were injured in the operations in Khyber Agency. At least 20 more militants were killed when fighter jets bombed 11 training camps of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in Orakzai tribal region yesterday. The areas targeted included Chappri Ferozekhel, where the main training camps of the Taliban are located.
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See also,

thenews.com.pk, September 6, "7o militants killed in Khyber Agency" :
PESHAWAR - ...More than 70 militants were killed and several injured while 107 arrested in the operation by the forces. Besides, 54 centres of militants have also been destroyed...

aljazeera.net, September 6, " 'Scores dead' in Pakistan offensive" : ...
"Our forces targeted a headquarters of Lashkar-e-Islam and about 15 militants were killed in the attack," a Frontier Corps spokesman in Peshawar, the capital of NWFP, said. Lashkar-e-Islam is under the command of Mangal Bagh, an ethnic Pashtun fighter. The group is suspected to have links with al-Qaeda and has been a main target of the latest government offensive in Khyber, which authorities say has killed scores of suspected fighters...

9.04.09 Unemployment rate jumps to 9.7%, highest since June 1983

September 4 - American workers continued to lose jobs in August but the number of layoffs were significantly lower than in prior months, a sign that the while the economy is not yet growing, it is nearing a recovery. Last month, another 216,000 jobs were shed by the nation's employers. The nation's unemployment rate also jumped from 9.4 percent to 9.7 percent, higher than analysts were expecting. Since the start of the recession, 6.9 million American jobs have been lost. But it now looks like most of the carnage is over. [More>>abcnews.go.com; See related story,

cbsnews.com (AP) September 4, "Seniors in poverty at 19%, new study shows" : The official poverty rate for Americans 65 years and older has stood for years at 10 percent, the lowest rate among age groups. But the true rate could be nearly twice that high, according to a revised formula created by the National Academy of Sciences that is gaining favor among public officials, including some in the Obama administration. The NAS formula would put the poverty rate for older Americans at 18.6 percent, or 6.8 million people, compared with 9.7 percent, or 3.6 million people, under the existing measure. The original government formula, created in 1955, doesn't take account of rising costs of medical care and other factors.

"It's a hidden problem," said Robin Talbert, president of the AARP Foundation, which provides job training and support to low-income seniors and is backing legislation that would adopt the NAS formula. "There are still many millions of older people on the edge, who don't have what they need to get by." If the academy's formula is adopted, a more refined picture of American poverty could emerge that would capture everyday costs of necessities besides just food. The result could upend long-standing notions of those in greatest need and lead eventually to shifts in how billions of federal dollars for the poor are distributed for health, housing, nutrition and child-care benefits...

9.04.09 90 killed as NATO hits Afghan fuel trucks

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, September 4 - A NATO airstrike blew up two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in Afghanistan on Friday, igniting a fireball that officials said killed between 55 and 90 people mostly insurgents. Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who is leading the vote count in fraud-tainted elections, warned that targeting civilians was "unacceptable in any form" and his office put the number of dead and wounded at 90.

...Police and the interior ministry said up to 56 Taliban were killed and 10 more wounded, including a 12-year-old child when an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) air raid targeted the fuel tankers hijacked by insurgents en route from Tajikistan to Kabul. But Mahbubullah Sayedi, a spokesman for the government in the increasingly unstable Kunduz province which lies on a supply route for the more than 100,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, said around 90 people were killed...Wounded people with extensive burns crowded a hospital in Kunduz, where witness Mohammad Daud, 32, said villagers rushed to one of the trucks when it got stuck in the river to take free fuel at the Taliban's invitation.

"Everyone around the fuel tanker died. Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt," he told a foreign news agency...The German army, whose soldiers are based in Kunduz under NATO command, said the airstrike killed more than 50 Taliban.
[Full story>>thenews.com.pk; See other details,

Alarabiya.net, September 4, "Ninety killed in NATO airstrike in Afghanistan" : ...ISAF said two fuel trucks were stolen at about 10:20pm Thursday (1730 GMT) and were spotted several hours later on the banks of the Kunduz river. "After assessing that only insurgents were in the area, the local ISAF commander ordered an airstrike which destroyed the fuel trucks and a large number of insurgents were killed and injured," a spokeswoman said. "ISAF has received information that civilians were killed and injured in this attack. ISAF forces in conjunction with Afghan officials are conducting investigations," she added.

Around 200 to 250 villagers were believed to have gathered to help themselves from the tankers, said health ministry spokesman Farid Rahid in Kabul. Witness Mohammad Daud, 32, said villagers rushed to one of the trucks when it got stuck in the river, to take free fuel at the Taliban's invitation. "There were 10 to 15 Taliban on top of the tanker. This was when they were bombed. Everyone around the fuel tanker died," he told AFP in hospital. "Nobody was in one piece. Hands, legs and body parts were scattered everywhere. Those who were away from the fuel tanker were badly burnt."...

aljazeera.net, September 4, "Scores dead in NATO raid on Kunduz" : ...
"Some in the village are saying the Taliban asked locals to come and help because these trucks were stuck, and it seems that is when the air strike was launched," he reported. Local villagers had also been offered fuel from the vehicles and were siphoning it off when NATO aircraft struck...Mohammad Omar, the Kunduz governor, said that at least one senior Taliban commander and four Chechens were among the dead...

news.sky.com, September 4, "Scores dead after NATO strike on fuel trucks"
...Provincial governor Mohammad Omar said the Taliban commander for several Kunduz districts had been killed in the incident along with several other senior militants...

9.04.09 Pakistan government sent me to meet Mehsud after 26/11: Ex-Pak MP

ISLAMABAD, September 4 - A former parliamentarian known for his links with militant groups on Friday made the startling claim that the Pakistan government had deputed him to hold secret talks with slain Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud on forging "unity against India" in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. Shah Abdul Aziz, who was arrested in July on charges of being linked to the abduction and killing of Polish engineer Piotr Stanczak by the Taliban, made the revelation in an interview with a TV news channel two days after he was freed from prison on bail. Aziz said senior officials of Pakistan's interior ministry sent him to meet Mehsud after the Mumbai attacks in November last year. He said the officials asked him to convince the slain Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief to show "unity against India" amidst heightened tensions between the two countries.

The former member of the National Assembly or lower house of parliament said he met Mehsud along with a 15-member delegation of "ulema" or Islamic scholars from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Aziz said he stayed in Makeen area of South Waziristan, a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban, for three days to convince Mehsud but the militant commander was not ready to accept the delegation's views. Mehsud finally agreed to back the government in case of any offensive by India when Aziz and the delegation rejected his offer to join him for a meal.

9.04.09 Indian priests fear for their lives in Pashupatinath

KATHMANDU, Nepal, September 4 - Raghavendra Bhatt and Girish Bhatt were elated last month when they were shortlisted from a panel of several Brahmin priests in India for appointment at the famed Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. But on Friday, 24 hours before their tenure is to start, the two priests from Karnataka are in mortal fear, urging the temple authorities to send them back to India tomorrow and provide security till the airport. The drastic mood swing came as the pair came under an unprecedented attack within the temple premises. The Pashupatinath temple area turned into an ugly battlefield late afternoon as groups of young men waving the Maoist red flag swarmed the secret room where the two priests had been confined two days ago to fast and undertake holy vows in readiness for the puja ceremony tomorrow.

Waving iron rods and batons, the men broke open the lock on the door of the secret door, dragged the two Indians out and began thrashing them. Amidst cries of "Filthy Indians, go back home" their clothes were torn off, photographs taken in that helpless state and their upavit
the sacred thread ripped off. As police came to intervene, the men clashed with the posse, heightening the tension that had begun simmering in the area from Sunday. Four men, said to belong to the Young Communist League, the Maoist youth wing, were reportedly arrested. However, there was no immediate official confirmation. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

9.03.09 Churches say Pakistani Christians 'live in fear'

GENEVA (Reuters) September 3 - Pakistan's Christians say they are subject to discrimination. Christians and other religious minorities in Pakistan live in fear of persecution and even execution or murder on false charges of blasphemy against Islam, the World Council of Churches (WCC) says. The Council, a global body linking Protestant and Orthodox churches in 110 countries, has called on the Pakistani government to change a law that allows for the death penalty for blaspheming Islam. Since the law was adopted in 1986 religious minorities in the country have been "living in a state of fear and terror ... and many innocent people have lost their lives," the WCC said in a statement.

Pakistan is an overwhelmingly Muslim country where religious minorities account for roughly 4 percent
three quarters of whom are Christians of its 170 million people. In early August, the WCC head, Kenyan Methodist Samuel Kobia, protested to the Pakistani government over violence in Punjab province when Muslims torched Christian homes and 8 people were killed, seven of them burned to death. [More>>alarabiya.net; See related stories on Islamic apostate killing:

cnn.com, September 3, "Muslim teen fears for life after changing religion" : A Muslim teenager from Ohio says her father threatened to kill her because she converted to Christianity. Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from her family in Columbus, Ohio, in July and took refuge in the central Florida home of the Rev. Blake Lorenz with the Global Revolution Church in Orlando. The teen heard of the pastor and his church through a prayer group on Facebook. The girl's parents reported her missing to Columbus police, who found her two weeks later in Florida through cell phone records.

The teenager, in a sworn affidavit, claims her father, Mohamed Bary, 47, was pressured by the mosque the family attends in Ohio to "deal with the situation." In the court filing, Rifqa Bary stated her father said, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me!" The teenager claims her father added, "I will kill you!" Mohamed Bary told CNN a lot of false information has been given and "we wouldn't do her harm." He knew his daughter was involved with Christian organizations. "I have no problem with her practicing any faith," he said, but Bary admitted he would have preferred his daughter to practice the Muslim faith first. Although Mohamed Bary said he did not expect his daughter to run away, Rifqa Bary was placed in foster care by an Orlando judge in August while the Florida Department of Children and Family investigated the threat allegations against the parents.

In a court filing Monday, John Stemberger, Rifqa Bary's attorney and president of the Christian advocacy organization Florida Family Policy Council, accused the parents' Ohio mosque of having ties to terrorism and radical Islam. The Noor Islamic Cultural Center has denied the allegations. Stemberger told CNN he agreed with his client that she would be killed by radical Muslims if she is returned to Ohio. "She is a person who is ripe for apostate killing or mercy killing. I'm not going to let my client slip away in the night by going back," said Stemberger...

Maravot News 8.27.09 article
8.25.09 Chechen militants sentence ex-militant spokesman to death ..."He practices a democratic religion, calls for secularism and prefers laws established by people to the law of Allah," the statement said..The court pronounced him an apostate and said that killing Zakayev was "a duty of every Muslim."...

Maravot News 7.14.09 article
7.10.09 Somali Islamist hardliners behead 7 'Christians' Victims executed for being "Christian followers" and "spies." Somalia's hard-line Islamist rebels beheaded seven people on Friday for being "Christians" and "spies" in the latest implementation of strict Sharia law by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab movement, witnesses said...

9.03.09 Is the Taliban getting a cut of US aid?

September 3 - The Taliban may be on the unofficial payroll of the United States government. A portion of American taxpayer dollars slated for development projects in Afghanistan is alleged to end up in the hands of the Taliban, the GlobalPost reports. The United States Agency for International Development is investigating if its funds are being used by contractors to pay the Taliban for protection — from itself. Payoffs to the Taliban are a widely known practice in Afghanistan, according to a report by GlobalPost last month. When the money is not paid, they wreak havoc in the area, blowing up bridges, kidnapping contractors and bringing projects to a halt. GlobalPost reporter Jean MacKenzie writes, "the Taliban allegedly receives kickbacks from almost every major contract that comes into the country."

MacKenzie adds that the deal[s] are "at times highly formalized" and "the Taliban actually keeps an office in Kabul to review major deals, determine percentages and conduct negotiations. The arrangements are often more personal, as when a local supplier pays off a small-time Taliban commander to allow free passage of goods through his patch of insurgency-controlled terrain." One source told the GlobalPost that the Taliban takes as much as 20 percent of development aid awarded to contractors. An embassy worker in Kabul described the arrangement as "organized crime."
[More>>cbsnews.com; See original story, globalpost.com]

9.03.09 Update: 18 slain in Juárez drug rehab center

September 3 - Eighteen people were killed and two others seriously injured in a mass shooting - the largest multiple killings since the drug violence started at the beginning of last year in Juárez, Mexican officials said Thursday. Initially it was reported 19 people had died and six others were wounded in the massacre at El Aliviane center, a drug rehabilitation center, late Wednesday. But on Thursday the death toll was less. The shooting happened at the center in Northeast Juárez about 8pm.

An unknown number of armed men entered the facility with assault riffles, said Joint Operation Chihuahua spokesman Enrique Torres. They demanded all 20 people in the building lineup in a hallway, he said. The assailants then began firing the AK-47 riffles. Torres said 16 people died at the scene. Four people, he said, were taken to a hospital in serious condition where two of them died a short time later. The other two wounded remained in serious condition, he said. No arrests have been made.
[More>>elpasotimes.com; See other details,

nytimes.com, September 3, "Hitmen kill 17 in Mexico rehab clinic" : ...Despite the reinforcements, Juárez experienced the most violent month in its history in August, according to local media, with at least 326 homicides. That represented almost half the death toll in all of Mexico. And Juárez, which was Mexico's most violent city in 2008, with 1,600 homicides, is on pace to exceed that figure this year. In the last two years, gunmen suspected of being tied to drug cartels have now barged into Juárez rehab clinics on four separate occasions and started shooting. With the latest incident, the death toll from clinic attacks now hovers around 32...

9.03.09 5 mortar shells hit western Negev

September 3 - Five mortar shells fired by Gaza terrorists landed in open areas in the western Negev on Thursday afternoon. Earlier, two shells fired from Gaza hit the region. No one was wounded and no damage was reported in the attacks. Also Thursday, IDF troops operating near the Kissufim crossing into Gaza came under fire. None of the troops were hurt, and they returned fire toward the source of the shooting. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that Israel will respond to every attack from Gaza. [>jpost.com]

9.03.09 Iraq body confirmed as UK hostage

September 3 - A body handed to UK authorities in Iraq has been identified as that of Alec MacLachlan - one of five British men seized in Baghdad in 2007. Prime Minister Gordon Brown confirmed the 30-year-old security guard, of Llanelli, south Wales, had died. Two of the five hostages' bodies were returned in June. The families of two others were told to expect the worst. UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband says he believes the fifth man — IT consultant Peter Moore — is alive. Mr. Miliband earlier appealed to the men's captors. "I renew my call, on behalf of the British government and the British people, to those holding the hostages to return them to their loved ones," he said.

...The group was seized at Baghdad's Ministry of Finance in May 2007 by about 40 men disguised as Iraqi policemen. The captors were understood to belong to an obscure militia known as Islamic Shia Resistance in Iraq, which has demanded the release of up to nine of their associates held in US military custody since early 2007.
[Full story>>bbc.co.uk]

9.02.09 Watchdog: SEC screwed up on Madoff

September 2 - Inspector general finds "inexperienced" attorney's repeated clearing of his name boosted scammer's credibility. In a stinging new report, the inspector general for the Securities and Exchange Commission reveals how the agency's "inexperienced" attorneys missed Bernard L. Madoff's colossal scam and believed Madoff's answers to their questions even when they were "seemingly implausible." Yet Inspector General David Kotz did not find any evidence of corruption at the agency — citing incompetence instead.

Kotz concludes that the agency's repeated investigations and clearing of Madoff served to increase Madoff's credibility with investors who believed that if the SEC had found no wrongdoing then Madoff's business had to be clean. The report describes how Madoff tightly controlled who spoke to SEC investigators. In one meeting, a Madoff employee was yanked out of the room because she was "urgently needed." Later Madoff told SEC investigators the woman had to go to lunch. Read SEC inspector general's full report

The report also notes that Madoff repeatedly intimidated SEC attorneys noting his relationships with the higher-ups at the agency even going so far as to say "that Madoff himself 'was on the short list' to be the next Chairman of the SEC." However, when SEC attorneys reported Madoff's repeated pushbacks to their superiors "they received no support." Senator Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee reacted to the report: "The SEC's utter failure to follow up aggressively on detailed and specific information about Madoff's fraud is further evidence of a culture of deference toward the Wall Street elite at the SEC."

The report says that the agency's investigative efforts of Madoff were so uncoordinated that two SEC offices were running two investigations of Madoff at the same time and only discovered this when Madoff "informed one of the examination teams that the other examination team had already received the information they were seeking from him."

9.02.09 Wall Street roller coaster means big CEO paydays

September 2 - Two dozen bank execs see compensation jump $90m through stock options. Getting investments on the cheap earlier this year is yielding big rewards for Wall Street's top brass: Thanks to the rebounding stock market, two credit card company chief executives have seen their compensation jump by more than $34 million while 22 other top bank execs also saw rich gains, according to a new report released today. A study by the Institute for Policy Studies has found that the value of stock options granted in early 2009 to American Express Chief Executive Kenneth Chenault rose by nearly $18 million as of mid-August.

Fellow CEO Richard D. Fairbank, of Capital One, saw his stock options grow by $16.3 million during the same period. IPS, a liberal think tank, found that Chenault and Fairbank were among two dozen executives at eight major financial institutions to see their 2009 stock options jump by a total of nearly $90 million. "It's all pretty outrageous how they stand to turn the crisis into more windfalls," said Sarah Anderson, an executive pay analyst and one of the authors of the IPS study.

9.02.09 Pfizer agrees record fraud fine

September 2 - US drugmaker Pfizer has agreed to pay $2.3bn (£1.4bn) in the largest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice. It follows the firm being found to have illegally promoted four drugs as treatments for conditions different to those which regulators had approved. A subsidiary of the firm pleaded guilty to misbranding drugs "with the intent to defraud or mislead." US officials said Pfizer would have to enter a corporate integrity agreement. It will be subject to additional public scrutiny by requiring it to make "detailed disclosures" on its website. Pfizer's general counsel said: "We regret certain actions taken in the past, but are proud of the action we've taken to strengthen our internal controls." [More>>bbc.co.uk]

9.02.09 Deputy chief of intelligence is slain in Afghanistan

MEHTARLAM, Afghanistan, September 2 - The second-ranking intelligence official in Afghanistan and a prominent ally of President Hamid Karzai was assassinated by a suicide bomber on Wednesday morning in a blast that also killed 15 others outside the main mosque in the official's hometown, near Kabul, officials and witnesses said. The official, Dr. Abdullah Laghmani, was the deputy director of the National Directorate for Security. "As an intelligence expert, he knew a lot about al-Qaeda, and he was a person who was very actively fighting against the Taliban and against al-Qaeda in the 34 provinces of Afghanistan," said the provincial governor, Lutfullah Mashal, in an interview at the scene of the attack here in the capital of the eastern province of Laghman. "His loss is really a major loss."

A spokesman for the Taliban in Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility, saying that the group had long sought to kill Dr. Laghmani, blaming him for detentions and jailings in Kandahar Province when he was head of intelligence there. "We were looking for him for a long time, but today we succeeded," Mr. Mujahid said. The assassination of such a powerful member of the country's security apparatus highlighted the lack of security even in cities that are not considered to have significant Taliban influence. Mehtarlam is relatively safe compared to other cities in eastern Afghanistan, and the attack came at a time when Dr. Laghmani could be expected to feel at ease.
[More>>nytimes.com; See also,

indianexpress.com, (with blog comment) September 2, "Suicide attack kills 23 at Afghan mosque" : An Afghan official says a Taliban suicide attack has killed 23 people east of Kabul, including the country's deputy chief of intelligence and the head of a provincial council. The explosion ripped through a crowd attending the inauguration of a mosque in Laghman province. A Taliban spokesman says a suicide bomber targeted the deputy chief of intelligence. [blog]: ....I don't know what US wants to achieve actually.. if they really want to make a change.. then they should 1st crush the source of all this shit. But alas.. they will continue to give more lollipops to the region's gangster state. [end]

9.02.09 UN reports sharp fall in Afghan opium production

KABUL, Afghanistan, September 2 - Afghan opium farmers face hard times as price falls. Growing opium is hardly worth the risk any more for Dost Mohammad, a farmer in Helmand, a province of Afghanistan which by itself produces almost enough opium to satisfy all the heroin addicts on earth. "Opium farmers benefit nothing from the crops and spend their day and night in misery," he told Reuters. "We spend six months in the field working hard, then the government can destroy it in a single day."

A United Nations report said Wednesday Opium production in Afghanistan has fallen for a second year running with poppy cultivation down 22 percent and prices among the lowest in a decade. The destitute country produces around 90 percent of the world's opium, used to make heroin sold on the streets of Europe and Central Asia, with profits feeding a resurgent Taliban in an eight-year war.

"The bottom is starting to fall out of the Afghan opium market," UN Office on Drugs and Crime executive director Antonio Maria Costa said in the report, to which the Afghan government contributed. "For the second year in a row, cultivation, production, workforce, prices, revenues, exports and its GDP share are all down, while the number of poppy-free provinces and drug seizures continue to rise," it said. The report said opium cultivation in Afghanistan fell by 22 percent to 123,000 hectares (304,000 acres), from 157,000 hectares in 2008 with the number of poppy-free provinces up to 20 from 18 — out of the total 34.

...Most Afghan opium is processed into heroin inside the war-torn country, where it feeds rampant government corruption before being smuggled to Central Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The United Nations puts the potential export value of Afghan narcotics at about $3.4 billion a year and Afghan officials have said drug profits provide the Taliban with as much as $100 million a year.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net; See also unodc.org, September 2, UN report, "Afghan opium production in significant decline."]

9.02.09 Arab site to be sued for Shoah cartoon

AMSTERDAM (AP) September 2 - Dutch prosecutors said Wednesday they will charge an Arab cultural group under hate speech laws for publishing a cartoon that suggests the death of 6 million Jews during World War II is a fabrication. The public prosecutor's office in the city of Utrecht said the cartoon insults Jews as a group and is therefore an illegal form of discrimination. Prosecutors plan to press charges for "insulting a group and distributing an insulting image." Spokeswoman Mary Hallebeek said the maximum punishment is a year in jail, but a fine of up to €4,700 ($6,700) is more likely, given that the charges are against the group. The Dutch arm of the Arab European League said it doesn't deny the reality of the Holocaust, but published the cartoon on its Web site as an "act of civil disobedience" to highlight a double standard.

AEL chairman Abdoulmouthalib Bouzerda argued that prosecutors had not pressed charges against Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders for his film that included cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Charges against Wilders, who campaigns on an anti-Islam and anti-immigration platform, were dismissed after prosecutors said his insults were aimed at Muhammad, not all Muslims, and were not systematic. The charges against the AEL "illustrates what Muslims have been saying for decades," Bouzerda said in a response published on the league's Web site. "Freedom of expression is only a pretext to make life bitter for Muslims ... and if (they) try to bring this hypocrisy to light, that right is denied them." Bouzerda said anyone should be allowed to publish insulting material in the interest of public debate.

The cartoon shows two apparently Jewish men standing near a pile of skeletons with a sign that says "Auswitch," presumably representing the largest Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz. One pokes a bone with a stick and says "I don't think they're Jews" and the other answers, "We have to get to the six million somehow." Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel, which filed a complaint against the cartoon, said Jews had nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons, so it didn't make sense for the league to retaliate in this way.

9.02.09 Murder attempt: Kazmi hurt, driver killed

ISLAMABAD, September 2 - Federal Religious Minister Hamid Saeed Kazmi has been injured in a firing incident in Islamabad on Wednesday...The federal religious minister was attacked when he was passing through Melody Market after he left his office. Eyewitnesses said the assailants were two motorists riding a bike, who attacked..the minister with gunshots from [the] left side, killing the driver, Muhammed Younis on the spot... [Full story>>thenews.com.pk]

9.02.09 Wanted Saudi militant turns himself in to authorities

RIYADH (DPA) September 2 - Fawaz Al Utaibi, a Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda-linked militant, has turned himself in to authorities in the kingdom under an amnesty arrangement, the Saudi Interior Ministry said Wednesday Al-Arabiya TV news channel said the 35-year-old left for Iran last year. In February, the Saudi government published a list of 85 men worldwide it said adhered to "deviant" ideologies — common Saudi terminology for al-Qaeda. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.02.09 A cordless future for electricity?

September 2 - Electronics such as phones and laptops may start shedding their power cords within a year. That's the prediction of Eric Giler, CEO of WiTricity, a company that's able to power light bulbs using wireless electricity that travels several feet from a power socket. WiTricity's version of wireless electricity — which converts power into a magnetic field and sends it sailing through the air at a particular frequency — still needs to be refined a bit, he said, but should be commercially available soon. Giler, whose company is a spinoff of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology research group, says wireless electricity has the potential to cut the need for power cords and throw-away batteries.

"Five years from now, this will seem completely normal," he said. "The biggest effect of wireless power is attacking that huge energy wasting that goes on where people buy disposable batteries," he said. Watch Giler demonstrate the idea It also will make electric cars more attractive to consumers, he said, because they will be able to power up their vehicles simply by driving into a garage that's fitted with a wireless power mat.

...Ultimately, Giler's group from MIT wants to combine the best of both worlds: large amounts of power sent over long distances. Their technology is called "magnetically coupled resonance," and it basically sends a magnetic field through the air at a specific frequency that an an enabled phone or TV can pick up and turn back into electricity. It works kind of like sound. Think about how an opera singer can break a wine glass if he sings at just the right frequency. Adding the technology to cell phones, mp3 players and other devices should not increase their cost much, he said.
[Full story>>cnn.com; See also witricity.com, "Basics of WiTricity technology."]

9.02.09 3,700-year-old wall discovered in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (AP) September 2 - Archaeologists digging in Jerusalem have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wall that is the oldest example of massive fortifications ever found in the city, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Wednesday. The 26-foot-high wall is believed to have been part of a protected passage built by ancient Canaanites from a hilltop fortress to a nearby spring that was the city's only water source and vulnerable to marauders. The discovery marks the first time archaeologists have found such massive construction from before the time of Herod, the ruler behind numerous monumental projects in the city 2,000 years ago, and shows that Jerusalem of the Middle Bronze Age had a powerful population capable of complex building projects, said Ronny Reich, director of the excavation and an archaeology professor at the University of Haifa. [More>>jpost.com]

9.02.09 Fragment from world's oldest Bible found hidden in Egyptian monastery

September 2 - Academic stumbles upon previously unseen section of Codex Sinaiticus dating back to 4th century. A British-based academic has uncovered a fragment of the world's oldest Bible hiding underneath the binding of an 18th-century book. Nikolas Sarris spotted a previously unseen section of the Codex Sinaiticus, which dates from about AD350, as he was trawling through photographs of manuscripts in the library of St. Catherine's Monastery in Egypt. The Codex, handwritten in Greek on animal skin, is the earliest known version of the Bible. Leaves from the priceless tome are divided between four institutions, including St. Catherine's Monastery and the British Library, which has held the largest section of the ancient Bible since the Soviet Union sold its collection to Britain in 1933. Academics from Britain, America, Egypt and Russia collaborated to put the entire Codex online this year but new fragments of the book are occasionally rediscovered.

Mr. Sarris, 30, chanced upon the fragment as he inspected photographs of a series of book bindings that had been compiled by two monks at the monastery during the 18th century. Over the centuries, antique parchment was often re-used by St. Catherine's monks in book bindings because of its strength and the relative difficulty of finding fresh parchment in such a remote corner of the world. A Greek student conservator who is studying for his PhD in Britain, Mr. Sarris had been involved in the British Library's project to digitise the Codex and quickly recognized the distinct Greek lettering when he saw it poking through a section of the book binding...Mr. Sarris said his find was particularly significant because there were at least 18 other book bindings in the monastery's library that were compiled by the same two monks that had re-used the Codex. "We don't know whether we will find more of the Codex in those books but it would definitely be worth looking," he said.
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

9.01.09 Eurozone jobless at 10-year high

September 1 - Unemployment levels across the 16 countries that use the euro hit a 10-year high in July, as the impact of the recession continued to be felt. The number of people unemployed across the eurozone region totalled 15.1 million people in July, a seasonally-adjusted rate of 9.5%. This was the worst monthly percentage figure recorded since May 1999. The rate across all 27 members of the European Union was 9% a total of 21.8 million people out of work. This was the highest level of unemployment across the EU as a whole since 2005. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

9.01.09 Pakistan nationals may be training Somali pirates

September 1 - There are growing concerns about possible links between pirates and terrorist groups after a confirmed the first case of alleged Pakistani involvement with Somalian pirates. (Watch Video) Investigations into the hijacking of a Russian warship in April by Somali pirates show that Pakistani nationals played an important role in the hijack. 12 Pakistanis had been apprehended along with the Somali pirates. Pakistan has so far not launched a probe into the Russian allegations and claimed that 12 men were fishermen. Authorities have confirmed the first case of alleged Pakistani involvement with Somali pirates in a revelation that has raised concerns about a possible link between piracy and suspected terrorist groups. On April 28, a Russian warship apprehended 12 Pakistan nationals along with Somali pirates for attempting to attack a tanker off Somalias coast. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

9.01.09 Pakistan troops kill 40 militants in new offensive

(Reuters) September 1 - Pakistan troops killed 40 militants on Tuesday in a new offensive in the rugged Khyber region, a crucial thoroughfare for US military supplies heading for Afghanistan, officials said. They also said up to 45 militants had been killed in the past five days on a second front in the Swat Valley, scene of a massive offensive since April that resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilians being displaced. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, September 1, "41 more bodies found in Swat" : PESHAWAR: At least 41 bodies, mostly those of Taliban militants apparently slain by residents in revenge killings, have been found in Pakistan's Swat valley over the past 24 hours, officials said Tuesday. The bodies, six of them beheaded, had been dumped by the roadside, riverside and in fields in different areas of the northwestern valley, officials said. Pakistan's military claims to have cleared Swat of extremists in an offensive launched in April, after militants extended their grip on the valley and terrorized residents with violence that included public beheadings.

Officials said the latest discoveries brought to 251 the number of people found dead in similar circumstances since July, and believed that these were militants who had been killed by residents fearing a Taliban comeback. "Among the 41 dead bodies, six were beheaded, almost all of them were militants," Atif-ur-Rehman, the top administrative official of Swat district, said adding that the rest had bullet wounds. "According to my information they were militants and were killed by residents," Rehman said.

Fourteen police cadets were killed Sunday in a suicide attack in the main town in Swat valley, which police blamed on Taliban militants. "People are now familiar with dead bodies, it is becoming a routine," Swat resident Sakhawat Ali, 34, said."We see dead bodies almost every morning, most of them are Taliban."...

9.01.09 The truth of Iraq's city of deformed babies

September 1 - An Iraqi doctor has told Sky News the number of babies born with deformities in the heavily-bombed area of Fallujah is still on the increase. Fifteen months ago a Sky News investigation revealed growing numbers of children being born with defects in Fallujah. Concerns were that the rise in deformities may have been linked to the use of chemical weapons by US forces. We recently returned to find out the current situation and what has happened to some of the children we featured. In May last year we told the story of a three-year-old girl called Fatima Ahmed who was born with two heads. When we filmed her she seemed like a listless bundle - she lay there barely able to breathe and unable to move. Even now and having seen the pictures many times since I still feel shocked and saddened when I look at her. But the prognosis for Fatima never looked good and, as feared, she never made it to her fourth birthday.[More>>news.sky.com]

8.31.09 As big banks repay bailout money, US sees a profit

August 31 - Nearly a year after the federal rescue of the nation's biggest banks, taxpayers have begun seeing profits from the hundreds of billions of dollars in aid that many critics thought might never be seen again. The profits, collected from eight of the biggest banks that have fully repaid their obligations to the government, come to about $4 billion, or the equivalent of about 15 percent annually, according to calculations compiled for The New York Times. These early returns are by no means a full accounting of the huge financial rescue undertaken by the federal government last year to stabilize teetering banks and other companies.

The government still faces potentially huge long-term losses from its bailouts of the insurance giant American International Group, the mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the automakers General Motors and Chrysler. The Treasury Department could also take a hit from its guarantees on billions of dollars of toxic mortgages. But the mere hint of bailout profits for the nearly year-old Troubled Asset Relief Program has been received as a welcome surprise. It has also spurred hopes that the government could soon get out of the banking business.

8.31.09 US markets follow Shanghai lower

August 31 - Losses in China's main stock-market index ignited a sell-off in markets from Asia to Europe to Wall Street on Monday, as traders worried that a worldwide rally in stocks this summer had flown too high, too fast. The Dow Jones industrial average was down about 92 points or 0.96 percent in early afternoon trading, and the broader Standard & Poor's 500-stock index slid 1.2 percent. The Nasdaq was off about 1.3 percent. Financial, energy and industrial companies, which have surged in the last five months as the recession lost force, were leading the markets lower. Shares of the government-supported insurance giant American International Group fell more than 8 percent as talk intensified that its stock was overvalued. And oil prices fell more than $3 to dip below $70 a barrel for the first time in more than a week. [More>>nytimes.com; See also,

thestar.com (AP) August 31, "Asian markets slip as China plunges nearly 7%" : HONG KONG - Asian markets fell sharply Monday as Chinese stocks plunged nearly 7 percent and Japanese shares weakened after the country's opposition party came to power in a landslide victory. European stocks were mixed in early trade. In Shanghai, the main index plummeted 6.7 percent to 2,697.70, adding to a nearly 3 percent decline on Friday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.9 percent. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 stock average lost 41.61 points, or 0.4 percent, to 10,492.53 after jumping over 200 points earlier in the day.

Renewed selling in mainland Chinese shares reflected the growing unease among investors about government measures to restrict the lavish bank lending that's helped send markets surging this year. Analysts also pointed to concerns about a flood of new shares as lockup periods expire and more initial public offerings come to market. The combination would mean less money to chase more stock....

8.31.09 Third lead poisoning scare in China

August 31 - Chinese state media is reporting a new case of mass lead poisoning among children, the third in a month. The China Daily newspaper said on Monday that 200 children have been poisoned in Tongdu, a township in the south-western province of Yunnan. The paper said that local parents were accusing a nearby industrial park of causing lead poisoning. A hospital in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, found that 200 out of 1,000 children living near the industrial park had elevated levels of lead in their blood. The results of an investigation by the local bureau of China's Ministry of Environmental Protection were expected this week, the paper said. [More>>aljazeera.net]

8.31.09 Breathalyzer screening can detect markers for lung cancer

August 31 - Patients with suspected lung cancer could in future be breathalyzed to check if they have the disease. Scientists have developed a sensor that can quickly detect lung cancer molecules on the breath. They believe the technology could lead to cheap, portable breath-test devices with the potential to save large numbers of lives by spotting cancer early. The lung cancer biomarkers were found by comparing breath samples from 40 diagnosed patients and 56 healthy individuals. From the results, the researchers identified 42 "volatile organic compounds" (VOCs) present in the breath of 83 percent of cancer patients but fewer than 83 percent of healthy volunteers.

Four of the most reliable were used to develop a nine-sensor array made from tiny gold particles coated with reactive chemicals sensitive to the compounds. Exposed to the VOCs, the sensors generated an electrical signal that produced a distinctive trace pattern. In tests, the device easily distinguished simulated "healthy" and "cancerous" breath made from artificial compound mixtures. The Israeli scientists led by Dr. Hossam Haick from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, outline the research today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. They wrote: "Our results show great promise for fast, easy and cost-effective diagnosis and screening of lung cancer. "The developed devices are expected to be relatively inexpensive, portable, and amenable to use in widespread screening, making them potentially valuable in saving millions of lives every year."
[>independent.co.uk; See also tecnion.ac.il press release page]

8.31.09 Qaeda 'coordinator' killed in North Caucasus: Russia

MOSCOW, August 31 - Officials accuse foreign-based radicals for surge of violence. Russian security forces said on Monday they had killed an al-Qaeda "coordinator" and a second rebel fighter in its troubled North Caucasus region of Dagestan. "A foreign mercenary killed in the special operation has been identified. He is an Algerian national, al-Qaeda's coordinator in Dagestan, known among the militants as 'Doctor Muhammad,' " a security official told the RIA Novosti news agency. Russian officials said cash from foreign-based radical Islamic organizations is funding the recent surge of violence in Dagestan and the other two North Caucasus regions of Chechnya and Ingushetia in which dozens of people have died. Earlier this month a suicide bombing in Ingushetia killed at least 24 police officers and injured 136. [More>>alarabiya.net]

8.31.09 Iraqi, Sytrian leaders at loggerheads

BAGHDAD (AFP) August 31 - Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Monday that 90 percent of foreign terrorists who infiltrate Iraq did so via Syria, a charge likely to worsen already fractured  relations between the neighbors. His comments came as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dismissed allegations that his country was sheltering people suspected of involvement in a devastating bombing in Baghdad as “immoral” and politically motivated. The competing claims signalled no end is in sight to a crisis initially triggered by Iraq's accusation that Syria is being used as a staging post for insurgents to launch deadly attacks across the border.

Maliki reiterated that ties with Damascus would not improve until it handed over the suspects it blames for one of two bloody attacks on government ministries in Baghdad on August 19 that killed 95 people and wounded 600. "Ninety percent of terrorists from different Arabic nationalities infiltrated Iraq through Syrian territory," Maliki said during a visit by the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, aimed at cooling the row. Maliki insisted that Damascus “expel the terrorists, Baathists and Takfiris (extremists) who take Syria as a base to launch criminal activity inside Iraq” and said without that there would be no progress.

8.31.09 Pakistan army kills 45 Taliban in Swat battles

ISLAMABAD (AP) August 31 - Pakistani soldiers killed at least 45 Taliban militants in scattered gun battles across the northwestern Swat Valley after a suicide bombing on a police station killed 17 cadets, the army said Monday. Hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, a southwestern border crossing with Afghanistan reopened after an administrative dispute culminated in an attack on a line of waiting NATO fuel tankers. One driver was killed and 16 trucks destroyed when the fuel caught fire. Taliban militants were suspected in both the police station bombing and the attack on the trucks, which came hours apart.

...Soldiers looking for militants after the attack encountered resistance in several areas, and battles that raged into early Monday left 30 dead, army spokesman Col. Akhtar Abbas said. Separate army statements Monday said 15 more militants were killed in security sweeps of five other areas over the previous 24 hours and two soldiers had died.
[Full story>>indianexpress.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, August 31, "Bodies of 29 militants recovered in Swat" :
SWAT, Pakistan - The bodies of 29 militants killed during operation last night have been recovered from tehsil Char Bagh as search operation continues in Haji Baba and Malukabad areas of Mingora. According to sources, there is an environment of mourning in Mingora after [the] killing of 16 security officials in yesterday's suicide attack.

Meanwhile, bodies of 29 militants killed during operation have been found in Banjot and suburb area in tehsil Char Bagh. Security forces demolished houses of five militant commanders in Char Bagh. In another incident, two militants were killed during [a] clash between forces and militants. Swat media center said weapons [were] also recovered in the action. According to Swat media center, curfew will relaxed till 8 pm in Mingora city today. [end]

8.29.09 US-Russia: joint mission to Mars?

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) August 29 - Mark Bauman, deputy director of the NASA manned space flight program in Russia, appearing at an aerospace convention in Moscow (August 23-27) announced that a joint US-Russian manned flight to Mars was feasible. An international team should be involved in the manned mission to Mars and it should use the scientific achievements from the implementation of the International Space Station (ISS). The mission should be managed by NASA and Roskosmos, but also with the participation of other space agencies, said Bauman. Today, the space program remains one of Russia's budget priorities and Russia is still one of the leading countries involved in multifaceted space operations. At the same time, Russia is experiencing a noticeable slowdown in cosmonautics and in its competitiveness in the space sector.

Many scientists and other experts hold that the large-scale task of a manned mission to Mars with subsequent establishment of a long-term outpost there is one of the priority vectors in space operations in first decades of the 21st century. In recent years, the number of unmanned spacecraft sent to Mars has grown steadily. A Russian neutron detector installed on the US space vehicle Mars Odyssey 2001 not only confirmed the presence of water on Mars in the first weeks of its operation, but found abundant water reserves there.

Radar research from the European Space Agency's Mars-Express space vehicle showed that in the planet's southern polar regions alone, the ice deposits are such that if they melted and refroze, the entire planet would be covered in ice 11 meters thick. Moreover, some 100,000 years ago, i.e. when there was already intelligent life on Earth, the Martian ocean seems to have been in a liquid state. Researchers working with the Mars-Express have made another, no less significant discovery. Using a Fourier spectrometer, which Russian experts participated in building, a significant quantity of methane was found in Mars's cloud layer. Incidentally, this gas could be of biological origin.

8.29.09 Qassam strikes southern Israel amid growing border strain

August 29 - Palestinian militants in the northern Gaza Strip fired a Qassam rocket into the western Negev early Saturday. The rocket hit an open area in the Sdot Negev regional council. Later Saturday, the Palestinian Maan news agency reported that the Israel Defense Force fired artillery rounds at gunmen at the central Gaza Strip. No injuries were reported. The IDF said in response that no such attack took place. [More>>haaretz.com]

8.29.09 Pakistan destroys suicide bomber training camp

ISLAMABAD (AP) August 29 - Helicopter gunships destroyed a training camp for suicide bombers in Pakistan's Swat Valley, killing six Taliban fighters, an official said Saturday as scattered violence killed 12 others in the region recently retaken by the army. The camp's trainees — including teenagers — were responsible for at least three attacks in recent weeks, an army spokesman said. The air raid on the training facility, located on a small island in the Swat River opposite the town of Charbagh, came Friday night after local residents tipped off security forces of its location, according to Lt. Col. Akhtar Abbas, the army spokesman in Swat.

Intelligence reports linked the camp to attacks that killed a total of 10 soldiers and civilians this month, he said. Two of the attacks took place last weekend near Mingora, the valley's main town, and another was earlier this month in a more remote area. "We have been working to find their source, and today we destroyed that source," Abbas told The Associated Press...Abbas said another six militants were killed in two separate operations elsewhere in Swat...The army said it had arrested another 11 suspected militants in separate search operations in the region...On Saturday, residents said they found the bullet-riddled bodies of six people they identified as militants in Odigram, a village near Mingora. It was unclear who killed them.

...Police were investigating the possible al-Qaeda links of 12 suspected foreign militants arrested Friday on the edge of the tribal area, after they allegedly sneaked into the country from Iran, Punjab provincial police official Mohamad Rizwan said...The men from Sudan, Russia, Turkey and Iran were arrested in the city of Dera Ghazi Khan, said Hassan Iqbal, a district official. Police also seized a laptop computer and $10,000 from the men, he said.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

8.29.09 North Korean 'arms seized on ship'

NEW YORK (AFP) August 29 - The United Arab Emirates has seized a ship carrying North Korean weapons bound for Iran in violation of UN sanctions, a diplomatic source said today. The diplomat said UAE government officials had informed the UN Security Council's sanctions committee, which is responsible for implementing sanctions on Pyongyang. "It is an issue that is being processed by the committee," said the source, who declined further comment on details on the weapons. The UAE mission to the United Nations also declined comment on the case. The Financial Times reported yesterday that the ship was seized "some weeks ago," and identified some of the armaments as basic weaponry, including rocket-propelled grenades. The arms had been falsely labeled as "machine parts," the Times reported. [More>>news.com.au]

8.29.09 Bombs in northern Iraq, at least 15 killed

SHIRQAT, Iraq (Reuters) August 29 - Two bomb attacks in volatile parts of northern Iraq killed at least 15 people on Saturday and wounded 37, police said, interrupting a relatively peaceful start to the Ramadan fast. In one attack, a suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives and rockets into the main gate of a police station on the outskirts of Shirqat, a town 300 km (190 miles) north of Baghdad, at about 8 a.m. (0500 GMT), police said. Police opened fire to stop him but he detonated the load, killing at least nine people and wounding 17.

...Later, a truck bomb parked beside a market killed six people and wounded 20 in the town of Sinjar, 390 km (240 miles) northwest of Baghdad. Sinjar is mostly inhabited by Yazidis, members of a pre-Islamic Kurdish sect. At least 21 people were killed in two suicide attacks in Sinjar earlier this month, part of a wave of violence that has hit ethnically and religiously mixed northern Nineveh province where tension is high between majority Arabs, ethnic Kurds and other minorities.
[Full story>>thestar.com.my]

8.29.09 Fresh violence near China-Myanmar border

BEIJING, August 29 - Stability on the China-Myanmar border was seriously threatened as fresh violence broke out in the border Kokang region of Myanmar, which is dominated by ethnic Chinese people. Influx of refugees continued into China despite a request from Beijing asking Yangon to stabilize the situation. The Chinese media predicted a civil war in Myanmar while quoting a rebel leader in Kokang, Pheung Kya-shin, as saying his followers had killed 30 government soldiers.

It also reported that a bomb was throwing across the border from Myanmar killing one person and injuring several others on the Chinese side. The local media quoted eye witnesses to say heavy fighting was going on across the border from China. The flow of refugees, mostly ethnic Chinese, continued from Myanmar for the third day today although the flow may have decreased. Reports indicate that nearly 30,000 refugees have crossed into Nansan County in China's southwest province of Yunnan in a desperate bid to escape a crackdown by the local police and military.

8.29.09 France faces reality of toxic beaches after horse dies

SAINT-MICHEL-EN-GREVE, France, August 29 - It should have been a perfect day for Vincent Petit, finishing up an afternoon gallop on a wide expanse of beach along a pastel-colored bay. Instead, he and his mount were sucked into a hole of noxious black sludge. The horse died within seconds, the rider lost consciousness and a dirty secret on the Brittany coast reverberated across France decaying green algae was fouling some of its best beaches.

A report ordered by the government after the accident found concentrations of hydrogen sulfide gas emitted by the rotting algae were as high as 1,000 parts per million on the beach where the horse died
an amount that "can be fatal in several minutes."...Decaying ulva algae threatens other beaches around France and the world, from the United States to China, experts say. Last year, the Chinese government brought in the army to remove the slimy growths so the Olympic sailing competition could be held. In Brittany’s Cote d’Armor region, conditions are perfect for its spread sunlight, shallow waters and flat beaches. Chemical and natural fertilizers like pig excrement, loaded with nitrates and phosphorous, have saturated the land, spilling into rivers and the ocean, feeding the algae that then proliferate. [Full story>>japantoday.com; See earlier story w/ photo,

francewr.com (AFP) August 20, "Seaweed on French beaches 'emitting lethal fumes' " : Mounds of rotting seaweed clogging beaches across northwestern France are emitting a toxic and potentially lethal gas, test results released by the government showed on Thursday. Tests were ordered on the foul-smelling algae, which green groups blame on nitrates fertilizers used by local farmers, after a horse apparently died from inhaling fumes on a beach in Saint Michel de Greve in Brittany. Results showed the seaweed in Saint Michel was giving off dangerous levels of hydrogen sulphide (H2S), sometimes referred to as "sewer gas" because it is produced by the breakdown of putrefied waste material...

8.28.09 Report: Iran nuclear program may have 'military dimensions'

August 28 - A new report commissioned by the International Atomic Energy Agency says that Iran's nuclear energy program may contain "military dimensions." In other words, the report states that Iran may be working towards acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. The report was issued just prior to the annual meeting of IAEA member states which is scheduled to convene next month in Vienna. A senior Iranian envoy angrily denounced the assessment as "fabrication," insisting his country has gone out of its way to be transparent and cooperative.

...It has become evident that Iran has confirmed, albeit implicitly, that it carried out experiments in order to test the process known as "detonation," a key stage in the development of nuclear weapons. In addition, it refused to comment on other activities related to its nuclear program, including "weaponization," one of the final phases in manufacturing nuclear weapons in which fissionable material is installed into the bomb.
[Full story>>haaretz.com; See related story,

jpost.com, August 28, "Iranian president: Prosecute opposition leaders" : Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Friday called for the leaders of the opposition to be prosecuted over Iran's post-election turmoil, stepping up pressure against the pro-reform movement that says he won the election by fraud. It was the first time Ahmadinejad has made such a call, publicly siding with hard-line politicians and clerics and commanders of the powerful Revolutionary Guard who have demanded in recent weeks that opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and his top allies be arrested. Ahmadinejad took an even tougher line than his top ally, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who earlier this week said he saw no evidence that opposition leaders were tools of Iran's foreign enemies, a claim that hard-liners have made...

8.28.09 Banks 'too big to fail' grow even bigger

August 28 - Washington Post: Behemoths Born of the Bailout Reduce Consumer Choice, Tempt Corporate Moral Hazard. When the credit crisis struck last year, federal regulators pumped tens of billions of dollars into the nation's leading financial institutions because the banks were so big that officials feared their failure would ruin the entire financial system. Today, the biggest of those banks are even bigger. The crisis may be turning out very well for many of the behemoths that dominate US finance.

A series of federally arranged mergers safely landed troubled banks on the decks of more stable firms. And it allowed the survivors to emerge from the turmoil with strengthened market positions, giving them even greater control over consumer lending and more potential to profit. J.P. Morgan Chase, an amalgam of some of Wall Street's most storied institutions, now holds more than $1 of every $10 on deposit in this country. So does Bank of America, scarred by its acquisition of Merrill Lynch and partly government-owned as a result of the crisis, as does Wells Fargo, the biggest West Coast bank. Those three banks, plus government-rescued and -owned Citigroup, now issue one of every two mortgages and about two of every three credit cards, federal data show.

8.28.09 Swat operation: 2 terrorists killed in Ningulai, Kanju

SWAT, August 28 - Two terrorists have been killed in Ningulai and Kanju areas as search and clearance operations continue in Swat and Malakand . According to ISPR, a suspect was handed over by locals of village Khazana to security forces at Zara Khela. Security forces apprehended 3 suspects during search operation at Kukrai and Dangram. Twenty-two bombs of 60 mm mortar were recovered during search operation at Alamganj near Waliabad while 1 terrorist was apprehended from Gulibagh. Security forces carried out search operation at Madial and demolished 2 bunkers found near Madial ridge. A terrorist hideout and 2 houses were destroyed during search operation near Maidan. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,

xinhuanet.com, August 28, "Suicide attack at check post kills 17 in NW Pakistan" : A suicide bomber Thursday killed up to 17 Pakistani security men when he blew himself up at a check post in northwest Pakistan's Khyber tribal agency bordering Afghanistan, a top official in the region said...

alarabiya.net, August 28, "Qaeda's Zawahri calls for Pakistani 'Jihad' " :Al-Qaeda's number 2 releases “Path of Doom” video. Al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri called on Pakistanis to support jihadists in the country's tribal areas on Friday, saying it was "the" battle against the American "crusaders," US-based SITE Intelligence group reported. Ayman al-Zawahri's comments were delivered in a video called "Path of Doom" posted on jihadist websites and monitored by SITE, a private group that follows jihadist activities on the Internet...

8.28.09 Saudi official survives suicide bombing attack

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (DPA) August 28 - Saudi Arabia's deputy interior minister survived an assassination attempt when a man wanted on terrorism charges blew himself up in the minister's office, the official Saudi press Agency reported on Friday. Prince Mohammed bin Nayef was meeting well-wishers for the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan in Jeddah on Thursday when the man detonated an explosives belt, killing himself. The suicide bomber had announced he was giving himself up and wanted to meet the prince, who is responsible for security in the Kingdom. The prince suffered minor injuries to a hand, but no one else was seriously injured.

"This will only increase our determination to eradicate this (militancy)," Prince Mohammed said, during his meeting with King Abdullah, who went to check on the prince upon hearing the news. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia arrested 44 suspects believed to be part of al-Qaeda network in the kingdom who had sought to recruit young people and use charity donations to finance their activities. In July, a special court in Riyadh convicted 330 people in what was the first known Saudi trial of suspects accused of plotting terrorist attacks on behalf of al-Qaeda. Friday's attack is the first known attempt against a member of the royal family since the anti-terror operation began in the Kingdom eight years ago.


09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
"Using force the George W. Bush way – Bush's crusade"
11.25.04 Why the Crusade & Jihad?


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