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12.10.09 Obama accepts peace prize, defends 'just wars'

OSLO, Norway, December 10 - Obama hails "great" Islam, criticizes "cruelties" of Crusades. The United States must uphold moral standards when waging wars that are necessary and justified, President Barack Obama said on Thursday as he accepted the Nobel Prize for Peace. In a speech at the award ceremony in Oslo, Obama said violent conflict would not be eradicated "in our lifetimes," there would be times when nations would need to fight just wars and he would not stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.

Obama said that "religion is used to justify the murder of innocents by those who have distorted and defiled the great religion of Islam, and who attacked my country from Afghanistan. These extremists are not the first to kill in the name of God; the cruelties of the Crusades are amply recorded. But they remind us that no Holy War can ever be a just war." "For if you truly believe that you are carrying out divine will, then there is no need for restraint … no need to spare the pregnant mother, or the medic, or even a person of one's own faith. Such a warped view of religion is not just incompatible with the concept of peace, but the purpose of faith … for the one rule that lies at the heart of every major religion is that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us."
[More>>alarabiya.net See also independent.co.uk, December 10, "Text of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize speech."]

12.10.09 Goldman alters bonus policy to quell uproar

December 10 - Moving to quell the uproar over the return of big paydays on Wall Street, Goldman Sachs announced on Thursday that its top executives would forgo cash bonuses this year and that it would give shareholders a say in determining compensation. With a resurgent Goldman set to award billions of dollars of bonuses — a trove that could rival the record payouts of the bubble years — the bank said that its 30 most-senior executives would be paid in the form of a special stock, rather than in cash. Goldman also said that it would let its shareholders vote on its executives’ pay, although the decision would be nonbinding. [More>>nytimes.com; See related story,

france24.com (AFP) December 10, "Sarkozy, Brown in united front on taxing banker bonuses"
Britain and France urged world leaders Thursday to impose a tax on bankers' bonuses and consider a so-called Tobin tax on financial transactions, as they sought to dispel recent Anglo-French tensions. In a joint call as they headed for a European Union summit preceded by a 30-minute "tete-a-tete" in Brussels, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and President Nicolas Sarkozy stressed the "urgent need" for a new deal between banks and society...

12.10.09 Beleaguered Iraqi leader puts off Gates meeting

BAGHDAD, December 10 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived here on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, but the prime minister said he was too busy to see Mr. Gates because he had to defend himself before a Parliament outraged by a recent series of bombings. American defense officials insisted that Mr. Maliki had not rebuffed the defense secretary, but it was not until late Thursday, hours after Mr. Gates landed in Baghdad, that they said that Mr. Maliki had agreed to see him on Friday morning. Mr. Gates's aides scrambled to rearrange his schedule. "He certainly doesn't consider it a snub,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary. “He completely understands and respects that the prime minister of this country has to be accountable to the legislature." [More>>nytimes.com]

12.10.09 Iran's investigations into abuses are a sham, says Amnesty International

DECEMBER 10 - Iranian security forces used rape, torture and mock executions in their campaign to crush anti-government protest this summer, an Amnesty International said today, citing a "climate of impunity" that has seen human rights in the country plunge to their lowest point in 20 years. Amnesty said in a report that protesters were incarcerated in appalling conditions, raped and tortured into false confessions and sentenced to death after suspect show trials while official investigations into alleged abuses "seemed to have been more concerned with covering up abuses than getting at the truth."

Amnesty cited the case of Ebrahim Sharifi, a 24-year-old student from Tehran who was seized by plainclothes detectives during the June demonstrations and held incommunicado for weeks. Mr. Sharifi said that he was bound, blindfolded and then beaten and raped, before being forced to undergo mock executions. When he filed a complaint, secret policemen threatened him and his family, forcing him to go into hiding. An investigating committee later denounced his allegations as false and politically motivated.
[More>>timesonline.co.uk; See related video,

jpost.com, "Iranian Basij hits motorist" :
YouTube clip uploaded to the Internet earlier this week shows a jeep of the Basiji popular militia in Iran in what seems to be a deliberate attempt to run over a motorcyclist and a rider sitting behind him. The two are seen riding a motorcycle, tailed by the jeep. The jeep then veers to the left, squeezing the motorcycle's road space until it eventually crashes against the curb. Both riders manage to escape on foot, one barely making it as he runs off in a cloud of dust. [end]

12.10.09 Philippine gunmen free 18 hostages, 57 remain captive

MANILA, December 10 - A group of disgruntled former government militia raided a remote village and its community elementary school in southern Philippines Thursday, kidnapping at least 125 civilians, police officials said. So far, 50 hostages had managed to escape as kidnappers dodged police pursuits and negotiations have resulted in the release of 18 others, including 17 school children, police said. "We have already deployed the provincial mobile group and organized the provincial management committee to pursue the negotiations. As of now, there are no longer children hostages," said regional police director Chief Superintendent Lino Calingasan.

Police said around 15 armed men led by a certain Juan Ondo Perez started to attack the streets of San Martin village in Prosperidad town of Agusan del Sur province as early as 6:45 a.m. (2245 GMT). A police official told local media that the gunmen, armed with M16 rifles and shotguns, "took everyone they could get their hands on." The Perez group is a criminal gang organized by a handful of former para-military soldiers, senior superintendent Nestor Fajurasaid, adding that the group might be using the hostages to protest the arrest warrants issued against them.

12.10.09 Americans held in Pakistan 'wanted to join jihad'

SARGODHA, Pakistan (Reuters) December 10 - Five young Americans detained in Pakistan, which is fighting a violent Taliban insurgency, wanted to join a holy war and were in contact with militants through the internet, officials said on Thursday..."We watched them for one and a half days and then arrested them," Usman Anwar, police chief of Sargodha, told reporters. "We seized laptops and other things from their possession. Later we came to know that they have come here with the intention of 'jihad.' " A Pakistani security official said the men were detained on Monday. They had flown to Karachi on Nov. 30 and then travelled to Lahore on Dec. 5, and then on to Sargodha, he said.

...Officials said three Pakistanis had also been detained, one of whom was believed to have been linked to a 2007 suicide bomb attack on an air force bus outside an air base in Sargodha in which eight people were killed. The Americans were in contact with militant groups in Pakistan through the Internet. Laptops, computers, CDs, mobile phones and maps of Pakistani cities had been recovered from them, said Anwar. They had links to towns in northwest Pakistan, including the al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold of Miranshah. "They might have been on their way to Afghanistan," Anwar told Reuters.
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story,

thenews.com.pk, December 10, "Five terrorists killed, soldier martyred in SWA - ISPR report" :
WANA - As many as five terrorists have been killed and one terrorist apprehended while one soldier [was] martyred and one injured in operation Rah-e-Nijat during [the] last 24 hours in South Waziristan Agency, ISPR said on Thursday. In Jandola sector, security forces carried out sanitization at Partigai near Ahmadwam and Kazha Kats and cleared 30 compounds in [an] area around Abdullah Nur Kaskai, Bangiwala and Akakhel Pungai. In Shakai sector, notables and administration of the area assured complete cooperation and support to security forces for [the] ongoing operation against terrorists.

Security forces cleared Nanu and destroyed terrorists' houses at Barwand including the house of terrorists commander Wali ur Rehman. During [an] encounter one soldier embraced Shahadat and one injured at Khassadar Ridge, while 5 terrorists were killed near Kaniguram. On expiry of [the] deadline given to terrorists, [the] local Jirga destroyed the house of terrorist commander Shabeeb Khan in Shakkai. In Razmak Sector, security forces carried out [a] search operation at village Marobi Raghozai near Makeen, Tara Tiza and recovered one ammunition factory along with [a] huge cache of arms ammunition. Security forces conducted [a] clearance operation near Pash Ziarat and found a terrorists tunnel (50 feet long) and 10 bunkers. Security forces apprehended a suspect near Mana.

In operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat-Malakand, security forces conducted [a] search operation at Azad Banda near Sakhra and recovered 10 liters of poisonous chemical along with 6 kilogram[s] [of] explosives. Security forces apprehended 3 suspects at Pabbi, Dandai Sar near Fatehpur and Tilligram. One terrorist voluntarily surrendered himself to security forces at Roria near Gulibagh. About relief activities, as many as 20,976 Cash Cards have been issued to displaced families of Wazirsitan. [end]

12.10.09 Russia successfully test launches Topol ICBM

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 10 - Russia successfully test launched a Topol intercontinental ballistic missile on Thursday, a spokesman for the Strategic Missile Forces said. Col. Vadim Koval said a RS-12M Topol missile was launched from the Kapustin Yar test site in south Russia's Astrakhan Region, and hit the designated target in Sary-Shagan, Kazakhstan. He said the launch was designed to test the operational capability of the Topol ICBM. The missile was in active service from 1987 until 2007, and deployed with the 54th Strategic Missile Division near the town of Teikovo, about 150 miles (240 km) northeast of Moscow.

The RS-12M Topol (SS-25 Sickle) is a single-warhead intercontinental ballistic missile, approximately the same size and shape as the US Minuteman ICBM. The first Topol missiles were put into service in 1985. The missile has a maximum range of 10,000 km (6,125 miles) and can carry a nuclear warhead with a yield of 550 kilotons. Although the service life of the SS-25 was extended after a series of successful test launches last year, the missile will be progressively retired over the next decade and replaced by mobile Topol-M (SS-27 Stalin) missile systems. Russia's SMF reportedly has a total of 541 ICBMs, including 306 Topol missiles and 59 Topol-M missiles.
[>en.rian.ru; See related story,

abcnews.go.com, December 10, "Russian rocket failure creates light show in Norway" :
Norwegians were baffled by what they were seeing: a massive white spiral with a blue tail lighting up the morning sky... The mystery was all but solved Thursday afternoon when Russia's Defense Ministry released a statement admitting that a test of a sea-based Bulava rocket failed. They refused to comment on whether the light show and the test were connected...

12.09.09 Pre-Budget Report 2009: Banks may delay bonuses to avoid tax

December 9 - City bankers may delay paying Christmas bonuses until next spring, after the deadline for the Chancellor's new 50 per cent levy has expired. Alistair Darling said today that banks would have to pay the levy on any bonus paid to staff before April 5 to address public fury over City remuneration. Only banks have to pay the levy hedge funds and insurers are exempt, and any banker who is entitled to a guaranteed bonus will also escape the super-tax. Banks may dramatically slash bonuses this year to £1 billion, down from an estimated £6 billion, as a result of its new tax on payouts over £25,000. Bankers were in shock at the chancellor's statement yesterday. One said: "No one has done any work this morning. Everyone is thinking about whether it is worth turning up to work tomorrow. This is an unmitigated disaster." [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

12.09.09 Iran: We'll hit Israel's nuclear sites if attacked

December 9 - Iran would strike back at Israeli weapons manufacturing sites and nuclear installations if Israel attacks the Islamic Republic's nuclear facilities, Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi was quoted as saying on Wednesday. Israel has not ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve an international dispute over Iran's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs. Iran denies the charge and says it would retaliate if attacked. "The Islamic Republic of Iran's armed forces are fully prepared," Vahidi told reporters during a visit to Syria, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported. If attacked by Israel, Iran's first targets would include various weapons manufacturing sites and "unconventional nuclear centers," Vahidi said. Also on Wednesday, Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, speaking in Damascus, hailed Syrian-Iranian defense ties as a "deterrent" against Israeli "threats," Iranian media reported. [More>>haaretz.com]

12.09.09 5 foreign nationals held in Sargodha: police

SARGODHA, Pakistan, December 9 - An Anti Organized-crime Cell raided a house situated in Aziz Bhatti Town of Sargodha and arrested five foreign nationals. DPO Sargodha Dr. Usman Anwar told Geo News that the police raided the house of Khalid Farooqi, an activist of banned outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad, and arrested five foreign nationals from there. The arrested foreigners include 2 Yemenis, 1 Egyptian, 1 Swedish and 1 US-born Pakistani. The DPO told that these people had been living in Sargodha since Nov. 30 and it was quite a possibility that they were engaged in acts of terrorism. Initial investigations have identified them as Ahmed Abdullah, Waqar Hassan Khan, Eman Hassan, Yasir and Rami Zamzam. Security agencies have initiated further investigations in this regard. [>thenews.com.pk; See also,

khaleejtims.com (AP) December 9, "5 Americans detained in Pakistan, no reason given" :

ISLAMABAD - Pakistani police say they have detained five US citizens in a raid on a house in the east of the country. Police officer Tahir Gujjar declined to say why the men were arrested Wednesday in the town of Sargodha. He says three of the men are Americans of Pakistani descent, one is of Egyptian descent and the other is of Yemeni heritage. He says they are being interrogated by senior police officers. A US Embassy spokesman said officials there were aware of the reported arrests, but had no more information. [end]

thenews.com.au (AFP) December 9 "Five arrested over attack plot" :
ISLAMABAD - Pakistani police say they have arrested five foreign nationals, including a Swede and a Pakistani-American, on suspicion they were plotting a militant attack...Among the suspects were two Yemenis, one Egyptian, one Swede and a Pakistani-American. Police said they had information suggesting the group might be planning to launch attacks in Pakistan...

nytimes.com (AP) December 9, "5 Americans held in Pakistan raid" : ISLAMABAD - Pakistani police on Wednesday arrested five American men believed to have gone missing from the Washington, D.C. area last month, officials from both countries said. US officials say one of the missing students left what investigators call a farewell video saying Muslims must be defended...The officials said one of the group -- they did not say which one left behind what investigators believe was a farewell video message, in which he talks about defending Muslims and shows images of US casualties.

Related story:

thenews.com.pk, December 9, "589 militatns killed in operation Rah-e-Nijat - ISPR report" : ISLAMABAD: A total of 589 terrorists have been killed while 79 security forces personnel have embraced Shahadat in operation Rah-e-Nijat so far, Inter Service Public Relations (ISPR) said, on Wednesday. According to a press release, huge cache of arms and ammunition have been recovered from different hideouts of fleeing terrorists, since start of Operation Rah-e-Nijat on October 16. It included 49 anti aircraft machine guns of 12.7 mm caliber, 15 Machine guns of 14.5 mm caliber, 38 RPG 7, 16 heavy machine guns, 592 rifles all types, 45 small machine guns, three artillery guns of various types, one Russian made missile launcher, 32 Pistols, five recoilless rifles along with these truck load of ammunition, 203886 bullets of 12.7 mm anti aircraft machine gun, 9000 rounds of 14.5 mm machine gun, 830 rockets of RPG 7, 11 Russian made missiles, 106 rockets of recoilless rifles and 140 Rockets of SPG 9. Providing details of the last 24 hours of Operation Rah-e-Nijat in South Waziristan, the ISPR said that a number of IEDs were recovered and destroyed during sanitization of Aka Khel Pungai near Ahmedwam and Abdullah Noor Kaskai near Kotkai at Jandola sector.

Meanwhile, at Shakai sector, the security forces apprehended 5 suspects at Miachan Baba and Shaka. Similarly, at Razmak Sector, the forces cleared 25 compounds at Tara Tiza Alghad and Mairobi Raghzai, where huge cache of arms and ammunition were recovered. The terrorists fired 1 rocket at Razmak Camp which was effectively responded, however, no loss reported, informed the ISPR. Security forces have also cleared Ghujre, two kilometer north of Pash Ziarat, where tunnels and underground living bunkers were discovered and destroyed.

Regarding relief activities, it said that 20,321 cash cards have been issued to displaced families of Wazirsitan so far Meanwhile, during Operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat Malakand, two terrorists voluntarily surrendered themselves at Salhand and Chamtalai post. And security forces apprehended 10 suspects at Saidu Sharif, Fizaghat, Bishbanr, Mingora and Jijal Kandao near Fatehpur, the press release concluded. [end]

12.09.09 China: US, EU expected to do more on emission cuts

COPENHAGEN, December 8 - The United States and the European Union (EU) are expected to bring to the Copenhagen climate talks more notable targets on cutting its carbon emissions, the Chinese chief negotiator in UN climate talks said on Tuesday. The US target on emissions reduction and financial support to developing nations is key to the success of the ongoing Copenhagen climate change conference, Su Wei, the deputy head of the Chinese delegation to the Copenhagen conference, told a press conference. In the run-up to the Copenhagen conference, Washington pledged to reduce its carbon emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, equivalent to a reduction of 4 percent compared with 1990 levels. Climate scientists were proposing a 25-40 percent cut in carbon emissions in order to keep global warming under control. The US goal could not be considered "notable," Su said. [More>>xinhuanet.com; See also,

thestar.com.my (Reuters), December 9, "Exclusive - China calls for more emissions cuts from US"
COPENHAGEN - China's top climate envoy called on President Barack Obama to increase a US offer to cut greenhouse gases, and said it would discuss a 2050 emissions goal only if rich nations offered more cash and carbon cuts. Xie Zhenhua said developed nations must commit to cuts of "at least 40 percent" by 2020 from 1990 levels. He said Beijing was aiming for a legally binding treaty from the Dec. 7-18 talks, although hosts Denmark have said that will be impossible. A successful outcome from the summit largely depends on agreement between the United States and China, which together generate 40 percent of global carbon emissions...

12.09.09 Giant iceberg spotted south of Australia

SYDNEY (AFP) December 9 - A monster iceberg nearly twice the size of Hong Kong island has been spotted drifting towards Australia in what scientists on Wednesday called a once-in-a-century event. Australian glaciologist Neal Young pinpointed the slab, which is some 19 kilometers (12 miles) long and about 1,700 kilometers south of the country, using satellite imagery. He said he was not aware of such a large iceberg being found in the area since the days when 19th century clipper ships plied the trade route between Britain and Australia.

...The glaciologist said the iceberg carved off the Antarctic about 10 years ago and had been slowly floating round the icy continent before taking the unusual route north. He said the "very, very big" iceberg was originally about 400 square kilometers but then split into two smaller pieces. "This one has survived in the open ocean for about a year," he said. "In that time it's slowly been coming up to the north and north east in the general direction of Western Australia." The finding comes after two large icebergs were spotted further east, off Australia's Macquarie Island, followed by more than 100 smaller ice chunks heading towards New Zealand.
[Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See also

cnn.com, December 9, "Giant iceberg hading towards Australia" :...
Named B17B, it was about 1,700 km (1,056 miles) off the coast of West Australia, according to the country's Antarctic Division. "B17B is a very significant one in that it has drifted so far north while still largely intact," said Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Neal Young, who spotted the slab using satellite images taken by NASA and the European Space Agency.

12.09.09 Iran frees three detained Belgians

December 9 - Iran has released three Belgians who were detained two months ago for allegedly entering a prohibited area and gathering information, Iranian state television has said. The IRNA news agency said the three men were released and handed over on Tuesday to the Belgian ambassador in Tehran on the orders of Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, a prosecutor in the capital. Dolatabadi was quoted as saying that the three men, identified as Van den Bosch, Vincent Binfleur, and Diego Gomatio, were detained for "entering a prohibited area and gathering intelligence." Wednesday's report gave no details about when or where they were arrested and the detentions had not been previously reported in Iran. Belgium's foreign ministry declined to comment on the case. [More>>aljazeera.net]

12.09.09 New Iran clashes as government threatens 'no mercy'

TEHRAN, December 8 - Hundreds arrested during student demonstrations. Protesters clashed with supporters of the Iranian regime for a second straight day Tuesday even as the chief prosecutor threatened to try the main opposition leader and vigilantes briefly besieged his office. The new crackdown on the opposition to hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad drew strong criticism from Western governments already angered by Iran's rejection of a UN-brokered deal aimed at allaying concerns over its nuclear ambitions. Supporters of opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi clashed at the prestigious Tehran University with backers of the Iranian government, official media said. "Rioters wearing green wristbands" gathered from early in the day in front of the university's engineering college to protest against Monday's crackdown by authorities on people protesting against Ahmadinejad's hotly disputed June re-election, the state news agency IRNA said. [More>>alarabiya.net]

12.09.09 Iraq's Maliki blasts foreign support for bombings

(Reuters) December 9 - Bombings that killed 112 people were carried out with foreign backing, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Wednesday. He also signalled a shake-up of security officials to try to thwart pre-election violence. A series of car bombs on Tuesday ripped through Baghdad in Iraq's deadliest attack in six weeks, a brutal reminder of the threat still posed by an insurgency that has killed thousands since the 2003 US invasion. Health Ministry officials said 77 people died, but police sources put the figure higher at 112. The attacks came hours before the government announced March 7 as the date for the parliamentary election, ending weeks of political bickering that had delayed the vote from mid-January and could have complicated US military withdrawal plans. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See also,

independent.co.uk, December 9, "127 dead as bombers aim for heart of government" :
Five devices including three suicide bombs bring carnage to Baghdad ministries on the day national elections are announced. Car bombers yesterday killed as many as 127 people in Baghdad in a series of attacks that left the city's streets strewn with the wreckage of burning vehicles and the charred bodies of the dead. The five bombs, including three that were detonated by suicide bombers, exploded in succession across the Iraqi capital over the course of an hour yesterday morning, targeting a mosque, a market, a government ministry, an educational college and a court. Some 425 people were wounded. The coordinated assault is likely to be the work of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has adopted the tactic of launching devastating bombing attacks about every six weeks to maximise political and psychological impact. One aim is to discredit the government's claim that it has greatly improved security in the last couple of years. Some 155 people were killed in the last big attack by bombers on 25 October and over 122 in an earlier assault in August. The Iraqi foreign, justice and trade ministries were all targeted...

cnn.com, December 9, "Spate of lethal bombings prompts change of command in Baghdad" : BAGHDAD - Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has replaced the commander of Iraqi forces in Baghdad after a string of car bombs killed nearly 130 people, his office announced Wednesday. Lt. Gen. Ahmed Hashim Sultan will replace Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, who has been in charge of security forces in the Iraqi capital since February 2007, al-Maliki's office said. The shakeup followed criticism of the military and police from members of Iraq's parliament over Tuesday's bombings, which left at least 127 dead and wounded more than 400. The bombings targeted two government ministries, a Baghdad courthouse, a commercial district and a neighborhood and were the worst since twin car bombings killed and wounded hundreds of people in late October. Lawmakers called on al-Maliki, Qanbar and other government officials to answer questions about the attacks, which shattered a two-month period of relative calm in the capital...

12.09.09 'Qaeda cannot be defeated until Osama is captured or killed'

WASHINGTON, December 9 - America's top military commander in Afghanistan believes that al-Qaeda cannot be defeated until Osama bin Laden, the most wanted fugitive of the world, is either killed or captured. "I don't think it would make, it would not defeat al-Qaeda to have him captured or killed, but I don't think that we can finally defeat al-Qaeda until he is captured or killed," General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told Senators at the Congressional hearing on Afghanistan. Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General McChrystal said Osama bin Laden is an iconic figure at this point whose survival emboldens al-Qaeda as a franchising organization across the world.

"It does remain important to American people, indeed the people of the world, that one day, Osama Bin Laden is either captured or killed and brought to justice for his responsibility for the murder of many Americans and citizens of the world on the 11th of September, 2001," Karl Eikenberry, the US Ambassador to Afghanistan, said. Responding to a question from Senator George Lemieux, McChrystal said: "Were Osama bin Laden to come in there (in Afghanistan), that would become a huge priority for all of our forces. If he is not inside, it's outside of my mandate right now.." Noting that the American people still want to capture and kill Laden, Senator Lemieux said it would remain an important strategic military goal as well in terms of war fighting and trying to break the will of the enemy.

12.09.09 Swine flu damage reaches deep into lungs

December 9 - Swine flu damages the entire airway, from the trachea to deep in the lungs, just as the viruses that caused the deadly 1918 and 1957 influenza pandemics did, but unlike seasonal flu, a report said Tuesday. Scientists from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and New York City's chief medical examiner's office examined microscope slides of tissue from 34 people who died of pandemic swine flu earlier this year. They found "a spectrum of damage in both the upper and lower respiratory tracts," said Jeffery Taubenberger, one of the researchers on the study. In all cases, the upper respiratory tract the trachea and bronchial tubes were inflamed and sometimes severely damaged. In 18 cases, or more than half, damage was seen lower down, in the finer branches of the bronchial tubes, and in 25 cases, or nearly three-quarters of the study sample, the researchers found damage to the small globular air sacs, or alveoli, of the lungs. [More>>independent.co.uk]

12.07.09 Chicago suspect charged in 2008 Mumbai attack

WASHINGTON, December 7 - The Chicago man with roots in Pakistan who was arrested two months ago for planning to attack a Danish newspaper now faces the much more serious charge that he aided the 2008 massacre in Mumbai, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department. Court documents charge that David Coleman Headley, 49, an American citizen who is the son of a former Pakistani diplomat and Philadelphia socialite, with conducting extensive surveillance of targets in Mumbai for more than two years prior to the attacks by the Pakistan-based terrorist group called Lakshar-e-Taiba. The attacks left 170 people dead, including six Americans. He has been charged with conspiracy to murder and maim in a foreign country, and material support of terrorism. The Justice Department said that Mr. Headley, who is cooperating with the government's investigation, spent several years and considerable effort on behalf of the plotters, attended training by the group in Pakistan, videotaping targets, and briefing the other conspirators on how to carry out the attack on India's largest city. [More>>nytimes.com]

12.07.09 East Jerusalem not part of Israel: European MP

BRUSSELS, December 7 - Luxembourg minister says Palestine includes east Jerusalem. East Jerusalem, which Palestinians want as a national capital, is "not part of Israel," Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said Monday ahead of a meeting with his EU counterparts. "We all recognize, in discussions, that east Jerusalem is occupied, and if it is occupied then it is not part of Israel," Asselborn told reporters as he arrived for the talks in Brussels. "I don't understand how Israel fails to recognize that Palestine is composed of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem," he added, pleading for Europe and the US to use "clear language" when pronouncing on the issue. However Europe does not speak with a single voice on east Jerusalem, which Israel invaded and occupied in 1967 and subsequently annexed. [More>>alarabiya.net]

Editorial note: "UN Resolution November 29, 1947 placed Jerusalem under UN jurisdiction - Minister Jean Asselborn is wrong " The UN Resolution that created the state of Israel established the boundaries of Israel and set aside a territory from Jerusalem to Ein Karim in the west as The Corpus Separatum of Jerusalem. This territory was to be governed by the United Nations, as listed in Part III. (From Maravot News 9.27.09 Editorial note to article 9.27.09 Israeli police, protesters clash at holy site):

(Maravot News, "Confusion on the mount.") "It is unfortunate that most of the leaders who can influence attitudes towards the Temple Mount have no understanding of the underlying issues involving the fate of Israel and "Palestine." Legal arguments form the base of the issues. They begin with the Bible, then the Koran's confirmation of the Bible; then the international covenants that relate to these holy documents must be understood. First among them is the UN resolution 181 (II) of November 29, 1947, "Future government of Palestine" that created the state of Israel. It created Israel with the provision that Israel submit to the UN for approval Israel's Declaration of Independence setting forth its laws, requiring those laws to be compatible with UN requirements. The resolution also created a territory called the "Corpus Separatum of Jerusalem," which would be governed by the UN. The separate UN administered territory of Jerusalem that reached from Jerusalem to Ein Karim in the west.

The UN resolution of 1948 also requested the Palestinians to submit for UN approval a Declaration of Independence setting forth its laws and boundaries as the state of Palestine. A document, "Palestinian Declaration of Independence," 15 November 1988 was created in Algiers. However, since the creation of this document universal Palestinian agreement on it has not been realized. So the requirement by the UN resolution of 1947 still applies: for Palestine to submit for approval its Declaration of Independence. While there have been intervening wars (beginning with the Yom Kippur War of 1967) that reset territorial boundaries in the Holy Land, and there is a general belief that "possession is 9/10 of the law" the fact remains that the UN resolution still applies."

It is relevant to note that a Palestinian Declaration of Independence submitted in response to the UN resolution of 1947 should include a statement on its boundaries. Any claim to east Jerusalem will contravene the UN Resolution 181 of 1947, i.e.,:

(UN Resolution 29 November 1947)
Part III. - City of Jerusalem(5)


The City of Jerusalem shall be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations. The Trusteeship Council shall be designated to discharge the responsibilities of the Administering Authority on behalf of the United Nations.


The City of Jerusalem shall include the present municipality of Jerusalem plus the surrounding villages and towns, the most eastern of which shall be Abu Dis; the most southern, Bethlehem; the most western, 'Ein Karim (including also the built-up area of Motsa); and the most northern Shu'fat, as indicated on the attached sketch-map (annex B).

Mel Copeland

12.07.09 Police clash with thousands in Iran

(AP) December 7 - Security forces and militiamen clashed with thousands of protesters shouting "death to the dictator" outside Teheran University on Monday, beating them with batons and firing tear gas on a day of nationwide student demonstrations, witnesses said. The protests were the largest in months, bringing tens of thousands out in marches at more than a dozen campuses around the country and in several squares in Teheran, as university students — a bedrock of support for the pro-reform movement — sought to energize the opposition. The opposition has been reeling under a fierce crackdown since turmoil erupted over the disputed presidential election in June.

Thousands of riot police, Revolutionary Guard forces and pro-government Basij militiamen flooded the area around Teheran University since the morning, vowing to prevent any unrest from spilling out into the streets. They sought to seal off the campus from the outside world. Banners and signs bearing slogans from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blanketed the tall university fence, hiding whatever took place inside. Cell phone networks around the universities were shut down, and police and members of the elite Revolutionary Guard surrounded entrances, checking IDs of anyone entering to bar opposition activists, witnesses said.

12.07.09 US wants to stop mankind's savior: Iran leader

DUBAI, December 7 - Ahmadinejad says US planning to prevent coming of Mahdi. Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he has documented evidence that the United States is doing what it can to prevent the coming of the Mahdi, the Imam that Muslims believe will be ultimate savior of mankind, press reports said Monday. "We have documented proof that they [US] believe that a descendant of the prophet of Islam will raise in these parts [Middle East] and he will dry the roots of all injustice in the world," the hard-line president said, addressing an audience of families of those killed during the 1980's war against Iraq. "They have devised all these plans to prevent the coming of the Hidden Imam because they know that the Iranian nation is the one that will prepare the grounds for his coming and will be the supporters of his rule." Iranian news website Tabnak said Ahmadinejad further revealed plots by both the East and the West to wipe out the Islamic Republic. [More>>alaraabiya.net]

12.07.09 Nine EU countries to unite wind power in North Sea

BRUSSELS (RIA Novosti) December 7 - The energy ministers of nine European Union countries signed on Monday a joint declaration on a common system of wind-driven power generators in the North Sea, an EU Council spokesman said Monday. The participants of the project, announced on the opening day of the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, are Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and France. Experts will now have to study the project to determine its feasibility. The EU aims to increase its energy consumption from renewable sources to 20% by 2020. [>en.rian.ru]

12.07.09 10 killed, 50 injured in Peshawar suicide bombing

PESHAWAR, December 7 - At least 10 people were killed and nearly 50 others injured when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a crowded court complex in this northwestern Pakistani city on Monday, the latest in a wave of deadly terrorist attacks across the country. The bomber, who came to the court complex in a rickshaw, tried to flee when he was challenged by police, said North West Frontier Province Senior Minister Bashir Bilour. He blew himself up when police opened fire, the minister told reporters at the site of the explosion. Ten people, including two policemen and as many lawyers, were killed in the blast. Nearly 50 injured people were brought to Lady Reading Hospital and four of them were in a serious condition. Several policemen, lawyers and passers-by were among the injured. [More>>indianexpress.com; See related stories,

thenews.com.pk, December 7, "Ten killed, dozens hurt as twin blasts hit Lahore" :
LAHORE: At least 10 people were killed and dozens others injured including women when two consecutive blasts ripped through Lahore's commercial center on Monday, SSP Operations Shafiq Gujar said. Nothing is known so far about the nature of the blasts which occurred at Lahore's busy Moon Market in Allama Iqbal Town, Lahore. According to Geo News sources, the two blasts occurred within 30 seconds of each other. Fire erupted in the market immediately after the blasts, engulfing a number of shops. Efforts are being made to bring the fire under control.

Rescue efforts are underway at the blast site, as the bodies and injured are being ferried in 1122 ambulances to nearby hospitals where emergency has been declared. Moon market is a commercial center of Iqbal Town, Lahore, where shoppers are normally present in large numbers. A suicide attack had also been launched at a police station in this area on 13 August last year in which 8 people lost their lives. [end]

thenews.com.pk, December 7, "4 militants killed in Swat: ISPR report" : RAWALPINDI - Security forces apprehended six suspects from an IDP camp at Ratta Kulachi Stadium in D I Khan and cleared 40 compounds at Abbas Khel, Waspass Kalle [and] Ospana Raghazai in Shakai Sector. In another operation, security forces carried out sanitization at Kudiwam, Imar Khan Killi, Kund Sarai, Tiarza and recovered [a] huge cache of arms and ammunition including 14.5 mm guns and number of prepared IEDs. While in Razmak sector, they conducted [a] search operation at village Ghazika, Khajai, village Trai near Razmak, Kam Narakai, Warogh Tangi, area around Shewa and cleared dozens of compounds. During [an] exchange of fire with militants, one soldier was injured. Meanwhile, security forces conducted search operation at Goraghat and killed 4 terrorists. Ten terrorists voluntarily surrendered themselves to security forces at Baskhela, Matta and Dakorak near Charbagh. [end]

12.07.09 Deaths in Baghdad school blast

December 7 - At least eight people have been killed, mostly students, in a bombing at a school in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. Among the dead were six children between the ages of 6 and 12, an Iraqi police official said.  Monday's blast also wounded at least 41 others. The toll is expected to rise. An interior ministry official confirmed the casualties. The blast took place at Abaa Dhar School for boys, in Baghdad's Shia district of Sadr City, an area that has seen only infrequent attacks because it is encircled by US and Iraqi security forces and has its own neighbourhood security. Many children were returning to school for the first time after the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha. Twenty-five children were among the wounded, two hospital officials said. [More>>aljazeera.net]

12.06.09 Chinese windpower companies target global markets

BEIJING (AP) December 6 - China's Goldwind Science & Technology Ltd. is one of the world's biggest makers of wind turbines a cornerstone of the booming clean power business but is virtually unknown outside its home country. Goldwind aims to change that. In a Minnesota farmer's cornfield, the company is erecting three 20-story-tall windmills in its first American project and hopes it will help to woo other buyers. "There are a lot of leads and we are following them up," said Kerry Zhou, Goldwind's director of development. "We certainly expect that by 2011 we can get good results."

China's market for wind equipment is on track to overtake the US this year as the world's largest, spurred by a government campaign to promote renewable energy to clean up its battered environment and curb surging demand for foreign oil and gas. Now the biggest Chinese manufacturers want to expand to the United States, Europe and other markets. Western suppliers could face new competition as low-priced Chinese rivals seek to profit from global efforts to limit climate change. Chinese manufacturers could get a boost if officials at this week's UN climate summit in Copenhagen, Denmark, agree on new measures to spread use of clean energy.

12.06.09 Rainforests turned into smoldering ruins

SUMATRA, Indonesia, December 6 - The land still smolders, tinted with a depressing gray. Twisted hulks of tree trunks take on abnormal shapes. A dark black canal cuts through the wasted landscape. It looks like a scene from an apocalyptic movie where an unknown force has obliterated all life. But this is the reality of Sumatra, Indonesia's largest island. The Kampar Peninsula was once virgin rainforest, some of the most biodiverse in the world. The region has now been transformed into a lifeless plain, soon to be replanted with monocultures. Environmental groups describe the degradation as rampant pillaging — the work of multibillion dollar paper, pulp and palm oil conglomerates. Already 85 percent of Sumatra's forests are gone. What is left is vanishing at an alarming rate — an area the size of 50 football fields disappears every hour, according to Greenpeace and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. [More>>cnn.com]

12.06.09 Rafsanjani urges 'freedom' in Iran

December 6 - Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a former Iranian president and opposition member, has accused the country's rulers of being intolerant, amid restrictions on journalists imposed by the authorities. "The situation in the country is such that constructive criticism is not accepted," Rafsanjani told students in the northern city of Mashhad on Sunday, the ILNA news agency reported. He called on Iran's political groups to work together to "create a climate of freedom which will convince the majority of people and erase ambiguities." Rafsanjani was speaking a day before the annual Student Day, when demonstrations against the rule of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, are expected to go ahead. Several websites have urged people to gather on Student Day near Tehran University campus.

..Iranian authorities have ordered journalists working for foreign media organizations not to leave their offices to cover the protests that are expected to take place on Monday. "All permits issued for foreign media to cover news in Tehran have been revoked from December 7 to December 9," the culture ministry's foreign press department said in an mobile phone text message sent to journalists on Saturday. Police and Iran's Revolutionary Guards have said that they will move against any "illegal" rally that takes place in Tehran. "Any illegal gathering outside universities will be strongly confronted," Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam, a police chief, was quoted by Etemad newspaper as saying.
[Full story>>aljazeera.net]

12.06.09 Men seek to kill woman for adultery in Spain

December 6 - Men claimed to be applying Sharia law. Spanish police have arrested nine men suspected of seeking to have a woman killed after they accused her of adultery, claiming they were following Islamic law, authorities said on Sunday. The men were arrested on November 14 and seven have been held in jail, a police spokesman said. According to police, the woman had been taken in March and held in an isolated house in Valls in northeastern Catalonia. Authorities say the men set up a court there to judge her for adultery. "These men had formed a kind of court to apply (Islamic) Sharia law," the spokesman said, adding the woman told authorities she was tried and sentenced to death. She was later able to escape and report what happened to police. [>alarabiya.net]

12.06.09 1 militant killed, 13 suspects held in Operation Rah-e-Nijat: ISPR report

WANA, Pakistan, December 6 - One militant was killed while 13 suspected militants held as security forces carried out [a] search operation in parts of South Waziristan, according to a statement released by ISPR today (Sunday). The ISPR said that security forces conducted [a] search operation in Jandola and apprehended six suspected people. In addition, they cleared area around Abbas Khel Tsappara Ghundai, Waspass Kalle, Ospana Raghazai, Darakai, Spin Kai near Nanu, Barwand and Ospana Raghazai, Kudwam, Shinsar near Tiarza, Kudiwarn, Kund Sarai and Imar Khan Killi in Shakai sector. During [the] operation in Shewa area, the forces killed one militant and arrested seven other suspected people. The terrorists fired rockets and small arms at Green Top which was effectively engaged. Meanwhile, during operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat and Malakand, 19 militants were held while 13 others surrendered. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,

washingtonpost.com (AP) December 6, "Pakistan police arrest gang accused in bombings" : PESHAWAR -
Police commandos acting on a tip killed one militant and arrested five others Sunday in a raid against a bombing cell accused in recent attacks around the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, authorities said. Elsewhere in the volatile region, a remote-controlled roadside bomb killed two anti-Taliban tribal elders - underscoring the difficulty Pakistan faces in cracking down on the loose and flexible network of militants threatening its stability. Police said the commandos encountered fierce resistance when they stormed the compound in the village of Kaka Khel near Peshawar, the largest city in the area and the main gateway to the Afghan border region where many al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents are based. Militants have carried out a wave of deadly attacks in and around Peshawar in apparent retaliation for an army offensive in the tribal area of South Waziristan. Three suicide jackets as well as a number of bombs, grenades, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons were seized from the compound, regional police Chief Liaquat Ali Khan said....

12.05.09 Internet down in Iran ahead of planned protests

TEHRAN (AFP) December 5 - Most of the Iranian capital's Internet links with the outside world were down on Saturday, two days ahead of planned demonstrations by opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Sources close to Iran's technical services told AFP the cut was the result of "a decision by the authorities" rather than a technical breakdown, but telecommunications ministry officials were unavailable for comment. Internet lines, texting and at times even mobile phone connections have often been cut or scrambled since Ahmadinejad's contested re-election in June, but this was the first such occurrence a full two days before planned protests.

Iranian opposition groups are preparing to hold fresh demonstrations on Monday, several websites reported, as the nation marks the annual Students Day. The elite Revolutionary Guards and other authorities have warned they will crack down on any attempt by regime opponents to hijack the event to mount further protests against Ahmadinejad. Tehran on December 7 marks the 1953 killing by the shah's security forces of three students, just months after a US-backed coup toppled popular prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq.

12.05.09 Gazans fleeced in investment scam

December 5 - Underground tunnels in the Gaza Strip are the only way for millions of dollars worth of essential supplies to get past Israel's siege of the coastal territory. But it has now emerged that at least 40,000 Gazans have lost their life savings in a scheme that promised up to 50 percent profits in return for an investment in tunnel trading. Hamas, which has de facto control of Gaza, returned a fraction of the $100m that disappeared through the scheme, and has said that [it] is investigating the fraud. However, with hundreds of middlemen as yet unpunished and many of them rumored to have had links to Hamas, the duped Gazans say that more should be done. Al Jazeera's Zeina Awad reports from Gaza. [>aljazeera.net]

12.05.09 Aerial strikes kill 7 militants in Orakzai

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, December 7 - Seven militants were killed in fresh aerial strikes carried out by security forces on Saturday in different parts of Orakzai Agency, according to sources. Backed by helicopter gunship, security forces bombed militants' hideouts in Sheikhan, Mashti, Ghaljo and Dabori areas, in which seven militants were killed and 11 other wounded. In aerial strikes, three vehicles and five hideouts of Hakimullah Mehsud's aides were also destroyed. While local population is continuing to flee the fighting zone. [>thenews.com.pk ; See related story, i

indianexpress.com, December 5, "Car bomb kills 3 near KFC in Peshawar" :
A car bomb exploded Saturday near a KFC fast-food restaurant in Pakistan's main northwestern city, killing at least three people and leaving others trapped in a blazing building where many lawyers have offices, officials said. The attack in Peshawar was the latest in a wave that has underscored the resilience of militant networks in the country as the army wages a key offensive against the Taliban in the lawless tribal belt bordering Afghanistan. An attack Friday on a mosque frequented by army personnel killed 37 people in the garrison city of Rawalpindi...

12.05.09 Little resistance to new Afghan operation

KABUL, Afghanistan, December 5 - US Marines and Afghan troops conducting the first offensive since the new American war plan was announced, met little resistance from insurgents on Saturday as they worked to disrupt Taliban supply and communications line in a key valley in southern Afghanistan. About 1,000 Marines and 150 Afghan troops are taking part in “Operation Cobra's Anger” in the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province, the scene of heavy fighting last summer. On Friday, helicopters and MV-22 Osprey aircraft dropped hundreds of troops behind Taliban lines in the northern end of the valley in the first offensive since President Barack Obama announced a troop buildup. A second, larger Marine force pushed northward from the Marines’ main base.

"We’re not taking for granted the low level of contact," Marine spokesman Maj. William Pelletier said on Saturday. "Just because it's quiet now doesn't mean it will be in 24 hours. Part of the operation is to have a disruptive effect on the Taliban resupply activities. The Marines and Afghan forces are continuing the clearing operation, continuing to move through the valley." No casualties have been reported by US or Afghan military authorities. A statement from the Afghan defense ministry said four militants have been killed and two others arrested. It said that troops confiscated one 82 mm mortar, 200 mines and 100kg of explosives.

12.05.09 Dozens in critical condition after Russian nightclub fire kills 103

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 1 - Dozens of people are being kept alive with medical ventilators after a horrific fire in a Russian Urals nightclub overnight that claimed the lives of at least 103 people, the health minister said. The fire broke out at the Lame Horse club in the city of Perm during an indoor fireworks display soon after 01:00am local time on Saturday. Tatyana Golikova said that most of the injured have burns covering more than 50% of their bodies. Several of them are being flown to Moscow for treatment. "Unfortunately, the burns are quite serious..

...There are 130 people in hospital, of whom 88 are in a serious condition. Of these, 59 have been put on medial ventilators," the minister, currently in Perm along with other cabinet ministers, told President Dmitry Medvedev in a video linkup. Emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu told the president that 34 of the 103 bodies have been identified. He said the club's owners had received two previous fines for breaching fire safety regulations, and were due for an inspection on Monday. "The fire broke out in a place where pyrotechnics should not have been used under any circumstances," he said. The venue had a suspended ceiling, which allowed the flames to spread rapidly. "The power shut off immediately, and panic broke out," Shoigu said.

Eyewitnesses said the venue had only one exit, and a stampede ensued. Russian TV channels have shown footage filmed by clubgoer with a digital camera, showing the flames spreading over a ceiling decorated with twigs, in an apparent barn theme. The owner and manager of the club, Anatoly Zak and Svetlana Yefremova, have been arrested, and face jail terms of up to seven years. Four other suspects are wanted in the case. President Medvedev accused those running the club of gross negligence, and called for harsh punishments.
[Full story>>en.rian.ru]

12.05.09 Attack of the killer tomatoes

December 5 - Botanists at Kew discover the plant is carnivorous, with ability to trap insects. Potatoes and tomatoes make good eating but they may also have a vicious side that makes them deadly killers on a par with Venus fly traps and pitcher plants. They have been identified as among a host of plants thought to have been overlooked by botanists and explorers searching the world's remotest regions for carnivorous species. Researchers at Royal Botanical Gardens Kew now believe there are hundreds more plants that catch and eat insects and other small animals than they previously realized. Among them are species of petunia, ornamental tobacco plants, potatoes and tomatoes and shepherd's purse, a relative of cabbages. "Widely recognized carnivorous plants number some 650 and we estimate that another 325 or so are probable additions so an increase of about 50 per cent," said Dr. Mike Fay, of Kew.

...Pitcher plants and Venus fly traps have specialist structures to kill and devour their prey but other plants are more subtle and rely on supplementing their usual diet by passive means. Among them are plants such as ornamental tobaccos, and some species of potatoes and tomatoes which have sticky hairs which trap aphids and other small invertebrates. It is thought that rather than devour the prey directly the dead bodies decay slowly and the nutrients fall to the ground where they are taken up by the roots. "They catch little aphids on the sticky hairs all the time. As these insects break down and drop to the ground the ground becomes enriched and the plants absorb them through the roots," he said.
[Full story>>independent.co.uk]

12.05.09 Italy police seize secret stash of masterpieces

(AP) Decelmber 5 - Secret attic stash: Police seize Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet art from disgraced dairy founder. Italian tax police said Saturday that they had seized works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne and other giants of art in a crackdown on assets hidden by the disgraced founder of the collapsed dairy company Parmalat. Authorities estimated the 19 masterpieces stashed away in attics and basements were valued at some euro100 million ($150 million). Parma Prosecutor Gerardo Laguardia said that, based on wiretapped phone conversations, officials believed at least one of the paintings hidden by Calisto Tanzi was about to be sold. "We got lucky. We learned that there were negotiations under way to sell one of the paintings" and raid three apartments in the area of Parma, near Parmalat's headquarters, Laguardia said in an interview on Italy's Sky TG24 TV. He didn't identify the painting. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

12.05.09 Anti-Islamic protesters held after clashes

December 5 - Eleven men have been arrested during violent skirmishes at a demonstration by far-right protesters. A 29-year-old police officer was also taken to hospital after suffering an arm injury during the clashes between police and members of the English Defence League. More than 700 officers were involved in the £1m security operation to prevent violence during the rally outside Nottingham Castle. Supt. Mick Luke, in charge of the police operation, said tempers flared when some protesters tried to break off from the agreed route of the march. He told Sky News: "There were a few who were determined to go where we didn't want them to go, although they eventually complied." Police on horseback used batons and those on the ground used dogs to contain the violence. During the protest some EDL members, with their faces covered with scarves and hooded tops, chanted: "We want our country back." Others waved placards which read: "Protect Women, No To Sharia" and "No Surrender." [More>>news.sky.com]

12.05.09 London climate change march draws 20,000

LONDON, December 5 - People chant "End Is Nigh" as leaders meet in Denmark. Around 20,000 people joined a climate change march in central London on Saturday calling for world leaders to agree a deal to protect the environment at their summit in Copenhagen, which advertisers have cleverly dubbed "Hopenhagen" to call people to the issue. The protest was organized by a coalition of green groups and charities calling for action to prevent global temperatures rising more than two degrees centigrade, seen by many scientists as the threshold for dangerous climate change. The marchers, many wearing blue clothes and face paint, made their way towards the Houses of Parliament chanting slogans and blowing whistles, bearing placards saying "Climate Justice Now" and "Climate Change: The End Is Nigh." [More>>alarabiya.net]

12.05.09 Gunmen kill 5 peacekeepers in Darfur attacks

CAIRO (AP) December 5 - Gunmen killed five Rwandan soldiers in a series of attacks on the international peacekeeping force in Darfur, a spokesman for the mission said Saturday, marking a swift upsurge in violence in the western Sudanese region. The attacks on Friday and Saturday targeted peacekeepers from the United Nations-African Union force, which deployed nearly two years ago to protect civilians and improve security in Darfur. Fighting between rebels and Sudanese government forces began there in 2003, killing up to 300,000 people and driving 2.7 million from their homes. The government says those figures are exaggerated. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

12.04.09 Britain's bank bailout cost £5,500 per home

December 4 - The cost of supporting Britain's failing banks ran to the equivalent of £5,500 per family - but the expense was justified, a report has found. However, the actual cost to the taxpayer is likely to be significantly less as the Government sells off the assets it acquired, the National Audit Office concluded. The watchdog's survey investigated the response to the financial crisis and said it had achieved the end result of protecting customers' money and restoring financial stability. Its report shows the Treasury has forked out £117bn in support of the likes of RBS, and once various guarantees and insurance schemes are included, the value of total public support reaches £850bn. [More>>news.sky.com]

12.04.09 40 killed in Rawalpindi in Pakistan mosque attack

ISLAMABAD, December 4 - At least 40 people were killed and 83 injured on Friday when suicide attackers stormed a mosque near army headquarters in Pakistan's Rawalpindi city spraying bullets on hundreds of Friday worshippers, including military personnel, and hurling grenades before blowing themselves up. The attackers, who used ladders to clamber over the walls of the Jamia Masjid near Parade Lane, lobbed grenades and fired indiscriminately at worshippers. They also exchanged fire with the mosque's security guards. There was confusion over the total number of terrorists involved in the attack. Some witnesses said seven to eight gunmen stormed the mosque, which was packed with Friday worshippers including serving and retired military personnel, while police and army officials put the number of assailants at five to six.

The military said at least four of the attackers either blew themselves up or were killed by security forces, while official sources were quoted as saying by TV channels that two terrorists exploded themselves in the mosque. Regional Police Officer Aslam Tareen told reporters that 40 people were killed and 83 others injured in the attack, which came shortly after a roadside bomb targeted a bus carrying civilians in the troubled Mohmand tribal region in the country's northwest leaving six people dead and five others injured. Security forces, including elite army commandos, launched a manhunt for the remaining attackers, who were believed to have sneaked into nearby residential neighborhoods.

12.04.09 CIA can expand using drones in Pakistan: report

WASHINGTON (AP) Drones to be used to strike Taliban, al-Qaeda suspects. The White House has authorized the CIA to expand the use of unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan to track down and strike suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda members, the New York Times reported Friday. The Times, citing unnamed sources, said that authorization to expand CIA drone usage in Pakistan's tribal areas came this week, coinciding with President Barack Obama's announcement Tuesday of sending 30,000 more US troops to Afghanistan. Washington is also talking with Pakistani officials about using the drones to strike in Baluchistan, a vast region outside of the tribal areas that borders Afghanistan and Iran, where Afghan Taliban leaders are reportedly hiding, the Times reported.

Analysts, intelligence agents and foreign officials have widely reported that Taliban fighters use Baluchistan as a base, crossing over the border into Afghanistan to and from the Taliban's spiritual capital of Kandahar. The northwest Pakistan tribal region has seen a surge in the US strikes, which fan anti-Americanism in the nuclear-armed Muslim country, since Obama took office. The US military does not, as a rule, confirm drone attacks which US officials say have killed a number of top-level militants but Islamabad publicly opposes as a violation of its sovereignty.

12.04.09 NATO pledges 7,000 troops, but avoids details

BRUSSELS, December 4 - Responding to American entreaties for more soldiers in Afghanistan, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the NATO secretary general, announced Friday that the alliance had agreed to contribute a further 7,000 "new forces" to the coalition there after Washington's decision to commit some 30,000 American reinforcements. But he did not specify crucial details: which countries would be sending troops, and when. At least 1,500 of the number are NATO troops already in the country, having been sent to bolster security before the country's disputed, fraud-riddled election.

And an unknown number of countries are barring their contingents from taking part in combat operations. Britain has pledged 500 more soldiers; Poland has pledged 1,000. Italy has pledged 600, in addition to more carabineri to work with the Afghan police. Slovakia is sending a small new deployment, and Georgia, a nonmember that has been promised membership, is sending 720 new troops. South Korea is sending 400 as a training unit. Mr. Rasmussen said new contributions would come from "25 countries."

12.04.09 Marines, Afghans launch major offensive

(AP) December 4 - "Cobra'a Anger," 1st major operation since Obama announced troop surge, also 1st use of Ospreys in large-scale offensive. US Marines and Afghan troops on Friday launched the first offensive since President Barack Obama announced an American troop surge, striking against Taliban communications and supply lines in a southern insurgent stronghold, a military spokesman said. Hundreds of troops from the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines and the Marine reconnaissance unit Task Force Raider were dropped by helicopter and MV-22 Osprey aircraft behind Taliban lines in the northern end of the Now Zad Valley of Helmand province, scene of heavy fighting last summer, according to Marine spokesman Maj. William Pelletier.

A US military official in Washington said it was the first use of Ospreys, aircrafts that combine features of helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, in an offensive involving units larger than platoons...The spokesman for the Afghan governor of Helmand province, Daood Ahmadi, said the bodies of four slain Taliban had been recovered. Ahmadi said 150 Afghan troops were taking part in the operation, which had located more than 300 mines and roadside bombs by Friday evening.
[Full story>>cbsnews.com]

12.04.09 Top Indian separatists captured

NEW DELHI (AFP) December 5 - A rebel leader from India's northeast whose group is blamed for more than 500 bomb blasts in the last three decades has been arrested in Bangladesh and transferred to India, an official said. Arabinda Rajkhowa, Chairman of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), was arrested this week in Dhaka, where he was believed to be in hiding, along with the group's deputy military chief, a bodyguard and seven family members.

"Bangladesh has handed over the top leaders of ULFA and their family members to India to investigate all the criminal cases against them," said Vijay Singh, a spokesman from India's Border Security Force in New Delhi. ULFA, one of the most powerful rebel armies in the northeast among 30-odd militant groups active in the region, has been fighting for an independent homeland for ethnic Assamese since 1979. Rajkhowa, 53, has been the subject of an arrest warrant from international police body Interpol since 1997 for a range of crimes, including murder, extortion and kidnapping. [More>>news.com.au]

12.04.09 Nepal holds cabinet meeting on Everest

December 4 - Nepal held the world's highest Cabinet meeting today when ministers wearing oxygen masks gathered on the slopes of Mount Everest to highlight the danger global warming poses to Himalayan glaciers. The 23 government ministers, also wearing purple sashes reading "Save the Himalayas," sat at folding tables on a plateau next to Everest base camp at an altitude of 17,192ft (5,250m). Wrapped in thick jackets and woolly hats, they posed for photographs, and signed a commitment to tighten environmental regulations and expand the nation's protected areas, before flying back to the capital, Kathmandu.

"The Everest declaration was a message to the world to minimise the negative impact of climate change on Mount Everest and other Himalayan mountains," said Madhav Kumar Nepal, the Prime Minister. Many of the ministers were overweight and in their seventies, but they avoided altitude sickness by staying the previous night in a nearby town at 9,180ft (2,800m).

12.04.09 Marine life in the Galapagos 'devastated'

December 4 - The coastal wildlife of the Galapagos Islands has been devastated by rising ocean temperatures due to global warming and human activity like fishing and tourism, scientists say. Several species of marine animals and plants on the world-famous archipelago are believed to be extinct. A new report, in the journal Global Change Biology, claims Charles Darwin's "living laboratory," which is arguably the planet's most celebrated environmental treasure, has changed forever. The researchers warned the Galapagos was a "canary in a coalmine" indicating what the world could expect from global warming. Conservation International found coral reefs and kelp beds had been wiped out in just a few decades. And once-abundant marine species like the Galapagos black-spotted damselfish and Galapagos stringweed, as well as the 24-rayed sunstar, are thought to be extinct. Dozens of others including the Galapagos penguin were within "a hair's breadth of annihilation." [More>>news.sky.com]

12.04.09 Three sentenced to death for murder in Urumqi riot

URUMQI, December 4 - Three people were sentenced to death for murder and other crimes committed in and after the July 5 riot in Urumqi, capital of west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, on Friday. The defendants were Heyrinisa Sawut, Ruzikhari Niyaz and Li Longfei. Another one was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi, while three others were given jail terms. The trials were heard in open sessions with presence of relatives of the defendants and the victims. On Thursday five people were sentenced to death by the court, two others were sentenced to life imprisonment while another six were given jail terms. [>xinhuanet.com]

12.03.09 Russia says will help US reach Afghan peace

ROME / BRUSSELS, December 3 - NATO states commit more troops to Afghanistan. Russia is willing to do its part to help the United States and Europe achieve peace in Afghanistan, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Thursday as more than 20 countries are planning to send more troops to Afghanistan. "We are obliged to help in Afghanistan ... what the armies of the United States and Europe are doing (in Afghanistan) is peacekeeping. This is very important because a threat for all Europe came from Afghanistan," Medvedev said.

Speaking at a news conference in Rome after meeting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Medvedev made some of his most positive remarks about the prospect of bringing peace to Afghanistan since US President Barack Obama announced an increase in American troops there two days ago. "President Obama, as a partner, called me and spoke to me of his new ideas for the work to be done in Afghanistan. I appreciated this. This is a serious position and we are ready to support the efforts of our partners, even with the possibility of transit that Russia permits," he said. Russia already permits military cargo headed for Afghanistan to be moved across Russian territory.

12.03.09 'Details of Iran arms seizure revealed'

December 3 - The nature of the Iranian cargo seized in July, a Bahamas-flagged cargo vessel called the ANL Australia, has raised fears that Iran is ramping up efforts to arm itself and anti-Israel militias in the Middle East the Washington Post reported Thursday. Israeli officials have warned that they may use force to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons...The freighter seized in this port enclave was one of five ships caught this year carrying large, secret caches of weapons apparently intended for the Hizbullah, Hamas, and a wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that supports terrorist activity in Iraq, according to US and UN officials and intelligence analysts.

In three cases, the contraband included North Korean
or Chinese-made components for rockets such as the 122mm Grad, which has a range of up to 25 miles and which Hamas and Hizbullah have fired into Israel. Among the weapons components discovered aboard the ANL Australia were 2,030 detonators for 122mm rockets, as well as electric circuitry and a large quantity of solid-fuel propellant, according to an account that UAE and UN Security Council officials gave the Washington Post. [Full story>>jpost.com]

12.03.09 EU navy arrests 13 pirates off Oman

(AFP) December 3 - The crew of a Dutch warship has arrested 13 suspected pirates following an attack by fast boats on a cargo vessel in waters south of Oman, the EU naval mission said. "In total there were thirteen pirates and two of the original crew on board. Ladders, grappling hooks, and nine automatic weapons, one RPG (rocket propelled grenade) with three grenades and cases with ammunition were found," it said. "The suspected pirates have been detained."

The arrests came after a failed attack on Wednesday by pirates in two fast boats on an Antigua and Barbuda flagged cargo ship BBC Togo, some 150 nautical miles south of Salalah, Oman. The pirates fired automatic weapons, but failed to breach barbed wire and other undisclosed defences used by the cargo ship. No casualties were reported. The suspects were detained by the crew of the Dutch warship Evertsen, part of the EUNAVFOR contingent operating in Indian Ocean waters.

12.03.09 Syria tire explosion kills 3, terrorism ruled out

DAMASCUS, December 3 - Explosion caused by bus tire kills three in Damascus. A tire from a bus of Iranian pilgrims exploded with force near a Shiite shrine in Damascus on Thursday, killing three people, with Syria's interior minister dismissing reports of a terrorist attack. "It is not a terrorist act at all," Interior Minister Saeed Sammur told journalists at the scene. "It happened while one of the empty bus' tires was being repaired. An explosion took place as result of the excessive pressure. Two workers who were repairing the tire and the bus driver, who was standing near them, were killed in the explosion." ...Speculation centered on a possible terrorist attack, as the incident coincided with a visit to Damascus by Saeed Jalili, Tehran's chief nuclear negotiator and secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council. [Full story>>alarabiya.net]

12.03.09 Ministers killed in Somalia attack

December 3 - At least 19 people have been killed including three government ministers after an explosion ripped through the Shamo Hotel in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, during a graduation ceremony. A suicide bomber disguised as a woman carried out Thursday's attack at the hotel during a crowded graduation ceremony for medical students from a local university, Dahir Mohamud Gelle, the Somali information minister, said. Witnesses said the attack appeared to have targeted government officials.

...Mohammed Ali Nur, the Somali ambassador to Kenya, told Al Jazeera: "Three of our ministers have been killed and our sport minister is in critical condition. In addition, 19 students have been killed and 40 other deaths have yet to be confirmed. "What we understand is that someone blew himself up at the ceremony and the attack aimed to target government officials. We appeal to the international community to help our country in this time of need," he said. Gelle said the bomber had been dressed in women's clothing, "complete with a veil and a female's shoes."
[Full story>>aljazeera.net]

12.03.09 Iraq bomb kills seven, including anti-terror cop

TIKRIT, December 3 - Seven people were killed, including a senior anti-terror police officer, by a bomb in executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit on Thursday, police said. Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed al-Fahel, the head of Salaheddin province's anti-terror squad, and at least two of his bodyguards were among the dead in the blast, a police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity. [>thenews.com.pk]

12.03.09 3 militant commanders among 13 arrested in Kyber Agency

KHYBER AGENCY, Pakistan, December 3 - Security forces on Thursday arrested 13 extremists, including three key militants commanders, and seized a cache of arms and ammunition from their custody during [a] fresh offensive in Khyber Agency. According to the Frontier Corps media cell, the security forces conducted operation in Akakhel area of Bara Tehsil, arresting 13 militants and recovering huge number of weapons. According to the media cell, the arrested militants also include three key commanders, who were trying to escape by wearing ladies dresses. [>thenews.com.pk See related stories,

xinhuanet.com, December 3, "Blast hits police checkpoint in NW Pakistan" :
ISLAMABAD - A blast occurred at a police checkpoint in northwest Pakistan's Peshawar on Thursday, injuring three policemen, local TV channel reported. Police sources said that it was a remote-controlled bomb blast. The injured were shifted to nearby Khyber Teaching Hospital for treatment. The blast took place at a check post near Raigi graveyard on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province, the private TV Express reported. Five to six policemen were performing duty at the post when the accident happened, sources said. [end]

japantoday.com, December 3, "Pakistanis kill 15 militants in separate clashes" : KHAR, Pakistan - Pakistani security forces have killed 15 militants, including a senior commander, in separate clashes as they seek to rout the Taliban from strongholds in the country's northwest, officials said Thursday. The deadliest fighting was in Swat Valley, the site of a major military offensive this summer that was declared a success but has been the scene of sporadic violence since. Ten suspects were killed in overnight fighting following a raid on a militant hide-out near the Swat Valley town of Kabal, Maj. Mushtaq Ahmed said. Those killed included Abu Faraj, the captured militant commander who had led the troops to the location, Ahmed said. Abu Faraj was captured in September and accused of plotting suicide bombings in the area. Five other militants were killed when security forces repelled attacks on three checkpoints in the Bajur area that borders Afghanistan, local official Adalat Khan said...

12.03.09 Five sentenced to death for murder in Urumqi riot

URUMQI, December 3 - Five people were sentenced Thursday to death for murder and other crimes committed in the July 5 riot in Urumqi, capital of west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The defendants were Memeteli Islam, Mamattursun Elmu, Memeteli Abburakm, Kushiman Kurban and Helil Sadir. Two others were sentenced at the Intermediate People's Court of Urumqi to life imprisonment and another six were given jail terms. Memeteli Islam was convicted of battering to death police officer Wan Jingang with a brick. Mamattursun Elmu and Memeteli Abburakm were convicted of killing bystander Wang Zhenwu with a rock, before smashing the van of Zou Yuqiang and killing Zou and a woman, Fan Silan, inside. Mamattursun Elmu was also convicted of setting fire to a van and a grain shop, which resulted in the deaths of five people in the shop: Zhao Zhangshi, Zhang Liujun, Zhang Yu, Yu Xinli and Liu Kunpeng. Kushiman Kurban was convicted of smashing the windows of a tire store with a rod and stabbing to death bystander Wang Ningning. Helil Sadir was convicted of killing Wang Lei with a beer bottle. Another person involved in the beating, Abdulla Memet, was sentenced to life imprisonment. [More.>xinhuanet.com]


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