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10.29.11 Chase, Wells Fargo drop debit fee plans
NEW YORK, October 29 -
Two of the nation's largest banks, Chase and Wells Fargo, will not impose fees on customers who use their debit cards, after consumer backlash to Bank of America's announcement that it would charge a $5 monthly fee on debit card users. The backlash was so strong that BofA now says it will offer options for customers to avoid the fee. The retail banking arm of JPMorgan Chase & Co. will stop charging $3-per-month fees for using debit cards when its current pilot in Wisconsin and Georgia is completed in November, a source with knowledge of the bank's plans told The Associated Press. The individual asked not to be identified because the bank has not officially announced the program will not go forward. Chase, which operates in 23 states, began its test in February. And it's not alone in rethinking its actions. Wells Fargo & Co. began a similar pilot in five states on Oct. 14, testing a flat $3 fee for using debit for purchases. On Friday it also announced that it is canceling its test program. Other banks already have more widespread fee policies. SunTrust Banks charges $5 a month for debit cards used to make purchases, and Regions Financial Corp. charges $4. But it was Bank of America Corp.'s plan to start charging $5 per month that lit the issue on fire. The Charlotte, N.C.-based bank last month said it will begin assessing the fee in 2012.  [More>>cbsnews.com]

10.29.11 Syrian forces pound Homs; activists say over 50 dead
Syrian tanks pounded an old district in the city of Homs on Saturday and three people were killed, activists said, after one of the bloodiest days of the seven-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad. Activists and residents said Syrian forces shot dead 40 civilians on Friday when they fired on demonstrators calling for international protection from Assad’s crackdown. Activists and residents said Syrian forces shot dead 40 civilians on Friday when they fired on demonstrators calling for international protection from Assad’s crackdown. The report by the British-based Syrian Organization for Human Rights highlights the emerging element of armed insurgency alongside mainly peaceful street protests demanding an end to 41 years of Assad family rule. The United Nations says 3,000 people, including nearly 200 children, have been killed in the unrest. Since the start of protests in March, Syrian authorities have blamed the violence on gunmen they say have killed 1,100 soldiers and police.   [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.29.11 Two rockets fired toward Ashdod following Israeli strike on Gaza
OCTOBER 29 - Alarm sounds throughout southern Israeli city before rocket fire; IDF kills five Islamic Jihad militants just hours before.  Two rockets were fired toward the southern Israeli city of Ashdod and the nearby area of Gan Yavne on Saturday, following an IDF strike on the Gaza Strip which resulted in the deaths of five Islamic Jihad militants. One rocket exploded in an open area in Ashdod, causing no casualties. The other rocket exploded in the area of Gan Yavne, lightly wounding a woman who sustained shrapnel wounds to her legs. Several trauma victims were also reported. An alarm sounded throughout Ashdod prior to the explosions, just hours after Israel Defense Forces soldiers killed a commander of the Palestinian faction and four of its munitions experts. According to IDF sources, the strike was targeted at the cell responsible for launching a Grad rocket that exploded in Ashdod earlier this week. Palestinian sources say the strike occurred near the Al-Sultan neighborhood, near the former Israeli settlement of Atzmona. Sources also said the strike killed commander Ahmed al-Sheikh Khalil and four senior comrades who oversaw the manufacture of bombs and rockets for the faction. In the wake of the strike, the organization said a response would come "deep into Israeli territory."    [>haaretz.com]
10.29.11 Deadly blast hits Turkish town
October 29 - Blast in southeast Turkey kills two people and injures 10 others near the office of the ruling AK Party.   A suspected suicide bomber has killed two and wounded 10 people in southeast Turkey. The attack, which was reportedly carried out by a female bomber, took place on Saturday in the town of Bingol, the Turkish interior ministry said. Idris Naim Sahin, the interior minister, said the blast occurred at a teahouse near the office of the ruling AK Party, but that the building was not the intended target. The area is one of Bingol's busiest, and Mustafa Hakan Guvencer, the provincial governor, said three of the wounded were in serious condition. The blast shattered glass and shop windows in surrounding buildings. Television footage showed people running away from the site of the explosion, while others were seen urging people to evacuate the streets. Guvencer said the attacker was a woman. No group has yet admitted carrying out the attack. Turkey is fighting a long-running battle with Kurdish rebels in the southeast of the country, and they have carried out suicide bombings in the past.The blast comes as the government is trying to provide relief to thousands of people rendered homeless by a powerful earthquake in Van, another largely Kurdish province.  [>aljazeera.net]
10.29.11 Kabul suicide bomb kills 13 US troops
KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) October 29 -
A suicide car bomber killed 13 American troops in the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, the deadliest single ground attack against the NATO-led force in 10 years of war in Afghanistan.   "We can confirm that 13 International Security Assistance Force members have died," said a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, giving no further details. A Pentagon spokesman later confirmed all 13 soldiers killed were American. Three civilians and a police officer were also killed in the attack on a convoy of military vehicles, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry said.   Excluding aircraft crashes, it was the deadliest single incident for foreign troops since the war began in 2001. Lethal attacks are relatively rare in heavily guarded Kabul, compared with the south and east of Afghanistan, but Saturday's killings came less than two months after insurgents launched a 20-hour assault on the US embassy in the capital...The Taliban later claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they packed a four-wheel-drive vehicle with 700 kg of explosives.  [Full story>>thestar.com.my]

10.29.11 Man in Afghan army uniform kills two foreign troops: NATO
KABUL, Afghanistan, October 29 - A man dressed in Afghan army uniform shot dead two foreign troops in the volatile south of Afghanistan on Saturday, NATO said. "Two International Security Assistance Force service members were killed today in southern Afghanistan when an individual wearing an Afghan National Army uniform apparently turned his weapon on Afghan and coalition forces," the alliance force said in a statement. It said the shooter was also killed in the incident but gave no further details. The announcement came as a suicide car bomber in the capital Kabul struck a  US-run NATO bus traveling through the southwest of the city, killing at least
14 people, mostly foreign forces.   [>thenews.com.pk]

10.29.11 Iraq violence kills five
(AFP) October 29 - Attacks across Iraq killed five people, including two brothers shot at a family jewelery store, security officials said on Saturday. In the deadliest incident, gunmen broke into a jewelery store in the town of Al-Hafriyah, around 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of the capital, and killed two teenage brothers who were opening it before their father's arrival.  "The gunmen used silenced weapons, they robbed the store and escaped without anyone seeing them," a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. A witness in the town told AFP that one of the youths was killed in the store, while the other died of his wounds on his way to the hospital.   [More>>france24.com]

10.29.11 Professor's 'Death to Israel" rant sparks controversy at Kent State University
October 29 -  A Kent State University professor allegedly with former ties to a jihadist website shouted “Death to Israel” at a public lecture delivered on the Ohio campus by a former Israeli diplomat. The outburst came during a presentation this week by Ismael Khaldi, a former deputy counsel general at the Israeli consulate in San Francisco. During the question and answer period, KSU history professor Julio Pino launched a series of provocative questions at Khaldi. At some point, the professor shouted "Death to Israel" and then stormed out of the building. The event was first reported by the KSU student news site KentWired.  KSU president Lester Lefton, who is Jewish, denounced Pino's outburst, calling it "reprehensible and an embarrassment to our university." At the same time, he defended Pino's free speech rights. "It may have been professor Pino's right to do so, but it is my obligation, as the president of this university, to say that I find his words deplorable and his behavior deeply troubling," his statement read. Pino, who is originally from Cuba and a convert to Islam, did not return calls for comment. A Kent State spokesman confirmed the professor was once investigated by federal authorities. The university said they were also aware of allegations that Pino wrote stories for a now-defunct jihadist website. And according to the Akron Beacon Journal , the professor eulogized an 18-year-old Palestinian suicide bomber in the Daily Kent Stater, the student-run newspaper. And yet, the tenured history professor still remains employed by the university.   [More>>foxnews.com]

10.29.11 Pakistan Hindu challenges rule stipulating compulsory Islamic studies
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, October 29 -
A Hindu boy has filed a petition in a Pakistani court challenging a rule that stipulates a student must have a certificate in Islamic studies to be eligible to appear for entrance tests to medical colleges. A division bench of the Sindhi High Court admitted Sagar Ladhani's petition yesterday and provisionally allowed him to appear in an upcoming test for admission to an MBBS course. In his petition, Ladhani challenged the rule that students have to study "Islamiat" at the O-level to get an equivalence certificate from local education boards to appear in entrance tests for admission to medical colleges and institutions. The bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam issued notices to the federal and provincial Education Secretaries, Inter-Board Committee of Chairmen, Dow University of Medical and Health Sciences, National Testing Service and provincial and federal law officers to submit their response to the petition.

The court adjourned the matter till November 15. Ladhani's lawyer Farough Naseem told the court that his client had completed his O and A-levels from the University of Cambridge through a local private schooling system. The subjects of religious studies prescribed in the O-level syllabus were "Islamic Religious Culture and Islamiat" for Muslim students and "Religious Studies and the Bible" for Christian students. There was no subject in the O-level curriculum for students belonging to other religious minorities, including Hindus, Naseem said. When Ladhani approached the Board of Intermediate Education to obtain an equivalence certificate, he was told it could be granted to him only if he had passed the religious studies course at the O-level.    [>indianexpress.com]

10.28.11 Big banks say no to debit fees, won't follow Bank of America's lead
October 28 -
JPMorgan Chase has decided it will not charge customers who use their debit cards for purchases, joining a growing list of banks that will not follow the lead of financial giant Bank of America, which announced a $5 monthly fee last month. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, U.S. Bank, PNC Financial, and Key Bank have confirmed they are not planning to charge customers debit card fees when they make purchases. JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the country by total assets, began testing a $3 fee in parts of Wisconsin and Georgia in February. However, the bank decided it won't roll out the fee to the rest of the country, as first reported by the Wall Street Journal. A person familiar with Chase confirmed with ABC News that it is not planning to charge debit card fees due to customer preferences...Wells Fargo began testing a $3 "activity fee" on Oct. 14 with customers in Georgia, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and Washington making a purchase or payment with their debit card, according to spokeswoman Richele Messick.

However, many national banks offer
checking accounts without fees. Smaller, community banks and credit unions have touted those services and free debit card services. The more than 7,000 credit unions across the country have seen an increase in new members since Bank of America announced its fee...Internet banks are also alternatives for customers who are heavy debit-card users. Ally Bank and Charles Schwab Bank offer customers free debit cards and checking accounts with interest. Both banks also reimburse ATM fees charged by other banks nationwide and offer unlimited check writing...Citibank announced it was not planning to charge debit card fees on Sept. 16, based on customer feedback.   [Full story>>abcnews.go.com]

10.28.11 Dozens die in surge of violence in Iraq
BAGHDAD (AFP) October 28 - A series of blasts and shootings rocked Iraq leaving at least 35 people dead, officials said on Friday, as security forces imposed a tight cordon around the scene of twin bombings in Baghdad. The double roadside bombing in Baghdad’s Urr neighborhood Thursday evening, in which at least 32 people died and 71 were wounded, marked the deadliest violence in the country since August. One bomb exploded at around 7:00pm on Thursday followed by a second after security forces and crowds gathered at the scene, witnesses said. Officials had given initial tolls of at least 10 dead and 32 wounded but revised them dramatically upwards on Friday. The death toll marks the highest from an attack in Iraq since August 15, when twin bombings in the southern city of Kut, blamed on al-Qaeda, killed 40 people...The Baghdad blasts were the deadliest since US President Barack Obama announced last week that all US troops will leave Iraq by year’s end after failed negotiations with Iraq about a post-2011 US military training mission here.   [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

10.28.11 Syria death toll mounts to 37, activists say
October 28  - Protesters call for international protection in Syria, after NATO says it will end its mission in Libya.  At least 37 people were killed Friday when Syrian security forces fired on anti-government protesters demanding the imposition of a no-fly zone in the country to protect civilians, opposition activists said. Twenty were killed in the central province of Homs, with two shot dead by snipers stationed in the city, Omar Idlibi, the spokesman for the Local Coordination Committees that groups anti-regime activists told DPA. In neighboring Hama province, 17 protesters were killed as security forces shelled areas where demonstrations were being held to disperse protesters, added Idlibi. Homs and Hama have been focal points for the pro-democracy protests in Syria since they began in mid-March. In Idlib province, near the Syrian border with Turkey, military and security forces on Friday made mass arrests including one woman and her 12-year-old son, the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Syrian activists based in Lebanon said the army was using warplanes to locate demonstrations and alert government troops to disperse them. The Friday protests were in response to a call from online activists for the international community to impose a no-fly zone over Syria, similar to the one that helped the rebels in Libya to oust the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.    [More>>haaretz.com]

10.28.11 Suspected US drone kills 13 Pakistani Taleban
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) October 28 - Thirteen Taliban militants were killed in a suspected U.S. drone attack in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region this week, security officials and tribal sources said on Friday. Security sources said there was strong evidence that Taj Gul Mehsud, a senior Taliban commander and close aide to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud, was among the victims in the attack on Wednesday. Tribal elders from the Mehsud tribe in Mir Ali in neighboring North Waziristan said two missiles struck a militant compound. They put the death toll much higher — up to 22 people — and said all were members of the TTP, or Pakistan Taliban. Six others were injured, security forces said. Security officials and Taliban sources said the remote location of the suspected strike prevented it from being reported earlier, and reports of the strike only surfaced when the injured arrived at a hospital in Mir Ali...Wednesday’s strike came a day before another drone attack on Thursday killed five commanders of a powerful Pakistani Taliban faction that attacks Western forces in Afghanistan, one of the group’s leaders told Reuters.   [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.28.11 Don't have capacity to take action against Haqqani: Pakistan army
WASHINGTON, October 28 - The Pakistani military has told the Pentagon that it does not have the capacity to take action against the Haqqani network, a US military General based in Afghanistan has said. "The Pakistanis have said to me that they simply don't have the capacity at this time to take on that insurgent network at this point within their borders," Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti told Pentagon reporters in a video conference from Kabul. Scaparrotti is the Commander of International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, and Deputy Commander, US Forces.  "We are obviously working with them to determine how best to have an impact inside of that sanctuary. We work very hard on our side to affect them in terms of interdiction, their cache and the movement cross border," he said. "And as you probably know, we are having a greater success on the Afghan side, greater success this year in terms of interdiction. And our focus operations have had a good effect on that network as well," the US general said.   [>indianexpress.com]

10.27.11 US drone strike kills key commander in Pakistan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan, October 27 -
Suspected US unmanned aircraft fired six missiles at a vehicle in Pakistan's rugged tribal region Thursday, killing five militants, including a close ally to one of the area's top commanders, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The attack in the South Waziristan tribal area killed Khan Mohammed, also known as Sathai, deputy leader of a group of militants led by Maulvi Nazir and also the commander's cousin, said the officials. The strike also killed Nazir's younger brother, Hazrat Omar, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. Nazir is one of the most powerful militant commanders in the tribal region and is accused of working with the Taliban and al-Qaeda to stage attacks against foreign troops in neighboring Afghanistan. He is believed to have close relations with Pakistani intelligence and agreed to stay neutral when the military invaded South Waziristan in 2009 to fight the Pakistani Taliban, who have focused their attacks against the Pakistani state. The US has criticized Pakistan for failing to crack down on militants staging attacks in Afghanistan and has stepped up drone attacks in the tribal region to combat them. The militants killed in Thursday's drone strike were riding in a double-cabin pickup truck from Tora Gola village to the nearby area of Azam Warsak when they were hit, said the intelligence officials. Three other people were injured in the attack, they said.  [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

10.27.11 US stocks soar on Europe debt deal
October 27 -
Stocks soared today after European leaders announced a deal to handle Greece’s debt, pushing aside a cloud that has hung over world financial markets most of the year. At 9:42am, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 245 points, or 2 percent to 12,100. Japan’s Nikkei surged 2 percent overnight, the German Dax rose 4 percent, and France’s CAC surged 6 percent. Oil prices rose above $92 per barrel and the euro gained strongly, easing worries that the currency would fall apart without a debt deal. European leaders clinched a deal today that is hoped will end the two-year debt crisis, agreeing after a night of tense negotiations to have banks write down a 50 percent slice of Greece’s debts and to set up a $1.4 trillion rescue fund for other ailing economies in the region, including Italy, Spain and Portugal. Many details of the pact have yet to be worked out. "We have reached an agreement, which I believe lets us give a credible and ambitious and overall response to the Greek crisis," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told reporters after the meeting ended early today. "Because of the complexity of the issues at stake, it took us a full night. But the results will be a source of huge relief worldwide."    [More>>abcnews.go.com]

10.27.11 Exxon Mobil profit soars 41%
NEW YORK, October 27 -
Exxon Mobil reported quarterly earnings of $10.3 billion on Thursday, a surge of 41% from a year earlier. Why? Higher prices for oil and natural gas.  Profit at the oil company soared compared to the same period a year ago, when it was $7.4 billion. Per-share income climbed to $2.13 per share from $1.44 in the prior year. And revenue rose to $125.3 billion from $95.3 billion in the year-ago quarter, the company said.  [More>>cnn.com]
10.27.11 Quake death toll rises to 523; Israel sends prefabricatred homes for survivors
DUBAI / ERCIS, Turkey, October 27 -  Survivors of eastern Turkey’s earthquake pleaded for more tents on Thursday, fearing death from cold after a tremor that killed at least 523 and left thousands sleeping in the open.  Some blamed the ruling AK party for a slow response and accused officials of handing aid to supporters, after standing in long queues only to be told there were no tents left. Others said profiteers were hoarding tents and reselling them. "Everyone is getting sick and wet. We have been waiting in line for four days like this and still nothing. It gets to our turn and they say they have run out," said Fetih Zengin, 38, an estate agent whose house was badly damaged in Ercis, a town of 100,000 that was hardest hit by Sunday's 7.2 magnitude quake, Reuters reported. "We slept under a piece of plastic erected on some wood boards we found. We have 10 children in our family, they are getting sick. Everyone needs a tent, snow is coming. It’s a disaster." An Israeli plane carrying prefabricated homes which will provide shelter for victims of Turkey’s earthquake landed in the capital of Ankara Thursday, Anatolia news agency reported. The arrival of the plane, which was carrying five houses, comes after the Turkish government reversed an earlier decision not to accept aid from abroad in the wake of Sunday’s quake which killed more than 500 people, AFP reported.   [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.26.11 20 million tons of tsunami debris drifting toward Hawaii
LOS ANGELES, CA. October 26 -
The discovery of a fishing boat and other debris in the Pacific suggests flotsam from Japan’s killer tsunami is drifting east faster than expected, researchers say. The tsunami washed up to 20 million tons of debris off the Japanese coast on March 11, and researchers in Hawaii have developed computer models to forecast its movement and predict where and when it could come ashore. They had predicted that the first landfall would be next spring on the Midway Islands, about 2,100 kilometers northwest of Honolulu on the main Hawaiian islands in the the northern Pacific ocean.  But their calculations have been revised after a Russian ship traveling from Hawaii to the Russian Far East last month spied tsunami debris in the northwestern Pacific, including a six-meter boat from Fukushima, near the the site of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

"The first populated area to be affected by the debris is Midway Atoll," Jan Hafner of the International Pacific Research Center at the University of Hawaii told AFP.  "We expect this winter, the first pieces of tsunami debris will arrive there," said Hafner, the computer programmer who has been mapping the projected debris field along with senior researcher Nikolai Maximenko. The Russian sail training ship, the STS Pallada, began spotting debris after passing the Midway Islands last month, he said. On Sept 22, "we picked up on board the Japanese fishing boat. Radioactivity level normal, we’ve measured it with the Geiger," wrote the Russian vessel’s first mate Natalia Borodina, logging the debris. "At the approaches to the mentioned position (maybe 10-15 minutes before), we also sighted a TV set, fridge and a couple of other home appliances," she added, giving the GPS location as N31.04, E174.21.

10.26.11 Taliban commanders say Pakistan intelligence helps them: allegations denied by Pakistan
LONDON (Reuters) October 26 -
Pakistan’s security service provides weapons and training to Taliban insurgents fighting US and British troops in Afghanistan, despite official denials, Taliban commanders say, in allegations that could worsen tensions between Pakistan and the United States. A number of middle-ranking Taliban commanders revealed the extent of Pakistani support in interviews for a BBC Two documentary series, "Secret Pakistan," the first part of which was being broadcast on Wednesday. A former head of Afghan intelligence also told the program that Afghanistan gave Pakistan’s former president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, information in 2006 that Osama bin Laden was hiding in northern Pakistan close to where the former al-Qaeda leader was eventually killed by US special forces in May.

Admiral Mike Mullen, then the top US military officer, accused Pakistani intelligence last month of backing violence against US targets including the US Embassy in Kabul. He said the Haqqani network, an Afghan militant group blamed for the Sept. 13 embassy attack, was a "veritable arm" of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). Pakistan denies the US allegations. One Taliban commander, Mullah Qaseem, told the BBC the important things for a fighter were supplies and a hiding place. “Pakistan plays a significant role. First they support us by providing a place to hide which is really important. Secondly they provide us with weapons,” he said, according to excerpts provided by the BBC. Other Taliban commanders described how they and their fighters were, and are, trained in a network of camps on Pakistani soil.

According to a commander using the name Mullah Azizullah, the experts running the training are either members of the ISI or have close links to it. "They are all the ISI's men. They are the ones who run the training. First they train us about bombs; then they give us practical guidance," he said. Another Taliban fighter, known as Commander Najib, said Qaeda trainers also operated in the camps, talent spotting possible suicide bombers.    [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.26.11 19 killed in Syria as Arab League mounts mediation
DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) October 26 - An Arab League team held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the start of a bid to mediate with the opposition, as activists said at least 19 people were killed in violence on Wednesday. Headed by Qatar, the League’s current chair, the delegation comprises the foreign ministers of Algeria, Egypt, Oman and Sudan, in addition to Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi. Faced with a tough mission, Arabi has said he hopes "the Syrian regime will agree to this initiative, and begin with genuine reforms," in comments to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat. "It is my prerogative as secretary general of the Arab League to meet with any member of the peaceful opposition," said Arabi, referring to a "disagreement" with Damascus after he met members of the Syrian opposition.

At an emergency session in Cairo on October 16, the 22-member League called for "national dialog" between the government and opposition by the end of October to help end the violence and avoid "foreign intervention" in Syria....
In a show of support for the embattled president, a huge crowd of Assad supporters rallied in Damascus on Wednesday. State news agency SANA said more than a million people took part. The demonstrators, waving Syrian flags and brandishing pictures of Assad, swarmed to Omayyad Square, chanting, "The people want Bashar al-Assad." Meanwhile, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 19 people, including nine government soldiers, had been killed in the latest unrest between Assad loyalists and opponents.   [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.26.11 Gaddafi son threatens Libyan 'traitors' with revenge
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) October 26 -
Seif al Islam Gaddafi, one of the killed Libyan dictator’s sons, has vowed to make the lives of "the traitors" who toppled his father "hell," Arab media reported on Wednesday. "In this historic moment, when some believe that everything is over… I would like to clearly state my goals and say: everything is just beginning," the Al-Rai Al-Arabi news portal quoted him as saying. The International Criminal Court has issued an arrest warrant for Seif al Islam Gaddafi, who was the dictator's favorite and one-time heir apparent, on charges of committing crimes against humanity. The London-educated 39-year-old is the last member of Gaddafi’s immediate family who is believed to be in Libya. In his statement, he called on his supporters to continue fighting for a "lost Libya and lost honor" and punish "criminals and murderers" involved in his father’s ouster and death.

Seif al Islam Gaddafi commanded troops loyal to his father in Muammar Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte before the regime’s last stronghold fell to the ruling National Transitional Council forces last week. The ousted Libyan dictator, who was holing up in the town, died after being captured by opposition fighters, while his son managed to escape.  Conflicting media reports have suggested that Seif al Islam Gaddafi may be hiding in southern Libya, either in the area bordering Niger that is populated by tribes loyal to the Gaddafi clan, or in the Bao region near Libya’s borders with Chad and the Sudanese region of Darfur. Some analysts have warned that the Libyan unrest may turn into a violent inter-tribal rivalry that would challenge the country’s unity after the death of dictator Gaddafi. Acting Libyan leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil has urged NATO to continue its mission in the country until at least the end of 2011. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said last week the alliance was planning to wind down its operations in Libya by October 31, but US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested on Tuesday the mission could continue beyond this date.   [>en.rian.ru; See related story,

alarabiya.net, October 26, "Gaddafi son Saif al-Islam, intelligence chief 'want to surrender' to ICC"
Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam and former intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi propose to hand themselves in to the International Criminal Court, a senior official with Libya’s National Transitional Council said on Wednesday. "They are proposing a way to hand themselves over to The Hague," Abdel Majid Mlegta told Reuters from Libya. Spokesman for the Hague court Fadi El Abdallah said: "We don’t have confirmation about this now. We are trying to contact the NTC for more information." Saif al-Islam is wanted by the war crimes court, as was his late father. There is also a warrant out for Senussi. Saif al-Islam has been on the run since Libyan forces overran his father’s home town Sirte at the weekend. He is thought to be somewhere near Libya’s southern border with Niger. Mlegta said his information came from intelligence sources who told him that Saif al-Islam and Senussi were trying to broker a deal to surrender to the court through a neighboring country, which he did not name. They had concluded that it was not safe for them to remain in Libya, or to go to Algeria or Niger, two countries where Qaddafi family members are already sheltering. "They feel that it is not safe for them to stay where they are or to go anywhere," Mlegta said. In any case, they said that Niger was asking for too much money for them to stay...

10.26.11 Tension remains after 'Occupy Oakland' clashes
OAKLAND, Calif., October 26 -
The scene was calm but tense early Wednesday as a crowd of hundreds of protesters dwindled to just a few dozen at the site of several clashes between authorities and supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement a night earlier. Police in riot gear stood watch only a few yards away from a group of stalwart demonstrators in the aftermath of skirmishes in front of City Hall that resulted in five volleys of tear gas from police, in blasts that seemed to intensify with each round, over a roughly three-hour stretch of evening scuffles. The conflict began much earlier in the day when police dismantled an encampment of Occupy Wall Street protesters that had dominated a plaza across the street from the government building for more than two weeks.

Police fired tear gas and beanbag rounds, clearing out the makeshift city in less than an hour.  Hours after nightfall Tuesday evening, protesters had gathered at a downtown library and began marching toward City Hall in an attempt to re-establish a presence in the area of the disbanded camp. They were met by police officers in riot gear. Several small skirmishes broke out and officers cleared the area by firing tear gas. The scene repeated itself several times just a few blocks away in front of the plaza, where police set up behind metal barricades, preventing protesters from gaining access to the site. Tensions would build as protesters edged ever closer to the police line and reach a breaking point with a demonstrator hurling a bottle or rock, prompting police to respond with another round of gas.

10.26.11 Bankok faces worst flooding yet, governor warns
BANKOK, Thailand, October 26 -
Bangkok faces the highest flood levels yet and is preparing for the worst, the governor of the Thai capital told CNN Wednesday. Residents are urged to flee the rising floodwaters, which have already forced the closure of Bangkok's Don Muang airport and the evacuation of flood victims who have taken refuge there.  Thailand's government has declared a five-day public holiday in flood-affected provinces to try to encourage people to seek safety elsewhere before high tides expected this weekend. But Bangkok Gov. Sukhumbhand Paripatra told CNN the authorities could not evacuate a whole city and it was difficult to persuade the Thai people to leave their homes, despite the risk. "Apparently there will be large volume of water run-off coming toward the city tonight onwards, and over the weekend," he said.

"At the point of high tide, it will be very high, the highest this year. We are bracing for the worse." Thongthong Chantharangsu, a spokesman for Thailand's Flood Relief Operations Center, appealed on TV for Bangkok residents to head to the countryside. In a televised address Tuesday night, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the capital could be submerged by as much as 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of water.
  Of particular concern were areas along the Chao Phraya River, which winds through the capital and is expected to overwhelm embankments this weekend. The Airports of Thailand declared Don Muang airport, which primarily services domestic flights, closed Tuesday night, after floodwaters flowed on to runways and affected the lighting.

10.26.11 Afghan fuel truck blast kills 10 injures 25
KABUL, Afghanistan, October 26 -  At least 10 people were killed and two dozen wounded today when a fuel truck supplying one of the largest US-run bases in Afghanistan erupted in flames after being bombed, an official said. A magnet bomb stuck on the side of the civilian-operated tanker blasted a hole in the fuel truck. "When people gathered around it to collect the pooling fuel, a bigger explosion took place," said Parwan provincial spokeswoman Roshna Khalid, who confirmed the truck was bound for NATO base Bagram north of Kabul. It was not clear what caused the second explosion.  "Ten people are dead and 25 others injured," Parwan governor Basir Salangi told AFP, condemning the attack as "an act of terror."  A Parwan hospital spokesman said it received three dead and 35 injured. Khalid initially gave a toll of 50 dead or wounded.  Mud graves were dug at the roadside for the dead as residents flocked to inspect the charred remains of the truck and the wreckage of several cars and motorbikes caught in the blast, eye witness said.   [More>>indianexpress.com]

10.24.11 US pulls ambassador from Syria as more deaths reported in violent crackdown
DUBAI, October 24 -
The United States has pulled its ambassador out of Syria over security concerns that have arisen during a seven-month-old popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, the State Department said on Monday. "Ambassador Robert Ford was brought back to Washington as a result of credible threats against his personal safety in Syria," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "At this point, we can't say when he will return to Syria. It will depend on our assessment of Syrian regime-led incitement and the security situation on the ground." Asked if the United States had any plans to expel the Syrian ambassador to Washington, Imad Moustapha, a US official said: "Not at this time."   [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.24.11 Fighter jet targets southern Somali port
October 24 -
Al-Shabab stronghold Kismayo bombed from the air as Kenyan troops step up offensive against Somali rebel group. A military jet has targeted the southern Somali port of Kismayo, an al-Shabab stronghold, as Kenyan and Somali government forces prepare to attack another town held by the rebel group. A Kismayo resident told the Reuters news agency on Monday that the jet had bombed an al-Shabab base near the port. Although the identity of the jet has not been confirmed, Kenyan troops began an air and ground offensive against al-Shabab in southern Somalia last week, blaming the group for several kidnappings of foreigners on its soil, including a French woman who later died in captivity.

A Kenyan military spokesman on Sunday said that a French navy ship had bombarded the town of Kuday, near Kismayo on Saturday night, but French officials have denied their forces were involved in any attacks. The French embassy in the Kenyan capital Nairobi issued a statement on Monday refuting claims that French navy vessels carried out bombardments, arguing that "there are no French warships in the vicinity of this area" and that the "embassy would appreciate if the newspapers would kindly correct the false impression created on this matter." "It dropped a huge shell, flew past, came and then dropped another shell," said Mahmoud Hassan.

An al-Shabab official who declined to be named also confirmed the news. "There were no casualties. We fired at the plane after the second bombardment and it has not come back," the senior official told Reuters. However, the casualty figure has yet to be corroborated by independent sources, Reuters said.
  Al Jazeera's correspondent Peter Greste, based in Nairobi, said," What we do know is that the Kenyan military spokesperson said the attack did take place on the town of Kuday, which we understand is under the control of pirates rather than al-Shabab." The Kenyan military spokesman also said fighting was likely to occur in the town of Afmadow, near Kismayo, "very soon."   [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.24.11 Islamists claim early lead as world praises Tunisia vote
(AFP) October 24 -
Tunisia's moderate Islamist party Ennahda has claimed an early lead in the country's first free election, which foreign leaders have hailed as a benchmark for democracy in the region. Final results are expected on Tuesday. Tunisia's main Islamist party claimed Monday to have captured about 40 percent of the vote in the country's first free polls, as the cradle of the Arab Spring basked in praise for its democratic revolution. Official results were only due Tuesday but provisional results released by some media outlets appeared to confirm Ennahda's prediction that it would be the dominant force in Tunisia's constituent assembly.  The leader of the secular center-left PDP party, tipped as Ennahda's main challengers before the vote, conceded defeat. "The trend is clear. The PDP is badly placed. It is the decision of the Tunisian people. I bow before their choice," leader Maya Jribi told AFP at her party's headquarters. Tunisians turned out en masse Sunday to elect an assembly seen as the custodian of the pro-democracy revolution that brought dictator Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's 23-year-old rule to a crushing end nine months ago.   [More>>france24.com]

10.24.11 France to keep 'watchful' eye on the new Libya's shariah law
October 24 - France on Monday said it would keep a watchful eye on Libya’s respect for human rights after the head of the country’s interim government, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, said that the system of Islamic sharia will be the fundamental source of legislation in the new Libya. "We will be watchful of respect for human rights and democratic principles, notably cultural and religious diversity and the equality of men and women to which France is unswervingly attached," France foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero said. Discussions are under way on forming Libya’s next interim government and a decision is expected in about two weeks, the head of its National Transitional Council said on Monday.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil said the council would discuss next week who would lead the new government; the individual will replace Mahmoud Jibril, who stepped down at the weekend. Abdel Jalil, who on Sunday said Libya had taken Islamic shariah law as its source of legislation, tried to assuage concerns that the country would drift toward religious extremism. “I want to assure the international community that we as Libyans are moderate Muslims,” he said. The EU foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, had said the introduction of shariah law in Libya must respect human rights. Asked for comment on the impact on women of polygamy and a ban on divorce, Ashton's spokeswoman, Maja Kocijancic, said, "We expect the new Libya to be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles."   [>alarabiya.net]

10.24.11 Libya 'liberated,' Gaddafi still unburied
MISRATA, Libya, October 24 - A day after Libyans declared a "liberation" that consigned Muammar Gaddafi to the "garbage bin of history," hundreds again filed past his rotting corpse in a grim display that has raised questions about the nation’s new direction. With their Western allies expressing quiet unease that Gaddafi was battered and shot after his capture on Thursday, then put on show for days in a market cold store, the rebel factions which ended his 42-year rule were still wrangling over the body, amid wider negotiations on dividing up power. The killing of the 69-year-old in his hometown of Sirte ended a nervous, two-month hiatus since the motley rebel forces of the National Transitional Council overran the capital Tripoli and ended eight months of war - though Gaddafi’s son and heir-apparent Saif al-Islam is still at large.   [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.24.11 Bodies of Gaddafi supporters 'found executed' in Sirte
October 24 - The bodies of 53 Gaddafi loyalists have been found at a hotel in the Libyan city of Sirte after apparently being executed, a human rights group says. Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the victims some of whom had their hands bound died about a week ago. It is the latest accusation of atrocities in Libya committed by both sides during the eight-month conflict. Libya's new rulers have denied any involvement in abuses and have urged Libyans to forego reprisal attacks. The discovery comes a day after jubilant crowds across the country took to the streets as the interim government declared national liberation, three days after the death of Muammar Gaddafi.   [More>>bbc.co.uk]

10.24.11 200 rebels killed or captured in Aghanistan: NATO
KABUL, Afghanistan, October 24 - NATO said Monday that about 200 Taliban-linked militants had been killed or captured in major military operations along Afghanistan's troubled eastern border with Pakistan. Hundreds of Afghan troops backed by the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have been involved in a major offensive announced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to Islamabad last week.  The crackdown focused on the troubled border with joint forces going after insurgents linked to the hardline Haqqani group.  As these operations, which were Afghan-led and supported by ISAF, have concluded, we can now say that at least 20 Haqqani-affiliated insurgents have been killed or captured," Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson told reporters.  About 175 non-Haqqani rebels were killed or captured, the ISAF spokesman said, adding that the operations lasted about one week.  He said the operation had been designed to hit the insurgency hard ahead of the winter, when rebels retreat to hideouts along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and prepare for the new fighting season the following spring.  "The insurgents will not have a quiet winter," Jacobson said.    [More>>thenews.com.pk]

10.24.11 Four  killed in Baghdad traffic police attacks
BAGHDAD, Iraq, October 24-
Attacks mainly targeting Iraqi traffic police across Baghdad on Monday killed at least four people, security and medical officials said. In the deadliest attack, gunmen opened fire on a traffic police patrol near the Al-Sarafiyah Bridge in Waziriyah neighborhood in the north of the capital on Monday morning. Three people were killed and one wounded, according to an official at Medical City. An interior ministry official put the toll at four killed and six wounded. In west Baghdad's Mansur district, a roadside bomb detonated near another traffic police patrol and when emergency responders arrived at the scene, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives vest, officials said.  [More>>thenews.com.pk]

10.20.11 Gaddafi, son killed; dictator's body placed in mosque
SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) Octo ber 20 -
Muammar Gaddafi is dead, Libya's new leaders said, killed by fighters who overran his home town and final bastion on Thursday. His bloodied body was stripped and displayed around the world from cellphone video. Later the body of the fallen dictator has been taken to Misrata where it is placed in a mosque. Senior officials in the interim government, which ended his 42-year rule two months ago but had labored to subdue thousands of diehard loyalists, said his death would allow a declaration of "liberation" after eight months of bloodshed.  "We confirm that all the evils, plus Gaddafi, have vanished from this beloved country," Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril said in Tripoli as the body was delivered, a prize of war, to Misrata, the city whose siege and suffering at the hands of Gaddafi's forces made it a symbol of the rebel cause.

"It's time to start a new Libya, a united Libya," Jibril added. "One people, one future." A formal declaration of liberation, that will set the clock ticking on a timeline to elections, would be made by Friday, he said later. Western leaders, who had held off cautiously from comment until Jibril spoke, echoed his sentiments now that Gaddafi, a self-styled "king of kings" in Africa whom they had lately courted after decades of enmity, was dead at 69.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who with French President Nicolas Sarkozy was an early sponsor of February's revolt in Benghazi, said: "People in Libya today have an even greater chance after this news of building themselves a strong and democratic future."  The new national flag, resurrected by rebels who forced Gaddafi from his capital Tripoli in August, filled streets and squares as jubilant crowds whooped for joy and fired in the air.  In Sirte, a one-time fishing village and Gaddafi's home town that grandiose schemes had styled a new "capital of Africa," fighters danced, brandishing a golden pistol they said they had taken from Gaddafi.

Accounts were hazy of his final hours, which also appeared to have cost the lives of senior aides. But top officials of the National Transitional Council, including Abdel Majid Mlegta, said he had died of wounds sustained in clashes.
One possible description, pieced together from various sources, suggests that Gaddafi may have tried to break out of his final redoubt at dawn in a convoy of vehicles after weeks of dogged resistance. However, he was stopped by a NATO air strike and captured, possibly three or four hours later, after gun battles with NTC fighters who found him hiding in a drainage culvert. NATO said its warplanes fired on a convoy near Sirte about 8:30am (0630 GMT), striking two military vehicles in the group, but could not confirm that Gaddafi had been a passenger. Accounts from his enemies suggested his capture, and death soon after from wounds, may have taken place around noon. 

One of Gaddafi's sons, heir-apparent Saif al-Islam, was at large, they believed. NTC official Mlegta told Reuters that he was surrounded after also trying to flee Sirte. Another son, Mo'tassim, whose arrest was announced earlier in the day, had been killed resisting his captors, Mlegta added.
He said that the elder Gaddafi had been wounded in both legs early in the morning as he tried to flee in the convoy which NATO warplanes attacked. "He was also hit in his head," he said. "There was a lot of firing against his group and he died."  There was no shortage of NTC fighters in Sirte claiming to have seen him die, though many accounts were conflicting. Libyan television carried video of two drainage pipes, about a meter across, where it said fighters had cornered a man who long inspired both fear and admiration around the world.   [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related stories, aljazeera.net, October 20, "Footage shows Gaddafi's bloodied body." and washingtonpost.com, October 20, "Video said to show a wounded Gaddafi after his capture."]

10.20.11 Clashes rage in Syria between army, deserters
(AFP) October 20 - Clashes raged Thursday in Syria between troops and suspected army deserters as more civilians were reportedly killed in the crisis-hit country, a rights group said. On the diplomatic front the Arab League announced that Syrian authorities had agreed to allow a delegation to visit the country next week as part of efforts by the 22-member organization to defuse the spiraling violence. "We have received approval from the Syrian government to receive a ministerial delegation headed by Qatar on Wednesday, October 26," Arab League Assistant Secretary General Wagih Hanafi said in Cairo.  The delegation will also include Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi and the foreign ministers of Algeria Egypt, Oman and Sudan. Violence in Syria has intensified in recent weeks as defections from the army reportedly increase, and at least five civilians died in Thursday's violence, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "Violent clashes today pitted troops to gunmen believed to be army deserters" in Burhaniya, near the town of Qusayr in central Homs province, said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads rights watchdog.   [More>>france24.com]

10.20.11 Clinton wants Pakistan to dismantle havens
KABUL, Afghanistan, October 20 -
: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Thursday demanded that Pakistan dismantle Taliban safe havens, stepping up the pressure on Islamabad as American troops pressed a major offensive along the border. Clinton spoke in unusually strong language following talks in Kabul with Afghan President Hamid Karzai a month after his peace broker was assassinated, derailing any immediate prospect of reconciliation with the Taliban. She warned the Taliban to be part of a peaceful future or face a continuing assault, but urged Islamabad to play a "constructive" role in bringing militants to negotiations aimed at ending the 10-year war in Afghanistan. But many policy makers in Islamabad see a twin US approach of pressing the fight on the battlefield and pursuing reconciliation efforts behind the scenes as contradictory, arguing that Pakistan cannot make any further sacrifices. Clinton is later due in Pakistan later Thursday, when she is to be joined by CIA chief David Petraeus and top US military officer Martin Dempsey. "And now it's a question as to how much cooperation Pakistanis will provide in going after those safe havens," she said. "We intend to push the Pakistanis very hard as to what they are willing and able to do with us... to remove the safe havens and the continuing threats across the border to Afghans," said Clinton.   [More>>thenews.com.pk]

10.20.11 Dozens dead in Pakistan border fighting
October 20 - Paramilitary forces kill 34 Taliban fighters in clashes in Khyber district on the Afghan border, military says.  Pakistani paramilitary forces killed 34 Taliban fighters in clashes in the restive tribal region on the Afghan border, the military said. At least three soldiers were also killed in the battle in the Malik din Khel area of the Khyber district on Thursday. "Militants attacked Frontier Corps soldiers while they were carrying out search operation in the area," the military said in a statement." Security forces responded effectively." The death toll was announced shortly before Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, was expected in Pakistan for crunch talks aimed at ramping up pressure on Islamabad to do more to eliminate Taliban safehavens on the Afghan border. The fighting erupted when Pakistan's paramilitary Frontier Corps launched a search operation in the Malik din Khel area.

The strategically important Khyber district lies between Peshawar and Afghanistan and is the main route for NATO supplies in Afghanistan. Mutahir Zeb, the top administrative official of Khyber, said fighters from Lashkar-e-Islam (army of Islam) were involved. "At least 34 militants and three soldiers were killed during an encounter," a Frontier Corps statement said. There was no immediate independent confirmation of the death toll as the area is off-limits to journalists and aid workers. "Security forces responded effectively and have cleared the area of militants," it said. Zeb had said earlier that four soldiers had been killed. Lashkar-e-Islam is the most active group in Khyber and led by feared warlord Mangal Bagh. It has loose ideological ties to the Taliban, but operates independently. Nearly 4,700 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked fighters based in the northwestern tribal belt since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007. Around 3,000 Pakistani soldiers have also lost their lives in attacks since 2001, when the country joined the "war on terror."   [>aljazeera.net]

10.20.11 Flag-draped coffins flown to Turkey for burial; Turkey troops enter Iraq
DUBAI/ ANKARA, October 20 -
Turkey paid its last respects Thursday to 24 soldiers killed by Kurdish rebels on the Iraq border as the Turkish air force continued a second day of an air and ground offensive against Kurdish rebels across the Iraqi border, the state-run television said.  Turkish F-16 jets  took off to target the hideouts of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as military activity at an air base in the mainly Kurdish Diyarbakir province was very intensive throughout the night. "A large-scale land operation has began in five separate spots in northern Iraq with 22 battalions with air support," the general staff said in a written statement on its website. Press reports estimated that between 200 and 250 Kurdish rebels entrenched in the mountains of northern Iraq crossed into Turkey late Tuesday to carry out the raids on military posts, which left 24 dead and 18 wounded...Iraq condemned on Thursday the Kurdish militant assault and said it would cooperate with Turkey on maintaining security to prevent such attacks in the future. "The Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government are committed to maintaining border security and security cooperation with the Turkish government to prevent such acts from being repeated," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.    [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

10.18.11 Goldman Sachs reports $428 million loss
October 18 -
Goldman Sachs, weighed down by problems in its private equity portfolio and the broader global economic woes, reported a loss of $428 million, compared with a $1.7 billion profit a year ago. It’s only the second quarterly loss for Goldman since the investment bank went public in 1999. The company reported a loss of 84 cents a share, worse than analysts’ predictions of a loss of 16 cents, according to Thomson Reuters. The troubles, which follow similar weakness in the second quarter, underscore the difficult environment for investment banks. Goldman, widely considered the savviest trading firm on Wall Street, had a significant revenue drop in crucial divisions like fixed income and investment banking amid the market turmoil. The firm got whacked by negative net revenue of $2.48 billion in the investing and lending group. The results included a $1.05 billion hit on its private equity investment  in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a strategic investment made in 2006; I.C.B.C. stock fell roughly 35 percent in the quarter.

The firm also booked net losses of roughly $1 billion related to equities, on top of net losses $907 million in debt positions. "Our results were significantly impacted by the environment, and we were disappointed to record a loss in the quarter,"
Lloyd C. Blankfein, Goldman’s chief executive, said in a statement. "However, we believe the strength of both our client franchise and our balance sheet positions us well for when economies and markets improve." Net revenue in the business that trades bonds, currencies and commodities  was $1.73 billion, down 36 percent from year-ago levels. This division accounted for roughly 48 percent of all revenue generated by the firm in the third quarter. Net revenue from equities trading and commissions was up 18 percent, to $2.3 billion. The firm attributed this rise to higher commissions that resulted from increased activity in the quarter.   [More>>nytimes.com]

10.18.11 Far more bluefin sold than reported caught, with Japan consuming 80%: report
PARIS, October 18 - More than twice as many tons of Atlantic bluefin tuna were sold last year compared with official catch records for this threatened species, according to a report released on Tuesday. This "bluefin gap" occurred despite enhanced reporting and enforcement measures introduced in 2008 by the 48-member International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which sets annual quotas by country, it said.  Trade figures showed that real catches of bluefin in 2009 and 2010 totaled more than 70,500 tons, twice ICCAT's tally for those two years, according to the report compiled by Washington-based Pew Environment Group. "The current paper-based catch documentation system is plagued with fraud, misinformation and delays in reporting," said Roberto Mielgo, a former industry insider and author of the report. "Much more needs to be done." Before 2010, ICCAT systematically set fishing quotas substantially higher than the recommendations of its own scientific committee, which had warned repeatedly that stocks were in danger of crashing.  In 2010, the target quota 12,900 tons for fish caught in the Mediterranean and Northeastern Atlantic fell for the first time within the panel’s recommended range. But the new report implies the industry has circumvented the catch limits and tougher compliance measures.  [More>>japantoday.com]

10.18.11 UK freezes assets of five Iranians over alleged plot, wants EU allies to follow suit
October 18 - Britain has frozen the assets of five men, including two key suspects in an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in the United States, matching sanctions taken by US authorities. The assets of the five who include two people who have been formally charged by US authorities over the case were frozen under Britain’s Terrorist Asset-Freezing Act, it said in a statement. Foreign Secretary William Hague told Reuters that Britain was discussing action with its European Union partners and expected other nations to follow suit with sanctions. The five targeted included Mansoor Arbabsiar, a naturalized US citizen, who was arrested in September over the plot which Iran has dismissed as a fabricated "comedy show."  Gholam Shakuri, a high-ranking Revolutionary Guard official who has been named by the US authorities as a co-plotter, was also included. He is a fugitive and believed to be in Iran. " The US has designated under their sanctions legislation five individuals. As of today the UK will designate the same five individuals under the Terrorist Asset Freezing Act 2010," Hague told Reuters.

...The US Treasury imposed similar restrictions on the five last week, describing the four based in Iran as members of the Quds force, a secretive unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps which the US alleges supports “terrorist activities abroad.” US officials have said they believe it likely that the head of Quds knew of the alleged plot to kill Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir. Britain also blacklisted Qasem Soleimani, who it said was a commander in the IRGC. The other two were named as Iranian national Hamed Abdollahi and Abdul Reza Shahlai, who it said lived in Iran. Soleimani is already listed by the European Union as being involved in providing equipment to help the Syrian regime suppress protests.   [Full story>>alarabiya.net; See related story,

indianexpress.com, October 18, "Saudis want alleged Iranian plot brought to UN council"
Demanding that those involved in the alleged Iranian attempt to assassinate its ambassador to the US should be brought to justice, Saudi Arabia has asked the UN chief to bring the “heinous plot” before the Security Council. Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi has "formally requested" in a letter to UN chief Ban Ki-moon that those involved in "this outrageous attempt should be brought to justice." The Kingdom's Permanent Mission to the UN asked Ban "to bring to the attention of the Security Council the matter of the heinous plot" to assassinate Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir, the mission said.  "The Mission reiterates that the attempted plot is a violation of international laws, United Nations resolutions, and all conventions and norms of humanity."  Al-Mouallimi did not specifically mention the kind of action his government wants the Security Council to take.
He said the assassination plot is "a gross violation" of international treaties including those in place to protect diplomats...

10.18.11 Afghans, NATO launch 'new push against Haqqanis"
KABUL, Afghanistan, October 18 - Afghan security forces and their NATO allies have launched a new push against the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network along the Pakistani border, senior defense officials said Tuesday. US commanders say the network, a faction of the Afghan Taliban, is their most potent enemy in eastern Afghanistan and increasingly capable of launching high-profile attacks in Kabul. Afghan Defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said operation "Knife Edge" was launched two days ago, while a senior defense ministry official said it was "largely against the Haqqani network'. A NATO spokesman confirmed only that "enhanced official operations" were ongoing in the eastern region that borders Pakistan, but offered no further details for security reasons. Speaking to reporters ahead of a weaponry exhibition in Kabul, Wardak said the operation would "deliver a crashing blow to the enemy's capabilities to conduct operations, especially terrorist operations during the winter."  [>thenews.com.pk]

10.18.11 Syria in 'fiercest' crackdown around capital
DAMASCUS, Syria (AFP) October 18 - Syrian troops on Tuesday mounted the fiercest raids in the Damascus region of their seven-month crackdown on dissent, a human rights group said, as neighboring Turkey welcomed opposition leaders for their first formal talks. A sniper killed a military intelligence officer in Idlib province close to the Turkish border as armed resistance to the security forces spread, while search operations in the flashpoint central province of Homs wounded 15 people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported. Around the capital, "several towns were targeted by the fiercest security operations since the start of the revolution" in mid-March, the Britain-based watchdog said in a statement received in Nicosia. "The army and the security services have imposed a complete blockade and snipers are posted on tower blocks," it added. "Residents are being prevented from getting to their places of work or study and dozens of young people were arrested."...In Homs province, troops wounded five people in the town of Qusayr close to the Lebanese border and another nine in villages during search operations for army deserters, the Observatory said.  [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.18.11 Gilad Shalit in first interview since release: I haven't seen people in a long time
October 18 - Shalit tells Egyptian TV that he's glad Palestinian prisoners have been released, hopes they don't return to violence.  Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit said Tuesday that he had been treated well by his Hamas captors during the five years he was held hostage, telling Egyptian television in the first interview following his release that he was relieved to finally be surrounded by people. "I'm very emotional. I haven't seen people in a long time," said Shalit, adding that he was looking forward "to meeting people, to talking to people" and "not doing the same things all day long."..."Of course I miss my family very much. I also miss my friends," he said. "I hope this deal will lead to peace between Palestinians and Israelis and that it will support cooperation between both sides."  Shalit also said he would be very happy if remaining Palestinians held in Israeli prisons were freed to return to their own families, but that he hoped "they won't go back to fighting against Israel."   [More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

jpost.com, October 18, "Abbas hails prisoner release as victory for Palestinians"
West Bank residents celebrate Schalit prisoner swap; families wave flags, chant "The people want a new Schalit"; clashes break out in Betunia. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday hailed the release of 477 prisoners as part of the deal to release Gilad Schalit as a victory for the Palestinian people.  During a rally in Ramallah, Abbas said that Palestinians around the world were watching as the prisoners we being released. "Dear brothers and sisters, your families in Palestinian territories and around the world are looking at you now and are happy that you are being released," Abbas said. "I ask Allah to forgive these martyrs."...Elsewhere in the West Bank Palestinians awaiting the return of freed prisoners clashed with security forces at the Betunia Crossing.  Palestinians angry that the route returning prisoners were scheduled to take into the West Bank was changed threw rocks at security forces who responded with tear gas...

10.18.11 Hilary Clinton arrives unannounced in Libya to offer new aid package
TRIPOLI, Libya, October 18 - The Obama administration on Tuesday increased US support for Libya's new leaders as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made an unannounced visit to Tripoli and pledged millions of dollars in new aid, including medical care for wounded fighters and additional assistance to secure weaponry that many fear could fall into the hands of terrorists. US officials said the fresh aid Clinton is bringing totals about $11 million and will boost Washington's contribution to Libya since the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi began in February to roughly $135 million. The officials told reporters traveling with Clinton that it is evidence of the administration's commitment to working with the National Transitional Council as it consolidates control over the entire country and moves to hold free and fair elections. As part of the new aid package, the US will re-launch several educational programs, including Fulbright scholarships and English language training, and help fund an archaeological project that will survey eastern Libya, the officials said. In addition, they said Clinton will be stressing the importance of good governance, inclusion, democratization and diversifying Libya's economy so it no longer is almost entirely dependent on oil revenue.  [More>>foxnews.com]

10.18.11 Deadly suicide bombing targets Foreign Ministry
(AP) October 18 - A suicide car bomb exploded close to Somalia's Foreign Ministry in Mogadishu on Tuesday. The explosion killed at least four people, including the bomber, as Kenyan ministers were visiting the capital to meet government leaders. A suicide car bomb exploded near Somalia’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, killing at least four people, including the bomber, a police official said. Police official Ali Hassan confirmed the attack outside the ministry in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. He said the bomber and at least three others were killed. Six people were wounded and taken to the hospital, Hassan said. Eyewitness Tohow Abdi said he saw body parts torn off by the blast. The blast came the same day that Kenya’s ministers of defense and foreign affairs are in Mogadishu to meet with government leaders after Kenya on Sunday launched military operations in southern Somalia against al-Shabab militants. The blast occurred several miles (kilometers) from where those meetings are believed to be taking place. Earlier this month al-Shabab militants unleashed a suicide bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 100 people, many of them students gathering to see if they had earned scholarships to study in Turkey. It was the deadliest bombing in Somalia by al-Shabab. African Union and Somali troops battling al-Shabab militants have mostly pushed the insurgents out of Mogadishu, but al-Shabab has vowed to carry out attacks in the capital.   [>france24.com]  
10.15.11 US government runs $1.3 trillion  budget deficit in 2011 FY
WASHINGTON (Xinhua) October 14 -
The US federal government registered a 1.299 trillion US dollars budget deficit for the 2011 fiscal year ending September, fresh evidence of the mounting budgetary pressure facing the world's largest economy, the Treasury Department reported on Friday. The budget deficit for the 2011 fiscal year was the second highest in history. It's slightly higher than the previous budget year's 1.29 trillion dollars deficit, and below the 1.41 trillion dollars budget deficit record set in the 2009 fiscal year amid financial crisis woes. For September alone, the US federal government reported a budget deficit of 64.57 billion dollars, said the Treasury. The US federal government raked in a revenue of 240.15 billion dollars last month, and registered outlays of 304.72 billion dollars. "This report confirms that we cannot waste any time in jumpstarting economic growth and job creation to lay the foundation for a stronger economy and lower future deficits,"

White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jacob Lew said in a joint statement with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner on the heels of the releasing of this report. The budget deficit for the 2011 fiscal year translated into 8.7 percent of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP), slightly lower than last fiscal year's 9 percent. The slight up-tick in the budget deficit from last year was due to higher outlays that were nearly offset by rising receipts, said the Treasury.  US government receipts totaled 2.302 trillion dollars for the 2011 fiscal year, 141 billion dollars higher than the previous fiscal year, an increase of 6.5 percent. Outlays for the 2011 fiscal year were 145 billion above those in the previous fiscal year standing at 3.601 trillion dollars, an increase of 4.2 percent.   [More>>xinhuanet.com]

10.15.11 Notorious Iranian militant has a connection to alleged assassination plot against Saudi envoy
October 15 -
When nearly $100,000 landed in an undercover FBI bank account from a source linked to an Iranian paramilitary force, officials began taking seriously an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador that at first had seemed outlandish. And as the investigation unfolded over recent months, a name emerged that chilled some in the US government. The Iranian cousin of the man accused of plotting the assassination was
 Abdul Reza Shahlai, a senior commander in Iran’s Quds Force, who had been linked to the killing of American troops in Iraq.  Shahlai was known as the guiding hand behind an elite group of gunmen from the feared militia of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

They had dressed as American and Iraqi soldiers and, in a convoy of white SUVs, stormed a provincial government building in Karbala on Jan. 20, 2007. Five Americans were killed and three were wounded in the attack, whose brazenness rattled the military. The daring raid became even more notorious after some of the suspected killers were later released by the Iraqi government. The US military found a 22-page memo that detailed preparations for the operation and tied it to the Quds Force, a branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Treasury officials singled out Shahlai as "the final approving and coordinating authority" for the Iran-based training of members of Sadr’s militia before they went back to Iraq to attack coalition forces.   [More>>washingtonpost.com]

10.15.11 Riots erupt in Rome as Wall Street protests go global
(Reuters) October 15 -
Protests take place across world on global 'day of rage'; rioters in Rome set fire to cars, smash windows of stores and banks and trash offices of the defense ministry.  Demonstrators rallied on Saturday across the world to accuse bankers and politicians of wrecking economies, but only in Rome did the global" day of rage" erupt into violence. Galvanized by the Occupy Wall Street movement, the protests began in New Zealand, rippled east to Europe and were expected to return to their starting point in New York. Demonstrations touched most European capitals and other cities. They coincided with the Group of 20 meeting in Paris, where finance ministers and central bankers from the major economies were holding crisis talks.

While most rallies were small and barely held up traffic, the Rome event drew tens of thousands of people and snaked through the city center for kilometers. Some protesters in masks and helmets set fire to cars, smashed the windows of stores and banks and trashed offices of the defense ministry. Police fired water cannon at demonstrators who were hurling rocks, bottles and fireworks. Smoke bombs set off by the protesters cast a pall over a sea of red flags and banners bearing slogans attacking economic policies the protesters say are hurting the poor most. The violence sent many demonstrators running into hotels for safety.

In contrast, small and peaceful rallies got the ball rolling across the Asia-Pacific region on Saturday. In Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, 3,000 people chanted and banged drums, denouncing corporate greed. About 200 gathered in the capital Wellington and 50 in a park in the earthquake-hit southern city of Christchurch. In Sydney, about 2,000 people, including representatives of Aboriginal groups, communists and trade unionists, protested outside the central Reserve Bank of Australia. Hundreds marched in Tokyo, including anti-nuclear protesters. In Manila a few dozen marched on the US embassy waving banners reading: "Down with US imperialism" and  "Philippines not for sale." More than 100 people gathered at the Taipei stock exchange, chanting "we are Taiwan's 99 percent", and saying economic growth had only benefited companies while middle-class salaries barely covered soaring housing, education and health care costs.  [More>>haaretz.com; See also,

en.rian.ru (RIA Novosti) October 15, "South Korean, Indonesian, Australian citizens support Occupy Wall Street movement" : Moscow - Residents of Seoul and Jakarta came out into main streets on Saturday to support protests against "financial terrorism," held in New York and other large US cities, CNN TV channel reported. "We are protesting mostly for economic issues worldwide," he said. "We need to come up with ideas to solve the world problems," Arthur Fragoso, one of South Korean protesters, told the channel. Jakarta residents also went out to the streets and gathered in front of the US embassy. Some of the people wore masks...

japantoday.com, October 15, "Protesters in Tokyo join 24-hour global 'Occupy Wall Street' movement" : TOKYO — Groups spanning the globe from Asia to Europe
and in every US state announced demonstrations and other action on Saturday protesting corporate greed and inequality in what organizers describe as 24 hours of public action. The rapidly growing “Occupy Wall Street” could link a protest that started in New York’s financial district together with longer-standing anti-austerity demonstrations that have raged across Europe amid a roiling economic crisis. In Tokyo, where the ongoing nuclear crisis dominates public concerns, about 200 people joined the global protests on Saturday afternoon. Under the light drizzle, the participants marched outside the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which operates the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, chanting anti-nuclear slogans, while opposing the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade bloc that Japan is considering joining...

guardian.co.uk, October 15, "Occupy the London Stock Exchange - live coverage."

10.15.11 US adopts new aggressive approach to Haqqani network: report
WASHINGTON, October 15 - While keeping the option of targeted raids on top Haqqani leaders on the table, US administration has opened a new more aggressive approach towards the Afghan insurgent group, it asserts is supported by the Pakistan Government. The part of the new strategy is to carry out more dense missile attacks near the Haqqani headquarters in the North Waziristan capital of Miranshah, a city rarely targeted in the past by American drones, Washington Post reported quoting senior Obama Administration officials. The opening salvos of the new approach have already been launched in the form of intensified drone strikes over North Waziristan. The US drones have struck the area four time in three days, claiming a toll of 19 Haqqani insurgents, including a ranking member Janbaz Zadran alias Jamil. Zadran was a lieutenant of Badruddin Haqqani, the brother of network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani and was in-charge of communications and logistics for the Haqqani network.  The decision to strike Miran Shah was made at a National Security Council meeting chaired by President Barack Obama two weeks ago and was intended to "send a signal" that the United States would no longer tolerate a safe haven for the most lethal enemy of US forces in Afghanistan, or Pakistan's backing for it, the post said quoting several US officials.  The strikes were made possible by focusing intelligence collection to "allow us to pursue certain priorities," the official said.  The senior Haqqani figure, Zadran, was selected along with other targets to "demonstrate how seriously we take the Miran Shah" threat.  [More>>indianexpress.com]

10.15.11 Syrian forces 'kill mourners in Damascus'
October 15 - Two mourners shot dead at funeral procession, as wave of arrests marks seventh month of protests, activists say. Syrian forces shot dead two mourners when they fired at a funeral in central Damascus for a 10-year-old child killed during a protest a day earlier, a witness said. Some mourners began throwing stones at the security forces, who fired live ammunition back, the witness told Reuters news agency by phone from the scene in the Maidan district on Saturday.  "Passions were running high. The body was wrapped in white and thousands behind it were chanting 'the people want the execution of the president' and 'we will be free despite you Bashar,'" the witness said. The child, Ibrahim Sheiban, was killed in a protest in the Qadam suburb of Damascus. His funeral took place in Maidan, an old, socially conservative district of the capital, because his family is originally from there, the witness, a private sector employee who did not want to be further identified, said. On Friday, security forces killed 12 people in several cities at the center of the seven-month old protests against President Bashar al-Assad's government, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.15.11 Yemen police kill 12 in capital
October 15 -
Yemeni police shot dead 12 people and injured dozens of others on Saturday as they opened fire on demonstrators in Sanaa demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s resignation, medics said. Security forces used live rounds as well as tear gas and water cannon to try to disperse hundreds of thousands of Saleh opponents trying to march on loyalist areas of the city centre from their Change Square stronghold, witnesses said. The death toll went up to at least 12 according to several medics as bodies were taken to four different hospitals. Doctor Mohammed al-Qubati, the coordinator at a field hospital in the square, said two bodies were brought to the facility, and many others wounded, including at least 30 hit by gunfire, while 10 were in serious condition. One of those killed with a bullet to the head was taken earlier to the same field hospital, along with 90 injured demonstrators, medics said, adding that the casualty toll was only preliminary. A third body was later brought to the same makeshift facility. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.15.11 A senior Qaeda figure and Awlaki's son among 24 killed in drone strke in Yemen
DUBAI, October 15 - The head of the media department of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and six other militants were killed in an air raid on militant outposts in Yemen, and gunmen retaliated by blowing up a gas export pipeline, Yemeni officials and residents said on Saturday. The Yemeni Defense Ministry said Ibrahim al-Banna, an Egyptian national, died in a raid by Yemeni war planes on militant positions in Shabwa province in southern Yemen late on Friday Banna is the second senior AQAP figure to be killed, after a US drone on September 30 killing a key leader of AQAP, the US-born militant Anwar al- Awlaki. A Yemeni official described Banna, 55, as one of the most dangerous militants on their wanted list. Awlaki's son is also among the 24 militants killed in air strikes targeting al-Qaeda in Yemen, local officials said. "Abderrahman Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in the raid," a tribal source told AFP, adding that he had received confirmation from the militant-controlled Yemeni hospital where the dead and wounded from Friday evening’s strikes were taken.   [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.15.11 Suicide attack kills two in northern Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan, October 15 -
Four Taliban bombers blew themselves up at a US-run development base in northern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing two men in the first suicide attack to hit the once-peaceful region in 10 years of war. The insurgents targeted the US Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) facility in Rokha district, Panjshir province, killing two drivers and leaving two guards wounded, said provincial police chief Mohammad Qasim Jangalbagh. The police and the governor's office confirmed that it was the first suicide attack in the Panjshir valley since the war began, underscoring the violence being wrought on once-tranquil parts of the country after a decade at war. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the attack was launched with a car bomb packed with 600kg of explosives. The rebel group frequently exaggerate their claims. Security for the ethnic Tajik-dominated area once ruled by guerrilla hero Ahmad Shah Massoud was handed over from Western troops to Afghans in July...A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Christopher Pewitt confirmed the incident but had no record of fatalities.  [Full story>>thenews.com.pk]
10.12.11 Saudis, US trade charges with Iran over assassination plot
WASHINGTON / TEHRAN (Reuters) October 12 -
Saudi Arabia and the United States traded charges with Iran on Wednesday over an alleged plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to Washington, deepening divisions and sharpening a contest for power in the oil-rich Gulf. The Saudis, long at odds with Tehran, said Iran would "pay the price" for an exotic plot described by US officials to assassinate their ambassador. The United States threatened further sanctions on Iran, while Tehran called the accusation a fabrication designed to sew discord in the region. In Washington, US officials said it was “more than likely” that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, and the head of its elite Quds force knew of the alleged plot. But the officials acknowledged that they had no hard evidence for the claim. In Washington, US officials said it was "more than likely" that Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamanei, and the head of its elite Quds force knew of the alleged plot. But the officials acknowledged that they had no hard evidence for the claim.  The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, also said it was possible Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, did not know. Those comments raised the prospect that the affair — handled, analysts said, with little of the professionalism that usually marks Iranian covert activities — was the work of a faction or rogue element within Iran.  US officials said the elaborate plot — which they compared to a film script — would justify pushing for a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran. They imposed sanctions on Wednesday on Mahan Air, a commercial Iranian airline which they said provided funds and transport for Iran’s elite forces.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related stories,

cnn.com, October 12, "How strong is the case against Iran plot suspect?" :
The case against Manssor Arbabsiar, the Iranian-American charged with conspiring to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, looks like a dazzling mix of high drama and low comedy, high stakes and low dealing. The prosecution has enormous implications for the United States' relationship with Iran -- and thus for world peace -- but it's also a criminal case in an American courtroom. So it's worth asking: how strong is that case? Of course, United States v. Arbabsiar has just begun, and so far we've only heard the government's side of the story. But enough information is out there to at least start asking some educated questions about how the case might unfold.

For starters, there is the issue of "CS-1," who appears to be the critical government witness in the case. The prosecution seems based in a significant amount on the Confidential Source, who met repeatedly with Arbabsiar and taped conversations with him. But who is he? According to the complaint, filed in New York federal court Tuesday, "CS-1 is a paid confidential source. Previously, CS-1 was charged in connection with a narcotics offense by authorities of a certain US state. In exchange for CS-1's cooperation in various narcotics investigations, the State charges were dismissed." It's the kind of description that sets a defense attorney to salivating. The argument for the defense might go like this: "CS-1 -- a crafty and duplicitous drug dealer -- knew he had to land a big fish to work off his beef. So CS-1, not Arbabsiar, concocted this ludicrous scheme to enlist Mexican drug cartels in an assassination on American soil. Jurors should be outraged that the American government is lining up with, and paying American taxpayer dollars to, a crook like him."

And even according to the complaint, it was CS-1 (not Arbabsiar) who came up with the much-ballyhooed figure of $1.5 million as the price to the Iranians for the killing. Of course, there are many potential responses to this kind of argument. For starters, according to the complaint, the tapes reveal that Arbabsiar was an enthusiastic participant in the scheme, goading CS-1 to pursue the hit, not the other way around. And Arbabsiar also apparently arranged for the down payment of almost $50,000 to be wired to CS-1. And perhaps most important, following his arrest, again according to the complaint, Arbabsiar "confirmed that he agreed to pay CS-1 to kill the ambassador." Those will be tough facts for the defense to refute, but an unsavory informant at least gives the defense a target for blame...

news.sky.com, October 12, "Iran, Saudi Plaot: Qods, Revolutionary Guard alleged agent Manssor Arbabsiar was 'no mastermind'" : ...What the US government is not making clear is how high up the plot was approved by Iranians. Did it have the backing of the Khamenei regime or was it the work of a rogue element? Manssor Arbabsiar may have been an agent of the Qods special operations unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. But not a very good one by all accounts. He has a record for petty and more serious offenses going back to 1993, 1996, 1997, 2001 and 2004. Not exactly off the law enforcement radar then. "He's no mastermind," in the words of someone who knows him in Texas. He was a second-hand car salesman well known to the Sheriff's department of his home town, it seems. So imagine the meeting in Tehran. Senior members of the Qods Force and officials of the Khamenei regime are discussing blowing up the Saudi ambassador in a restaurant in Washington DC.  So imagine the meeting in Tehran. Senior members of the Qods Force and officials of the Khamenei regime are discussing blowing up the Saudi ambassador in a restaurant in Washington D.C.

They know a terrorist outrage on those proportions in the US capital would have enormous repercussions if traced back to Iran. Would they choose someone like Arbabsiar with a law enforcement record as long as the sleeves of his second-hand car salesman coat with countless police mug shots circulating? Probably not. More likely this was maverick opportunism by a rogue element of the Qods Force.  Its involvement seems established by the $100,000 (about £63,400) down payment made from one of its bank accounts to what it believed was a member of a Mexican drug cartel. That makes the plot chilling, if bizarre. Someone in Iran financed a plan that could have killed many innocent civilians in a restaurant in Washington and sparked hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Iran and drawn in America as well...

10.12.11 Now the protest spreads across the Atlantic: Thousands plan protest camp in London's financial center inspired by 'Occupy Wall Street' campaign
October  12 -
Hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters marched on the Chase Bank headquarters in New York yesterday waving placards and chanting slogans attacking corporate greed and social inequality. The march came a day after members of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, which has been camping in a square in Manhattan’s financial district for more than three weeks, protested outside the homes of billionaires including Rupert Murdoch and banker Jamie Dimon. There have been more than 100 spin-off protests in US cities including Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle, and UK supporters plan a similar march near the London Stock Exchange on Saturday....UK protesters have been inspired by the growing 'Occupy Wall Street' movement in the US and are planning to establish a tent city in London's financial district this weekend A Facebook page titled 'Occupy London's Stock Exchange' has already amassed more than 3,000 members who have agreed to attend the event on October 15 while 'Occupy London' on Twitter has in excess of 1,000 followers.   [Full story>>dailymail.co.uk]
10.12.11 Gaddafi son Mo'tassim caught in Sirte
TRIPOLI, Libya, October 12 -
Muammar Gaddafi's son Mo'tassim was captured in Sirte on Wednesday while trying to escape the town, the head of the Tripoli Revolutionary Council said. "He was arrested today in Sirte," Colonel Abdullah Naker told Reuters. He was taken to Benghazi where he was questioned, other ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) sources based in Sirte and Benghazi said. They said he had been caught as he tried to leave Sirte in a car with a family. NTC sources had earlier told Reuters that Mo'tassim, formerly Libya's national security adviser, had been captured on Tuesday. Celebratory bursts of machinegun fire and fireworks lit up the skies over the capital Tripoli as reports of Mo'tassim's capture circulated. Military sources said he was being held in the Boatneh military camp in Benghazi and that he was "exhausted" but uninjured.

Another senior NTC military official told Reuters that Gaddafi's son had cropped short his usually longer hair in an attempt to disguise himself. He is so far the only member of Gaddafi's immediate family to be captured by the NTC forces who have led the successful rebellion. Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's ousted leader of 42 years, and his most politically prominent son, Saif al-Islam, have been on the run since the fall of Tripoli on Aug. 23. Gaddafi's daughter Aisha, her brothers Hannibal and Mohammed, their mother Safi and several other family members fled to Algeria in August and have been there since. Another son, Saadi, is in Niger. Most of Sirte, Gaddafi's hometown, has been captured by fighters loyal to the NTC in recent days after weeks of siege. Interim government officials had said they believed Mo'tassim was hiding in the city's hospital. [>thestar.com.my;  See related story,

dailymail.co.uk, October 12, Libyan soldier strums on guitar as battle for Sirte rages around him."
This fighter is clearly keeping calm amidst the fierce battle to take control of the Libyan town of Sirte, one of the last strongholds of fugitive leader Muammar Gaddafi. As he stands surrounded by gunmen in front of a pock-marked wall, the area around his feet strewn with bullet casings, the man seems to be simply playing his guitar while his comrades attempt to gain ground from pro-Gaddafi forces. The striking image comes as speculation mounts that Gaddafi could gain safe passage through Niger to Mali - where he reportedly has a house in the town of Timbuktu. Earlier, images emerged of a rebel dressed in camouflage and armed with a rifle, lounging in a four-poster bed formerly owned by Gaddafi himself. A second rebel laughs at his comrade's antics, while others inspect bed linen in the wreckage of a bedroom at a now-derelict palace in the former leader's home city of Sirte. Rebel forces have besieged Sirte since mid-September and are still facing fierce resistance from loyalists trying to control Gaddafi's home city. But they are making sure but steady progress...

10.12.11 Amnesty calls on Canada to arrest Bush
(AFP) October 12 - Amnesty International called on Canadian authorities Wednesday to arrest and prosecute George W Bush, saying the former US president authorized "torture" as he directed the US-led war on terror. Bush is expected to attend an economic summit in Surrey in Canada's westernmost British Columbia province on October 20. London-based Amnesty made a case for Bush's legal responsibility for a series of human rights violations in a memorandum submitted last month to Canadian authorities but only now released to the media.  "Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former president Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture," Amnesty's Susan Lee said in a statement. "As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former president Bush to justice, the international community must step in. A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention Against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights." Lee said.  [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

10.12.11 Gilad Shalit to be returned to Israel within a week
October 12 - Kidnapped IDF soldier to be transferred to Egypt through Rafah crossing, then to Israel, on Tuesday or Wednesday; Hamas delegation arrives in Cairo to finalize deal.  Kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit will be returned to Israel on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, Israeli authorities reported. Shalit is expected to be transferred to the Sinai Peninsula through Rafah crossing, then to Israel. According to reports, Israel Defense Forces intend to allow Shalit to be reunited with his family as soon as possible. Shalit's parents, Noam and Aviva, arrived Wednesday evening in their home in Mitzpe Hila in northern Israel, after leaving the protest site they had been encamped at in Jerusalem. They were welcomed by dozens activists and neighbors.  [More>>haaretz.com]

10.12.11 Egyptian army accuses Christians of incitement
October 12 - Members of ruling military council say Christian religious leaders incited Sunday's deadly violence which left 26 dead.  Egypt's ruling military council has accused public figures and what it described as hardline Christian preachers for inciting deadly protests outside state television on Sunday. The gathering ended violently with at least 26 people killed and hundreds injured in Egypt's worst violence since the fall of the former president Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. General Adel Emara, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, said on Wednesday that a minority of the protesters were peaceful, but that a more violent, armed crowd joined the protest outside the TV building and began attacking a unit of about 300 soldiers, armed only with anti-riot gear. Emara denied that the troops opened fire with live ammunition on the protesters or intentionally ran over them with armored vehicles. "I want to bring your attention that the protesters outside Maspero had many strange things with them: swords, gas cylinders, molotov cocktails," he said.  [More>>aljazeera.net; See related story,

alarabiya.net, October 12,"Pope: Egypt must resist attempts to divide religions; Clinton 'concerned'"
Pope Benedict XVI called on Egypt on Wednesday to fight “attempts to sabotage” relations between Christians and Muslims, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced “deep concern” about deadly weekend violence. Addressing pilgrims during the weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square, the pope expressed his sorrow over clashes between protesters and security forces on Sunday that left 25 people dead, mainly Coptic Christians. The pontiff called for national unity a day after Egypt’s deputy prime minister resigned after the clashes sparked a wave of anger at the ruling military and calls for the premier to quit. He shared the pain felt “by all Egyptian people, divided by attempts to sabotage the peaceful coexistence” between Muslim and Copt communities, he said. And he said he supported Egyptian civil and religious authorities in their struggle to uphold the peace and protect the rights of minorities...

10.12.11 Dozens of political prisoners freed as amnesty begins
(Reuters) October 12 - Burma freed dozens of "prisoners of conscience" Wednesday as it began an amnesty for 6,359 inmates. The US, Europe and Australia have made the release of thousands of political detainees a prerequisite to talks on lifting crippling sanctions. Myanmar freed a prominent monk who led street protests in 2007 and dozens of other "prisoners of conscience" on Wednesday as one of the world's most reclusive states begins to open up after half-a-century of iron-fisted authoritarian rule. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking to Reuters before Myanmar began a  general amnesty for 6,359 inmates that was expected to include political detainees, said she was encouraged by "promising signals" of reform but it was too early to announce steps Washington might take in response. The United States, Europe and Australia have said freeing an estimated 2,100 political prisoners in Myanmar is essential to even considering lifting sanctions that have crippled the pariah state and, over years, driven it closer to China. "We're encouraged by the steps we see the government taking ... we're going to take them at their word," Clinton said in an interview in Washington, although she added it was premature to predict how the United States might respond.   [More>>france24.com]

10.12.11 Bombings target Iraqi police
BAGHDAD, October 12 - Five explosions targeting local police shook the capital within the span of an hour Wednesday morning, two days after Iraq’s leaders requested that at least 5,000 US military trainers remain into 2012 to advise the country’s fledgling security forces. The bombs killed at least 22 people and injured more than 70, many of them police officers, in attacks across the city. It was the bloodiest day in Baghdad since Aug. 28, when a suicide bomber killed 28 people at the city’s largest Sunni mosque.  Car bombs rocked two police stations between 8 and 8:30am. local time after two suicide bombers drove separate cars to the entrances of stations in Hurriyah, in northwest Baghdad, and Karrada, in the western part of downtown. Fourteen people were killed in Karrada and four in Hurriyah, according to the Interior Ministry. Sirens blared and Iraqi army helicopters circled as smoke plumed from the blast site in Karrada, the Associated Press reported. Local police, whose capability and readiness have been questioned by US and Iraqi officials, are constant targets for insurgents aiming to destabilize Iraq as the American military rapidly withdraws its forces[More>>washingtonpost.com]

10.11.11 Pakistan governor survives bid on life as rockets fire at rally
ISLAMABAD, October 11 -  Pakistan's restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province's Governor Masood Kausar today survived an assassination attempt as militants fired rockets at the venue of a rally to be addressed by him in a tribal area leaving at least one person dead and seven injured.  The incident took place in Kalaya area of Orakzai tribal region shortly before the Governor was scheduled to reach the spot.  Tariq Hayat, a senior official of the administration for the tribal belt, told the media that at least three rockets were fired from nearby mountains.  One person was killed and seven others were injured, TV news channels reported.  There was no official word on the casualties.  Governor Kausar, who was in a meeting, had not reached the venue of the rally when the rockets were fired, officials said.  Reports said the rally was likely to be canceled and that the Governor would return to Peshawar.  About 150 tribal elders were present at the ground where the rally was to be held.  One rocket hit the dais, another landed near a helipad and the third one exploded near a group of tribal elders.  Most of those injured were tribal elders, witnesses said. The attack created panic in the area and people ran helter-skelter.  No group claimed responsibility for the strike but such attacks are usually blamed on the local Taliban. [>indianexpress.com]

10.11.11 'Occupy' targets millionaires in N.Y.C. march
NEW YORK, October 11 -
Protesters are taking their anti-Wall Street demonstration uptown, to the doorsteps of some of the city's wealthiest. Hundreds of protesters streamed through midtown Manhattan in what they're calling a "Millionaires March," aiming to wind past the Upper East Side apartments of News Corp. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch; JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon; and billionaire and Tea Party-funder David Koch, among others, CBS station WCBS-TV reports. They've been marching two by two up the sidewalk. An organizer said they didn't have a permit and wanted to avoid blocking pedestrian traffic. Video: Watch a livestream of the march here. The march comes a day after Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the demonstrators can continue their protest indefinitely as long as they continue to obey the law. "The bottom line is people want to express themselves, and as long as they obey the laws, we'll allow them to," Bloomberg said. The protesters continue to gather support, with sympathy demonstrations underway across the country, and some unions joining their rallies, which were not without incident:   [More>>cbsnews.com; See related story,

cnn.com, October 11, "I ditched my big bank!"
NEW YORK - They're mad as hell, and they're not gonna take it anymore. Take what? Bank fees. Recent fee hikes from some of the nation's biggest banks have attracted the wrath of customers, some of whom are taking their business elsewhere. Prime targets: Banks of America, which slapped a $5 monthly fee on debit cards, and Citigroup (Citigroup, Fortune 500), which will start charging $20 a month for some checking customers who don't maintain a $15,000 balance on their combined accounts. "I dropped Bank of America like a hot potato," said Tim O'Brien a partner in a Seattle-based television advertising agency. "I felt like I was getting nickel and dimed." O'Brien took his business to Key Bank (KEY, Fortune 500)
— a mid-sized lender based in Cleveland that has $90 billion in assets and just over 1,000 locations. The best part? No fees on his new account. "They rolled out the red carpet for us," O'Brien said. "The difference really is amazing.".

...For Jeff Fisher, a graphic designer and author from Oregon, a new $15 a month fee on his Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) business account prompted a switch to a credit union earlier this year.  "That really was the last straw," Fisher said of the fee. "That's when I lost it and decided to switch." Changing banks was going to mean a loss of convenience for Fisher. The local Chase branch was just a couple of blocks from his home. So where to go? Fisher took his case to the Internet, tweeting about his dissatisfaction. To his surprise, he received two unsolicited offers
— one from a credit union, and one from a smaller bank.   [Full story>>cnn.com]

10.11.11 US history holds key to resolution of eurozone debt crisis, Nobel laureates say
(AFP) October 11 - The American winners of this year's Nobel prize in economics said Tuesday that the solutions to the eurozone crisis are clear, economically, and the issue is mainly political. New York University's Thomas Sargent, who with Princeton University colleague Christopher Sims captured the annual prize for economics, said the history of the founding of the United States shows what the issues and solutions are. "There are no new issues in economic theory with Europe and the euro... the difficult thing is the politics," Sargent told a news conference in Princeton. "In the 1780s, the United States is a basket case," he said, with 13 sovereign governments the 13 original states each of which could raise taxes and print money.  Meanwhile, he said, the new country had a very weak center, not having yet established a central bank or gained taxing power.

"Does this remind you of anything?... They (the states) all have debt, and the center has debt. Like eurobonds, they are going at deep discount." Sims said the crisis of the European Monetary Union, focused now on Greece's inability to service its debts, and with two other members, Ireland and Portugal, in tough bailout programs, was predictable
and that he had predicted it. "I wrote a paper a few years ago on the precarious fiscal foundations of the EMU," Sims said hours after the Nobel announcement. 

"The euro was founded with a central bank but no unified fiscal authority," he said, which "raised questions about what would happen when the need for fiscal and monetary coordination arose." The eurozone nations "will have to work out a way to share fiscal burdens and connect fiscal authorities to the ECB," the European Central Bank. "Right now none of those connections are clear... and the prospects for the euro are dim." Sargent said the way the 13 states came together in 1787 to combine their debt under the new federal government and allow the federal government to levy taxes to be able to service the debt points the way for the eurozone.    [More>>france24.com]

10.11.11 Top Syria cleric threatens attacks on US
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) October 11 - Syria's top Sunni Muslim cleric has warned Western countries against military intervention in Syria and threatened to retaliate with suicide bombings in the United States and Europe if his country comes under attack. Western countries have shown no willingness to open a Libyan-style military campaign against the regime of President Bashar Assad, who has launched a bloody crackdown on the seven-month uprising against his rule, and NATO's chief said last week the alliance has "no intention whatsoever" of intervening in Syria. Still, the prospect of such an intervention seems to have rattled the Assad regime, although publicly, officials say they are confident there would be no such thing because no one wants to foot the bill.  In a speech late Sunday, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddine Hassoun, a state-appointed cleric and Assad loyalist, issued a clear warning to the West. "I say to all of Europe, I say to America, we will set up suicide bombers who are now in your countries, if you bomb Syria or Lebanon," Hassoun said in a speech late Sunday. "From now on, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Hassoun spoke to a delegation of Lebanese women who came to offer their condolences for his son's death by unknown gunmen earlier this month. "Don't come near our country, I beg you," Hassoun said.   [More>>cbsnew.com]

10.11.11 Burma announces amnesty for 6,359 prisoners
RANGOON, Burma, October 11 - Burma on Tuesday announced amnesty for 6,359 prisoners, a group expected to include hundreds of political prisoners whose release would be a dramatic sign of opening after nearly 50 years of autocratic rule. The United States and Europe have long demanded the release of political prisoners as a condition for the lifting of economic sanctions on Burma, also known as Myanmar. The sanctions tightly restrict investment, trade and financial transactions. Easing them would probably accelerate a realignment of Burma’s previously close relations with authoritarian China, which was stunned last month when Burmese President Thein Sein halted construction of a mammoth Chinese-financed dam in the north of the country. Thein Sein leaves this week on a trip to India, the world’s largest democracy, which has long competed with China for influence and business deals here.

State-controlled Burmese media said the releases of inmates would begin Wednesday, a Buddhist religious holiday. The announcement did not name those due to be freed, but both supporters and opponents of the regime, as well as diplomats, said they believe the amnesty will cover many pro-democracy activists and others imprisoned because of their political beliefs. The announcement came on the same day that a newly established human rights commission in Burma issued an open letter to Thein Sein, urging him to free "prisoners of conscience" who do not pose a "threat to the stability of the state and public tranquility."  Such prisoners, who are scattered in jails across the country, range from former student leaders — some of whom have been in prison since pro-democracy protests in 1988 — to military intelligence officers jailed after the 2004 purge of Khin Nyunt, a former prime minister and spy chief who had tried to reach out to opposition forces. Their numbers are estimated to range from 600 to more than 2,000.   [More>>washingtonpost.com]

10.11.11 Afghan opium production 'rises by 61%' compared with 2010
October 11 - Opium production in Afghanistan rose by 61% this year compared with 2010, according to a UN report. The increase has been attributed to rising opium prices that have driven farmers to expand cultivation of the illicit opium poppy by 7% in 2011. Last year opium production halved largely due to a plant infection which drastically reduced yields.  Afghanistan produces 90% of the world's opium 5,800 tonnes this year the main ingredient of heroin. Analysts say that revenue from the drug has helped fund the Taliban insurgency. Farmers who responded to the survey described economic hardship and lucrative prices as the main reasons for the increase. Nearly 80% of the opium grown in Afghanistan is being produced in provinces in the south, including Helmand and Kandahar, which are among the most volatile in the country. The UN says this demonstrates that there is a clear link between insecurity and opium cultivation. However the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul says that growing pressure from the government and successful counter-narcotics operations have led to a slight decrease in cultivation in some areas, which is being seen as a positive trend. The rise in production came even though the Afghan government and NATO have increased crop eradication measures by 65% and made significant seizures in recent months. The report says that there are now 17 provinces in Afghanistan affected by poppy cultivation, up from 14 one year ago.   [More>>bbc.co.uk]

10.11.11 Gulf shrimp are scarce this season
LAFITTE, La, October 11 - (New York Times)
The dock at Bundy’s Seafood is quiet, the trucks are empty and a crew a fraction of the normal size sits around a table waiting for something to do. But the most telling indicator that something is wrong is the smell. It smells perfectly fine.  "There’s no shrimp," explained Grant Bundy, 38. The dock should smell like a place where 10,000 pounds of shrimp a day are bought off the boats. Not this year. In all of September, Bundy’s Seafood bought around 41,000 pounds. White shrimp season began in late August, and two months in, the shrimpers here say it is a bad one, if not the worst in memory. It is bad not just in spots but all over southeastern Louisiana, said Jules Nunez, 78, calling it the worst season he had seen since he began shrimping in 1950. Some fishermen said their catches were off by 80 percent or more. 

"A lot of people say it’s this, it’s that, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s BP," Mr. Nunez said. "We just don’t know." There is plenty that is not known. Louisiana’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has not compiled landings data for the season, so at this point it is hard to measure with any certainty the degree to which it is abnormal. Even if the reports of a dismal season prove true, any forensic work is complicated by the oddities of this year’s weather, with a severe drought in the states along the Gulf of Mexico interrupted by spring flooding on the Mississippi River that brought millions of gallons of fresh water into the marshes. In addition, white shrimp crops have fluctuated over the decades for various reasons. (A BP spokesman said in a statement that some preliminary sampling indicated that the 2011 white shrimp population was within the historical range of variability.)   [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

10.11.11 Putin 'puzzled' by Tymoshenko verdict
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) October 11- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he does not understand why former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was found guilty and handed a seven-year prison sentence for forcing through a gas deal with Russia. He said Tymoshenko had not signed anything herself and that the agreements were concluded by the national companies in full compliance with Russian and Ukrainian laws. Putin also warned that it was "dangerous" and "counterproductive" to question existing gas agreements between Russia and Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier in the day "Yulia Tymoshenko was prosecuted for the current, still valid, legally binding agreements between Gazprom and Naftogaz Ukraine," warning that the verdict must not affect the implementation of bilateral gas agreements. “Tymoshenko is not our friend, and for me personally she is neither a friend nor a relative,” Putin, who is visiting China, told journalists in Beijing. “Moreover, she is rather a political competitor, because she has always been… a Western-oriented politician,” he said. Russia and Ukraine would gain more by combining efforts on integration projects, he added. "This would be more beneficial," Putin said. "I am not speaking about politics," he said, adding that Russian-Ukrainian integration would yield "economic" benefits.   [>en.rian.ru]

10.07.11 Greek austerity breeds new generation of homeless
October 7 -
Greece’s harsh austerity measures and the subsequent rise in unemployment have forced a growing number of Greeks out of their homes. Our reporters went to a crisis center in the capital, where desperate Athenians seek refuge, food and medication.  Two years into Greece’s devastating financial crisis, joblessness and homelessness are rife. For the first time, the middle class is having trouble making ends meet. More and more Greeks are finding themselves out of work, unable to pay their way, sleeping in their cars or even on the streets. Resembling a youth center or backpackers hostel, the independent Klimaka homeless center is a rarity in Greece, where most non-state assistance is dominated by the church. Funded entirely by donations, even down to the soap and televisions, the center is today busier than ever.

People who have spent their adult lives employed and self-sufficient are now seeking refuge, food, and medication.  "We see totally healthy people, with an active working past, sleeping rough," Efi Stamatoyiannopoulou, a nurse at the center, told our reporters. Not only individuals but also families, she says, are turning up at the center in need of food and essentials. In the last month alone demand has increased by around 20 per cent. Lambros, an unemployed builder who managed to get a bed at the center, has been homeless since February. He spent six months sleeping in his car before finding refuge at Klimaka. "I have no reason to complain," he said. "They take good care of me." But while Lambros is relieved to be getting help, he is also deeply ashamed of his situation." I don’t want my family to know where I am now, at such a low point in life. I was another person when they saw me and now I’m ashamed to even look at myself."   [More>>france24.com]

10.07.11 Deaths as fresh protests erupt in Syria
October 7 - At least eight people reported killed in anti-government protests after Friday prayers as government crackdown continues.  Syrian security forces have opened fire on protesters in several parts of the country, leaving at least eight people dead, activists said. The deaths came as thousands rallied after Friday prayers against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Three people died from gunshot wounds in Douma, near the capital, Damascus, while an elderly man and two others were killed in the city of Homs, where security forces opened fire against protesters, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said.  Two other fatalities were reported following protests in the coastal city of Latakia and in the suburbs of Hama. Al Jazeera's Rula Amin, reporting from Beirut in neighboring Lebanon, said the protests are still going strong, even after six months of demonstrations. "The government is continuing its crackdown.

The opposition insists on the fall of the regime and the government insists it will end the wave of protests." The Local Co-ordination Committees (LCC), an activist network opposed to Assad's government, also on Friday reported demonstrations calling for the end of the government in the Damascus neighborhood of Qabun, which was rocked by shootings the previous Friday. And a curfew was imposed on the restive town of Rastan, 20km north of Homs, where security forces surrounded mosques in a bid to prevent people from attending Friday prayers, a rallying point for protests, the LLC said. Pro-democracy activists had called for fresh Friday demonstrations under the banner: "The Syrian National Council is our representative, mine, yours and that of all Syrians."    [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.07.11 Libyan forces battle for Sirte, civilians flee
SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) October 7 - Libyan government forces fired rounds of heavy artillery at Muammar Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte on Friday as they launched their largest assault so far to capture the last major bastion of support for the deposed leader. Taking the coastal town would be an important symbolic trophy for Libya’s new rulers, and would bring them closer to finally gaining control of the whole country almost two months since their fighters seized the capital Tripoli. Forces loyal to the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) are under pressure to intensify their advance but heavy resistance and gunfire by Gaddafi loyalists have prevented them from taking the city for weeks. Forces loyal to the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) are under pressure to intensify their advance but heavy resistance and gunfire by Gaddafi loyalists have prevented them from taking the city for weeks. Columns of black smoke rose above Sirte's skyline as NTC forces fired tank shells and rounds of artillery toward the city center from their positions to the east of Sirte. Thousands of civilians have fled Sirte as fighting intensified, describing an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation. Many were caught off guard by Friday’s assault and fled in panic as explosions boomed around the city. "There are strong strikes in all directions. Today we will finish it. God willing today we will capture Sirte," said Colonel Ahmed El-Obeidi, an NTC commander.   [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See also bbc.co.uk, October 7, "Libya NTC forces take most of Gaddafi stronghold Sirte."

10.07.11 Mexican navy finds 32 bodies in Veracruz
October 7 - Thirty-two bodies have been found in several locations in Mexico's eastern port city of Veracruz, the navy says. The discovery comes two weeks after 35 bodies were dumped in broad daylight on a busy road on the city outskirts. The Mexican government has announced the deployment of extra security forces in the state, as gangs wage an escalating war over drug trafficking. Some 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed since the army was sent in to combat drug gangs in 2006. A statement from the navy said the 32 bodies were found in three houses in Veracruz as the military carried out its new Safe Veracruz campaign against the drug cartels.  [More>>bbc.co.uk]

10.07.11 Coordinated attacks in Afghanistan hit US sites
FORWARD OPERATING BASE TILLMAN, Afghanistan, October 7 - Insurgents attacked four American outposts simultaneously near the border with Pakistan on Friday, striking the positions with multiple rockets and, at one base, a suicide bomber who exploded his vehicle near one of the base’s walls.  The coordinated attack, apparently timed to mark the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghan war, caused minimal damage and wounded only one American soldier, whose injuries, officers said, were not life-threatening. But it underscored the frustrating complexities of a war entering its second decade. Most of the high-explosive 107-millimeter rockets striking the outposts were fired from just inside Afghanistan, suggesting that the attack had been prepared and launched from Pakistan, and the rocket crews withdrew there as the Americans fired back. It also highlighted the relative weakness of Afghan soldiers and police officers living and working on the American-built bases. As the attacks escalated in the morning, only the United States military possessed the firepower, communications and skills to fight back in what developed into a long-range, artillery-and-rocket duel.  [More>>nytimes.com]

10.07.11 Cantor says he's concerned by 'mobs' at  'Occupy Wall Street'
October 7 - The second-ranking House Republican castigated "Occupy Wall Street" protesters on Friday, just as Democrats begin cozying up to the weeks-old demonstrations. House GOP Leader Eric Cantor decried the protests that started several weeks ago in New York, and have spread to major cities across the country. Cantor said in a speech at the Values Voters Summit in Washington that he is "increasingly concerned" about the "growing mobs" represented at the protests.  Cantor's remarks, some of the harshest by a Republican toward the "Occupy" demonstrators, comes amidst a growing political divide over the protests.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi backed the demonstrations, saying, "God bless them for their spontaneity." And other Democrats have been even more open in their embrace of the movement, which has also attracted support from organized labor. Organizers behind the movement, which expresses outrage toward the conduct of corporate America and seeks campaign finance reform, have hoped it develops into an analogue for the Tea Party on the left, which has helped fuel a Republican political resurgence over the past two years.  "Some in Washington have actually condoned the pitting of Americans against Americans," Cantor said of the protests after accusing the Obama administration's policies of being an "assault on many of our nation's bedrock principles."

Other political leaders have been more coy in their approach toward the demonstrations; President Obama nodded toward the protests as a sign of broader frustration over the state of the economy.As for Republicans, Mitt Romney accused the protesters of engaging in "class warfare," but has otherwise stayed silent about the demonstrations. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called them the "Obama demonstrations," while Texas Rep. Ron Paul encouraged the protests. "If they were demonstrating peacefully ... and making a point, and arguing our case, and drawing attention to the Fed–I would say, good!" he told the libertarian magazine Reason.   [>msnbc.msn.com]

10.07.11 UK banks downgraded as confidence slumps
October 7 -
Twelve UK financial institutions have been downgraded by a leading credit ratings agency, on the back of reduced Government support. Moody's cut its rating on state-owned banks RBS by two notches and Lloyds TSB by one notch, taking both to Aa3. Other institutions to be downgraded included the UK arm of Spain's Santander, Cooperative Bank, building society Nationwide and several smaller UK banks. Sky's City editor Mark Kleinman had revealed in May that Moody's would be putting 14 British banks and building societies on review for a downgrade.  In a statement, the ratings agency said the downgrades were caused by a reduction in confidence after the Government withdrew its backing for seven smaller institutions and scaled back its support for the five" larger, more systemically important financial institutions." It added that medium-to long-term support was unpredictable but that it expects the Government to continue to support the bigger banks which are more systemically linked.  "However, it is more likely now to allow smaller institutions to fail if they become financially troubled," it warned. Although it recognized that the stand-alone financial strength of the five institutions had improved, it did not offset the reduction in the Government's safety net. Shares in the banks slumped as markets opened this morning, with any initial gains expected in the FTSE quickly wiped out.   [More>>news.sky.com]

10.07.11 Five killed, 20 wounded in Baghdad twin bombing attacks
BAGHDAD (Xinhua) October 6 -  Five people were killed and 20 others wounded in two successive roadside bombing attacks that hit northern Baghdad late on Thursday, an Interior Ministry source said. The first roadside bomb went off in Autafiya district in northern Baghdad and struck a passing car on Thursday evening. The second one ensued when police and civilians gathered at the blast scene later, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity. The two explosions killed five civilians and wounded 20 others including four policemen, the source added. It's an old tactic used by insurgents to create second explosions after the first draws security forces and passers-by in a bid to drive up tolls. Earlier in the evening, another roadside bomb detonated near a school playground in Zaferaniya area in southern Baghdad, wounding five people, the same source told Xinhua. Violence has been down in Iraq since its peak in 2006 and 2007 when the country was engulfed in sectarian killings, but deadly bombings and shootings still occur on daily basis.   [>xinhuanet.com]

10.06.11 Seeking energy, Unions join protest against Wall Street
October 6 -
Stuart Appelbaum, an influential union leader in New York City, was in Tunisia last month, advising the fledgling labor movement there, when he received a flurry of phone calls and e-mails alerting him to the rumblings of something back home. Protesters united under a provocative name, Occupy Wall Street, were gathering in a Lower Manhattan park and raising issues long dear to organized labor. And gaining attention for it. Mr. Appelbaum recalled asking a colleague over the phone to find out who was behind Occupy Wall Street a bunch of hippies or perhaps troublemakers? and whether the movement might quickly fade. So far, at least, it has not, and on Wednesday, several prominent unions, struggling to gain traction on their own, made their first effort to join forces with Occupy Wall Street..

Thousands of union members marched with the protesters from Foley Square to their encampment in nearby Zuccotti Park.  "The labor movement needs to tap into the energy and learn from them," Mr. Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, said. “They are reaching a lot of people and exciting a lot of people that the labor movement has been struggling to reach for years." In fact, the unexpected success of Occupy Wall Street in leveling criticism of corporate America has stirred some soul-searching among labor leaders. They have noted with envy that the new movement has done a far better job, not only of capturing interest, but also of attracting young people. Protests have spread to dozens of cities, including Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles.    [More>>nytimes.com]

10.06.11 Obama to Congress: Pass my jobs bill - or explain yourself
October 6 - President Obama called on Congress to pass his $447 billion jobs bill at the opening of his news conference Monday, saying, "This is not a game." "Our economy really needs a jolt right now," he said during a White House news conference. Mr. Obama said the bill would guard against the economic threat posed by the European economic crisis and said independent economists overwhelmingly say it would help boost the struggling American economy. He said it was made up of proposals that both parties have traditionally supported. "Any senator who is thinking about voting against this jobs bill when it comes up for a vote," he said, "needs to explain why they would oppose something that we know would improve our economic situation at such an urgent time for our families and for our businesses." 

Mr. Obama derided critics who call his proposal "class warfare," saying Congress must choose between helping the rich and the people who are "hurting in this country." "I hope every senator thinks long and hard about what's at stake when they vote next week," he said. The news conference reflects Mr. Obama's latest push for passage of the American Jobs Act, a $447 billion package of spending measures and middle-class tax cuts designed to stimulate the economy he introduced in September. The proposal includes $250 billion in tax cuts, including reduced payroll taxes on both workers and employers, $60 billion in extended unemployment benefits and $140 billion in spending on education,  transportation projects and public workers, including police officers.

Mr. Obama seeks to pay for it largely by increasing taxes on corporations and high-earning Americans. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday called for a five percent surtax on Americans making more than $1 million to help pay for the bill, something Mr. Obama said Thursday he was open to accepting. A recent CBS News poll showed that 64 percent of Americans believe those making a million dollars or more should pay more in taxes.   [More>>cbsnews.com]

10.06.11 Comet's water 'like that of Earth's oceans'
October 6 -
Comet Hartley 2 contains water more like that found on Earth than all the comets we know about, researchers say. A study using the Herschel space telescope aimed to measure the fraction of deuterium, a rare type of hydrogen, present in the comet's water. Like our oceans, it had half the amount of deuterium seen from other comets. The result, published in Nature, hints at the idea that much of the Earth's water could have initially come from cometary impacts. Just a few million years after its formation, the early Earth was rocky and dry; most likely, something brought the water that covers most of the planet today.  Water has something of a molecular fingerprint in the amount of deuterium it contains, and only about half a dozen comets have been measured in this way - and all of them have exhibited a deuterium fraction twice as high as the oceans.

Asteroids, by contrast, give rise to the meteors and meteorites that arrive on Earth, making their deuterium fraction more well-established. Meteoritic material has roughly the same proportion of deuterium that the Earth's oceans contain, and so the assumption has been that if water arrived from elsewhere, it came from asteroids. Until now, all of the comets that have been measured have been so-called Oort Cloud objects, believed to have been formed early in the Solar System's history in the region of the giant planets Neptune and Uranus and kicked out to a great distance as they bumped into the planets and each other. Comet Hartley 2 is the first "Kuiper Belt" object to undergo the deuterium analysis. Kuiper belt objects formed not far outside our Solar System, and comets that originate there have much shorter orbits than those from the Oort Cloud.

An international team using the Herschel telescope to peer at the comet, they found it had a deuterium fraction much closer to that of our oceans. Report co-author Ted Bergin of the University of Michigan said that opened up the possibility that comets at least contributed to our water supply. "The reservoir of Earth ocean-like material is much larger than we thought, and it encompasses cometary material, which we hadn't recognized," he told BBC News.   [More>>bbc.co.uk]

10.06.11 Floods drown Asia's rice bowl
HANOI, Vietnam (AFP) October 6 - Massive floods have ravaged vast swathes of Asia’s rice bowl, threatening to further drive up food prices and adding to the burden of farmers who are among the region’s poorest, experts say. About 1.5 million hectares (3.7 million acres) of paddy fields in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have been damaged or are at risk from the worst floods to hit the region in years, officials say. In Thailand, the world’s biggest rice exporter, where 237 people have died in the floods, about one million hectares of paddy roughly 10 percent of the total have been damaged, they say. Heavy rains in Laos and Cambodia have also led to big losses in recent weeks, and experts say flood waters have now drained into Vietnam's Mekong Delta, a key global rice producer, making it the latest to be inundated.

Further west, flooding of rice and other farmland in Pakistan’s arable belt has cost that country nearly $2 billion in losses. "The whole region will now suffer from rising food prices as potential harvests have now been devastated. The damage is very serious this year and it will be some time before people can resume normal lives," Margareta Wahlstrom, the United Nations chief of disaster reduction, said in a statement. The flood damage comes on top of worries about the impact on global rice prices of a new scheme by the Thai government to boost the minimum price farmers receive for their crop. Vietnam meanwhile is the world’s number-two rice exporter and the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam accounts for half the country’s production.    [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.06.11 Afghan president's cooperationn with India infuriates Pakistan
October 6 -
After signing a strategic partnership with India that infuriated the Pakistani security establishment, Afghan President Hamid Karzai yesterday tried to soothe his country's relationship with its "twin brother," insisting that Islamabad had a vital role to play in bringing long-term peace to the region. In a speech in which he outlined his dream of being able to eat breakfast in India, lunch in Pakistan and dinner back home in Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai told the region's two nuclear powers that there was a common cause in defeating terrorism. "Pakistan is our twin brother, India is a great friend," Mr. Karzai said in Delhi. "The agreement we signed with our friend will not affect our brother. This strategic partnership ... is not directed against any country. This strategic partnership is to support Afghanistan."

The comments came during a visit in which Mr. Karzai and the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a new strategic agreement that will see India play a leading role in helping train and equip Afghan security forces, including the police and army. It also follows many days of Afghanistan delivering a series of increasingly volatile criticisms of Pakistan, most notably accusing it of being involved in the recent assassination of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was due to head talks with the Taliban. Those talks have now been suspended. Mr. Karzai had said he believed the assassin was Pakistani and the suicide bombing was plotted in the city of Quetta.With an eye to 2014, when US forces are due to leave his country and Afghan forces will supposedly be entirely responsible for security, Mr. Karzai is desperately trying to walk a fine line of not angering potential allies.     [More>>independent.co.uk]

10.06.11 SteveJobs praised as Apple's visionary, creative genius
October 6 - Steve Jobs, the visionary who led a mobile computer revolution with the creation of wildly popular devices such as the iPhone, was mourned Thursday by admirers and competitors as much of the world awoke to news of his death. Jobs' death was announced Wednesday by Apple, the Silicon Valley company he co-founded with Steve Wozniak. He was 56. "Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being," Apple said in a statement on its website. "Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor."  The hard-driving executive pioneered the concept of the personal computer and of navigating them by clicking onscreen images with a mouse. In more recent years, he introduced the iPod portable music player, the iPhone and the iPad tablet all of which changed how digital content was consumed.  More than one pundit, praising Jobs' ability to transform industries with his inventions, called him a modern-day Leonardo da Vinci. "Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern capitalism," New York Times columnist Joe Nocera said in August. "His intuition has been phenomenal over the years."   [More>>cnn.com]

10.05.11 Nuclear contamination found beyon Japan no-go zone
(AFP) October 5 -
High levels of radioactive contamination have been found in soil in the capital of Japan's Fukushima prefecture, a study showed Wednesday, prompting calls to make the area a voluntary evacuation zone. Some 307,000 becquerels of caesium per kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of soil was detected in an independent survey conducted on September 14 by a radiological engineering expert and citizens' groups. The Japanese government's legal limit is 10,000 becquerels per kilogramme. The contamination is believed to have been caused by radiation that has leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.  The development comes days after Japan lifted evacuation advisories for five areas between 20-30 kilometres from the nuclear plant and as it looks to convince tens of thousands of people that it is safe to return home. The groups tested soil samples from several areas near central Fukushima some 60 kilometres (35 miles) away from the plant. "We are urging the central and local governments to have children and expecting mothers evacuated from the areas," said Takeshi Sakagami, a member of Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants. Sakagami said his group was calling on authorities to at least designate the area as a non-mandatory evacuation zone due to the level of contamination.   [More>>france24.com]

10.05.11 British economy grinds to a virtual halt
October 5 - Britain's economy has slowed to a trickle in the second quarter and the country's last recession was much deeper than thought, official data shows, piling pressure on the government. British gross domestic product (GDP) the value of all services and goods produced in the economy - grew by just 0.1 per cent in the three months to June from the first quarter, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement. The figure compared with the previous official estimate for growth of 0.2 per cent.  GDP growth for the first quarter, or three months to March, was also trimmed to 0.4 per cent from a prior reading of 0.5 per cent. "The weakness of growth in both quarters, particularly the second quarter, reflects a number of pressures that are being felt in the wider economy by both business and households," the Office for National Statistics said. The data sparked fresh speculation that the Bank of England could decide to pump more cash into the economy, at the conclusion of its monetary policy meeting today.   [More>>news.com.au; See related stories,

independent.co.uk, October 5, "Eurozone crisis prompts global sell-off as Greek deal is delayed"
Stock markets across the world plunged yesterday as European finance ministers announced they would delay a decision on releasing €8 billion (£7bn) in emergency payments to Greece until November. The Eurogroup also announced its intention to impose greater haircuts on the holders of Greek sovereign bonds, reopening a deal agreed in July that would see banks accept a 21 per cent write-down on the value of their holdings of Greek debt. "We have to take into account the fact that we have experienced changes since the decisions we took on 21 July," the Eurogroup chairman, Jean-Claude Juncker, said. The Finnish government also confirmed that it will receive collateral from Greece in return for contributing to the second €109bn EU/IMF bailout of the country.

Helsinki, however, will have to pay a high price for the special concession, in the form of lower interest rates on loans extended.Investors sold shares heavily across Europe and America yesterday in response to the news from Luxembourg. The German Dax index closed down 2.98 percent. France's Cac fell 2.61 per cent. The American S&P 500 officially entered a bear market in afternoon trading yesterday when it fell 20 percent from its peak earlier in the year. The FTSE 100 closed at 4944.44, down 2.6 percent. Despite previously claiming that Greece would run out of money by the middle of this month, the Greek Finance Minister, Evangelos Venizelos, said yesterday that Athens can hold out until November. But the longer it takes for these funds to be released, the more nervous markets will grow about a possible uncontrolled Greek default...

msnbc.msn.com, October 5, "Greeks protest austerity: 'The rich must pay'"
: ATHENS - Police fired tear gas at stone-throwing youths in central Athens on Wednesday, where thousands of striking state sector workers marched against cuts the government says are needed to save the nation from bankruptcy. Youths broke up marble paving slabs and hurled the chunks of rock at police in full riot gear. The police responded by firing tear gas grenades, chasing the protesters through the square into surrounding streets. Flights were grounded, schools shut and government offices closed in Greece's first nationwide walkout in months. Labor leaders call it the start of a campaign to derail emergency austerity steps launched last month by a government that has already imposed two years of tax hikes and wage cuts. Greece's worsening debt crisis poses a risk to the euro currency and the international financial system. Reforms to Greek finances took on a new urgency this week after the government announced it would miss its 2011 deficit target...

10.05.11 Somalia's al-Shabab vows more attacks
October 5 - Armed anti-government group warns of "more serious blasts" after bombing in Somali capital leaves at least 70 dead. Al-Shabab has vowed to carry out more attacks in Mogadishu after a vehicle bomb blast that killed scores of people in the Somali capital. The warning came after the armed anti-government group claimed responsibility for Tuesday's blast outside a government compound in Mogadishu, which killed at least 70 people and left many others wounded, officials and witnesses said. "Somalis, we warn you: keep away from government buildings and the bases of their soldiers, more serious blasts are coming," the Reuters news agency quoted Ali Mohamud Rage, an al-Shabab spokesman, as saying. An al-Shabab member, speaking to the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity, earlier said one of the group's fighters had carried out the attack. 

"One of our mujahideen made the sacrifice to kill TFG [Transitional Federal Government] officials, the African Union troops and other informers who were in the compound," the al-Shabab member said. The blast occurred when a truck blew up after coming to a halt at a security checkpoint at the entrance to the education ministry, Ali Hussein, a police officer in Mogadishu, said. After the thunderous blast, blackened corpses were sprawled on the debris-strewn street amid burning vehicles, as uniformed soldiers dragged the wounded from the scene. Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Somali president, said the attack had killed more than 70 people and left 150 injured.  [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.05.11 EU blasts Russia, China for vetoing UN Syria sanctions
(AP) October 5 - Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed what would have been the first legally binding Security Council resolution against Syria since President Bashar Assad's crackdown on protesters began.  European countries criticized Russia and China on Wednesday for vetoing a UN Security Council resolution that threatened sanctions against Syria if it didn't halt its crackdown on civilians. Turkey's prime minister said his nation and others would respond by imposing more sanctions of their own against Syria. [The Syria] military began using tanks and soldiers to attack pro-democracy protesters in mid-March. The UN estimates the crackdown has led to more than 2,700 deaths. Russia and China both said they oppose the crackdown but that sanctions wouldn't help resolve the crisis. The UN vote was 9-2 with four abstentions India, South Africa, Brazil and Lebanon. On Wednesday, Germany, France, Britain, Denmark and the EU joined Turkey in denouncing the veto, with French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe sounding outraged. Juppe denounced Assad as a "dictator who is massacring his people" and vowed support for Syrians trying to overthrow the head of the former French colony. Juppe's strongly worded English-language statement was highly unusual.   [More>>haaretz.com]

10.05.11 Senior Haqqani leader killed in eastern Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (Xinhua) October 5 - A senior leader of the Afghan militant group Haqqani network was killed in a NATO air strike in eastern Afghan province of Khost on Tuesday, according to a statement released here Wednesday. "A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed a senior Haqqani leader and two of his associates during a precision airstrike in Musa Khel district, Khost province, yesterday," the statement said. Identifying the slain leader as Dilawar, the statement said, " Dilawar, who was only known by one name, was a principal subordinate to Haji Mali Khan, Afghanistan's Haqqani network main leader." Haji Mali Khan was captured a week ago in the neighboring Paktia province.

"Dilawar also facilitated the movement of foreign fighters and was associated with both al-Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," the statement said. 
Founded by Mawlawi Jalaludin Haqqani and led by his son Sirajudin Haqqani, [the] Haqqani network has been fighting against Afghan and NATO-led troops in the Afghan capital Kabul and eastern provinces bordering Pakistan. "In an effort to prevent insurgent activity, the Haqqani network and its safe havens remain a top priority for the Afghan and coalition force. Thus far in 2011 security forces have conducted more than 530 operations in an effort to disrupt Haqqani network activities in eastern Afghanistan, resulting in the death of 20 network leaders and the capture of more than 1,400 suspected Haqqani insurgents," the statement added.   [>xinhuanet.com]

10.05.11 Plot to assassinate Afghan president foiled
KABUL, Afghanistan (Reuters) October 5 -
Afghanistan’s intelligence agency said on Wednesday it had thwarted a plot to assassinate President Hamid Karzai after arresting a bodyguard and five people with links to the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda.  The National Directorate of Security (NDS) told a news conference the plotters had recruited one of Karzai's bodyguards in order to kill him. "A dangerous and educated group including, teachers and students wanted to assassinate President Hamid Karzai." spokesman Lutfullah Mashal said. "Unfortunately they infiltrated the presidential protection system and recruited one of the president’s bodyguards." Mashal said those detained had ties with a man named Haji Bilal, who was a member of al-Qaeda and the Haqqani network based in Pakistan’s tribal region of North Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan. Karzai has been the target of at least three assassination attempts since becoming Afghan leader in 2002, most notably in April 2008, when insurgents fired guns and rockets at a military parade he attended near the presidential palace in Kabul.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

10.02.11 Police arrest more than 700 protesters on Brooklyn Bridge
October 2 -
In a tense showdown above the East River, the police arrested more than 700 demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street protests who took to the roadway as they tried to cross the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday afternoon. The police said it was the marchers' choice that led to the enforcement action. "Protesters who used the Brooklyn Bridge walkway were not arrested," Paul J. Browne, the chief spokesman for the New York Police Department, said. "Those who took over the Brooklyn-bound roadway, and impeded vehicle traffic, were arrested." But many protesters said they believed the police had tricked them, allowing them onto the bridge, and even escorting them partway across, only to trap them in orange netting after hundreds had entered. "The cops watched and did nothing, indeed, seemed to guide us onto the roadway," said Jesse A. Myerson, a media coordinator for Occupy Wall Street who marched but was not arrested. A video on the YouTube page of a group called We Are Change shows some of the arrests.  [More>>nytimes.com; See related story,

cnn.com, October 2, "Police: Hundreds of 'Occupy Wall Street' protesters get tickets"
NEW YORK - Police have issued tickets to hundreds of protesters who occupied an iconic New York bridge during demonstrations against the nation's financial system. The "Occupy Wall Street" protesters extended their rally to Brooklyn Bridge, where they were ticketed and summoned for blocking the roadway, authorities said late Saturday. Protesters banged drums and chanted, "the whole world is watching" as police moved in. "Over 700 summonses and desk appearance tickets have been issued in connection with the demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge ... after multiple warnings by police were given to protesters to stay on the pedestrian walkway," said Paul J. Browne, deputy commissioner for the New York City Police Department. Browne said authorities had warned protesters they would be arrested if they occupied the roadway...

10.02.11 Back-to-back typhoons leave 55 dead, villagers marooned on rooftops for days in Philippines
MANILA, Philippines, October 2 -
Back-to-back typhoons left at least 55 people dead and rescuers scrambling on Sunday to deliver food and water to hundreds of villagers stuck on rooftops for four days because of flooding in the northern Philippines. Typhoon Nalgae slammed ashore in northeastern Isabela province Saturday then barreled across the main Luzon Island’s mountainous north and agricultural plains that were still sodden from fierce rain and wind unleashed by a howler just days earlier. Nalgae left at least three people dead Saturday while Typhoon Nesat killed 52 others in the same region before blowing out Friday.   [More>>washingtonpost.com]

10.02.11 Lengthy distribution process worsens food outbreaks
WASHINGTON (AP) October 2 - The recent listeria outbreak from cantaloupe shows that large-scale occurrences of serious illnesses linked to tainted food have grown more common over the years, partly because much of what we eat takes a long and winding road from farm to fork. A cantaloupe grown on a Colorado field may make four or five stops before it reaches the dinner table. There's the packing house where it is cleaned and packaged, then the distributor who contracts with retailers to sell the melons in large quantities. A processor may cut or bag the fruit. The retail distribution center is where the melons are sent out to various stores. Finally it's stacked on display at the grocery store.  Imported fruits and vegetables, which make up almost two-thirds of the produce consumed in the United States, have an even longer journey. "Increasingly with agribusiness you have limited producers of any given food, so a breakdown in a facility or plant or in a large field crop operation exposes thousands because of the way the food is distributed," says Dr. Brian Currie, an infectious disease specialist at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. The Colorado cantaloupe crop that's linked to 84 illnesses and as many as 17 deaths in 19 states has traveled so far and wide that producer Jensen Farms doesn't even know exactly where their fruit ended up.    [More>>foxnews.com]

10.02.11 Afghans stage anti-Pakistan protests
October 2 -
Demonstrators gather in Kabul to rally against what many see as Islamabad's meddling in their country's affairs.  Hundreds of Afghans have taken to the streets of Kabul to condemn the recent shelling of border towns by Pakistan's army and accusing its powerful spy agency of involvement in the killing of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the country's influential former president. Sunday's protest came amid heightened tensions between the neighbors, with Afghan officials blaming Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the Taliban's senior leadership over Rabbani's assassination last month. Rabbani, who was head of a peace council tasked with trying to reach a negotiated settlement to the 10-year war, was killed at his Kabul home on September 20 by a suicide bomber who claimed to be carrying a message of peace from the Taliban leadership. Angry protesters, gathered under tight security, chanted "Death to Pakistan" and "Death to ISI."

"Pakistan and its ISI must stop interfering in Afghanistan. Our patience is running out," said Daoud Kodamani, a 22-year-old university student.  "Fighting our country's enemies is nothing new for Afghans and Pakistan is another enemy to fight with," he said. Many Afghans have long accused Pakistan and the ISI of backing armed groups to further Islamabad's own interests, which Pakistan denies. Afghan provincial officials say Pakistan's military fired hundreds of rockets between September 21-25 in eastern Kunar and Nuristan provinces, which share a long border with lawless tribal areas inside Pakistan. Although the shelling did not cause significant casualties, it followed more than a month of bombardments by Pakistan's military in June and July that Afghanistan said had killed at least 42 people.    [More>>aljazeera.net]

10.02.11 Pro-Taliban leader captured in Afghanistan
October 1 -
Senior commander of the Haqqani network, which has pledged allegiance to the Taliban, is seized in Paktia province.  A senior leader of a major pro-Taliban network has been captured in Afghanistan, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has announced. Haji Mali Khan, the senior commander of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, was detained during an operation in eastern Paktia province earlier this week. Khan is "one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan," ISAF said.  Khan had managed bases and operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and moved forces across the border for attacks, as well as transferring funds and sourcing supplies, ISAF added in a statement. He was captured on Tuesday in Jani Khel district of Paktia province along with his deputy and bodyguard, in an operation by Afghan and foreign forces, NATO said. He was heavily armed but "submitted without incident or resistance." Khan is the uncle of Siraj, or Sirajuddin, Haqqani and his brother, Badruddin sons of veteran Afghan militant commander Jalaluddin Haqqani.   [More>>guardian.co.uk]

10.02.11 US missile strike kills Pakistani military commander
NEW DELHI, India (RIA Novosti) October 2 -
A US missile strike has killed an al-Qaeda-linked Pakistani militant commander near the Afghan border, Pakistani TV channels reported on Sunday referring to intelligence officials. The commander, Haleem Ullah, was killed along with two other militants in a US missile strike in South Waziristan on Friday. Ullah led a group of militants in the tribal region closely connected to al-Qaeda. The group coordinated cross-border operations with al-Qaeda commanders against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the local TV channels said. The North and South Waziristan tribal regions on the Afghan border, known to be the strongholds of al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, are regular targets of US drones.  [>en.rian.ru]

10.02.11 Yemeni plane mistakenly kills soldiers as army fights to regain areas from Qaeda
October 2 -
A Yemeni warplane mistakenly struck a military site in south Yemen on Sunday, killing more than a dozen soldiers, a local security official said, but the government denied the report. Hundreds of militants from the al-Qaeda linked Partisans of Sharia (Islamic law) group overran Zinjibar in Yemen's troubled southern Abyan province in May, and it has been the scene of bitter fighting. One military official told AFP on condition of anonymity said that the air strike on the school killed an unknown number of soldiers. "Al-Qaeda militants then attacked the school after the air strike and killed even more soldiers," he said, adding that at least 20 have so far been killed at the school. Officials at the military hospital in the nearby port city of Aden said they were unable to confirm the deaths as their ambulances have been unable to reach the location because of “intense fighting” between soldiers and militants.   [More>>alarabiya.net]

10.02.11 Gaddafi loyalists stranded as battle for Sirte rages
October 2 -
Dozens of families who remain fiercely loyal to Col. Muammer Gaddafi's regime are trapped in the Libyan desert as fighting intensifies in the loyalist stronghold of Sirte. Families continue to stream out of the city, as interim government forces fought intense battles for control of the city center. But many men and women were too terrified, angry and mistrustful of the fighters that now control the majority of Libya, to flee to the next town. Crammed 30 people to a room, the families live in an abandoned school building with scant supplies. Others have been taken in by loyalist homes dotted in the scrubland surrounding Sirte. "The rebels are worse than rats. NATO is the same as Osama bin Laden," said a resident who did not wish to be named. "We have ten families staying with us now, there is little food, not enough clean water and no gas. Before we lived wealthy lives, I had two homes, now we live worse than animals." Backed by NATO war planes, rebel forces battling over the last eight months said they were fighting to oust a brutal dictator that was loathed by the Libyan population and that suppressed the basic human rights and freedoms of civilians. But families fleeing Col. Gaddafi's home town of Sirte said they longed for Libya to be "just as it was."   [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

9.30.11 European markets suffer big quarterly falls
September 30 - 
European stocks were down again on Friday, contributing towards one of the worst quarterly falls for the markets in the past decade. Stocks in France and Germany have fallen in value by more than 25% since the end of June. Shares in London's FTSE are down 13.7%, the worst quarterly performance since 2002. Friday's falls follow an unexpectedly sharp rise in the eurozone inflation rate for September to 3%. Investors had hoped the European Central Bank would move to lower interest rates in the eurozone, after raising them in July to 1.5% to limit inflation. However, the latest inflation figures may make such a move less likely. But Friday's falls were just the latest bout of volatility in European markets, which have failed to regain ground since crashing towards the end of July.  [More>>bbc.co.uk]

9.30.11 CIA drone kills US-born al-Qaeda cleric in Yemen
SANAA, Yemen (Reuters) September 30 -
Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born cleric linked to al-Qaeda, was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen on Friday, US officials said, removing a "global terrorist" high on a US wanted list. "He planned and directed attacks against the United States," one US official said. :"In addition, Awlaki publicly urged attacks against US persons and interests worldwide and called for violence against Arab governments he judged to be working against al-Qaeda."  Earlier in his career, Awlaki preached at mosques in the United States attended by some of the hijackers in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda, whose leader, Osama bin Laden, was killed in a US raid on his hideout in Pakistan in May.

Awlaki's death could be a boon for US President Barack Obama and for his Yemeni counterpart, Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is clinging to power despite months of popular protests, factional violence and international pressure. A Yemeni government statement said Samir Khan, an American of Pakistani origin, and two others were killed with Awlaki. Khan, from North Carolina, was an editor of AQAP's English-language online magazine Inspire, which often published Awlaki's writings.
A Yemeni official said Awlaki had been located based on information obtained from a detained AQAP militant.

....The Yemen embassy in Washington said Awlaki had been killed 8 km (five miles) from the town of Khashef in the northern province of Jawf, adjacent to Saudi Arabia, about 140 km east of Sanaa, at about 9:55am (0655 GMT).AQAP has not acknowledged Awlaki's death. It usually takes a few days to post an Internet response to such killings.  A tribal sheikh in Jawf said Awlaki and three other people had been killed. "We have retrieved their bodies. There was another car that had al-Qaeda members inside it, but they were able to escape," he said, asking not to be named. A Yemeni official said more details would be announced once the surviving al-Qaeda group had been tracked down. 
[Full story>>thestar.com.my; See other details,

khaleejtimes.com, September 30, "US-born -al-Qaeda cleeric Awlaki killed in Yemen"
...Last month, al-Awlaki was seen attending a funeral of a senior tribal chief in Shabwa, witnesses said, adding that security officials were also among those attending. Other witnesses said al-Awlaki was involved in negotiations with a local tribe in Yemen’s Mudiya region, which was preventing al-Qaeda fighters from traveling from their strongholds to the southern city of Zinjibar, which was taken over recently by Islamic militants. The witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals and their accounts could not be independently confirmed...

guardian.co.uk, September 30, "Anwar al-Awlaki, al-Qaeda cleeric and top US target, killed in Yemen" : ...
Few details have been released about the strike – not least because the Obama administration is wary of further destabilizing the embattled regime of Yemeni president Ali Abdulla Saleh. But witnesses say that Awlaki was boarding a 2005 Toyota Hilux along with five other supporters when the US drone attack hit the vehicle...

9.30.11 Weather breaks September records
September 30 - Today has been the hottest September 30 for more than 100 years - with records being broken across the country. In Cambridge, a temperature of 29.2C (84.6F) was recorded mid-afternoon, smashing the previous high of 27.8C (82F) recorded in Maidenhead, Berkshire, on the same day in 1908. Aisling Creevey, a forecaster with MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "Records have been broken for September 30 in a few places in the UK." Those jetting off on holidays in search of sunshine may well find temperatures at home are just as good as those abroad. Heathrow Airport can usually expect to see temperatures around 19C (66.2F)in September, and 15C (59F) in October.   [More>>independent.co.uk]

9.30.11 Haqqani APC: NATO presses Pakistan on 'terrorist' havens
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) September 30 - NATO's chief piled pressure on Pakistan on Friday to step up the fight against "terrorists" enjoying safe havens in the border region with Afghanistan. Amid growing US pressure for Pakistan to take action against al-Qaeda-linked extremists, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called for a "positive engagement" from Islamabad to ensure stability in Afghanistan. "We encourage the Pakistani military and the Pakistani government to do its utmost to fight extremism and terrorism in the border region," Rasmussen said at a defense forum hosted by the European Policy Center think tank.

"It is really a security problem for our troops in Afghanistan that terrorists have safe havens, and that's a fact, in Pakistan," he said. "We have to deal with that and it's in our mutual interest to deal with that."
"That's a reason why we have conveyed that clear message to Pakistan authorities." The Pakistani government and opposition leaders on Thursday closed ranks against increasing US pressure for action against the al-Qaeda-linked Haqqani network, refusing to be pressured into doing more in the war on terror. In an unprecedented condemnation of Pakistan, the outgoing head of the US military, Admiral Mike Mullen, last week accused the country of "exporting" violent extremism to Afghanistan through proxies.   [>thenews.com.pk]

9.30.11 Two injured as suicide bomber attacks Turkish resort
ANKARA, Turkey (RIA Novosti) September 30 -
  A suicide bomber blew himself up at a gendarmerie post near the Turkish resort city of Antalya on Friday. At least two people had been lightly injured in the blast, Antalya Deputy Governor Recep Yuksel was quoted in local media reports as saying. The explosion occurred in the village of Goynuk, some 40 kilometers from Antalya, soon after 4:00 pm local time (13:00 GMT). The gendarmerie building and several cars parked nearby were reported to have been damaged by the blast. A local administration official denied earlier reports that three people had been killed, saying that the bomber was the only victim. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Last week, three people were killed and at least 15 wounded in a car bomb explosion in the Turkish capital of Ankara. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), a group linked to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants, claimed responsibility for the blast and threatened more attacks on Turkish cities. The attacks come as the Turkish military have carried out airstrikes against PKK bases in northern Iraq.    [>en.rian.ru]

9.30.11 Tens of thousands take to the streets across Syria as Assad's army battles defectors
September 30 - Protests come day after US Ambassador's convoy attacked with stones; Thousands protest in Jordanian capital demanding the cabinet's resignations. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Syria on Friday demanding the removal of President Bashar Assad, as fighting continued between loyalist forces and insurgents in the center of the country, activists said. Government troops have been fighting army defectors in the town of Rastan in the first prolonged armed confrontation since protests erupted against Assad six months ago.  Meanwhile, Thousands of Jordanians took to the streets in Amman and other major cities on Friday demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Marouf Bakhit and the dissolution of the lower house of parliament. About 2,000 activists, belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood movement and other major opposition and youth groups, demonstrated outside the Grand Husseini Mosque in central Amman after Friday prayers under the slogan "You Will Not Be Able to Cheat Us."   [More>>haaretz.com]

9.30.11 Bomb kills 18 at Shia funeral in Iraq
(Reuters) September 30 -
At least 18 people were killed when a large car bomb exploded among mourners crowding into a Shia funeral in Iraq’s Hilla city on Friday, local authorities and witnesses said. The blast left burned bodies and damaged vehicles near a Shia mosque where relatives had gathered in a tent for the funeral of a local sheikh, witnesses said. Ambulances ferried three or four people at a time from the scene.   [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.30.11 Libya: Gaddafi mouthpiece caught 'fleeing dressed as a woman'
September 30 - Moussa Ibrahim, the mouthpiece of the Gaddafi regime, was captured last night outside the birthplace of the former dictator, according to commanders of the National Transitional Council's forces. There were also unconfirmed reports that Ibrahim was dressed as a woman as he attempted to flee Sirte, which has been the scene of heavy fighting for several days. A commander for the NTC's Zintan brigade said: "Moussa Ibrahim was captured while driving outside Sirte by fighters from Misurata." Ibrahim became a fixture on news bulletins from the first week of the uprising, lecturing the foreign media from a conference room at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli on the iniquities of NATO and the West. Like Col. Muammar Gaddafi, his whereabouts had been unknown until yesterday. His capture came as forces loyal to the transitional government seized the airport in Sirte, moving through the partly destroyed buildings tearing down symbols of the Gaddafi era. Meanwhile, an Interpol arrest warrant was issued for Gaddafi's son Saadi, who escaped to Niger, but the country's prime minister there said he would not be extradited.    [More>>telegraph.co.uk]
9.28.11 BMW founding family used 'slave labor'
LONDON, September 28 -
The dynasty behind the BMW luxury car marker has admitted that they used slave labor, took over Jewish firms and did business with the highest echelons of the Nazi party during World War II. A TV documentary titled "The Silence of the Quandt family" that aired in Germany in 2007 has forced the Quandary family, which is a major shareholder in the BMW Group, to commission an independent study on their ancestors’ actions during World War II. The 1,200-page study carried out by historian Joachim Scholtyseck concluded that the patriarch of the family, Guenther Quandary, cooperated willingly with the Nazi regime, of which he became a member only a month after Adolf Hitler’s rise to power.  He also "employed" 50,000 slave workers in his factories that churned out machinery for the German army, the Daily Mail reports. 

[The] study also found that Guenther acquired companies through the Nazi program of "Aryanisation" of Jewish-owned firms. The company grew rich in the Nazi era. In 1937, Hitler bestowed on Guenther the title "Wehrwirtschaftsführer"-leader of the armament economy, and his business supplied weapons using slave laborers from concentration camps in at least three factories.  The study showed that the Quandary firms also used Russian POWs as slave laborers and that Guenther and his son Herbert knew about them.  Herbert even employed Ukrainian slaves on his weekend retreat outside the Reich capital, the paper said.  Guenther was described as an ‘opportunist’ who enthusiastically helped the regime to rid Berlin industries of Jewish workers before the start of the war.  [More>>indianexpress.com]

9.28.11 Government faced with decontaminating millions of cubic meters of soil in 4 prefectures
TOKYO, Japan, September 28 -
An investigative commission for the Environment Ministry estimates the amount of radioactive soil that will have to be decontaminated in Fukushima and four surrounding prefectures could amount to 29 million cubic meters, which they say is enough to fill Tokyo Dome 23 times. However, Yuichi Moriguchi, a professor of environmental systems engineering at the University of Tokyo, said that estimate was conservative. He was quoted by Fuji TV as saying the amount of radioactive soil is likely to be closer to 100 million cubic meters. That is enough to fill the 55,000-capacity Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team, 80 times. 

The government is currently discussing its decontamination options. Experts believe that cesium can be removed almost completely if the first five centimeters of top soil are stripped. The 2,500-square-kilometer contaminated area is equal to roughly one-seventh of Fukushima Prefecture. Woodland accounts for about 60 to 70% of the total area. The volume of soil to be stripped may be reduced to several tens of millions of cubic meters if mountainous areas away from residential districts are excluded. "I don’t think that the whole (2,500-square-kilometer) area will have to be decontaminated," Moriguchi was quoted by Fuji TV as saying. The central government remains at odds with the Fukushima prefectural government over where to store radioactive debris and waste.  [More>>japantoday.com]

9.28.11 France says it's cutting budget for 1st time since WWII but experts say more needs to be done
PARIS, September 28 - France proudly presented next year’s budget on Wednesday as the first to cut spending since World War II, as it tries to convince nervous investors that it will get its debts under control. But economists balked at the claim and said the cuts in the 2012 budget are not substantial enough to meet deficit targets laid out by the government — or to reduce the country’s debt load. France hasn't balanced its budget in three decades and for years flouted EU rules that require members to keep their deficits under 3 percent of GDP.  Paris was not alone in ignoring the spending rules, and the result has nearly brought the eurozone to its knees: Ireland, Portugal and Greece have all needed bailouts to pay their bills after investors refused to lend to them, and Italy and Spain have seen their borrowing costs skyrocket. France’s own bond yields — the interest rate investors demand to lend a country money — rose this summer amid fears its debts were too high. In response, the government unveiled a series of measures — mostly new taxes — that were reiterated in Wednesday’s budget. Among other measures, it plans to increase taxes on the wealthy, levy a tax on sugary drinks and close loopholes. It also promised to cut around 30,400 public jobs next year by not replacing one in two posts vacated by people retiring.  [More>>washingtonpost.com]

9.28.11 Evacuation of Canary Island begins after earthquake 'swarm' sparks fears of volcanic eruption
September 28 -
A holiday island popular with Britons is preparing for a mass evacuation because of a possible volcanic eruption. Experts have recorded 150 tremors on El Hierro, the smallest of the Canary Islands, since yesterday raising fears of an imminent eruption. Last night 53 people were ordered out of their homes over fears of landslides and the army has been called in to prepare for a possible evacuation.  Schools on the tiny island, home to 10,000 people, have been closed and a tunnel linking the two main towns Frontera and Valverde has been shut. Volcano expert Juan Carlos Carrecedo said: "There is a ball of magma rising to the surface producing a series of ruptures which generate seismic activity. We don't know if that ball of magma will break through the crust and cause an eruption." But he warned an eruption was possible "in days, weeks or months."

The last volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands took place on the island of La Palma in 1971.  El Hierro, which has an area of just 108 square miles, is popular with British tourists looking for quiet sunshine holidays away from the bustle of neighboring islands like Tenerife and Lanzarote. It is not known how many, if any, Britons are currently on the island. More than 8,000 tremors have been registered on El Hierro since July 19, collectively known as an earthquake "swarm." Only 15 of them have been strong enough for people on the island to notice, but yesterday an earthquake of 3.8 on the Richter scale was felt all over the island. The last eruption on El Hierro, which has around 250 small volcanic craters, was in 1793 and lasted for a month.   [More>>dailymail.co.uk]

9.28.11 Deaths from Cantaloupe Listeria rise
September 28 -
At least 13 people in eight states have died after eating cantaloupe contaminated with listeria, in the deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness in the United States in more than a decade, public health officials said on Tuesday. Many of the deaths involved elderly people, who are especially susceptible to the aggressive pathogen. The cantaloupes were grown by a Colorado company, Jensen Farms, which issued a recall earlier this month. The melons, a type marketed as Rocky Ford cantaloupes, named after a region in Colorado, were sold around the country. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that since the outbreak began in late July at least 72 people had fallen ill in 18 states. The agency said that four people had died in New Mexico, two in Colorado, two in Texas, and one each in Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The toll could grow as state health officials wait for test results on other deaths suspected of being part of the outbreak. Officials said that most of those who died were over age 60. At least two were in their 90s. Listeria is a common but dangerous bacteria that can cause severe illness, especially among the elderly, the very young and people with compromised immune systems. The pathogen can also cause pregnant women to have miscarriages.   [More>>nytimes.com]
9.28.11 Defecting Yemeni troops switch uniforms and sides
September 28 - At a rally in Tahrir Square in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa earlier this week, more Yemeni soldiers swelled the ranks of military defectors, vowing to bring down Yemen's longtime President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Akram al Yousfi was a soldier in Yemen’s Republican Guard posted in the Nahm region northeast of the capital of Sanaa when he decided to defect to the opposition side. "I was fighting and killing people, and I said to myself, why? I decided to join the revolution," al Yousfi told FRANCE 24 reporters on the ground in Sanaa. "I want to defend my people, I don't want to kill them." Al Yousfi along with around 250 other defected Yemeni troops gathered earlier this week in Sanaa's Tahrir Square, which has turned into a symbol of the uprising to oust longtime Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Support for Saleh in the country’s military ranks has been dwindling over the course of the months-long uprising, with the defection in March of a top general and former close Saleh ally, Gen. Ali Mohsin al-Ahmar. Long considered the second-most important man in the impoverished Arab nation, Gen. al-Ahmar's defection to the opposition tore apart the government in this troubled Mideast country that has been behest by inter-tribal rivalries and an al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militancy. [More>>france24.com]

9.28.11 Libya's Gaddafi hiding near Algeria border: NTC official
SIRTE, Libya, September 28 - Libya's new rulers said on Wednesday they believed fugitive ex-leader Muammar Gaddafi was being shielded by nomadic tribesmen in the desert near the Algerian border, while his followers fend off assaults on his hometown. Intense sniper and artillery fire from pro-Gaddafi fighters has so far prevented National Transitional Council (NTC) forces from taking Sirte despite more than two weeks of fighting and two full-on assaults.  One of the last two bastions of support for the ousted strongman, it has withstood a siege by NTC fighters hitting it with tank and rocket fire as well as NATO airstrikes. The United Nations and international aid agencies are worried over conditions for civilians trapped inside.  More than a month since NTC fighters captured the capital Tripoli, Gaddafi remains defiantly on the run pledging to lead a campaign of armed resistance against the new leaders. 

Gaddafi himself could be holed up near the western town of Ghadames
near the Algerian border under the protection of Tuareg tribesmen, a senior NTC military official said. "There has been a fight between Tuareg tribesmen who are loyal to Gaddafi and Arabs living there (in the south). We are negotiating. The Gaddafi search is taking a different course," Hisham Buhagiar told Reuters, without elaborating. Many Tuaregs, nomads who roam the desert spanning the borders of Libya and its neighbors, have backed Gaddafi since he supported their rebellions against the governments of Mali and Niger in the 1970s and allowed them to settle in Libya.  Buhagiar said Gaddafi's most politically-prominent son, Saif al-Islam, was in the other final loyalist holdout, Bani Walid, and that another influential son, Mutassem, was in Sirte.   [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

9.28.11 'Mass grave' found close to Libyan hotel
September 28 - The new Libyan authorities claim to have discovered another "mass grave" in Tripoli - close to a hotel at which Western journalists had been forced to stay. The National Transitional Council (NTC) say the latest site is being unearthed near the Rixos Hotel, where 37 foreign journalists were trapped by the Gaddafi government during the fall of Tripoli. A total of eight corpses have so far been uncovered although no evidence has yet been made available linking it to the previous regime. The discovery was made after a soldier saw blood on the ground and what looked like broken limbs. The military spokesman for the armed forces of the NTC, Radwan Elbuzedi, says "the bloody behavior is typical of the style of the Gaddafi government." It is thought the alleged victims died within the past five months and the NTC is speculating that they could be local civilians.  The latest announcement comes after the NTC said at the weekend that a mass grave holding the decayed remains of more than 1,200 people had been found just outside the capital. The transitional government said it was the burial site for the victims of the Abu Salim prison massacre in 1996, but no concrete proof has been given. [More>>news.sky.com]

9.28.11 Five dead in car bomb near Aghan police HQ
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan (AFP) September 28 -
A suicide car bombing killed five people and wounded two dozen others near a police headquarters in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said. Mohammad Rasoul, a spokesman for the Afghan army, said three police were killed and three others wounded in the blast in Lashkar Gah, capital of troubled Helmand province. Enayatullah Ghafari, public health director in the province, told that two dead civilians were also brought to local hospitals. "I'm sure there are more dead," Ghafari added. Some 25 other people, both police and civilians, were also wounded, he said. Lashkar Gah was one of seven areas handed over to Afghan government control by NATO forces in July in a first wave of transition which will see all foreign combat forces leave by the end of 2014. There have been a string of attacks in Lashkar Gah since British troops formally handed control of security in the area to the Afghan army on July 20, including a suicide car bomb attack on police headquarters which killed 13 people. Daud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Helmand provincial administration, told the bombing took place at a center contracted to provide food and clothing for Afghan security forces. The Taliban were not immediately contactable for comment on the attack. [>thenews.com.pk]

9.28.11 Four killed in car bomb blast in Dagestan
MAKHACHKALA, Dagestan (RIA Novosti) September 28 -
A policeman and three civilians died when a car was blown up in the village of Khajalmakhi in the southern Russian republic of Dagestan, the local interior ministry said on Wednesday. "The explosion went off when the policemen tried to check a suspicious car," the interior ministry said. Dagestan has been hit by a series of terrorist attacks in the last week, including fatal bombings and shootings. [>en.rian.ru]

9.28.11 Gunmen kill five relatives of Iraq militiaman
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) September 28 -
Gunmen disguised in military uniforms stormed the home of a militiaman and killed five people, including his wife and three children, on Wednesday, security officials said. The group attacked the house of Hamid al-Zobaie in Abu Ghraib, 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the capital, two police officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Among those killed in the 5:00am (0200 GMT) attack were Zobaie's wife, two sons and a daughter, and another relative. It was unclear whether Zobaie was at home at the time of the attack, but he was not among the victims, the police said.  [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.28.11 Five severed heads left outside Mexican school
September 28 -
Mexican police have found five decomposing heads left in a sack outside a primary school in Acapulco. Handwritten messages were also found, reportedly threatening the state governor as well as local drug lords. It was not clear if the discovery of the heads and five decapitated bodies elsewhere in the city was linked to extortion threats against teachers. Dozens of schools have been closed since last month after teachers went on strike over security concerns. Police were called to a street in the Garita neighborhood of Acapulco on Tuesday morning. There they found a sack inside a wooden crate placed near the school, officers said. Inside were the heads of five men, as well as the threatening messages. Police had earlier discovered five headless bodies in another part of the city, left either inside or near a burned-out vehicle. Acapulco, on Mexico's Pacific coast, has seen several episodes of gruesome violence as drug gangs fight for control of the resort city.   [More>>bbc.co.uk]


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