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12.11.10 N. Korea sends minister to Russia amid tensions
SEOUL (AFP) December 11 - North Korea's foreign minister left for Russia Saturday amid a flurry of diplomatic attempts to ease tensions following the North's deadly attack on a South Korean island last month. Pak Ui-Chun departed for Moscow, the North's official news agency said, a day after defending his country's move to strengthen its nuclear weaponry. Pyongyang is "assured of the rectitude of our choice of the songun (army first) policy, and in strengthening a defense that relies on nuclear forces for deterrence," he told Russia's Interfax news agency. Pak repeated assertions that US hostility and South Korea's confrontational policy had left the Korean peninsula situation in "quite a dangerous stage."
12.11.10 Chinese inflation surges to 28-month high
(AP) December 11 - Chinese inflation soared past market forecasts to a 28-month high of 5.1% in November and its affects look likely to spread beyond food prices, putting pressure on the government to implement an interest rate hike. China's inflation surged to a 28-month high in November, officials said Saturday, despite government efforts to increase food supplies and end diesel shortages. The 5.1 percent inflation rate was driven by a 11.7 percent jump in food prices year on year. The news comes as China's leaders meet for the top economic planning conference of the year and as financial markets watch for a widely anticipated interest rate hike to help bring rapid economic growth to a more sustainable level. [More>>france24.com]
12.11.10 Federal budget deficit: Highest on record
(AP) December 10 - Treasury Department says last month's budget deficit was 25 Percent higher than in November 2009. The federal budget deficit rose to $150.4 billion last month, the largest November gap on record. And the government's deficits are set to climb higher if Congress passes a tax-cut plan that's estimated to cost $855 billion over two years. The Treasury Department says November's budget gap was 25 percent more than the deficit in November 2009. For the first two months of the current budget year, which began Oct. 1, the deficit totals $290.8 billion. That's 2 percent less than for the same period a year ago. And economists had been estimating that the full-year deficit would decline after two years of record highs. But analysts say the tax deal President Barack Obama reached with Republicans this week will give the 2011 budget year the largest deficit in history $1.5 trillion, according to economists at JPMorgan Chase. [More>>cbsnews.com]
12.11.10 Mexican police kill drugs lord in shoot-out
December 11 - Mexican security forces have killed the boss of one of the most powerful drug trafficking cartels in the country in a dramatic shoot-out. Nazario Moreno, one of the leaders of the 'La Familia' cartel, was gunned down by police in the western state of Michoacan on Thursday. At least three alleged La Familia gunmen, five police officers and three civilians were also killed, according to government spokesman Alejandro Poire. Poire added the number could be higher because many cartel members fled with wounds and may have died since. [More>>news.sky.com]
12.11.10 An empty chair in Oslo and candles in the night for Xiaobo
December 11 - The Chinese government did everything it could to diminish the Nobel Peace Prize – but yesterday its power was clearer than ever. An empty high-backed chair played a poignant starring role at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo yesterday after this year's winner, the democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, was barred from attending by the Chinese government. He is being held in a prison in the remote North-east of the country. With no one allowed by China to attend on his behalf — not Mr. Liu's wife nor any other member of his family — the Nobel Committee found itself, only for the second time in the prize's 100-year history, unable to deliver the coveted medal and the $1.4m (£886,000) prize money. A diploma bearing his name, however, was simply placed on the seat of the chair. US President Barack Obama, the winner last year, issued a statement in Washington urging China to release Mr. Liu, saying he was "far more deserving than I was" of the prize. [More>>independent.co.uk]
12.11.10 Deal is reached at Cancún summit
December 11 - All major economies agree to cut emissions and establish a fund to help nations most vulnerable to climate change. The UN climate change talks produced a modest deal today that for the first time commits all the major economies to reducing emissions, but not enough to meet their promise of keeping the global temperature rise to 2C. The agreement, which took four years to negotiate, should help to prevent deforestation, promote the transfer of low-carbon technologies to developing countries and, by 2020, establish a green fund, potentially worth $100bn (£63bn) a year, to shield the more vulnerable countries from climate change. However, governments failed to reach agreement on how far overall global emissions should be cut, and there are many loopholes for countries to avoid making the deep reductions that scientists say are needed. Researchers from the Climate Action Tracker said the pledges would set the world on course for 3.2C warming — a catastrophe for many of the poorest countries. [More>>guardian.co.uk]
12.11.10 Attacks kill civilians ahead of Obama review
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) December 11 - Violence in north, south and east Afghanistan killed more than a dozen civilians and wounded several more as US President Barack Obama prepares to unveil a review of his strategy for the near decade-long war. The latest string of attacks comes near the end of the deadliest year since the 2001 overthrow of the Taliban, with the escalating insurgency costing the lives of a record number of both ordinary Afghans and foreign troops. Obama said on a visit to Afghanistan last week that troops are making "important progress" and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in Kabul soon after that he was convinced the war was on the right track.
12.11.10 Algerian army kills 10 rebels
ALGIERS (Reuters) December 11 - Algerian troops killed 10 Islamist rebels on Friday in the eastern Kabylie region known as a stronghold of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), a security source told Reuters on Saturday. Between 3,500 and 4,000 troops backed by helicopters attacked a site between the cities of Boumerdes and Tizi Ouzou after intelligence officials heard that AQIM was planning to hold a meeting in the region. "The operation is still ongoing and ten terrorists have been killed," the source, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
12.09.10 Explosives-laden house torched in California
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (AP) December 9 - Authorities on Thursday set fire to a suburban San Diego home they said was so packed with homemade explosives that they had no choice but to burn it to the ground. Remotely controlled explosive devices ignited the home in Escondido, sending smoke spewing across the neighborhood. Scores of nearby residents were evacuated earlier. Authorities used helicopters and air pollution sensors to monitor the controlled burn for potential health problems. Crews have built a 16-foot firewall and covered it with fire resistant gel to protect the closest homes. They also closed a portion of a nearby interstate highway. Authorities say the fire should be over within four hours. The house was rented by an out-of-work software consultant who authorities say assembled an astonishing quantity of bomb-making materials that included chemicals used by suicide bombers...Investigators say they are still trying to understand what motivated the renter, George Jakubec, to stockpile the material. Jakubec, 54, has pleaded not guilty to charges of making destructive devices and robbing three banks.
12.09.10 Foreign media websites apparently blocked in China
BEIJING, December 9 - The websites of several foreign media outlets appeared to be blocked in China on Thursday on the eve of the award ceremony in Oslo honouring the 2010 Nobel peace laureate, jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo. Attempts by a French news agency to access the websites of television networks CNN, the BBC and Norwegian public broadcaster NRK were unsuccessful, with the message "Internet Explorer cannot display the web page" appearing on the screen. China on Thursday stepped up its criticism of the Oslo-based Nobel committee that in October chose Liu — who was jailed in December 2009 for 11 years on subversion charges — as this year's honoree. [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,
12.09.10 Russian foreign minister doubts NATO sincerity after Baltic leak
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 9 - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has expressed concern over NATO's integrity after the revelation of the military alliance's plans on defending the Baltic states against Russia. The latest batch of US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks shows NATO drew up plans in January to defend the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania against any possible attack by Russia. "The question arises as to when NATO was being sincere," Lavrov said. "When they talk to us on developing a partnership or when they resolve contradictory issues among themselves behind closed doors?" "We have posed these questions and we expect to get answers. I presume we have the right," Lavrov added. Russia's top diplomat also said that NATO's plans were being developed in December 2009 at the same time as the first high-level Russian-NATO Council meeting since the August 2008 Russia-Georgia war.
12.09.10 Hackers step up cyber attacks in support of WikiLeaks
(Reuters) December 9 - A hackers' group dubbed "Anonymous" claims to have brought down the Swedish government's website after also blocking the web sites of credit card giants Mastercard and Visa, which suspended payments to the whistleblower site WikiLeaks. More cyber attacks in retaliation for attempts to block the WikiLeaks website are likely in a "data war" to protect Internet freedom, a representative of one of the groups involved said on Thursday. Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet said the Swedish government's website was down for a short time overnight in the latest apparent attack. Sweden has issued an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange over sex crimes and he is in jail in London, awaiting an extradition hearing. WikiLeaks has angered the US authorities by starting to release details of 250,000 confidential diplomatic cables.
france24.com, December 9, "For WikiLeaks founder Assange, a life of secrets and shadows" : ...After fathering a child at 18 with his girlfriend (and becoming embroiled in a custody battle after their separation), Assange entered a formative period: the internet was rising to prominence and Assange soon became an active hacker. In the early 1990s, he pleaded guilty and paid a fine of several thousand Australian dollars for illegally accessing computers belonging to various companies, including Nortel, the Canadian telecom company. Assange also briefly studied physics, math, neuroscience and philosophy at Melbourne University. Assange started Wikileaks in 2006 as an online forum for leaks. He has said the site is intended to use new technology to uncover the truth, and has denied that people are harmed by the information published....
12.09.10 Republicans block US health aid for 9/11 workers
WASHINGTON, December 9 - Republican senators blocked Democratic legislation on Thursday that sought to provide medical care to rescue workers and residents of New York City who became ill as a result of breathing in toxic fumes, dust and smoke from ground zero. The 9/11 health bill, a version of which was approved by the House of Representatives in September, is among a handful of initiatives that Senate Democrats had been hoping to approve this year before the close of the 111th Congress. Supporters believe this is their last real opportunity to have the bill passed. [More>>nytimes.com]
12.09.10 Yemen gun culture harms stability, helps militants
SANAA, Yemen (Reuters) December 9 - Business has been booming this past week at Jihana, one of Yemen's biggest weapons markets. A deadly feud has erupted between two local tribes, and fighters from both sides have been rushing to stock up on weapons. "We stayed open until midnight yesterday to cope with the demand," said arms trader Muhammed Qubban. Trade is brisk and when a pick-up carrying four masked men arrives, Qubban and other traders are on their feet to sell guns and ammunition. "They're from one of the warring tribes," said Saleh, another trader at the market, 30 km (19 miles) east of Sanaa. "When the fighting is going on, they rush to the market and don't even bother to negotiate prices."
12.09.10 'New life' discovered in Titanic ruins: report
December 9 - A team of scientists identified that the wreckage of the Titanic is under attack from [a] new kind of microbe, the Daily Mail reported. The curious microbe, called "Halomonas tinacae" by the researchers from Dalhousie University, Canada and the University of Sevilla, Spain, is now believed to be responsible for speeding up decomposition of the wreck of the tragic Titanic. They also discovered that the mysterious bacteria, which can adhere to [a] rusty steel surface, form icicle-like rusticles. More important, the exterior of the wreck and underwater infrastructures such as oil rigs may be exposed to constant threats from the eye-catching Halomonas titanicae. The discovery has been published in the newest issue of the Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology. The research team said it is worthwhile applying the findings to numerous areas of research, although it is not known whether they can attack oil rigs and gas pipelines. [More>>koreaherald.com]
12.08.10 After new setback, Obama Mideast plan in doubt
JERUSALEM (AP) December 8 - The US decision to abandon its efforts to coax a settlement freeze out of Israel marks the biggest failure yet in the Obama administration's much-trumpeted Mideast peace push, casting serious doubts over whether the president can broker a deal by his September target. Israelis and Palestinians said Wednesday that a scramble was on for a magic formula out of the impasse. But neither side showed any flexibility, and the Palestinians voiced new signals about trying to establish a state without Israel's agreement. The US announced late Tuesday that after weeks of efforts, it had given up its attempts to persuade Israel into renewing a limited freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem — an issue that has emerged as the key sticking point in Mideast peace talks. Some 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in these areas, which were captured in the 1967 Mideast War and are claimed by the Palestinians. With a freeze needed to draw the Palestinians back to the negotiating table, Tuesday's US announcement was in effect an admission of failure. "There is no doubt that there is a crisis, a difficult crisis," Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told a news conference in Greece. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,
12.08.10 Find political solution to West's problem with Islam
December 8 - Leaders in the Muslim world and the West should focus on finding political solutions, and avoid nurturing religious differences. Tensions between Islam and the West are manageable if leaders were to focus more on finding political answers, and less on religious differences. The West should also focus on policies that are seen as fair to both Muslims and the West, which would allow political leaders to build on the continuingly high respect for the West in Muslim areas. These interesting findings were part of an important poll of opinion in Muslim majority states and Western countries carried out by Gallup and published in a report called "Measuring the state of Muslim-West relations," which was announced last week when the new Abu Dhabi Gallup centre was officially opened.
12.08.10 Israeli air raids on Gaza after militant attack
December 8 - Israel carried out two air raids on the Gaza Strip early Wednesday without causing any casualties, Palestinian security officials said. The attacks came after Palestinian militants fired two projectiles into southern Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tuesday. It was not immediately clear if they were mortars or rockets, but the projectiles "landed in an open area without causing damage or injuries," an Israeli military spokeswoman said. According to an army count, Palestinian militants have fired more than 190 rockets or mortar rounds at Israel from the coastal strip since the start of this year. [>naharnet.com]
12.08.10 Blair recalled to give more evidence to the Iraq inquiry to explain gaps in his evidence of legality of the war
December 8 - Tony Blair has been recalled to give further evidence to the inquiry into the Iraq war, it was announced today. The former prime minister will face the Chilcot Inquiry for the second time sometime in January, almost exactly 12 months after his first controversial appearance. His recall sets the stage for another grilling, with hundreds of anti-war protesters likely to descend on Westminster in a re-run of last-year's gauntlet of hate. Former foreign secretary Jack Straw and former attorney general Lord Goldsmith, who ruled the invasion was legal, have also been told they must give more evidence. It is believed the panel want to ask Mr. Blair more questions after identifying 'gaps' in his evidence about the legality of the war and the build up to the 2003 invasion.
12.08.10 Man arrested in recruiting center bomb plot
December 8 - 21-year-old given phony bomb, arrested trying to detonate it in the Baltimore area. Authorities say a 21-year-old man has been arrested in the Baltimore area for plotting to blow up a military recruitment center. Sources tell CBS News that the man is a US citizen and a convert to Islam. His name is Antonio Martinez, but now calls himself Muhammed Hussain. The source told CBS News that he had been "mouthing off" to friends and "wanted to retaliate against the military for the wars," and when others heard about it, "they wanted nothing to do with it." An FBI undercover agent was able to develop a relationship with the suspect as part of the investigation. A source tells CBS News "this was a good catch but not a sophisticated plot." Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for the US attorney's office in Baltimore, tells The Associated Press the suspect will appear in court Wednesday afternoon. An FBI spokesman also confirmed the arrest. An official who was briefed on the arrest told AP on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information that the person was given a phony bomb and was arrested after trying to detonate it. The suspect is expected to be charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and was under surveillance by law enforcement for months. [More>>cbsnews.com; See other details,
12.08.10 Suicide blast kills 18 in Tirah market
KOHAT, Pakistan, December 8 - Eighteen people have been killed while 31 others injured when a suicide bomb ripped through a market in Tirah valley on Wednesday, Geo News reported. The explosion took place at the busy bus terminal in main Tirah bazaar, Kohat police chief Dilawar Bangash said. Bangash said that a blast was suicidal. Local police spokesman Fazal Naeem said the bomber approached the door of a bus carrying passengers and detonated his explosives. Earlier it appeared the bomb was planted in a vehicle parked at the main bus stand, but Banghash said that "now we have found the head and legs of the suicide bomber." [>thenews.com.pk]
12.08.10 Taliban video shows US soldier held in Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) December 8 - Spc. Bowe Bergdahl, the only known US soldier held captive in Afghanistan, appears briefly in a newly released Taliban video standing next to a smiling insurgent commander who once threatened to kill him. The 24-year-old from Hailey, Idaho has bags under his eyes and what appears to be an abrasion on his left cheek in the footage. The video was the fourth to appear since he was captured nearly 18 months ago and was provided to reporters Wednesday by IntelCenter, a private, US-based organization that tracks Islamic extremist activities and communications...According to the SITE Intelligence Group, which also tracks Islamic extremist activities, Bergdahl is standing next to Sangin Zadran, a senior official in the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani network in Paktika. In July 2009, Sangin's spokesman told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that Berghdal would be killed unless the US stops strikes in Ghazni province's Giro district and Paktika province's Khoshamand district. [Full story>>washingtonpost.com]
12.08.10 Dragon spaceship splashes down
December 8 - ...Today's mission represented the Dragon's maiden test flight. The two-orbit circuit was the first in-space tryout for a craft that's meant to resupply the International Space Station after next year's scheduled retirement of NASA's space shuttle fleet. Unless something went horribly wrong while the gumdrop-shaped craft was in orbit (interdimensional wormhole?), the mission can be considered fully successful. In a follow-up tweet, California-based SpaceX said it was "the first commercial company to re-enter a spacecraft from space." Actually, another California company, Scaled Composites, accomplished that feat in 2004 with the suborbital SpaceShipOne rocket plane. But SpaceX was the first to return a private-sector craft from orbit...[Full story>>cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com]
12.07.10 Assange vows to fight on after bail refusal
December 7 - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he will fight moves to extradite him to Sweden after he was refused bail at a court appearance in London. The 39-year-old Australian has been remanded in custody after appearing before magistrates on an extradition warrant for questioning on sexual assault charges in Sweden. During the hearing, high profile supporters of Mr. Assange — including film director Ken Loach, veteran journalist John Pilger and socialite Jemima Khan — offered a total of £180,000 bail surety. Mr. Assange was asked during his hearing whether he understood he could consent to be extradited to Sweden. He replied: "I understand that and I do not consent." Mr. Assange's lawyer Mark Stevens told Sky News after the hearing that a fresh bail application would be lodged. He said: "I have described this Swedish process as a persecution and not a prosecution." [More>>news.sky.com; See related reports,
12.07.10 Sarkozy slams 'unacceptable' Pakistan on last leg of India visit
(AFP) December 7 - On his last stop on a four-day trip to India, French President Nicolas Sarkozy directly attacked Pakistan in a speech concerning the 2008 suicide bombings in Mumbai, branding Islamabad's counter-terrorism efforts "unacceptable." French President Nicolas Sarkozy condemned Pakistan on Tuesday for allowing extremist "safe havens" in its tribal border areas, as he paid tribute to the victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Sarkozy, in Mumbai on the last day of a four-day visit to India, said it was "unacceptable" that terror networks could find refuge in Pakistan and use it as a springboard to attack India, French troops in Afghanistan or other countries. "It is unacceptable that India's security can be threatened by groups of terrorists acting from neighboring countries," he said at the Oberoi hotel, one of the luxury hotels besieged by militants in November 2008. [More>>france24.com; See related story,
12.07.10 US strains to stop arms flow
WASHINGTON, December 7 - Just a week after President Bashar al-Assad of Syria assured a top State Department official that his government was not sending sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah, the Obama administration lodged a confidential protest accusing Syria of doing precisely what it had denied doing. "In our meetings last week it was stated that Syria is not transferring any 'new' missiles to Lebanese Hizballah," noted a cable sent by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in February, using an alternative spelling for the militant group. "We are aware, however, of current Syrian efforts to supply Hizballah with ballistic missiles. I must stress that this activity is of deep concern to my government, and we strongly caution you against such a serious escalation."
12.07.10 1 dead in blast at Varanasi ghat, IED found in dustbin
NEW DELHI, December 7 - A two-year-old girl was killed and around 25 people, including a couple of foreigners, were injured in a blast at the Dashashwamedh Ghat during Ganga arati around 6.30pm on Tuesday. Many others were injured in the ensuing stampede while some of the injured were reported to have been hurt by metal pellets. According to official sources, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) has been recovered from a metal dustbin at the Varanasi blast site. Terror outfit Indian Mujahideen(IM) claimed responsibility for the blast in e-mails sent to media houses and said it "attributed" the attack to the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; YouTube video of a Ganga arati.]
12.07.10 'I see no future for Jews in the Netherlands'
December 7 - Former Dutch EU commissioner says "recognizable" Jews are no longer safe in Netherlands due to Muslim anti-Semitism. Former European Union Commissioner Frits Bolkenstein said that Jews have no future in the Netherlands and recommended that they emigrate to the US or Israel, Dutch magazine Elsevier reported on Tuesday. According to a book on Dutch Judaism, released this week, Bolkestein, former leader of the right-wing VVD party, said that due to anti-Semitism amongst young Moroccans Jews who look like Jews — those who wear kippahs or payot — should leave Holland for their own safety. "I see no future for recognizable Jews, in particular because of anti-Semitism, specifically in Dutch Moroccans, who continue to grow in number," Bolkestein reportedly said. The former politician added that the many Arab television channels in the Netherlands contribute to the spread of anti-Semitism. He said he has no confidence in proposed measures to combat anti-Jewish sentiment. "The Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to fester," Bolkestein said. "I foresee no quick solution, and anti-Semitism will continue to exist. Moroccan and Turkish young people won't care about the measures." Politician Geert Wilders, who visited Israel this week, responded that "Jews shouldn't emigrate, anti-Semitic Moroccans should." [>jpost.com]
12.07.10 Iran talks end with little sign of progress
GENEVA, December 7 - When two days of talks between Iran and major powers ended here Tuesday, with few signs of progress except an agreement to meet again in Istanbul next month, the dueling news conferences by both sides laid bare the difficulties ahead. There was no public agreement on what was discussed in the past — or even what will be in the future. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, representing the major powers, spoke for only a minute and took no questions. She said the talks this week were "detailed, substantive," and that the talks in January would "discuss practical ideas and ways of cooperating towards a resolution of our core concerns about the nuclear issue." By contrast, Saeed Jalili, Iran's envoy to the talks, spoke to reporters for 80 minutes, standing before a photograph of a recently slain Iranian nuclear scientist. He began with a lengthy description of how the world needs Iran's capabilities to prosper.
12.07.10 UPS to require photo IDs for shipping packages
ATLANTA, Ga. (AP) December 7 - UPS is now requiring photo identification from customers shipping packages at retail locations around the world, a month after explosives made their way onto one of the company's planes. UPS said Tuesday the move is part of an ongoing review to enhance security. The directive will apply at The UPS Store, Mail Boxes Etc. locations and other authorized shipping outlets. UPS customer centers have required government-issued photo identification since 2005. In late October, a printer cartridge on a UPS cargo plane bound for Chicago was stopped in London after explosives were discovered. The package was later traced to a retail location in Yemen.[>msnbc.msn.com]
12.07.10 Japan waits on Venus spacecraft
December 7 - Japan's space agency (Jaxa) is working to establish the status of its Akatsuki mission to Venus. The spacecraft fired its main engine just before midnight GMT on Monday in a manoeuvre designed to allow the planet's gravity to capture the probe. Akatsuki then briefly lost contact with Earth as it moved behind the Venus. Scientists said they would know later on Tuesday whether the operation to insert the satellite into the correct orbit had been successful or not. Akatsuki was launched to the inner-world by an H-IIA rocket in May. Its goals include finding definitive evidence for lightning and for active volcanoes. It will not be alone at Venus; the European Space Agency's Venus Express craft arrived at the planet in 2006. The pair are due to conduct joint observations. Venus is almost identical in size to our planet, and is thought to have a similar composition. But there the resemblance ends. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
12.06.10 Swiss Post closes Assange's bank account
GENEVA, December 6 - The Swiss Post Office's banking arm said on Monday that it had closed an account set up by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after he gave false information. "PostFinance has ended its business relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange," the bank said in a statement. "The Australian citizen provided false information regarding his place of residence during the account opening process." Assange had given an undisclosed address in the Swiss city of Geneva as his residence, it added. WikiLeaks had advertised the Post Finance account details online to "donate directly to the Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks Staff Defence Fund," giving an account name of "Assange Julian Paul, Geneve." [>thenews.com.pk; See related stories,
12.06.10 China's Hu tells Obama Korea tension could go out of control
BEIJING / SEOUL (Reuters) December 6 - Chinese President Hu Jintao on Monday warned US President Barack Obama that tensions on the Korean peninsula could spiral out of control if not dealt with properly, their first discussion on the issue since the North shelled the South nearly two weeks ago. Analysts said Hu's comments showed a greater sense of urgency in the Chinese leadership over the mounting tension and also an attempt to avoid the perception that Beijing is siding with its ally Pyongyang to face off against the United States, Japan and South Korea whose foreign ministers meet later in the day to discuss the North Korea situation. The White House said Obama, in a telephone call with Hu, urged Beijing to work with the United States and others to "send a clear message to North Korea that its provocations are unacceptable." China, the chair of stalled international nuclear talks with Pyongyang, is not invited to the US-Japan-South Korea talks in Washington. But the three are expected to discuss Beijing's proposal for emergency regional talks on the crisis. [More>>thestar.com.my]
12.06.10 Gulf leaders to meet in Abu Dhabi amid Iran nuke fears
ABU DHABI, December 6 - As leaked memos showed Gulf states alarmed over Iran. The leaders of six US-allied Gulf Arab nations will meet Monday in the UAE capital for talks expected to span from Qatar's surprise selection to host the 2022 World Cup to the region's deep concerns about Iran's nuclear program. The two-day meeting in Abu Dhabi will be the first gathering of Gulf leaders since US diplomatic memos released by WikiLeaks revealed the urgency of their fears about Iran's nuclear ambitions — including appeals by some Gulf rulers for the US to launch a military strike. The leaked memos give a sense of drama that is normally absent from the annual summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council, or GCC, a six-nation bloc that typically focuses on economic issues and prefers behind-the-scenes dealings to address disputes in their own backyard. But the group, dominated by powerful Saudi Arabia, may now feel pressure to publicly clarify its views on Iran. The leaked memos drove home that Saudis and other Gulf states with close ties to Washington view Tehran's nuclear program and its support of militants in the Middle East with serious alarm. [More>>alarabiya.net]
12.06.10 Iran and key powers meet for nuclear talks in Geneva
December 6 - Iran and key world powers have begun talks in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tehran's disputed nuclear programme. These are the first such talks in more than a year, although analysts say any breakthrough is unlikely. On Sunday Iran said it had delivered its first domestically produced raw uranium and would now go into the talks with "strength and power." Western powers fear Iran may be trying to produce nuclear arms, but Tehran says its programme is purely peaceful. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also
12.06.10 Pakistani officials say US drone strike kills 5
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) December 6 - Pakistani intelligence officials say missiles fired from a US drone have killed five people in a tribal region bordering Afghanistan. The officials say Monday's strike hit a shop and a vehicle in Khushali village in North Waziristan. Three people were killed in the shop and two in the vehicle. The identity of those killed were not immediately known. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to speak to the media. The US has ramped up its drone attacks in Pakistan's lawless border region, launching more than 100 missile strikes so far this year in an attempt to kill key Taliban and al-Qaeda figures. [>khaleejtimes.com]
12.06.10 Suicide bombers kill 50 people in Pakistan
(AP) December 6 - A pair of suicide bombers disguised as policemen killed 50 people on Monday in an attack targeting a tribal meeting called to discuss the formation of an anti-Taliban militia in northwest Pakistan, officials said. The attack occurred on the grounds of the main government compound in Mohmand, part of Pakistan's militant-infested tribal region. It was the latest strike against local tribesmen who have been encouraged by the government to take up arms against the Taliban. The explosions also wounded more than 100 people, many of them critically, said Mian Iftikhar Hussain, information minister of neighboring Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. One of the reasons the attacks were so deadly was because the bombers had filled their suicide jackets with bullets, said Amjad Ali Khan, the top political official in Mohmand, who was at the compound in Ghalanai town when it was attacked.
12.05.10 WikiLeaks: US frustrated by continued Mideast funding of terrorists
(Reuters) December 5 - 'Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,' according to classified memo. Top US officials have grown frustrated over the resistance of allies in the Middle East to help shut the financial pipeline of terrorists, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing secret diplomatic dispatches. Internal State Department cables, obtained by WikiLeaks and made available to news organizations, indicate that millions of dollars are flowing to extremist groups, including al-Qaeda and the Taliban, despite US vows to cut off such funding.
12.05.10 Islamic website tied to MP's stabbing resurfaces under new name
December 5 - Younus Abdullah Muhammad, a founder of both sites, told The Daily Telegraph that IslamPolicy.com was the direct successor to RevolutionMuslim.com which was closed amid the furore over its role in the attack on Stephen Timms, MP for East Ham. "IslamPolicy will continue with the work of RevolutionMuslim," Mr. Muhammad, a white American convert to Islam, said during an interview in which he called the Sept. 11 terror attacks "justified violence." He continued: "If loving Muslims that fight and die to defend themselves from Western imperialism make the UK and US governments associate me or IslamPolicy with terrorists, then I am honoured to be so associated."
12.05.10 Tension grows between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque
IRVINE, Calif. December 5 - Before the sun rose, the informant donned a white Islamic robe. A tiny camera was sewn into a button, and a microphone was buried in a device attached to his keys. "This is Farouk al-Aziz, code name Oracle," he said into the keys as he sat in his parked car in this quiet community south of Los Angeles. "It's November 13th, 4:30am And we're hot." The undercover FBI informant — a convicted forger named Craig Monteilh — then drove off for 5am prayers at the Islamic Center of Irvine, where he says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists. Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI has used informants successfully as one of many tactics to prevent another strike in the United States. Agency officials say they are careful not to violate civil liberties and do not target Muslims.
12.05.10 Iran produces first uranium yellowcake ahead of talks
TEHRAN, December 5 - Iran has produced its first batch of uranium yellowcake, the raw material for enrichment, from a mine in the south of the country, atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi said on Sunday a day before the Islamic state resumes talks with world powers. The news appeared designed to signal Iran's determination to press ahead with its nuclear activities, which it says are for peaceful power generation but the West fears are aimed at making bombs, ahead of the Dec. 6-7 meeting in Geneva. "The West had counted on the possibility of us being in trouble over raw material but today we had the first batch of yellowcake from Gachin mine sent to Isfahan (conversion) facility," Salehi said on state television. The atomic chief said the new step made Iran "self-sufficient" in the entire nuclear fuel cycle as it had previously been obliged to import yellowcake from abroad but he declined to reveal the amount of the first domestically produced batch. [More>>alarabiya.net]
12.05.10 Firefighters gain control of all blazes in Carmel area
December 5 - After 77 hours, authorities announce that all major blazes have been contained, will be put out before nightfall; police count 20 arson attempts elsewhere in North. The Carmel fires have finally been contained, firefighting authorities announced Sunday evening. "Our news for this evening is control," fire official Boaz Rakia told reporters at nightfall Sunday. "The fire department has declared that the fire is under control." He added that the small fires are still burning in some places. He said that most of the thousands of Israelis evacuated from their homes would be allowed to return. "From our point of view, the danger has passed for all the places that were evacuated," Rakia said. The sole exception, he said, was Kibbutz Beit Oren, located in the heart of the fire zone, where extensive fire damage would prevent residents from immediately returning.
12.05.10 Pakistan orders arrests of police in Bhutto case
ISLAMABAD, December 5 - Police officers allegedly failed to provide enough security. A Pakistani anti-terrorism court has ordered the arrest of two senior police officers on allegations they failed to provide adequate security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her 2007 assassination, a prosecutor said on Sunday. Bhutto's assassination was one of the most shocking events in Pakistan's turbulent history and remains shrouded in mystery. "The court has issued warrants and these are non-bailable. They can be arrested anytime," special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told Reuters. "The officers failed to provide adequate security to Bhutto, denied her a post-mortem and were also responsible for hosing down the scene of the killing immediately after the crime," the prosecutor said. Ali named the two police officials as Saud Aziz, former police chief of the city of Rawalpindi, where the attack took place, and one of his deputies, Khurram Shahzad.
12.05.10 Taliban suicide bomber kills at least 4 near joint military base
(AFP) December 5 - Two NATO service members and two Afghan soldiers were killed when a Taliban suicide bomb tore through a market stall near a joint military base in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, wounding numerous civilians. Two NATO and two Afghan soldiers were killed in a suicide attack at a market close to a joint military base in the east of the country on Sunday, coalition and local officials said. An unknown number of Afghan soldiers and troops with NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were also injured in the blast that tore through the bazaar in Gardez, the provincial capital of Paktia....The latest deaths take to 678 the number of coalition troops killed this year, by far the bloodiest toll in the nine-year war, according to an AFP tally based on that tracked by the independent icasualties.org website. Last year 521 foreign troops were killed...A week ago 13 policemen were killed and 14 others injured when two suicide attackers disguised in uniforms blew themselves up inside Paktika province's police headquarters, also in the restive east. [Full story>>france24.com]
12.05.10 Sharm el-Sheikh tourist killed in new shark attack
December 5 - Official says German woman died minutes after her arm was severed by a shark in Red Sea attack. A German tourist died after being mauled by a shark off the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh today — the latest in a series of shark attacks in the Red Sea over the past five days. Egypt's Chamber of Diving and Watersports (CDWS) sent an urgent message to its members in Sharm el-Sheikh, instructing them to clear the water. "Following reports of another incident in Middle Garden local reef, CDWS is calling for all its members in Sharm el-Sheikh to stop any snorkelling activities happening from any boats or shore. Please tell all your boats to immediately recall any snorkellers who may be in the water," it said. The CDWS chairman, Hesham Gabr, told the Guardian: "We are busy dealing with the crisis. I can confirm that a German woman was injured and she passed away." According to security officials quoted by the Associated Press, the women's arm was severed in the attack and she died within minutes. Last week which three Russians and a Ukrainian were badly injured. The Egyptian authorities had said they were confident that the capture and killing of two sharks on Thursday had eliminated the threat to swimmers. [More>>guardian.co.uk]
12.05.10 Mexico arrests 14-year-old 'drugs hit man'
December 5 - A 14-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of being a drug cartel hit man who allegedly beheaded and mutilated his victims. The boy, believed to have possibly been born in the US, was identified by officials as and nicknamed El Ponchis. He was arrested at an airport as he attempted to board a plane to see his family in the border city of Tijuana, a military official said. Morelos Governor Marco Antonio Adame said police found identity papers on the boy indicating he was born in San Diego, California in July 1996 — on the other side of the US-Mexico border from Tijuana. "We're trying to determine if they are authentic," Mr. Adame said. Authorities had sought El Ponchis — "the cloaked one" — since late October after military forces released him due to his young age. [More>>news.sky.com]
12.05.10 10 killed in Mexican border city
December 5 - Gunmen killed at least 10 people in two separate attacks in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Saturday, state media said. A group of armed men ambushed a police car and killed four municipal officers inside, the state-run Notimex news agency reported. The officers had no chance to draw their weapons to defend themselves, the local public safety secretary told Notimex. A child was among two wounded civilians caught in the crossfire, he said. There are no suspects yet but authorities continue to look for leads, the agency said. Six people at a local metal works shop were also killed Saturday when a group of gunmen burst into a barbecue there, Notimex reported. Ciudad Juárez, Mexico's most violent city, shares a border with El Paso, Texas. Nationwide, more than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since December 2006, when Mexican President Felipe Calderon took office and started his stepped-up campaign against organized crime. [>cnn.com; See more details, elpasotimes.com, December 5, "4 Juárez police officers slain in ambush."]
12.05.10 Malaysian girl, 14, celebrates wedding in public
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP), December 5 - A 14-year-old girl and 23-year-old man have celebrated their recent marriage in public in Malaysia's largest city, a report said Sunday, fueling a debate on teen weddings. Underage marriages are allowed for Muslims with court permission and parental consent but are not common in this Muslim-majority country. The New Straits Times reported the Muslim couple, whose union was arranged by their parents, were married in July after obtaining permission from an Islamic court. The couple, whose photo was published on the government-linked newspaper's front page, celebrated their union at a mosque in Kuala Lumpur Saturday together with about 250 other couples. The celebration was organized by Kuala Lumpur's Islamic department. [More>>foxnews.com]
12.05.10 Baghdad bombs targeting Shiite areas kill 17
BAGHDAD, December 5 - A string of bombings killed 17 people across Iraq's capital on Saturday, including Iranian pilgrims near a revered shrine and shoppers at a Shiite neighborhood market, authorities said. The attacks — several roadside bombs and cars packed with explosives — wounded more than 100 people. Most of the casualties were likely Shiite Muslims, a frequent target of Sunni insurgents who have long sought to provoke civil war in Iraq. Police said the deadliest strike targeted a marketplace in Baiyaa, a Shiite district in southwestern Baghdad. A car parked outside a shopping area exploded around midday, killing six people and wounding 42. Hospital officials confirmed the casualties.
12.02.10 Health premiums surge 41%; Md., D.C. among costliest areas to insure
December 2 - Premiums for employer-sponsored family health insurance increased an average of 41 percent across states from 2003 to 2009, more than three times faster than median incomes, and Maryland's rise was among the highest, at 50 percent, according to a report to be released Thursday by the Commonwealth Fund. The report, which presents a state-by-state analysis of private employer health insurance costs for those six years, found that by 2009, the 10 jurisdictions with the highest annual total premiums included the District and Maryland. The average employer-sponsored family premium for all states was $13,027. In the District, it was $14,222; in Maryland, $13,833. Virginia ranked 32nd, below the national average, at $12,622.
12.02.10 IDF kills 2 Islamic Jihad terrorists on Gaza border
December 2 - Troops, IAF planes open fire on Palestinians apparently trying to infiltrate kibbutz; soldiers discover explosive device on their bodies. Two Palestinian terrorists were killed on the Gaza border on Thursday morning, when IDF troops opened fire on a number of suspects on the northern end of the Strip. The terrorists were apparently trying to infiltrate a kibbutz on the Gaza border. IDF soldiers searching the area of the incident in the northern Gaza Strip discovered the bodies of two Islamic Jihad terrorists, with light weapons, uniforms and an explosive device on their bodies. IAF planes and IDF troops on the ground opened fire and confirmed hits.
12.02.10 In Norway, women officegoers told to wear red bracelets during periods
LONDON, December 2 - Women staff in offices in Norway have been asked to wear red bracelets when they are on their periods — so that no one would inquire why they were using the toilet more often, a media report here has said. This "astonishing demand" was revealed in report by a workers' union into "tyrannical" toilet rules in Norwegian companies. The study said businesses were becoming "obsessed" with lost productivity due to employees spending too much time answering the call of nature, the Daily Mail reported. It found 66 percent of managers made staff ask them for an electronic card to gain access to toilets. Toilets of one in three companies were placed under video surveillance, while other firms made staff sign a toilet "visitors book," the union report said. "But the most extreme action was taken by one manager who made women having their period wear a red bracelet to justify more frequent trips to the loo. Women, quite justifiably, feel humiliated by being tagged in this way, so that all their colleagues are aware of this intimate detail of their private life," it said. [More w/blog comments>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
12.01.10 Ecosystem damage causes shark attacks at popular Egyptian resort
CAIRO (RIA Novosti) December 1 - Recent shark attacks in the Red Sea have been caused by ecosystem damage, a local environmental official said on Wednesday. A whitetip shark mauled four Russian tourists swimming close to their beach hotels at the popular Red Sea scuba diving resort of Sharm el Sheikh. The shark attacked a diving couple on Tuesday, severely injuring the woman's back and legs and shredding the man's legs. On Wednesday, a shark bit off the arms of another two vacationers. Director of Sinai Conservation Mohammed Salem said the uncontrolled fishing in the popular diving areas left the sharks without food. "That is why the sharks are forced to approach the shore in search for food," Salem said. He said Egyptian authorities should ban fishing in these areas adding that such incidents occur in the country once or twice a year. [More>>en.rian.ru]
12.01.10 Obama imposes 7-year drilling ban in eastern Gulf of Mexico
WASHINGTON, December 1 -President Barack Obama will not be allowing new drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years, according to a senior administration official. Obama's decision effectively reverses White House plans announced at the end of March to open the region — along with large swaths of US coastal waters — to oil and natural gas drilling. Under the plan, roughly two-thirds of available oil and gas resources in the eastern Gulf would have been opened to drilling. Areas located within 125 miles of the Florida coast would have remained off limits. The seven-year ban is being imposed as a result of the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf, which killed 11 people and triggered one of the worst environmental disasters in US history. An estimated 4.9 million barrels (206 million gallons) of oil gushed into the Gulf before the broken well, 5,000 feet below the surface, was capped. [More>>cnn.com]
12.01.10 'Hamas will honor Palestinian referendum on peace deal'
December 1 - In rare Gaza press conference, Hamas PM says "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees." Hamas would accept the agreement of a Palestinian referendum on peace with Israel, Hamas Prime Minister Isamil Haniyeh was quoted as saying by Reuters on Wednesday. "We accept a Palestinian state on the borders of 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the release of Palestinian prisoners, and the resolution of the issue of refugees," Haniyeh said.
12.01.10 Indonesia's Islamic laws are 'abusive,' report says
December 1 - Two Islamic laws applied in the Indonesian province of Aceh violate people's rights and are implemented abusively, Human Rights Watch says. Encouraging the community to enforce Sharia laws resulted in arbitrary arrests, abuses and torture, HRW says. In one incident, an unmarried couple were dragged into the streets by a crowd and assaulted. The government is reviewing local laws that could be in conflict with constitutional rights, officials said. Aceh's unique autonomy status within Indonesia allows it to implement Sharia as a formal legal system. The report by New York-based HRW, Policing Morality: Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia, focuses on two of the five Islamic laws applied in Aceh. The first imposes strict Islamic dress codes. The second prohibits men and women, who are not blood relatives or married to one another, from being together in an isolated place. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See related story,
12.01.10 Spain arrests eight over links to Mumbai attacks
MADRID (Reuters) December 1 - Eight men have been arrested in Barcelona, accused of having links to radical Islamic cells in Pakistan and collaborating with the group that carried out the attacks in Mumbai in 2008, media reported on Wednesday. Seven Pakistani men were arrested on Tuesday and one North African man was arrested on Wednesday morning, media said. The men belonged to a group that made fake identification documents which were sent to Pakistan to be used in attacks, the media reported. They were also accused of sending money and fake documents to the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was blamed for the attacks in India in November 2008 in which 166 people were killed. No one was immediately available at the Interior Ministry to confirm the reports. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See more details,
12.01.10 Plot to blow up Pakistani PM's rally foiled
ISLAMABAD, December 1 - Pakistani security officials have arrested two militants and unearthed a plot to carry out a bomb blast at a public rally of Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani in Sukhur district of Sindh province, media reports said on Wednesday. The prime minister addressed several gatherings of people and party workers in the country Tuesday to mark the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party's 44th foundation day. He reached Sukhur in the evening. "Some terrorists belonging to a banned militant outfit had plotted to sabotage the rally with explosives and time devices," Dunya TV reported. Police, acting on a tip off, intercepted a goods truck that was coming from Peshawar. "Upon searching the truck, huge cache of arms including at least 12 Kalashnikovs and over three thousand bullets were recovered," the channel added. An official, on condition of anonymity, said that two suspected militants were arrested in the operation. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]