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10.24.08 Stocks dive on belief global recession is at hand
NEW YORK (AP) October 24 - Wall Street joined world stock markets in a precipitous plunge Friday, with the Dow Jones industrials dropping more than 300 points in early trading. The growing belief that the world will suffer a punishing economic recession has investors furiously dumping stocks. The massive decline was caused by increasingly grim news from overseas. In Japan, shares of Sony sank more than 14 percent after it slashed its earnings forecast for the fiscal year. In Germany, Daimler's stock dropped 11.4 percent in morning trading after it reported lower third-quarter earnings and abandoned its 2008 profit and revenue guidance.
The actual declines after 9:30 a.m., while large, did not indicate an uncontrolled selling frenzy. Shortly after 12:30 p.m., the Dow was down less than 400 points. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was off 4.1 percent and the Nasdaq had fallen about 3 percent. Dismal corporate earnings and poor economic data around the world were the immediate causes for the sell-off, which sent major exchanges in Asia and Europe down by more than 8 percent.
Even the financial industry's biggest name isn't immune. Goldman Sachs Group Inc, the world's biggest investment bank, made plans on Thursday to cut 3,200 positions from its staff of 32,000. Barclays Capital is in the midst of purging 3,000 jobs as part of its takeover of Lehman Brothers, and Bank of America Corp's acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co is sure to add thousands more. Major US financial companies are getting rid of redundancies caused by this year's rapid-fire consolidation. They are also adapting to an environment of more regulation, less risk, and dwindling profits...
Separately, Treasury is working on ways to get some of the $700 billion in rescue money granted to it by Congress to insurance companies that are a critical backstop to a wide range of deals, bond issues and leasing arrangements, an industry source said. Treasury officials said that many insurance companies are eligible for government investment because they are regulated as thrift holding companies by the Office of Thrift Supervision.
Concerns about insurers grew this week when Metro and other transit agencies faced demands to pay billions of dollars to their banks as years-old financing deals unraveled. The deals were guaranteed by insurer American International Group, which was taken over by the government last month after it nearly collapsed, and now officials are concerned that other insurers, which report financial results next week, are facing similar problems...
10.24.08 Oil price falls despite supply cut by producers
October 24 - Oil producers this morning unanimously voted to cut their output by 1.5 million barrels a day, following an emergency meeting in Vienna to discuss the plunging price of crude. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), which is responsible for 40 per cent of the world's production, said the cut, which was more than the one million barrel forecast, would come into effect from November 1.
While a fall in daily output is expected to increase the price of oil, Brent North Sea crude slumped to a 17-month low of $61.08 a barrel and New York prices declined to $63.05 after concerns about the global economy's march towards recession overrode fears about shrinking fuel supply. Ministers from the oil producing nations are thought to be keen to push prices above $70 a barrel, although they said this morning that they had not set a price target. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
10.24.08 Iran turns tables, threatens strike on Israel
JERuSALEM, October 24 - In an upping of the tit for tat rhetoric between Tel Aviv and Tehran, several senior Iranian officials have recommended a pre-emptive strike on Israel in order to neutralize any Israeli attempt to bomb the Islamic republic's alleged nuclear facilities. A senior Iranian official, Seyed Safavi, the head of the Research Institute of Strategic Studies in Tehran and an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned foreign diplomats in London recently that such an option was being lobbied by a small group of senior officials in the Iranian capital.
10.24.08 Some 400 Iraqi Christians flee to Syria
BAGHDAD (DPA) October 24 - After a series of atrocities against Iraqi Christians in Mosul, around 400 Christians arrived in Syria to escape the harsh conditions of home, according to a statement by a Syrian refugee assistance organization Friday. In the last few days, some 20 Christian families arrived in the city of Qamhley, which is close to the Syrian-Iraqi border, said Lauren Gul, a representative of the refugee assistance group. Since the end of September, Iraqi Christians in Mosul, which lies 405 kilometres north of Baghdad, have been targeted by extremists.
Hundreds have been killed, while the rest have received death threats. Most have sought protection in surrounding villages. The UNHCR is currently assisting hundreds of Iraqi Christians who fled from Mosul to Syria. Most of them asserted that they would return home soon. Meanwhile, Christian lawmakers condemned the Iraq security forces for failing to protect Mosul’s Christians. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
10.24.08 40 men gang-raped me, says nun
NEW DELHI, October 25 - A nun in eastern India has spoken out for the first time on live television about allegations she was gang-raped by more than 40 men in August, accusing police of complicity in Hindu attacks on Christians. A string of attacks on Christians by Hindus over the controversial issue of conversions in poor tribal areas has killed at least 37 people in the past two months, mainly in Orissa state where most of the violence is concentrated. "State police failed to stop the crimes, failed to protect me from the attackers, they were friendly with the attackers," Sister Meena told a news conference on Friday. The nun's case became part of the wider controversy surrounding the violence, which sparked an international outcry and drew strong condemnation from Pope Benedict. [More>>news.com.au]
10.24.08 Sharia incompatible with human rights: House of Lords
LONDON, October 24 - The House of Lords on Friday described the Islamic legal code Sharia as "wholly incompatible" with human rights legislation, a comment that could spark an outcry among Muslims in the United Kingdom. The Upper House of the British Parliament has drawn sharp attention to the conflict between Sharia and UK law, calling the Islamic legal code "wholly incompatible" with human rights legislation.
10.24.08 Turkey: 25 PKK rebels killed in airstrikes in Iraq
ANKARA, October 24 - Turkey's military said on Friday 25rebels of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) were killed in cross-border airstrikes on their hideouts in northern Iraq last week. Acting on intelligence services, 25 PKK rebels were killed in the air raid on Oct. 17, when Turkish fighters bombed the PKK dens in northern Iraq's Qandil region, Turkish army spokesman Gen. Metin Gurak said at a press conference. [More>>xinhuanet.com]
10.23.08 Markets tumble as Brown admits UK faces recession
October 23 - Gordon Brown admitted for the first time that Britain would go into recession as a survey showed a big increase in his standing among businessmen, who are losing confidence in the Conservatives. The Prime Minister, who has previously avoided using the word "recession," prepared the public for the worst ahead of official figures that will show Britain slipping into negative growth in the past three months.
Share prices fell dramatically yesterday after the gloomy forecast. The FTSE 100 ended down 4.5 per cent, with recession fears further undermining sentiment on ailing banks and commodity stocks. A late sell-off in New York meant the Dow closed down 5.7 per cent at 8,519.2. The 514-point decline was the seventh largest on record. Although there is only a technical recession when the economy shrinks in two successive quarters, Mr. Brown's statement was an admission that that is now inevitable.
Figures to be released by the Office for National Statistics are expected to confirm that the British economy shrank by about 0.2 per cent during the period from July to September. This follows the zero growth recorded during the second quarter of this year, and thus leaves the British economy on the brink of its first decline since 1992. The National Institute for Economic and Social Research predicted 18 months of contraction or stagnation in the economy, with unemployment reaching two million by Christmas. [More>>independent.co.uk; See related stories:
In testimony before the House Government Oversight Committee, Greenspan said that as a result of the current situation the United States is heading for a "significant rise in layoffs and unemployment" and a continued downturn in home values as the world works through a crisis that is "broader than anything I could have imagined."
Greenspan, who called the current financial crisis a "once-in-a-century credit tsunami," said that he remained "in a state of shocked disbelief" that banks and investment firms did not do a better job of analyzing the risks involved with investing in home mortgages extended to less creditworthy borrowers. Under questioning from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), the committee chairman, Greenspan acknowledged that the failure of that expected self-regulation represented "a flaw in the model" he used to analyze economics. "I was going for 40 years or more on the perception that it was working well."...
The protest developed as shares on the exchange, the second largest in the Arab world, shed almost 400 points or 3.7 percent to 10,420 points, leaving several companies trading even below their nominal value. All eight sectors in the market dropped, with the investment and banking sectors each diving by 3.7 percent each. Nasser al-Khorafi, chairman of Al-Khorafi Group, the largest in Kuwait, called on the government to rescue the market. "The government should swiftly intervene to rescue the bourse otherwise there will be a catastrophe," Khorafi told reporters...
Editorial note: See Maravot News 10.17.08 chart, "Dow Jones Largest Daily Loss" The independent.co.uk statement, "Dow closed down 5.7 per cent at 8,519.2. The 514-point decline was the seventh largest on record" does not seem to be correct. But the 514-point decline is important in the context that both 1929 and 2008 were years that registered three daily losses among the top 20 daily losses. It looks like 2008 intends to beat the 1929 record.
10.23.08 Russia lines up new anti-missile system to counter US missile shield plans
MOSCOW, October 22 - Russia's Strategic Missile Forces are being equipped with new anti-ballistic missile systems in response to US plans to deploy a missile shield in Europe, Interfax reported Wednesday. "Considering the changing military and political situation in the world, and US plans to deploy missile shield, as well as the need to adequately respond to these plans, a set of measures are being taken to develop the Strategic Missile Forces," Commander Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov told Interfax news agency.
10.23.08 Suspected missile strike kills 11 in Pakistan: Officials
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AP) October 23 - Suspected US spy drones fired missiles early on Thursday into a school set up by a top Taliban commander in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing 11 people, security officials said. The air strike apparently targeting veteran militant Jalaluddin Haqqani, a major target for US forces, was the latest in a string of attacks on Pakistani soil that have raised tensions between Islamabad and Washington...Security officials said the madrassa, or religious school, near Miranshah, the main town in troubled North Waziristan region, was set up by Haqqani during the 1980s "jihad" against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. It was currently run by one of Haqqani's own commanders, Mullah Mansoor, and was recently used as a guest house for "international and local students traveling from other areas."
10.23.08 Bomber hits Iraqi minister's convoy
October 23 - A suicide car bomber has struck the convoy of Iraq's minister of labour and social affairs, killing 11 people and wounding 22 others, Reuters says. A spokesman for the ministry said the minister, Mahmoud al-Sheikh Radhi, was unhurt. Three of his bodyguards were among the dead in Thursday's attack. A Reuters television cameraman in the vicinity filmed the blast but an Iraqi soldier confiscated his videotape. The cameraman, about 150 metres away at the time of the explosion, saw a car drive into a convoy of six or seven 4WD vehicles and explode near Tahrir square in central Baghdad. Police and bodyguards in the convoy opened fire after the blast. Several vehicles crashed and others sped away. [More>>aljazeera.net]
10.23.08 US hands 'triangle of death' to Iraqi troops
BAGHDAD (Reuters) October 23 - US forces declared an area once known as the The province south of Baghdad is the 12th of Iraq's 18 provinces in which primary responsibility for security has been given to Iraqi forces. With violence at four-year lows, only the capital Baghdad, four ethnically and religiously mixed northern provinces and Wasit province along the Iranian border still require day-to-day US patrols of Iraqi streets. Iraq's National Security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie said at a handover ceremony in the provincial capital Hilla that Iraqis will also take control of Wasit province within days. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
10.23.08 Wanted German terrorist surfaces on al-Qaeda video
October 23 - A 21-year old German citizen whom officials feared was preparing to carry out an attack in the US or Europe has surfaced in a new al-Qaeda video, claiming he is still in Afghanistan. "I am in Afghanistan and, personally, do not plan to carry out an attack on Germany," Eric Breininger said on the video downloaded by ABCNews.com from a internet site often used by al-Qaeda. Last month, German officials issued a wanted poster with Breininger's photo warning that his German passport and Caucasian appearance would make it easy for him to slip into Germany or the US without notice. On the video, Breininger is seen in traditional Afghan garb firing an automatic weapon. [>abcnews.go.com; See related story:
10.23.08 Bomb kills three coalition soldiers in Afghanistan
KABUL (Reuters) October 23 - A roadside bomb has killed three soldiers from the U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan, the US military said. Violence has surged to its worst level this year, resulting so far in the killing of some 4,000 people, a third of them civilians, the bloodiest period since US-led troops overthrew the Taliban government in 2001. The roadside bomb hit a vehicle of the coalition soldiers on Wednesday evening in the western part of the country, the US military said in a statement late the same day. It did not give the nationality of the victims.
Resurgent Taliban fighters use suicide and roadside bomb attacks in their attempt to topple the Western-backed government and to cause the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. On Thursday, unknown gunmen seized two Bangladeshi aid workers near a government building in the heart of Ghazni town which lies to the southwest of Kabul, police said. No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction. [>khaleejtimes.com]
10.22.08 Stocks decline as earnings reveal fallout of credit crisis
October 22 - Worries about the corporate sector sent stocks on Wall Street sharply lower again on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrials dropping more than 400 points before recovering slightly in the early afternoon. Improvements in the credit markets — including the third straight day of declines in bank borrowing rates — did little to placate stock investors who are eying the corporate consequences of an economy that many economists believe is already in a recession. Earnings reports have been weak this week, and many companies have warned about lower sales and a bleak outlook for the remainder of the year.
The problems have appeared in a range of industries. The aviation giant Boeing saw profits fall 38 percent last quarter. Merck, the pharmaceutical company, posted a 28 percent drop in net income and will cut jobs. The North Carolina-based bank Wachovia, which was recently acquired by Wells Fargo, suffered a $23.7 billion net loss. At 1pm, the broad Standard & Poor's 500-stock index was down 3.6 percent. The Nasdaq composite index was off about 1.5 percent, despite gains in shares of Apple and Yahoo. The Dow, after falling more than 200 points on Tuesday, was off 312.30 points to 8,721.36, a decline of 3.5 percent, with 28 of the 30 components of the index in retreat. Only McDonald's and 3M showed gains. [More>>nytimes.com; See also:
10.22.08 Columbia says smashes drug ring with Hezbollah ties
BOGOTA, Columbia (Reuters) October 22 - Colombian authorities said on Tuesday they broke up a drug and money-laundering ring in an international operation that included the capture of three people suspected of shipping funds to Hezbollah guerrillas. More than 100 suspects were arrested in Colombia and overseas on charges they trafficked drugs and laundered cash for Colombia's Norte del Valle cartel and for outlawed paramilitaries in a network that stretched from South America to Asia, the attorney's general office said. "The criminal organization used routes through Venezuela, Panama, Guatemala, Middle East and Europe, bringing in cash from the sale of these substances," the statement said.
Among those arrested in Colombia were three people suspected of coordinating drug smuggling to send some of their profits to groups such as Hezbollah, the office said. Those suspects — Chekry Mahmoud Harb, Ali Mohamad Abdul Rahim and Zacaria Hussein Harb — used front companies to send drug cash overseas, it said without providing further details. Colombia, a key US ally, remains the world's No. 1 cocaine producer, although over the last seven years Washington has sent more than $5 billion in aid that has helped weaken the country's FARC rebels and reduce violence from its conflict. Washington has often complained that Iran-backed Hezbollah and other Islamic groups that it considers terrorist organizations are active in Arab communities in South American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela. [>khaleejtimes.com]
10.22.08 Iraqi Qaeda-linked group confirms a leader killed
DUBAI (Reuters) October 22 - The al-Qaeda linked group Islamic State in Iraq confirmed the killing of one its leading members in an Internet audio tape posted on Wednesday. The US military had described the militant as ISI's second-in-command and said he was killed in a raid in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Oct. 15...the militant identified by the alias Abu Qaswara al-Maghrebi, who had Swedish citizenship. [Full story>>thestar.com.my; See a related story about a "convert" from al-Qaeda, also of Swedish citizenship, who was 'the al-Qaeda in Iraq media person,' :
He moved from house to house while al-Qaeda's media emir and spoke at more than 13 mosques. Captured in southeast Baghdad in 2006 by US forces, he was sent to the Camp Cropper detention facility near Baghdad's international airport. "The first time I was a detainee, I believed in continuing the fight," he said. The second time it was different. At Cropper they treated me kindly and I made friendship with a soldier. This guy treated the detainees differently than at Abu Ghraib. All the time they talked to me, and after six months they decided that I had changed. "When I got released, I [decided] to tell al-Qaeda, 'if you don't put your weapons away and fight on the political side I will fight you.' "
10.22.08 Iraq says flight of Mosul Christians ceased
BAGHDAD (AFP) October 22 - Nearly 2,275 families fled the city.
10.22.08 55 militants killed in southern Afghanistan
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, October 22 - International and Afghan forces killed 55 militants after coming under attack in southern Afghanistan, the US military said Wednesday. "ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces) and coalition forces responded with small-arms, rocket-propelled grenade, heavy-weapons and supporting fire, killing 55 militants," the US Forces in Afghanistan said.
10.22.08 Organic farming 'could feed Africa'
October 22 - Traditional practices increase yield by 128 per cent in east Africa, says UN. Organic farming offers Africa the best chance of breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition it has been locked in for decades, according to a major study from the United Nations to be presented today. New evidence suggests that organic practices — derided by some as a Western lifestyle fad — are delivering sharp increases in yields, improvements in the soil and a boost in the income of Africa's small farmers who remain among the poorest people on earth. The head of the UN's Environment Programme, Achim Steiner, said the report "indicates that the potential contribution of organic farming to feeding the world maybe far higher than many had supposed".
The "green revolution" in agriculture in the 1960s — when the production of food caught and surpassed the needs of the global population for the first time — largely bypassed Africa. Whereas each person today has 25 per cent more food on average than they did in 1960, in Africa they have 10 per cent less. A combination of increasing population, decreasing rainfall and soil fertility and a surge in food prices has left Africa uniquely vulnerable to famine. Climate change is expected to make a bad situation worse by increasing the frequency of droughts and floods.
10.21.08 Sarkozy calls for halt to foreign ownership
October 21 - Nicolas Sarkozy risked blowing apart the European consensus over how to deal with the financial crisis by proposing today that each country launch sovereign wealth funds to take stakes in key industries to stop them [from] falling into foreign hands. The French President argued that falling share prices meant that big industries were in imminent danger of being taken over and called for the EU to follow the US Congress pledge to take $25 billion stakes in the country's three main car-making companies.
With France holding the rotating presidency of the EU, Mr. Sarkozy is in a strong position to push through his plans for sovereign wealth funds as world leaders prepare to re-write global financial rules at a series of Bretton Woods-style meetings starting next month. "Stock markets are at historic lows. I do not want European citizens to wake up a few months from now and discover that European companies belong to non-European capital which has bought at the lowest point of the stock exchange," Mr. Sarkozy told MEPs. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
10.21.08 Fed adds to its efforts to aid credit markets
October 21 - Adding to its efforts to unclog the credit markets, the Federal Reserve said on Tuesday that it would provide financing to shore up money market mutual funds, the consumer investment funds that have traditionally been considered as safe as bank accounts. Under the program, the Fed will help buy up to $600 billion in short-term debt, including certificates of deposit and commercial paper that expires in three months or less. This type of debt has historically been used by money-market funds seeking safe, conservative returns for their clients, but the recent turmoil has roiled the market and caused a prominent fund to fall below $1 a share, an extremely rare occurrence.
Since that fund "broke the buck," many money market funds have had trouble selling assets to meet redemption requests. The new program "should improve the liquidity position of money market investors, thus increasing their ability to meet any further redemption requests and their willingness to invest in money market instruments," the Fed said in the statement. "Improved money market conditions will enhance the ability of banks and other financial intermediaries to accommodate the credit needs of businesses and households." [More>>nytimes.com]
10.21.08 The widlest ride
October 21 - Up, down. Way up, way down. Stock volatility has reached historic levels -- as one market expert said, "We have no idea where things are going." The market's wild hour-by-hour swings have come to exemplify the turbulence of the financial crisis, but they're still puzzling for many market professionals. The Dow Jones industrial average now routinely travels hundreds of points in a matter of hours, only to reverse direction in many cases. During a single day earlier this month, the Dow spanned 1,000 points for the first time in history. On another, a 400-point rally during the last hour of trading sent the Dow to a historic 936-point gain. During the final hour of trading yesterday, the Dow surged more than 100 points.
Financial analysts suggest that the sharp ups and downs reflect investors' uncertainty about how quickly the financial crisis can be resolved and whether a recession will seep from the banking sector to other parts of the economy. Precipitous gains and losses have also been triggered as stocks reach pre-set selling or buying levels, prompting automated trading and causing investor whiplash, analysts said. The largest swings have often occurred during the last hour of trading, prompting a closer look by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a nongovernmental regulator of securities firms. The end of the trading day is when institutional investors, including hedge funds and mutual funds, rush to meet client demands to pull cash out of the market, analysts said.
The gyrations have turned even seasoned market professionals into skittish investors, waiting for a news tidbit that will turn the market's mood and start a stampede in either direction. "Psychology and emotion are a big part of what moves the market," said Andrew Brooks, head of stock trading at T. Rowe Price. "We are clearly in a highly emotional and schizophrenic point." [More>>washingtonpost.com]
10.21.08 The ones to blame for the meltdown?
October 21 - Congress to Grill Credit Rating Executives Tomorrow. Next to face the bright lights of a Congressional hearing: the top dogs of the big three credit rating companies, whose firms reaped millions in profits while helping sell trillions in dubious mortgage-related investments which led to the world's current financial meltdown. The executives are likely to face questions about how their firms – including Standard & Poor's, Moody's Corporation and Fitch Ratings — pulled down record profits while assigning undeservedly high ratings to mortgage-backed securities which held questionable subprime loans. When mortgage-holders began defaulting at record rates, those investments' worth plummeted, sparking the global economic collapse.
One firm, Moody's, rang up profit margins three to four times those of Exxon Mobil Corp. while assuring investors that complex mortgage-backed investments were safer bets than they really were, according to Bloomberg News. A spokesman for the firm confirmed that Moody's CEO Raymond W. McDaniel was planning to appear at tomorrow's hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, but declined to answer questions about the company's performance. [>abcnews.go.com]
10.21.08 Further banks may fail, says IMF
October 21 - More European banks "may fail" as doubts persist about the viability of their business models, the International Monetary Fund has warned. Private funding is "virtually unavailable" and banks will have to rely on public intervention, asset sales and consolidation, it said. The six-monthly study also warns that eurozone economic growth will almost grind to a halt next year. Growth in the 15 euro countries will fall to just 0.2% in 2009, it forecast. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
10.21.08 Most Asia markets rise on possible US economic aid
(AP) October 21 - Most Asian markets rose Tuesday, following Wall Street's gains after the chairman of the US central bank signaled support for more government aid to revive the country's slumping economy. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 stock average rose 300.66 points, or 3.34 percent, to close at 9,306.25, marking the third consecutive day of gains. While shares in most other countries moved higher, several key stock measures sold off early gains to close in the red. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 1.84 percent, Shanghai's benchmark fell 0.8 percent and South Korea's index shed about 1 percent.
10.21.08 Goods traded through Kashmir pass after 60 years
October 21 - Rumbling trucks of fruit, honey and maize today made history as Kashmiris traded goods rather than gunfire when a new business route opened between India and Pakistan. For the first time since partition, trucks crossed the Line of Control (LoC) that divides troubled Kashmir and marks the border between the two countries. Thirteen lorries bearing mainly apples set off from the Indian-administered part of Kashmir and 14 trucks also carrying fruit and other goods set off from the Pakistan-controlled Kashmir for India.
The distinction of being the first Pakistani driver went to Mazhar Hussain, who was carrying 1600kg of rice and spices destined for the Indian-administered town of Salamabad. As a police band strained the chords of the national anthem and schoolchildren sang patriotic songs, he could scarcely contain his emotion. "I'm very happy. I've never been to the other side. I had always dreamed of it," he said, setting off at noon. "We couldn't achieve anything through fighting, hopefully we can achieve peace through trade." [More>>independent.co.uk]
10.21.08 Police: Blast in India's northeast kills 14
GAUHATTI, India, October 21 - A bomb exploded outside a police training center in northeast India on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people and wounding 20 more, police said. The bomb was apparently planted on a motorcycle and placed outside the center in the city of Imphal, said city police chief Radheshyam, who goes by just one name...Dozens of militant separatist groups are active in India's northeast, an isolated region wedged between Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Myanmar with only a thin corridor connecting it to the rest of India. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]
10.21.08 Western diet causes heart attacks
WASHINGTON, October 21 - The typical Western diet, which includes red meat, fried foods, dairy products and salty snacks, is responsible for 30 per cent of the world's heart attacks, according to a study of dietary patterns in 52 countries. The study has been reported in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Researchers identified three dietary patterns in the world: Oriental, which include higher intake of tofu, soy and other sauces; Prudent, which includes higher intake of fruits and vegetables; and Western, which includes higher intake of fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat.
10.21.08 India set for moon mission
October 21 - India is set to send a mission to the moon in an Asian space race project that will boost its space programme into the same league as regional powerhouses Japan and China. The unmanned lunar orbiting spacecraft Chandrayaan-1 is scheduled to blast off aboard an Indian-built rocket at 6.20am (0050GMT) on Wednesday from Sriharikota on India's southeastern coast. For India, the $80m mission puts the country on the inside track of a fast-developing Asian space race. Kapil Sibal, India's science and technology minister said: "It is a proud moment for us."...The Chandrayaan-1 is being sent on a two-year orbital mission to provide a detailed map of the mineral, chemical and topographical characteristics of the moon's surface. [Full story>>aljazeera.net]
10.21.08 Journalist jailed for Prophet Mohammad blasphemy
KABUL, October 221 - Afghanistan's appeal court sentenced an Afghan journalist to 20 years in jail, commuting an earlier death sentence, for distributing an Internet article that said the Prophet Mohammad had ignored the rights of women. Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, a reporter with the Jahan-e Now daily, was sentenced to death in January by a court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
10.21.08 Suspected Saudi militants indicted for terrorism
RIYADH,Saudi Arabia (AP) October 21 - Saudi authorities have indicted 991 suspected militants for participating in terrorist attacks carried out over the last five years, the interior minister said early Tuesday. The legal proceedings mark a significant step in the kingdom's fight against terror. Authorities have been reluctant to resort to trials for terrorism charges that could result in death sentences until they had shown the public that every effort had been made to give the men a chance to repent.
The militants, he said, have been responsible for over 30 attacks in the kingdom since May 2003, killing 164 people, including 74 security officials. They also have wounded 657 security officials and 439 civilians. Another 160 attacks were foiled...The government fears a public backlash against its crackdown if it takes overly harsh measures against the militants and wants to avoid accusations it is moving against them just to please the United States. There is a degree of public sympathy for Saudis who leave the country to perform jihad in occupied Muslim countries. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com; See other details, alarabiya.net, October 21, "Saudi refers 991 terrorist suspects to court" and related stories:
10.20.08 ING taps Dutch state for €10bn of capital
October20 - ING, The Dutch financial services giant, last night became the latest large European bank to turn to its government for an injection of capital. The bank, the biggest in the Netherlands, announced it would sell an 8.5 per cent stake to the Dutch government for €10bn (£7.8bn), as it attempts to improve its capital funding. The capital boost followed a weekend of talks with the Dutch government following ING's announcement on Friday that it had lost €500m in the third quarter of the year, the first such loss in its history, after making €2bn of writedowns on investments. That revelation – and a 27 per cent fall in ING's share price on Friday – rang alarm bells with the Dutch authorities, which had already set aside €20bn to provide funds as and when needed to the country's banking system. [More>>independent.co.uk]
10.20.08 Prof James Tibballs says organs are taken before donors are dead
October 21 - A doctor claims most organ donors are not dead when their organs are removed. In an article in the Journal of Law and Medicine , Melbourne specialist Associate Professor James Tibballs argues it is "impossible to be certain" that the brain and circulation have ceased "irreversibly" before organs are taken. "It may be better to concede that, although organ donation is presently conducted under the guise of total brain death, it is in reality conducted under a point of 'neurological no return' or 'as good as dead,' " he said.
Dr. Tibballs, from the Royal Children's Hospital, argues discrepancies between legal definitions of death and actual clinical practice lead to ethical and legal problems. "What perhaps is needed is acknowledgement by the medical and legal professions, and acceptance by the public, that organ donation is presently commonly carried out on persons not actually dead but rather in the process of dying or 'not completely dead but dead enough,' " he said. [More>>news.com.au]
10.20.08 34 Taliban killed in Afghan offensive
KANDAHAR, October 20 - An Afghan official says 34 Taliban were killed in an operation by Afghan and foreign forces near a key southern Afghan city. Daud Ahmadi says the Afghan forces battled the militants south of Lashkar Gah on Sunday evening. Ahmadi is the spokesman for Helmand's governor. Ahmadi says the authorities recovered a number of weapons, ammunition, motorbikes and other vehicles used by the Taliban. Two policemen were wounded. Last week, Taliban fighters launched several barrages of rocket and mortar fire into Lashkar Gah, which is the capital of Helmand province. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,
"She was walking to work this morning. There were two people on a motorcycle. They got off the motorcycle and shot her and then went away on the motorcycle. She was dead pretty soon afterwards," said Mark Lyth, the board chairman of SERVE Afghanistan, the aid agency which employed the woman. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack. "We killed her for spreading Christian propaganda," Zabiullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the militant group, told Reuters by telephone...
10.20.08 Fresh air strikes in Pakistan kill 6 militants
ISLAMABAD, October 20 - At least six militants were killed and several others injured when Pakistani fighter jets and artillery pounded suspected Taliban positions in the troubled Bajaur tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The jets struck militant positions at several places in the Charmang and Loisam sub-districts of Bajaur Agency, considered strongholds of the local Taliban militants. A number of militant hideouts were destroyed in the bombing, TV channels reported...The News daily put the death toll in yesterday's air strikes in the Taliban-dominated Matta sub-district of Swat at 100, including some 25 militants. [Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
10.19.08 Britain faces crisis as negative equity to reach 2 million
LONDON, October 19 - Collapsing house prices are plunging 60,000 homeowners a month into negative equity, which means the country is on course for a worse crisis than the 1990s crash. At current trends, 2m households will enter negative equity by 2010, outstripping the 1.8m affected at the bottom of the last housing slump.
New research from Standard & Poor's, the ratings agency, coincides with evidence that banks are aggressively seizing homes whose owners have slipped just a few hundred pounds behind on their mortgage payments. It is a further signal that the financial crisis is now infecting the real economy as hundreds of thousands of families face the prospect of being unable to move house because their home is worth less than the value of their mortgage.
Many more homeowners will now be afraid that the bank may suddenly repossess their property. Repossessions have soared to 19,000 in the first half of the year, up 40% on the previous six months. That figure is expected to rise to 26,000 in the second half of 2008. Economists believe house prices will fall by up to 35% from their peak by 2010. This compares with a drop of only 20% in the early 1990s. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
10.19.08 Oil-fueled nation feels pinch
BOGOTA, Columbia, October 19 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has delighted in the economic meltdown in the United States, mocking the Bush administration for its bailout plan and predicting the end of American economic dominance. "The US model of capitalism is collapsing," Chávez, a self-avowed socialist, told reporters recently. But Venezuela's oil-fueled economy is deeply intertwined with the United States and is poised to face major challenges as the crisis pushes down the price of crude, economic analysts and oil experts say.
The price of a barrel of oil has fallen from $147 in July to less than $70, and analysts say the drop is a blow to Chávez's free-spending administration, which depends on oil for 50 percent of government revenue and 95 percent of its export earnings. Other oil-producing countries, which like Venezuela ramped up spending as the price of oil rose to historic highs in recent years, also face serious economic problems, analysts say.
...Venezuela exports about 1.4 million barrels daily to the United States, about 10 percent of U.S. oil imports. vThe dire predictions come as the inflation rate in Venezuela has surpassed 36 percent and the black market rate for dollars has shot well beyond the fixed government rate. JP Morgan, in a research note this month, predicted that economic growth in Venezuela would reach 5 percent this year and 2.5 percent next year. Last year, the economy grew by 8.4 percent...Venezuela is more reliant than ever on the food, auto parts, medicine, construction materials and other products it imports from the United States and Colombia, a close US ally. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]
10.19.08 Saudi market sheds five percent at week start
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, October 19 - Saudi bourse loses around $20 billion of capitalization, now stands at just above $340 billion. The Saudi stock market ended the first day of the trading week on Saturday down more than five percent, shedding some of last weeks gains. The Tadawul All-Shares Index closed on 6,503.94 points, down 5.23 percent in the first day of trade since Wednesday.
All sectors slumped, led by a 9.64 percent plunge in the petrochemicals sector that approached the 10 percent permitted limit. Market leader SABIC fell by 9.95 percent. The TASI is now down 41.08 percent on the year. The Saudi bourse, the largest in the Arab world, recovered initial losses by the end of last week, ending the week up 11.4 percent. On Saturday it lost around 20 billion dollars of capitalization and now stands at just above 340 billion dollars...The Dubai Financial Market Index closed down 6.5 percent at 3,204.11 points, leaving it with a slight 0.2 percent gain for the week. The other United Arab Emirates stock market, Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange, saw its index drop 4.5 percent to 3,366.72 points. [Full story>>middle-east-online.com; See related stories:
Shamali added that a fall in revenue, almost entirely made up of oil exports, would also mean Kuwait could spend less on its five-year development plan initially estimated at 35 billion dinars, part of efforts to become a regional financial centre. Kuwait had based the current budget on a conservative oil price forecast of $50 a barrel. State news agency KUNA said Kuwait’s crude oil fell to $59.15 on Thursday, as US oil prices touched a 15-month low before rebounding partly on Friday...
Editorial note: OPEC is under the delusion that oil price increases from $60 to $147 per barrel are not the cause of, or did not contribute to, the current economic meltdown. We can see here that their spending spree in building projects funded by the exploitative oil hikes is jeopardized by a collapsing world economy. Yet, they complain about comparable price rises in food and commodities which they must import. What has fueled the world economic collapse is greed, and we can see that OPEC is as much affected in filling the ravenous coffers of greed as the Wall Street gluttons. If they don't curb their hunger they will see more unreasonable price-hikes in their department stores and fast-food malls.
10.19.08 Air strikes kill 30 militants: Pakistan officials
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) October 19 - Pakistani forces killed up to 30 militants close to the Afghan border on Sunday as America's top diplomat for the region visited for talks with government leaders, officials said. US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher's trip comes amid strains between Pakistan and the United States over suspected American missile attacks on militant targets in the country's northwest bordering Afghanistan. The US embassy gave no details on Boucher's trip other than to say it had been planned for some time and that he was meeting a range of government officials.
10.19.08 Dozens killed in Afghan bus ambush
October 19 - About 30 Afghans have been killed by the Taliban after it stopped a bus travelling from Kandahar to Helmand province, according to officials and the Taliban. General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the defence ministry spokesman, said on Sunday that 31 civilians were killed in the attack in the Maiwand district, a Taliban-controlled area just west of Kandahar city. But a Taliban spokesman said that 27 Afghan army personnel had been killed. Qari Yusuf Ahmadi said that Taliban fighters had checked the documents of the passengers and released all the civilians before killing the soldiers. Azimi denied the Taliban claims saying: "Our soldiers travel by military convoy, not in civilian buses. And we have military air transportation." [More>>aljazeera.net; See also thenews.com.pk, October 19, "Taliban hijack Afghan bus, dozens feared dead."
10.18.08 Wall Street banks in $70bn staff payout
October 18 - Pay and bonus deals equivalent to 10% of US government bail-out package. Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year — despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash, the Guardian has learned.
Staff at six banks including Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are in line to pick up the payouts despite being the beneficiaries of a $700bn bail-out from the US government that has already prompted criticism. The government's cash has been poured in on the condition that excessive executive pay would be curbed.
Pay plans for bankers have been disclosed in recent corporate statements. Pressure on the US firms to review preparations for annual bonuses increased yesterday when Germany's Deutsche Bank said many of its leading traders would join Josef Ackermann, its chief executive, in waiving millions of euros in annual payouts. [More>>guardian.co.uk; See related story, Maravot News 10.17.08, (nytimes.com), "Banks are likely to hold tight to bailout money (and not use it for loans)"]
10.18.08 Bankers' £16bn bonus bonanza
LONDON, October 18 - City bankers have not lost a penny of their multimillion-pound bonus packages so far, despite the credit crunch which has caused the worst financial crisis in 80 years, new figures show. Official statistics reveal that, in the financial year to April, City workers took home £16bn, almost exactly the same as in 2007. The period covers the Northern Rock nationalization and the UK employees hit by the Bear Stearns implosion. During the period, banks across the world were forced to make huge writedowns on investments linked to US subprime mortgages.
Bonus payments in the UK financial sector have more than trebled in just over five years, from £5bn in 2003, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is shared among just over one million employees in the sector, but that is heavily skewed towards the high-powered executives, who are routinely handed seven-figure packages. Last year, Bob Diamond, the president and head of investment banking at Barclays whose base salary was £250,000, was paid £18m after bonuses and options were taken into account.
The remuneration figures were released only days after Gordon Brown vowed to wage war on the "irresponsible" bonus culture that had helped cause the financial crisis gripping Britain. Financial sector payments made up about two-thirds of the bonuses across the entire British economy. Total bonus payments last year hit £28bn, which has doubled over the past eight years. Last night politicians and union officials said it was deeply concerning that such large bonuses were still being paid even when the financial markets were clearly deteriorating. [More>>independent.co.uk]
10.18.08 Suicide attack wounded 5 NATO soldiers in Afghanistan
HERAT, Afghanistan, October 18 - A suicide car bomber struck international troops near the western Afghan city of Herat on Saturday, wounding five soldiers, officials said. Bomb attacks are relatively rare in or near Herat, one of the most peaceful and prosperous cities in Afghanistan and the main hub for booming trade with nearby Iran. The bomber struck as a convoy of foreign troops was driving from the airport on the outskirts of Herat, regional police chief Rahmataullah Safai said. A spokesman for NATO-led force in western Afghanistan said five soldiers were wounded, and one of their military vehicle was damaged in the attack. Most ISAF troops in Herat are Italian. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
10.18.08 'Fighters killed' in Pakistan raid
October 18 - Fighter jets have killed about 60 Muslim fighters in a strike in the northwestern Swat valley, the Pakistan military says. The Reuters news agency said the attack took place on Friday. The military's claims could not be independently verified. "Jet fighters pounded positions of the militants and killed 60 of them. Two of their training camps were also destroyed," Major Nasir Ali, a military spokesman, said. Security forces have been fighting loyalists of a pro-Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who has led a violent campaign to impose Taliban-style laws in Swat, a mountain valley once popular with tourists, for more than a year. Government forces also launched an offensive against the fighters in the nearby Bajaur tribal region on the Afghan border in August. [More>>aljazeera.net]
10.18.08 Muqtada Al-Sadr urges rejection of US-Iraqi pact
BAGHDAD (AP) October 18 - Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday called on Iraq's parliament to reject a U.S.-Iraqi security pact as tens of thousands of his followers rallied in Baghdad against the deal. The mass public show of opposition came as US and Iraqi leaders face a Dec. 31 deadline to reach agreement on the deal, which would replace an expiring UN mandate authorizing the US-led forces in Iraq.
Al-Sadr's message was read by his aide Sheik Abdul-Hadi al-Mohammadawi before a huge crowd of mostly young men waving Iraqi and green Shiite flags and chanting slogans including "no, no to the agreement" and "yes to Iraq." "The Iraqi government has abandoned its duty before God and its people and referred the agreement to you knowing that ratifying it will stigmatize Iraq and its government for years to come," he said, in the address also intended to reach lawmakers. [More>>abcnews.go.com]
10.18.08 'Al-Qaeda web forums abruptly taken offline
DUBAI, October 17 - Four of the five main online forums that al-Qaeda's media wing uses to distribute statements by Osama bin Laden and other extremists have been disabled since mid-September, monitors of the Web sites say. The disappearance of the forums on Sept. 10 -- and al-Qaeda's apparent inability to restore them or create alternate online venues, as it has before -- has curbed the organization's dissemination of the words and images of its fugitive leaders. On Sept. 29, a statement by the al-Fajr Media Center, a distribution network created by supporters of al-Qaeda and other Sunni extremist groups, said the forums had disappeared "for technical reasons," and it urged followers not to trust look-alike sites.
For al-Qaeda, "these sites are the equivalent of pentagon.mil, whitehouse.gov, att.com," said Evan F. Kohlmann, an expert on online al-Qaeda operations who has advised the FBI and others. With just one authorized al-Qaeda site still in business, "this has left al-Qaeda's propaganda strategy hanging by a very narrow thread." At the same time, in an apparently unrelated flare-up of online sectarian hostility, Shiite and Sunni hackers have targeted Web sites associated with the other sect, including that of a Saudi-owned television network and of Iraq's most revered Shiite cleric.
10.18.08 Documents show how Iran trained Iraqi militia
WASHINGTON, October 18 - They wake before dawn, with time to exercise, eat and pray before the day's first class in firing Kalashnikov rifles. Over the next eight hours, they practice using bazookas or laying roadside bombs, with a break for lunch and mandatory religious instruction. There is free time in the evening to watch television or play Ping-Pong. Lights out at 11pm. Such is a typical day at a dusty military base outside Tehran, where for the past several years members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force and Lebanese Hezbollah operatives have trained Iraqi Shiites to launch attacks against American forces in Iraq, according to accounts given to American interrogators by captured Iraqi fighters.
American officials have long cited Iranian training and weapons as reasons for the lethality of attacks by Shiite fighters in Iraq. Iranian officials deny that such training takes place.
Now, more than 80 pages of newly declassified intelligence documents for the first time describe in detail an elaborate network used by Iraqis to gain entry into Iran and train under Iranian supervision. They offer the most comprehensive account to date to support American claims about Iranian efforts to build a proxy force in Iraq. Those claims have become highly politicized, with Bush administration critics charging that accounts of Iranian involvement have been exaggerated.
The prisoners’ accounts cannot be independently verified. Yet the detainees gave strikingly similar details about training compounds in Iran, a clandestine network of safe houses in Iran and Iraq they used to reach the camps and intra-Shiite tensions at the camps between the Arab Iraqis and their Persian Iranian trainers. [More>>nytimes.com]
10.18.08 Troops killed in Ingushetia ambush
October 18 - At least two soldiers are dead after coming under fire in the southern Russian province of Ingushetia, Russian news agencies have reported. "A column of military personnel stationed in Ingushetia came under assault rifle and grenade fire," a local interior ministry spokesman told RIA Novosti news agency on Saturday. "As a result, two soldiers were killed and two were hospitalized."
A spokesman for the Ingushetian interior ministry said that a convoy came under fire near the village of Muzhichi, about 25km east of the main town of Nazran, but was unable to confirm casualties. However, a local opposition website reported that "around 50 soldiers" had died in a series of attacks by rebel fighters across Ingushetia, a small territory which shares a border which Chechnya. "A source from the Sunzhensky region interior ministry said around 50 soldiers were killed," the Ingushetia.org website reported. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also thenews.com.pk, October 18, "50 soldiers killed in southern Russia attacks": ...There was also a third attack on a military column that had come as a reinforcement to the road between Surkhakhi and Alkhasty, Ingushetia.org said. The website is highly critical of local authorities in Ingushetia. Its owner, Magomed Yevloyev, a local opposition leader, was shot dead after being taken into police custody in August.
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