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6.24.08 US home prices fall fastest in at least 8 years
NEW YORK (AP) June 24 - US home prices tumbled in April at the fastest rate since a widely-followed index was begun in 2000 with all 20 metropolitan areas posting annual declines for the first time. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 cities fell by 15.3 percent in April versus last year, according to Tuesday's report. Prices nationwide are at levels not seen since August 2004. The narrower 10-city index declined 16.3 percent in April, its biggest decline in its more than two-decade history. No city stayed above water. [More>>abcnews.go.com]
6.24.08 West links drug war aid to Iranian nuclear impasse
TEHRAN (AP) June 24 - Drug traffickers in well-armed desert convoys roll across the border from Afghanistan. Standing in their way are Iranian soldiers and drug agents trying to choke off one of the world's busiest pipelines for opium and heroin. The battles — waged far from the world's attention in the arid badlands of eastern Iran — represent one of the dwindling patches of common ground between Tehran and the West. The United States has applauded Iran's anti-drug campaign and European nations help fund the fight.
But now this international support could be threatened by the standoff over Tehran's nuclear policies. Western nations have told Iran that they could cut off any new help to Iran's anti-drug units unless the Islamic regime halts uranium enrichment, which Washington and its allies worry could be used to develop nuclear arms. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]
6.24.08 Israel to attack Iran if Obama is elected: Bolton
DUBAI, June 24 -
6.24.08 NATO airstrike kills 15 militants in Afghanistan
KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) June 24 - A NATO airstrike killed 15 militants, mostly foreign fighters, after insurgents attacked a government building in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, officials said. Insurgents opened fire on the headquarters of Sayed Karam district in Paktia province but were driven away after a gun battle which caused slight damage to the building, provincial government spokesman Rohullah Samoon said. "NATO helicopters then bombed the militants and killed 14 militants on the spot. Our policemen arrested another four wounded, and one of the wounded also died in hospital," Samoon said.
The wounded militants were from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, he said. "The three arrested terrorists have told police that most of the 15 Taleban killed in the air strike were Pakistani nationals and some of them from Arab countries," he said. NATO's press office for eastern Afghanistan said an unmanned aerial vehicle in the area "positively identified" over a dozen militants after they clashed with Afghan police. [>khaleejtimes.com; See also cnn.com, June 24, "Afghanistan fighting leaves 32 dead."]
6.24.08 Baghdad blast kills four Americans
BAGHDAD, June 24 - An explosion apparently caused by a bomb inside a district council building in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad on Tuesday killed two American soldiers and three civilians working for the United States military, the American command said. Six Iraqis also died in the blast, The Associated Press reported. Ryan Crocker, the United States ambassador to Iraq, identified one of the victims as Steven Farley, an employee of the State Department who was working with a provincial reconstruction team. Mr. Crocker said the explosion also killed two Army soldiers and two civilian employees of the Department of Defense. [More>>nytimes.com]
6.24.08 Evangelist accuses Obama of 'distorting' Bible
June 24 - A top US evangelical leader is accusing Sen. Barack Obama of deliberately distorting the Bible and taking a "fruitcake interpretation" of the US Constitution. In comments to be aired on his radio show Tuesday, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson criticizes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for comments he made in a June 2006 speech to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal. In the speech, Obama suggests it would be impractical to govern based solely on the word of the Bible, noting some passages suggest slavery is permissible and eating shellfish is disgraceful.
"Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?" Obama asks in the speech. "Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount? So before we get carried away, let's read our Bible now," Obama also said to cheers. "Folks haven't been reading their Bible." He also calls Jesus' Sermon on the Mount "a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our Defense Department would survive its application."
Editorial note: The conventional view of most Christian congregations stems from the Apostle Paul's teachings, together with his companion Barnabus, who authored the idea that the teachings of Jesus are a new testament and therefore the "Jewish" scriptures (Torah, [Law of Moses] prophets, etc.) are "old" and consequently "passed away." This produced a new identity for the scriptures and the gospels: the Old Testament and the New Testament. In forming the new identity of the scriptures Paul contrived the idea that the Old Testament scriptures were intended only as "types and shadows of Jesus." The original church in Jerusalem at the time, led by Saints Peter and James, continued in obedience to the Jewish Law (Torah) and disagreed with Paul's thesis which brings forth an "uncircumcised church" that need not obey the Jewish Law. Finally the Apostolic Church in Jerusalem compromised with Paul, instructing him to preach only to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and stay out of the synagogues. The Book of Acts records the Jews later protesting that Paul had been preaching in the synagogues that "they should abandon the law." In response to the complaint, the Apostolic Church called Paul back to Jerusalem for a hearing on the matter, where he was arrested, brought forth before King Agrippa, and convicted for "teaching against the Law of Moses." He was then sent to Rome where he served out the sentence and was later executed.
6.24.08 Divers find only death in sunken Philippine ferry
SIBUYAN Island, Philippines (Reuters) June 24 - Divers found bodies in lifevests bobbing in airpockets of a giant sunken ferry in the Philippines on Tuesday, and an official said it would be a miracle if any of the hundreds of missing had survived. The MV Princess of the Stars had over 860 people on board when it ran aground and capsized in huge swells off the cost of Sibuyan island during a typhoon on Saturday. There are fears that hundreds more bodies may be trapped within the seven-storey vessel after a handful of survivors said many people did not make it off in time.
6.24.08 China plans to turn main 'quake lake' into scenic spot
CHENGDU, China, June 23 - China plans to turn the Tangjiashan "quake lake" into a scenic spot amid efforts to rebuild a county downstream, a local official said on Monday. Experts were now studying how to develop the lake, which was formed by the May 12 earthquake, in a "comprehensive" and "scientific" way, said Chen Xingchun, secretary general of the Communist Party Committee of Mianyang City in the southwestern Sichuan Province. "It will be an important part of rebuilding Beichuan county," he told a press conference in the provincial capital.
6.23.08 US-led troops kill 55 Taliban after Afghan ambush
KABUL (Reuters) June 23 - US-led coalition troops killed some 55 Taliban insurgents who ambushed them in southeastern Afghanistan, close to the Pakistan border, the US military said on Monday. There has been a sharp rise in violence along Afghanistan's eastern frontier in recent months. NATO generals say de-facto cease-fires between Pakistan's new government and militants in its border region free up insurgents to infiltrate into Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents ambushed the coalition forces with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades in the Zerok district of Paktika province on Friday, a US military statement said. Among those killed were three Taliban leaders. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
6.23.08 Mortar attack kills 10 US-allied Sunnis
BAGHDAD (AP) June 23 - Iraqi officials say a mortar attack north of Baghdad has killed 10 members of a US-allied Sunni group that has joined forces with the Americans against al-Qaeda in Iraq. Maj. Mohammed Thawra says about 10 mortar shells slammed into the group's headquarters and a checkpoint late Sunday in Udaim, a Sunni town 70 miles north of Baghdad.
Thawra, an Iraqi army battalion commander in Udaim, said Monday that 24 members of the so-called awakening council also were wounded in the attack. The Sunni revolt against al-Qaeda in Iraq has been a key factor in a sharp decline in violence over the past year. The groups have frequently been targeted by insurgents trying to reverse the security gains. [>washingtonpost.com ; See also aljazeeras.net, June 23, "Iraqis killed as mortars hit homes."]
6.23.08 Soldiers raid Tijuana cartel party
TIJUANA, Mexico (AP) June 23 - Mexican soldiers captured at least 10 suspected members of a Tijuana-based drug cartel in a raid on a child's baptism party in this border city, officials said Sunday. A total of 61 people were arrested in the sweep late Saturday, including the band hired to play the party and three city police officers, Baja California state police spokesman Agustin Perez told The Associated Press.
Authorities had been tracking the movements of suspected members of the Arellano Felix drug cartel for days and acted "at a moment when they were vulnerable," the spokesman said. Soldiers also seized various rifles and handguns, police uniforms, 460 grams of methamphetamine and 5,000 rounds of ammunition at the party, held at a rented Tijuana event hall known as the "The Little Rascal." [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]
6.23.08 Mediterranean resorts menaced as stinging jellyfish arrive early
June 23 - For the eighth successive year, the resorts of the north Mediterranean coast are threatened by a monstrous-looking primeval creature from the depths, the jellyfish. Although injuries to bathers have been rare, marine biologists have spotted vast shoals of "mauve stingers" or Pelagia noctiluca in the waters between Corsica and the French mainland. From next week, the town of Cannes will erect booms and nets around its most popular beaches to try to protect bathers from the nasty, but rarely fatal, burn-like sting of the invaders.
An aerial survey, Jellywatch, is also under way off the Italian and Greek coasts to try to monitor the movements of the jellyfish, which are not fish but a a kind of giant plankton. Scientists say the large eruption of Pelagia noctiluca this summer is final proof of a radical, and possibly irreversible, change in the ecology of the Mediterranean.
For centuries, plagues of jellyfish have come inshore every 10 or 12 years and lingered along the Côte d'Azur for periods of about four years. This pattern has now changed. The jellyfish have appeared each year for the past eight years in far greater numbers than before. Some scientists and ecological campaigners point to a rise in sea temperature, linked to the warming of the planet. Others blame a shortage of natural predators such as the bluefin tuna and the turtle, which have been driven almost to extinction by overfishing and pollution. [More>>independent.co.uk]
6.23.08 China destroys mosque for not backing Olympics
BEIJING (Reuters) June 23 -
Editorial note: One of the trends Maravot News records is the conflict between Islam and other cultures. Alarabiya.net is a good resource for tracking such conflicts. This article records not only a conflict between the Chinese institutions and Turkic-speaking Uighurs, who practice Islam, but also an apparent revolutionary undercurrent calling for the unification of the Turkic-speaking peoples of Turkistan with those of the Xinjiang region. The original home of the Turkic-speaking peoples is in Mongolia. A good history of these peoples can be seen at www.enjoyturkey.com.
Islamists have taken such verses in the Koran to heart, and many, like al-Qaeda, have even gone so far as to justify murdering other "believers," in contempt of verse 4.92 above.
6.22.08 Rescuers reach stricken ferry; typhoon death toll hits 229
MANILA, Philippines, June 22 - Two men who struggled to shore after a passenger ferry capsized in the Philippines during typhoon "Frank" (Fengshen) said Sunday hundreds of people may have died when they were trapped inside. The storm left at least 229 dead, the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) said. "Frank" submerged entire communities and set off landslides, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said, but there were concerns the death toll would jump dramatically.
6.22.08 Morgan Tsvangirai pulls out of Zimbabwe run-off
June 22 - Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of Zimbabwe's presidential run-off election today, complaining that a campaign of violence by Robert Mugabe's supporters had made a fair vote impossible and appealing to the outside world to "stop the genocide." Mr. Tsvangirai announced the decision at a press conference in Harare after a meeting of the national executive of his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party. "We in the MDC cannot ask them to cast their vote on the 27th when that vote would cost them their lives," he said. "We will no longer participate in the violent illegitimate sham of an election process." [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
6.22.08 'Speculators' blamed for oil rise
June 22 - The Saudi monarch has blamed speculators and rising taxes for the rising price of oil while announcing that his country will increase production. "There are several factors behind the unjustified, swift rise in oil prices," King Abdullah told a summit of oil producers and consumers in the Red Sea city of Jeddah on Sunday. He said the factors behind the rise were "... speculators who play the market out of selfish interests, increased consumption by several developing economies and additional taxes on oil in several consuming countries." He said his country would step up production by 200,000 barrels to 9.65 million barrels a day from July in order to help ease the situation. [More>>aljazeera.net]
6.22.08 Dyson working on new generation of fast, green cars
June 22 - The design guru has seen the future of transport, he tells Martin Hickman: solar-powered electric vehicles. Britain's most famous inventor, Sir James Dyson, is working on a project that could lead to the creation of a fast, green car. Engineers at his research laboratory in Wiltshire are developing a powerful lightweight motor that could enable electric cars to zoom along for hundreds of miles without causing pollution. Solar panels on their roofs or in garages would charge them with renewable energy.
In an interview with The Independent on Sunday, the scientist forecast that electric cars would be "the future" of transport, and predicted they could outnumber petrol vehicles in as little as 10 years' time. "They're quiet and they're pollution free," enthused Sir James, whose bagless vacuum cleaner cemented his reputation as an innovative risk-taker and earned him an estimated £700m fortune. The 61-year-old inventor also expressed his belief that the cars could overcome their current drawbacks – their short range and slow speed. "An electric car doesn't go far enough. It could do. Electric motors can do that," he said, adding that there were "fantastic opportunities" to make electric vehicles lighter.
"At the moment, electric cars are seen as city cars and to go 30mph is quite enough, but in the future that will change. An electric motor can go to very high speeds." At present, electric cars are powered by a motor charged from a normal socket connected to the national grid. "Most of the time a car isn't being used," said Sir James, "so a photo voltaic [solar] charge over a long period of time is an absolutely suitable way of charging a car." [More>>independent.co.uk]
6.22.08 Special report: Is Al-Qaeda in pieces?
June 22 - It continues to mount brutally effective operations around the world, but from Saudi Arabia to the streets of east London, hardline Islamists are turning against al-Qaeda in unprecedented numbers. Is the global terror network self-destructing? A special report by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank.
Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard – 17 hours in a Toyota pick-up truck, bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by Bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since al-Qaeda had moved to Afghanistan in 1996. Benotman, the scion of an aristocratic family marginalized by Qaddafi, had known Bin Laden from their days fighting the communist Afghan government in the early 1990s, a period when Benotman established himself as a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
The night of Benotman's arrival, Bin Laden threw a lavish banquet in the main hall of his compound, an unusual extravagance for the frugal al-Qaeda leader. As Bin Laden circulated, making small talk, large dishes of rice and platters of whole roasted lamb were served to some 200 jihadists, many of whom had come from around the Middle East. "It was one big reunification," Benotman recalls. "The leaders of most of the jihadist groups in the Arab world were there and almost everybody within al-Qaeda."
Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the West in 1998. Over the next five days, Bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past 20 years."
Despite the warm welcome, Benotman surprised his hosts with a bleak assessment of their prospects. "I told them that the jihadist movement had failed. That we had gone from one disaster to another, like in Algeria, because we had not mobilized the people," recalls Benotman, referring to the Algerian civil war launched by jihadists in the 1990s that left more than 100,000 dead and destroyed whatever local support the militants had once enjoyed. Benotman also told Bin Laden that the al-Qaeda leader's decision to target the West would only sabotage attempts by groups such as Benotman's to overthrow the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. "We made a clear-cut request for him to stop his campaign against the United States because it was going to lead to nowhere," Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it."...This past November, Benotman went public with his own criticism of al-Qaeda in an open letter to al-Zawahiri, absorbed and well received, he says, by the jihadist leaders in Tripoli. In the letter, Benotman recalled his Kandahar warnings and called on al-Qaeda to end all operations in Arab countries and in the West. [Full story>>independent.co.uk]
6.22.08 At least 18 killed, 38 wounded in Iraq's Baquba
BAGHDAD (DPA) June 22 - At least 18 people were killed Sunday and another 38 wounded in a suicide bombing in the northern Iraqi city of Baquba, security sources said. Security sources told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that a female suicide bomber detonated herself near a downtown governmental office. Sources said that the explosion occurred in an area enclosed by large cement blocks. Five police officers were among those killed, they added.
Also in Baquba, security sources told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency that Iraqi forces detained three suspected terrorists accused of abducting and killing three people from the same family. On Saturday, forces found three family members' bodies with signs of gunshots in Baquba's Tahrir area. [>khaleejtimes.com]
6.22.08 Rockets from Pakistan kill Afghan woman, 3 children
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) June 22 - Rockets fired from Pakistan hit a village in eastern Afghanistan killing a woman and three children, Afghan officials said on Sunday, one of three cross-border attacks around the same time overnight. Tension has mounted between the neighbors, with Pakistan saying 11 of its soldiers were killed in an airstrike by US forces operating from Afghanistan on June 10. Afghan President Hamid Karzai threatened five days later to send troops across the frontier to hunt down Taleban militants based in Pakistan.
Rockets launched from about 300 metres (yards) inside Pakistani territory landed in a village near the eastern town of Khost on Saturday, close to a large NATO base, killing a woman and three children, provincial governor Arsala Jamal said. Eight people were wounded in the attack, most of them women. "It was late evening. I was praying in the mosque when suddenly the sound of explosions started," said Aziz Khan, a driver who lives in the village. "I stopped my prayers and rushed outside ... I saw one of the rockets had hit my house..." [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
6.22.08 Sea of trash
June 22 - ...A 55-year-old lawyer with a monkish haircut, glasses that look difficult to break, an allergy of the eyes that makes him squint and a private law practice in Anchorage, Pallister spends most of his time directing a nonprofit group called the Gulf of Alaska Keeper, or GoAK (pronounced GO-ay-kay). According to its mission statement, GoAK's lofty purpose is to “protect, preserve, enhance and restore the ecological integrity, wilderness quality and productivity of Prince William Sound and the North Gulf Coast of Alaska.” In practice, the group has, since Pallister and a few like-minded buddies founded it in 2005, done little else besides clean trash from beaches. All along Alaska's outer coast, Chris Pallister will tell you, there are shores strewn with marine debris, as man-made flotsam and jetsam is officially known. Most of that debris is plastic, and much of it crosses the Gulf of Alaska or even the Pacific Ocean to arrive there.
The tide of plastic isn't rising only on Alaskan shores. In 2004 two oceanographers from the British Antarctic Survey completed a study of plastic dispersal in the Atlantic that spanned both hemispheres. “Remote oceanic islands,” the study showed, “may have similar levels of debris to those adjacent to heavily industrialized coasts.” Even on the shores of Spitsbergen Island in the Arctic, the survey found on average a plastic item every five meters. [Full story>>nytimes.com; See related story, Maravot News, 3.14.08 US west coast braced for ban on salmon fishing as stocks collapse, "Editorial on Pacific Garbage Patch."
6.22.08 Muslim Egyptians attack Christian property
CAIRO (AFP) June 21 -
6.21.08 Four killed, 12 injured in Iraq violence
BAGHDAD (DPA) June 21 - At least four people were killed and another 12 wounded in separate incidents across Iraq, police and media reports said on Saturday. In one incident, the Iraqi police told the Voices of Iraq (VOI) news agency that three people were killed and 10 were wounded when an explosive device was detonated in Baghdad's Harithiya district in the late hours of Friday. Sources said that the vehicle was parked on the side of a road leading to Baghdad's Green Zone.
The Green Zone is located in central Baghdad where the British and the US embassies are located as well as several governmental offices and ministries. In another incident, militants shot dead an Iraqi taxi driver who worked in Baghdad's Baiaa area, security sources told VOI. Meanwhile police discovered three corpses from a family in the Tahrir area of the city of Baquba, some 60 kilometres north of the capital, sources told VOI. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
6.21.08 Nigerian oil pipeline 'attacked'
June 21 - Nigerian militants have blown up an oil pipeline near US corporation Chevron's Escravos oilfields, the Nigerian military says. Chevron said the attack prompted it to shut down onshore oil production. The loss equates to about 120,000 barrels per day, about 6.6% of Nigeria's total daily crude production.
Earlier this week Nigeria's president ordered tighter security in the Niger Delta, after an attack on Shell's main offshore facility. According to the BBC's Alex Last, in Lagos, sources in the western Niger Delta believe the latest attack is the work of illegal oil "bunkerers" — involved in the lucrative trade in stolen oil. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
6.21.08 Bombs kill 5 foreign troops in Afghanistan
KABUL (AP) June 21 - Roadside bombs killed five foreign troops in Afghanistan on Saturday, military officials said, extending a series of daily attacks that have lifted the death toll for foreign forces this year to more than 100. Officials also reported that two Afghan soldiers died in a bombing and several militants were killed in each of three separate clashes with US-led coalition forces, including one close to the capital.
Violence continues unabated in Afghanistan, despite the presence of thousands of extra US and NATO troops and fresh pledges of financial aid to the struggling government under President Hamid Karzai. Last year, more than 8,000 people were killed in insurgency-related attacks - the most since the 2001 US-led invasion - and violence has claimed more than 1,700 lives so far this year. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]
6.20.08 Israel 'rehearses' Iran military attack
WASHINGTON, June 20 - Israel carried out a large military exercise this month that appeared to be a rehearsal for a potential bombing attack on Iran's nuclear facilities, The New York Times has reported. Citing unidentified American officials, the newspaper said more than 100 Israeli F-16 and F-15 fighters took part in the maneuvers over the eastern Mediterranean and Greece in the first week of June. It said the exercise appeared to be an effort to focus on long-range strikes and illustrates the seriousness with which Israel views Iran's nuclear program. The newspaper said Israeli officials would not discuss the exercise. [More>>news.com.au; See also;
6.20.08 Sunni rebel group kills two Iranian policemen
DUBAI (Reuters) June 20 - A Sunni Muslim rebel group said on Friday it had killed two Iranian policemen and threatened to kill 14 others it kidnapped last week in a volatile area near the border with Pakistan. Al Arabiya television showed a video of two blindfolded men kneeling on the ground but said it would not broadcast the full footage of the killings to avoid disturbing viewers. The rebel group, Jundollah, had threatened on Thursday to kill 16 policemen it was holding unless Tehran met its demands, including the release of jailed comrades, the Arab network said.
A Jundollah spokesman identified as Abdul-Raouf told the satellite channel by telephone that the group had decided to kill the men after the Iranian government executed two Sunni Muslims in its custody. "If the government does not free 200 detainees of Jundollah in Zahadan, we will execute the 14 others," he said, referring to the city of Zahadan near the Pakistani border...undollah, which predominantly Shi'ite Iran has linked to al-Qaeda, set a deadline of June 27 for its demands to be met. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]
6.20.08 Abu Hamza loses extradition fight
June 20 - Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza lost his High Court battle today against extradition to the US where he faces terror-related charges. Two judges ruled that the decision to extradite was "unassailable." Egyptian-born Hamza, 51, from west London, who is fitted with hooks on both partially-amputated arms, is serving a seven-year jail term for stirring up racial hatred and inciting followers to murder non-believers. The US authorities want him to stand trial for allegedly attempting to set up an al-Qaeda training camp in Bly, Oregon. He could face a total of 11 terrorism charges, including sending money and recruits to assist the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [More>>independent.co.uk]
6.20.08 European bison to inhabit disaster-hit Chernobyl area
KIEV (RIA Novosti) June 20 - Ukraine's emergency situations minister announced plans Friday to introduce bison to Chernobyl to try and establish a nature reserve in the area affected by the world's worst civilian nuclear power disaster. An explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power in 1986 resulted in highly radioactive fallout in the atmosphere over an extensive area. A 30-kilometer (19-mile) exclusion zone was introduced following the accident. "After this pilot project has been implemented, we will discuss the feasibility of establishing conservation areas on this territory," Volodymyr Shandra said.
He also urged that tourists be encouraged to visit the Chernobyl area so that people can observe the "price of human error." The Chernobyl exclusion zone has become a haven for wildlife with lynx, eagles, and even bears that had disappeared from the area, reappearing. In addition populations of badgers, deer, elk, otters, wolves, beavers and boars have thrived without human interference. [More>>en.rian.ru]
6.20.08 Oil giants return to Iraq
June 20 - Nearly four decades after the four biggest Western oil companies were expelled from Iraq by Saddam Hussein, they are negotiating their return. By the end of the month, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total will sign agreements with the Baghdad government, Iraq's first with big Western oil firms since the US-led invasion in 2003. The deals are for repair and technical support in some of the country's largest oilfields, the Oil Ministry in Baghdad said yesterday. The return of "Big Oil" will add to the suspicions of those in the Middle East who claimed that the overthrow of Saddam was secretly driven by the West's desire to gain control of Iraq's oil. It will also be greeted with dismay by many Iraqis who fear losing control of their vast oil reserves.
Iraq's reserves are believed to be second only to Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, but their exploitation has long been hampered by UN sanctions, imposed on Iraq after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. The major oil companies have been eager to go back to Iraq, but are concerned about their own security and the long-term stability of the country. The two-year no-bid agreements are service agreements that should add another 500,000 barrels of crude a day of output to Iraq's present production of 2.5 million barrels a day (b/d). [More>>independent.co.uk; See related editorial by Ariel Cohen, metimes.com, June 20, "The real world: The oil crisis — Desperate measures" : "...A third of Iraq's production capacity is off-line, while the country is capable of increasing production from the current 2.4 million barrels a day (mbd) to 5 mbd and beyond within five years or less – if the security situation is resolved...The policies of the exporting policies provide preferential treatment to national oil companies (NOCs) while denying equal access to international oil companies (IOCs). Oil-producing governments severely restrict foreign investment and access to resources. OPEC's 13 nations control 76 percent of the global reserves; add Russia and the number grows to 83 percent. By contrast, the integrated oil companies, ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell, hold only 3.8 percent of known reserves..."
6.20.08 Troops kill 4 gunmen in rooftop shootout in Iraq
BAGHDAD, June 20 - Coalition troops killed four militants in northern Iraq on Friday during a shootout with gunmen on rooftops, the US military said. The gunmen ambushed coalition troops near Balad who were targeting a financial supporter of bombing networks in the Tigris River Valley, the military said. The troops returned fire, killing four attackers, including one who was wanted and linked to weapons trafficking. The attack came as troops targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq detained 30 suspected terrorists in Baghdad and Mosul on Thursday and Friday, the military said. [More>>cnn.com]
6.19.08 Mugabe thugs killed and mutilated MDC youth activists
June 19 - The murderous violence being driven by President Robert Mugabe's militias reached new levels today with the killing and mutilation of four young men, the largest number of fatalities in a single incident in the last 10 weeks of Zimbabwe's election campaign. Three of the men were Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) youth activists, defending the home of a local official from attack by Zanu (PF) youths in the sprawling dormitory township of Chitungwiza about 30 km south of Harare.
The third was a passerby, abducted because he did not know the Zanu (PF) youths’ secret slogans and salutes used to identify supporters. All of the victims had their skulls smashed, said relatives who had seen the corpses in separate mortuaries. Some had their lips and genitals cut off. The escalation of violence came as Gordon Brown called on Mr. Mugabe to admit international rights observers and the UN rights envoy for the country's run-off presidential election on June 27. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
6.19.08 Taliban 'swept from Kandahar area'
June 19 - Hundreds of Taliban fighters have been killed or wounded after the group's forces were driven from all the villages around Afghanistan's southern city of Kandahar, the provincial governor has said. "The Taliban have been cleared totally [by Afghan and NATO forces] from Arghandab district," Assadullah Khalid said on Thursday. About 800 Afghan government troops, backed by hundreds of mainly Canadian NATO soldiers, had fought Taliban who seized seven villages in the Arghandab district three days ago. Khalid said: "The Taliban have suffered hundreds of dead and wounded and many of their casualties are Pakistanis." [More>>aljazeera.net]
6.19.08 Ex-Bear Stearns managers charged with fraud
(Reuters) June 19 - Two former hedge fund managers at investment bank Bear Stearns defrauded investors by concealing problems that led to the $1.4bn collapse of funds linked to subprime lending, a federal indictment unsealed today charged. The indictment by a New York federal grand jury also said the two, Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin, touted the funds as an "awesome opportunity" to investors as they were privately discussing grave concerns over the prospects of two funds they managed.
6.19.08 US freezes assets of Hezbollah allies in Venezuela
WASHINGTON (AFP) June 19 - The US Treasury Department on Wednesday froze the US assets of what it said were a pair of Venezuela-based supporters of Hezbollah. They are Ghazi Nasr al Din and Fawzi Kan'an, along with two travel agencies owned and controlled by Kan'an, the department said.
6.19.08 Russia's space agency backs US asteroid control plan
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) June 19 - Russia's Federal Space Agency has endorsed a proposal by the US House of Representatives that a Russian radar station be used to detect dangerous asteroids, Roscosmos head said on Thursday. "I generally approve and support the US initiative," Anatoly Perminov said in a telephone interview with RIA Novosti. "As for the asteroid danger, it really exists, and needs to be dealt with through the joint efforts of all states concerned."
On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives approved NASA's $20.2 billion budget for 2009, committing the US to cooperation with Russia and other countries to avoid asteroid threats. Congressmen suggested a Russian telecommunication center in the Primorye Territory, in the Far East, could be used for early warning and detection of dangerous asteroids. Perminov said the RT 70 radar deployed in the town of Galenki near Ussuriisk (the second largest city in Primorye) is a facility used by Russia's Space Forces. "This matter is more a question for the Defense Ministry, but we will back the project as an idea," he said. [>en.rian.ru]
6.19.08 North Korea dennies outbreak of bird flu
(AP) June 19 - North Korea strongly denied Thursday that bird flu had recently broken out in the country, contradicting a report from an outside aid group. The Seoul-based Good Friends organization said last week that the disease had been discovered in the communist nation's northeast on June 3, when several birds were found dead near a military base.
The group also said dozens of magpies were found dead inside a camp for political prisoners in an adjacent province, and a child of one prison official subsequently suffered a high fever and died, although the cause of the deaths was unclear. The North's official Korean Central News Agency said the country's quarantine authorities found in an investigation that no bird or human had died in the region and that health conditions there were "very safe."
"There is no reason for us to conceal bird flu," KCNA said. [More>>thejakartapost.com]
6.18.08 NATO, Afghan forces kill Taliban in huge offensive
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan (AFP) June 18 - Afghan and NATO troops backed by helicopter gunships killed 23 Taliban rebels Wednesday in a huge "clean-up" operation to drive out militants entrenched in villages near Kandahar. Two Afghan troops also died in the offensive in southern Arghandab district, which was launched after a burst of insurgent activity including a mass rebel jailbreak in Kandahar that embarrassed US-allied President Hamid Karzai.
6.18.08 Baghdad blast death toll rises
June 18 - The death toll from a car bomb attack at a market in Baghdad, Iraq's capital, has risen to at least 63, Iraqi officials have said. The Iraqi government said on Wednesday it will "defeat the terrorists and ... maintain the security achievements" after the bombing, which occurred in the Shia Muslim neighbourhood of Hurriyah the previous evening. At least 75 other people were wounded in the blast, security officials said. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org (AP) "US: Shiite 'special group' behind Iraq bombing." and related story:
We Westerners need the locals to photograph their tragedy and their ragged, often fuzzy, poorly framed pictures contain their own finely calibrated and terrible beauty. The fear of the cell-phone snapper is contained in almost every frame. Most of the Iraqis are refugees-to-be, for the Dutch photographer Geert van Kesteren, who collected 388 pages of photographs for his book Baghdad Calling, wanted to catalogue the tragedy of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who are the largely ignored victims of our demented 2003 invasion and occupation...
6.18.08 Senators deny knowing of home loan favoritism
June 18 - Senate banking committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd said yesterday that he knew he was part of a "VIP" mortgage program offered by Countrywide Financial, but he said he was not aware that the privilege included waiving fees that regular customers must pay to obtain lower interest rates.
Dodd (D-Conn.) — who reportedly received the special treatment as part of the company's "Friends of Angelo" program, named for chief executive Angelo Mozilo — said loan officers told him and his wife in 2003 that they would be part of an exclusive program. But the couple assumed the plan gave them unspecified courtesies and did not ask whether it included a waiver of the fees, known as points, or a reduced interest rate on their loans, the senator said.
"I don't know that we did anything wrong. I negotiated a mortgage at a prevailing rate, a competitive rate. . . . I did what I was supposed to do," Dodd told reporters at a news conference called to discuss the matter and legislation to address the nation's housing crisis. [More>>washingtonpost.com]
6.18.08 France to ban illegal downloaders from using the internet under three-strikes rule
June 18 - Anyone in France who persists in illicit downloading of music or films will be barred from broadband access under a controversial new law that makes the country a pioneer in combating internet piracy. "There is no reason that the internet should be a lawless zone," President Sarkozy told the Cabinet today, as it endorsed the "three-strikes-and-you're-out" scheme, which, from next January, will hit illegal downloaders where it hurts. Under a cross-industry agreement, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must cut off access for up to a year for third-time offenders. In a classic French approach, the scheme will be enforced by a new £15million-a-year state agency, to be called HADOPI (High authority for copyright protection and dissemination of works on the internet).
The law has strong backing from Mr. Sarkozy, who has taken a close interest in artists' rights since marrying Carla Bruni, a folk singer and model. Opposition to the scheme has come, however, from bodies including the state data protection agency, consumer and civil liberties groups and the European Parliament. Big web companies, such as Google and the video-sharing firm Dailymotion, refused to sign up to the 40-member industry accord last November. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]
6.18.08 US 'plans to neutralize Russian nuclear weapons by 2012-2015'
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) June 18 - The US-proposed European missile shield will eventually spread along Russia's borders and may neutralize Russia's nuclear potential by 2012-2015, a Russian political analyst said on Wednesday. Commenting on reports that the United States and Lithuania were formally discussing deploying elements of the US missile shield in the ex-Soviet Baltic state should Warsaw reject Washington's plans to station 10 interceptor missiles in Poland, Leonid Ivashov, the head of the Moscow-based Academy of Geopolitical Sciences, said: "We should expect that elements of a US missile shield will be placed not only in Lithuania, but also in all territories bordering Russia and controlled by NATO."
So far, the Czech Republic has agreed to host an early-warning radar on its territory. Poland has taken a tough stance in missile talks with the US, demanding that Washington upgrade its air defense systems in return. Ivashov said the main purpose of the US global missile shield was to neutralize Russia's nuclear potential by 2012-2015 and that NATO eastward expansion was part of this plan. He said Ukraine's and Georgia's possible accession to NATO would have dire consequences for Russia's defense capability. [More>>en.rian.ru]
6.18.08 Did life begin with a meteorite?
June 18 - The building blocks of genes have been found in a meteorite, raising the prospect of life originating with the aid of extraterrestrial molecules that came from space more than 3.6 billion years ago. Scientists have found that the meteorite contains complex organic chemicals which can be used to make self-replicating molecules that are the essential genetic ingredient of all known lifeforms — DNA and RNA.
Although organic molecules such as sugars and amino acids have been found in meteorites before, it is the first time scientists have found evidence for the existence of extraterrestrial compounds that can be used to make genes. The two substances are called uracil and xanthine and they are the precursors of the building-block molecules, known as nucleobases, that help store and transmit genetic information from one generation to the next — one of the vital signs of life.
Scientists found the two building blocks during analysis of a meteorite that fell near the Australian town of Murchison on 28 September 1969. The Murchison meteorite had already been shown to contain sugars and phosphates, two other essential ingredients of DNA and RNA. [More>>independent.co.uk]
6.18.08 Floodwaters threaten Missouri and Illinois
GULFPORT, Illinois June 18 - Floodwaters breached two levees in western Illinois on Wednesday and threatened more Mississippi River towns in Missouri, offering little reprieve for the U.S. Midwest where much of eastern Iowa was inundated by some of the worst flooding that state has seen in years. The breaches flooded farmland near the hamlet of Meyer, Ill. and south of there in the Indian Graves levee district, Adams County Emergency Management Agency spokeswoman Julie Shepard said.
6.18.08 EU summit battling fuel protests
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) June 18 - Hundreds of farmers, truckers and taxi drivers blocked roads in and around Brussels on the eve of an EU summit to push leaders for help coping with skyrocketing fuel prices. Convoys of taxis, farm tractors and truckers blocked parts of Brussels' inner ring road Wednesday, wreaking traffic havoc. Police said they expected some 1,000 protesting vehicles in central Brussels. Farmers were also handing out free vegetables and meat at a downtown square.
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