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11.23.10 World edgy on Korea, Russia sees 'colossal danger'

LONDON (Reuters) November 23 - Major powers expressed concern or alarm at North Korea's shelling of a South Korean island on Monday. Among North Korea's neighbors, Russia said it saw a "colossal danger" of an escalation in fighting on the Korean peninsula and China said it was imperative to resume six-party talks aimed at ending the north's nuclear weapons programme. Following South Korean firing exercises near disputed waters, North Korea fired dozens of artillery shells at the island of Yeonpyeong. Two soldiers were killed and houses set ablaze in one of the heaviest bombardments of the South since the Korean War ended in 1953. The United States urged North Korea to "halt its belligerent action," saying that it was "firmly committed to the defense of our ally, the Republic of Korea, and to the maintenance of regional peace and stability." [More>>thestar.com.my; See related stories,

koreaherald.com, November 23, "S. Korea may strike N. Korea's missile base: President Lee"
: President Lee Myung-bak instructed his military to strike North Korea's missile base near its coastal artillery base if it shows signs of additional provocation. In a video conference with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Han Min-koo shortly after the shootings, Lee ordered a "manifold retaliation" against the North for its artillery attack, according to Lee's spokesperson Kim Hee-jung. "President Lee instructed (the military) to strike North Korea's missile base near its coastline artillery positions if necessary ... if there is an indication of further provocation," Kim said...

en.rian.ru (RIA NOVOSTI) November 23, "South Korea vows 'enormous retaliation' against North's attack" :
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak on Tuesday ordered to punish North Korea's shelling of one of the South's border islands "through action," in a bid to prevent further provocation. "Enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again," the South's Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean President Lee Myung-bak as saying in the headquarters of the country's joint chief of staff in Seoul. North Korea opened artillery fire on the South's Yeonpyeong Island in the Yellow Sea at 14:34 local time (05:34 GMT) on Tuesday, killing at least two South Korean marines. Sixteen others were injured, along with 3 civilians. The South immediately fired back. Pyongyang accused Seoul of striking first. The South said it had been conducting military exercises but artillery fire was not directed at the North. "The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory. In particular, indiscriminate attacks on civilians are a grave matter," the South's president said. "Reckless attacks on South Korean civilians are not tolerable, especially when South Korea is providing North Korea with humanitarian aid," Lee went on...

haaretz.com, November 23, "Lieberman: How wil the world stop Iran if it can't ston N. Korea?" : Korean Peninsula on war footing as South fires shells in response to artillery barrage from North. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday slammed the world's response to North Korea's attack on its southern neighbor, saying the international community was showing weakness in the face of aggression. Lieberman told journalists in Jerusalem that a failure to confront the regime of dictator Kim Jong-il left the world little able to confront other aggressors, including Iran which Israel and the West accuse of developing a nuclear bomb. "How the world will be able to stop Iran if it can't stop North Korea," Lieberman said...Like Iran, North Korea has defied international pressure to pursue a nuclear program. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons Tuesday attack came amid high tension over North Korea's claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just six weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong-un as his designated heir...

news.sky.com, November 23, " North Korea warns of more attacks after clashes" :
North Korea has warned it will continue to launch attacks if the South violates its disputed sea border and blamed Seoul for starting major clashes that killed two soldiers...North Korea has now threatened to continue with "merciless military retaliatory strikes" if its neighbour violates their western sea border "even 0.001 millimetre."...

11.23.10 Ten held over terror plot in Belgium

November 23 - Police have detained ten Islamists in Europe who are suspected of plotting an attack in Belgium, the prosecutor's office said. The arrests were part of "an inquiry into international jihadist terror," a spokesman for the federal prosecutor's office said. "In total ten people suspected of preparing an attack in Belgium were arrested in Belgium, Holland and Germany," he said. The suspects are from Belgium, The Netherlands, Morocco and Chechnya, the prosecutor's office said in a statement. The group used the extremist website Ansar Al Mujahideen. The target of the plot was unknown. The raid followed a months-long investigation that was launched by authorities in the northern Belgian city of Antwerp in late 2009, the office said. The investigation focused on recruiters, would-be "jihadists" and the financing of a Chechen "terrorist organization," it said. Russia has fought two full-blown wars with separatists in Muslim-majority Chechnya since 1994, which left the region devastated. [>news.com.au]

11.23.10 Taliban leader in secret talks was an imposter

KABUL, Afghanistan, November 23 - For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement. But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little. "It's not him," said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. "And we gave him a lot of money." American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership. NATO and Afghan officials said they held three meetings with the man, who traveled from in Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge. The fake Taliban leader even met with President Hamid Karzai, having been flown to Kabul on a NATO aircraft and ushered into the presidential palace, officials said. [More>>nytimes.com]

11.23.10 Deaths in Yemen blast

November 23 - Soldier killed in roadside bomb blast in the country's south, a day after regional football tournament kicked off. At least one soldier has been killed and two others injured in a roadside bomb blast in southern Yemen, officials have said. They were riding in a military vehicle in the city of Lawdar, located in the volatile southern province of Abyan. The attack on Tuesday happened a day after the country kicked off a regional football tournament in the south. After the explosion, Yemeni soldiers clashed with armed men near the site. A local official told Reuters news agency that it was not yet clear who was behind the attack. However, Abyan is an area where several military raids against suspected al-Qaeda fighters have occurred. [More>>aljazeera.net]

11.23.10 Cambodian stampede: Phnom Penh counts the cost of water festival disaster

November 23 - Cambodian authorities struggle to deal with aftermath of yesterday's water festival stampede which left hundreds dead. As police pore over the scene for evidence and relatives wait for the answer that is now inevitable, still no one is quite sure why there were so many people on the Rainbow Bridge, on the banks of the Tonle Sap river in Phnom Penh last night. The Cambodian capital today swirls with rumors about what caused the stampede which trapped thousands on the short, narrow suspension bridge. At least 395 people were killed in the panic, either suffocated in the crush or drown having fallen unconscious into the water. More than 500 were injured. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

11.22.10 Seoul to consider redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons

November 22 - Defense Minister Kim Tae-young said Monday that South Korea would consider the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in consultation with Washington as one of the options to deal with North Korea's nuclear ambitions. His comment followed a report that the North showed a new uranium enrichment plant purportedly with some 2,000 centrifuges installed and running to Siegfried Hecker, a US scientist who visited the communist state earlier this month. "We will review (the redeployment) when (Korea and the US) meet to consult on the matter at a committee for nuclear deterrence," Kim said during a parliamentary committee session. [More>>koreaherald.com]

11.22.10 Lisbon summit secures Russian aid on missile shield

(Reuters) November 21 - As a NATO summit wrapped up in Lisbon on Saturday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen (left) and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (right) hailed a "historic" agreement to cooperate on European missile defence and on Afghan security. NATO and Russia agreed on Saturday to cooperate on missile defence and other security issues, and hailed a new start in relations strained since Russia's military intervention in Georgia in 2008. Russia also agreed at talks in Lisbon to boost its support for the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan by allowing more alliance supplies through its territory and the two sides agreed to establish a fund to maintain helicopters for Afghan forces. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said the former Cold War enemies had made a "historic" step forward in putting aside the problems of the past. "Today marks a fresh start in NATO-Russia relations," Rasmussen said. "For the first time in history, NATO countries and Russia will be cooperating to defend themselves."

"Our security is indivisible. We share important interests and face the same threats to our common security." Medvedev said a period of strained relations had been overcome and added: "We have large-scale plans, we will be working in all areas, including European missile defence." The two sides agreed to revive a project aimed at protecting NATO and Russian armed forces from missile attack that had been suspended after Russia's Georgia intervention. They also agreed to conduct a joint study on how Russian could join a new system designed to protect Europe and North America from long-range missiles fired from the Middle East. This new NATO system will link existing European anti-missile systems to radars and interceptors the United States plans to deploy in the Mediterranean, Romania, Poland and possibly Turkey.

11.22.10 Stem cells could help blind patients to see within six weeks

November 22 - Blind patients suffering from a type of eye disease that strikes in childhood will become the second group of people in the world to receive stem cells derived from spare IVF embryos left over from fertility treatment. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given the go-ahead for the controversial transplant of embryonic stem cells into the eyes of patients with Stargardt's macular degeneration, where the light-sensitive retina cells at the back of eye are destroyed. The announcement follows the first injection of embryonic stem cells into a patient in the US who is partially paralysed as a result of a spinal cord injury.

Last October, a US biotechnology company, Geron, announced the start of the first clinical trial of embryonic stem cells with the hope of repairing damaged nerves. Another US biotechnology firm, Advanced Cell Technology, has now been given approval for a second clinical trial involving the injection of thousands of embryonic stem cells into the eyes of a dozen adult patients with a juvenile form of macular degeneration. Robert Lanza, the company's chief scientific officer, said that the first patient could receive the stem cell transplants early in the new year and although the trial is designed primarily to assess safety, the first signs of visual improvement may be apparent within weeks.

11.22.10 Stem cells in fat may help repair damaged hearts

November 22 - You might think fat is bad for your heart. But a growing group of scientists says that's not always true. The same stuff that can make you pudgy around the middle and clog your arteries, they say, might also heal your damaged heart. Inside a person's own fat are stem cells that they say can limit the loss of heart function after a heart attack and repair heart failure damage. These cells could someday become a new weapon in the fight against heart disease, which kills more than 400,000 Americans a year. "For eons, fat has been considered something that is bad," said Stuart Williams, scientific director of the Cardiovascular Innovation Institute, a partnership between the University of Louisville and Jewish Hospital & St. Mary's HealthCare, and one of the leading researchers in the field. "But God made love handles for a reason." More than 300 scientists from around the world, including in Virginia, are studying the fat-derived stem cells for various applications. About eight years ago, researchers began sharing their knowledge by forming the International Federation of Adipose Therapeutics and Science Society, or IFATS. Fat-derived stem cells are now being tested on cardiac patients in Europe. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

11.22.10 Russia to launch unmanned lander to Martian moon in October 2011

MOSCOW (Xinhua) November 21 - The head of Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), Anatoly Perminov, said here on Sunday that the launch of an unmanned lander to one of the moon of Mars, Phobos, was scheduled for October 2011.The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft will be sent to the surface of Phobos, and then return to the Earth with soil samples. A Chinese micro-satellite YH-1, the country's first Mars probe, will also be carried by the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft to the Martian orbit, the Itar-Tass news agency reported. The Chinese deep space research probe will start a Mars research program, including studying the mechanism of water evaporation on the planet. Also, Phobos-Grunt will carry seeds and particular species of bacteria, fungi, maxillopoda, fish and chironomids in the mission, which will help resolve the problem of planetary quarantine. The test launch of the Phobos-Grunt spacecraft was originally scheduled for 2009, but postponed due to technical reasons. The Mars mission was expected to last about 330 days. [>xinhuanet.com]

11.22.10 US drone strike kills five

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, November 22 - US missiles killed five militants in Pakistan's tribal region Monday, security officials said, a day after six others died as the covert drone campaign in the Taliban-hit region escalates. Two security officials said a drone fired two missiles on a vehicle in Khaisore village, 25 kilometres (15 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town in militant-troubled North Waziristan. On Sunday another drone strike 10 kilometres (five miles) away slammed into a militant compound and nearby vehicle and killed at least six militants, officials said.

Washington has dramatically escalated its drone campaign against militants in areas near the Afghan border over the past two months, and argues they are highly effective in the war against al-Qaeda and its Islamist allies. More than 250 people have been killed in 47 strikes since September 3, angering the government, which is facing criticism for acquiescing to the attacks and reprisals from militant groups based in the area.

11.22.10 'Anti-Semitic material being taught in UK Islamic schools'

November 22 - BBC documentary reveals: Some 5,000 Muslim children being taught from Saudi textbook which teaches that Jews are transformed from pigs, apes. Islamic schools in Britain are teaching anti-Semitic material to high school children, with some exposed to extremist preachers and extremist Islamist groups, a BBC documentary was set to reveal on Monday evening. According to its flagship documentary program "Panorama," around 5,000 Muslim children are being taught from a Saudi Arabian textbook which teaches that Jews are transformed from pigs and apes and asks them to list the "reprehensible" qualities of Jews.

The documentary, titled "British Schools Muslim Rules," will expose the part-time schools where hate is on the curriculum. "The program asks why school inspectors have missed the warning signs and examines the impact this could have on young Muslims' ability to integrate into mainstream British life," the program makers said. It will show a textbook that uses a diagram to show how the hands and feet of thieves are chopped off according to Sharia law. Another asks what happens to someone who dies who is not a believer in Islam – the answer given in the book is “hellfire.”

One textbook says that Zionists want to establish world domination for Jews, a charge leveled in the anti-Semitic pamphlet, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The main goal of the "Zionist movement," according to the textbook, is "for the Jews to have control over the world and its resources," which will be achieved by "inciting rancor and rivalry among the great powers so that they fight one another." The textbooks are being used to teach the Saudi national curriculum at more than 40 weekend schools and clubs, to Muslim children aged six to 18 from across the country.

They are run under the umbrella of "Saudi Students Clubs and Schools in the UK and Ireland." The Saudi government said it had no official ties to the schools and clubs and did not endorse them. "Any tutoring activities that may have taken place among any other group of Muslims in the UK are absolutely individual to that group and not affiliated to or endorsed by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia," the embassy said in a statement on Monday. However, the program will show that a building in Ealing, west London, where "Panorama" obtained one of the text books, is owned by the Saudi government.

11.22.10 Iran lifts ban on pro-Nazi website

DUBAI, November 22 - Neo-Nazism linked to anti-Arabism: activist. Iran's Ministry of Culture and Islamic guidance lifted the block it had imposed on a pro-Nazi and anti-Jewish website, amid concerns by both conservatives and reformists. While it blocks around five million political, cultural, religious, and "indecent" websites, the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance permitted the operation of a website called irannazi.ir, also called the Center for Historical Studies on World War I and Nazism." The website is run by a group called the Center for Nazi Iranian Studies. The re-opening of the website was met with objections in Iranian political circles, which was shown in the reactions of both the pro-government website Tabnak and the pro-reformist Rooz Online.

Tabnak demanded that the Iranian government provides an explanation for allowing the website to operate while Rooz Online accused deputy minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance is Muhammad Ali Ramin of being behind lifting the ban on the website. Rooz reported that Ramin had connections with neo-Nazis when he lived in Europe and that he is known for his support for Nazi ideas. Ramin is also the founder of the Holocaust Institute in Tehran and was the president of a conference called Holocaust: A Global Perspective, which denied the extermination of Jews by the German Third Reich.

11.22.10 Turkish 'James Bond' takes on Israel and Mideast strife

ISTANBUL, November 21 - A Turkish movie set to be released in January featuring a James Bond-like hero who avenges the attack on the Gaza flotilla is likely to further strain the rocky relations between Turkey and Israel, while dramatizing Turkey's increasing role as a "big brother" to the Muslim Middle East....The film was written to depict life in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories. While still focused on showing that, the film's producers changed the script after the Mavi Marmara incident last June, which saw Israeli commandos boarding a flotilla carrying humanitarian goods to the Gaza Strip and killing nine Turks in the ensuing fight. The incident is now being used as a peg to attract more people to see the movie, which has Alemdar going to Israel and killing several Israeli soldiers in retaliation for the flotilla assault.

"We are aiming at the consciences of all filmgoers," says Bahadir Ozdener, one of movie's script-writers in an interview reported in Israeli media. "All we want is freedom for the innocent Palestinians who suffer and live in sub-human conditions in the largest prison on earth." The $10 million film is the most expensive to be made in Turkey, which has a growing TV and film industry. In 2009 a popular Turkish TV series called "Separation" showed Israeli security forces kidnapping children, murdering civilians and destroying Palestinian property. Last January, the Israeli deputy foreign minister summoned the Turkish ambassador to complain about the series, refusing to shake his hand and making him sit on a low couch, embarrassing the ambassador in front of reporters. The release of the new film is expected to tap into anger toward Israel in the Muslim world and is a signal that Turks may not be ready for any kind of rapprochement with Israel, which has refused to apologize for the flotilla deaths or admit to a disproportionate use of force.
[Full story>>aolnews.com via foxnews.com; For background on Mavi Marmara incident, see Maravot News article and background links 06.11.10 'Marmara' captain: I opposed violence.]

11.22.10 Christian brothers gunned down in north Iraq

MOSUL, Iraq (AFP) November 22 - Two Iraqi Christian brothers were gunned down inside their vehicle workshop in the restive northern city of Mosul on Monday, police said. Saad Hanna, 43, and Waad Hanna, 40, were shot dead at around noon (0900 GMT) in the city, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Baghdad, the latest in a spate of attacks targeting the minority community in Iraq. "Two Syrian Catholic Christians were killed inside their workshop in an industrial area in west Mosul," said police Major Fathi Abdulrazzaq.

Earlier this month, a series of bomb and mortar attacks targeted the homes and businesses of Christians in the capital Baghdad, killing six people and wounding 33 and drawing international condemnation. Those attacks came less than two weeks after 44 Christian worshippers, two priests and seven security personnel died in the seizure of a Baghdad cathedral by Islamist gunmen and the ensuing shootout when it was stormed by troops. On November 3, al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the hostage-taking at the Syrian Catholic cathedral and warned it would step up attacks on Christians.

Between 800,000 and 1.2 million Christians lived in Iraq before the US-led invasion of 2003 but that number has since shrunk to around 500,000 in the face of repeated attacks against their community and churches. Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday spoke of his sense of solidarity towards Iraq's beleaguered Christian community, while issuing an appeal for religious freedom worldwide. "Religious communities in Italy are praying today, at the request of their bishops, for the Christians who are suffering from persecution and discrimination, notably in Iraq," the pope said during his weekly Angelus prayer in St. Peter's square.

11.22.10 Islamic community center developer seeks federal funding

NEW YORK, November 22 - The developer behind the controversial Islamic community center and mosque planned for Lower Manhattan has requested federal funding through the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to support the project known as Park51. The funding would come from money the Department of Housing and Urban Development allocated to help rebuild the neighborhood after the 9/11 attacks. "Park51 has applied for a Lower Manhattan Development Corporation grant," said Sharif El-Gamal, CEO of SOHO Properties, the developer behind the Islamic center. In a statement, El-Gamal said the money would "in part fund social service programs such as domestic violence programs, Arabic and other foreign language classes, programs and services for homeless veterans, two multi-cultural art exhibits and immigration services." [More>>cnn.com]

11.22.10 First piracy trial in 400 years opens in Germany

HAMBURG, Germany, November 16 - Germany's first piracy trial in 400 years opened today with 10 Somalis facing charges of hijacking a Hamburg-registered ship off the Horn of Africa. The case, expected to last several months, is being held before a juvenile court as several of the accused say they were under 18 at the time of the alleged offence. The accused, several of whom say they are fishermen, face maximum sentences of between 10 and 15 years in jail depending on their age. In piracy trials held centuries ago in this northern German port city, those found guilty were beheaded. Age made no difference to the sentence. Today's got off to a slow start with the court taking over 45 minutes to determine the spelling and pronunciation of the names given by the accused. The ages given were even more of a challenge as most knew only the year of their birth. [More>>indianexpress.com]

11.22.10 scary stuff: Cyberattack arrest highlights risk

WASHINGTON, November 22 - How did a hacker in Malaysia manage to penetrate a computer network operated by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland? And what was the same accused cybercriminal doing this summer when he allegedly tapped into the secure computers of a large Defense Department contractor that managed systems for military transport movements and other US military operations? Those are among the puzzling questions raised by allegations against Lin Mun Poo, a 32-year-old Malaysia native whose case illustrates the mounting national secrets threats posed by overseas cyberattacks, US law enforcement and intelligence officials tell NBC News. The US government's case against Poo, who was arraigned in federal court in Brooklyn on Monday and entered a plea of not guilty, has so far gotten little attention.

But many of the allegations against him seem alarming on their face, according to cybercrime experts. "This is scary stuff," said one US law enforcement official. Poo was arrested by Secret Service agents last month shortly after flying into New York's John F. Kennedy airport with a "heavily encrypted" laptop computer containing a "massive quantity of stolen financial account data," including more than 400,000 credit card, debit card and bank account numbers, according to a letter filed by federal prosecutors last week laying out a "factual proffer" of their evidence against Poo. [ Click here to read the prosecutors' letter in PDF format.] He later confessed to federal agents that he had gotten the credit and bank card data by tapping into the computer networks of "several major international banks" and companies, and that he expected to use the data for personal profit, either by selling it or trading it, according to the prosecutors' letter. Poo's court-appointed lawyer did not respond to a request from NBC News for comment.

11.22.10 Algerians protest over al-Qaeda violence

FREHA, Algeria (Reuters) November 22 - About 2,500 people demonstrated in a remote part of Algeria on Monday to demand that security forces do more to protect them from al-Qaeda-linked militants who use the area as a stronghold. The unusually large display of public anger was triggered by a botched kidnapping attempt a week ago, carried out by suspected members of al-Qaeda's north African wing, in which a local businessman was killed. Energy exporter Algeria has for two decades been fighting an Islamist insurgency which at its peak in the 1990s killed an estimated 200,000 people. The violence has subsided in the past few years, though ambushes and attacks still happen. Monday's protest was in Freha, a town of about 24,000 people 130 km (80 miles) east of the capital, Algiers. The town is in the mountainous Kabylie region, where militants regularly attack security forces and kidnap local people for ransom. The protesters' anger was directed at the Islamist militants, who over the years have kidnapped dozens of local businesspeople, but also at what local people say is the authorities' inaction.

"The government must guarantee our security. This is its job," Heni Ounah, a 35-year-old businessman, told Reuters. Mohamed Ikherbane, a member of the upper house of parliament, demanded an immediate investigation into the kidnapping. "We don't understand the government's silence," said Ikherbane, an activist with the opposition Rally for Democracy and Culture (RCD) party, which draws most of its support from the Kabylie region. Local media said a group of insurgents tried to abduct businessman Hand Slimana on Nov. 14. He was shot trying to escape and later died from his wounds. The kidnappers took a second man hostage, but let him go on Sunday, reports said. "We are afraid. Kidnapping is an economic catastrophe for the region. No investment, no jobs, nothing," 65-year-old Said Saadi told Reuters.

Under pressure from security forces, al-Qaeda's local branch has shifted some of its operations south to the Sahara desert. The group is holding five French citizens and two Africans after kidnapping them in Niger two months ago. The Kabylie region is dominated by Berbers, an ethnic group with its own language and culture which has had a tense relationship with Algeria's Arabic-speaking majority. RCD lawmakers heckled Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia when he gave an address in parliament last month. That was a rare show of dissent in Algeria, where most political parties are restrained in their criticism of the government.

11.22.10 Islamic groups stage rally in front of Saudi embassy

November 22 - Hundreds of people from various Islamic organizations staged a rally in front of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in East Jakarta on Monday protesting the torture and murder of Indonesian migrant workers in a country where Islam was born. The Islamic organizations included the Islam Followers Forum (FUI) and Islam Defenders Front (FPI), which are known for their violent activism, most recently in the case involving the Ahmadiyah sect. The protesters demanded the Saudi Arabia government protect Indonesians working in the country and prosecute those responsible for numerous torture and murder cases involving migrant workers.

FPI Jakarta chapter secretary-general Sobri Lubis said every case must be met with fair legal enforcement and must not end in a financial settlement. "The dignity of Indonesians should not be pawned for money from Saudi employers or the government. The FPI demands the Saudi government implement the law according to Sharia," Sobri said as quoted by Jakarta Government news portal beritajakarta.com. FUI secretary-general Muhammad al-Khathtath said the Saudi government should prosecute people who commit crimes, regardless of their status in society. Representatives of the protesters were later granted entry by the Saudi embassy.

11.18.10 GM's shares jump as carmaker goes public

DETROIT, November 18 - General Motors returned to life as a public company Thursday, launching a stock offering worth potentially $23 billion and ending the government's role as majority shareholder and closing a remarkable chapter in American corporate history. GM's shares started trading on the New York Stock Exchange as the market opened Thursday morning, hitting a price just above $35 in the early going. GM set a price of $33 per common share on Wednesday, a day after it raised the number of shares it will offer to satisfy investor demand. "If the stock closes higher, I'll be happy," Daniel Akerson, GM's CEO, told CNBC from the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange after placing the ceremonial first trade for the automaker. The US government should make about $13.6 billion from the public stock offering. The federal Treasury is unloading more than 400 million shares of GM, reducing its stake in the company from 61 percent to about 33 percent. The IPO could wind up as the largest in history. When the US government and other owners sell their shares, they'll raise $18.2 billion. GM will raise another $5 billion by selling 100 million preferred shares at $50 each. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

11.18.10 US official: Israel must refrain from East Jerusalem construction during freeze

November 18 - Shas has said that it will oppose US exchange offer if Jerusalem is included in the 90-day freeze; US official: Whatever Netanyahu told Shas about Jerusalem is not true. The United States will demand that Israel refrain from construction in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as part of a 90-day settlement freeze Secretary Hillary Clinton has requested in exchange for a package of incentives, a US official told Haaretz on Thursday. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scrambling to gather cabinet support for the settlement freeze. The ultra-Orthodox party Shas currently holds the balance of votes on the matter. Although the prime minister is unlikely to win their support, Shas ministers have said they will abstain in the vote, provided the final agreement specifically excludes East Jerusalem from the freeze.

Netanyahu met with Shas Chairman Eli Yishai and Minister Ariel Attias on Wednesday in a bid to convince them not to vote down the settlement freeze when the motion is brought to cabinet. But the US official told Haaretz that "If the moratorium deal goes through, we will continue to press for quiet throughout East Jerusalem during the 90 days, regardless of what Bibi [Netanyahu] is telling Shas now." The official added that President Barack Obama had committed in an oral message to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last April that the US expects both sides to refrain from "actions that would seriously undermine trust," including in East Jerusalem, and would respond with "steps, actions, or adjustments in policy" to any such provocative actions as long as negotiations are underway.

11.18.10 'Nowhere to hide' : US army testing new 'smart' weapons in Afghanistan

November 18 - The XM-25 soon will see combat; precision rounds can be programmed to explode before impact. Nine years into the war in Afghanistan, a handful of US soldiers have a new weapon in hand, a lethal combination of technology and explosives that the Army has called a "game changer." Looking like it came straight out of a sci-fi movie, the XM-25 fires highly specialized rounds that can be programmed to explode at the precise location where the enemy is hiding behind cover. Consider it a beefed up take on the old adage "boys and their toys." Five of the high-tech, semi-automatic weapons arrived in the war-torn country this month and soon will be tested in combat.

"This weapon makes our forces more lethal, it makes them more effective and it keeps them safer," said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, the project manager for individual weapons at Program Executive Office Soldier, which developed the XM-25. "This is the first time that we've put smart technology in the weapons system for the individual soldier." Though the XM-25 has tested well in the United States, military brass will be watching the weapon's performance in real-life combat to assess not only how well it performs, but also what weapons it might end up replacing. Soldiers currently up against insurgents ducking for cover behind fortified walls have little choice but either to fire highly explosive 40mm grenades or mortar rounds, which are effective, but often inaccurate, or to leave their own cover and maneuver to fire direct shots, which puts American lives at risk.

Enter the XM-25.

"We're talking about seconds to neutralize the enemy, versus minutes," Lehner said. Crouching behind his own cover, a US soldier armed with the XM-25 can point his weapon at the wall behind which the enemy is hiding to get the precise distance. The rounds, which come four to a magazine plus one in the chamber, can then be programmed to travel just a short distance behind that to explode precisely where the insurgent is believed to be hiding. With the scope aimed at the top of the wall, the round will fire and explode before impact, at the precise location programmed by the soldier, raining a hail of explosives and fragments on to the enemy. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

11.18.10 Iran successfully tests own S-300 missile defense system

November 18 - Iranian president says Western embargoes are useless, and country "does not need nuclear weapons to defend itself." Iran has designed and successfully tested an air defense system with the capabilities of Russia's S-300 system, PressTV reported on Thursday. "We have developed the system by upgrading systems like S-200 and we have tested it successfully using all our potential and experience in the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, the Army and the Defense Ministry," Brigadier General Mohammad Hassan Mansourian told the Iranian television station. Mansourian added that details about the long-range missile defense systems will be revealed soon. Russia had canceled a deal to sell the S-300 system to Iran in September, due to sanctions. Also on Thursday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that embargoes are ineffectual and the West should drop its aggressive approach if talks on Teheran's nuclear program are to be successful. Ahmadinejad said Thursday at a Caspian Sea summit in Azerbaijan that Iran is ready to return to six-party talks on its atomic energy program. He added that the West "must reject its exploitative approach" toward Iran if any breakthroughs are to be made, and that "Iran won't be scared by embargoes." [More>>jpost.com]

11.18.10 2 former Madoff aides are arrested

November 18 - Federal agents arrested two former employees of Bernard L. Madoff on Thursday morning, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation told DealBook. Annette Bongiorno was arrested at her home in Boca Raton, Fla., and Joann Crupi was arrested at her residence in Westfield, N.J., the spokesman said. Both women worked for Mr. Madoff for more than 25 years. Ms. Bongiorno served as Mr. Madoff's longtime personal secretary; Ms. Crupi, among other responsibilities, handled the company's daily cash balances. Charges against the two are expected to be unsealed later on Thursday. The Securities and Exchange Commission also sued the two. The arrests are an expansion of the government's criminal cases against individuals connected to the Madoff fraud. Mr. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina for running a huge Ponzi scheme. Including Mr. Madoff, the arrests are the seventh and eighth criminal actions in the Madoff case. Frank DiPascali, the former finance chief for Mr. Madoff's company, has pleaded guilty to assisting in the fraud. And David Friehling, a former accountant for Mr. Madoff's firm, has pleaded guilty. Three other back-office employees were charged earlier this year and pleaded not guilty. [More>>nytimes.com]

11.18.10 Suspected bomb bound for Germany is found

November 18 - A suspected bomb has been found in a suitcase that was about to be put on a plane bound for Germany from an airport in Namibia. Germany's Federal Crime Office (BKA) said the suspicious baggage had been seized at the international airport in Windhoek. It was about to be loaded on to an LTU/Air Berlin flight to Munich. The device,which reportedly included a detonator and timer but no explosives, was found on Wednesday the same day Germany stepped up security measures because of a feared terrorist attack this month. Sky News' security editor Sam Kiley said the device had been detected in routine checks at the "modern and sophisticated" airport. He said it was unusual because detonators are usually the hardest things for terrorist groups to find, while explosives are easier particularly in Namibia, due to the country's mining industry. The BKA said an X-ray of the luggage revealed batteries wired to a "detonator and a ticking clock." It added: "Only the ongoing forensic investigation will show whether this was a live explosive." [More>>news.sky.com]

11.18.10 Hong Kong diagnoses first human bird flu case in 7 years

HONG KONG, November 18 - The first human case of bird flu in seven years has been diagnosed in Hong Kong, health officials said Thursday, urging the public to take precautions. A 59-year-old woman was hospitalized in serious condition after a trip to mainland China, the Hong Kong Department of Health said. Her illness was diagnosed as influenza A (H5), a variant of bird flu. It was unclear where she had contracted the disease. She did not have any contact with live poultry and did not visit farms while in China, Hong Kong health officials said. Her 60-year-old husband developed possible symptoms of bird flu, but has recovered. Hong Kong health officials have stepped up surveillance by testing patients with severe pneumonia for bird flu. They also have launched a hotline to answer questions from the public, and are working with health officials in mainland China to monitor any occurrences. [More>>cnn.com]

11.16.10 China needs to address rising inflation: central bank governor

BEIJING (Xinhua) November 16 - China's economy is generally doing well, but still faces inflation pressure, said Zhou Xiaochuan, the central bank governor, on Tuesday. Zhou said the third-quarter data showed the country's economy was growing on track, but both the domestic and overseas economic environment were complicated and the recovery of developed economies was slowing. The persistent abundance of global liquidity put emerging economies under pressure, said Zhou, who heads the People's Bank of China...Inflation in China soared to a 25-month high of 4.4 percent year on year in October as new bank lending exceeded market forecasts...China's central bank raised benchmark interest rates last month and ordered banks to set aside more reserves last Wednesday in its latest effort to rein in liquidity. [Full story>>xinhuanet.com]

11.16.10 Inflation rises unexpectedly to four-month high

November 16 - Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has had to dig out his headed notepaper once more to write a letter to the Chancellor explaining why UK inflation is too high. Official figures out on Tuesday showed annual consumer price index (CPI) inflation rose 3.2pc in October, more than a percentage point above the 2pc target in October. Analysts had expected it to hold steady at 3.1pc. On the month, consumer prices rose 0.3pc, again slightly more than the 0.2pc increase expected. That rise was led by higher petrol costs, a sharp jump in the price of computer games, and the fact that reductions in overdraft charges last October were not repeated last month. Inflation in Britain has been surprisingly stubborn over the past year, and is running well above comparable rates in the eurozone and United States. Policymakers have warned inflation will peak around 3.5pc around the coming VAT rise, before dropping back below target due to slack in the economy. [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

11.16.10 Stocks lower on global worries

November 16 - Worries about Europe's debt crisis and possible moves by authorities in Asia to slow fast-paced growth there swept the world's markets on Tuesday and pushed stocks in the United States sharply lower. As finance ministers from the 16 countries that use the euro met in Brussels to discuss the problems in Ireland, investors worried that the debt crisis could spread across the Continent to Portugal, and even to Spain. "There is a worry about the state of things overseas. It is the European debt crisis that is causing this," said Zach Pandl, economist at Nomura in New York. Stocks, which have been grinding lower since the Federal Reserve announced its asset purchase program to stimulate the economy, were down for the seventh consecutive day. [More>>nytimes.com]

11.16.10 Charlie Rangel found guilty on 11 of 13 ethics charges

November 16 - A House ethics committee subpanel today found Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel guilty of 11 of the 13 charges of ethics violations against him. The panel, composed of four Democrats and four Republicans, emerged after private deliberation to announce their findings. "This has been a difficult assignment," committee chair Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said. "We have tried to act with fairness, led only by the facts and the law, and I believe we have accomplished that mission." The subpanel will now submit its findings to the full ethics committee, which will schedule a public hearing to determine the appropriate sanctions to take against the longtime New York representative. Whatever action they decide on during the sanctions hearing will then go to the full House of Representatives. The committee could go so far as to recommend expelling Rangel, but that would be unlikely. Other possible sanctions include a House vote deploring Rangel's conduct, a fine or a denial of privileges. [More>>cbsnews.com]

11.16.10 Watchdog warns of 'potential crisis' from foreclosure fraud

November 16 - First Federal Report on Documentation Problems Outlines Worst-Case Scenario for $6.4 Trillion Market. Foreclosure fraud problems could cause the US housing market to collapse, push the "precarious" financial system into disarray and shatter the economy's fragile recovery, a government watchdog warned in a new report due out today. "Even as the government's response to the financial crisis is drawing to a close, severe threats remain that have the potential to damage financial stability," the Congressional Oversight Panel concluded in the first federal report on the foreclosure fraud problems. "If documentation problems prove to be pervasive and, more importantly, throw into doubt the ownership of not only foreclosed properties but also pooled mortgages, the consequences could be severe. Clear and uncontested property rights are the foundation of the housing market. If these rights fall into question, that foundation could collapse." [More>>abcnews.go.com]

11.16.10 Muslims torch Christian homes in southern Egypt

CAIRO (AP) November 16 - Muslims set fire overnight to at least 10 houses belonging to Coptic Christians in a village in southern Egypt over rumors that a Christian resident had an affair with a Muslim girl, security officials said Tuesday. The officials said security forces have sealed off the village of al-Nawahid, in Qena province some 290 miles south of Cairo, to prevent the violence from spreading to neighboring towns. They said several people were arrested. The attacks started after locals spotted a young Copt and a Muslim girl together at night inside the village cemetery, the officials said. They added that both were put under police custody as authorities investigate. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to the media. Clashes between Christians and Muslims occasionally occur in southern Egypt, mostly over land or disputes over church construction. But sectarian tensions have also been on the rise recently in the capital. [More>>foxnews.com]

11.16.10 Official: Cholera death toll in Haiti has passed 1,000

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) November 16 - Health officials say cholera has now killed more than 1,000 people in Haiti. The country's health ministry made the announcement on Tuesday, setting the official death toll at 1,034. The figures are dated Sunday and presented after two days of review. Aid workers say official figures may understate the epidemic. While the ministry of health says more than 16,700 people have been hospitalized nationwide, Doctors Without Borders reports that its clinics alone have treated more than 12,000. Demonstrations stoked by fear of the disease continue in northern Haiti. They are primarily targeting UN soldiers suspected of bringing the infection to Haiti. [More>>msnbc.msn.com]

11.16.10 South Africa wages war on ruthless rhinoceros poachers

November 16 - Officials vow to "fight fire with fire"as rhino toll soars to feed black market in south-east Asia. South Africa is fighting an increasingly bloody war against poachers who have doubled the number of rhinos they have killed in a year to feed a soaring demand for rhino horn from Asian organized crime syndicates. The number of rhinos killed by poachers this year has soared to 261, more than double the total for the whole of 2009. Now the national army has been urgently requested to patrol game parks and some rhino owners have been forced to hire ex-military security guards. Officials have vowed to "fight fire with fire," prompting comparisons with the battle against violent crime in South African cities. At least two suspected poachers have been killed in gun battles with police in the past three months, including at the world famous Kruger national park.

Last week a man accused of illegally selling rhino horns killed himself and a poacher was shot and possibly left permanently disabled. The trend is blamed on a sharp rise in the appetite for rhino horn in Vietnam and China because of a false belief in its medicinal value. Claims that a Vietnamese government minister was "cured" of cancer by using rhino horn have boosted the black market. The price of rhino horn is £35,000 a kilogram, making it far more expensive than gold, according to the International Rhino Foundation. South Africa is home to 90% of the world's estimated 23,000 rhino population. But it is now losing more than 20 rhinos per month
the total of 261 reported by South African National Parks (SANParks) is already more than double the 122 killed in 2009 and dwarfs the 83 lost in 2008. Conservationists warn that at the present rate the number of killings will outstrip new births. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

11.16.10 Taliban running out of bullets, bombs: Report

LONDON, November 16 - The Taliban in Afghanistan are running out of bullets and bombs, a media report said. While the Taliban fighters have been suffering a stark shortage of 7.62 mm rounds for AK-47 assault rifles, they are facing a shortfall of bombs because the cost of raw materials to make their improvised explosive devices has seen a tenfold increase in the past six months, 'The Sun' reported. British commanders have claimed that the shortages are down to cutting supply lines from the Pakistan border. "Intelligence reports and experience on the front line point to an acute shortage of ammunition available to insurgents. This has forced them to avoid engaging in attacks unless they have to. It's early days but signs are very encouraging," a senior military source was quoted as saying. There are now almost 10,000 British troops in Afghanistan, the highest number in nine years of fighting. Over the summer they stepped up efforts with Afghan forces to crack down on insurgents. Dozens of new patrols have been put up along key routes with a record number of weapons and explosives seized. The British casualty rate in Helmand Province has plummeted since August. Major General Gordon Messenger said: "We're seeing the result of constant pressure." [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

11.16.10 Taliban chief rejects peace talks

November 16 - Mullah Omar says negotiations will not be possible until all foreign troops leave Afghanistan. The leader of the Afghan Taliban has said the group remains opposed to peace talks despite slow progress toward reconciliation. In a statement issued on Monday,  Mullah Mohammad Omar reiterated that negotiations would not be possible until all foreign troops - now at about 150,000 - leave Afghanistan, labeling talk of negotiations "mere propaganda." "The cunning enemy which has occupied our country is trying, on the one hand, to expand its military operations ... and, on the other hand, wants to throw dust in the eyes of the people by spreading the rumors of negotiation," Omar said in a statement. The statement comes four days before NATO leaders are to gather for a summit in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital, where Afghanistan will be the top of the agenda. It also comes after NATO forces suffered their worst losses in months amid an increase in violence in the conflict-ridden country. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has included eventual talks with the Taliban as part of a wider reconciliation plan but Afghan and US officials have played down unconfirmed reports about talks with high-level fighters, saying any contacts have only been preliminary. [More>>aljazeera.net]

11.16.10 Fifteen Afghan militants killed in missile strike

(AP) November 16 - A suspected US missile strike destroyed a home and a speeding vehicle carrying insurgents near the Afghan border early today, killing at least 15 alleged militants, Pakistani intelligence officials said. The attack happened in the Bangi Dar village of North Waziristan, a tribal region which is a base for insurgents responsible for many of the attacks on US and NATO forces just across the border in Afghanistan. At least four missiles were fired, two at the mud-brick house and two at the vehicle. Four of those killed were in the vehicle while at least 11 died in the flattened home.

The victims' identities were not known, and agents were trying to get more details, said the officials. North Waziristan has been the target of nearly all of the US missile strikes in Pakistan this year
a total of around 100 and a major increase on previous years. US authorities want Pakistan to launch a military offensive in the region, but Islamabad has resisted, saying it has its hands full with army operations against insurgents elsewhere in the north-west. The Pakistani government publicly denounces the drone-fired missile attacks. It has asked Washington to transfer the technology to Islamabad so that the Pakistani army could launch such strikes on its own. [>independent.co.uk]

11.16.10 Two al-Qaeda men arrested from Karachi

KARACHI, Pakistan, November 16 - The law enforcement agencies have arrested two important al-Qaeda figures from Karachi’s Sohrab Goth area and shifted them to Islamabad for investigation, Geo News reported Tuesday. Umar Misri, and Mohammad Mohammad were arrested from a hideout on Super Highway. A satellite phone and a laptop were also recovered from them. According to sources, both of them entered Pakistan via Chaman border. [>thenews.com.pk]

11.16.10 Drone tally rises to 20

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan, November 16 - At least 20 militants were killed in a US drone strike on an insurgent training centre in Pakistan's tribal area near the Afghan border early Tuesday, security officials said. The strike hit targets in Ghulam Khan village on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, some 20 kilometers north of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal district. "At least 20 militants were killed when US drones fired six missiles on a militant compound and a vehicle," a senior security official told media, raising the death toll from eight. "Militants were using the compound as a training facility," the official said. A local intelligence official and another security official in Peshawar confirmed the drone attack and toll.

...The area is considered a stronghold of Taliban and al-Qaeda-linked fighters and has seen a dramatic rise in US drone strikes after intelligence claims emerged last month of a Mumbai-style terror plot to launch commando attacks on European cities. The leadership of the Haqqani network, which is linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, is also based in North Waziristan. It has been accused of plotting some of the deadliest attacks on US troops in Afghanistan, including a suicide bombing that killed seven CIA operatives at a US base in Khost last December. The United States considers Pakistan's tribal belt an al-Qaeda headquarters and the most dangerous place on Earth. More than 220 people have been killed in over 40 strikes since September 3, heightening tensions with Islamabad over reported US criticism of Pakistan's failure so far to launch a ground offensive in North Waziristan...
[Full story>>thenews.com.pk]

11.16.10 US woman charged with aiding Somalia terrorists

SAN DIEGO, Ca (AP) November 16 - Fourth person charged in San Diego this month. A California woman has been charged with providing money and personnel to a terrorist group in Somalia to help carry out killings in the African nation, according to a federal indictment obtained Monday. Nima Ali Yusuf supported al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda-linked militia trying to create an Islamic state in Somalia, federal prosecutor Sabrina Feve said. Yusuf was the fourth person charged in the past month in San Diego with helping al-Shabaab. Authorities described her as a lawful permanent resident of the US. She was arrested Friday in San Diego and appeared in federal court Monday. Yusuf was charged in the indictment with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and making a false statement to a government The others charged in San Diego were accused of raising money then routing the funds to the radical Islamist group. [More>>alarabiya.net]

11.16.10 US sees Iran rift, says strike would unite country

WASHINGTON (Reuters) November 16 - Sanctions against Iran are biting hard and triggering divisions among its leadership, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Tuesday, as he argued against a military strike over Tehran's nuclear program. Iran has agreed to meet with a representative of the six big powers for the first time in more than a year over its uranium enrichment drive, but diplomats and analysts see little chance of a breakthrough in the long-running dispute. Gates said he saw little choice, however, to pursuing a political strategy that includes sanctions and renewed his concerns that a military strike would only delay Iranian nuclear capabilities by two or three years. He added that sanctions "have really bitten much harder than (Iranian leadership) anticipated," and suggested Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was increasingly at odds with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. "We even have some evidence that Khamenei, now, (is) beginning to wonder if Ahmadinejad is lying to him about the impact of the sanctions on the economy. And whether he's getting the straight scoop in terms of how much trouble the economy really is in," Gates told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Washington. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

11.16.10 France accuses Iran of violence at Tehran embassy

November 16 - France has accused Iranian security services of committing "unacceptable acts of violence" on French diplomatic personnel in the Iranian capital. The entry to the French embassy residence in Tehran was blocked by unidentified officials on Sunday, the French foreign ministry said. "[They] proceeded to arrest guests of the French ambassador and carried out unacceptable acts of violence against French diplomatic personnel," it said. Iran has yet to comment on the claims. "Following the incidents, the French authorities summoned Iran's ambassador in Paris to convey in the strongest possible terms this extreme violation of the Vienna Convention," said the French statement. The news comes hours after reports that Iran had charged two Germans with spying after they interviewed the son of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. They have been identified only as a reporter and a photographer. Germany has said it is doing all it can to try to secure their release. [>bbc.co.uk]

11.16.10 Nigerian rebels confirm seizure of seven Exxon Mobil staff

(AFP) November 16 - Nigeria's main rebel group on Tuesday claimed responsibility for a Nov. 14 attack on an offshore Exxon Mobil facility in Akwa Ibom state in which seven local staff members were abducted. Nigeria's main militant group said Tuesday it had seized seven oil workers in a raid on an ExxonMobil facility and threatened a major attack while claiming the military fired rockets at one of its camps. The offshore raid was the latest such incident in recent months in the Niger Delta, the heart of the country's huge oil industry, and the military warned of action at the weekend, saying residents near militant camps should clear out. "The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) confirms the attack on the ExxonMobil Ibeno oil facility in Akwa Ibom state... was carried out by its fighters. "Seven local employees were abducted," it said in a statement in apparent reference to the weekend attack staged by gunmen on an offshore platform operated by US oil giant ExxonMobil. ExxonMobil's Nigerian branch on Monday confirmed one of its offshore facilities "was boarded by unknown armed persons in the evening of Sunday," but gave no further details. [More>>france24.com]

11.16.10 Moscow sees sixth temperature record in November

November 16 - The abnormally warm weather in Moscow has broken the sixth temperature record in November shattering the 60-year maximum temperature, the Fobos meteorological center said. The temperature in Moscow reached 10.3 degrees Celsius (50.36 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday exceeding the figure recorded in 1950, meteorologists said. Moscow earlier set five temperature records this month, with temperatures hovering at around 12-14.5 degrees Celsius. The head of the Russian Hydrometeorological Center, Alexander Frolov, earlier said record temperatures had also been recorded in Siberia and a number of other Russian regions. [>en.rian.ru]

11.14.10 Suu Kyi urges freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar

YANGON (Reuters) November 14 - Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi called on Sunday for freedom of speech in army-ruled Myanmar, urged thousands of supporters to stand up for their rights, and indicated she may urge the West to end sanctions. (For Slideshow: Aung San Suu Kyi Freed, click http://in.reuters.com/news/pictures/slideshow?articleId=INRTXUKTU) Suu Kyi's first major speech since being freed from seven years of house arrest a day earlier left little doubt she would resume an influential political role in one of the world's most isolated and oppressive countries.

"The basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech," she said to roaring cheers from thousands of supporters crammed into a cordoned-off street in front of her party's headquarters. "Even if you are not political, politics will come to you." The 65-year-old Nobel peace laureate, who had lost none of her ability to rouse and mesmerise crowds, offered an olive branch to the military junta, saying she had no antagonism for those who kept her detained for 15 of the past 21 years.

11.14.10 Lebanon arrests convicted cleric

November 14 - Arrest comes days after Omar Bakri, a Muslim cleric who praised 7/7 London bombers, was sentenced to life. Lebanese authorities have arrested Muslim leader Omar Bakri in the northern city of Tripoli, days after a military court sentenced him in absentia to life in prison. Bakri, who said on Friday that he would not spend a day behind bars, was arrested in his home "by a patrol of intelligence agents from the Internal Security Force," a security official told the AFP news agency on Sunday.

A military court convicted Bakri on Thursday of terrorism charges and sentenced him to life in prison with hard labour. Bakri told AFP the day after his sentencing that he had 15 days to appeal. He was among 54 people sentenced as part of ongoing trials against those who were allegedly involved in a three-month battle between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army in 2007 in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp. Bakri was convicted of "belonging to an armed group with the aim of carrying out terrorist acts and plotting to kill Lebanese soldiers."

The cleric, who holds Syrian and Lebanese citizenship, lived in Britain for 20 years and once headed the now-disbanded group al-Muhajiroun. He held comparatively mainstream Islamist views, working to build the Hizb al-Tahrir group, but after the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, he began to issue controversial statements, praising the hijackers as "magnificent." After the July 7, 2005, London bombings, committed by young Muslim men with al-Qaeda sympathies, Bakri left Britain for Lebanon, and the British government barred him from returning.

11.14.10 Netanyahu: Israel to begin Egypt border fence within two weeks

November 14 - Number of African infiltrators has reached more than 10,000 since beginning of 2010, according to recent Justice Ministry report. Israel will begin constructing a barrier on its border with Egypt within the next two weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The government has said that the central purpose of this fence is to keep the growing number of illegal migrants from infiltrating the country. "Peace does not include the flood of illegal infiltrators, who come from Africa through Sinai," Netanyahu said at a memorial for former Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. "This is a blow which our neighbors in Egypt are also suffering from." Netanyahu referred to the long-planned barrier as "our obligation and our right, to protect the State of Israel." Israel's Population and Immigration Authority reported last week that some 700 illegal migrants infiltrated through the Egypt-Israel border on a weekly basis, a record number. That reflects an increase of some 300% since the beginning of 2010, according to the report, which put the total number of infiltrators from January to November at 10,858 people. In 2009, 4,341 migrants were recorded. Fewer than 200 asylum seekers have reportedly been granted refugee status in Israel. In 2008, Israel recognized the asylum claim of just one refugee, and in 2009 only two. [>haaretz.com]

11.14.10 Proposed settlement halt may be tough sell as Israeli government meets

JERUSALEM, November 14 - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to his Cabinet ministers Sunday morning, a day after Israel government sources said he met with top officials to discuss a U.S. proposal to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank for 90 days. "At this morning's Cabinet meeting I plan to update the ministers of the general outline of the American proposal for the resumption of the talks," he said. "This proposal came up in my discussions with Secretary of State [Hillary] Clinton. It is still not final. It's still going through a process of crystallization by our teams and the American teams." The proposal could be a difficult sell for right-wing members of the coalition government. It was not clear Sunday whether the Cabinet had acted on the proposal.

But reaction was mixed among Israeli officials, several of whom were already responding negatively to the news. Minister of Infrastructure Uzi Landau said before Sunday's meeting that he would not approve the proposal if the Cabinet voted on it. "This is simply playing into the hands of all of the terror organizations here in the area, which will make it clear to them that terror pays off.... Our future partners in the region learn that they simply don't have to make any concessions; they have to wait until more and more pressure will be applied on the Israeli side," said Landau, a member of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu party. But Eli Yishai, leader of the right-wing religious Shas party, hinted that his party might support the proposal, noting that settlement construction could resume after 90 days in the West Bank, and continue unimpeded in Jerusalem.
[More>>cnn.com; See related story,

jpost.com, November 14, "PA officials 'surprised' to hear about US freeze offer" :
Ramallah official close to Abbas criticizes the Obama administration for "succumbing to Netanyahu's extortions"; PA expresses reservations to proposal because it does not include e. J'lem and limits freeze to 3 months. Palestinian Authority officials said on Sunday that they were "surprised" to hear about the latest US proposal for a three-month settlement freeze in return for a package of incentives to Israel. Some officials in Ramallah did not hide their disappointment with the "sudden change" in US policy which, they explained, puts the PA in a difficult situation. However, they stopped short of rejecting the US offer in public. The officials expressed strong reservations about the US proposal, mainly because it does not include east Jerusalem and limits the freeze to three months only.

One official closely associated with PA President Mahmoud Abbas criticized the US Administration for "succumbing to [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu's extortions." The official told The Jerusalem Post that the PA's credibility would be severely damaged if it resumed the peace talks with Israel while "the building was continuing in East Jerusalem." Abbas and other Palestinian officials had stressed in the past few weeks that they would not return to the negotiating table unless Israel halted all settlement construction, including in east Jerusalem. They had also voiced their opposition to a temporary freeze...

11.14.10 Karzai wants US to reduce military operations in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan, November 14 - President Hamid Karzai said on Saturday that the United States must reduce the visibility and intensity of its military operations in Afghanistan and end the increased US Special Operations forces night raids that aggravate Afghans and could exacerbate the Taliban insurgency. In an interview with The Washington Post, Karzai said that he wanted American troops off the roads and out of Afghan homes and that the long-term presence of so many foreign soldiers would only worsen the war. His comments placed him at odds with US commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, who has made capture-and-kill missions a central component of his counterinsurgency strategy, and who claims the 30,000 new troops have made substantial progress in beating back the insurgency. "The time has come to reduce military operations," Karzai said. "The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan . . . to reduce the intrusiveness into the daily Afghan life." Karzai's comments come as American officials are playing down the importance of July 2011 the date President Obama set to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in favor of a combat mission ending in 2014. The Afghan president has placed himself squarely in favor of a lighter military footprint as the administration reviews the progress of the Afghan war and debate intensifies about the pace of the withdrawal. Karzai says his troops are ready to take more responsibility for their own security. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

11.14.10 Britian's top soldier says al-Qaeda cannot be beaten

November 14 - The new head of Britain's armed forces, Gen. Sir David Richards, has warned that the West cannot defeat al-Qaeda and militant Islam. He said defeating Islamist militancy was "unnecessary and would never be achieved." However, he argued that it could be "contained" to allow Britons to lead secure lives. Gen. Richards, 58, said the threat posed by "al-Qaeda and its affiliates" meant Britain's national security would be at risk for at least 30 years. The general, who will tomorrow lay a wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in memory of Britain's war dead, said the West's war against what he described as a "pernicious ideology" had parallels with the fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, the general disclosed that Prince William was unlikely to serve in Afghanistan but suggested that his brother Harry, training to be an Apache helicopter pilot, could return to front-line duty in Helmand province. He said the British military and the Government had been "guilty of not fully understanding what was at stake" in Afghanistan and admitted that the Afghan people were beginning to "tire" of NATO's inability to deliver on its promises. However, he said the sacrifice being made by the Armed Forces in Afghanistan, where 343 soldiers have been killed since 2001, "has been worth it." Progress was being made and NATO was "in the right parish." He said: "Don't give up folks, it's all to play for." [More>>telegraph.co.uk]

11.14.10 Talks with Taliban at 'nascent' stage: Karzai

WASHINGTON, November 14 - Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has had "one or two" meetings with "very high" Taliban leadership on a peace deal, says both sides are keen to "end the national suffering." Asked to comment on the secret negotiations with Taliban, Karzai said that he met with Taliban leaders in "one or two" meetings about three months ago. He, however, described these meetings as "nascent." The talks were in a nascent stage and amounted to little more than "the exchange of desires for peace," Karzai told [the] Washington Post. [More>>indianexpress.com]

11.14.10 Climate change worsens plight of Iraqi farmers

BAGHDAD, November 14 - Frequent dust storms and scarce rains are stifling Iraq's efforts to revive a farming sector hit by decades of war, sanctions and isolation. Wheat and rice production has suffered from a severe drought in the past two years, due in part to rising temperatures, along with a dearth of water in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. The UN Inter-Agency Information and Analysis Unit (IAU) says water levels in the two rivers Iraq's main water sources have dropped to less than a third of normal capacity. "The tendency of rainfall in general is continuously declining. The same for temperature ... you can see there is a rise," said Deputy Environment Minister Kamal Hussein Latif. Farmers like Akram Mousa now face a struggle to keep their land cultivatable in the once fertile country watered by rivers that nurtured Mesopotamia's ancient civilizations.

"The temperature rise has deformed our crops. They either don't grow properly or wither. It has made me abandon half my farms," said the 65-year-old who owns seven farms of tomato, cucumber and melon in Zubair, in the southern province of Basra. Farming is one of Iraq's biggest employers, but contributes less than 3 percent of state revenue and gets little investment compared to the oil sector, the source of 95 percent of revenue. Iraq is among the world's top 10 importers of wheat and rice, purchased mostly for a huge public food ration scheme. As temperatures creep higher and water levels remain low, desertification is swallowing arable land and hurting crop yields. Mousa said fertile land in the region where he farms had shrunk considerably in his 35 years of cultivating.

11.14.10 Muslim-Christian tensions rising in Egypt

CAIRO, November 13 - The case of two Egyptian women who fled their priest husbands and supposedly converted to Islam before being forcibly returned to the Coptic Church has gripped the media and fanned the flames of sectarian tension in the Arab world's most populous country. Now, the domestic story appears to have spiraled into a regional flash point. Deadly bombings targeted Christians across Baghdad on Wednesday, killing five and injuring 20. The attacks came a little over a week after the killing of dozens of Christians in an assault on a church in Baghdad.

An al-Qaeda affiliate organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were retribution for the "imprisonment" of Muslims in Egypt. The group issued a warning to Egypt's Christian population, threatening to target the community and churches unless the women were released, turning the spotlight once again on the festering Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. Whether or not the two women are really being detained against their will is as elusive as the facts surrounding their disappearance. What is known is that both Coptic women fled their husbands and were returned to the church by state security forces. Camilia Shehata was missing for days in July, while Wafaa Constantine took off in 2004. The Coptic Church denies either converted; both are in monasteries.

Neither woman has spoken to the press, setting off rounds of fervent speculation on TV talk shows that struck a nerve with both religious sects in the predominantly Sunni Muslim country. Demonstrations against the Coptic Church continue to rock the northern port city of Alexandria, a stronghold of Islamist groups. "While the relations between Muslims and Copts have been steadily deteriorating since the 1970s, rhetorically, this is a very serious low point," Adel Iskandar, a media professor at Georgetown University in Washington, wrote in an e-mail to AOL News. "Both the national and independent press have been fanning the flames of tension between Copts and Muslims. Given the recent killings in Iraq, which were motivated by incidents in Egypt, I believe we are already at the boiling point. It is already costing Christian lives in other countries."
[More>>aolnews.com via foxnews.com]

11.14.10 Iraq violence kills eight

KIRKUK, Iraq, November 14 - Violence in central and northern Iraq killed eight people, four of them troops, on Sunday, security officials said. In the deadliest attack, a roadside bomb killed three soldiers in a town south of the ethnically mixed northern oil hub of Kirkuk, police Colonel Ahmed al-Barazanchi said. "An IED (improvised explosive device) earlier today hit a dismounted army patrol in Rashad," he said. "Three soldiers were killed." Also near Kirkuk in the town of Leylan, a drive-by shooting killed a civilian, Barazanchi said. It was unclear why the victim was targeted. Kirkuk, 240 kilometers (150 miles) north of Baghdad, lies at the heart of an oil-producing province which is at the centre of a dispute between Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. In the city of Mosul further north, a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle at a joint police-army checkpoint killing a soldier and wounding four other people, including a soldier and a policeman, police said. [More>>thenews.com.pk]

11.14.10 British couple 'happy to be alive' after being freed by Somali pirates

(AFP) November 14 - Paul and Rachel Chandler said they were "happy to be alive" Sunday after the Somali pirates who hijacked their yacht near the Seychelles last year released them for a ransom. The retired couple appeared in good health and smiled as they briefly spoke to journalists during a stopover in Mogadishu, on their way to Nairobi from the town of Adado where their 388-day ordeal came to an end earlier Sunday. "We are feeling very happy to be alive and happy to be here... among decent everyday people," Rachel Chandler said, adding they were "desperate to see family and friends" and thanking the Somalis who worked for their release. Instead of flying directly from Adado to the safety of Nairobi, the British couple left the country of their ordeal from war-torn Mogadishu, one of the world's most dangerous cities. [More>>france24.com]

11.14.10 Three civilians, one child killed in Afghan violence

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) November 14 - Three civilians were killed and 20 others were wounded in home-made bomb blasts in Afghanistan on Sunday, the government and local officials said, while a child was killed as NATO troops fought militants. One person died and nine others were wounded, including six children and two women, when an improvised explosive device in a wheelbarrow went off in the eastern city of Jalalabad, Afghanistan's interior ministry said. The attack happened near a NATO military base in the city, where Taleban fighters launched a pre-dawn attack on Saturday. The assault was foiled and eight militants were killed, the alliance said. Another two people were killed and 11 others were injured when a motorcycle bomb exploded in the Spin Boldak district of the southern province of Kandahar on the border with Pakistan. The Kandahar provincial governor's office said the bomb was intended for border police but no officer was injured. Ten people, including three children, were killed in a motorcycle bombing at a market in a remote area of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan on Saturday. A similar style bomb injured five in Kandahar city hours later. [More>>khaleejtimes.com;See related stories,

thejakartapost.com (AP) November 14, "Five NATO service members killed in Afghanistan"
: A series of bomb blasts and insurgents attacks killed 11 people across Afghanistan on Sunday, including five NATO service members and three Afghan police, officials said. The strikes, which come a day after Taliban fighters stormed a NATO base in eastern Afghanistan, show the insurgents' fighting spirit has not been broken despite a surge of US troops and firepower. Also Sunday, the Afghan president's office said the former ambassador-designate to Pakistan, who was seized by gunmen two years ago in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, has been released and is back home safe. The diplomat, Abdul Khaliq Farahi, was freed in eastern Afghanistan late Saturday in a joint effort by officials from both countries and has returned to Kabul, where he met Sunday with President Hamid Karzai, the Afghan leader's office said. A brief statement gave no details on how he was freed. Farahi was heading from the Afghan consulate toward his home in the border city of Peshawar on Sept. 22, 2008, when gunmen stopped the vehicle and killed his driver...

japantoday.com (AP) November 14, "Afghan militants torch NATO convoy; blasts kill 3" :
KABUL - Insurgents set fire to a convoy of NATO fuel tankers in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, while a series of bomb blasts in the south killed a NATO service member and two civilians. The civilians were killed in an explosion in Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province, just east of the Pakistan border, said district government chief Abdul Ghani. The bomb was attached to a motorcycle parked in the main market, he said. The blast injured more than 10 people...

11.14.10 Shakai suicide blast kills one, hurts 8

WANA, Pakistan, November 14 - A man was killed and eight other people were injured as a result of a suicide blast in South Waziristan Agency area of Shakai, Geo News reported Sunday. According to local sources, the blast was attempted to target chief of Local Peace Committee Tehsil Khan Wazir; however, guards opened fire at the bomber on receiving timely tip-off. The blast killed the suicide bomber and a guard; also, 8 other guards were injured, who were shifted to Wana hospital. The local people soon after the blast, started the relief activities. [>thenews.com.pk]

11.11.10 Pope calls for religious freedom in Muslim states

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) November 11 - Pope Benedict on Thursday said all states must guarantee the freedom for everyone to practise their faith publicly, a clear criticism of some Muslim countries where religious rights are restricted. The pope issued the call in a document of nearly 200 pages called an "apostolic exhortation," in which he offered his reflections on a synod of bishops that met in the Vatican in 2008 on the theme the "Word of God." He said the Catholic Church respected all religions and a separate section of the document was dedicated to relations with Muslims. "All the same, dialogue would not prove fruitful unless it included authentic respect for each person and the ability of all freely to practise their religion," he said. "Respect and dialogue require reciprocity in all spheres," he said, adding that this had to include the right to profess religion "privately and publicly and (for) freedom of conscience to be effectively guaranteed to all believers."

"Reciprocity" is the term the Roman Catholic Church uses in demanding full rights for Christians in Islamic states where laws prohibit them from practising their faith openly. It has often asked for reciprocity with Saudi Arabia. At least 3.5 million Christians of all denominations live in the Gulf Arab region, the birthplace of Islam and home to some of the most conservative Arab Muslim societies in the world..In Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites, any form of non-Muslim worship takes place in private. Converting Muslims is punishable by death, although such sentences are rare.
[Full story>>thestar.com.my]

11.11.10 Deadly blast in central Karachi

November 11 - Large explosion hits Criminal Investigation Department in Pakistani city, killing at least 25 people and injuring 35. A car bomb has destroyed a police investigation department in Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi, killing at least 25 people and wounding dozens more. A group of fighters first opened fire on the building before detonating a bomb in the compound of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), leaving a crater of about 12 metres across and four metres deep in front of the site. Thursday's attacked was claimed by the Taliban. Witnesses and police said the CID building collapsed trapping people under the rubble. Rescue workers at the site were ferrying people on stretchers into ambulances, while dazed civilians stumbled into the street amidst a mass of twisted metal.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said that up to 25 people were killed, but that the death toll was likely to rise. "The CID office is a highly secured area that is frequented by a lot of important people," Hyder said. A Reuters photographer on the scene saw dozens of motorcycles destroyed and windows were shattered up to 2km away. He also saw two wounded children evacuated from the scene. Amir Lateef, a local journalist, told Al Jazeera that at least 10 police officers have been killed in the blast.
[More>>aljazeera.net; See also

thenews.com.pk, November 11, "18 dead, 115 wounded in Karachi blast"
:...Six terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi had been brought in the CID building yesterday for investigation after their arrest. Banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan took no time in claiming responsibility of the attack. Gunshots were reportedly fired just before the occurrence of the blast, sources said...a truck packed with explosives slammed into the CID building causing the massive blast...

11.11.10 Ilyas Kashmiri emerging as new Osama bin-Laden: US agencies

WASHINGTON, November 11 - Ilyas Kashmiri, the one-eyed rabid anti-India leader of a Pakistan-based terror group is suspected by counter-terrorism officials to be fast emerging as a new international jihadist plotter, planning fresh strikes in Europe and America. Considered the 'world's most wanted man' by counter terrorism organizations across three continents, the 40-year-old Kashmiri, is seen as a terror successor to Osama Bin Laden, CNN reported quoting top US intelligence officials. The US TV network said the bearded man, who sports aviator style dark glasses is now masterminding Mumbai style attacks in Europe and US, and threat of these attacks has not subsided despite leakages of the plot, CNN reported. "He (Kashmiri) may be determined to go ahead with the execution of the plots in spite of leaks and heightened vigil," the network said quoting August Hanning, a former head of Germany's foreign intelligence service.

Kashmiri brands India as his enemy number one and his group Harkat-ul-Jehad-Islami was suspected to be behind bombing of a popular bakery in Pune in 2009. But he has made it public that he has ambitions beyond south Asia, CNN said. Born in Mirpur in the PoK, Kashmiri was once considered to be run by the Pakistan's military intelligence ISI, but is reported to have turned rouge to join and form [a] close relationship with al-Qaeda. Now American and European security agencies believe that Kashmiri is trying to infiltrate highly trained terrorists into Europe and US to launch coordinated Mumbai style attack in cities Paris, Berlin and London, CNN said.

11.11.10 Pirates seize Panama-flagged tanker with 31 crew

BRUSSELS (AFP) November 11 - Pirates hijacked a Panamanian-flagged chemical tanker carrying 31 crew on Thursday in waters closer to India than to Somalia, the European Union's anti-piracy mission said. The 24,105-tonne vessel, the Hannnibal II, was attacked and boarded by pirates early Thursday while carrying vegetable oils from the Malaysian port of Pasir Gudang to Suez, an EU NAVFOR statement said. It added that the master of the vessel reported the attack took place "in an area some 860 nautical miles east of The Horn of Africa, which is considerably closer to India than it is to Somalia." The ship's crew consists of 23 Tunisians, four Filipinos, a Croatian, Georgian, Russian and Moroccan. Somali pirates are becoming more brazen and keeping ahead of the international naval force seeking to end their high seas marauding, a top UN official said in New York this week. The pirates have kidnapped almost 100 new crew and passengers from ships in less than a month and there are now at least 438 seafarers and 20 ships held by bandits, according to latest International Maritime Organization figures. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

11.11.10 Pakistan officials: Suspected US missiles kill 6

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) November 11 - American missiles killed six suspected militants as they returned home to Pakistan after attacking a security post across the border in Afghanistan, local intelligence officials said. The strike took place in North Waziristan just around three miles (five kilometers) from the Afghan border, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media. A volley of missiles landed on a house, killing six people who were either inside or arriving there, the officials said. The identities of the victims were not immediately known. The United States has carried out at least 90 attacks on suspected militant targets this year in northwestern Pakistan, close to double the number in 2009. They have been credited with killing scores of insurgents, though there are also accounts of civilian casualties. [More>>foxnews.com]


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