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News Headlines & Trends

12.02.09 Officials press Obama's Afghan strategy

WASHINGTON, December 2 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the nation's top military officer laid out a muscular defense of President Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan on Capitol Hill on Wednesday morning, but senators of both parties objected to major parts of the new strategy. At a crowded hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who last year ran against Mr. Obama for president, sharply questioned Mr. Obama's plan to begin withdrawing the additional American forces by July 2011, only a year after they are due to arrive. Mr. McCain called the quick build-up and draw-down “logically incoherent” and pressed both Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about whether the president would withdraw them unconditionally. [More>>nytimes.com; See Obama speech Afghanistan, youtube.com and related story,

aljazeera.net, December 2, "Pakistan concern over Obama's plan" : Pakistani government officials have expressed concern about President Barack Obama's new Afghan strategy, which calls for Pakistan to step up its cooperation against the Taliban in exchange for a pledge of a long-term partnership. The Pakistani foreign affairs ministry issued a cautious response on Wednesday that stressed the "need for clarity" in the new US policy.

"Pakistan looks forward to engaging closely with [the] US in understanding the full importance of the new strategy and to ensure that there would be no adverse fallout on Pakistan," the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday. "Pakistan and the US need to closely coordinate their efforts to achieve shared objectives. There is certainly the need for clarity and coordination on all aspects of the implementation of the strategy."...

12.02.09 Militants target Pakistan's Naval headquarters; one killed

ISLAMABAD, December 2 - Militants on Wednesday struck Pakistan's Naval Headquarters with a teenage suicide bomber blowing himself up at the gate of the complex here, killing a naval official and injuring three others, including a young boy. In the brazen attack, the bomber approached the naval headquarters complex on Margalla Road, a key thoroughfare in the federal capital, on foot at 1.30pm (local time) and blew himself up on being challenged by the guards, police said. The attack on the Naval headquarters comes nearly two months after Taliban militants targeted the Army General Headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi leaving 22 people, including 11 security personnel, dead. [More>>indianexpress.com; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, December 2, "Ziarat, Dunai Killi cleared of militants: ISPR report" : ISLAMABAD - During the last 24 hours, Security forces have cleared compounds at Ziarat and Dunai Killi and recovered cache of arms and ammunition on Jandola sector in operation Rah-e-Nijat in the South Waziristan. According to ISPR, on Shakai sector, terrorists fired 8 rockets at Spin Jammat and Ladha Fort which was effectively responded to. Security forces cleared area up to Garez Sar Shahur River, Garezai Alged and defused cluster of IEDs.

Security forces carried [out an] area domination operation near Mana Camp, Pash Ziarat and Pasal Kot and recovered arms and ammunition on Razmak sector. Terrorists fired rockets at Lakki Ghund which was effectively responded to. Security forces cleared 75 compounds at Qalandar village, during encounter an officer was injured. Meanwhile, Security forces conducted [a] search and clearance operation at Pirpatai and Qambar and apprehended 6 terrorists. Eight terrorists voluntarily surrendered themselves to security forces at Barshaur, Charbagh and Gagra. As many as, 15,967 Cash Cards have been issued to displaced families of Wazirsitan. [end]

thenews.com.pk, December 2, "Forces clear Dunai Killi: ISPR report"  :
PESHAWAR - ...The operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan Agency continued today as well. On Jandola Sector, during last 24 hours, security forces cleared Dunai Killi, remaining portion of Janata and recovered [a] huge cache of arms and ammunition. Security forces conducted patrolling in areas around Bxu, Bakka Khel, Rucha, Bapsa, Sagai and Talib Khel. On Shakai Sector, security forces carried out consolidation of their positions at Asman Manza, Mola Khan Sarai and Kundi Ghar Sar. On Razmak Sector, terrorists fired seven rockets at Lakki Ghund, five rockets at Mana Camp and four rockets at Ladha Bridge near Makeen which was responded effectively.

Security forces cleared 30 compounds at Kam Narakai and 72 compounds at Mir Khoni and recovered cache of arms. About operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat and Malakand, security forces carried out search operation in area Gulibagh, Tiligram and apprehended 5 suspects. A destroyed bridge by the terrorists constructed by Army Engineers has been opened for all kinds of traffic. On a tip off, security forces raided at Sarga Moray near Batkhela, and apprehended 5 terrorists...

12.02.09 Ahmadinejad: Israel can't do 'damn thing' to stop Iran nuclear program

December 2 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Wednesday Israel could not do a "damn thing" to stop the Islamic state's nuclear program, which the West suspects is a front to build bombs. "The Zionist regime (Israel) and its (western) backers cannot do a damn thing to stop Iran's nuclear work," Ahmadinejad said in a televised speech in the central city of Isfahan. Ahmadinejad rejected on Wednesday as "illegal" a UN nuclear watchdog resolution over the country's disputed nuclear activities, state television reported. [More>>haaretz.com]

12.02.09 Iran releases five Britons detained from yacht

TEHRAN (Reuters) December 2 - Iran released five Britons detained in the Gulf after their yacht apparently strayed into Iranian waters, Britain said on Wednesday, averting a diplomatic row on top of Iran's disputes with the West over its nuclear programme. One of the five yachtsmen, David Bloomer, said afterwards they had been treated well after straying into Iranian waters unawares because of a breakdown. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.02.09 California insurers say US $12 billion invested in Iran

SACRAMENTO, CA, December 2 - California's insurance commissioner said Tuesday he will push insurance companies doing business in the state to divest up to US$12 billion in indirect investments in Iran's defense, nuclear, energy and banking industries. Commissioner Steve Poizner said he will urge the companies to voluntarily sell the investments they reported to his office. If they refuse to sell within 120 days, he plans to try to force the divestment so money paid by California policyholders is not flowing to a US-listed state sponsor of terrorism. He also intends to subpoena executives from other companies that didn't provide the Iranian investment information to his office...Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty, secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, said he is consulting other states' commissioners to see if it is practical to develop a national effort similar to California's. [Full story>>thestar.com]

12.02.09 Iran whistleblower silenced by deadly salad

CAIRO (AP) December 2 - A doctor who blew the whistle on the torture of jailed protesters in Iran died of poisoning from an overdose of an anti-hypertension drug in his salad, prosecutors say, fueling opposition fears that he was killed because of what he knew about the abuse. Investigators are still trying to determine whether his death was a suicide or murder, Tehran's public prosecutor Abbas Dowlatabadi said, according to the state news agency IRNA. The 26-year-old doctor, Ramin Pourandarjani, died on Nov. 10 in mysterious circumstances — with authorities initially saying he was in a car accident, had a heart attack or committed suicide.

Pourandarjani was a doctor at Kahrizak, a prison on Tehran's outskirts where hundreds of opposition protesters were taken after being arrested in the crackdown following June's disputed presidential elections. The facility became so notorious that it was ordered shut down by Iran's supreme leader as reports of abuse and torture became an embarrassment to the clerical rulers and security forces. Pourandarjani later testified to a parliamentary committee and reportedly told them that one young protester he treated died from heavy torture. The young physician died from an overdose of propranolol in a delivered salad, Dowlatabadi said Tuesday. Propranolol is used to treat high blood pressure, rapid heart rate and tremors, and can be lethal in high doses.

12.02.09 Israel strips more Palestinians of Jerusalem status

JERUSALEM (Reuters) December 2 - Israel stripped Palestinians of Jerusalem residency status last year at a faster rate than at any time in the history of the Jewish state, an Israeli rights group said on Wedenesday, citing official Israeli statistics. "Revocation of residence has reached frightening proportions," said Dalia Kerstein, executive director of Israel's HaMoked Center for the Defence of the Individual. Statistics HaMoked obtained from the Ministry of Interior under a Freedom of Information Act request show 4,577 residents of East Jerusalem had their residence revoked in 2008, which was greater than half the total revoked in the past 40 years.

The United Nations, the United States and the European have criticized Israel's policies in Jerusalem, which include the eviction of Palestinians from homes whose ownership they cannot prove, demolition of housing built without Israeli permits, and expansion of settlements on land occupied since a 1967 war. The Palestinians say Israel's aim is to get rid of as many Palestinian residents as possible from East Jerusalem, to reduce their presence in its eastern districts and undermine the claim to half of the Holy City as capital of their future state.

12.02.09 US: Poor, minorities struggle to access banks

WASHINGTON (AP) December 2 - More than a million American households lost access to basic banking services like savings accounts last year, bank regulators say. Those families are among 30 million households that have little or no access to such services, according to a survey released Wednesday from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Poor and minority families are especially hard-hit. In all, 25.6 percent of US households either lack bank accounts or use payday loans, check-cashing services and other costly alternatives to traditional banks, according to the survey.

The report is part of an FDIC effort to bring the so-called "unbanked" into the financial mainstream. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said access to a bank account gives households "an important first step toward achieving financial security." Vulnerable families need the ability to save for emergencies and borrow on affordable terms, she said in a statement. "By better understanding this group
who they are and their reasons for being unbanked or underbanked we will be better positioned to help them take that first step," Bair said. [>thejakartapost.com]

12.02.09 Chechens claim Russian train bombing

(AP) December 2 - Chechen rebels claimed responsibility Wednesday for last week's Russian train bombing, which killed at least 26 people and injured scores of others, a Web site sympathetic to the militants said. The claim, posted on the Kavkazcenter.com site, could buttress the suspicions of officials who are tracing the attack to Islamist separatists in Russia's North Caucasus region. It also raises fears of a fresh wave of attacks outside the region after a five-year break — a renewal of violence that would mirror the growing unrest inside the region. [More>>jpost.com]

12.02.09 Google Gears to be allowed to die

BEIJING, December 2 - Google is to allow its Gears offline utility to languish as it attempts to move the Web forward into HTML 5.0, Google executives said Monday. According to Linus Upson, the engineering director at Google, Gears' time has come and gone. The technology will be supported for compatibility's sake, but not improved upon...Google Gears was originally launched in 2007 as a tool for allowing Web-based Google applications to work offline, like rivals Microsoft Outlook or Lotus Notes. But in May of 2008, Google used its I/O Conference to make a push for HTML 5.0 and capabilities that include the ability to cache apps and databases, and apply canvas, video, and geolocation tags. [Full story>>xinhuanet.com]

12.02.09 Male gene may hold key to limited lifespan

December 2 - Men may carry the reason for their limited lifespan in their sperm, a study suggests. Scientists believe a particular male gene may explain why men do not live as long as women. The gene is passed on to offspring by sperm but is only active in men, allowing them to grow bigger bodies at the expense of longevity, according to the theory. Although the study was conducted on mice, scientists think the findings could apply to all mammals including humans. The Japanese researchers looked at mice created with genetic material from two mothers but no father.

The 13 "bi-maternal" (BM) mice were produced by manipulating DNA so that the genes in young mouse eggs behaved like those in sperm, giving them the ability to fertilise. The altered genetic material was then implanted into eggs of adult female mice to create embryos. Resulting offspring had genes inherited from two mothers, with no contribution made by sperm. BM mice were found to live on average a third longer than normal. Normal mice created through natural mating lived no longer than 996 days, while the longest surviving BM mouse lived 1,045 days.

12.02.09 New stem cell lines open to research

December 2 - The National Institutes of Health said Wednesday that it had approved 13 new human embryonic stem cell lines for use by federally financed researchers, with another 96 lines under review. The National Institutes of Health said Wednesday that it had approved 13 new human embryonic stem cell lines for use by federally financed researchers, with another 96 lines under review. [More>>nytimes.com]

12.01.09 Haaretz Exclusive: EU draft document on division of Jerusalem

December 1 - Current EU president Sweden has proposed that the body recognize East Jerusalem as Palestinian capital. The current holder of the rotating European Union presidency, Sweden, has put together a draft document calling for the division of Jerusalem between Israel and a future Palestinian state and implying that the EU would recognize a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood. Haaretz has obtained a copy of the document (below) that has sparked criticism by Israel, which claims that such a move would further harm the chances of renewing the Mideast peace process. [More>>haaretz.com; See related story,

jpost.com, December 1, " 'Don't call Jerusalem Palestinian captial' " :
Sweden's attempts to insert language into an EU resolution on the Middle East that would recognize east Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent Palestinian state harms European efforts to play a significant part in mediating between Israel and the Palestinians, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued Tuesday morning. The statement followed a Haaretz report that the Swedes were pushing a resolution that will be discussed at a monthly meeting of EU ministers next week in Brussels that would officially call for the division of Jerusalem. According to the Foreign Ministry statement, there is nothing new in the resolution. However, as one Israeli diplomatic official pointed out, what is maddening from an Israeli view point is that the call for east Jerusalem to be the capital of an independent Palestinian state is not coupled with a call to recognize west Jerusalem as the capital of Israel...

12.01.09 Russia to back Iran sanctions if international consensus reached

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 1 - Russia will back sanctions against Iran over its controversial nuclear program if an international consensus is reached, a diplomatic source said on Tuesday. "If there is a consensus on sanctions, Russia will not remain in isolation," the source said, commenting on Tehran's plans to build 10 new uranium enrichment facilities. [More>>en.rian.ru]

12.01.09 Suicide bomber kills politician in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) December 1 - A suicide bomber killed a provincial lawmaker and his brother on Tuesday in Pakistan's northwest Swat valley, where the military claims to have quashed a Taliban uprising. A man with explosives strapped to his body walked apparently unchallenged into the grounds of a property owned by provincial assembly member Shamsher Ali Khan and blew himself up, killing the two men and wounding several others, officials said.

The attack against a member of the Awami National Party, which dominates the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) assembly, came as Taliban insurgents stage a wave of attacks avenging a multi-pronged military offensive against them. "Dr. Shamsher Ali Khan and his brother were killed in the suicide attack," Swat police chief Qazi Ghulam Farooq said. Senior local police official Ali Khan told AFP that the politician had been sitting on the lawn in front of his house receiving guests and local constituents when a man in his early 20s rushed up to him.
[More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, December 1, "12 militants apprehended in Kurram: Col. Tauseef" :
PARACHINAR, Pakistan - The security forces arrested 12 militants during a successful raid on a house at Badama area and recovered huge quantity of arms and ammunition from their possession, commandant Kurram Militia Col. Tauseef Ahmed said on Tuesday. On a tip off about presence of militants at house at village Badama, the security forces conducted a successful raid on a house between Monday and Tuesday night and apprehended 12 militants. [A] Huge quantity of arms and ammunition including rounds of different bore guns, mortar shells, anti tank mines, artillery shells and four kilogram opium.

As many as 29 cartons of cigarettes have also been recovered. Col. Tauseef told reporters that dozens of militants have been arrested and several were killed. The operation against militants will continue till their complete elimination, he added. Meanwhile in Bajaur Agency, the young nephew of PML-N Bajaur Agency president Haji Rahat Yousaf was shot dead by firing of unknown persons while he was proceeding to home after "Isha" prayer in Khar, headquarters of the agency. [end]

thenews.com.pk, December 1, "Five terrorists killed in SWA, Swat Operation - ISPR report" : PESHAWAR - ...
On Jandola Sector, during last 24 hours, security forces cleared Dunai Killi, remaining portion of Janata and recovered huge cache of arms and ammunition. Security forces conducted patrolling in areas around Bxu, Bakka Khel, Rucha, Bapsa, Sagai and Talib Khel. On Shakai Sector, security forces carried out consolidation of their positions at Asman Manza, Mola Khan Sarai and Kundi Ghar Sar. On Razmak Sector, terrorists fired seven rockets at Lakki Ghund, five rockets at Mana Camp and four rockets at Ladha Bridge near Makeen which was responded effectively.

Security forces cleared 30 compounds at Kam Narakai and 72 compounds at Mir Khoni and recovered cache of arms. About operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat and Malakand, security forces carried out search operation in area Gulibagh, Tiligram and apprehended 5 suspects. A destroyed bridge by the terrorists constructed by Army Engineers has been opened for all kinds of traffic. On a tip off, security forces raided at Sarga Moray near Batkhela, and apprehended 5 terrorists.

12.01.09 Pakistan PM asks for US, UK support on Osama

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, December 1 - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has rejected reports that al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, saying the country will act if Britain and the US share actionable intelligence about his whereabouts. "So far, the US and the UK have not shared any actionable intelligence regarding the top al-Qaeda leadership," Gilani told a group of reporters accompanying him on an official visit to Germany and Britain, while dismissing reports that bin Laden was in Pakistan. [More>>indianexpress.com]

12.01.09 Kidnapping proves lucrative for N. Aftican al-Qaeda

DAKAR, December 1 - AQIM targeting tourists and aid workers. Kidnapping has become a lucrative business for al-Qaeda's north African branch, experts said Tuesday after a French national and three Spaniards were abducted in the Sahel within days of each other. The kidnapping of Frenchman Pierre Camatte in northern Mali last week and the abduction of the Spanish aid workers on Sunday in Mauritania have both been attributed to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), even though it has not yet claimed responsibility.

In the last year, kidnappings "have multiplied, and the situation has continuously deteriorated in the last five years," Alain Antil, a researcher for the French Institute on International Relations (IFRI) said. "Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb needs money (...) Other groups can snatch Westerners for them and hand them over. You get the impression it's becoming a business in the (Sahel) region," Antil explained.

12.01.09 'Global surge' in rhino poaching

December 1 - Rhino poaching around the world is on the rise despite efforts to protect the animals, a report warns. The global surge in the illegal trade has been driven by demands from Asian medicinal markets, the study by conservationists concluded. It suggests that a decline in law enforcement is the main reason for the rise in poaching in Africa. The report found that 95% of rhino poaching in Africa since 2006 had occurred in Zimbabwe and South Africa. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

11.30.09 Investors face huge losses as debt-ridden Dubai World is abandoned by government

November 30 - The Government of Dubai said today that it will not stand behind its wholly-owned subsidiary Dubai World, prompting fears that the company's creditors could lose billions of dollars. Today's comment, from Abdulrahman al-Saleh, the director general of Dubai's Department of Finance, effectively confirms that country does not have enough money to repay Dubai World's $60 billion of liabilities. Deloitte, the accountancy firm, has been called in to restructure the giant business. Last week, the state-owned conglomerate sought a six-month standstill on repaying its debts.

Dubai World's borrowings include a $3.5 billion Islamic bond that was due to be repaid by Nakheel, the property developer behind the Palm Jumeriah islands, in two weeks. Many creditors had assumed that the structure of Islamic bonds implied there was state backing for this type of financing and Dubai's failure to support the Nakheel debt could have damaging implications for the wider Islamic market. UK banks are among 70 institutions to have loaned Dubai World money in recent years as the company grew rapidly and bought foreign assets such as the Turnberry golf course in Scotland and P&O ports. Dubai's Department of Finance said creditors will be affected in "the short term" by the Dubai World's restructuring.

11.30.09 Barack Obama orders Afghanistan troop build-up

November 30 - US President Barack Obama has issued new orders for the US military in Afghanistan after deciding how many more troops to send, officials say. Mr. Obama told senior military leaders about his long-awaited decision on troop numbers on Sunday night, a White House spokesman said. The president is now briefing the UK, French and Russian leaders on the plan. The moves come as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would send 500 more soldiers to the country. According to US media reports, Mr. Obama is set to formally announce that a further 30,000 troops are to be sent to Afghanistan in a televised address on Tuesday. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

11.30.09 Stop using insurgents as strategic tool, Obama warns Pakistan

WASHINGTON, November 30 - In a stern message to Pakistan, the United States has asked it to shed its policy of "using insurgents" like LeT as a strategic tool and warned that if it cannot deliver against terrorists, the US may be impelled to use "any means" at its disposal. The message, which has been conveyed in a letter from US President Barack Obama to his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, also includes an offer by him to try to "reduce tensions" between India and Pakistan, media reported here. The two-page letter, hand-delivered by National Security Adviser General (retd) James Jones when he visited Islamabad early this month, offers Pakistan enhancement of strategic partnership if they act as wished by the US, besides additional military and economic aid.

In his letter, Obama has also warned Pakistan that its use of insurgent groups for policy goals "cannot continue" and called for closer collaboration against all extremist groups. He named five such groups - al-Qaeda, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Tehrik-e-Taliban. "Using vague diplomatic language, he said that ambiguity in Pakistan's relationship with any of them could no longer be ignored," the 'Washington Post' reported.. Jones did some straight-talking with the top Pakistani leadership, the daily said. "If Pakistan cannot deliver, he warned, the US may be impelled to use any means at its disposal to rout insurgents based along Pakistan's western and southern borders with Afghanistan."
[More>>indianexpress.com; See also timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

11.30.09 Pakistan Tehsil Bara cleared of extremists: Brig. Fayyaz

BARA, Pakistan, November 30 - Frontier Corps Commandant Brig Fayyaz Monday said Khyber Agency's Tehsil Bara has been cleared of extremists and evidences regarding the involvement of foreign hand there, were also found. Addressing a news briefing over the operation, "Khwakh Ba De Sham," Brig Fayyaz said the forces are attaining extraordinary successes in the operation with Gargari completely under forces control. At least 61 extremists have hitherto been killed and 87 others arrested and 27 vehicles were destroyed, he informed adding the extremists are [also] being defeated in .. Ferozkhel and Orakzai Agencies.

He said there are Afghan and Uzbek bodies among the captured bodies of extremists, adding tunnels and caves used by terrorists were also found, where gunpowder and explosives used to be produced. The FC Commandant said the noose around the extremists commanders Mangal Bagh, Adnan Nazeer and Tariq is being tightened and the success will soon be achieved in this connection. Indian-manufactured weapons were also found among the captured arms and ammunition in the operation, he added.

11.30.09 Iran expands naval clout in strategic Gulf: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) Revolutionary Guards in charge of operations in case of conflict. Iran has restructured its naval forces to give an arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards full responsibility for operations in the strategic Gulf in the event of a conflict, according to a new U.S. intelligence study. The concentration of fast attack boats and cruise missiles in and along the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy, known as the IRGCN, "better allow Iranian naval assets to contribute to and extend Iran's layered defense strategy," the US Office of Naval Intelligence said in the study, dated fall 2009.

The Revolutionary Guards have gradually expanded its naval capabilities over the years by incorporating Chinese, North Korean and Italian designs and technology, both military and commercial, and it now deploys some of the fastest naval vessels in the Persian Gulf, the study said. It said the Revolutionary Guards also reportedly wants to develop or acquire "unmanned" naval vessels. As part of the reorganization, which began in 2007, the Islamic Republic of Iran Navy, or IRIN, has positioned its own naval assets further into the Gulf of Oman, according to the study, first disclosed by the Secrecy News Web site last week...The study by the Office of Naval Intelligence cited public statements by Iranian leaders indicating that they would "consider closing or controlling the Strait of Hormuz if provoked, thereby cutting off almost 30 percent of the world's oil supply."

11.30.09 British sailors in Iran custody

November 30 - Five Britons are being held in Iran after the Iranian navy seized their racing yacht, which may have strayed into Iranian waters in the Gulf en route from Bahrain to Dubai, Britain's foreign ministry has said. The yacht, owned by Sail Bahrain, was seized on November 25, a day before it was to take part in the Dubai-Muscat Offshore Sailing Race. The foreign ministry in London said all the sailors were understood to be safe and well and their families have been informed. The Dubai-Muscat 360-nautical mile race, which first took place in 1992, passes through the Gulf into the Indian Ocean and via the Straits of Hormuz, before arriving in Muscat, the capital of Oman. [More>>aljazeera.net]

11.30.09 Hezbollah cuts Islamist rhetoric in new manifesto

BEIRUT (Reuters) November 30 - Lebanon's Hezbollah group announced a new political strategy on Monday that tones down Islamist rhetoric but maintains a tough line against Israel and the United States. The new manifesto drops reference to an Islamic republic in Lebanon, which has a substantial Christian population, confirming changes to Hezbollah thinking about the need to respect Lebanon's diversity. Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, who read the new "political document" at a news conference, said it was time the group introduced pragmatic changes without dropping its commitment to an Islamist ideology tied to the clerical establishment in Iran. "People evolve. The whole world changed over the past 24 years. Lebanon changed. The world order changed," he said via a video link. Stressing a history of struggle against Israel, the 32-page document said Hezbollah had to remain alert and wary of Israel: "Israel represents a constant threat and an impending danger to Lebanon." [More>>thestar.com.my]

11.30.09 Somali pirates seize US-bound tanker

NAIROBI, Kenya, November 30 - Somali pirates have struck again, seizing an oil tanker loaded with $20 million in crude that was headed from Saudi Arabia to the United States, naval authorities said Monday. According to European naval reports, nine pirates hijacked the tanker and its crew of about about 800 miles offshore and headed back toward pirate havens along the coast of central Somalia. The Somali pirate business appears to be back in full swing after a brief lull this summer that some attributed to increased naval patrols but which may have had more to do with the monsoon season. Now that the seas are calm, the pirates have resumed operations, acting with even greater sophistication.

...In the past two months, 38 ships have been attacked and 10 hijacked, the International Maritime Bureau said. That number includes a British couple taking the trip of a lifetime who were hijacked in their sailboat. Their kidnappers have threatened to kill them unless a seven-figure ransom is paid. The hefty international naval presence, with an average of 20 warships per day cruising off Somalia's coast, is simply not enough to halt the pirates...No immediate claims of ransom were reported for the tanker just captured, the Maran Centaurus.
[Full story>>nytimes.com]

11.30.09 Scores arrested in wildlife poaching raid

November 30 - More than 2 tons of ivory has been seized and more than 100 people arrested in an international operation targeting wildlife crime in eastern Africa, Interpol announced Monday. In a news release, the international police organization called it the "biggest ever transnational wildlife crime operation in Africa." Working under the code name Operation Costa, officers from police, national wildlife, customs and national intelligence agencies collaborated across six countries -- Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, Interpol said. Shops and markets in the six countries were inspected and raided, resulting in the seizure of ivory, weapons and ammunition and the confiscation of vehicles...The Kenya operation alone resulted in the seizure of more than a ton of illegal ivory...[Full story>>cnn.com]

11.30.09 Is your chicken dinner safe?

November 30 - Consumer Reports Study Reveals Two-Thirds of Tested Chickens Contaminated with Pathogens....Consumer Reports purchased 382 raw whole broiler chickens from more than 100 stores in 22 states and tested for salmonella and a dangerous bacteria called campylobacter. And in Consumer Reports' findings, nearly two-thirds of the chickens tested had either one or both pathogens, Rangan said. Koeppen said 62 percent of the birds had some level of campylobacter, 14 percent had salmonella, and nine percent had both. Only 34 percent of the chickens were completely clean of both pathogens. Rangan said, "You can't see these pathogens, so you must assume that any piece of raw meat that you're handling has some level of pathogen on it." ...[Full story>>cbsnews.com; See full report, consumerreports.org]

11.30.09 How many criminals has Huckabee helped free?

November 30 - Former Arkansas Governor, Under Fire for Springing Alleged Lakewood Shooter Maurice Clemmons, Also Pushed for Release of Wayne Dumond. Any political ambitions of former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee could be hurt by his role in freeing Maurice Clemmons, the gunman suspected in the execution murders of four police officers in Washington State -- especially since Clemmons would not be the first criminal Huckabee helped to free who later committed murder. Clemmons was serving 95 years when Huckabee, then governor of Arkansas, commuted his sentence in 2000.

Clemmons is now being sought in the murders of four Lakewood, Wash. police officers, who were ambushed and shot in a coffee shop Sunday morning. Four years earlier, Huckabee also pushed for the parole of rapist Wayne Dumond despite chilling testimonies from victims and their relatives that he was a dangerous criminal who would strike again. Ashley Stevens, a 17-year-old cheerleader when Dumond raped her, told ABC News in 2007 that she put her face inches from Huckabee's and said, "This is how close I was to Wayne Dumond, and I will never forget his face, and you will never forget mine. He's the one that raped me."

11.29.09 Iran defies world with plan for ten new nuclear sites

November 29 - Each of the 10 new sites will be the same size as Iran's Natanz plant. Iran's Government today announced plans to build ten new uranium enrichment plants and said work would start within two months. Each site will be the size of the existing Natanz plant with the aim of producing between 250-300 tones of uranium a year. IRNA, Iran's state news agency, says the Government ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to begin construction of five uranium enrichment sites that have already been studied and propose five other sites for future construction. The decision was made during a Cabinet meeting headed by President Ahmadinejad on Sunday evening, IRNA said. The move comes just two days after world powers united in condemnation of Iran's nuclear activities in a rare show of international consensus on the threat posed by Tehran's continued nuclear defiance. [More>>timesonline.co.uk; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, November 29, "US warns Iran against more illegal enrichment plants": WASHINGTON - The United States warned the Iranian government Sunday against building 10 new uranium enrichment plants, saying it would be again breaking international law if it carried out the plans. "If carried out, this would constitute yet another violation of Iran's continuing obligation of suspension of all enrichment-related activities including construction of new plants," a State Department spokesman said. [end]

11.29.09 Iran grants $20m to terrorist groups

(AP) November 29 - Iran's parliament passed a law on Sunday earmarking $20 million to support terrorist groups opposing the West and investigate alleged US and British plots against the Islamic Republic. The legislation is widely seen as a response to Western criticism of Iran's violent crackdown against protesters following the disputed June presidential election. Lawmakers started debating the outline of the bill in August when Iran's hardline leaders were fending off allegations that security forces had tortured opposition activists detained during the demonstrations. The text of the legislation says the money is to "support progressive currents that resist illegal activities by the governments of the US and Britain."

Iranian officials often use such terms to describe militant groups. It was not immediately clear which groups would receive funding from Iran, but Teheran already backs the Islamic terrorists Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The bill also taps funds to "confront plots and unjust restrictions" by the Washington and London against Teheran and to disclose "human rights abuses by the two countries." A committee with representatives from Iran's intelligence services, the elite Revolutionary Guards, as well as the Foreign Ministry and the communication and culture ministries will manage the funds. Iran's constitutional watchdog must still approve the bill before it takes effect.

11.29.09 UK says none could spot Osama in 8 years

LONDON, November 29 - British Prime Minister Gordon Brown urged Pakistan on Sunday to step up its action against Al-Qaeda and hunt down leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri. "We have got to ask the Pakistani security forces, army and politicians to join us in the major effort that the world is committing resources to, not only to isolate Al-Qaeda but to break them in Pakistan," Brown told BBC television. He added: "The Pakistan government has started to take on the Taliban and to take on al-Qaeda in South Waziristan. But we have got to ask ourselves why, eight years after September 11, nobody has been able to spot or detain or get close to Osama bin Laden, nobody has been able to get close to Zawahiri, the number two of al-Qaeda."

Pakistan's prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, will visit Britain on Thursday and hold talks with Brown at Downing Street. Brown continued: "I will be talking, as I have over the last few days, to all the senior leaders in Pakistan and saying if we are putting our strategy into place for dealing with building up Afghan forces in Afghanistan so they can control things themselves, then Pakistan has got to be able to show that it can take on al-Qaeda, which is a threat to Pakistan and the Pakistani people as well as to the rest of the world. "We have got to focus the attention of the world on the continuing threat from al-Qaeda.

"As I have said, three-quarters of terrorist plots that threaten Britain arise from that area of Pakistan. I believe that after eight years, we should have been able to do more, with all the Pakistani forces working together with the rest of the world, to get to the bottom of where al-Qaeda is operating from. "I want to make sure that the Pakistani army and Pakistani security services, as well as the Pakistani politicians, will make sure that in South Waziristan we are taking on al-Qaeda directly."

Brown acknowledged that progress had been made but stressed that Britain wanted more done to hunt down the two top al-Qaeda chiefs. "Progress has been made... but we want, after eight years, to see more progress in taking out these two people at the top of al-Qaeda, who have done so much damage and are clearly the brains behind many of the operations aimed at Britain."
[>thenews.com.pk; See also,

bbc.co.uk, November 29, "Pakistan must help break al-Qaeda, says Brown" :
...Meanwhile, a Senate report claims US forces had Bin Laden "within their grasp" in Afghanistan in late 2001. BBC World Affairs correspondent Mike Wooldridge said this was not a new claim. However, he said, staff working for the Democratic majority on the Foreign Relations Committee now claimed to have evidence that in December 2001 US military power was kept on the sidelines while Bin Laden escaped "unmolested" into Pakistan's unregulated tribal areas...

Related stories:

cbsnews.com (AP) November 29, "Senate report: Bin Laden was within grasp" : Osama bin Laden was unquestionably within reach of US troops in the mountains of Tora Bora when American military leaders made the crucial and costly decision not to pursue the terrorist leader with massive force, a Senate report says. The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden's escape laid the foundation for today's reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says. Staff members for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Democratic majority prepared the report at the request of the chairman, Sen. John Kerry, as President Obama prepares to boost US troops in Afghanistan.

...The report states categorically that bin Laden was hiding in Tora Bora when the US had the means to mount a rapid assault with several thousand troops at least. It says that a review of existing literature, unclassified government records and interviews with central participants "removes any lingering doubts and makes it clear that Osama bin Laden was within our grasp at Tora Bora."

On or about Dec. 16, 2001, bin Laden and bodyguards "walked unmolested out of Tora Bora and disappeared into Pakistan's unregulated tribal area," where he is still believed to be based, the report says. Instead of a massive attack, fewer than 100 US commandos, working with Afghan militias, tried to capitalize on air strikes and track down their prey. "The vast array of American military power, from sniper teams to the most mobile divisions of the Marine Corps and the Army, was kept on the sidelines," the report said...

cnn.com, November 29, "Report: 'Bin Laden was within our grasp' ": President Obama got some political cover Sunday for his upcoming announcement on sending more troops to Afghanistan...Bin Laden had written his will, apparently sensing he was trapped, but the lack of sufficient forces to close in for the kill allowed him to escape to tribal areas in Pakistan, according to the report. It said former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and top US commander Gen. Tommy Franks held back the necessary forces for a "classic sweep-and-block maneuver" that could have prevented bin Laden's escape.

...Gary Berntsen, the CIA operative who led the pursuit of bin Laden at Tora Bora, said in 2005 that his request for up to 800 US troops to cut off the al-Qaeda leader's escape route was denied..."Requests were also turned down for US troops to block the mountain paths leading to sanctuary a few miles away in Pakistan," it continued..."...

11.29.09 Pakistan security forces action in tribal areas; 14 killed

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, November 29 - At least 14 extremists were killed and a security man was injured in action in Kurram Agency, Khyber Agency and South Waziristan Agency, Geo News reported Sunday. According to sources, the security forces pounded the suspected hideouts of the extremists from gunship helicopters in Kurram Agency's Central Kurram area of Spairkat. In this military action, six extremists were killed and their three hideouts were destroyed. According to FC Media Cell, the security forces gained control over various hideouts in Khyber Agency Tehsil Bara areas of Garh Sara Gari. At least four extremists were killed in the action. Meantime, at least 67 suspected extremists were nabbed during the search operation in Tehsil Bara area of Sipah. A security man was injured in the extremists’ rocket attack at FC Camp in the SWA area of Ladha. In the retaliatory action, at least four extremists were killed. The extremists destroyed a girls primary school in Bajaur Agency area of Mamond. [>thenews.com.pk]

11.29.09 Dubai Babylon: The glitz, the glamor - and now the gloom

November 29 - The Gulf state's dash for intense economic growth at breakneck speed was a project that was bound to fail. Karen Attwood and Mark Leftly report on an extraordinary tale of success leading to excess. Dubai, the Arabian city state that tried to turn itself into Manhattan-on-the-Gulf inside a decade, looks this weekend as if it may end up more like an expensive imitation of Sodom and Gomorrah. No brimstone, no vengeful God, but still an awful lot of wreckage after an orgy of hedonistic excess.

This, until last week, was the world capital of greed, a Legoland of lolly, where flashy malls, artificial islands, and preposterous skyscrapers were run up in no time; where monied chancers booked into £4,000-a-night hotel rooms; and where celebrities who didn't know better were lured into a place that was even gaudier than their own homes. People said it was all built on sand, but, after the businesses at the core of the Dubai empire revealed a black hole of $80bn, we now know it was actually built on debt, semi-slave labour and the glossiest puffery that borrowed money can buy.

This, before we get down to the juicy details, is not how Gordon Brown saw it. The Dubai dream was largely the creation of the late Sheikh Maktoum and his successor, the current ruler Sheikh Mohammed. The day before Dubai's shock debt announcement, the sheikh was in London. According to UAE's national news service, Gordon Brown said he was "impressed with the quick recovery made by the UAE economy and the measures made by the leadership and government there that led to minimal impact of that crisis on the country's economy."

Once upon a recent time, this was true. At the height of Dubai's property bubble, developers competed to outdo each other and impress the sheikh with more and more outlandish projects at the city's annual property show Cityscape. Ski fields in the desert and the world's largest shopping mall of 1,200 shops, complete with an aquarium housing 400 sharks, are among the projects already built, and plans for an underwater hotel. Prospective buyers would queue for hours for the chance to purchase off-plan property. Ten minutes later they would sell on to someone at the back of the queue for a £10,000 profit. While the economy boomed, the city partied hard. Dubai quickly became a favorite playground for Russian gangsters, Bollywood movie stars, and British footballers and their WAGs.
[More>>independent.co.uk; See related story,

bbc.co.uk, November 29, "Dubai banks given extra liquidity" :
The central bank of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has said it will provide banks with extra liquidity. The news comes days after the state-owned Dubai World said it would ask for an extension on repaying its debts, sending world stock markets tumbling. The liquidity will be available to all UAE banks as well as foreign banks operating in the Emirates. Dubai's government is expected to make a statement before the market opens on Monday, to try to reassure investors...

11.29.09 Switzerland votes to ban minarets

GENEVA (AFP) November 29 - Switzerland on Sunday voted to impose a blanket ban on the building of minarets across the country, backing an initiative by far-right politicians. A clear majority of 57.5% of the population and 22 out of 26 cantons voted to ban the towers or turrets attached on mosques from where Muslims are called to prayer. Far-right politicians celebrated the results, while the government sought to assure the Muslim minority that a ban on minarets was "not a rejection of the Muslim community, religion or culture." [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]

11.29.09 Air strike kills 30 Taliban in Afghanistan

KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) November 29 - About 30 Taliban insurgents were killed in a NATO-led air strike in eastern Afghanistan after they attacked an Afghan police post, a police official and the alliance said on Sunday. Afghan border police commander Sayed Nabi Mullahkhil said a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province, which shares a border with Pakistan, was attacked by militants overnight. The privately owned Tolo TV station said 26 insurgents were killed, including one fighter from Chechnya. [More>>alarabiya.net; See also aljazeera.net]

11.29.09 Dogs diagnosed with swine flu in China

BEIJING (AFP) November 30 - Two dogs in Beijing have tested positive for swine flu in the second case of animals catching the disease in China along with pigs in the northeast. The A(H1N1) virus detected in the dogs is 99 per cent identical to the one circulating in humans, the state-run Beijing Times reported today, quoting China's agriculture ministry. The news comes 10 days after four pigs in China's Heilongjiang province were diagnosed with the virus, which specialists said might have been caught from humans, the report said. Countries including the US, Canada and Chile have already reported cases of animals being infected with the A(H1N1) virus. [More>>news.com.au]

11.28.09 US to pressure mortgage firms for loan relief

November 28 - The Obama administration on Monday plans to announce a campaign to pressure mortgage companies to reduce payments for many more troubled homeowners, as evidence mounts that a $75 billion taxpayer-financed effort aimed at stemming foreclosures is foundering. "The banks are not doing a good enough job," Michael S. Barr, Treasury's assistant secretary for financial institutions, said in an interview Friday. "Some of the firms ought to be embarrassed, and they will be." Even as lenders have in recent months accelerated the pace at which they are reducing mortgage payments for borrowers, a vast majority of loans modified through the program remain in a trial stage lasting up to five months, and only a tiny fraction have been made permanent. Mr. Barr said the government would try to use shame as a corrective, publicly naming those institutions that move too slowly to permanently lower mortgage payments. The Treasury Department also will wait until reductions are permanent before paying cash incentives that it promised to mortgage companies that lower loan payments. [More>>nytimes.com]

11.28.09 Russia train crash 'caused by bomb'

November 28 - A bomb blast caused the Russian train crash in which at least 26 people were killed, intelligence officials say. The Nevsky Express derailed with nearly 700 on board as it ran through remote countryside between the capital Moscow and the second city, St. Petersburg. Investigators found "elements of an explosive device" at the scene of Friday's attack, a statement said. Officials said a second, less powerful device went off on Saturday near the site of the first, but no-one was hurt. There was no immediate confirmed claim of responsibility for the blast on Friday evening, which hit a train popular with government officials and business executives at peak travel time. "Criminology experts say, on the basis of preliminary information, that an improvised explosive device, equivalent to 7kg (15 lb) of TNT, had gone off," said Alexander Bortnikov, head of Russia's domestic intelligence service. At least three of the 14 carriages left the tracks as the train reportedly approached speeds up 200 km/h (130mph). [More>>bbc.co.uk; See related story,

en.rian.ru, November 28, "Russian police issue description of train blast suspect" :
One of the main suspects in an attack on a Moscow-St. Petersburg train that killed at least 26 people was described by the Interior Minister on Saturday as "over 40, stocky and ginger-haired." ... "There is information to suggest that several people were involved," Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev also told journalists. He said that a person who supplied information on the suspects was being sought.

The announcement came after Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin said that a second, weaker bomb had exploded on Saturday at 2:00pm (11:00 GMT) at the site of the attack, but that it had not caused any injuries. Russia's health minister said that the death toll from the attack remained unchanged. 18 people are still missing almost 24 hours after the train went off the rails near the town of Bologoye in the Tver Region, approximately halfway between the capital and St. Petersburg. 96 people were injured...A similar derailment, also caused by a blast, occurred on the same route in August 2007, injuring 60 people....

11.28.09 Yemeni troops, rebels in battle near northern city

(Reuters) November 28 - Yemeni forces and Shia rebels waged pitched battles on the outskirts of Saada on Saturday after regular troops thwarted an attempt by the insurgents to enter the city. The army stopped the rebel advance on Friday and fighting was still taking place in the suburbs of the capital of the rebels’ mountainous stronghold province, a Yemeni military official  told Reuters. A Saudi official said Saudi planes carried out renewed strikes in the Jabal Dukhan area on Friday, where rebels carried out a cross-border incursion earlier this month in which two Saudi border guards were killed. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, fears growing instability in Yemen could turn into a major security threat for the kingdom by allowing al-Qaeda to gain a stronger foothold in the poverty-stricken country. The rebels said on their website Saudi air raids in an area outside Saada killed an unspecified number of civilians. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

washingtonpost.com, November 28, "For detainees returned to Yemen, roadblocks and frustration"
ADEN, YEMEN - ...Yemen's handling of former Guantanamo detainees and accused extremists in its own jails has raised fears that sending detainees back to this nation, the poorest in the Arab world, might only create more militants determined to attack America. Disputes over the fates of 97 Yemeni detainees, roughly 40 percent of the current prison population at Guantanamo, are a key reason President Obama has given up on his promise to shut down the facility by January.

US officials are also concerned about Yemen's lax supervision of accused terrorists. Many of those imprisoned for orchestrating the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, which killed 17 American sailors in this coastal city, have either escaped or been freed by Yemeni officials. The government has also refused to extradite two of the attack's alleged organizers to the United States to face murder charges. But not returning eligible detainees to Yemen or delaying the closing of the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, could spawn more anti-American anger and more radicalization in a failing nation with a growing al-Qaeda presence, said diplomats, Yemeni officials and analysts...

11.27.09 Stocks slip on Dubai debt woes

NEW YORK, November 27 - Worries about Dubai World's reluctance to pay off its debt rattle markets worldwide. Stocks tumbled Friday afternoon as fears about the fallout from Dubai's debt problems rattled Wall Street in a thinly-traded half-day session following Thanksgiving. The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) fell 155 points, or 1.5%, after closing Wednesday at a 13-month high. The Dow had lost as much as 233 points in the morning. The S&P 500 (SPX) lost 19 points or 1.7% after closing Wednesday at a 13-month high. The Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 37 points, or 1.7% after ending Wednesday just short of a 13-month high. All financial markets were closed Thursday for Thanksgiving, and the stock market closed at 1 p.m. Friday. Trading volume was very light with many Wall Street pros taking a five-day weekend. [More>>cnn.com]

11.27.09 Iran denies seizing Nobel medal

November 27 - Iran has denied an accusation by Norway that Tehran has confiscated the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Shirin Ebadi, an Iranian human rights campaigner, in 2003. Norway's foreign ministry said on Thursday that Ebadi's gold Nobel medal and her award diploma had been removed from her bank box and that her bank account, where the prize money was deposited, had been frozen. Ramin Mehmanparast, an Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, said: "We are surprised to see Norwegian authorities taking a tendentious stance and in a hasty attitude ignoring laws and rules which are respected by everyone." However, Mehmanparast appeared to implicitly confirm that Ebadi's assets had been frozen for "refusal to pay tax.".

...But Ebadi, a strong critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government, dismissed this explanation. "The Iranian authorities are not telling the truth because according to our tax laws, there is no tax payable on the Nobel Prize," she said. "They seized my bank account and stopped my retirement pension and also my husband's bank account and pension," Ebadi told BBC World Service radio in an interview in London. "My husband also had a deposit box in the bank and in that was my Nobel Prize and the medal of the Legion d'Honneur." Speaking through a translator, she said: "The Nobel Prize was in the deposit box in Tejarat bank and they seized that deposit box."...Norway, which summoned Iran's charge d'affaires in protest at the incident, said Ebadi's husband had been arrested in Tehran and severely beaten.
[Full story>>aljazeera.net]

11.27.09 Russia and China demand Iran halt secret nuclear site

November 27 - World powers united in condemnation of Iran's nuclear activities today in a rare show of international consensus on the threat posed by Tehran's continued nuclear defiance. China and Russia joined the United States, Britain, France and Germany in backing an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution censuring Iran and ordering it to halt construction of a secret uranium enrichment plant. The resolution, the first since February 2006, passed with 25 votes and six abstentions. Only Malaysia, Venezuela and Cuba supported Iran.

Following the vote, Russia urged Tehran to “react with full seriousness to the signal contained in the resolution ... and to ensure full cooperation with the agency.” China, which has shared Moscow's reluctance to take a hard line with Tehran, was reportedly persuaded to support the resolution after an emergency meeting with the US National Security Advisor in Beijing last week. The last-minute trip came after Iran backtracked on a deal to remove most of its nuclear fuel stockpile abroad in return for material needed for its medical research reactor.

11.27.09 Russia has assured Iran on missile delivery

MOSCOW (AFP) November 27 - Russia has assured Iran it will honour a deal to supply the Islamic Republic with advanced S-300 air-defence missiles, Tehran's ambassador to Moscow said Friday. "We had heard reports that Russia would not deliver these systems to Iran, but we asked the Russian side and they denied it," Seyed Mahmoud Reza Sajadi told reporters in Moscow. "The delivery deadline has already passed, but the Russian side has cited technical problems which it is working to fix," he added. "We feel that this question will be resolved in the space of one to two months."

The envoy's comments came after Iranian officials had accused Moscow of violating its contract and succumbing to growing pressure from the United States and Israel to halt delivery of the missile systems. Russia, Iran's closest ally among major world powers, has never officially confirmed the S-300 contract but has reserved the right to sell arms to Iran as long as they are defensive in nature. Russia's Interfax news agency has reported that the contract calls for Moscow to sell Tehran five batteries of S-300PMU1 missiles for a total price of around 800 million dollars (530 million euros).
[More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,

en.rian.ru, November 25, "Iran's ability to build own S-300 air-defense systems queried"
A Russian military expert questioned on Wednesday Tehran's claims that it could build its own S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. With the delivery of Russian-made S-300 systems to Iran long overdue, Tehran has said it is capable of producing clones in the near future. Speaking to Mehr News Agency on November 14, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, head of Iran's parliamentary Foreign Policy and National Security Commission said "the Islamic Republic will be able to mass produce the system in the near future."

Vladimir Yevseyev, a senior research fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences World Economics and International Relations Institute, dismissed the claims as "misleading information." "Iran is unable to build these complexes due to its serious technological lag. Nor is it likely to acquire such capability in the next five years," he said. He also said Iran was unable to copy S-300s.

...Yevseyev said Iran's air-defense system as a whole was obsolete while the S-300 was key to protecting the country's entire territory. Iran said on Tuesday it still hoped Russia would fulfill its contract for the supply of S-300 systems. Russia signed a contract with Iran on the supply of S-300 air defense systems in December 2005. However, there have been no official reports on the start of the contract's implementation. A senior Iranian military official also said Tuesday Iran could sue Russia in an international court if Moscow refused to fulfill its commitments on the delivery of S-300s to Tehran. Tehran suspects Moscow has refused so far to honor the S-300 contract due to pressure from Washington and Tel Aviv...

11.27.09 Bush, Blair 'signed a deal to topple Saddam a year before War"

LONDON, November 27 - Tony Blair and George W. Bush had signed a "secret deal" to topple Saddam Hussein a year before the US and Britain invaded Iraq, a former high-ranking British diplomat has revealed. According to Sir Christopher Meyer, UK's Ambassador to the US in the run-up to the Iraq War, an agreement to aim for "regime change" was reached between the then British Premier and President Bush during a private meeting at the latter's Crawford ranch in April 2002 in the absence of their advisers. "To this day I am not entirely clear what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at the Crawford ranch.

They weren't there to talk about containment or even strengthening sanctions," 'The Times' quoted him as saying. In his deposition to the British inquiry into the Iraq War, Sir Christopher also said that Blair would have been more influential if he had attached more conditions to the British support to the US-led invasion...Sir Christopher's claims came a day after the inquiry heard that Blair knew Saddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction ten days before he ordered invasion of Iraq.
[Full story>>indianexpress.com]

11.27.09 IAF kills terrorist in northern Gaza

November 27 - A Palestinian terrorist was killed on Friday morning when the IAF struck a Gaza terror cell preparing to fire rockets into Israel, according to the IDF. In a statement, the army said that the terrorist belonged to the Jaljalatt terror organization, a Salafist movement operating in the Gaza Strip and influenced by al-Qaeda. The IDF said that the rocket launching pad was also hit in the air raid near northern Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp. Gaza emergency services said three others were wounded, one of them seriously. In a statement, the IDF said that it viewed Hamas as being fully responsible for maintaining quiet in the South and that the army would continue to respond severely to any attempt to shatter the calm.

The statement added that some 770 Kassam rockets, mortar shells and Grad missiles had been fired at Israel since the beginning of 2009. On Thursday evening, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired five mortar shells toward the western Negev. The shells landed in an open field in the Eshkol region, causing no casualties or damage. Earlier Thursday, an IDF bomb squad detonated a 15-kilogram explosive device seized during a search conducted along the Egyptian border.

11.27.09 15 terrorists killed in Shakai sector: ISPR report

ISLAMABAD, November 27 - Security forces Friday killed 15 terrorists in operation Rah-e-Nijat in Shakai sector and cleared Narakai after stiff resistance. One soldier was injured in the operation. According to ISPR, in Jandola sector, the security forces cleared village Bangi Wal near Ahmed Wam and village Kuni Mela, Raghazai. The forces also cleared 30 houses in village Haidri Kuch and 50 houses at Kot Raghazai. The security forces recovered [a] huge cache of arms and ammunition during [the] sanitization of Zhawar Killi while [a] clearance operation in Chagh Malai and Tor Mandao is under process. In Shakai sector, the security forces cleared road Sarwekai-Siplatoi and defused 10 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) planted astride the road. In Razmak sector, the security forces conducted [a] clearance operation around Pash, Ziarat, Wachuba and Kot Band Khel and defused nine IEDs.

Security forces cleared 30 compounds at Mad Amir Killi and recovered cache of arms and ammunition and one soldier was injured during [the] encounter. [A] Clearance operation in village Shaktu Taba is under process. During operation Rah-e-Rast in [the] Swat and Malakand area[s], two terrorists voluntarily surrendered to security forces at Miandam while security forces carried out [a] search operation in Qamber and apprehended three suspects. Meanwhile, during relief activities, 15,577 cash cards were issued to displaced families of Waziristan.

11.27.09 Governor survives roadside bomb in S. Afghanistan, guard wounded

KABUL, November 27 - The governor of Afghanistan's southern province of Kandahar, Toryali Weesa, survived an attempt on his life but one of his body guards sustained injuries as a roadside bomb struck his vehicle Friday, his spokesman Zalmai Ayubi said. "The governor was going towards a mosque to offer Eidul Adha prayer but the mine planted by rebels targeted his motorcade, wounding a bodyguard," Ayubi told newsmen. Taliban elusive leader Mullah Mohammad [Omar] in his message on the eve of Eidul Adha, the Muslims' biggest religious annual festival, rejected any talks with the Afghan government and called on his fighters to intensify attacks against the Afghan and NATO-led troops based in Afghanistan. Thousands of Afghans offered their Eidul Adha prayers amid tight security across the country Friday morning. The militants on Thursday attacked government interest[s] in the northern Baghlan province, claiming [the] killing of four policemen; while officials rejected the claim, saying six militants were killed and eight others sustained injuries in [the] Baghlan-e-Markazi district. [>xinhuanet.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, November 27, "Suicide attacks aimed against foreigners: Mullah Omar" " KABUL - Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of Afghanistan's Taliban militia said the suicide attacks are aimed at against the foreigners, as the US wants to mislead the people with its new ruse of negotiations after the failure of election drama. Hizb-e-Islami chief Gulbadin Hekmatyar said in his message on Eidul Adha, he wants peace in place of war, adding those who are blowing up schools and mosques are the enemies of Islam and the same should be extremely condemned. Hizb-e-Islami chief said the enemy has spread its agents rampant in the area and the enemy, in their bid to malign the name of Islam, is targeting ulema, teachers, doctors and traders; but, we want peace not war. Omar also rejected a call from President Hamid Karzai for peace talks, in a statement issued ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha...

11.27.09 Russia destroys 45% of its chemical weapons

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) November 27 - Russia has destroyed 45% of its chemical weapon stockpiles one month ahead of a deadline under an international pact, the Foreign Ministry said on Friday. The ministry said in a statement: "As of November 26, the Russian Federation has completed the destruction of 17,998.205 [metric] tons, or 45.03% of its chemical weapon stockpiles," in line with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention. The ministry said Russia is committed to destroying its entire declared arsenal (39,966 tons) "within a time frame established by the Convention." Russia signed the Chemical Weapons Convention banning the development, production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of chemical arms in 1993, and ratified it in 1997. The country is set to destroy its entire arsenal by 2012. Russia destroyed 1% of its chemical weapon stockpiles in 2003 and 20% by 2007. [More>>en.rian.ru]

11.27.09 Jump in number of global swine flu deaths

November 27 - The global number of swine flu deaths has jumped by more than 1,000 in a week, latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) show. At least 7,826 people are now known to have died following infection with the H1N1 virus since it first emerged in Mexico in April. Europe saw an 85% increase in the week, with the total number of deaths rising from at least 350 to at least 650. However, in most cases the virus continues to produce mild symptoms. An overwhelming majority of patients usually recover, even without medical treatment, within a week.

The biggest rise in deaths was recorded in the Americas, where the death toll rose to 5,360
a rise of 554 cases in one week. Health authorities in Norway and France have each recorded two fatalities from a mutated strain of H1N1. China, Japan, Norway, Ukraine and the US have also recorded cases of people being infected with a mutated strain. [More>>bbc.co.uk; Editorial note: American deaths make up nearly 70% of the world total!]

11.26.09 Dubai debt drags down markets

(AP) November 26 - Stock markets in Europe and Asia tumbled Thursday as investors fretted over the debt problems at Dubai World, a government investment company, and the continuing slide in the dollar, which earlier fell to a 14-year low against the yen. Markets are usually relatively quiet when Wall Street is closed for a holiday, as it is for Thanksgiving Day. Not so Thursday, as the rest of the world digested the stunning news from Dubai that the government's flagship investment company was in financial trouble. European markets followed Asia lower with the FTSE 100 index in London closing down 170.68 points, or 3.2 percent, at 5,194.13, having been out of action earlier for over three hours because of technical problems. Germany's DAX fell 188.85 points, or 3.2 percent, to 5,614.17 while the CAC-40 in France was 129.93 points, or 3.4 percent, lower at 3,679.23.

Sentiment in stocks was dented by the news that Dubai World, which is thought to have debts totaling around $60 billion, has asked creditors if it can postpone its forthcoming payments until May. That stoked fears of a potential default and contagion around the global financial system, particularly in banks and emerging markets. "Fear of sovereign default in the Middle East rattled the markets," the research director at Forex.com, Jane Foley, said. Banks bore the brunt of the selling in Europe, amid fears of potential exposure to Dubai.
[More>>nytimes.com; See also,

timesonline.co.uk, November 26, "Fears over Dubai send European shares tumbling" : Almost £44 billion was wiped off London's biggest companies today amid growing fears the UK financial sector could be heavily exposed to Dubai World, the state-owned conglomerate which yesterday asked for a standstill on its $60 billion (£36 billion) debt pile. The FTSE 100 tumbled 170.68 points or more than 3 percent to 5194.1in its biggest one-day percentage fall since the market plunged to six-year lows in March. Investors had been hoping the British financial sector had worked through much its toxic debt, which included exposure to America's sub-prime mortgage market. However, Credit Suisse estimates European banks are exposed to about half of Dubai's $80 billion borrowings, naming Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) as the UK lenders most at risk from the Emirates worsening debt problems...

11.26.09 Pakistan pays reward for Taliban henchman

ISLAMABAD (AFP) November 27 - Pakistan has paid an informer the equivalent of nearly $US120,000 ($128,770) after arresting a lieutenant of the country's Taliban warlord before a major Muslim festival, the military says. It is the first time Pakistan has announced paying a reward since it offered $US5 million ($5.37 million) for information leading to the capture, dead or alive, of Hakimullah Mehsud and 18 lieutenants.

"Security forces have arrested wanted terrorist Abdullah Shah Mehsud" in the northwestern town of Tank. "He had a head money of 10 million rupees," the military said in a statement today. "The head money has been paid to the informer." Shah Mehsud was number 17 on a list of wanted militants released on November 2 that carried rewards of between 10 and 50 million rupees for the leadership of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

11.26.09 IAEA chief: Iran probe at 'dead end'

VIENNA (AP) November 26 - International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohamed ElBaradei said Thursday that his probe of allegations that Iran was trying to produce nuclear arms is at "a dead end" because Teheran is not cooperating. ElBaradei criticized Teheran for not accepting an internationally endorsed plan meant to delay its ability to make such weapons. Confidence in Iran's leaders, he warned, had shrunk in the wake of its belated revelation of a previously secret nuclear facility. The unusually blunt comments appeared to be a reflection of ElBaradei's frustration four days before he ends his tenure leading an agency that has proven unable to overcome Iran's defiance. It has also failed to alleviate international concerns that Teheran may be using a civilian nuclear program as a cover for plans to make weapons. [More>>jpost.com; See related stories (via twitter),

dw-world.de, November 26, "China and Russia support UN nuclear watchdog on Iran" " :
A Chinese deputy foreign minister said that China is "in principle" considering supporting an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) resolution demanding Iran close a uranium enrichment site it hid for years. Deputy Foreign Minister He Yafei told reporters on Thursday that the resolution, to be voted on by the 35-nation IAEA governing board later this week, was meant as a signal to Iran to respond to a nuclear dispute proposal. "We hope that the IAEA (board) can send a signal that Iran should indeed respond to the IAEA proposal as soon as possible. At the same time, we hope that this issue can be resolved through consultation," He said. On being asked if China supported the proposal, He said, "In principle, we are giving consideration to this." Diplomats are predicting majority approval for the resolution in a vote in Vienna on Thursday or Friday in what would be its first action against Iran in almost four years...

telegraph.co.uk, November 26, "Iran 'tested advanced nuclear warhead design' " : The United Nations nuclear watchdog has demanded that Iran explain evidence indicating that its scientists have experimented with the design of an advanced nuclear warhead, it emerged last night. According to leaked documentation from a dossier compiled by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iranian scientists may have tested high-explosive components of the design of a secret technology known as a "two-point implosion" device. The technology can enable the building of warheads that are simpler and smaller than older ones.

By reducing the size of warheads, it is easier to put them on a missile. Documentation from the dossier, entitled "Possible Military Dimensions of Iran's Nuclear Program" and leaked to The Guardian, refers to experiments testing a two-point detonation design. The information was partly drawn from reports submitted to the IAEA by Western intelligence agencies. It is part of the evidence of nuclear Europeanization collated by the IAEA that has been presented to Iran for its response...

11.26.09 New spy charge against jailed Iranian-American

CAIRO (AP) November 26 - Iran brought new espionage charges against an Iranian-American scholar who was already convicted of spying and sentenced to 15 years in prison in the country's crackdown following June's disputed presidential election, a human rights group said Thursday. The new charges raise the possibility of a harsher penalty against Kian Tajbakhsh, a 47-year-old scholar who was in Iran working on a book when he was arrested at his home nearly five months ago amid security forces’ postelection sweep against the opposition. Tajbakhsh was among more than 100 people — most of them opposition activists and protesters — brought before a court in a mass trial criticized by the opposition and rights groups as a show trial. He was sentenced last month to 15 years in prison after being convicted of espionage and endangering state security. It is the harshest prison term handed down so far by the court. His family has denied the charges against Tajbakhsh.

Earlier this week, Tajbakhsh was brought before a special security court believed to have been created by the elite Revolutionary Guard to prosecute dissidents, and he was charged with additional counts of espionage, the New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a statement. The charges were based on e-mails Tajbakhsh sent to a list serve called Gulf 2000 list, which includes experts, diplomats and journalists, the group said. Tajbakhsh, a social scientist and urban planner, was the only American detained in the crackdown that crushed giant street protests by hundreds of thousands of people after the June 12 election. The opposition claims the vote was rigged in favor of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called for his release.

11.26.09 Twitter post by Iran Government threatens injury to people in US

November 26 - A post by the government of Iran appears to threaten bodily injury, etc. to people in the US and Europe who sympathize with Iranian election protesters. [See http://iran115.org/blacklist. (link posted to twitter #IranElection); See related stories

timesonline.co.uk, November 26, "Iran seizes Nobel winner Shirin Edabi's medal" : Iran's hardline regime has confiscated the Nobel peace medal and diploma of Shirin Ebadi, the human rights lawyer who is one of its most potent and outspoken critics. Her bank account has also been frozen on the pretext that she owes $410,000 in tax. The seizure of the award, unprecedented in its108-year-old history, caused outrage in Olso where the Nobel peace committee is based. The Norwegian Government summoned the Iranian envoy to protest, and the committee said it too would be registering a formal complaint...

timesonline.co.uk, November 27, "Only one regime matches Iran's for vindictiveness: Adolf Hitler's" : Since 1901 the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 90 times to 120 laureates but Iran holds the unique distinction of being the only regime to confiscate a winner's medal. Aung San Sui Kyi, the Burmese opposition leader, was unable to collect her prize in 1991 because she was under house arrest. The Soviet authorities refused to let Andrei Sakharov, the dissident nuclear physicist, collect his prize in 1975. Lech Walesa, the Polish trade union leader, declined to collect his in 1983, fearing that his country's communist rulers would not let him return.

The only regime that matches Iran's for sheer vindictiveness was that of Adolf Hitler. The Nobel Foundation infuriated the Führer in 1935 by awarding the prize to Carl von Ossietzky, a German writer locked in a concentration camp. Hitler responded by banning German citizens from accepting any further Nobel prizes. His decree prevented three Germans from accepting the prize: Gerhard Domagk, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize for Physiology, Richard Kuhn, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and Adolf Butenandt, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize for Chemistry. It is not hard to see why the Nobel prize should be anathema to Iran's savage rulers. Alfred Nobel stipulated that it should be awarded to the person who had done the “most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”. Hardly their priorities. [end]

Editorial note: "Other similarities Iran government has to Hitler's" (from Maravot News 11.25.09, Editorial note to article11.23.09 Iran's leader wants debate on 'global justice' with Obama ).

"...An historic parallel to this dictatorship can be found in Hitler's subversion of the Weimar Constitution (See wikipedia.org): Less than a month after Adolf Hitler's appointment as chancellor in 1933, the Reichstag Fire Decree invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, suspending several constitutional protections on civil rights. The articles affected were 114 (habeas corpus), 115 (inviolability of residence), 117 (correspondence privacy), 118 (freedom of expression /censorship), 123 (assembly), 124 (associations), and 153 (expropriation).."

The 11.25.09 issue of Maravot News also lists clauses of the Iran Constitution that convey dictatorial power religious and political to the Supreme Leader, Khamenei. While Khamenei persecutes Iran's citizens within Iran (in violation of international human rights laws) the new practice of persecuting people beyond Iran's borders, such as currently affecting the US, would seem to involve a graver violation of international laws and in particular US law.

Mel Copeland

11.26.09 Report: Lebanon says Hezbollah has right to fight Israel

November 26 - Lebanon's newly formed cabinet has agreed on a policy statement that acknowledges Hezbollah's right to use its weapons against Israel, French news agency AFP reported on Thursday. According to the report, Lebanese Information Minister Tarek Mitri said late Wednesday that an agreement had been reached after a cabinet committee set up to draft the statement met for the ninth time. Mitri said the new statement will retain the same clause regarding Hezbollah's arsenal that was approved by the previous cabinet. The clause states the right of "Lebanon, its government, its people, its army and its resistance" to liberate all Lebanese territory. Hezbollah, which fought against Israel in 2006, is considered a terrorist organization by Washington. [More>>haaretz.com]

11.26.09 Indonesian government plans to rehabilitate 2.5 million hectares of forest

JAKARTA, November 26 - Forestry Minister Zulkifli Hasan says the government will rehabilitate 2.5 million hectares of critical forest area over the next five years through a program that involves local residents. Under the community forest program, a family will be granted the right to manage up to 15 hectares of forest area for a maximum 35 years. The family will be allowed to cultivate plants of their choice, including rubber trees.“In the past a resident could control millions of hectare of forest, which certainly defies the sense of justice,” Zulkilfi said as quoted by Antara. The government will also provide [a] forest rehabilitation fund to help the residents manage the forest, Zulkifli said "Through the program we aim to rehabilitate forest and improve the welfare of people living near the forest," he added. The government estimates about 16,000 families live near forest areas across the country. [>thejakartapost.com]

11.26.09 Blair took UK into war knowing Iraq had no WMD: Report

LONDON, November 26 - Former Prime Minister Tony Blair led Britain into the Iraq war even as he was told that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, an inquiry into the 2003 conflict was informed. Blair received intelligence that Saddam's weapons of mass destruction had been "dismantled" 10 days before Britain invaded Iraq, the inquiry into the controversial war has been told. The British Foreign Office did not believe Iraq had nuclear missiles, but Blair told parliament that Saddam was a threat to security in the Middle East because he still had chemical and biological weapons which could be launched at 45 minutes' notice. The staff warned that the Iraqi dictator's nuclear programme had been dismantled and there was no evidence he had chemical or biological weapons. However, despite the briefings, the then Prime Minister ordered the troops to join the American-led offensive six years ago, the Daily Express reported. [More.>indianexpress.com]

11.26.09 Bomb blasts in Iraq claim lives

November 26 - At least five people have been killed in a series of bomb attacks near the Iraqi capital as the country prepares to celebrate the Muslim holiday, Eid al-Adha. Two homemade bombs exploded in a crowded market in Mussayib, 60km south of Baghdad, at 11am local time (08:00 GMT) on Thursday, killing two people and wounding 28 others, including women and children. In a separate incident, a car bomb went off at a taxi and a bus station in Yusufiya, also south of Baghdad, killing one man and injuring 10 others, police said. Elsewhere, a magnetic bomb attached to a car exploded as the vehicle was moving on a highway towards the east of Baghdad, killing two people and injuring six others.

Religious targets

In the main northern city of Mosul, a church and a convent were bombed, with both targets severely damaged but without any casualties, religious leaders said on Thursday. One of the attacks hit the Saint Theresa Convent of Dominican nuns in the western Jadida (New Mosul) district, Father Yousif Thomas Mirkis, the chief representative of the Dominican order in Iraq, said. "These attacks are aimed at forcing Christians to leave the country," he told the AFP news agency, noting that the bomb had been placed inside the convent grounds and caused damage to the building. Another bomb struck the Church of Saint Ephrem in the same Mosul district, causing major damage to the Chaldean place of worship, Patriarchal Vicar George Basman said.

11.26.09 Fighting Afghan Taliban by Islamic credit union

LASHKARGAH, Afghanistan (Reuters) November 26 - After the Taliban made nine threatening phone calls and fired a Kalashnikov outside his house, Shah Mohammad Mir left his hometown for months before returning with a new car and a new telephone number. His crime was lending tiny amounts of money to farmers with as few as five sheep or to women who embroider traditional fabric for a few dollars a month. Mir is director of the Helmand Islamic Investment and Finance Corporation, an Islamic credit union funded by Britain which is part of a larger civilian effort to turn the population in Helmand away from the Taliban and into work.

Patrolled by armed men who guard its Lashkar Gah head office, the corporation already has three branches in Helmand, one of Afghanistan's most dangerous provinces, where thousands of foreign troops are struggling to turn the tide on a rising insurgency. Since the end of 2007, the credit union in Helmand has in total lent $1 million to 1,441 people, from farmers to flower sellers, from tailors to tradesmen...The money, usually less than $2,000 each loan, means that farmers who would have grown poppy, whose inputs are provided by the Taliban and repaid with their harvest, can grow wheat and other crops independently and sell their own produce. More than 30 men have abandoned the Taliban as a result, said Mir...[
Full story>>alarabiya.net]


    09.11.05 When a nation lacks a competent leader it invites disaster – the legacy of Bush
    "Using force the George W. Bush way – Bush's crusade"
    11.25.04 Why the Crusade & Jihad?


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