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10.04.09 Attack on remote Afghan outposts kills 8 US troops

KABUL (AP) October 4 - Militant fighters streaming from an Afghan village and a mosque attacked a pair of remote outposts near the Pakistani border, killing eight US soldiers and as many as seven Afghan forces in one of the fiercest battles of the eight-year war. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack for coalition forces since a similar raid in July 2008 killed nine American soldiers in the same mountainous region known as an al-Qaeda haven. The US has already said it plans to pull its soldiers from the isolated area to focus on Afghan population centers.

Fighting began around dawn Saturday and lasted several hours, punctuated by American airstrikes. Jamaludin Badar, governor of Nuristan province, said the two outposts were on a hill — one near the top and one at the foot of the slope — flanked by the village on one side and the mosque on the other. Nearly 300 militant fighters flooded the lower, Afghan outpost then swept around it to reach the American station on higher ground from both directions, said Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh, the provincial police chief. The US military statement said the Americans and Afghans repelled the attack by tribal fighters and "inflicted heavy enemy casualties." Jangulbagh said that the gunbattle included US airstrikes and that 15 Afghan police were captured by the Taliban, including the local police chief and his deputy.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, said a council would decide the fates of the police, confirming the capture of the two top local officers. Badar said five or six Afghan soldiers died, as did one policeman. Afghan forces were sent as reinforcements, but Jangulbagh said all communications to the district, Kamdesh, were severed and he had no way of knowing how they were faring Sunday. The area is just 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the Pakistani border and 150 miles (230 kilometers) from Kabul.
[More>>abcnews.go.com; See other details,

nytimes.com, October 4, "Eight US soldiers dead in bold attack in Afghanistan" : ...Much about the attack was still unclear on Sunday, but its broad outlines were eerily familiar. Nine American soldiers were killed in July 2008 in the same province, when 200 insurgents stormed their small outpost in the village of Wanat. That attack, which has been described as the "Black Hawk Down" of Afghanistan, with the 48 American soldiers and 24 Afghan soldiers outnumbered three to one in a four-hour firefight, is now seen as a cautionary tale for the war here, which commanders say should focus more on protecting civilians.

Locals in the area were furious with Americans for the killing of local medical staff in an airstrike the week before, and commanders believe that for that reason, they were more hospitable to insurgents...Attackers gathered in a mosque and a nearby village, before staging the attack. Mr. Badar said the attackers were Taliban fighters who had come from Pakistan, after military operations in that country pushed them out of their bases there. He said the strike was led by a Taliban commander named Dost Muhammed, whom he described as the shadow commander for the Taliban in Nuristan. The Americans identified the attackers as “tribal militia,” a departure from their typical usage of the word Taliban. Col. Shanks said the description was more specific. Some military planners argue applying the word Taliban to all insurgents oversimplifies the fight Americans face here and gives the appearance, sometimes falsely, of a coordinated, hierarchical fighting force...

10.04.09 Thirty 'high-risk' terrorists to be released early

October 4 - UP to 30 "high-risk" terrorists — including some of the most dangerous men in Britain — are due to be released from jail in the next year. More are being freed in the wake of a ruling by Britain's most senior judges that long sentences for terrorist crimes could "inflame" rather than deter extremism. An analysis of appeal court cases shows that of the 26 terrorism cases it has heard, 25 have led to men with terrorism convictions having their sentences reduced. Others are being released because they serve only part of their term. In response, Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said the Tories were considering longer sentences for terrorists.

The leniency of the British appeal court to some convicted terrorists contrasts with America where they can be locked up for their whole lives. One man designated “high risk” and due to be freed soon is Andrew Rowe, a Muslim convert who was found guilty of having notes on how to fire mortar bombs. Rowe was sentenced to 15 years in 2005. He is due to be freed next April after his sentence was reduced to 10 years. Others who have had their sentences cut include some of those who helped the failed suicide bombers of July 21, 2005 and two of those convicted of soliciting murder during the Danish cartoons protest.

10.04.09 Natural disasters strike Asia as death tolls mount

HONG KONG, Ocyober 4 - Rescuers seek survivors from Indonesia to Samoa. The death toll from a week of natural disasters neared 2,000 after Mother Nature unleashed her fury across Asia-Pacific with a series of earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons. From the Philippines to the Samoa Islands rescuers raced to reach survivors as thousands were left displaced and the amount of the damage became apparent.

Indonesia quake

Emergency workers held out scant hope of finding more people alive in the wreckage left by the Indonesian quake, leaving clean-up teams the grim task of retrieving the decaying bodies of thousands of victims from the rubble. The military and medics pushed deeper into rural areas where whole villages have been buried by landslides, and more international rescue teams arrived with sniffer dogs and specialist equipment. The United Nations said at least 1,100 have died in the 7.6-magnitude quake which struck on Wednesday, but the real toll is expected to soar into the thousands...

Philippines typhoon

In the Philippines, Typhoon Parma killed at least 15 people just a week after tropical storm Ketsana brought the heaviest rains in more than four decades, leaving nearly 300 dead. Many areas in the north of the main Luzon island were blacked out and cut off from communication as Parma left the country and hovered over the South China Sea. The state weather bureau warned that the worst may not be over, as typhoon Melor, lying some 2,200 kilometers (1,200 miles) to the east in the Pacific Ocean, may suck Parma back to the country...

Vietnam storms

The toll in Vietnam from Ketsana jumped to 162 on Sunday with hundreds more injured, an official said, adding urgency to a Red Cross appeal launched to help more than 200,200 storm victims. Another 13 people remain missing and 616 are injured, said the official from the national flood and storm control committee in Hanoi. An estimated three million people in Vietnam have been affected by Ketsana, said the Red Cross, which on Friday launched an international appeal for 4.75 million dollars to help 210,200 of the neediest victims...

Samoan Tsunami

The number of people feared killed in the devastating tsunami that pounded the Samoa islands and Tonga neared 190, according to officials. Ferocious waves were unleashed by a 8.0 magnitude undersea quake which rattled the region early Tuesday, devastating American Samoa, neighboring Samoa and the Pacific island nation Tonga. The confirmed death toll remained at 176 on Sunday but there were fears for the lives of 12 missing people...

Indian floods

Hundreds of thousands of people in southern India were evacuated after torrential rains and floods swept away homes, leaving at least 207 people dead, officials said Sunday. The death toll in the state of Karnataka stood at 170, while 37 people were killed in neighboring Andhra Pradesh, authorities said.
[Full story>>alarabiya.net; See related stories,

independent.co.uk, October 4, "Indonesian earthquake: 'They were sucked deep into the earth' " :
Aid workers reach remote areas beyond Padang to find entire villages levelled by last week's disaster. In rural areas of Indonesia, weddings are communal, open-air affairs. Some 400 people attended the nuptials of a couple in Pulau Aiya, a village outside Padang, last Wednesday. Then the ground shook and swallowed everyone up. "They were sucked 30m deep into the earth," Rustam Pakaya, head of the Indonesian Health Ministry's crisis centre, said yesterday. "Even the mosque's minaret, more than 20m tall, disappeared." Three days after a 7.6-magnitude earthquake devastated Padang and surrounding areas on the west coast of Sumatra, the full impact of the tragedy is starting to become clear. Whole villages were found obliterated yesterday by rescuers pushing deeper into the disaster zone, where roads remain cut off and survivors — still desperately awaiting aid — are subsisting on coconut milk.

Still, extraordinary stories of survival are continuing to emerge. "Please help, I'm trapped, my position is in the house by the stairs." That brief text message, sent to his father in Jakarta nearly 600 miles away, saved Johnson Chandra's life after a four-storey building in Padang toppled, trapping him and his wife. Mr. Chandra tried without success to call relatives and friends on his mobile phone. "I was desperate," he said. "But I suddenly thought about texting, so I texted my dad to let him know where I was. Later I heard people coming, so I tried to make a sound. I found a small nail and started banging it. They finally found me. Slowly they broke concrete around me, and I was rescued 10 hours after the quake." Another text was sent from the bowels of the Ambacang Hotel in Padang, but with a less happy outcome...

thejakartapost.com, October 4, "Powerful earthquake jolts Gorontalo" : JAKARTA - A 5.3-magnitude earthquake shook Gorontalo province in northern Sulawesi on Sunday, the province’s Geophysics and Meteorology Agency (BMG) has reported...The quake caused residents to panic but they went back to their homes when it stopped...

news.com.au, October 4, "Second quake rocks Indonesia" :
Another powerful earthquake has hit Indonesia but there are no reports of injury. A 6.1-magnitude quake rocked the far east of the country about 3500km from the Sumatra quake disaster zone, seismologists said. The quake in West Papua province struck yesterday afternoon at a depth of 56 kilometers, 123 kilometers northwest of the West Papua capital of Manokwari, the country's geophysics agency said...Indonesian geophysics agency technical head Suharjono told AFP there were no immediate reports of injuries in West Papua. "The earthquake in Papua has nothing to do with that in Sumatra. The tectonic plates in both incidents are different," he said.

thenews.com.pk, October 4, "6.6 magnitude quake strikes off Philippines" :
MANILA - A 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck off the Philippines Sunday, seismologists said, but at 630 kilometers (390 miles) below the seabed it was considered extremely deep and no destructive tsunami was expected. The quake hit in the Moro Gulf, off Mindanao, at 6:58pm (1058 GMT), but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries and the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said it did not expect a destructive tsunami. The epicenter was 100 kilometers southwest of Cotabato, in Mindanao, the US Geological Survey said. Asia-Pacific has in the past week been hit by earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons that have left nearly 2,000 dead. [end]

10.04.09 Palestinian official detained at Temple Mount freed on bail

JERUSALEM, October 4 - After a day of clashes at the Temple Mount compound, tensions in the Old City of Jerusalem seemed to have calmed by late Sunday afternoon. Israeli security forces released from custody Jerusalem's senior Fatah official, Khatem Abed Al-Kadr, who was arrested earlier in the day on suspicion of inciting riots. Al-Kadr was released on condition that he not enter the Old City of Jerusalem and that he remain at least 250 meters from the area gates for 15 days. He was released on NIS 10,000 bail. Deputy leader of Israel's northern Islamic Movement, Sheikh Kemal Khativ, was also released on similar conditions. Some 150 Palestinian protesters hurled rocks and bottles at Israeli police on Sunday after being barred from one of the holiest shrines in Jerusalem, on Temple Mount.

..Earlier Sunday, police closed the Temple Mount complex to visitors. The complex is sacred to Jews as the site of the two biblical Jewish temples and to Muslims as home of the al-Aqsa mosque...The closure was imposed after Palestinians rioted at the site last week on Yom Kippur...On Friday, the Islamic Movement held a rally in the Israeli Arab town of Umm al-Fahm, under the heading "Al-Aqsa is in danger." The rally is a 14-year old annual tradition. The head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, Ra'ad Salah, warned Friday against Israel's alleged plan to take over the mosque. "[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will set the Middle East on fire," Salah told his supporters at the rally.
[Full story>>haaretz.com; See another point of view, aljazeera.net, October 4, "Clashes as Israel shuts off al-Aqsa.]

10.04.09 Spain: hijacked fishing boat makes port in Somalia

MADRID (AP) October 4 - A hijacked trawler has been taken to port in Somalia with pirates still in charge of the vessel, the Spanish government said Sunday. The Spanish-owned fishing boat Alakrana was hijacked by pirates early Friday. It is being monitored by two navy warships, rescue force commander Gen. Jaime Dominguez said. Dominguez also said at a press conference that two suspected pirates had been captured as they navigated a small boat in the vicinity of the Alakrana. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.03.09 Mahmoud Ahmadinejad revealed to have Jewish past

October 3 - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's vitriolic attacks on the Jewish world hide an astonishing secret, evidence uncovered by The Daily Telegraph shows. A photograph of the Iranian president holding up his identity card during elections in March 2008 clearly shows his family has Jewish roots. close-up of the document reveals he was previously known as Sabourjian a Jewish name meaning cloth weaver. The short note scrawled on the card suggests his family changed its name to Ahmadinejad when they converted to embrace Islam after his birth. The Sabourjians traditionally hail from Aradan, Mr. Ahmadinejad's birthplace, and the name derives from "weaver of the Sabour," the name for the Jewish Tallit shawl in Persia. The name is even on the list of reserved names for Iranian Jews compiled by Iran's Ministry of the Interior. Experts last night suggested Mr. Ahmadinejad's track record for hate-filled attacks on Jews could be an overcompensation to hide his past.

Ali Nourizadeh, of the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies, said: "This aspect of Mr. Ahmadinejad's background explains a lot about him. "Every family that converts into a different religion takes a new identity by condemning their old faith. By making anti-Israeli statements he is trying to shed any suspicions about his Jewish connections. He feels vulnerable in a radical Shia society." A London-based expert on Iranian Jewry said that "jian" ending to the name specifically showed the family had been practising Jews. "He has changed his name for religious reasons, or at least his parents had," said the Iranian-born Jew living in London. "Sabourjian is well known Jewish name in Iran."
[More>>telegraph.co.uk; See also jpost.com, October 3, "Ahmadinejad was born a Jew."]

10.03.09 Anne Frank footage posted on YouTube

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) October 3 - Museum in Amsterdam started airing only known film of teenage diarist. The Anne Frank House museum in Amsterdam has begun airing the only known video of the teenage diarist on a channel dedicated to her on YouTube.

The channel also features clips of others, including her late father Otto and Nelson Mandela, talking about Anne, museum spokeswoman Annemarie Bekker said Friday. "It is really a great platform to show all the different kinds of films and documentaries about Anne Frank," Bekker added. The channel shows footage taken during a neighbor's wedding on July 22, 1941. It briefly shows Anne before she and her family were forced into hiding to avoid the Nazis during their World War II occupation of the Netherlands.

The fleeting moving images of Anne already are on display at the museum and on its Web site in slightly shorter versions. Bekker said the YouTube channel also has a video about the making of a 3-D virtual version of the secret annex concealed in an Amsterdam canalside house where the Frank family hid for 25 months until they were betrayed and deported. The virtual version of the secret annex is due to be formally launched next year to help mark the 50th anniversary of the museum's founding. Anne died aged 15 of typhus in the German concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, seven months after her arrest and just two weeks before British and Canadian troops liberated the camp. Her posthumously published diary has made her a symbol of all Jews killed in World War II.
[>cbsnews.com; See also youtube.com/annefrank]

10.03.09 Israeli jets bomb Gaza targets in retaliation

GAZA CITY (AFP) October 3 - Israeli jets early on Saturday bombed several targets across the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip in response to militant rocket fire, the army and Palestinian witnesses said. A military spokesman said planes targeted a building used for manufacturing rockets on the outskirts of Gaza City as well as two smuggling tunnels linking the south of the impoverished enclave to Egypt. No casualties were reported in the strikes, witnesses said. The attacks came after Palestinian militants fired a rocket and a mortar shell against southern Israel yesterday, the spokesman said, also without causing casualties. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

10.03.09 Police arrests man whipping Swat girl publicly

DI KHAN, Pakistan, October 3 - The man whipping a girl publicly in Swat, as shown in a video footage on media some months ago, has been arrested. Nine suspects were nabbed from Dera Ismail Khan a few days ago including Amin alias Chhota Aftab, source said. Police said during investigation it was found that he is the same man whipping the Swat girl, as shown in the footage. He is said to hail from Swat and is not even the relative of the girl he whipped. Chhota Aftab was shifted from DI Khan eight days ago. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, October 3, "12 extremists surrender - ISPR report" :
RAWALPINDI - The security forces continued search and clearance operations in Swat and Malakand during the last 24 hours. According to a press released issued here by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Saturday, at least five terrorists voluntarily surrendered to security forces in Barshaur and Kuz Bamakhela near Matta. Another five terrorists voluntarily surrendered to security forces in Matta and Sambat. In Alamganj also, two terrorists surrendered to the forces. A delegation of ICRC headed by Mr. Etiennc Kuster facilitated by security forces visited Maidan area of Dir and distributed 50 Kgs fertilizer and 2 kgs winter crop seed to 27,000 families. [end]

10.02.09 Jobs report highlights uncertainty of US recovery

October 2 - The American economy shed another 263,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate rose to 9.8 percent, reinforcing a broad assumption that many more months of lean times lie ahead for working people. The latest snapshot of the nation's job market released by the Labor Department on Friday amplified the notion that the recession has probably ended, as a technical matter. Though the job market continued to worsen, the pace of deterioration remained markedly slower than earlier in the year, when roughly 700,000 jobs a month were disappearing. Yet the report added to the sentiment that the economic expansion, which is probably under way, will be weak and tentative, with scarce paychecks and anxiety remaining prominent features of American life well into next year. [More>>nytimes.com; See also abcnews.go.com, October 2, "Unemployment rises to highest level since 1983; 263,000 jobs cut in September."]

10.02.09 Watch new Schalit video: "I yearn to see my family again"

October 2 - After over three years in which IDF St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit has been held in Hamas captivity in the Gaza Strip, Israel breathed a sigh of relief on Friday afternoon after video footage of the captive soldier was released to the media and aired on Israeli television channels. The two-minute long clip shows Schalit addressing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his parents Noam and Aviva, telling them he is being treated well by the Hamas and is in good health, but yearning for the day on which he will see his family again.

Schalit is seen clean shaven with a fresh haircut, wearing dark green clothes. The video was received in return for the release of 20 Palestinian female prisoners. Israel released 19 of them on Friday morning, 18 to the West Bank and one to Gaza. The 20th prisoner will be released Sunday, after it turned out that a prisoner released Wednesday was finishing her sentence anyway and would therefore be released regardless of the deal. (Watch video)...

Following is the full transcript of Schalit's video message:

"Hello, I am Gilad, son of Noam and Aviva Schalit, brother of Hadas and Yoel, who lives in Mitzpe Hila. My ID number is 300097029. "As you see I am holding in my hands the Palestine newspaper of September 14, 2009, published in Gaza. I am reading the paper in order to find information regarding myself, hoping to find some information from which I would learn of my release and upcoming return home. I have been hoping and waiting for the day of my release for a long time. I hope the current government under Binyamin Netanyahu will not waste the chance to finalize a deal, and I will therefore be able to finally have my dream come true and be released...[Full story>>jjpost.com]

10.02.09 Court rejects Suu Kyi appeal

October 2 - A court in Myanmar has rejected an appeal by detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her continued house arrest. The Nobel peace laureate, who has been under detention for 14 of the past 20 years, appealed against her latest conviction in August for breaking the terms of her last period of house arrest. But unnamed sources from the military government said the Yangon division court upheld the conviction on Friday and rejected the appeal as unwarranted. Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced in August to a further 18 months of house arrest for sheltering an uninvited American intruder after he swam to her lakeside home in May. [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.02.09 "Super typhoon' bears down on flood-ravaged Philippines

MANILA (Reuters) October 2 - The Philippines declared a nationwide state of calamity on Friday as a "super typhoon" bore down a week after flash floods killed nearly 300 people in and around Manila. Typhoon Parma, about 150 km east of Luzon, was gaining strength as it churned west-northwest toward the mainland, bringing heavy rain. It was expected to make landfall in or near the northeastern province of Isabela on Saturday. The area is mountainous and not heavily populated, but Parma was likely to lash Luzon with rain over the next two days, making life worse in flood-hit regions. "We're concerned about the effects of more rain on the relief work in flooded areas because the water level could rise again," Defence Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said in a briefing aired live on national television.

The Asia-Pacific region has been hit by a series of natural disasters in recent days, including Typhoon Ketsana which killed more than 400 in the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Tens of thousands were also displaced in southern Laos and flash floods were reported in northern Thailand. Two powerful earthquakes rocked the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with the death toll likely to be in the thousands, and a tsunami battered American and Western Samoa, killing nearly 150. In Taiwan, authorities identified 12 villages for mandatory evacuation ahead of Parma and another storm in the Pacific, Typhoon Melor. The Taiwan government came in for heavy criticism after a deadly typhoon in August killed as many as 770 people.
[More>>thestar.com.my; See also

newsinfo.inquirer.net (AP) October 2, "RP to evacuate by force those in storm's path" :
MANILA - The Philippine police said Thursday they will forcibly evacuate residents refusing to leave their homes in the direct path of an approaching strong typhoon. The order for a "pre-emptive evacuation" was handed down by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro "in line with our zero casualty target,"said national police spokesman Leopoldo Bataoil. He said the order covers communities in the shorelines of Cagayan province in the north-eastern seaboard of Luzon island, where typhoon Pepeng (international codename: Parma) was expected to make landfall on Saturday afternoon. The state weather bureau said Pepeng was expected to develop into a super typhoon, equivalent to a Category 4 hurricane that could cause widespread damage...

10.02.09 Amazing rescues days after Indonesia quake

October 2 - UN: Death Toll Passes 1,000; 3,000 People May Still Be Trapped as Rescuers Frantically Dig Through Rubble. Rescuers pulled two women alive from their collapsed college, nearly two days after a powerful earthquake devastated western Indonesia, as cries for help from a flattened hotel spurred the frantic search for more survivors Friday. One of the survivors high-fived her rescuers as they carried her to safety. The government said nearly 3,000 people may still be trapped under rubble, two days after Wednesday's 7.6-magnitude quake that toppled thousands of buildings on Sumatra island. Paramedics laid out dozens of corpses, and the stench of decomposing bodies filled the air.

The official death toll stood at 715, the Health Ministry's crisis center chief Rustam Pakaya told The Associated Press. The UN's humanitarian chief in New York, John Holmes, said figures it had received suggested at least 1,100 people had died. Rustam said more than 2,400 people were injured, and "thousands" missing based on reports from relatives, though he could not give a firm number on the missing. Some quake victims have yet to receive help....

10.02.09 Military searches for bodies, brings aid to Samoas

LALOMANU, Samoa (AP) October 2 - Military searches for bodies, brings aid to tsunami-stricken Samoas as death toll rises. Some frightened Samoans who fled to the hills as a tsunami tore through their seaside villages vowed never to return to the coastline, while aid workers delivered water and medicine amid the growing stench of decay. Grieving survivors began to bury their loved ones, while others gathered under a traditional meeting house to hear a government minister discuss plans for a mass funeral and burial next week.

The death toll from Tuesday's earthquake and tsunami rose to 169 Thursday as searchers found more bodies in Samoa, where 129 were confirmed dead, police commissioner Lilo Maiava told The Associated Press. Another 31 were killed in the US territory of American Samoa and nine in Tonga. Maiava said drowning appeared to be the main cause of death, and some bodies were still being plucked from the sea. Police dug others from sand, mud and debris. Maiava said the search for bodies could continue for another three weeks.

10.02.09 Dozens of dinosaur eggs found

CHENNAI, India (AFP) October 2 - Geologists have found a cluster of fossilized dinosaur eggs, said to be about 65 million years old, in a village in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, according to media reports. "We found layer upon layer of spherical eggs and body parts of dinosaur and each cluster contained eight eggs," M. Ramkumar, a geologist at Periyar University who led a survey team, said yesterday, according to The Hindu newspaper. The eggs, about 13-20cm in diameter and lying in sandy nests about 1.2m wide, were discovered during a study funded by Indian and German scientific institutions.

The clusters were under ash from volcanic eruptions on the Deccan plateau, which geologists said could have caused the dinosaurs to become extinct. The nesting site was found along the banks and bottom of streams in the Cauvery river basin, containing clusters of fossilized eggs, dung and bone remains of dinosaurs. "Occurrences of unhatched eggs in large numbers at different stratigraphic levels indicate that the dinosaurs kept returning to the same site for nesting," Anbarasu, another survey team member, said. The researchers have requested local officials to cordon off the site since a similar discovery in northern India led to a plunder of the fossils.

10.02.09 Health claim of probiotics not accepted

October 2 - £220m-a-year 'dairy shots' industry in disarray following EU scientists' ruling. Drink this yogurt for a healthier stomach. Thirty million shoppers have swallowed the claims for probiotics as enthusiastically as the sweet fermented milk in the belief that "good bacteria" will defeat "bad bacteria" in epic microscopic battles inside our bodies. But claims that probiotic ingredients improve health can not be supported, according to an extensive review of scientific research by a team of experts from the European Union. Of 180 claims for probiotic ingredients, the EU's food agency the European Food Safety Authority (Efsa) threw out every one.

Ten were rejected outright and a 21-member expert panel could not assess the remaining 170 because the ingredients for which the claims were made could not be identified. The findings on ingredients such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium are an embarrassment to the UK's £220m-a-year "dairy shots" industry, which has relied on heavy advertising to persuade shoppers of its products. However Britain's best-selling yogurt drinks, Actimel and Yakult, were excluded from Efsa's findings yesterday because Danone, Actimel's maker, and Yakult, the Japanese firm which introduced probiotic drinks to the UK in 1996, withdrew their claims before they could be scrutinised. They have since re-submitted them, but the results will not be available until next year.

10.02.09 Pakistan to target Taliban's 'epicenter' in South Waziristan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, October 2 - After fighting peripheral wars against militants for the last several years, the military is poised to open a campaign in coming days against the Taliban's main stronghold in Pakistan's tribal areas, South Waziristan, according to senior military and security officials. For three months, the military has been drawing up plans, holding in-depth deliberations and studying past operations in the area, where previous campaigns ended in failure and resulted in some of the military's highest casualties. Even so, military officials said they expected stiff resistance once again in an area that one senior military official called the "epicenter" of the Taliban in Pakistan. It has also become a key base for al-Qaeda. "This is where we will be fighting the toughest of all battles," the official said.

He and other officials did not want to be identified while discussing confidential preparations for the campaign. But they said the military now seemed ready to try to re-enter the area, having decided it could wait no longer. "If we don't take the battle to them, they will bring the battle to us," the official said. The past two operations in South Waziristan ended up with the military bogged down and suing for peace, resulting in a series of accords that ultimately strengthened the hand of the militants.
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related stories:

thenews.com.pk, October 2, "Afghan weapons arming militants in Pakistan: Ghani"

thenews.com.pk, October 2, "27 extremists killed in Tirah" : PESHAWAR - At least 27 militants including two important commanders have been killed in a security forces operation in Tirah Valley, Geo News reported Friday. According to the FC sources, at least two hideouts, three tunnels and 19 vehicles used by the extremists, have been destroyed in the action. [end]; See more details,

khaleejtimes.com (AFP) October 2, "Pakistan kills 27 militants: military" : PESHAWAR - Pakistani forces on Friday killed 27 alleged militants in the lawless northwest Khyber district, the paramilitary Frontier Corps said. "Attack helicopters shelled militant training centres on Friday in the Tirrah valley of Khyber, killing 27 rebels," Frontier Corps spokesman Major Fazal-ur-Rehman told AFP. He said artillery pieces were also used to pound rebel positions. Nineteen vehicles and four hideouts belonging to militants had been destroyed, he said...

thenews.com.pk, October 2, "3 extremists killed, 6 nabbed: ISPR report," RAWALPINDI - The security forces continued search and clearance operations in Swat and Malakand during the last 24 hours. According to a press released issued here by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) on Friday, the security forces conducted search operation in Shah Dheri and apprehended a local commander Rehmat. At least seven terrorists voluntarily surrendered to Security forces in Barshaur.

The security forces conducted search operation in Shahid Khapa near Piochar and Sarsanai and apprehended 5 terrorists. Security forces conducted search operation in Derai near Kanju and defused 6 IEDs. The security forces conducted search operation in Zulamkot-Serai and killed 3 terrorists. The forces continued the relief activities, as 307,006 cash cards have been distributed amongst the IDPs of Malakand. [end]

10.02.09 Suicide bomber kills 2 US troops in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, October 2 - A suicide bomber struck a convoy of US forces in southern Afghanistan on Friday, killing two US service members, a press officer for US and NATO-led troops said. Captain Elizabeth Mathias gave no further details of the attack. Insurgents increasingly rely on suicide attacks and roadside bombs in Afghanistan, where violence has reached its worst levels since the start of the eight-year-old war. A suicide bomber killed one American service member in a similar attack on a convoy on Wednesday in Khost province in the southeast. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

independent.co.uk, October 2, "British airman killed in Afghanistan" :
A British serviceman has been killed in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence said today. The airman, from 34 Squadron Royal Air Force Regiment, died in a blast while on a patrol near Camp Bastion, the main UK base in Helmand Province, yesterday afternoon...

10.02.09 Suspected al-Qaeda recruiter arrested: Germany

BERLIN (AFP) October 2 - German authorities said on Friday that they had arrested a German-Turkish national on suspicion of obtaining bomb-making materials and recruiting people for al-Qaeda. Police raided a flat in Offenbach and a business in nearby Frankfurt and recovered a small amount of an explosive mixture and a homemade electronic device thought to be a detonator, federal prosecutors said in a statement. They also turned up other materials and devices in the raids, which together with the arrest took place on Thursday, the statement said.

The man, who has both German and Turkish citizenship, was named only as Adnan V. He is suspected of trying to recruit members and supporters of the Islamic militant group al-Qaeda on the Internet with propaganda materials. Currently, however, he is not thought to be linked to a number of videos ahead of last Sunday's general election threatening Germany with attacks. The videos prompted heightened security measures at airports and main train stations around the country, as well as sites popular with tourists like Berlin's Brandenburg Gate or the Oktoberfest beer festival in Munich. They warned Germany of attacks unless it withdrew its 4,200 troops from Afghanistan, where they are fighting an increasingly tough insurgency as part of a 100,000-strong US and NATO mission.

10.02.09 Iraq foils Qaeda suicide bomber prison break bid

HILLA, Iraq (AFP) October 2 - Prison has about 300 inmates including Qaeda members. A would-be al-Qaeda suicide car bomber who planned to detonate his payload to help comrades escape from an Iraqi prison was foiled after a tip-off about the attack, security forces said on Friday. The man confessed to planning to blow himself up outside a prison in Hilla, the capital of Babil province, when he was apprehended at his house 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of the city, an Iraqi army official told AFP. "Our forces arrested a suicide bomber from al-Qaeda, while he was preparing a car bomb for an operation near the main prison in the centre of Hilla," he said. [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.01.09 US begins fiscal year $11,776, 112,848, 656.17 in debt

October 1 - Happy New Year! But leave the hats and horns in the closet. There's nothing to celebrate. Today marks the start of the 2010 federal fiscal year. The only thing good about it is that FY'09 is finally over. It was the fiscal year in which the US suffered the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression and government numbers reflected that. It was as if a fiscal tsunami struck and flooded the nation with red ink.

By the time the final numbers are in for the fiscal year just ended, the federal deficit will have hit an all-time high in the range of $1.580-trillion. That's 11.2 percent of the total economy (GDP). The previous year's deficit was
by today's standards nearly inconsequential at $459-billion. That was only 3.2 percent of GDP. Over the course of FY'09, the National Debt soared as well from $10.124-trillion on October 1, 2008 to $11,776,112,848,656.17 as of Tuesday, the latest figure from the Bureau of Public Debt. That's an increase of $1.652-trillion the single largest increase ever in a fiscal year.

The projections for the new fiscal year offer only slight hope of improvements. The mid-session review released by the Office of Management and Budget at the end of August forecasts a deficit for FY'10 just over $1.5-trillion, amounting to 10.4 percent of the total economy. And the aptly-named Gross National Debt is projected to skyrocket in excess of $14-trillion.

Editorial note: See treasurydirect.gov for the current account of the National Debt (Public Debt). As of 9.30.09 the debt is: $11.909 trillion. The current deficit (not yet posted, as of 10.01.09) is reported at fms.treasury.gov. There seems to be an inconsistency between the cbsnews.com numbers and those of the US Treasury website. For a history on the debt and expectations / reports a year ago see Maravot News 9.24.08 article 9.20.08 Administration is seeking $700 billion for Wall Street bailout and subsequent issues linked in the Maravot News archives.

Mel Copeland

10.01.09 Quake zone 'a disaster waiting to happen'

(AFP) October 1 - Scientists have warned for years that the Indonesian city of Padang is a disaster waiting to happen because of strain on a nearby fault line. After this week's quake they say worse is likely to come. The city on Sumatra island is located between two lines of high seismic activity - the Great Sumatran

Image from "World Atlas of the Oceans" by Dr. M. Leier, Firefly Books, 2001, Copyright RM Buch und Medienvertrieb, Hamburg, Germany. Map shows undersea of 2004 and 2009 quake area. See Maravot News 12.31.04 for 2004 Tsunami reports. Click on map for larger view.

fault on the mainland to the east, and the Sumatra trench under the ocean to the west. Scientists have long anticipated a major quake there caused by the grinding of the Indo-Australian plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate, which are moving towards each other at a rate of up to six centimeters per year.

Predictions have been issued "since early 2004, before the great 2004 tsunami and earthquake", California Institute of Technology geologist Kerry Sieh said, referring to the Indian Ocean disaster that killed more than 220,000 people. A series of big shakes — including a magnitude 8.2 that struck Bengkulu province in September 2007, and one off Aceh that triggered the 2004 tsunami — showed that all the segments had released their energy, except that of Padang. The 7.6-magnitude quake that struck the West Sumatra capital on Wednesday has killed at least 529 people and left thousands buried under rubble in the city of nearly a million people. But pressure on the fault means a vastly larger 8.8-magnitude quake, coupled with a five metre high wall of water, is a virtual certainty in the coming decades, Mr. Sieh said. "This earthquake today is a flea compared to this tiger of a quake that is coming," he said.
[More>>news.com.au; See related story w/video,

bbc.co.uk, October 1, "Indonesia quake deaths pass 1,000" :
At least 1,100 people have died in the earthquake that struck the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Wednesday, the UN humanitarian chief has said. John Holmes said many hundreds more had been injured, and both figures were set to rise further. Rescuers are working into the night to find survivors in the rubble of hundreds of collapsed buildings. The 7.6-magnitude quake struck close to the city of Padang, the capital of West Sumatra province. The earthquake brought down hospitals, schools and shopping malls, cut power lines and triggered landslides...

10.01.09 Scientists 'reverse ageing process'

October 1 - A way to reverse ageing has been discovered which allows withered muscle to rebuild itself by turning back a "biological clock." The effect has already been demonstrated on human muscle tissue in the laboratory. Scientists in the US believe the breakthrough could lead to new treatments that rejuvenate and strengthen ageing bodies or combat degenerative diseases. Their findings also underline the importance of staying active for older people, since this reduced age-related muscle loss.

Professor Irina Conboy, from the University of California at Berkeley, said: "Our study shows that the ability of old human muscle to be maintained and repaired by muscle stem cells can be restored to youthful vigor given the right mix of biochemical signals." Previously the same team had shown that molecular “messages” from muscle cells alter with age to affect tissue repair. As people get older, their ability to restore and rebuild lost muscle is weakened. The US researchers, working with colleagues from the Institute of Sports Medicine and Centre of Healthy Ageing at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, compared muscle tissue samples from around 30 healthy men. Half the volunteers were young 21 to 24-year-olds and half aged between 68 and 74.
[More>>belfasttelegraph.co.uk, via independent.co.uk]

10.01.09 What happened at the Weston MedSpa that left Rohie Kah brain dead?

October 1 - Rohie Kah Remains on Life Support After Liposuction Procedure at a Local Spa. The doctor who operated on a now-brain dead Florida woman last week did not know the spa where he performed liposuction on her was not licensed to offer the treatment, his lawyer said today. "Dr. Brito was unaware of the licenses that were obtained by the clinic or the licenses enforced by the clinic," Brian Bieber, Dr. Omar Brito's criminal defense attorney, told ABC's "Good Morning America" today. Rohie Kah, 37, visited the Weston MedSpa in Weston, Fla., Sept. 25, a facility the registered nurse had frequented for services such as massages and manicures, her lawyers said. But at some point during the procedure that was scheduled to last two hours, something went "terribly wrong," Kah's lawyer, Michael Freedland, said. "A 37-year-old, healthy mother of three shouldn't go into a medical spa for a routine procedure and come out brain dead," he said.

Paramedics who responded to the emergency described Kah as "not breathing, no pulse and unresponsive" when they arrived at the Weston MedSpa Friday...In Kah's case, Bieber said, lidocaine, a commonly used local anesthetic, was used during the procedure. Medical examiners have yet to say if lidocaine contributed to her condition, but plastic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Levine of New York City said the anesthetic can prove deadly if administered incorrectly. "Lidocaine can have a direct toxic effect, depending on the dose that's injected," Levine said. A North Carolina State University student, Shiri Berg, died in 2004 after she applied too much lidocaine cream before undergoing laser hair removal.
[Full story>>abcnews.go.com]

10.01.09 Osama in Pakistan tribal belt: US diplomat

ISLAMABAD, October 1 - Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is alive and based in Pakistan's lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan but his ability to carry out terrorist attacks has been "significantly limited," a top US diplomat said on Thursday. Gerald M Feierstein, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy here, also said that top Taliban leaders operating from the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, including Mullah Omar, are playing a key role in fomenting unrest in Afghanistan. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

10.01.09 NATO airstrike kills nine civilians in Afghanistan

KHANDAHAR, Afghanistan, October 1 - Nine civilians including six children were killed in a NATO air strike targeting a Taliban position in restive southern Afghanistan, the provincial governor's office said Thursday. The strike took place after a joint Afghan and NATO forces convoy came under direct fire in a village of Nad Ali district of Helmand province, Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for the provincial governor, told a foreign news agency. "Six children and three women were killed and another three civilian men were wounded," he said. The wounded were taken to a NATO hospital for treatment, the spokesman said. "Four armed Taliban were also killed in the air attack," he added. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

10.01.09 No country should have nuclear weapons: Iran

GENEVA, October 1 - Geneva talks named "constructive," second round in October. Iran believes no country should have nuclear arms, the Islamic republic's negotiator Saeed Jalili said Thursday as the world's six powers and Iran wrapped up critical talks seen as "constructive" in Geneva. "No one should have nuclear weapons," said Jalili, as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that multilateral talks were "productive" but added she wants Iran to take concrete actions. "It was a productive day, but the proof of that has not yet come to fruition," Clinton told reporters after the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany held talks with Iran in Geneva. [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.01.09 Al-Qaeda focused on Yemen as launchpad: US

WASHINGTON (AFP) October 1 - Somalia's Shabaab also has links to terrorist group. Al-Qaeda has suffered setbacks due to US pressure but its presence in Yemen threatens to turn that country into a dangerous base for training and plotting attacks, a top US counterterrorism official said Wednesday. The extremist network has been steadily weakened since its attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, with its haven in northwest Pakistan smaller and less secure, Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, told a US Senate hearing. But Leiter said the group's regional affiliates were a growing threat, citing a branch in Yemen as cause for serious concern.

Saudi and Yemeni arms of al-Qaeda announced in January their merger into "al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula" (AQAP), and US officials are worried the group is gaining a dangerous foothold in Yemen. "We have witnessed the reemergence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with Yemen as a key battleground and potential regional base of operations from which al-Qaeda can plan attacks, train recruits, and facilitate the movement of operatives," Leiter said.
[More>>alarabiya.net; See related story,

aljazeera.net, October 1, "Many dead in Yemen clashes" :
Twenty-eight Houthi fighters have been killed in clashes with the Yemeni army in the country's mountainous north, the defence ministry says. The fighters were killed in the town of Uqab, in Saada province, on Wednesday, In the neighboring province of Omran, four soldiers and five Houthis were killed as the army continued its Scorched Earth operation against the group. Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, the leader of the Houthi fighters, has threatened to expand attacks against the government across the country. Hundreds of people have died in northern Yemen, with the UN estimating that 55,000 people, mostly women and children, have fled their homes since the army began its offensive on August 11. The Houthi fighters are concentrated mainly in the Saada and Amran provinces...

10.01.09 Fossil skeleton from Africa predates Lucy

October 1 - Lucy, meet Ardi. Ardi, short for Ardipithecus ramidus, is the newest fossil skeleton out of Africa to take its place in the gallery of human origins. At an age of 4.4 million years, it lived well before and was much more primitive than the famous 3.2-million-year-old Lucy, of the species Australopithecus afarensis. Since finding fragments of the older hominid in 1992, an international team of scientists has been searching for more specimens and on Thursday presented a fairly complete skeleton and their first full analysis. By replacing Lucy as the earliest known skeleton from the human branch of the primate family tree, the scientists said, Ardi opened a window to "the early evolutionary steps that our ancestors took after we diverged from our common ancestor with chimpanzees."

The older hominid was already so different from chimps that it suggested "no modern ape is a realistic proxy for characterizing early hominid evolution," they wrote. The Ardipithecus specimen, an adult female, probably stood four feet tall and weighed about 120 pounds, almost a foot taller and twice the weight of Lucy. Its brain was no larger than a modern chimp's. It retained an agility for tree-climbing but already walked upright on two legs, a transforming innovation in hominids, though not as efficiently as Lucy's kin.

Ardi's feet had yet to develop the arch-like structure that came later with Lucy and on to humans. The hands were more like those of extinct apes. And its very long arms and short legs resembled the proportions of extinct apes, or even monkeys. Tim D. White of the University of California, Berkeley, a leader of the team, said in an interview this week that the genus Ardipithecus appeared to resolve many uncertainties about "the initial stage of evolutionary adaptation" after the hominid lineage split from that of the chimpanzees. No fossil trace of the last common ancestor, which lived some time before six million years ago, according to genetic studies, has yet come to light. [More>>nytimes.com]

9.30.09 Nine killed in US drone strike in NW Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, September 30 - Nine people were killed and several others injured in United States drone strike Wednesday in northwest Pakistan's tribal agency, local TV channels reported.  A US drone fired two missiles in North Waziristan tribal area, leaving nine people dead, the private TV Express reported. A vehicle of the extremists has been targeted by US drone missile in North Waziristan area of Norak, a village on main road in the region, according to GEO News. It was the fourth drone attack in Waziristan region in two days. In three drone strikes on Tuesday, 19 persons were killed. [More>>xinhuanet.com]

See related story,

timesofindia.indiatimes.com, September 30, "Taliban release video of Mehsud's body"
: ISLAMABAD - Pakistan's Taliban have released a video of slain Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud confirming that the former militant leader was killed in a US drone attack on August 5. The nearly two minutes video, which was aired on news channels, showed that the former chief of Pakistani Taliban was lying on a bed with his body covered in a white funeral cloth and his face uncovered. There were no marks of major injuries on his face, except for a few scratches. The video footage was received by the BBC Urdu service...

9.30.09 Aid rushed to tsunami-ravaged Samoas

September 30 - At Least 99 Killed as Samoa, American Samoa Devastated by Huge Waves Sparked by Quake; Obama Declares Major Disaster. Disaster officials rushed food, medicine and a temporary morgue to the Samoas on Wednesday after a powerful earthquake unleashed a tsunami that flattened villages and swept cars and people out to sea. At least 99 people were killed. Survivors fled the waves for higher ground on the South Pacific islands after the magnitude 8.0 quake struck at 6:48am. local time Tuesday. Four tsunami waves 15 to 20 feet high roared ashore on American Samoa about 15 minutes after the quake, reaching up to a mile inland, Mike Reynolds, superintendent of the National Park of American Samoa, was quoted as saying by a parks service spokeswoman. View photos of the tsunami aftermath [More>>cbsnews.com; See also,

abcnews.go.com, "Obama declares Samoa a major disaster" :
President Obama has declared the US territory of American Samoa a major disaster after an undersea earthquake caused a tsunami and massive flooding that has reportedly killed at least 119 people in the South Pacific Samoan Islands and the islands of Tonga. The president's declaration makes federal funding available to people in American Samoa, which has a population of about 65,000 people...

9.30.09 Powerful Indonesia quake kills at least 75

(AP) September 30 - 7.6-Magnitude Earthquake Triggers Landslides, Trapping Thousands under Toppled Buildings; Death Toll Expected to Climb. A powerful earthquake rocked western Indonesia Wednesday, trapping thousands under collapsed buildings including two hospitals and triggering landslides. At least 75 people were killed on Sumatra island and the death toll was expected to climb sharply. The magnitude 7.6 quake struck at 5:15pm local time, just off the coast of Padang city the US Geological Survey said. It was along the same fault line that spawned the massive 2004 Asian tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen countries.

A tsunami warning for countries along the Indian Ocean was issued, and panicked residents fled to higher ground fearing giant waves. The warning was lifted about an hour later. When the quake struck, the ground was shaking so hard that people sat down on the streets to avoid falling over, footage shot in Padang and broadcast by local TVOne network showed.
[More>>cbsnews.com; See detailed report on affect on Malaysia, thestar.com.my, "Quake in Sumatra, tremors in Malaysia"]

9.30.09 New film blames drug firm for plight of honey bees

September 30 - It's a question that has baffled the worlds of agriculture and science what is it that has caused the mysterious deaths of honey bees all over the world in the last five years? A new film may have the answer. Vanishing of the Bees, which will be released in Britain next month, claims the cause is the use of a new generation of pesticides that weakens the bees and makes them more susceptible to other diseases. Narrated by the British actress Emilia Fox, the 90-minute film tells the story of what has become known as colony collapse disorder. The problem first appeared in America in the winter of 2004, when many beekeepers across the country found that their bees had suddenly vanished, leaving behind empty hives. Since then scientists have failed to find a single cause for it.

The film goes on to suggest that neonicotinoid pesticides, some of them made by Bayer, one of the world's biggest chemical companies, may be behind the disappearances. The pesticides include the widely-used imidacloprid (marketed under the trade name Gaucho), which has been banned in France following pressure from beekeepers. It is still in use in Britain, the US and elsewhere. Neonicotinoids are systemic compounds, which means they are applied to seeds rather than sprayed on to growing plants. They enter into the plants themselves and affect the insect pests that consume them.

In theory, insects that are not pests should not be affected. But Vanishing of the Bees, made by the independent filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Henein, suggests that long-term, low-level exposure to these compounds may be having a sub-lethal but debilitating effect on honey bees. The pesticides, it suggests, may be the final straw for a bee population has already been weakened in recent years by diseases ranging from the devastating varroa mite to the nosema fungus and other viruses.

9.29.09 Two US missile strikes kill 12 in northwest Pakistan: officials

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) September 29 - Two successive US drone strikes pounded Taliban strongholds in northwest Pakistan's lawless tribal belt Tuesday, killing 12 militants near the Afghan border, security officials said. The missile attacks struck within hours of each other in North and South Waziristan, Taliban boltholes where Washington says Islamist fighters are hiding out, planning attacks on Western troops in neighboring Afghanistan. US drone strikes are hitting the tribal belt with increasing frequency, as the United States tries to stem the flow of militants waging a deadly insurgency against some 100,000 foreign troops stationed across the border. In the first attack early Tuesday afternoon, a US drone fired two missiles killing five suspected Taliban in semi-autonomous South Waziristan district.

"A missile from a US drone fired on a compound of local Taliban commander Irfan Mehsud and killed five militants and injured six," said a security official in the area, who declined to be named. The missiles targeted Sara Rogha, a village northeast of regional hub Wana and a stronghold of former Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in August. The security official said the spy plane fired two missiles on the compound, adding that reports suggested three of the dead could be Uzbeks.

An intelligence official, who also refused to be named, said his reports suggested low-level insurgent commander Irfan Mehsud had survived. The second attack on Tuesday evening hit militants associated with the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network in North Waziristan, apparently killing a group of Afghan nationals at a house on the outskirts of the city of Miranshah. "Seven Afghan Taliban have been killed and five injured in the US missile attack," said a security official, in a report confirmed by intelligence officials in North Waziristan.

The Haqqani network is a powerful group based in northwest Pakistan closely linked to al-Qaeda and known for its ruthless and sophisticated attacks, including an assassination attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2008. It is led by former mujahedeen leader Jalaludin Haqqani, who was a hero of the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation during the 1980s. He aligned himself with the Taliban in the 1990s.
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See also

thenews.com.pk, September 29, "Five killed in US drone attack in NWA" :
MIRANSHAH: At least five people were killed and several others injured in an attack by US surveillance plane in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) area of Danda Darpakhel, Geo News reported Tuesday. This was the fourth drone attack during the last 24 hours in Waziristan. The US drone attacked in Danda Darpakhel near Miranshah NWA's capital. Earlier, the US plane attacked in South Waziristan Agency's area of Srarogha, in which five people were killed. [end]

xinhuanet.com, September 28, "Foreigners among 5 killed in US drone strike" :
ISLAMABAD - Uzbek militants were among five people killed and six others were injured in a US drone strike in Pakistan's tribal region Tuesday, witnesses and officials said...The house of Irfan Shamankhel was hit by two missiles at the Sararogha area, killing five people at the scene, an official in Wana, the center of South Waziristan said. He said that Irfan was member of the Pakistani Taliban movement and close associate of its chief Hakimullah Mehsood...They said that local Taliban leaders and Uzbek militants have occupied many houses in the area...

Related stories:

thenews.com.pk, September 29, "41 foreigners jailed in Pakistan: Malik" :
ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik Tuesday said there are at least 41 foreigners including 11 Germans, seven Turks jailed in Pakistan on charges relating terrorism. The interrogations with four natives from Sweden arrested from Dera Ghazi Khan are underway. Talking to Geo News, he said a joint investigation team has been constituted to probe with these arrested foreign nationals. Malik said these foreigners are handed to their countries on their status proving clear, adding there is no veracity in the reports regarding handing two Saudi Arab nationals to their country. The interior minister said Safia, who is among 13 foreigners arrested from KG Khan, refused to go home along with her child. [end]

thenews.com.pk, September 29, "32 suspects arrested in search operation: ISPR report" :
RAWALPINDI - The security forces continued search and clearance operations in Swat and Malakand during the last 24 hours. According to a press release issued by Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), at least seven terrorists voluntarily surrendered to security forces in Bar Shaur area of Swat. In Runial also, four terrorists voluntarily surrendered. The security forces conducted [a] search operation in Alam Ganj and apprehended three suspects. In Pinidar Banda also, four suspects were captured during search operation.

The security forces conducted search operation in Palai and apprehended 15 suspects. Also, during Snap action by 60 BR in Charbagh and surroundings 4 suspects were apprehended. A local terrorist commander Umer Nawab was apprehended in Charbagh and five other terrorists voluntarily surrendered to security forces in Dagai and Sirsanai. The security forces continued relief activities. 305,060 cash cards have been distributed amongst the IDPs of Malakand. [end]

9.29.09 Roadside bomb kills 30 civilians in Afghanistan

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) September 29 - A roadside bomb killed 30 people in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said, in an attack that showed the rapidly worsening toll from bombs scattered across the country's highways by insurgents. Ahmed Shah, 45, lying in a hospital in the southern city of Kandahar, said he was in a seat at the back of the crowded bus when it swerved off road to avoid a crater left from another roadside bomb the previous day. "Then there was this big blast. I don't know how many people were killed or wounded.

I awoke myself in the hospital," he told Reuters, his face slashed by shrapnel wounds. Outside the hospital, a middle-aged woman named Bibi Gul wailed at the loss of family members. "Two of my brothers died, along with their wives," she said. More than 1,500 civilians have been killed by violence in Afghanistan so far this year, the United Nations said last week. It said 68 percent of the civilian killings were a result of militant attacks, while 23 percent were caused by Afghan and foreign troops led by NATO and the US military.

9.29.09 2 US soldiers killed in Jolo, Philippines

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Two American soldiers and a Filipino Marine were killed early Tuesday in an explosion that went off as a US military vehicle passed in Barangay Kagay, Indanan, Sulu. Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, Armed Forces spokesperson, said a number of American soldiers escorted by Filipino Marines had just inspected a school project in Sitio Laum Saing and were heading back to a Marine detachment in a US Hummer when the explosion occurred at around 8:30am. He said it was as yet unclear whether the explosive was buried in the road or by the roadside. Two other Filipino soldiers were injured in the blast. Brawner told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo that the slain Americans were members of the Seabees, the construction battalion of the US Navy. [More>>newsinfo.inquirer.net, via washingtonpost.com]

9.29.09 'Paranoid' China ramps up firewall

(AFP) September 30 - Press rights group Reporters Without Borders says a "paranoid" China has blocked tens of thousands of websites ahead of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic. The Paris-based group said that Chinese authorities had targeted Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and other ways that residents, including foreign reporters, used to circumvent controls on the internet. The group said that "government security paranoia" in the run-up to tomorrow's anniversary was "turning into a major headache for internet users and reporters." It estimated that tens of thousands of web addresses had become inaccessible in recent days and said it was even more difficult to reach Facebook, Twitter and other social networking and blogging sites that were already blocked.

"The Electronic Great Wall has never been as consolidated as it is now, on the eve of the October 1 anniversary, proving that the Chinese government is not so sure of its record," the group said. It said that authorities particularly clamped down on websites linked to ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia. Xinjiang in July saw China's deadliest ethnic unrest in decades that pitted the majority Uighur population against the nation's predominant Han ethnicity. China's military plans a show of force tomorrow and is likely to parade its new intercontinental ballistic missiles as the Communist Party highlights the nation's transformation into a world power.

9.29.09 Gian fish 'verges on extinction'

September 29 - One of the world's largest freshwater fish is on the verge of going extinct. A three-year quest to find the giant Chinese paddlefish in the Yangtze river failed to sight or catch a single individual. That means that the fish, which can grow up to 7m long, has not been seen alive for at least six years. There remains a chance that some escaped the survey and survive, say experts, but without action, the future of the species is bleak. The concern for the Chinese paddlefish is that its fate will parallel that of the Yangtze river dolphin, a large mammal species that was once abundant in the Yangtze river system, but has recently been declared extinct.

A number of fish species vie for the position of the world's largest freshwater fish, including the arapaima (Arapaima gigas) of the Amazon river and the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas). At up to 7m, the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) is much longer than either, though it may not exclusively live in freshwater. The fish is suspected to be anadromous, meaning it spends some of its life in marine waters before returning to the river to spawn. But it is so rare that little is known about its behavior, life history, migration habits and population structure. It is endemic to the Yangtze river system in China. "It has special characteristics such as its sword-like rostrum.

Some people call it the 'elephant fish' and we found out it swims on the surface of the water like a whale," says Professor Wei Qiwei, one of the leaders of the research team from the Chinese Academy of Fisheries Science in Jingzhou, China. The last confirmed sighting of a Chinese paddlefish was made in the river on 24 January 2003. Now scientists have published in the Journal of Applied Ichthyology the results of a three-year survey to find and locate the fish.

9.28.09 US wants Malaysia to play a role in inter-faith dialogues

PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, September 28 - The United States wants a productive relationship with Malaysia, which it regards as a progressive and moderate Islamic nation, and is hoping that Malaysia can play a role in engaging other countries in inter-faith dialogues. This was the message relayed to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak by the US Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg when the two met Monday morning.

"The message from the Obama administration is that they want to have a productive relationship with Malaysia, which they regard as a model nation. The US Government also noted that we are a progressive and moderate nation in the way we practise Islam and hoped that we can play a part in engaging other countries in the question of greater dialogue between different faiths," Najib told reporters Monday when asked about his meeting with Steinberg. [More>>thestar.com.my; See related story,

abcnews.go.com, September 28, "Malaysian woman Kartika to be caned for drinking"
: KUALA LUMPUR - A Malaysian religious court appeals panel on Monday upheld a caning sentence for a woman who drank beer, state news agency Bernama reported. The appeals panel in the state of Pahang, on the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia which is the home state of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, did not set a date for the sentence consisting of six strokes of the cane to be carried out, according to Bernama. Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno, a 32-year old mother of two, will become the first woman to be caned under the country's religious laws that apply only to Muslims. Kartika's case has drawn criticism from groups concerned about the rise of Shariah (Islamic) laws amid increasing Islamization of the country's majority Malay-Muslims, who make up 55 percent of the Southeast Asian country's 27 million population. [end]

Editorial note: Malaysia has its problems in reconciling the faiths. While the Malaysian government is "liberal" in its practice of Islam, allowing other faiths to exist beside the official Moslem religion, there are contradictions. For instance, the government recently banned the Catholic church and others (the Sikhs) from using the name "Allah" in their religious documents. "Allah" is the name of god in the Koran. Since the Koran says that it was recited to confirm the Bible (i.e., the Jewish scriptures and Gospel), it follows that "Allah" cannot be in conflict with God, as represented in the Bible, and at the least should be expected to be the same God of the Bible. If "Allah" is another god, separate from God, then the Koran's claim to confirm the Bible should be taken with a grain of salt.

Noordin Top, the al-Qaeda leader responsible for the Bali bombing that was recently killed by Indonesian authorities came from Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was also the site of al-Qaeda's first summit, just prior to 9/11. In sum, Malaysia has a long way to go in order to function as a fair bridge between the faiths. See our recent Editorial notes on the subject:

Maravot News 9.27.09, Editorial note, "Confusion on the mount," to article, 9.27.09 Israeli police, protesters clash at holy site ;

Maravot News 4.09.09 Editorial note "Confusion over the teachings of the Koran." (reprinted from Maravot News 12.04.08) to article, 4.07.09 US Muslims urge Obama to focus on civil rights

Maravot News 4.30.09 Editorial note, "Allah and the Bible" to article 4.26.09 Malaysia Catholics oppose non-'Allah' Bible

Maravot News 7.08.08 Editorial note to article
7.04.08 Sikh group joins protest against ban on use of word "Allah" in Malaysia

Mel Copeland

9.28.09 US Muslims denounce terrorism in peace march

DUBAI, September 28 - Islam's true goal is world peace: Imam. A group of American Muslims gathered outside the United States Capitol to denounce terrorism and promote the "true Islam" of peace during the third annual Muslim Peace March, press reports said on Monday. Imam Islam Mossaad, leader of the North Austin Muslim Community Center, spoke Sunday morning on the steps of the state Capitol about "Islam's true goal: world peace," as both Muslims and non-Muslims carried signs that read "Muslims Reject Terror" and "Peace Be Upon You." "This is what peace is about," Mossaad told Austin-based paper The Statesman. "It's not a state. It's something we strive towards." The event, which counted two dozen participants, marked the third time Austin Muslims have marched to denounce terrorism. [More>>alarabiya.net]

9.28.09 Al-Qaeda No. 2 calls Obama a "fraud'

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) September 28 - Al-Zawahiri criticizes president for "allowing" Israeli settlements "to flourish." Al-Qaeda's deputy leader on Monday seized upon President Obama's failure to bring about a freeze in Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and called him a "fraud" in a new audio message. Ayman al-Zawahiri's 28-minute audio message was mainly a eulogy for slain Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, but he also took the opportunity to slam NATO member states operating in Afghanistan, including Germany, which he criticized for keeping troops there.

The recording comes after a series of al Qaeda videos this past month, including several attacking Germany and threatening strikes against Berlin's military mission in Afghanistan. Those releases raised concerns among German authorities ahead of parliamentary elections which ended Sunday. Al-Zawahiri reserved special scorn for Mr. Obama, whom he has insulted in nearly every one of his messages since the latter's historic election as US president. Many experts believe that al-Qaeda is struggling in the face of Mr. Obama's popularity in the Muslim world, especially compared to former President George W. Bush.

Mr. Obama publicly called for an Israeli freeze in settlement construction in order to restart the peace talks, but was rebuffed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week. "Here is Obama, the fraud, who pretended to be affected by the suffering of the Palestinians and then allows the settlements to flourish in the West Bank and in Jerusalem ... while pressing the weak (Arab) leaders to offer more concessions," al-Zawahri said... Al-Zawahiri's reference to events taking place just a week earlier indicate the urgency with which the message was recorded and posted as al-Qaeda hastens to point out any of Mr. Obama's shortcomings in the region.
[Full story>>cbsnews.com]

9.28.09 Iran tests most advanced missiles capable of hitting Israel

(AP) September 28 - Iran tested its most advanced missiles Monday to cap two days of war games, raising more international concern and stronger pressure to quickly come clean on the newly revealed nuclear site Teheran was secretly constructing. State television said the powerful Revolutionary Guard, which controls Iran's missile program, successfully tested upgraded versions of the medium-range Shahab-3 and Sajjil missiles. Both can carry warheads and reach up to 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers), putting Israel, US military bases in the Middle East, and parts of Europe within striking distance. The missile tests were meant to flex Iran's military might and show readiness for any military threat. [More>>jpost.com; See related story,

haaretz.com, September 28, "Background / How big is Iran's military?" : Listed below are some details about Iran's military capability. The totals include equipment held by the Revolutionary Guards, which operate on land, at sea and in the air:

- Iran has over 523,000 personnel in active service. Major General Ataollah Salehi is the armed forces chief.

- In a 2007 parade to mark the anniversary of 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, Iran showed its Shahab 3 missile, saying it could travel 2,000 km
enabling it to hit Israel and US bases in the region. Another missile at the parade, the Ghadr 1, can reach targets 1,800 km away. It was believed to be the first time it has been shown publicly. In November 2008, Iran said it test-fired a Sejjil missile with a range of close to 2,000 km.

- The army comprises about 350,000 men, including 220,000 conscripts. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, viewed as the most loyal guardian of the ruling system, has another 125,000 men. In 2004 the army was organised in four corps, with four armored divisions and six infantry divisions.
- There are 1,600 tanks..
Sources: Reuters/Military Balance
2008/www.globalsecurity.org/Jane's Defence Weekly

9.28.09 Fifteen killed, dozens wounded in Iraq attacks

RAMADI, Iraq (AFP) September 28 - At least 15 people, including 12 members of Iraq's security forces, were killed and dozens wounded in bomb attacks on Monday, the worst violence to hit the country in more than two weeks. In the deadliest incident, a suicide attacker killed seven police and wounded 10 when he blew up a water tanker packed with explosives at a quick response unit's headquarters on the highway from the western city of Ramadi towards Jordan and Syria. A police officer, who gave the toll, said the attack was carried out 35 kilometers (20 miles) west of Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, which was a key insurgent base in the aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003. Violence in the predominantly Sunni Arab city has dropped dramatically in recent years, although a similar suicide car bomb killed eight people at a security checkpoint there on September 7. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.28.09 Seven 'al-Qaeda' agents arrested in Mauritania

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania (DPA) September 28 - A Mauritanian army officer on Monday said soldiers had arrested seven armed men suspected of being members of the North African branch of al-Qaeda. The men were arrested in the remote Limaghiti region, some 1,100 kilometers north-east of the capital, Nouakchott. They were "active members of al-Qaeda," a source in the Mauritanian military told the German Press Agency dpa, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

He said a military surveillance aircraft had spotted the men travelling in two sport-utility vehicles in the direction of the capital, after receiving a report from the country's counter- terrorism police force that there had been "suspicious movements" of armed men in the region. Mauritanian security forces have recently apprehended a series of men they accused of being scouts sent by the al-Qaeda network to spy on troop movements in the area, which lies near the intersection of the country's borders with Algeria and Mali. The area was the site of a June 2005 attack that killed 15 Mauritanian soldiers.

9.28.09 Pakistan hands over 2 sons of al-Qaeda leader to Saudi

ISLAMABAD, September 28 - Government of Pakistan has handed over two sons of an al-Qaeda leader to Saudi Arabia. According to sources, Ali and Siddique, sons of an al-Qaeda leader Al-Alawi, were apprehended from tribal areas and later handed over to the Saudi authorities on September 18. Hailing from Yemen, Ali and Siddiqui were said to be involved in an attack on a Saudi prince, sources added. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, September 28, "10 extremists arrested in Swat operation -I SPR report ":
SWAT: Security forces conducted search operation at Pirano Valley and apprehended 4 suspects, while 2 terrorist[s] voluntarily surrendered to security forces at Bar Shaur and Kabbal. According to Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) security forces conducted search operation at Tiligram and apprehended 5 terrorists. Another terrorist of Afghan nationality was apprehended by security forces at Darai. Five terrorists at Devolai and two others at Shah Dand Banda voluntarily surrendered to security forces. Meanwhile 304,803 cash cards have been distributed amongst the IDPs of Malakand. [end]

9.28.09 Diverse sources fund insurgency in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, September 28 - The Taliban-led insurgency has built a fund-raising juggernaut that generates cash from such an array of criminal rackets, donations, taxes, shakedowns and other schemes that US and Afghan officials say it may be impossible to choke off the movement's money supply. Obama administration officials say the single largest source of cash for the Taliban, once thought to rely mostly on Afghanistan's booming opium trade to finance its operations, is not drugs but foreign donations. The CIA recently estimated that Taliban leaders and their allies received $106 million in the past year from donors outside Afghanistan.

...Richard Barrett, the coordinator of the United Nations' Taliban and al-Qaeda Monitoring Team, said Taliban sympathizers are much more skillful today at masking their donations and ensuring that the money cannot be traced back to them. "It's been very, very difficult to identify these people," Barrett said. "You can track the money flow and say this money came from the Gulf, but it's a lot more difficult to confirm the source." In July, Richard C. Holbrooke, the Obama administration's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the Taliban was reaping the bulk of its revenue from donors abroad, especially from the Persian Gulf.
[Full story>>washingtonpost.com]


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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