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7.23.08 Arabs hear alarm bells as ICC targets Sudan's Bashir

CAIRO (Reuters) July 23 - When the International Criminal Court prosecutor sought an arrest warrant for Sudan's president, the move set off alarm bells in Arab capitals that fear it may showcase a new form of Western meddling in Arab affairs. Arab leaders, many of whom run governments accused of rampant human rights abuses, worry the court could next turn its focus to other Arab states if it succeeds in prosecuting Omar Hassan al-Bashir for Darfur war crimes.

Anticipating the ICC move, Sudan swiftly called for an emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers, whose ranks include strong North African friends of Khartoum and who swung to action with a plan that appeared aimed to avoid prosecution of Bashir. "A large part of the developing world is very, very suspicious of the ICC," Sudan expert John Ashworth said. "If you look at the Arab League itself, I guess there would be members of the Arab League who would fear being indicted as well."

Many Arabs believe that Muslim states are being targeted disproportionately by the West for any perceived misteps, citing the US-led wars on Iraq and Afghanistan as well as pressure on Iran over its nuclear programme. Meanwhile, Arabs say the international community has failed for half a century to secure statehood for Palestinians or speak up about Israeli human rights violations. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.23.08 Inflation may hit 6% in Korea: experts

July 23 - A hike in household utility bills could trigger a domino effect on consumer prices, pushing annual inflation close to 6 percent, well above the central bank's target of 4.8 percent, experts warned yesterday. The government plans to raise household electricity rates by 2 percent and gas rates by 30 percent in the latter half of this year. That alone would push up the consumer price index by 0.2 percentage point, the Bank of Korea said. [More>>koreaherald.co.kr; See related story,thestar.com.my, July 23, "Malaysian CPI for June surges to 7.7%."]

7.23.08 Bush drops opposition to housing bill

WASHINGTON, July 23 - The White House said Wednesday that President Bush had dropped his opposition to the housing bill moving through Congress, clearing the way for a broad package of legislation that would shore up the nation's troubled mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and help struggling homeowners refinance loans.

The House is expected to vote on the bill as early as Wednesday, and it could be sent to Mr. Bush's desk by the end of the week. Mr. Bush had voiced objections to a $3.9 billion provision that would give grants for local governments to purchase and refurbish foreclosed properties — a provision that the White House regards as a bailout. [More>>nytimes.com]

7.23.08 Pirates seize ship with 20 Filipinos off Somalia

MANILA, Philippines (AP) July 23 - Pirates have seized a cargo ship with 20 Filipino sailors on board off the coast of Somalia, a Philippine government official said Wednesday. The pirates climbed aboard the bulk carrier Stella Maris in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Estaban Conejos told reporters. The Japanese owner of the ship has been in contact with the crew and they are safe off the northeastern tip of Somalia, Conejos said.

He ruled out the Philippine government paying a ransom to free the hostages, saying it is against policy. "We look toward the local manning agents and the ship owner and the host country because they have the responsibility to ensure the safety and the earliest release of the crew," he said. Pirate attacks in Somalia and Nigeria have gone up in the first quarter of 2008, making Africa the world's top piracy hotspot, the International Maritime Bureau reported earlier this month. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

7.22.08 Pickens urges action on energy crisis

NEW YORK, July 22 - Oilman turned wind guru tells Congress that his plan would reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil by 38%. Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens told Congress Tuesday that the government must act quickly to curb the nation's dependence on foreign oil. "Our country is in a deep hole and it's time to stop digging," said Pickens, founder and principal of BP Capital, in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

"We have walked into a trap and we are the ones that put ourselves there," he said. "I'm not pointing the finger at anybody because it isn't going to help, but we have to work together to get out of it." Earlier this month, Pickens unveiled a plan to curb America's dependence on foreign oil through increased investment in domestic renewable resources such as wind, and through use of natural gas as an alternative transportation fuel. Pickens said his plan would reduce the nation's dependency on foreign oil by 38%.

...Harnessing wind energy is a key component of the Pickens Plan. Wind energy can be used as a replacement for energy derived from natural gas, which is currently used for heating purposes, Pickens said. The spared natural gas can then be used as a replacement for gasoline as a transportation fuel, according to the plan. "Natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than gas," Pickens said. Shifting to natural gas "gives us time to develop the next generation of alternative fuels." [More>>money.cnn.com]

7.22.08 Solar power from Saharan sun could provide Europe's electricity, says EU

July 22 - A tiny rectangle superimposed on the vast expanse of the Sahara captures the seductive appeal of the audacious plan to cut Europe's carbon emissions by harnessing the fierce power of the desert sun. Dwarfed by any of the north African nations, it represents an area slightly smaller than Wales but scientists claimed yesterday it could one day generate enough solar energy to supply all of Europe with clean electricity. Speaking at the Euroscience Open Forum in Barcelona, Arnulf Jaeger-Walden of the European commission's Institute for Energy, said it would require the capture of just 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and Middle East deserts to meet all of Europe's energy needs.

The scientists are calling for the creation of a series of huge solar farms — producing electricity either through photovoltaic cells, or by concentrating the sun's heat to boil water and drive turbines — as part of a plan to share Europe's renewable energy resources across the continent. A new supergrid, transmitting electricity along high voltage direct current cables would allow countries such as the UK and Denmark ultimately to export wind energy at times of surplus supply, as well as import from other green sources such as geothermal power in Iceland. [More>>guardian.co.uk]

7.22.08 Sixteen wounded in copycat bulldozer attack in Jerusalem

July 22 - Sixteen people were wounded, one of them moderately, as a bulldozer driver went on a rampage in central Jerusalem Tuesday afternoon in an apparent attempt to recreate the terror attack in the capital earlier this month. The vehicle reportedly left a construction site near the Yemin Moshe neighborhood and set off towards Liberty Bell Park (Gan Hapa'amon), near the corner of Keren Hayesod and King David streets.

It drove a distance of approximately 160 meters, attempting to overturn a bus and crashing into four other vehicles — one of which it flipped over. The man was then shot dead by a civilian and a border policeman. The wounded were evacuated to hospitals in the capital. The perpetrator of the attack, whose name was not released for media publication, was a relative of Muhammad Abu Tir, a Hamas parliamentarian jailed in Israel. [More>>jpost.com]

7.22.08 Karadzic arrested in Serbia, worked as a doctor

BELGRADE (Reuters) July 22 - Bosnian Serb wartime president Radovan Karadzic, indicted for genocide in the Bosnia war, was captured in disguise near Belgrade after 11 years on the run and had been working as a doctor, Serbian officials said on Tuesday. The arrest on Monday of Karadzic, who is held responsible for the siege of Sarajevo and the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995, was a condition for Serbian progress towards European Union membership. He is the most prominent Balkan war crimes suspect arrested since late Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was sent to the UN war crimes tribunal in The Hague on genocide charges in 2001, leaving only two suspects at large.

The Serbian officials said Karadzic was caught while moving from one Belgrade suburb to another. They showed reporters a photograph of an unrecognizable Karadzic, now 63, looking thin, with a long, white beard, flowing hair and thick glasses. "He happily, freely walked around the city," Serbia's war crimes prosecutor, Vladimir Vukcevic, told reporters. "Even his landlords were unaware of his identity."...The trained psychiatrist worked for a private clinic, posing as a specialist in alternative medicine under the assumed name of Dragan Dabic. [Full story>>thestar.com.my]

7.22.08 Pakistan, Iran try to stem militant flow to Iraq

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) July 22 - Pakistan is working with Iran on a joint-strategy to stem the flow of Islamist militants through their territory to and from Iraq, Pakistan's senior most interior ministry official said on Tuesday. "From Iran, they go to Iraq and then come back," Rehman Malik, adviser to the prime minister on interior ministry affairs, told reporters after talks with his Iranian counterpart. "We are preparing a joint strategy to control it."

Pakistan has come under intense pressure from Western allies that have troops in Afghanistan to stop Taliban and al-Qaeda militants from using sanctuaries in tribal areas along the border.
Pakistan, which itself is facing rising militancy at home, says it is committed to fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban militants but will not allow foreign troops to operate on its soil.
[More>>alarabiya.net; See related story:

alarabiya.net, July 22, "Danish embassy bomber from Mecca: Qaeda man."
: The suicide bomber who carried out an attack on the Danish embassy in Islamabad last month came from the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, an al-Qaeda leader said in a rare interview with a Pakistani news channel.

Geo News aired the interview late on Monday with veteran al-Qaeda member Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, in which he elaborated on the June 2 attack that killed six people, all of them Pakistanis...The interview with Geo was said to have been conducted at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan a few days ago. An Egyptian who served time in jail with al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri after the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, Yazid is now commander of operations in Afghanistan...

7.22.08 Korean justice minister gets tough on internet libel

SEOUL, July 22 - Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han yesterday vowed to introduce stringent measures against online libel, including criminalizing the insulting of someone in cyberspace. "Online defamatory action, dissemination of false information, and menacing calls for businesses not to run their ads on some newspapers have reached a perilous level, and subsequent damage is of a very serious scale, heightening public concern. We needed special measures to redress such illicit acts and disorder in the cyberspace," Kim was quoted by Vice Culture Minister Shin Jae-min as saying during a Cabinet meeting.

"(The ministry) will seriously consider ways to punish acts of undermining the public interest and social order by maliciously spreading false information on the internet." Through revising relevant laws, the ministry will seek to expand the internet-user verification system. As part of the government efforts to purge cyberspace of groundless and malicious messages, the system has been in force since July last year to obligate internet users to identify themselves prior to posting messages online. The minister also said that he would coordinate efforts with related ministries to introduce a system to identify users by their IP addresses. [More>>koreaherald.co.kr]

7.22.08 '25 Taliban killed or wounded in clashes in Afghanistan

KABUL (AP) July 22 - US-led coalition and Afghan troops clashed with and called in airstrikes on Taleban militants in western Afghanistan, killing and wounding more than 25 insurgents, an Afghan official said on Tuesday. The joint force has been battling militants in Bala Buluk district of Farah province since Monday afternoon, said regional police spokesman Rauf Ahmadi. Two police officers were killed and three were wounded in the fighting, which also involved coalition airstrikes on the militants' positions, Ahmadi said. A suicide bomber on a bike and a roadside bomb hit two separate coalition patrols in Farah on Monday, said 1st Lt. Nathan Perry, a coalition spokesman. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.21.08 'Tehran cracking under international pressure'

July 21 - A leading analyst on Iran says there is a growing feeling among various Iranian politicians that the Islamic Republic would be best served by yielding to international pressure and halting its nuclear program. Menashe Amir, who for many years served as manager of Israel Radio's Farsi broadcasts, said that while Iran appears on the surface to be united in its nuclear drive, "there is a debate in Iran. [Some] say: We are being offered a fantastic, generous incentives package. Let's accept it...we cannot withstand the international pressure. The sanctions are widening, and the danger of a US or Israeli attack is growing. Let's not miss this chance...We'll accept it, we'll fold for now, we'll wait until the storm passes and until international conditions change. Under the current conditions we cannot continue with the nuclear plans." [More>>jpost.com ; See related stories:

alarabiya.net, July 21, "British PM warns Iran in landmark Israel speech." and
washingtonpost.com, July 21, "Rice says Iran not serious at weekend nuke talks."

7.21.08 Belarus secretly delivers Russian warplanes to Sudan - paper

MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) July 21 - A consignment of Russian fighter jets has been shipped to Sudan from Belarus, in an apparent breach of a UN Security Council resolution banning arms sales to the African state, the Sudan Tribune said. The daily quoted an anonymous source as saying a dozen MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters were shipped discreetly by freight planes via a Belarusian company two weeks ago, but could not confirm whether the fighters were actually sold by Belarus or simply came through the country. If the MIG-29s are used in Darfur, it would be in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1591, which prohibits selling arms to Sudan's government or Darfur rebels for use in the war-ravaged region.

Last year Russia was accused by Amnesty International of supplying arms to Sudan for use in Darfur, but the Russian Foreign Ministry denied the allegation. A Russian air group in Sudan, comprising 120 personnel and four Mi-8 helicopters, provides transport for UN military observers in Sudan and carries out rescue operations. The Russian peacekeepers are expected to stay in Sudan for up to six years. Last May a MIG-29 was shot down by Darfur rebels over the Sudanese twin capital city of Omdurman, and its Russian pilot was killed. [>en.rian.ru]

7.21.08 Insurgent clashes in Pakistan kill 36: officials

QUETTA, Pakistan (AFP) July 21 - Fierce clashes between Pakistani forces and separatist insurgents in troubled southwestern Baluchistan province have left six paramilitary troops and 30 rebels dead, officials said on Monday. In a major flare-up of an insurgency that has simmered for years in the gas- and mineral-rich region, security forces launched a major operation against rebel camps after a paramilitary convoy came under attack on Saturday. Troops destroyed two insurgent bases used for plotting attacks in the operation near Uch, a town in the restive Dera Bugti district of Baluchistan, arresting 30 militants and seizing a cache of weapons, they said.

"The operation against miscreants has been wound up" on Monday, Lieutenant Colonel Shahid Mehmood Khan, a spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, told AFP. A Frontier Corps statement said six paramilitary soldiers died in the fighting and and nine others were wounded, while "according to confirmed reports a large number of miscreants have been killed." It did not give a figure but intelligence officials in Quetta said at least 30 insurgents, including three rebel commanders, were killed. Twenty-two rebels were killed on Sunday alone in the heaviest of the clashes, they said. Another four soldiers were injured on Monday when a remote control bomb planted on a roadside exploded at Sohbatpur village bordering Dera Bugti district, Khan said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

7.21.08 Zimbabwe rivals sign agreement

July 21 - Zimbabwe’s feuding political leaders appeared jointly for the first time in years on Monday to sign a preliminary agreement laying out terms for negotiations to wrest their land out of political chaos. The ceremony brought together President Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. News reports said the two men had not met for a decade, when Mr. Tsvangirai was a labor union leader before he emerged as the head of the main opposition group in 1999. "We sit here in order for us to chart a new way, a new way of political interaction." Mr. Mugabe said, striking more measured tones than his frequent firebrand rhetoric. [More>>nytimes.com]

7.21.08 Taliban capture remote Afghan district

KABUL, July 21 - Dozens of Taliban militants captured a remote district in central Afghanistan overnight, killing one police officer and injuring two others, the interior ministry said Monday. Local security forces fled "under lots of pressure" after the insurgents stormed into Ghazni province's Ajiristan district, 200 kilometers (124 miles) southwest of Kabul, shortly after midnight, spokesman for interior ministry said.

"Security forces abandoned the district centre after Taliban attacked. They withdrew under lots of pressure," the spokesman said. "One police was killed and two others were injured," he said. "We're working on a plan to retake the district," Bashary said, without giving details. Ajiristan was captured by Taliban insurgents in October last year. It was retaken the following day when about 300 security forces moved into the small district centre. Taliban have captured several mainly remote districts in the past but have not been able to hold them for long although there are a handful in the southern province of Helmand that security forces admit are in rebel control.

7.21.08 Mystery plague set to wipe out France's crop of baby oysters

July 21 - Baby oysters are dying in their millions along the French coast from Normandy to the Mediterranean, puzzling scientists and plunging France's shellfish industry into crisis. On some parts of the Norman and Mediterranean coast, the entire one-year-old "class" of juvenile oysters, due to be eaten by Christmas 2009, has died in the space of a few days. A number of theories have been put forward by marine biologists and oyster farmers, mostly linked to a slight rise in the temperature of the seas around western Europe this summer. Has some form of toxic algae reached French waters? If so, why are adolescent and adult oysters apparently unaffected? Are rapid changes in water temperature damaging to baby oysters? If so, why are some oyster parcs, or beds, devastated while others nearby are relatively immune?

One theory is that the warmer sea water – up to 1C higher than normal – has generated abnormal quantities of the microscopic plankton eaten by oysters. The baby shellfish, aged from 12 to 18 months, may have been dying of over-eating. The French Agriculture and Fisheries minister, Michel Barnier, has commissioned the French Institute for Research and Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) to "mobilise all its resources" to identify the cause or, more likely, combination of causes. The government is expected to announce emergency aid to oyster producers to enable them to buy new oyster fry or "larva." [More>>independent.co.uk]

7.21.08 China bus blasts 'deliberate'

July 21 - Explosions aboard two separate buses in the Chinese city of Kunming that left at least two people dead were set off deliberately, police have said. The blasts which took place on Monday in the southwestern city also injured at least 14 others. The cause of the explosions is not clear, but they are reported to have occurred within about an hour of each other during the peak morning rush hour. "According to preliminary investigations, the explosions were cases of man-made, deliberate sabotage," an unnamed spokesman from the city's police department, told AFP on Monday. No further details were given.

Following the blasts, police cordoned off some streets in the area and conducted identity checks in a search for any "suspicious" persons, public security officials said in a statement. The blasts come as China ramps up security ahead of next month's showcase Olympic games. Chinese authorities have warned that the games could be the target of terrorist attacks and have pledged an unprecedented security effort. Among measures announced are the deployment of a 100,000-member anti-terrorist force, along with anti-aircraft missile batteries near to key locations. The Kunming explosions come two days after police in the same province, Yunan, opened fire and killed two rubber farmers in a clash that also saw 41 police officers injured. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.20.08 NATO troops kill Taliban commander in S. Afghanistan

KABUL (Xinhua) July 20 - The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) targeted and killed a high-level Taliban commander Mullah Sheikh and two of his followers in the vicinity of Musa Qala in Afghan southern Helmand province early Sunday morning, said an ISAF statement. Mullah Sheikh and his followers are responsible for facilitating and directing frequent attacks against the Afghan people, Afghan National Security Force and ISAF forces in and around Helmand province, particular the Musa Qala district, the statement said.

"We have removed yet another Taliban enemy leader who will no longer threaten the peace and security of Afghanistan," said British Royal Navy Captain Mike Finney, ISAF spokesperson, "The death of Mullah Sheikh will further degrade the Taliban's ability to conduct operations in and around Helmand." A total of 70,000 multi-national troops are deployed across Afghanistan under the flags of the NATO-led ISAF and the U.S.-led Coalition forces respectively for maintaining stability and helping in reconstruction. Militancy and conflicts have claimed the lives of more than 2,300 people with over 700 civilians killed across the war-torn country this year. 
[>xinhuanet.com; See also japantoday.com, July 20, "NATO forces kill 4 Afghan civilians."]

7.20.08 US troops kill relatives of Iraq governor in raid

BAGHDAD (AP) July 20 - The US military says American soldiers have killed two armed relatives of a provincial governor during a raid against al-Qaeda in Iraq. The military says in a statement that the soldiers were acting in self-defense when they shot the relatives of Hamad Hammoud, governor of Salahuddin province. It says the slain men showed "hostile intent." The raid happened Sunday in Beiji in northern Iraq. The deputy governor, Abdullah Hussein Jabarah, says the slain men were the son and nephew of the governor. The US military says a financier for al-Qaeda in Iraq was wounded and captured during the operation. [>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

7.20.08 Pakistan troops kill 15 militants in northwest: military

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) July 20 - Pakistani troops and gunships killed 15 pro-Taleban militants and captured 60 others while clearing a restive northwestern town near the Afghan border, the military said on Sunday. Authorities launched the offensive in the increasingly troubled district of Hangu on Wednesday after Taleban insurgents occupying the area killed 17 paramilitary troops in an ambush.

Pakistan is under intense pressure from the United States and other Western allies to crack down on Taleban forces on its side of the porous border with Afghanistan. "The operation is on and 15 militants have been killed so far, while 60 others have been captured," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP. "Five of our soldiers have been injured," he said, adding that troops had managed to push militants out of the valley and were now targeting them in the mountains. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See also alarabiya.net, July 20, "Obama threats undercut Pakistan government: official."]

7.20.08 Bin Laden's driver is in the dock, but America's war on terror is on trial

July 20 - The first military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay begins tomorrow. Its outcome will determine far more than the fate of a minor al-Qaeda figure. Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's personal driver, will enter a specially built courtroom in Guantanamo Bay tomorrow for the first full trial of any of the hundreds of detainees to have been sent to America's infamous prison camp since the 9/11 attacks nearly seven years ago.

Instead of one of al-Qaeda's top leaders in captivity — such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the accused in the first US military tribunal since the Second World War is a 39-year-old Yemeni, whose lawyers say he belongs on a psychiatric ward rather than in jail. Heightening the irony, a military judge has overruled prosecutors and decided that Mr. Hamdan's lawyers can question the alleged mastermind of the September 2001 attacks and other possible witnesses about the driver. The judge threatened to delay the trial if prosecutors did not arrange this over the weekend.

Even the US does not claim that the driver and sometime mechanic, who earned a mere $200 (£100) a month, was a major terror figure. But prosecutors allege that he carried weapons used by al-Qaeda and helped to spirit Bin Laden out of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. If convicted, he could find himself in prison for life.

For many, however, it is the erosion of America's historic liberties that will be on trial tomorrow. The Bush administration created a system of detention without due process when it set up the Guantanamo prison camp in 2002, a legal limbo in which hundreds of detainees — including Mr. Hamdan, according to his lawyers — have suffered psychological and possibly physical torture. The driver is alleged to have gone mad as a direct result of being kept in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day in a tiny cell; he is hardly the ideal subject for the first major test of President George Bush's much-criticised system of military commissions to bring terrorism suspects to justice.

Mr. Hamdan left his home in Yemen in 1996 and tried to sign on as an Islamist fighter in Tajikistan, but could not get into the country. The US says he went to Afghanistan instead, and ended up working for Bin Laden. After the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Mr. Hamdan drove al-Qaeda's supreme leader between safe houses to avoid US missiles, according to prosecutors, who say he broke away a month later and evacuated his daughter and pregnant wife from Kandahar in the midst of the invasion.

It is not only Mr. Hamdan's future that will be determined by the trial. There is great concern among members of the Bush administration that they too could find themselves before foreign or international courts for the role they played in facilitating and encouraging the torture of detainees.

The infamous "torture memos" circulated by Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, Charles Addington, and two former administration figures, Douglas Feith and Alberto Gonzales, covertly approved the abuse of prisoners by the CIA. These men were publicly warned recently by Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Colin Powell when Mr. Powell was Secretary of State, to "never travel outside the US, except perhaps to Saudi Arabia or Israel." One of the most explosive parts of the trial could be the efforts by the defence to show in coming weeks that Pentagon officials interfered with military prosecutors and pressed cases for strictly political reasons. [More>>independent.co.uk]

7.19.08 Pax Americana & what constitutes terrorism

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, July 19 - (Editorial, by Mel Copeland, Maravot News) The Islamic World League conference on "Settling inter-religious disputes and violence," held under the initiative of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah, concluded July 18, 2008 with mixed results. Around 300 participants, including Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders as well as Buddhists, experts on other faiths and politicians, attended the three-day gathering. As has been the case with other Arab conferences held under the auspices of Saud Arabia the conferences ended up with an inability to define terrorism. Islam seems to have an inability to distinguish the difference between a Palestinian suicide bomber wiping out the diners in a restaurant in Jerusalem from a routine activity by al-Qaeda in Iraq of suicide bombers in markets and mosques killing hundreds of innocent children and their parents. Islamists would justify these murderers as freedom fighters but civilized societies might consider such actions as murder and barbaric.

This issue of Maravot News has several articles from across the globe that address Islamic issues. The first article deals with the hope of reunification of Turkish and Greek Cyprus into a Federal government. I was in Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, in 1985 and had some experience with the divisive culture in Cyprus. Through the center of the city was a high wall and atop the wall stood Turkish soldiers armed with machine guns. On the Greek side of the wall, my Greek friends would complain about their inability to go on the Turkish side to visit their original homes, or the graves of their parents. At the time they held considerable bitterness towards the Turks and expressed some stories against the Turks that turned out to be untrue. I am sure that similar stories existed against the Greeks on the other side of the wall in Turkish Cyprus. One such story
innocent on appearance had to do with cigarette lighters. I had told my Greek Cypriote friend that I was going to visit the Turkish mainland and he warned me to watch my cigarette lighter as "the Turks don't have lighters and will steal it at their first chance." When I arrived in Bodrum, Turkey I found that the local Tabac (Tobacco shop) had its back wall covered with cigarette lighters. A friend on a ship on the Mediterranean brought forth another story. He asked me if anything unusual happened to me when I arrived back in Greece from Turkey. I shrugged and said "no, nothing unusual happened." He exclaimed, "You won't believe this. There was a mat on the dock by the boat and they made all of the passengers from Turkey wipe their feet on the map before they stepped onto Greek land. They didn't want any Turkish soil on Greek land!"

In Jerusalem there is another small issue involving the Golden Gate, the main, Eastern Gate, of the Temple Mount. Suliman I closed the gate in the 16th century to "prevent the Jewish Messiah from entering the Mount." (See Maravot_NewsA2.05.06.html) In 1985 I was prevented from approaching the sealed gate which has Moslem graves now blocking the entrance as well as a wrought iron fence. Moslems believe that the Jewish Messiah will enter the mount to rebuild the Temple of Herod and in the process destroy the Dome of the Rock. Some Orthodox Jews believe that the Messiah will restore the Temple in any case and they continue to worship at the Wailing Wall, the West wall of the temple that was destroyed in 70 A.D., until the Messiah comes. Christians believe that the Messiah (Christ in Greek) came already and some Christians believe that when Christ appears in his Second Coming they will be raptured to Heaven (the Apostle Paul's theory, not particularly endorsed by St. Peter and the Apostolic Church of Jerusalem), and the world will be destroyed by fire and a great battle between good and evil, called "a war between the children of light and the children of darkness." The Jewish sect called the Essenes, of Qumran 2,000 years ago, saw themselves in such a war at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple by Rome.

Staying for a moment with the Roman occupation of Judea and Israel and destruction of Jerusalem we have the record, "The Jewish Wars," of the Jewish historian Josephus who was a high priest and governor of the Jews who was captured by General Vespasian in his sacking of the cities in Galilee. Vespasian was called back to Rome to accept the title of Caesar and his son, Titus, continued the Jewish War, setting siege in the end to Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and soon after that Masada.

Masada is a mountain on the Dead Sea
not far from Qumran of the Essenes' famous "Dead Sea Scrolls" where King Herod built a palace and an impregnable fortress. During the Jewish Wars a group under the leader Simon, called "Zealots" by Josephus, took refuge on the mountain top. The Romans encamped at the base of the mountain, laying siege to it, and finally built a ramp from an adjacent ridge to the plateau of Masada. Recognizing their plight, the Jews committed suicide. But before this event Simon and some of his men went on to Jerusalem to assist in the defense of the city. But there was a problem, since another Zealot group under the leadership of a man named John was in control of the city and John and Simon did not see eye-to-eye, as it were, and soon began competing for control of the city. The Romans continued their siege against Jerusalem whilst battles between the two Zealot factions continued. As the siege grew more intense, the competition for control of the places and wealth of the city turned to a fight for food and water. Josephus described the conflict as one of thugs attacking the population of Jerusalem. They robbed, raped and murdered relentlessly and broke into homes just to steal the food, often from the mouths of those who were starving. Josephus records over a million people starving in Jerusalem at the time, as it was the time of the Jewish Passover, the main feast of the Jews. The fight for food grew so intense every kind of abomination was seen. But the zealots stomachs, if not their hearts, were turned over one event. A starving woman who had a small child decided to eat the child rather than to let it die from starvation. She was just finishing eating one half of her child when the zealots broke into her house. While they were ravaging her house for the smallest specs of grain she pulled out the other half of the child and offered it to them. They left the woman in revulsion. This was too much for even them.

Today, Masada is an ancient ruin commemorating the Jewish rebellion, which tourists from all nations can tour and marvel over. Its look-out position high above the Dead Sea offers a view of the expanse of the Dead Sea and far into Jordan. Concerts are held there now at the base, not far from the ruins of the Roman camp. From one point of view the place commemorates a suicide of 700 Jews
men, women and children or so. From another point of view, at least with regard to some of the people that were atop Masada, they were thugs and murderers who eventually set fire to Jerusalem and the Temple of Herod during the siege of Titus. "The Jewish Wars," Books IV -VII, describe the factions and siege of Jerusalem. It is a horrifying account to read and may cause us to pause in discerning the difference between terrorists (Josephus uses the term to describe the Zealots) and freedom fighters. In examining the account we may conclude, at the least, that a terrorist is one who prays on and murders his own people whilst under siege by an occupying force.

Today, the particulars of warfare have changed somewhat, to the extent that guerrilla warfare, fighting from house to house, has thwarted the greater arts of bombs, artillery and brigades of armored vehicles. The enemy too, through Islamist distortions, has become cloudy, of suicide bombers camped in cities to destroy and disrupt civilized life.

One may wonder whether it was Rome who was the terrorist or the Jews who rebelled against Rome. But then all of those who opposed Rome would have to be subject to the same inquiry. One may wonder whether Pax Romana was truly a time of peace or a time of war, as in the defense of peace Rome was continually occupied in fending off rebels and one people invading the territory of another. During the time of Julius Caesar the Helvetti (now known as the Swiss) decided to leave their land and move into the land of Gaul (France). Seeing that the 50,000 Helveti men plus their family and cattle would be disruptive to the Gauls, Caesar ordered his generals to cut the tribe off from moving into Gaul. The Helveti refused to retreat back into the Alps and were subsequently surrounded by the Roman troops. After a long siege the Helveti decided to commit suicide. Seeing this illustration we may add to our criteria on "terrorists" any people who move from their land to another, for reasons of refuge, sustenance, or booty. But this doesn't play well, as it would group all of the hordes that crossed through Asia into the civilized worlds of Europe and Asia into the same category as refugees from Iraq moving into Syria or Jordan or in recent history refugees from Vietnam moving to Europe and the US after the Vietnam War.

But then, in reviewing historical examples of right power and wrong power, right refugees and wrong refugees, right rebels and wrong rebels, we have to also account to what happens when a power, such as the Roman Empire, withdraws. Where there is an absence of power all hell breaks loose, with one faction after another vying for power. When Saddam Hussein was defeated, the US forces were not equipped to replace the power of Saddam and administer the region, and as a consequence all hell broke loose. We are still paying for it.

The Koran says in many places that it was written to confirm the Jewish Scriptures, the prophets, and the Gospel, and it even says in IMRANS 3.45, ".The angels said to Mary, Allah bids you to rejoice in word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary..." At the same time the Koran calls for its believers to murder unbelievers —
an apparent contradiction to the teachings of Christ and the fundamental precepts of the Bible. It does forbid killing believers, however, calling it murder. (A listing of interesting verses in the Koran that claim to confirm the Bible is in Maravot News editorial to article 6.23.08 China destroys mosque for not backing Olympics."

Because documents in Islam advocate violence against nonbelievers, civilized societies are questioning the compatibility of Islam with Western values. Mosques are being opposed in Europe and traditional costumes, such as the veil, take the center of legal wrangling. Turkey recently experienced the issue over the veil and is still trying to reconcile its use and still retain its identity of being a nonsecular society. Because it is an Islamic country, in any event, there is opposition, such as from President Sarkozy of France, to allow its admission to the EU. Another issue against Turkey joining the EU has to do with Turkey's treatment of the Armenians which has been described by Armenians (many of whom took refuge in California) as a genocide. In their history Russia is described as their savior, who gave them refuge against the Turkish "extermination of their people." This, of course, is not the first time the Armenians were faced with extermination. The Annals of Assyria record, over a thousand years, invading Armenia (then called Urartu) and destroying the population, listing the destruction of hundred of cities, their crops and their orchards. King Assurbanipal is one treasure of a raider whose exploits (according to his own hand) resemble an account more particular to the raiders in a "Mad Max" movie than a civilized conqueror. Picture him, if you will, riding atop his wagon filled to the brim with banging and clanging bronze, copper wares, gold and silver treasures, and many wagons behind him, nestled among his 100,000 warriors, as their noisome horde returned from its mountain exploits into the Euphrates valley to Nineveh (near modern Mosul). They considered Urartu, all of the way to Mt. Ararat, as part of Assyria, (now modern Iraq), and to them the Armenians were rebels. Some of the leading rebels were taken to Nineveh, exhibited, and then skinned alive. Their skins were tacked on the walls of Nineveh. At that time beheading and stacking heads, cemented in columns, was in vogue, to remind passers-by not to rebel (as if the ruins of their destroyed cities was not enough of a reminder); and flaying people alive was acceptable punishment for rebellious leaders. One may read many of the Chronicles of the Assyrian kings in their problematic administration of Armenia at our Phrygian.html.

Today crimes and capital punishment are viewed a bit differently, depending upon which nation you are approaching and whether you are civilized or not. In Europe, for example, capital punishment is viewed as a barbaric practice, in the US it is advocated by some states and banned in others. Iran seems to be applying this extreme measure of governance, hanging those who write blogs critical of Iran, as seen in another story on this page involving a complaint by the Ebadi Rights Group. Islamic laws are themselves terrorizing people in Iran. The threat of Islamic extremism is the subject of another article in this issue of Maravot News, where Russia is outlawing certain documents of Islam.

In a nutshell, in this singular day we have articles dealing with defining terrorists, centered in an august body of religious men from around the world who could not arrive at a definitive answer on the reconciliation of the faiths because they could not agree on what a terrorist is; we have an article of a complaint that Iran is executing people for writing unacceptable views and another article recording a complaint of Moslems against the Russian government for banning the use of their Islamic documents. (As an aside, Maravot News archives contain articles relating to Malaysia's ban against Catholic and Sikh documents [i.e., nonMuslims] using the word "Allah." For the Sikh argument and link to the Catholic argument see Maravot News
7.04.08 Sikh group joins protest against ban on use of word "Allah" in Malaysia.

A leader of a state can be a sponsor of terrorist bombers. The US bombed Libya for its support of terrorism, for instance. Syria is accused of harboring and supporting Hizbollah and Iran, a friend and supporter of Hizbollah, also supports terrorist activities, including those of Hamas, in Gaza. Iran is also accused of supplying terrorists in Iraq with their weapons, bombs and bomb-making materials. The Iranians might argue that they are supplying revolutionaries. It reminds me of Fidel Castro supplying the rebels of South America, and the defunct USSR was supplying Castro
his ICBM's.

The leaders of Iran threatened to send out suicide bombers around the world in event it is attacked (See
Maravot News 5.24.06 Iran to launch a new suicide bombers garrison on Thursday. At the same time Iran's President Ahmadinejad has on several occasions expressed the desire of completely obliterating Israel. Of interest is the fact that Ahmadinejad is reported to believe (see washington post article 5.08.08) in an Islamic tradition involving the resurrection of a great teacher (the Mahdi) who will be the redeemer of Islam and herald the destruction of the world (Day of Resurrection, similar to the apocalyptic beliefs among some Christians). Ahmadinejad believes that he is living in the time of the Mahdi, the last great imam.

The Day of Resurrection is also called Judgment Day or the Last Day. In the fall of 2008 a sect of Christians took up residence in a cave in Russia , believing that the world would be destroyed and they alone, according to their prophet, would be saved. Some of the group died during their siege in the cave, from privation and the collapse of the roof, and the survivors came out recently, seeing that the date of the prophesied destruction of the world had long passed. The people in the cave, of course, were not a threat to others, only to themselves.

Governments are instituted to protect us from ourselves and external threats. Iran has been determined as a threat to the United States over its declamations against the Jews and Israel and its desire to continue development of nuclear energy. Because of its threats Iran is viewed as a threat to world peace. Iran answers UN sanctions against it by declaring that it does not intend to develop nuclear weapons or attack anyone, but it will destroy Israel and Western installations with its missiles if it is attacked. It has also threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz
blocking 50% of the world's traffic in oil in the event it is attacked. Iran, it appears, has gotten itself into a peculiar position of being a threat to the world, from its missiles to its pledged suicide bombers, whilst, at the same time, attempting to blackmail the world through the threat of cutting of the oil supply.

A repeat of the scenario of Iranian boats provoking US or other warships in the area could result in the exchange of missiles, and with the threat from Iran being as it is, no doubt the objective of a US and Israeli retaliation would be the complete destruction of Iran. Here's the problem: The old thesis of warfare involved not only the violent destruction of the opposition but also the occupation of the opposing cities. The occupation of opposing cities, as in the Iraq War conducted by the Bush administration, presented major problems. The Bush administration pretty well violated every rule of war in its invasion of Iraq, creating a blunder of mind-boggling proportions and consequences
fully understood only by reviewing a myriad of books filling library shelves. Repeating the same blunder in invading Iran would make the existing situation manifoldly more preposterous.

Another article in this Maravot News record involves the International Court (ICC) and its process of bringing to trial the president of Sudan for war crimes (genocide) in Darfur. The Arab league has held a conference to oppose the indictment and arrest of the president of Sudan, with one of the arguments being that some of their leaders may also be guilty of international crimes and one day hauled before the International Court at the Hague!

Also at issue is the conduct of President Bush and his administration who also have been accused of crimes involving the invasion of Iraq
perhaps also being liable to appear before the International Court for War Crimes or Crimes against Humanity. On July 25 a hearing, originally intended to explore impeachment of President Bush and Cheney, is scheduled, but the purpose of the hearing appears to be up in the air. One of the problems involving the impeachment of the president has to do with the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, who would inherit the throne, as it were, in the event the president and vice-president are removed from office due to impeachment. While she seems to have changed her position and favors some kind of inquiry, and is now willing to entertain some kind of hearing on impeachment, the fact remains that violations (or crimes) against the US Constitution, international law and International Covenants signed by the US, have been committed by the Bush administration and Congress has an obligation to provide remedies to the unlawful acts.

Complaints against the Bush administration are abundant, in any event, from many spheres of interest around the world and the world may wonder why Pelosi did not act to enforce the US law long ago. When she took office as Speaker of the House she opined that impeachment hearings would be too distracting, taking Congress away from its duties in passing legislation. The record shows that Bush blocked most of the legislation offered by the Democrat Congress in any event, so looking back, enforcing the law would not have been a distraction at all of the passage of new laws.

It may be that like the Arab leaders, who are afraid that they also may be called before the International Court at the Hague, Western leaders may be visiting that court one day, perhaps even Pelosi. For a court can always ask a governing official, "You were aware of the crime and yet allowed it to continue?"

This can be said of an entire population who is behind a crime of international proportions. We still hold the Germans responsible for the holocaust (the word means "whole burnt offering") and even today the six-party talks with North Korea are muddied by Japan's continuous requests for an apology by North Korea for the abductions of Japanese women. Even Catholics continue to be on trial. Today the Pope apologized to the Australians during his visit there for the sexual trespasses of Catholic priests against the citizens of Australia.

The trespasses of men and governments today are many and not too much different from those of yesteryear. I have yet to mention the trespasses of American pioneers, even until my own era. I recall the story of Ishi, the last survivor of a Northern California tribe that was exterminated in the early part of the 20th century by settlers around Redbluff, California. In the late 60's in Redbluff I had a school teacher brag about the settling of the area. She even told us about an incident where the community rounded up a hundred or so Chinamen and took them up to a canyon and shot them. They didn't want any Chinese in their community.

Hate is pervasive and facilitated through teachings. Honest, god-fearing people, in fact, teach hate. Actually they preach it, whether it is from a high place in a mosque, a church, or a dismal government building run by a junta or commissariat. Now the protagonists of hate have found a new place where they can indoctrinate more people: the internet via your computer.
Today each of us suffers from some form of terrorist activity using the internet. The Jihadists use several hundred sites on the internet to recruit, teach and organize violent attacks on humanity. Criminals use the internet as a tool for robbery. Rapists use the internet to meet and rape innocent victims. Thugs of all kinds use the internet to extort and raise money, often disguising their work as a charity. And those who hate use the internet just to express their hatred. A woman in the US is now on trial for murder, for she had harassed a young girl on the internet, causing the girl to commit suicide. So even a written statement on the internet can account to murder.

We haven't gotten to the issue of drug trafficking, from the poppy fields of Afghanistan that support the Taliban and al-Qaeda to the crops of Central and South America that fund FARC (reported to hold over 600 kidnapped hostages for ransom) and other "rebels." There are so many issues involving terrorism today, at home and abroad, I suspect Tacitus and Josephus had an easier time explaining the many terrors of their time that troubled the Pax Romana.

7.19.08 Turkey backs Cyprus federation

NICOSiA(Reuters) July 19 - Turkey supports reunification of Cyprus as a federation of two communities, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, ahead of talks between Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the divided island's future. "A solution to the Cyprus problem devised under the auspices of the United Nations will be based on the realities on the island," Erdogan said, after a meeting with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat. "It will lead to the creation of a new partnership based on two equal peoples and two founder states."

Nominally, both Greek and Turkish communities support reunification of Cyprus as a bizonal, bicommunal federation. But there are deep-rooted disagreements on how it will work in practice, specifically how much autonomy each half will enjoy. The practicalities will be tackled at the talks between Talat and Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias on July 25.

The Mediterranean island was partitioned after a Turkish invasion in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-inspired coup, and the north became a breakaway Turkish Cypriot state. Peace talks collapsed in 2004, when Greek Cypriots rejected a UN reunification plan accepted by Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus joined the EU shortly afterwards, its Greek Cypriot government gaining veto rights over Turkey's EU membership aspirations. "We are hoping a date emerges from the July 25 talks for start to fully fledged negotiations," said Erdogan. [>khaleejtimes.com]

7.19.08 Rival fighters clash in Pakistan

July 19 - At least 10 pro-Taliban fighters have been killed in a battle between two rival groups in northwest Pakistan, according to officials. Hundreds of supporters of Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, fought members of a breakaway faction of the group on Saturday, Syed Ali, a local administrator, said. The fighting in Mohmand tribal region lasted for several hours and left between 10 and 15 men dead, Ali told the Associated Press news agency. A spokesman for Mehsud's group claimed his fighters had killed 15 members of the rival group and captured 120 others, including Shah Khalid, their senior commander. The spokesman, who identified himself as Dr. Asad, said that Khalid was being supported by the government. [More>>aljazeera.net]

7.19.08 Ebadi rights group warns Iran on internet crime bill

TEHRAN (AFP) July 19 - The rights group headed by Iranian Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Saturday condemned a draft bill on Internet crime, warning that it could boost the number of executions in the Islamic republic. The Defenders of Human Rights Centre said it opposed the bill, which is set to be debated by parliament and seeks to toughen punishments for harming "mental security" in society. "If this bill is adopted, there will be further infringement of the freedom of expression, citizens' judicial security will be jeopardized and executions will increase," the group said in a statement.

Iran's conservative-controlled parliament is yet to debate the bill, which the MPs voted to take up as a priority earlier this month. In this bill "establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption and apostasy are described as punishable by death in the same way as crimes such as rape and armed robbery," the statement from Ebadi's group said. "It will be up to the court to recognise corruption and apostasy so it will jeopardise the lives of those who are guilty only of writing," it added. The draft bill lists a wide range of crimes such as rape and armed robbery for which the death penalty already applies. But in a new addition to crimes punishable by death it also includes "establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy." [More>>metimes.com]

7.19.08 Russian Muslims protest against ban on Islamic books

MOSCOW, July 19 - Russia's highest Muslim council on Saturday issued a protest against a ban on some Islamic publications considered by the authorities to be "extremist." The Council of Muftis "has taken a decision to request that the relevant institutions of the Russian Federation carry out a repeat analysis of the books," the council said in a statement. The council said it was "seriously concerned" that there was no official committee to analyze the literature and accused the experts who compiled the list of doing so "tendentiously and subjectively." [>thenews.com.pk]

7.19.08 Arabs to try and forge unified response to genocide charges against Sudanese president

CAIRO (AP) July 19 - Senior Arab diplomats will try and forge a united response to the genocide charges brought against Sudan's president for his government's actions in Darfur. A large Sudanese delegation was in Cairo on Friday to prepare for a meeting of Arab League foreign ministers. The gathering on Saturday was called to discuss the 10 charges filed by the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court against President Omar al-Bashir.

The charges are for what the UN has described as a campaign of extermination against three Darfur tribes that it says has claimed 300,000 lives and driven 2.5 million people from their homes. A three-judge panel from the court, or ICC, is expected to take two to three months to decide on an arrest warrant.

The 22-nation league is loathe to see what it regards as the humiliation of an Arab leader, particularly by a court that some accuse of acting at the behest of the United States — which does not even recognize the tribunal. Some observers have said the unprecedented charges against a governing head of state by an international court has sown fear among other Arab leaders that they could suffer the same fate. At an Arab summit in March, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi poured contempt on fellow Arab leaders for largely keeping silent on Saddam Hussein's humiliating execution and warned the same thing could happen to them. Only three Arab League states are signatories to the ICC, which was founded in 2002 -- Jordan, Djibouti and Comoros. Under the court's treaty they are obliged to execute any arrest warrant that may be issued against the Sudanese president. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

7.19.08 Impeachment hearings of Bush and Cheney scheduled for July 25

WASHINGTON, July 19 - (Report by David Swanson, afterdowningstreet.com) In response to public demand for impeachment hearings and pressure from Congressman Dennis Kucinich, Congressman Robert Wexler, and others, as well as electoral challenges by pro-impeachment candidates, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally caved and proposed to allow Kucinich to present impeachment in a Judiciary Committee hearing.

The hearing was then scheduled for a Friday (July 25) and scheduled to last a full two-hours (10 a.m. to noon). Then the topic was altered. Rather than being about impeachment, the hearing will be about impeachment and other supposed remedies to a lawless presidency, with the bulk of the time devoted to those other remedies. Most of those other remedies will involve, believe it or not, legislative proposals. Thus, the deterrence to future presidents who follow the Bush-Cheney tradition of violating all laws and checks on power will be the knowledge that during the administration following Bush-Cheney some bills were passed criminalizing what had always been criminal activity.

Rumor has it there are two panels being planned for the hearing, one consisting of Kucinich and four other members of Congress (Jane Harman, Walter Jones, Brad Miller, and Maurice Hinchey), and the other consisting of five non-Congress Members (Elizabeth Holtzman, Bruce Fein, Frederick Schwartz, John Dean, and Bob Barr). Each of these speakers will likely have 5 minutes for opening remarks. So, Kucinich's presentation of the impeachable offenses of 7.5 years will be limited to 5 minutes. The hope of those planning this affair will be to bury impeachment.

Here's why they'll fail. Holtzman and Fein — and Kucinich — are among the most persuasive advocates for impeachment alive. At least those three speakers, it is safe to assume, will be standing up for our Constitution. Another you can add to that list is committee member Robert Wexler. Others are committee members Shiela Jackson-Lee and Tammy Baldwin. It is safe to assume that these members will direct their questioning to the need for impeachment and the advocates of beginning it. Plus Hinchey favors impeachment too.

Other supporters of impeachment on the committee are Keith Ellison, Steve Cohen, Hank Johnson, and Maxine Waters, as well as Luis Gutierrez and Anthony Weiner. Zoe Lofgren is also likely to speak up for impeachment. And those in the room as audience will be overwhelmingly defenders of our Constitution...[>afterdowningstreet.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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