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November 26 - Responding to rapidly deteriorating economic conditions, officials on two continents announced major steps on Wednesday to try to pump some life back into their economies. The European Commission proposed a sweeping stimulus-spending package totaling 200 billion euros, or $256 billion, while officials in China cut interest rates there by more than a percentage point. The plan in Europe, which is likely to have the more immediate impact, will be critical to bolstering growth and employment in the European Union's 27 member countries, said officials with the commission, which is the Union's executive arm. On Tuesday, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development predicted that the 15 economies that have adopted the euro as their currency would contract next year by 0.6 percent overall, and economists have begun speaking of 2009 as a "lost year." [More>>nytimes.com]
11.26.08 Feds warn of terror plotting against NYC subways
WASHINGTON (AP) November 26 - Federal authorities are warning law enforcement personnel of a possible terror plot against the New York City subway system during the holiday season. An internal memo obtained by The Associated Press says the FBI has received a "plausible but unsubstantiated" report that al-Qaeda terrorists in late September may have discussed attacking the subway system. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko confirmed only that his agency and the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin last night to state and local authorities, and the information is being reviewed. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said the warning was issued as a routine matter, but added that there may be an increased police presence in New York and other large metropolitan areas. [More>>washingtonpost.com]
11.26.08 Russia test-launches new-generation RS-24 ballistic missile
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) November 26 - Russia successfully test launched on Wednesday a new-generation intercontinental ballistic missile bearing multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warheads. "All the warheads hit the designated areas at the Kura testing grounds on the Kamchatka peninsula. All the tasks in the test have been accomplished," a spokesman for the Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) press service said. The RS-24 missile was launched at 4:20pm Moscow time (13:20 GMT) from the Plesetsk space center in northwest Russia.
11.26.08 'More than 5,000 centrifuges operating'
(AP) November 26 - Iran now has more than 5,000 centrifuges operating and enriching uranium at the country's central plant, the Iranian nuclear chief announced Wednesday, in Iran's latest defiance of UN demands that Teheran halt the controversial program. The new figure is a significant jump from the 4,000 Iran said were up and running in August at the plant in the central Iranian city of Natanz. The Iranian official, Vice President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, said Iran will continue to install centrifuges and enrich uranium in order to produce nuclear fuel for the country's future nuclear power plants.
"At this point, more than 5,000 centrifuges are operating in Natanz and enriching uranium," said Aghazadeh, who is also the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. He spoke to reporters during an exhibition of Iranian nuclear achievements at Teheran University...Also Wednesday, Iranian state television reported that the country successfully launched a second rocket into space, following up on the first such launch in February. The rocket, entitled "Kavoshgar 2" or Explorer 2, made it to the lower reaches of space and returned to earth 40 minutes later on a parachute. It wasn't clear when the launch took place. [Full story>>jpost.com]
11.26.08 Tribal chiefs offered UK 'bribes' to fight Taliban
November 26 - Britain plans to pay tribal elders in Helmand province monthly cash "bribes" as part of a controversial "Afghan Awakening" scheme to raise the tribes against the Taliban. British officials in Kabul are bankrolling an Afghan initiative to pay community leaders monthly wages to get them talking to the government. News of Britain's involvement came as the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, met President Hamid Karzai during a surprise visit to Kabul yesterday. He then flew to Helmand to meet some of the community leaders likely to be involved.
The new strategy comes amid growing violence across Afghanistan and a steady trickle of British casualties in Helmand. Afghan officials have accused Britain of "losing the support of the people." The Asop is seen as the first step towards winning back influential tribal elders, on a district level, who might one day command irregular forces against the Taliban insurgents. [More>>independent.co.uk]
11.26.08 Somali gunmen kidnap Western journalists
BOSASSO, Somalia (Reuters) November 26 - Somali gunmen kidnapped two Western journalists in the northern province of Puntland on Wednesday, police said, in the latest attack on foreigners working in the lawless Horn of Africa nation. Somalia has been immersed in civil conflict for the last 17 years. The government is fighting a two-year-old Islamist insurgency while the chaos has fuelled piracy in Somalia's waters, bringing foreign warships rushing to the area. It is one of the world's most dangerous countries for reporters. "I think both the journalists are British but we shall investigate ... we are sending police to free them," Puntland's police spokesman Abshir Said Jama told Reuters. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
11.26.08 Al-Qaeda's focus is Pakistan: US General
WASHINGTON, November 26 - Pakistan has replaced Iraq as al-Qaeda's main focus, and the terror group has stepped up its efforts to destabilize the nuclear-armed South Asian nation, according to a senior US military commander. "Iraq is now a rear-guard action on the part of al-Qaeda," said Gen. James Conway, the head of the Marine Corps and a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview. "They've changed their strategic focus not to Afghanistan but to Pakistan, because Pakistan is the closest place where you have the nexus of terrorism and nuclear weapons." Gen. Conway also offered a stark assessment of the Afghan situation, saying the Taliban has built a rudimentary command-and-control network that enables the group's leadership to direct attacks across the country. [More>>thenews.com.pk]
11.26.08 Four bombings rock Bangkok
BANGKOK, November 26 - At least four rounds of bomb attacks rocked Bangkok early Wednesday, injuring at least 12 people, local media reported. The attacks, since 4:30am (2130 GMT Tuesday) to 6:30am (2330 GMT Tuesday) Wednesday, aimed at two main airports of Bangkokwhile three exploded at the Suvarnabhumi International Airport and one blast at the Don Muang Airport. Both the airports were filled with the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) members who launched mass protests there since Tuesday. Initial reports said at least 11 persons were injured. [More>>xinhuanet.com]
11.25.08 Asian markets rise after Wall Street rally
TOKYO (AP) November 25 - Asian markets rose sharply Tuesday as investors regained some confidence after a strong overnight showing by Wall Street and the US government's bailout of banking giant Citigroup. European markets, which soared Monday, opened lower. Initial reaction in the region to the Citigroup news — which broke midday Monday in Asia — was tepid, and most benchmarks had ended the day lower. But after seeing markets in Europe and the US surge overnight, Asian investors joined in the rally. "The rescue of Citigroup does help ease concerns," said Singapore-based investment analyst Nicole Sze of Bank Julius Baer & Co., which manages about $300 billion in assets. "Citigroup is such a crucial financial institution in the global market. The US action does fuel a return of confidence."
11.25.08 Iranian supreme leader calls on Lebanon to unite against Israel
November 25 - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday called on the disparate Lebanese ethnic groups to unite against their common enemy — Israel, the Iranian IRNA news agency reported. "The Islamic Republic of Iran believes that the power of all Lebanese groups should be at the service of the country's national unity to counter the danger of the Zionist regime," Khamenei told visiting Lebanese President Michel Suleiman.
Khamenei, lauding Suleiman's support of Islamic militancy and his efforts to establish unity in Lebanon, promised that Iran would always side with Beirut, stressing that Lebanon enjoys high significance despite its small geographical limits. One such instance of "exemplary" coexistence of different religious groups in Lebanon, he said, was the "historical victory" over the Israel. "Over the past 60 years, none of the Muslim and Arab states have been able to face the Zionist regime, but people in Lebanon managed to break this myth and drive the Israeli army out of their soil," he said. [More>>jpost.com]
11.25.08 US-based Muslim charity convicted of funding terrorism
DALLAS, Texas (AFP) November 25 - The leaders of what was once the largest Muslim charity in the United States were found guilty of acting as a front for Palestinian militants in the largest terrorism financing prosecution in American history. It was a major victory in the White House's legal "war on terror" and comes after a mistrial was declared last year in the case involving the now defunct Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, charged with funneling 12 million dollars to Hamas. "Today's verdicts are important milestones in America's efforts against financiers of terrorism," Patrick Rowan, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement. "This prosecution demonstrates our resolve to ensure that humanitarian relief efforts are not used as a mechanism to disguise and enable support for terrorist groups." [More>>turkishpress.com]
11.25.08 Saudi religious police report increase in arrests
DUBAI, November 25 - Inappropriate displays of affection, mixing between unmarried men and women and offensive writing are a few of the crimes the Saudi religious police are tasked with monitoring, and they appear to be on the rise if recent arrest rates are anything to go by. A report issued by the Saudi religious police indicated a remarkable increase in the number of arrests as well as in the type of cases it dealt with over the past year, local press reported Tuesday, with 19 percent more arrests this year than last. The annual report of the Commission for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice indicated that only 27 percent of the 434,000 people who were arrested were Saudi. [More>>alarabiya.net]
11.25.08 Russian warships arrive in Venezuela
MOSCOW / CARACAS (RIA Novosti) November 25 - A group of warships from Russia's Northern Fleet arrived on Tuesday at the Venezuelan port of La Guaira, a Russian naval official said. The task force, led by the Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser, is on a planned visit that follows a two-month tour of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, which saw Russian ships visiting Libya, Turkey and France. "The [Udaloy class destroyer] Admiral Chabanenko has docked in port, while the Pyotr Veliky missile cruiser has dropped anchor off La Guaira," said Capt. 1st Rank Igor Dygalo, an aide to the Navy commander.
11.25.08 Oceans 'turning acidic quickly'
WASHINGTON, November 25 - In a new research, scientists at the University of Chicago, US, have documented that oceans are growing acidic faster than previously thought. In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon diocide (CO2). "Of the variables the study examined that are linked to changes in ocean acidity, only atmospheric carbon dioxide exhibited a corresponding steady change," said J. Timothy Wootton, the lead author of the study and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at at the University of Chicago. The increasingly acidic water harms certain sea animals and could reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, according to the researchers.
11.25.08 Thai flights cancelled as protesters storm airport
BANGKOK (Reuters) November 25 - Flights were cancelled at Thailand's main airport on Tuesday after anti-government protesters stormed the building, leaving thousands of travellers stranded and threatening the country's tourism industry. The departure hall has been closed," Sereerat Prasutanont, director of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport, the main gateway for 14.5 million visitors to Thailand each year, told TPBS TV. "Flights that are ready to depart can leave, but those that are not ready must cancel their flights," he said.
11.25.08 Seoul prepares for Gaeseong pullout
November 25 - The South Korean government yesterday formed an emergency task force to organize the safe pullout of staff from the Gaeseong industrial park in North Korea. The communist country announced on Monday that it has ordered the cancellation of Gaeseong city tours and a 50 percent cut in South Korean staff at the industrial park as of Dec. 1. The moves are a protest to Seoul's "confrontational" policies, according to North Korea.
11.24.08 Markets soar on US bailout hopes
November 24 - The London stock market rocketed almost 10 per cent today — its biggest ever one day percentage gain — after it emerged that Washington is trying to race through a new $500 billion fiscal stimulus package to kick start the world's biggest economy. Shares in New York also soared after the US Government dug deep into its cash reserves to bail out Citigroup, once the world's largest bank. In London, the FTSE 100 shot up by almost 10 per cent, or 372 points, to 4152.96. In New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 278 points to 8,324. The cheer spread across European stock markets with the CAC 40 in Paris and the Dax in Frankfurt both up 9 per cent.
Equity traders celebrated after it emerged that President Bush and Barack Obama, the US President Elect, are seeking to force through a new $500 billion fiscal stimulus package to try and avert what Wall Street believes will be a very deep recession for America. The package would be three times bigger than President Bush's tax rebate programme in May and far bigger than measures proposed by Mr. Obama during his election campaign. [More>>timesonline.co.uk; See related stories,
cbsnews.com, November 24, "Citibank's 'Sweet Deal' from government" : Struggling Bank Gets $20B Lifeline, $306B In Loan Guarantees; Bush: More Bailouts Possible. The US government unveiled a $20 billion rescue plan on Sunday for troubled banking giant Citigroup, once the country's biggest and strongest financial institution. The action, announced jointly by the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. after a weekend of tense negotiations, is aimed at shoring up a huge financial institution whose collapse would wreak havoc on the already-crippled financial system and the US economy.
11.24.08 Dubai's bubble bursts as it caps building spree
DUBAI, November 24 - Official admits booming city could do with a "breather." The booming city of Dubai showed signs its economy was starting to crack Monday as it began cutting state spending ,capping its building spree and merging its lenders in the face of the global financial crisis. World business leaders met Monday for a four-day conference at the Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) where financiers were set to discuss Middle East coping strategies as well as how to help sinking western economies.
11.24.08 Israel allows limited aid into Gaza
November 24- Israel has briefly opened three border crossings with Hamas-controlled Gaza, allowing some essential food and fuel into the territory for the second time in three weeks. However, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) warned that temporarily lifting the blockade imposed by Israel on the Palestinian territory would not allow enough supplies into Gaza. "It is just not enough," Christopher Gunness, a UNRWA spokesman said, estimating that Gazans need at least 15 lorries worth of UN supplies daily to get by. [More>>aljazeera.net]
11.24.08 Baghdad blasts kill 17 ahead of troop pact vote
BAGHDAD (AFP) November 24 - Three explosions rocked Baghdad on Monday, killing 17 people two days before parliament was to vote on a divisive military pact under which all US troops would leave Iraq by the end of 2011. One blast was caused by a mentally disabled woman strapped with explosives who blew up at the entrance to Baghdad's heavily guarded Green Zone, brutally underscoring the lingering violence in the Iraqi capital. In the first attack 13 people were killed — nine of them women — when a roadside bomb exploded near a bus carrying trade ministry employees during the rush-hour in east Baghdad, a medical official at a nearby hospital said.
11.24.08 15 militants killed, six injured in Swat
PESHAWAR, November 24 - At least 15 militants were killed and six others injured in three separate incidents in Tehsils Charbagh, Matta and Khwazakhela of Swat district on Monday. According to media centre, the first incident occurred at Mangal Thaan in Charbagh Tehsil when security forces backed by gunship helicopters, targeted a vehicle of militants. Resultantly, 11 militants were killed on the spot. The other incident was reported at Namal area of Tehsil Matta in which two militants were killed and as many injured in a clash with security forces. Likewise, the security officials said two militants were killed and four others injured in Khawazakhela Tehsil. [>thenews.com.pk]
11.23.08 Warships from all Russian Navy fleets to fight piracy off Somalia
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) November 23 - Warships from all of the Russian Navy fleets will be involved in measures to fight piracy in the Horn of Africa region, Russia's Navy commander said on Sunday. Pirates are increasingly active in the waters off Somalia, where more than 60 ships have been attacked so far this year resulting in the seizure of over 30 vessels. The East African nation has been without a functioning government since 1991 and has no navy to police its coastline. "Regular presence in that problem region means the accomplishment of tasks both by separate warships and warship groups from all the fleets to ensure safe shipping in the Gulf of Aden and the Horn of Africa region as a whole," Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said.
The US Defense Department said on Wednesday that there had been 95 piracy attacks reported in the region this year, 39 of which were successful. "There are at least 18 ships being held by Somali pirates as we speak," Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. "I believe our count is that 330 mariners are being held hostage by these criminals. And they come from 25 nations across the world." [More>>en.rian.ru]
11.23.08 Iran holds defence drills, warns on oil route
TEHRAN, November 23 - An Iranian militia held civil defence drills on Sunday to prepare for any hostile air strikes and the military said it could close a waterway crucial for world oil supplies if Iran was attacked. The exercises organized by student members of the Basij militia were held at hundreds of schools across the country and involved transporting wounded people and putting out fires after a fictitious bombardment by enemy planes.
State television showed pictures of ambulances with sirens wailing rushing to the scene of a simulated attack and people lying on the ground with bloodied faces. The United States and Israel have hinted they could take military action if Iran presses ahead with a nuclear programme they believe is aimed at making atomic bombs. [More>>gulfnews.com]
11.23.08 Saudi shares close near five-year low
RIYADH, November 23 - The Saudi stock market closed on Saturday at its lowest level in almost five years after shedding more than nine percent of its value. The Tadawul All-Shares Index (TASI) plunged 9.2 percent to close at 4,431.57 points, the lowest since January 2004, with all sectors ending in the red. The leading petrochemicals and banking sectors slid 9.85 percent and 9.1 percent respectively, while telecoms plunged 9.9 percent.
11.23.08 World leaders at APEC anxiously await Obama administration
LIMA, Peru, November 23 - George W. Bush was the US president at an economic summit here this weekend, but many foreign leaders were focused on President-elect Barack Obama instead. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper cautioned Obama against plans to rework the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying it would worsen a global financial crisis. Chinese President Hu Jintao said he hoped Obama would recognize the importance of US-China ties while treading carefully on the thorny issue of Taiwan.
And Mexican President Felipe Calderon, in an impassioned speech to delegates at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum on Saturday, warned Obama that any tightening of trade restrictions would send a flood of illegal immigrants into the United States. "The next US administration must assume leadership in a very firm manner — not just for Americans but for the whole world," Calderon said. [More.>washingtonpost.com; See related story,
middle-east-online, November 23, " 'War criminal' Bush blamed for global crisis" : LIMA, Peru - Peru's biggest labor union charges that Bush's costly war on Iraq contributed to financial, economic crises. Protesters on Friday demanded that US President George W. Bush get out of Peru where he was attending an APEC summit, blaming him as the root cause of the world economic crisis. "Bush out," demonstrators chanted in the center of the capital, watched by scores of police in riot gear who made sure they did not move towards the APEC summit venue several kilometers (miles) away. "This crisis didn't come from the Peruvian people. We shouldn't have to pay for it," a union leader told the crowd, which demonstrated peacefully.
"We believe that Bush is responsible for the fall of the financial system," explained Aldo Gil Cristostomo, a 54-year-old mechanic standing near other protesters carrying portraits of Che Guevara. "The war in Iraq is partly responsible for the fall," he said. Cristostomo added that, while he had more sympathy for Bush's successor, Barack Obama, he believed the Democrat "is going to maintain the neoliberal system" championed by the current US president...
11.23.08 Saudi denies offering asylum to Taliban leader
RIYADH / BERLIN, November 23 - The Saudi government on Saturday denied reports that it has offered political asylum to Afghanistan's fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. A foreign ministry spokesman "denies totally the report ... according to which Saudi Arabia has offered political asylum to the Taliban leader," the state news agency SPA reported. The German news magazine Der Spiegel, in its edition due to appear on Monday, said Saudi King Abdullah had offered asylum to Mullah Omar, quoting sources close to the Kabul government. [More>>alarabiya.net]
11.23.08 Hindu Sangam urges Fatwa Council to 'be more sensitive'
PETALING JAYA, Malaysia, November 23 - The National Fatwa Council must respect the sensitivities and feelings of other religions in Malaysia while giving guidance to Muslims on the religion's practices and tenets. "Many Hindus have been deeply disturbed by the Fatwa Council's announcement,” Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Datuk A. Vaithilingam said in a statement Sunday. He said it was regrettable that the Council had not consulted with the Malaysia Hindu Sangam first so that the religious and non-religious aspects of yoga could have been explained. The Fatwa Council on Saturday issued an edict banning Muslims from practising yoga on grounds that it involved chants and acts of worship in order to be one with the god of another religion. [More>>thestar.com.my; See related story:
11.23.08 Dalai Lama not to retire till 'Tibetans return home'
DHARAMSHALA, India, November 23 - Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday scotched speculation about his retirement, saying he would not quit till Tibetans return to their homeland (Watch) "There is no question of taking retirement from the institution of the Dalai Lama," the 73-year-old Nobel laureate told reporters here. "Since an elected Tibetan government in exile is in place I am semi-retired as a political leader... but there is no question of retiring from the Dalai Lama institution," the Tibetan temporal head said, a day after the crucial six-day conclave of Tibetans at Macleodganj.
11.23.08 India shocked by discovery of first Hindu terror cell
November 23 - At least 10 people, including monk and army officer, held over bombings initially blamed on Islamists. India is in something of a state of shock after learning from official sources that its first Hindu terror cell may have carried out a series of deadly bombings that were initially blamed on militant Muslims. The revelation is forcing the country to consider some difficult questions.
At least 10 people have been arrested in connection with several bomb blasts in the Muslim-dominated town of Malegaon in the western state of Maharashtra in September, which left six people dead. But reports suggest that police believe the cell may also have carried out a number of previous attacks, including last year's notorious bombing of a cross-border train en route to Pakistan, which killed 68 people. Among the alleged members of the cell are a serving army officer and a Hindu monk.
Bomb attacks are not uncommon in India — there has been a flurry in recent months — but police usually blame them on Muslim extremists, often said to have links to militant groups based in either Pakistan or Bangladesh. As a result, the recent cracking of the alleged Hindu cell has forced India to face some difficult issues. A country that prides itself on purported religious and cultural toleration — an ambition that in reality often falls short — has been made to ask itself how this cell could operate for so long. India's military, which prides itself on its professionalism, has been forced to order an embarrassing inquiry. The near-daily drip of revelations from police has also caused red faces for India's main political opposition, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), ahead of state polls and a general election scheduled for early next year. [More>>independent.co.uk]
11.23.08 NATO: Taliban commander killed in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) November 23 - NATO-led troops killed a senior Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan, the military alliance said in a statement Sunday. Mullah Assad was a senior Taliban operational commander for southern Helmand province, and was killed in an operation on Wednesday, NATO said. It did not say where Assad was killed. Assad was linked to attacks in Helmand's Garmser district, an area of southern Afghanistan rife with insurgent activity, the statement said.
11.22.08 Obama vows swift action on vast economic stimulus plan
CHICAGO, November 22 - President-elect Barack Obama said Saturday that he had started work on a sustained, two-year economic stimulus plan designed to create or save 2.5 million jobs, funnel money toward public works programs to repair the country's failing infrastructure and invest in alternative energy programs. Mr. Obama's plan, which he announced in the Democratic radio address, is broader than the pledges he offered while campaigning for president. He said the deepening financial outlook demanded more robust action, so he directed his economic team to devise “a plan big enough to meet the challenges we face that I intend to sign soon after taking office.” [More>>nytimes.com] :
spiegel.de, November 22, "German economy beginning to suffer" : The number of indicators pointing to foul economic weather continues growing. A new index released on Friday testifies to increasingly empty order books. Experts predict that over 200,000 jobs are at risk. The more economic data comes in, the worse the coming recession appears likely to be. According to a key German economic climate index released on Friday, industry in Germany is facing a difficult road ahead. The index, which measures the economic health of producers in Germany as well as the amount of orders they are receiving, dropped unexpectedly sharply in November relative to its already low October level. It now stands at 36.2, much lower than the 40.5 level many had expected, according to a Reuters survey.
news.sky.com, November 22, "Russia's Gazprom threatens to cut gas supply to Ukraine unless new contract is signed" : Russia has threatened to cut off gas deliveries to neighboring Ukraine on January 1 unless a new contract is signed. The threat, by Russia's Gazprom, could affect deliveries to the rest of Europe. Sergei Kupriyanov, a spokesman for the gas company, said: "We would like to avoid such a scenario, we would like to agree on everything before New Year's, but as you understand, we cannot deliver gas without a contract." Negotiations between Russia and Ukraine are being held up by a large debt, he said. He was speaking two days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev demanded Ukraine repay $2.4bn of debt to Gazprom. An earlier dispute between Russia and Ukraine over gas prices led to a brief interruption of gas supplies in several European countries in January 2006. Most of the EU's gas imports from Russia are pumped through Ukraine...
Editorial note: "It's all about oil." The supply of oil has been, and will continue to be, influencing the political and economic well-being around the world. Russia, as a supplier of oil and gas, had become ever more important to the oil supply, but it had shown itself untrustworthy to Europeans to the extent that Europe sought the construction of a pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey's Cayene river coast. This route was specifically chosen so to avoid going through Russia. Another pipeline from Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea, through Georgia and Turkey to Eastern Europe, is in work, also intended to avoid Russian interference. However, just before the Russian invasion of the break-away territories of Georgia, Russia had signed an agreement with Turkmenistan to route their pipeline through Russia. (See Maravot News 8.18.08 article [with editorial note] 8.15.08 US missile shield in Europe targets Russia - Medvedev)
11.22.08 US asks Iran to provide information about missing American
WASHINGTON, November 22 - The United States on Friday reiterated its call for Iran to provide information about the whereabouts of an American named Robert Levinson who went missing in Iran about more than one year ago. The United States "remains committed to determining Mr. Levinson's whereabouts and returning him safely to his family," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told a news briefing. "We once again ask Tehran to share any and all information uncovered about the Levinson case. ... The Iranian government, we believe, still has it within its power to help with more information concerning Mr. Levinson," he said. Levinson, 59, retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1998. He went missing during a March 8-9 business trip to Kish Island, Iran, according to the US State Department. Despite US continued effort to seek whereabouts of Levison, Iran has told the United States that it does not have any record of the ex-FBI agent. [>xinhaunet.com; See related story,
11.22.08 Missile kills plane bomb mastermind Rashid Raug in Pakistan
(AFP) November 22 - The alleged al-Qaeda mastermind of a 2006 transatlantic plane bombing plot had been on the run for more than a year before a US missile attack in north-west Pakistan ended his life yesterday. Pakistani security officials said Rashid Rauf, 26, was among at least five killed when a missile hit a tribesman's house in the village of Alikhel, part of a border district stronghold for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
11.22.08 Three blasts in intervals at PIL building in Lahore
LAHORE, Pakistan, November 22 - At least 3 persons, including a child, were injured when a series of 3 blasts occurred with intervals at the building of Punjab Institute of Language (PIL) near Gaddafi Stadium Saturday night. A cameraman is also included in the injured. According to reports, all three blasts were of low intensity while the police say the blasts could have been triggered by [a] time device. The first two blasts happened inside the building which shattered the window panes of the cafeteria there while the third blast occurred at the gate of PIL building later. [More>>thenews.com.pk]
11.22.08 US Muslim leaders denounce al-Qaeda's slur toward Obama
NEW YORK, November 22 - Spiritual leaders of New York's African-American Muslim communities lashed out Friday at a purported al-Qaeda message attacking President-elect Barack Obama and, using racist language, comparing him unfavorably to the late Malcolm X. The imams called the recorded comments from al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri, "an insult" from people who have "historically been disconnected from the African-American community generally and Muslim African-Americans in particular."
"We find it insulting when anyone speaks for our community instead of giving us the dignity and the honor of speaking for ourselves," they said in a statement read during a news conference at the Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial, Educational and Cultural Center. The al-Qaeda statement, an 11-minute, 23-second audio message in Arabic with subtitles in English, appeared on the Internet on Wednesday. Its authenticity has not been confirmed. The message said Obama represents the "direct opposite of honorable black Americans" like Malcolm X. [More>>cnn.com]
11.22.08 Saudi Arabia offers asylum to Omar - German weekly
BERLIN (Reuters) November 22 - King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has offered political asylum to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, German weekly Der Spiegel reported on Saturday. The offer had been pushed by US President George W. Bush and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, the magazine said in an advance report from its Monday edition, quoting government sources in Kabul. It did not give further details. A Saudi foreign ministry official was not available for comment. Saudi Arabia hosted a meeting between pro-government Afghan officials and former Taliban officials in September for discussions on how to end the worsening conflict in Afghanistan. An Afghan government official said on Wednesday Afghan government representatives and former members of the Taliban were expected to meet in Saudi Arabia soon for a second round of talks. [More>>thestar.com.my]
11.22.08 Fatwa Council says yoga with worshipping, chanting is prohibited (updated)
PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia, November 22 - The National Fatwa council has declared that the yoga practice which involves three elements of physical movements, worshipping and chanting as haram (prohibited) in Islam. Its chairman Datuk Dr. Abdul Shukor Husin said although merely doing the physical movements of yoga minus the worshipping and chanting might not be wrong in the eyes of the religion, it should be avoided as "doing one would lead to another."
11.21.08 Footsie ends week on five-year low
November 21 - The slide in European markets continued today as the FTSE 100 Index registered its lowest close for more than five years. Another turbulent week - in which the London market sustained losses in four out of the five sessions — ended with the Footsie 94 points lower at 3781. Renewed fears about the US economy and the future of banking giant Citigroup in particular caused the latest dive in share prices.
11.21.08 Falling prices raise a new fear: Deflation
November 21 - With the stock market crumbling and the economy shrinking, a whiff of deflation is in the air. Oil prices yesterday slid below $50 a barrel to the lowest level since May 2005; stores are advertising sales on the eve of what should be peak holiday shopping season; and worldwide demand for items as varied as steel, petrochemicals and clothing plunged in October. This week's news of a drop in consumer prices may sound on the surface like a good deal for financially strapped US households. But economists warn that sustained deflation — a period of falling overall prices — would deepen the nation's economic troubles. Such a period would make it harder for people to repay debts and would prompt consumers to delay purchases in anticipation of lower prices and harder times...Apparel makers have been hit hard. The recent consumer price index report showed that apparel prices fell 1 percent last month, the latest in a long history of problems for the industry. McMillion said apparel prices have been under severe pressure for 15 years as lower-cost imports have entered the market. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com; See related story,
11.21.08 Russia has some two billion tons of toxic waste on its territory
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) November 21 - Russia currently has around two billion tons of toxic waste on its territory, and there is no effective way to dispose of it, the Russian consumer rights regulator said Friday. "Electroplating industry waste products, as well as waste containing mercury and chlorinated organics represent a particular danger," Rospotrebnadzor said, citing the federal program devoted to Russia's national system of chemical and biological security for 2009-2013. The Volga Federal District has the maximum number of waste products, about 400 tons per 1 square km. The Southern and Central Federal districts' pollution levels are 267 tons and 211 tons per square km accordingly. [More>>en.rian.ru]
11.21.08 Blast kills at least ten at Shia funeral in Pakistan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (Reuters) November 21 - A bomb attack killed at least 10 people and wounded 40 at the funeral for a Shia Muslim on Friday in the northwest Pakistani town of Dera Ismail Khan. The attack sparked an outbreak of shooting around the hospital where the dead and wounded were brought, and police fired tear gas in an attempt to restore order, according to journalists at the scene. NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told Reuters 10 people were killed and up to 30 wounded, though a doctor at the main government hospital put the number of wounded at 40. The funeral was for a man killed on Thursday, but a Shi'ite cleric was also killed on Friday morning before the funeral. "One of our men was martyred yesterday and one today. We were taking the coffin to the graveyard, reciting mourning hymns, when suddenly this blast happened," Tauqir Zaidi, one of the mourners, told Reuters by telephone from the hospital. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story:
11.21.08 Afghanistan bomb 'kills civilians'
November 21 - Three civilians have been killed in a suicide car bomb attack outside an army base in southern Afghanistan, officials have said. Four Afghan soldiers were also injured in the explosion, which occurred in the Shahjoy district of Zabul province on Friday, Gulab Shah Alikhil, the provincial vice-governor, said. "The driver of a vehicle blew himself up in front of the [Afghan army] base, killing three civilians who were employees queueing to enter. Four soldiers were also wounded in the explosion," he said. There have been no claims of responsibility for the attack, but the explosion comes after a series of bombings by fighters linked to the Taliban, which is leading the ongoing insurgency against the Afghan government. [More>>aljazeera.net]
11.21.08 Thousands of Iraqis decry 'humiliating' US pact
BAGHDAD, November 21 - Protestors say agreement legalizes occupation. Thousands of followers of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr marched on Friday against a pact letting US forces stay in Iraq until 2011, toppling an effigy of President George W. Bush where US troops once tore down a statue of Saddam Hussein. Demonstrators chanted and waved Iraqi flags in Baghdad's Firdos square, where US forces pulled down a statue of the ousted Iraqi dictator when they took the city in 2003. A sign pinned to the Bush effigy — which was later pelted with plastic bottles and torched along with US and British flags — reflected the mood of the protestors: "The security agreement is shameful and humiliating." [More>>alarabiya.net]
11.21.08 Islamists on trail of Somali pirates
MOGADISHU (Reuters) November 21 - Dozens of Somali Islamist insurgents stormed a port on Friday hunting the pirates behind the seizure of a Saudi supertanker that was the world's biggest hijack, a local elder said. Separately, police in the capital Mogadishu said they had ambushed and shot dead 17 Islamist militants, in the latest illustration of the chaos in the Horn of Africa country that has fuelled a dramatic surge in piracy. The Sirius Star — a Saudi vessel with a $100 million oil cargo and 25-man crew from the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Croatia, Poland and Britain — is believed anchored offshore near Haradheere, about half-way up Somalia's long coastline. "Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country and hijacking its ship is a bigger crime than other ships," Sheikh Abdirahim Isse Adow, an Islamist spokesman, told Reuters. "Haradheere is under our control and we shall do something about that ship."
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