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The Chart Showing the National Debt above is still valid: "The debt to the penny," publicdebt.treas.gov.
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News Headlines & Trends

7.02.08 Independent execs to replace government officials at Russian state firms

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) July 2 - Government officials sitting on board of directors in Russia's state-owned companies will be replaced by independent directors in the near future, a Kremlin aide said on Wednesday. "This will be carried out in 100% state-owned companies in the next few days, while in other state-controlled firms the process may take a few months," Arkady Dvorkovich, the president's economic adviser, told reporters in Moscow.

In the past few years Russia has dramatically expanded state control over the economy, which has led to a sharp increase in corruption among government officials. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, a former lawyer, has made the fight against corruption one of his main goals since taking office in early May. He has headed a new anti-corruption council and has also given instructions to draw up a national action plan to counter corruption. [More>>en.rian.ru]

7.02.08 Pakistani forces arrest 10 suspected militants'

BARA, Pakistan (AP) - Heavily armed paramilitary troops blocked roads into a tribal town in northwestern Pakistan and patrolled its deserted bazaar Wednesday as an operation against Islamic militants rolled into its fifth day with more arrests but no sign of fighting. Troops arrested 10 suspected supporters of a local militant chief, Mangal Bagh, and confiscated submachine guns, rifles and ammunition from their pickup truck, about three miles from Bara, the focus of the operation in Khyber tribal region.

The blindfolded captives were displayed to reporters who visited a Frontier Corps base, which had about a dozen tanks, several armored personal carriers and artillery guns inside. A senior officer, who sought anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the men were detained as they attempted to transport the weapons in the remote Tirah Valley.

Rival militant groups Ansar ul-Islam and Bagh's Lashkar-e-Islam — which have gained sway in Khyber in recent months — have fought with each other in the valley this week, even as Pakistan launched the military operation in the more accessible area around Bara. The aim of the operation is to protect nearby Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province. The main road through Khyber is also a key supply line for US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org; See related story, khaleejtimes.com, July 2, "Pakistan would allow US drone strike on bin Laden: report."]

7.02.08 PM Olmert following attack: Destroy the terrorist's house

July 2 - Hours after three people were killed when a terrorist in a bulldozer went on a rampage in downtown Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the attacker's east Jerusalem home must be destroyed. Olmert held consultations in his office following the attack and Jerusalem officials said that the prime minister was expected to discuss the possibility of destroying the terrorist's home with Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann. He is also set to discuss taking away National Insurance Institute (NII) rights from the terrorist's family. Following the attack, US President George W. Bush phoned Olmert and offered his condolences to the Israeli people. [More>>jpost.com; See earlier story, jpost.com, July 2, "Terrorist plows bulldozer into vehicles."]

7.02.08 Chad halts 'holy war' by Muslim leader, 70 killed

N'DJAMENA (Reuters) July 2 - Chad said on Wednesday its security forces had killed 66 followers of an Islamic spiritual leader who was threatening to launch a holy war against Christians and atheists from Africa to Europe. The 28-year-old Muslim holy man, or "sheikh," Ahmat Ismael Bichara, was arrested after hundreds of his disciples armed with swords, spears, bows and clubs fought gendarmes armed with automatic rifles at a southeastern village on Sunday and Monday.

Four members of the Chadian security forces were also killed and six wounded in the one-sided battles at Kouno, 300 km southeast of the Chadian capital N'Djamena. Bichara, his lip bloodied, wearing a white robe and reciting verses from the Koran, the Muslim holy book, was presented by the authorities to journalists in N'Djamena on Wednesday along with seven of his captured followers.

Ministers in the landlocked ethnically mixed African country, where just over the half the population is Muslim, said the government had been obliged to act against the Islamic holy man to stop him triggering a religious war in the country. "Since June 3, he has been calling on all Muslims to prepare to engage in a holy war against Christians and atheists, saying that the war would be launched from Chad to as far as Denmark," Security Minister Ahmat Mahamat Bachir told journalists.[More>>thestar.com.my]

7.02.08 Is Yemen an ally in the war on terror?

July 2 - (Editorial by Mark N. Katz, Middle East Times) A May 17 Washington Post op-ed piece by Ali H. Soufan entitled, "Coddling Terrorists" decried how Yemen has let free some of al-Qaeda terrorists responsible for the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole warship in the Yemeni port of Aden. In his article, Soufan (who played a key role in the FBI investigation of the bombing) declared, "If Yemen is truly an ally, it should act as an ally," Why, then, has the Yemeni government not done so, especially since al-Qaeda threatens it as well as the United States?

The answer to this question requires some discussion of the complicated history of Yemen — a country that is little known not just in the West, but even in the Arab world which it is a part of What is now the Republic of Yemen came into being in 1990 with the unification of what was then North Yemen and South Yemen, known officially as the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen South Yemen had a Marxist regime that was both pro-Soviet and anti-American. From South Yemen's independence from Britain in 1967 until unification in 1990 (and even afterward in a failed effort to re-establish South Yemeni independence in 1994), relations between North and South were highly contentious.

North Yemen, though, was not the "conservative" government that it and united Yemen are often portrayed. The Arab nationalist revolution that ousted its monarchy in 1962 brought to power a "revolutionary" government that was often anti-American. In visits I paid to North Yemen prior to unification, I was amazed at how much hostility and resentment government officials and ordinary citizens expressed toward the United States. Yemenis were especially incensed about American support for Israel, and more importantly, for Saudi Arabia — Yemen's neighbor with which it was frequently at odds over the course of the 20th century.

Yemen's one and only president since unification — Ali Abdallah Saleh — was previously president of North Yemen from 1978 to 1990...Saleh openly supported Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and confrontation with the United States and its allies. This move was widely supported by the Yemeni public not so much because it was enamored of Saddam but because it strongly supported Saleh's anti-American and anti-Saudi stance.

7.02.08 Hizbollah banned over 'Iraq terrorism'

July 2 - Prime Minister Gordon Brown today said Hizbollah's military wing has been added to the list of banned terrorist organizations because of new evidence linking it to activities in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories. At Commons question time he said the proscription would not extend to the political and social activities of the Lebanese party. "We continue to call on Hizbollah to end its status as an armed group and to participate in the Lebanese democratic process and to do so on the same terms as other political parties," he told MPs. [More>>independent.co.uk]

7.02.08 Two Turkish generals held over plot to kill Nobel laureate'

July 2 - Turkish police have arrested two retired top generals they believe were members of a state-backed gang suspected of a slew of high-profile killings and a plot to murder the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Orhan Pamuk. The former military police chief Sener Eruygur and Hursit Tolon, former army number two, were among 25 people taken into custody in Ankara early yesterday in the latest twist in investigations that began last year.

Dozens of people — including another retired general and a prominent ultra-nationalist lawyer — are already in custody on charges of "provoking armed rebellion against the government." The plotters' plan, allegedly, was to assassinate public intellectuals, Kurdish politicians, even target military personnel, as part of a campaign to destabilise Turkish society and force military intervention. [More>>independent.co.uk]

7.02.08 Prince William's warship in $83m drugs bust

LONDON (AFP) July 2 - A British Royal Navy warship with second-in-line to the throne Prince William on board has helped the US Coast Guard in a major drugs bust. The Type-23 frigate HMS Iron Duke intercepted an ocean-going speedboat on Saturday, hundreds of kilometers northwest of Barbados. It had been spotted by the ship's helicopter and raised suspicions because it was so far off land and appeared to be heading for Europe or west Africa. US Coast Guard boarded the 15-metre vessel and found 45 bales of cocaine weighing 900 kilograms and with an estimated street value of at least STG40 million ($83 million). [More>>news.com.au]

7.02.08 Airforce finds lax nuclear security

July 2 - Most overseas storage sites for US nuclear weapons, particularly in Europe, need substantial improvements in physical security measures and the personnel who guard the weapons, according to a newly available Air Force report. "Most sites require significant additional resources to meet DoD security requirements," according to the final report of the Air Force Blue Ribbon Review of Nuclear Weapons Policies and Procedures, completed in February. The report was made public last week by Hans M. Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, who obtained it under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The report said upgrades are needed in "support buildings, fencing, lighting and security systems" at several European sites. It also cited conscripts who serve only nine months and "unionized security personnel" whom some host countries provide as guards. The panel recommended that the Air Force "investigate potential consolidation of resources to minimize variances and reduce vulnerabilities." [More>>washingtonpost.com]

(Update 7.02.08) 6.30.08 Acid rain traces support meteor theory for 1908 Tunguska blast

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) June 30 - International researchers investigating the Tunguska Event, an explosion exactly 100 years ago in central Siberia, say acid rain traces in the region back up the theory that the blast was caused by a meteorite. On June 30, 1908, an explosion equivalent to between 5 and 30 megatons of TNT occurred approximately 7-10 km (3-6 miles) above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in a remote Siberian region. "Extremely high temperatures occurred as the meteorite entered the atmosphere, during which the oxygen in the atmosphere reacted with nitrogen causing a build up of nitrogen oxides," one of the authors of the joint research, Natalia Kolesnikova, told RIA Novosti.

Kolesnikova said a similar impact 66 million years ago wiped out a significant portion of life on Earth, including the dinosaurs.

The Tunguska blast flattened 80 million trees, destroying an area of around 2,150 sq km (830 sq miles). However, despite the shockwaves being detected as far away as the United Kingdom, the Tunguska Event went largely unnoticed, eclipsed by global events leading up to WWI, the Russian Revolution and subsequent civil war. If the explosion had occurred some 4 hours and 47 minutes later, due to the Earth's rotation it would have completely destroyed the then Russian imperial capital of St. Petersburg.

...The research carried out by the Moscow State Lomonosov University, Italy's Bologna University and Germany's Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig backs up the most likely theory of a meteor explosion. However it is unlikely to put a stop to speculation on theories ranging from alien attacks, UFOs, antimatter, doomsday events and black holes. [Full story>>en.rian.ru]; See an interesting theory on the blast at halexandria.org]

7.02.08 Update: independent.co.uk,"Impact earth: Could we divert a giant asteroid?" :A century ago this week, an asteroid fireball exploded over Siberia with the power of 185 Hiroshima bombs. Steve Connor asks how we can prevent a similar catastrophe in a major world city. A hundred years ago this week a man was sitting in the wooden porch of a trading post in the village of Vanavara in deepest Siberia when a blinding flash of light, followed by a huge blast of sound threw him to the ground. Several years later, he recounted the terrifying moment to an inquisitive Russian scientist from St. Petersburg who was on an expedition to find out what had caused such a massive explosion in one of the remotest regions on Earth.

The man's story turned out to be the first confirmed, eye-witness account of the extraordinary explosion caused when a large object from space explodes violently in the air above the ground after striking the Earth's atmosphere. "Suddenly, in the north sky... the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire," the man told the scientist. "There was a bang in the sky and a mighty crash... The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing. The earth trembled," he said.

The heat from the blast was so intense the man thought that his shirt was on fire. The light from the explosion, and sunlight subsequently reflected in the atmospheric dust, could be seen for miles around. People as far away as London said that the night sky was so unusually bright that it was possible to read a newspaper in their gardens at midnight. The blast felled some 80 million trees over an area of 800 square miles.

If the asteroid had collided just a few hours later, or had come in on a slightly different trajectory, it could easily have exploded over Paris, London, New York or Moscow, with devastating consequences. Scientists calculate that if something of similar size exploded over London today, little within the M25 would remain standing. It would be as if a large thermonuclear bomb equivalent to 20 million tons of high explosives had been set off in the heart of the city...

6.30.08 US says won't allow Iran to shut key Gulf oil route

MANAMA, Bahrain (AFP) June 30 - The commander of the US navy's Fifth Fleet warned on Monday that the United States will not allow Iran to shut the Strait of Hormuz, a key oil supply route in the Gulf. "They will not close it... They will not be allowed to close it," Vice-Admiral Kevin J. Cosgriff said at a press conference in Bahrain, where the Fifth Fleet is based.

His remarks followed comments by the chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards who issued a new warning last week against any attack against the country over its controversial nuclear drive. "It is natural that when a country is attacked it uses all of its capabilities against the enemy, and definitely our control of the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz would be one of our actions," Jafari said.

The strait between Iran and Oman is a vital conduit for energy supplies, with as much as 40 percent of the world's crude oil from Gulf oil producers passing through the waterway. There have been several confrontations between Iranian and US vessels in the Gulf this year. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related stories:
timesonline.co.uk, June 30, "Oil jumps to $143 high over Iran threats."
xinhuanet.com, June 30, "Report: US, strengthens covert operations against Iran's leadership."]

6.30.08 Iraq to award oil contracts

June 30 - Iraq is set to award oil contracts to dozens of foreign companies in a bid to boost production that could also give multinationals a foothold in the  country's large but underdeveloped oil fields. The Iraqi oil ministry is expected to announce on Monday the deals with companies such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, Total and BHP Billiton, Asim Jihad, an oil ministry spokesman, said. The ministry also plans to sign contracts with 41 other foreign companies for extracting oil, Jihad  said. However, these are expected to be short-term arrangements.

The contracts do not allow investments by the foreign companies in the oil sector but do pave the way for global energy giants to return to Iraq, 36-years after being told to leave by Saddam Hussein, Iraq's former ruler. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related stories.

turkishpress.com, June 30, "We are proposing establishment of a joint industrail zone at Turkish-Iraqi border."]

alarabiya.net, June 30, Iraq snubs oil giants who demand share of oil" : Iraq said on Monday that it had refused to sign deals with global oil majors hoping to cash in on the war-torn country's oilfields, as they insisted on a share of the oil. Iraq is negotiating with Shell, BP, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Total, and a consortium of other smaller oil companies, Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani said at press briefing. "We did not finalize any agreement with them because they refused to offer consultancy based on fees as they wanted a share of the oil," he said. "The TSAs (technical support agreements) are only simple consultancy contracts to help us raise the production during the interim period" before the ministry enters into long-term contracts to develop the oil and gas fields...

6.30.08 UN: US ship carrying aid arrives in North Korea

SEOUL (AP) June 30 - A US ship carrying thousands of tons of food arrived in North Korea after the impoverished nation agreed to open up to greatly expanded international aid, the UN food agency said Monday. The World Food Program said the freighter arrived Sunday carrying 37,000 tons of wheat, the first installment of 500,000 tons in assistance promised by Washington. The US aid was not directly related to the ongoing nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang, and US officials have repeatedly claimed they do not use food for diplomatic coercion.

But the shipment arrived just days after the North delivered a long-delayed atomic declaration and blew up the cooling tower at its main reactor site, in a sign of its commitment not to make more plutonium for bombs. In exchange, Washington lifted some economic sanctions against the North and said it would remove the country from a US State Department list of state sponsors of terrorism. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

6.30.08 Deadly blast destroys Pakistan militant's house

PAR QAMBARKHEL, Pakistan (AFP) June 30 - An explosion killed six people at a Pakistani militant's house Monday on the third day of a government offensive, as a US official arrived in Islamabad for counter-terrorism talks. Militant chief Haji Namdar, who survived the blast in the northwestern Khyber tribal district, and a security official said the house was destroyed by military action but the government said troops were not involved. Pakistan, which is under growing Western pressure over its efforts to negotiate with Taliban militants, launched an operation in Khyber on Saturday and says it has saved the northwestern city of Peshawar from rebel advances.

Richard Boucher, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, flew into in Islamabad on Monday for talks with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and other senior officials. Gilani told Boucher that Pakistan was following a policy of dialogue with hardline elements who have laid down their arms and joined mainstream politics. "We will however never negotiate with militants nor allow foreigners to use our soil against another country," a government statement quoted Gilani as saying. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related stories:

thenews.com.pk, June 30, "Tribesmen kidnap 30 security men in Kurram Agency."

nytimes.com, June 30, "Amid policy disputes, al-Qaeda grows in Pakistan" : Late last year, top Bush administration officials decided to take a step they had long resisted. They drafted a secret plan to make it easier for the Pentagon's Special Operations forces to launch missions into the snow-capped mountains of Pakistan to capture or kill top leaders of al-Qaeda.

Intelligence reports for more than a year had been streaming in about Osama bin Laden's terrorism network rebuilding in the Pakistani tribal areas, a problem that had been exacerbated by years of missteps in Washington and the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, sharp policy disagreements, and turf battles between American counterterrorism agencies.

The new plan, outlined in a highly classified Pentagon order, was intended to eliminate some of those battles. And it was meant to pave a smoother path into the tribal areas for American commandos, who for years have bristled at what they see as Washington's risk-averse attitude toward Special Operations missions inside Pakistan. They also argue that catching Mr. bin Laden will come only by capturing some of his senior lieutenants alive.

But more than six months later, the Special Operations forces are still waiting for the green light. The plan has been held up in Washington by the very disagreements it was meant to eliminate. A senior Defense Department official said there was “mounting frustration” in the Pentagon at the continued delay.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush committed the nation to a "war on terrorism" and made the destruction of Mr. bin Laden's network the top priority of his presidency. But it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with al-Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan's tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world...

6.30.08 Farmers attacked in wake of Zimbabwe election

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) June 30 - Farmers who had protested the seizure of their land were attacked by supporters of Robert Mugabe the same day he was sworn in again as Zimbabwe's president, the head of a farmer's union said Monday. On Sunday, the Zimbabwean Election Commission declared Mugabe the winner of Zimbabwe's widely condemned presidential election. His opponent, independent observers, human rights groups and foreign governments have all said that the Friday election was not free and fair.

Three farmers and a farm manager were brutally beaten in Mashonaland West, a stronghold of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, said Deon Theron, vice president of the Commercial Farmers Union. Most members of his union are white farmers. Three of those attacked Sunday had appealed to a regional body and been granted temporary permission to stay on their farms, he said. One couple and their son-in-law were savagely attacked on their farm Sunday afternoon and then forced into a truck by a group of about 20 people, Theron said. They were kept for several hours and then thrown out of the truck after midnight. They were hospitalized with head wounds, burns and broken bones, he said. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

6.30.08 Analysis: US military to patrol internet

WASHINGTON (UPI) June 30 - The US military is looking for a contractor to patrol cyberspace, watching for warning signs of forthcoming terrorist attacks or other hostile activity on the Web. "If someone wants to blow us up, we want to know about it," Robert Hembrook, the deputy intelligence chief of the US Army's Fifth Signal Command in Mannheim, Germany, told United Press International.

In a solicitation posted on the Web last week, the command said it was looking for a contractor to provide "Internet awareness services" to support "force protection" — the term of art for the security of US military installations and personnel.

"The purpose of the services will be to identify and assess stated and implied threat, antipathy, unrest and other contextual data relating to selected Internet domains," says the solicitation. Hembrook was tight-lipped about the proposal. "The more we talk about it, the less effective it will be," he said. "If we didn't have to put it out in public (to make the contract award), we wouldn't have." [More>>metimes.com]

6.30.08 EBay ordered to pay damages in sale of fake goods

PARIS, June 30 - A French court on Monday ordered the online auction giant eBay to pay 38.6 million euros, or $61 million, in damages to the French luxury goods company LVMH, in the latest round in a long-running legal battle over the sale of counterfeit goods on the Internet. LVMH, a maker of high-end leather goods, perfumes and other fashion and luxury products, successfully challenged eBay for a second time in the French court, arguing that 90 percent of the Louis Vuitton bags and Dior perfumes sold on eBay are fakes. The court ruled that eBay, which earns a commission on the sales, was not doing enough to stamp out counterfeit sales. EBay vowed to appeal the ruling in a brief statement issued immediately after the decision was announced. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.30.08 What's colorless and tasteless and smells like...money?

June 30 - In Tokyo and Paris, you can now spend $5 a glass on special beverages selected by a professional sommelier. Nothing surprising there, except the beverages being served are different brands of bottled water — with various "flavors" supposedly matched to different foods.

Desalinated seawater from Hawaii, meanwhile, is being sold as "concentrated water" — at $33.50 for a two-ounce bottle. Like any concentrated beverage, it is supposed to be diluted before drinking, except that in this case, that means adding water to . . . water.

And from Tennessee, a company named BlingH2O — whose marketing imagery features a mostly nude model improbably balancing a bottle of water between her heel and her hip — is retailing its water at $40 for 750 milliliters, with special-edition bottles going for $480 — more than a million times the price of the liquid that comes from your tap.

The push to turn water into the new wine is a marketing phenomenon: The bottled-water industry is engaged in an intense effort to convince Americans that the stuff in bottles is substantially different from the stuff out of the tap. But empirical tests have repeatedly shown that they are generally the same. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

Editorial note:
The abundant plastic water bottles have widespread impact, from the oil cost to fabricate them, to the oil transportation costs to ship or import them (even from Tahiti!), with trash from both ship and shore filling up a floating continent-sized garbage patch in the North Pacific Ocean., to possible interference with fish populations. The garbage patch floating in the North Pacific may, in fact, be in part responsible for declining fish populations, since the plastic bottles, etc., degrade into fish-egg sized pellets and even smaller. The plastic is consumed by birds and may be mistaken for plankton by fish and whales. See Maravot News, 3.14.08 US west coast braced for ban on salmon fishing as stocks collapse.
Mel Copeland

6.28.08 As bill evolves, mortgage debt is snowballing

June 28 - When Congress started fashioning a sweeping rescue package for struggling homeowners earlier this year, 2.6 million loans were in trouble. But the problem has grown considerably in just six months and is continuing to worsen. More than three million borrowers are in distress, and analysts are forecasting a couple of million more will fall behind on their payments in the coming year as home prices fall further and the economy weakens.

Those stark numbers not only illustrate the challenges for the lawmakers trying to provide some relief to their constituents but also hint at what the next administration will be facing after the election. While the proposed program would help some homeowners, analysts say it would touch only a small fraction of those in trouble — the Congressional Budget Office estimates it would be used by 400,000 borrowers — and would do little to bolster the housing market. [More>>nytimes.com]

6.28.08 Pakistan security forces take control of Bara in Khyber Agency

BARA, Pakistan, June 28 - Security forces have taken control of Bara in an operation against miscreants in Khyber Agency on Saturday. The Inspector General of FC, Major General Muhammad Alam Khattak has said that [the] operation would continue and last for five days. Sources said that mortar shells have been fired from Qila Shahkas of FC in tehsil Jamrood. Meanwhile, additional contingents of security forces have been dispatched to tehsil Bara from tehsil Jamrood. During the operation, two hideouts of a local religious movement Lashkr-e-Islam were blown up and security forces also destroyed the house of movement's chief Mangal Bagh.

The security forces convoy comprised of six armored vehicles and tanks. In Aka Khel area, a commander of Lashkr-e-Islam, Shoaib, was killed in clashes with security forces while 3 security personnel were also injured. [The] situation in Khyber Agency has been tense [for] several days and [the] political administration has imposed [an] indefinite curfew in the area. Sixty people have been killed and more than 80 injured so far in the clashes. Fighter helicopters of Pakistan army made low flights over the area on Saturday morning.
[>thenews.com.pk; See more details:

indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org, June 28, Pakistan launches strike at Taliban hideouts"
: ...In the first hours of the operation, authorities blew up Menghal Bagh's headquarters, and he fled to the remote Tirah Valley along the Afghan border, an intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. Mahmood Shah, a former security chief in Pakistan's tribal regions, said the Taliban control the country's entire tribal belt and "everyone now is waiting for some action from the federal government."

"They are on our doorstep," Shah said. "The situation is like water flowing into a field and until you have some obstruction to stop it you will drown. We are drowning." Two weeks ago, a Taliban force from Khyber sent its militants into Peshawar and kidnapped 16 Christians who were later released.

6.28.08 US-led coalition, Afghan troops kill 32 rebels

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) June 28 - Afghan and US-led coalition forces killed 32 Taliban-linked militants in fighting in southern Afghanistan, the coalition said Saturday. The rebels were slain after attacking the forces patrolling in southern Uruzgan province's Khas Uruzgan district on Thursday, the statement said. "A total of 32 militants were killed by Afghan National Security Forces and coalition forces in two separate engagements in the Khas Oruzgan District," the statement added. A 10-year-old Afghan child and two Afghan national policemen were wounded during the battle, it added, without giving details on how the child was hurt.

The attack, the latest in an increasingly bloody Taliban-led insurgency, came as the Pentagon warned Saturday that the militants were likely to try to expand the unrest in new areas, such as the country's north and west. Most of the unrest is currently concentrated in the south and east, where the Taliban are traditionally active with some local support. The hardline Islamic militia, which was ousted from government in a US-led invasion in late 2001, has regrouped and are trying to topple the US-backed government in Kabul. [>khaleejtimes.com]

6.28.08 Second al-Qaeda leader to be freed in Britain

June 28 - Secret negotiations have taken place to arrange the release from a British jail of one of al-Qaeda's most important operatives in Europe, The Times has learnt. The prisoner, who can be identified only as U, is expected to be released from the high-security wing at Long Lartin jail next week. Appeal Court judges ruled in April that the man, a 45-year-old Algerian veteran of al-Qaeda's Afghan training camps, should be freed on bail. But discussions between security agencies and U's lawyers became deadlocked over the conditions restricting his movements and whom he can meet when he leaves prison.

The authorities are understood to have sought bail terms more stringent than the 22-hour curfew imposed on the radical cleric Abu Qatada when he was freed last week. These conditions would require U to spend all his time indoors. [More.>timesonline.co.uk]

6.28.08 Ancient Iraqi-Jewish books secretly enter Israel

JERUSALEM (AFP) June 28 - Some 300 rare and valuable books confiscated from Iraq's Jewish community by Saddam Hussein's regime have been secretly smuggled into Israel, an Israeli newspaper reported on Friday. The books include a 1487 commentary on the biblical Book of Job and another volume of biblical prophets printed in Venice in 1617, the Haaretz daily said. The volumes are part of a massive collection of books confiscated by the secret police of the executed Iraqi dictator and stored in security installations in the Iraqi capital until the US-led invasion of 2003.

Many volumes were damaged during the bombing of government buildings in the opening weeks of the war, and after the fall of Baghdad most of the books were sent off to be temporarily stored at the Library of Congress in Washington. Others however ended up in the hands of private dealers. "We bought them from thieves," Knesset member Mordechai Ben-Porat, an Iraqi-born Jew and the founder of Jerusalem's Babylonian Jewry Heritage centre told the newspaper, adding that the foundation paid some 25,000 dollars (16,000 euros).
[More>>alarabiya.net; See more details, haaretz.com, June 28, "The makings of history / Booked in Baghdad."]

Editorial note:
We posted the alarabiya.net story (rather than the haaretz.com story) to show the differences between alarabia.net and its Islamist blogs and the views of Israelis.
el Copeland

6.27.08 Oil hits new high as Dow flirt with bear territory

June 27 - The bear peeked out of its cave on Friday. And then it retreated. With a 120-point slide on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average flirted with bear market territory, meaning that it is down 20 percent from its high on Oct. 9, 2007. The occasion, though primarily symbolic, would make official what investors have known for months: the economy is in trouble, with little relief in sight.

But, almost as quickly the Dow pulled back and was off about a 100 points or 0.9 percent, in mid-afternoon trading. The broader stock market was faring slightly better than the Dow, which is a weighted average of 30 major corporations. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index, a broader measure of American stocks, dipped 0.40 percent. The Nasdaq composite index, weighted with technology stocks, was down about 0.39 percent.

Another surge in the price of oil, which traded above $142 on Friday afternoon after gaining $5 a day earlier, discouraged investors and had helped nudge the Dow down 1.1 percent to 11,327 at 2 p.m. The blue-chip index was above 13,000 just five weeks ago. [More>>nytimes.com; See related story, timesonline.co.uk, June 27, "UK economic growth weakest for three years."]

6.27.08 Iraq says two dozen Shiite fighters have surrendered

BAGHDAD, June 27 - Twenty-seven Shiite fighters have surrendered themselves in the southern province of Maysan since Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave them a seven-day deadline, a top Iraqi official said Friday. Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari told a foreign news agency that the militiamen had surrendered through their local tribal chiefs. Maliki on Wednesday gave a seven-day deadline to militiamen to turn themselves in after he ordered a crackdown in Maysan and its capital city of Amara on June 19. [More>>thenews.com.pk; See also related stories:

turkishpress.com, (AFP) June 26, "At least 33 killed in Iraq bombings." and
alarabiya.net, June 27,"Top Iraqi judge shot dead in Baghdad ambush."

6.27.08 Bush notifies Congress of intent to delist N. Korea

June 27 - The US government Thursday notified Congress of its intention to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism just hours after North Korea handed over its long-overdue nuclear declaration to China under an aid-for-denuclearization dea[l], according to Yonhap News Agency. The notification was made immediately after US President George W. Bush pledged at a White House news conference to remove the North from the list and lift sanctions on North Korea.

"On June 26, the President announced the lifting of the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and notified Congress of his intent to rescind North Korea's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism," the State Department said in a statement.[More>>koreaherald.co.kr; See also nytimes.com, June 27, "North Korea destroys tower at Nuclear site."]

6.27.08 Taliban slits throats of two "US speis" : officials

KHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) June 27 - Pakistani Taliban militants executed two Afghans in front of thousands of people on Friday after accusing the men of spying for US forces, an AFP correspondent and officials said. Gunfire also broke out in the crowd after the killings near Khar, the main town in the troubled northwestern tribal district of Bajaur, leaving another eight people injured, the correspondent and witnesses said. The militants beheaded one man and shot dead the other after accusing them of passing information to coalition forces in Afghanistan that led to a missile strike in Bajaur in May which killed 14 people. [More>>alarabiya.net; See related story, washingtonpost.com, June 27, "Pentagon: Taliban a resilient force in Afghanistan."]

6.27.08 No North Pole ice for 1st time in human history?

BEIJING, June 27 - For the first time in human history arctic sea ice could break completely apart at the North Pole this year, allowing ships to sail over the normally frozen seascape. The potential landmark thaw is a stark sign of global warming, according to an article Friday on the website of the The Independent, a London newspaper. "Symbolically it is hugely important," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Center in Colorado. "There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole, not open water." There is no land at the North Pole, but as long as anyone has looked, it has remained a giant block of ice year-round. Scientists have been watching Arctic sea ice melt more and more each year. But each summer in recent years, the amount of ice has gotten thinner and thinner. {More.>xinhuanet.com See also independent.co.uk]

6.27.08 Phoenix returns treasure trove for science

June 26 - NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander performed its first wet chemistry experiment on Martian soil flawlessly yesterday, returning a wealth of data that for Phoenix scientists was like winning the lottery. "We are awash in chemistry data," said Michael Hecht of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, lead scientist for the Microscopy, Electrochemistry and Conductivity Analyzer, or MECA, instrument on Phoenix. "We're trying to understand what is the chemistry of wet soil on Mars, what's dissolved in it, how acidic or alkaline it is. With the results we received from Phoenix yesterday, we could begin to tell what aspects of the soil might support life."

"This soil appears to be a close analog to surface soils found in the upper dry valleys in Antarctica." Kouvanes said. "The alkalinity of the soil at this location is definitely striking. At this specific location, one-inch into the surface layer, the soil is very basic, with a pH of between eight and nine. We also found a variety of components of salts that we haven't had time to analyze and identify yet, but that include magnesium, sodium, potassium and chloride."

"This is more evidence for water because salts are there. We also found a reasonable number of nutrients, or chemicals needed by life as we know it," Kounaves said. "Over time, I've come to the conclusion that the amazing thing about Mars is not that it's an alien world, but that in many aspects, like mineralogy, it's very much like Earth."

6.25.08 Taleban militants kill 22 rival tribesmen

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) June 25 - Militants loyal to Pakistan's top Taleban leader killed 22 pro-government tribesmen after abducting them during battles to control a town near the Afghan border, officials said Wednesday. The bloodsoaked, trussed-up bodies were found dumped near the key garrison town of Jandola, where followers of shadowy Taleban commander Baitullah Mehsud have been fighting rival tribesmen throughout the week. The killings underscore concerns among Islamabad's Western allies about the government's peace talks with Mehsud, who was blamed by the previous administration for the assassination of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto in December.

"According to our information 22 bodies of peace committee members have been found in Kiriwam village," district official Barkatullah Marwat told AFP. A peace committee is a body of tribal elders who are helping the government to tackle militancy in the conservative regions near the Afghan frontier. "Some of the dead were shot and some had their throats slit,"  Marwat said, adding that they were among some 30 tribesmen kidnapped by the militants a day earlier. [More.>khaleejtimes.com; See also news.com.au (Reuters) June 25, Taliban militants kill 22 in Pakistan."]

6.25.08 Pakistan blamed for Karzai attack

June 25 - Afghanistan's intelligence agency has accused its Pakistani counterpart of masterminding an assassination attempt on Hamid Karzai in April. The Afghan president survived the April 27 attack at the annual military parade, but three Afghans were killed, one of them a parliamentarian. Sayed Ansari, a spokesman for the Afghanistan's national intelligence agency, said on Wednesday his organization believed Pakistan's Inter-Services  Intelligence (ISI) was involved. "The investigations, the documents we found and the confession of suspects arrested, show the real schemer and organiser ... of the  terrorist attack is the intelligence agency of Pakistan, the ISI," Ansari said. The statement came a day after Karzai's spokesman made a similar accusation. [More>>aljazeera.net; See also nytimes.com]

6.25.08 Three more US soldiers killed in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) June 25 - The US military announced on Wednesday the deaths of three more soldiers in a bomb attack in north Iraq, as Baghdad said the four Americans killed in a deadly blast in the capital were not the target. The announcement came as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki gave Shiite fighters in the southern oil-rich province of Maysan a seven-day deadline to surrender.

Three US soldiers and their interpreter were killed in a bomb attack in the northern province of Nineveh late Tuesday, a US military statement said, without specifying the exact location nor giving further details. The attack came just hours after a deadly blast on Tuesday at the district advisory council offices in Baghdad's Shiite bastion of Sadr City that killed four Americans and an Italian of Iraqi origin. [More>>turkishpress.com]

6.25.08 Airstrikes kill 22 militants in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) June 25 - Coalition airstrikes killed 22 militants who were attacking two towns in eastern Afghanistan, and explosions killed two more foreign soldiers in the south, officials said Wednesday. Fighting between Taliban-led militants and security forces is surging, clouding hopes that the six-year, multibillion-dollar effort to stabilize the country will succeed any time soon. The US-led coalition said Afghan police called for help when insurgents armed with rockets and guns attacked government offices in the Sarobi and Gomal districts of Paktika province on Tuesday night.

"When coalition air support arrived, the 22 militants who attacked the district centers were positively identified and killed," a coalition statement said. Ghamai Khan Mohammadyar, spokesman for the provincial governor, said police had counted the bodies of 22 "enemy fighters" on the battlefield. He said no Afghan forces were killed and claimed that the surviving militants had fled toward the Pakistani border. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

6.25.08 One man, one long list, no more web ads

June 25 - In his free time, 'Rick752' helps millions skip banners and pop-ups. Should a $40 billion industry be scared? Jumpy, blinking Internet ads really bug "Rick752." But he doesn't merely avert his gaze. A machinist and self-described "blue-collar guy" in his mid-50s from upstate New York, Rick752, as he's known online, spends most nights upstairs in his den assembling a list of Internet ad sites and related data. That work, dubbed EasyList, enables millions of Web surfers to filter and freeze out nearly all advertising that would otherwise appear on their screens.

Yet the effort to block millions of Internet ads, while drawing raves from users, is feared by some who say that if it continues to grow in popularity, it could threaten the financial underpinnings of much of the Web, where publishers are largely dependent on advertising. Rick, who said he receives no money for his work, agreed to talk only if his full name was withheld.

"I'm playing against some pretty big players," he said, explaining his reluctance to step forward. "I don't want to be harassed. . . . I don't want to be bribed. I started it because I was frustrated with getting my computer infected from ads -- malware and spyware and all that stuff," he said. "I kind of went overboard with it. But you have to admit, it's pretty amazing, right?"

Indeed, EasyList and the free Adblock Plus software it works with may be the most popular and most effective of all the ad blocking systems on the Web. Using EasyList, which is also free, Adblock Plus screens out not just pop-ups, but virtually every other Internet ad form, including in-page display and video, based on Rick's list. [More>>washingtonpost.com]


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


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