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Chart showing National Debt & Annual Deficits with Presidents. Democrat administrations are blue, Republican in Red. Green reflects projected Bush debt. Click chart for larger image.

2006 update (2.25.06)

The Chart Showing the National Debt above is still valid: "The debt to the penny," publicdebt.treas.gov.
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08.24.07 More Iraqis said toflee since troop increase

BAGHDAD, August 24 - The number of Iraqis fleeing their homes has soared since the American troop increase began in February, according to data from two humanitarian groups, accelerating the partition of the country into sectarian enclaves. Despite some evidence that the troop buildup has improved security in certain areas, sectarian violence continues and American-led operations have brought new fighting, driving fearful Iraqis from their homes at much higher rates than before the tens of thousands of additional troops arrived, the studies show.

The data track what are known as internally displaced Iraqis: those who have been driven from their neighborhoods and seek refuge elsewhere in the country rather than fleeing across the border. The effect of this vast migration is to drain religiously mixed areas in the center of Iraq, sending Shiite refugees toward the overwhelmingly Shiite areas to the south and Sunnis toward majority Sunni regions to the west and north.

Though most displaced Iraqis say they would like to return, there is little prospect of their doing so. One Sunni Arab who had been driven out of the Baghdad neighborhood of southern Dora by Shiite snipers said she doubted that her family would ever return, buildup or no buildup.

"There is no way we would go back," said the woman, 26, who gave her name only as Aswaidi. "It is a city of ghosts. The only people left there are terrorists." [More>>nytimes.com]

08.24.07 Jail threat hangs over Sharif after return to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD, August 24 - The vowed return of opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to Pakistan after six years in exile came under further threat on Friday when a government official said a life sentence against him could be reinstated. "Sharif was convicted in a hijacking case and given life imprisonment but his sentence was pardoned only after he accepted exile for 10 years," he told the Geo news channel. "If he decides to come back, the government can also reconsider its decision of concessions given to him." A day after the Supreme Court in Islamabad ruled that Sharif is free to return home, Attorney General Malik Qayuum warned that the matter of his earlier crimes was still not closed. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.24.07 US jet kills three British soldiers with bomb in Afghanistan

August 24 - Three British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan after being attacked by American bombers in one of the worst "friendly-fire" incidents in recent years. The three men from the 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment were fighting the Taleban near the Kajaki dam in Helmand province when they came under fire from two American F15 aircraft which had been called in to support the British soldiers.

An investigation has been launched into what went wrong. The American pilots would have been aware of the position of the friendly forces, but in the melee below it was clearly difficult to distinguish between friend and foe. A single bomb was dropped which killed all three soldiers and injured two others. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

08.24.07 China declares 'war' on tainted products

BEIJING (Reuters) August 24 - China has launched a four-month "war" on tainted food, drugs and exports, state media reported on Friday, as beleaguered officials embraced time-tested campaign tactics to clean up the country's battered image. Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi told officials the campaign, to run to the end of the year, would focus on problem products that have badly dented domestic and foreign consumers' confidence in the "Made in China" label. "This is a special battle to protect the health and personal interests of the public and to protect the reputation of Chinese goods and the national image," Wu said, according to the government Web site. [More>>cnn.com]

08.24.07 Russian oil supplies to Germany drop by as much as one-third

MOSCOW (AP) August 24 - Russian oil supplies to Germany have dropped by as much as one-third in recent weeks, a Russian pipeline official said Friday, sharply pinching supplies at a major German refinery. Sergei Grigoriev, a top executive with state-controlled pipeline operator OAO Transneft, blamed oil giant OAO Lukoil and several smaller oil companies and said it was not linked to any repairs of the Druzhba pipeline, which runs from Russia through Belarus en route to Europe. 

"The reduction was evident last month and this month," Grigoriev told Dow Jones Newswires. "Maybe they're looking for another market," he said. A Lukoil spokesman declined to comment, but said a statement would be released in the coming days. [More>>thestar.com.my ; See also rian.ru, August 24, "Crude supply drop to Germany not due to pipelines."]

08.23.07 Iraq: The vanishing coalition

August 23 - President Bush invokes Vietnam as splits emerge with Iraq allies. President George Bush invoked the spectre of Vietnam for the first time yesterday as 15 more American soldiers died and increasing evidence emerged that the coalition of the willing that invaded Iraq four years ago has begun to fracture irreparably.

As the US death toll moved to 3,722, Iraq's Prime Minister engaged in an angry war of words with his critics in Washington. Meanwhile, a senior US general issued a dark warning that American troops may have to be sent to the south of the country to fill the vacuum left by a projected British withdrawal.

Amid the chaos, an isolated Mr. Bush vowed he would "fight to win," that the so-called troop "surge" was working and that the lesson from Vietnam was that withdrawal had cost millions of lives Speaking to US Army veterans in Kansas, Mr. Bush sought to soothe relations with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who had earlier threatened to "find friends elsewhere," after US officials suggested he be pushed aside.

However, in stark language that clearly riled British military leaders, the US general Jack Keane, who has just returned from Iraq, claimed that the security situation in the British-controlled zone had been allowed to deteriorate to "gangland warfare" with civilians at the mercy of rival Shia gunmen. [More>>independent.co.uk ; See related report, washingtonpost.com, August 23, "NIE: Iraq unable to govern itself effectively."]

08.23.07 Militias seizing control of Iraqi electricity grid

BAGHDAD, August 23 - Armed groups increasingly control the antiquated switching stations that channel electricity around Iraq, the electricity minister said Wednesday. That is dividing the national grid into fiefs that, he said, often refuse to share electricity generated locally with Baghdad and other power-starved areas in the center of Iraq. The development adds to existing electricity problems in Baghdad, which has been struggling to provide power for more than a few hours a day because insurgents regularly blow up the towers that carry power lines into the city.

The government lost the ability to control the grid centrally after the American-led invasion in 2003, when looters destroyed electrical dispatch centers, the minister, Karim Wahid, said in a news briefing attended also by United States military officials. The briefing had been intended, in part, to highlight successes in the American-financed reconstruction program here. But it took an unexpected turn when Mr. Wahid, a highly respected technocrat and longtime ministry official, began taking questions from Arab and Western journalists.

Because of the lack of functioning dispatch centers, Mr. Wahid said, ministry officials have been trying to control the flow of electricity from huge power plants in the south, north and west by calling local officials there and ordering them to physically flip switches. But the officials refuse to follow those orders when the armed groups threaten their lives, he said, and the often isolated stations are abandoned at night and easily manipulated by whatever group controls the area. [More>>nytimes.com]

08.23.07 Pro-Taliban militants attack Pakistani camp

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) August 23 - Pro-Taliban militants attacked a paramilitary camp in northwestern Pakistan overnight, in a clash that wounded a dozen soldiers, officials said Thursday. One militant was killed in the hour-long shootout following the raid on the fort by more than a dozen heavily-armed men outside the town of Hangu, local police chief Ghulam Mohammad said. He said they attacked with rockets, hand grenades, and Kalashnikov rifles, but were beaten off.

A military spokesman confirmed the clash, but had no immediate details. The attack, which came in the midst of a spike in violence in the region, shattered windows of the two-storey British era fort, he said. The police official said the body of a militant killed in the fighting was lying in the fort. Others fled in the darkness.

He said the attackers were thought to come from the nearby tribal region of North Waziristan, where the army is hunting pro-Taliban and Al Qaeda militants who fled Afghanistan after a US-led invasion in late 2001. Clashes between militants and the security forces have intensified in the lawless tribal regions since the breakdown in July of a peace deal signed by authorities and pro-Taliban groups last September.

08.23.07 Afghan blast kills Canadian troops

August 23 - Two Canadian soldiers and an Afghan interpreter have died after a powerful explosion struck an armored vehicle in southern Afghanistan, according to officials. The vehicle hit a roadside bomb on Wednesday in Zhari district of Kandahar, NATO Brigadier-General Guy Larochea said at the province's airfield...In the day's second major attack, a roadside bomb targeting a police convoy in southern Afghanistan killed three civilians and wounded 13 others, the local police chief said. [Full story>>aljazeera.net]

08.23.07 Women, children taken in fierce Iraq Qaeda battle

BAGHDAD (Reuters) August 23 - Al Qaeda fighters kidnapped 15 Iraqi women and children after rival Sunni Arab militants repelled their attack on two villages in a fierce battle on Thursday in which 32 people were killed, police said. The fighting, rare on such a large scale, underscored the growing split between Sunni Arab militant groups and al Qaeda that US forces have sought to exploit as they try to quell sectarian violence that has killed tens of thousands. 

...About 200 al Qaeda fighters raided the villages of Sheikh Tamim and Ibrahim Yehia in restive Diyala province, north of Baghdad, in the early hours of Thursday after launching a mortar attack on the area, police said. The attack came despite a US offensive in Diyala targeting al Qaeda. US troops launched an operation in June to oust fighters who had taken over large parts of the provincial capital, Baquba. Many escaped to fight on. [Full story>>thestar.com.my]

08.23.07 Taliban chief says Bin Laden alive: video

WASHINGTON (AFP) August 23 - A top Taliban commander said al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden is alive and well, according to US-based analysts monitoring extremist publications. "All praise be to Allah, he is extremely healthy and active," the commander Mansour Dadullah said in a video interview, according to a transcript of the video's English subtitled translation, released Tuesday by the analyst IntelCenter.

Dadullah, whose brother Mullah Dadullah was also a top commander in the Afghanistan-based militants and was killed this year, said he had been contacted by Bin Laden, the man blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. "I received a message from him in which he advised me 'I must follow Mullah Dadullah and continue the same activities so that the mujahideen (Islamic fighters) may not weaken,' " he said, according to the transcript.

The video is dated June 15, 2007, IntelCenter said. After the attacks the United States led an invasion of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime allied with al-Qaeda and believed the Saudi-born Bin Laden was hiding there. But after pounding the mountains where his den was thought to be, US-led forces failed to find him. [>turkishpress.com]

08.21.07 Former Saddam commanders on trial for '91 revolt

BAGHDAD (Reuters) August 21 - Former commanders of Saddam Hussein's military went on trial in Baghdad on Tuesday for their role in crushing a Shia rebellion in southern Iraq at the end of the 1991 Gulf War in which tens of thousands were killed. Standing alongside the military officers were Saddam's former defence minister at the time and his personal secretary. The most high profile of the 15 defendants is Saddam's feared cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali."

The chief judge, Mohammed Oreibi al-Khalifa, told the men they were charged with crimes against humanity. The court has said the charges are "for engaging in widespread or systematic attacks against a civilian population." The rebellion, and a simultaneous one in Kurdish areas in northern Iraq, erupted spontaneously in early March 1991 after a US-led coalition routed Saddam's army in Kuwait. Rebels seized control of many towns in the south. The rebels expected US forces to come to their aid, especially since then US President George Bush senior had called on the Iraqi people and the military to oust Saddam.

But Bush and his coalition partners held their troops in check and Saddam was given a free hand to launch a counterattack with tanks and helicopters. Tens of thousands are estimated to have been killed in the crackdown, either by the pursuing security forces or in prison. Prosecutors in the case have put the death toll at 100,000. [More>>khaleejtimes.com ; see also news.com.au]

08.21.07 Pakistan says terror cell uncovered, two arrested

ISLAMABAD (AFP) August 21 - Pakistan said Tuesday it had uncovered a network of extremists involved in planning and carrying out suicide attacks in the capital Islamabad. "Two members of the network have already been arrested," interior ministry spokesman Javed Iqbal Cheema told a press briefing, without specifying when or where the arrests had been made.

But he said the two men in custody had been "directly" involved in recent attacks in Islamabad, and had "connections to the Red Mosque," where more than 100 people died in clashes between security forces and militants last month. "There are more arrests expected in a very near future, as the network is now known," Cheema said, adding that the suspects had also planned suicide attacks on Pakistan's Independence Day, August 14.

08.21.07 19 Taliban killed in Afghanistan clashes

KABUL, August 21 - At least 24 people including two police officers and 19 Taliban were killed in clashes as fresh violence swept through insurgency-hit Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday. Eight Taliban militants and two policemen were killed in fighting which erupted late Monday in the southern province of Ghazni where the Taliban have been holding 19 South Korean aid workers hostage for the past month, police said.

The fighting in the province's Qara Bagh - where the Koreans were kidnapped on July 19 - and Ander districts was still ongoing Tuesday, provincial police chief Alishah Ahmadzai was quoted as saying. Two other police were seriously wounded, he said. Elsewhere in Ghazni, two Afghan civilians were killed and two injured when a landmine apparently intended for the security forces went off under their vehicle on Tuesday, Ahmadzai said. "The Taliban had planted the mine, aimed at us," the police commander said.

In separate clashes between Taliban and security forces, seven militants were killed in an operation by Afghan and coalition forces in neighboring Helmand province Monday, the defence ministry said in a statement.

08.21.07 Al-Qaeda trieds YouTube to raise funds, recruits

BEIJING, August 21 - Al-Qaeda-linked extremists in the Philippines have turned to the wildly popular video-sharing website YouTube in an apparent attempt to raise cash and recruits, media reported Tuesday. For the first time, two video clips from the Abu Sayyaf group, responsible for some of the worst terror attacks in the Philippines, have been posted on the site.

Philippine military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Bartolome Bacarro said the clips were taken from a one-hour video that was distributed throughout the Arabic-speaking jihadist community. He said the speakers used Arabic apparently to appeal to wealthy would-be benefactors from the Middle East. The armed forces, which is mounting a bloody major offensive against Abu Sayyaf strongholds on the southern islands of Jolo and Basilan, dismissed the YouTube posting as an "act of desperation."

08.21.07 Hackers attack world's largest jobs site

August 21 - Blackmail demands followed the theft of personal details – including home addresses and phone numbers – from Monster.com. Hundreds of thousands of people have been exposed to the risk of blackmail after the website of the world's largest online recruiter was hacked. Personal details stored on Monster.com, a website that lists job vacancies, were taken after a raid by hackers who posed as employers to gain access to the site. Having stolen the information, hackers e-mailed the victims claiming to have infected their computers with a virus and threatening to delete files unless demands for payment were met.

In all, more than 1.6 million entries in Monster's system – belonging to "several hundred thousand" members – were taken after the hackers logged in using the details of employers who routinely scour the site for prospective workers, according to Symantec, the security firm. The details, which included names, surnames, e-mail and home addresses, as well as phone numbers, were then used to send 'phishing' e-mails to members, apparently from Monster.com, encouraging them to download a tool known as 'Monster Job Seeker.' The tool was in fact a malicious program known as a 'trojan,' which encrypted the files on the victim's machine, making them inaccessible to the computer owner. A message was left requesting that money be paid to the attackers before the files – which could include photos and other personal documents – would be decrypted.

..."We are seeing more and more of this extortion-based threat, and in some cases hackers are demanding victims pay up or face a file being deleted from their machine every half hour," Graham Cluley, a security expert at Sophos, said.
[Full story>>timesonline.co.uk]

08.20.07 Iraqi villagers hide in caves, flee Iranian shells

QANDOL (Reuters) August 20 - Frightened villagers hid in caves in Iraq's mountainous northeast while others fled on Monday, saying four days of intermittent shelling by the Iranian military had destroyed farms and killed livestock. "Iran is attacking us like Satan. Many cattle were killed, farms were burned, we have nothing left," Qadir Mohammed, a cattle herder from Qandoul village in Iraq's remote northeast, told Reuters. "We do not know when [we] are going to be killed. This is not a way of life. We cannot eat, sleep or move," he cried.

Qandoul is about 2 km (1 mile) from the Iranian border. Local officials and the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs in Iraq's largely autonomous Kurdistan region said on Saturday that two women had been hurt in the shelling, across a front of about 50 km (30 miles). There has so far been no comment so far from Teheran or Baghdad about the shelling.

Cross-border fighting occasionally occurs as Iraq's neighbors combat Kurdish separatist rebels operating from bases in Iraq's mountainous and remote north and northeast. The latest shelling targeted villages near the town of Qal’at Dizah, 325 km (200 miles) north of Baghdad. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.20.07 21 Iranian hostages freed in Pakistan

Quetta, Pakistan (AFP) August 20 - Pakistani troops Monday in a pre-dawn raid freed 21 people who were kidnapped by militants in southeastern Iran and then whisked over the border, security officials said. Troops freed the 21 hostages, all Iranians, who were captured Sunday in Iran's Sistan-Baluchestan province in a town close to the border, and arrested their captors.

There had earlier been confusion over the number of hostages kidnapped, but police officials on both sides of the border confirmed that 21 people had been abducted. "The troops surrounded the group in Mand," a mountainous town 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the Iranian border, and "overpowered them," a Pakistani security source said, on condition of anonymity. "We have arrested 17 people, and secured the release of 21 captives," the official added.

08.20.07 Iraqi provincial governor killed in bomb attack

SAMAWA, Iraq, August 20 - The governor of the southern Iraqi province of Muthanna was killed on Monday in a roadside bomb attack as he was going to work in the provincial capital Samawa on Monday, police said. Mohammed Ali al-Hassani is the second Shiite governor to be killed within a fortnight, amid growing signs of conflict between rival political and militia factions in the country's majority community.

A police official said Hassani's convoy came under attack in the Al-Rumaitha neighbourhood in the north of the city at around 8:00 am (0400 GMT). His two guards were also wounded, he added. A second security official from Samawa said the bombing took place as Hassani was going to work. Police imposed a vehicle curfew in the city after the attack.
[>thenews.com.pk ; See also aljazeera.net]

08.20.07 Hijacker of Turkish plane had contact with Al-Qaeda: report

ANKARA, August 20 - One of the two men who hijacked a Turkish plane with more than 140 people on board this weekend before surrendering hours later had contact with an Al-Qaeda figure, the Anatolia news agency reported. Citing police sources, the report said that Mommen Abdul Aziz Talikh, a 33-year-old Egyptian passport-holder of Palestinian origin, had once stayed in the same prison with an al-Qaeda figure serving a life sentence in Saudi Arabia.

The Anatolia agency said that Talikh and his accomplice, Turkish national Mehmet Resat Ozlu, commandeered the plane and tried to divert it to Iran as part of their plan to go to Afghanistan and join al-Qaeda. The pair met a year ago in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) and shared a flat for the past month. [Full story>>turkishpress.com]

08.20.07 Ten suspected militants killed in Afghan gun battle

KANDAHAR, August 20 - Dozens of Taliban insurgents attacked an Afghan army compound in southern Afghanistan, and the ensuing gun battle left 10 suspected militants dead and four others wounded, an official said Monday. There were no casualties among Afghan troops. The clash began Sunday night when the Taliban fired on the compound in the Sangin district of Helmand province, said Eizatullah Khan, the district chief. He said the Taliban left behind the dead bodies after the two-hour battle and fled with the wounded. [>thenews.com.pk]

08.20.07 'US pushing Israel to attack Syria'

August 20 - Washington is preventing Israel from making peace with Syria and instead is pushing it to wage war, the Arab country's government-owned daily Tishrin read on Monday. The paper said that recent moves made by the US including supplying Israel with weapons and agreeing to a $30 billion aid-package are methods the country was implementing to push the Jewish state to wage war on Damascus. [More>>jpost.com]

08.19.07 How Rove directed Federal assets for GOP gains

August 19 - Thirteen months before President Bush was reelected, chief strategist Karl Rove summoned political appointees from around the government to the Old Executive Office Building. The subject of the Oct. 1, 2003, meeting was "asset deployment," and the message was clear: The staging of official announcements, high-visibility trips and declarations of federal grants had to be carefully coordinated with the White House political affairs office to ensure the maximum promotion of Bush's reelection agenda and the Republicans in Congress who supported him, according to documents and some of those involved in the effort.

"The White House determines which members need visits," said an internal e-mail about the previously undisclosed Rove "deployment" team, "and where we need to be strategically placing our assets." Many administrations have sought to maximize their control of the machinery of government for political gain, dispatching Cabinet secretaries bearing government largess to battleground states in the days before elections. The Clinton White House routinely rewarded big donors with stays in the Lincoln Bedroom and private coffees with senior federal officials, and held some political briefings for top Cabinet officials during the 1996 election. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

08.19.07 Children among 12 killed by Iraq mortars

BAGHDAD (CBS/AP) August 19 - A mortar barrage slammed into a mainly Shiite east Baghdad neighborhood Sunday, killing 12 and wounding 31, police said, and a major battle raged north of the capital where residents of a Shiite city were fighting what police said was a band of al Qaeda in Iraq gunmen. Women and children were among the dead and wounded in the Baghdad mortar attack, and some houses in the neighborhood were damaged, according to police. The victims were taken to Ibin al-Nafis and Sadr hospitals, police said. Witnesses said U.S. helicopters were hovering above the attack site. Hussein Saadon, 56, an owner of a small minibus station in the Ubaidi neighborhood, was soaked in blood after he drove four victims to the hospital. [More>>cbsnews.com]

8.19.07 Aliens among 15 miscreants killed in security forces raid in N. Waziristan

MIRAN SHAH, August 19 - Security forces killed 15 miscreants in a retaliatory raid after militants launched attack on a security checkpost near the town of Mir Ali in [the] North Waziristan tribal region. According to eyewitnesses five others were also killed in the attack. The miscreants last night attacked a checkpost of security forces near Mir Ali with rockets and automatic weapons, [the] military's top spokesman Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad told Geo News. The security forces helicopters carried out air raids at two suspected militant hideouts killing 15 miscreants including foreign nationals, he said.

The miscreants had taken refuge in two compounds after last night's attack at the security forces, Waheed Arshad said. "The attack was launched after credible reports that some foreign elements were using the compounds as hideouts," said Arshad. The foreign nationals also used these compounds, he said. He said all detained miscreants are local and being interrogated by the officials.

According to eyewitnesses five persons including two women and two children were killed when bombs landed in their houses during [a] helicopter's raid. The power supply of the area was also disrupted when electric wires were broken during the incident, they said. Miran Shah - Mir Ali road has been closed for traffic due to [the] tense situation in the area.
[>thenews.com.pk ; See more detailis, khaleejtimes.com]

08.19.07 Gunmen take 30 hostages in southeast Iran

TEHRAN (Reuters) August 19 - Gunmen opened fire at vehicles in southeast Iran and took as many as 30 people hostage on Sunday, Iranian news agencies reported, in an incident one commander blamed on a group Teheran has previously linked to Al Qaeda.

But some media sources gave sharply lower figures for the number of people seized on a road in Sistan-Baluchestan, a volatile province near Pakistan notorious for frequent clashes between security forces and drug smugglers. The ISNA and Fars news agencies said 30 people were taken hostage, while state radio said “some” people were abducted. The official IRNA news agency earlier said armed bandits seized two people but had added that details were still unclear.

State television, citing "informed sources," said the gunmen had transported the hostages across the border into Pakistan. Colonel Mohammad Javad Asna-Ashari said the perpetrators belonged to a group led by Abdolmalek Rigi, who Iran has blamed for several other attacks in the southeast of the Islamic Republic, the Fars News Agency said.

Jundollah (God's Soldiers), a shadowy Sunni Muslim group led by Rigi, most recently claimed responsibility for an attack on a bus owned by Iran's Revolutionary Guards in February that killed 11 people. In June, state television said security forces had wounded Rigi and killed his brother. Officials have previously said Rigi was a cell leader of Osama bin Laden's Sunni Muslim Al Qaeda network in Iran, an overwhelmingly Shia Muslim country. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.19.07 50 elite Iranian troops training militia in Iraq

BAGHDAD (AFP) August 19 - A top US general Sunday claimed that around 50 members of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are inside Iraq and training Shiite extremists to launch attacks on US and Iraqi security forces. Major General Rick Lynch, commander of US forces in central Iraq, told reporters that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards unit, the Quds Force, have set up in central provinces such as Babylon, Karbala, and Najaf, as well as southern belts outside Baghdad. "The border [between Iran and Iraq] is porous and they [Quds Force members] come back and forth all the time ... they are physically there," Lynch said in Baghdad. [More>>metimes.com]

08.19.07 Britain faces Iraq rout says US

August 19 - A military adviser to President George W. Bush has warned that British forces will have to fight their way out of Iraq in an "ugly and embarrassing" retreat. Stephen Biddle, who also advises the US commander in Iraq, said Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias in the south would try to create the impression they were forcing a retreat. "They want to make it clear they have forced the British out. That means they'll use car bombs, ambushes, RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades] . . . and there will be a number of British casualties." The comments coincide with British military estimates that withdrawal could cost the lives of 10 to 15 soldiers. [More>>timesonline.co.uk] ; See related stories, independent.co.uk, August 19, "Military commanders tell Brown to withdraw from Iraq without delay." and nytimes.com, August 19, "Falluja's calm is seen as fragile if US leaves."]

08.19.07 Kidnapped German in Afghan video

August 19 - Private TV stations in Afghanistan have broadcast a video appearing to show a female German aid worker who was kidnapped in Kabul on Saturday. The woman, who looked pale and whose head was covered with a white scarf, identified herself as Christina Meier. Speaking in the local language Dari, she said: "I am OK." A turbaned man in dark glasses then appeared, and said Mrs. Meier would not be harmed, before calling for the release of "innocent prisoners." The names of these prisoners would be sent to television stations later, he said.. "We are not the Taleban, we are not bad people," he added. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

08.19.07 Market turmoil 'set to continue'

August 19 - Global stock market turmoil will continue for some time, analysts have said, and may force the Federal Reserve to cut US interest rates imminently. US and European markets stabilized on Friday after the Fed cut the rate at which it lends to banks in an effort to stem the heavy losses of recent days. But analysts say this may not be enough to end the volatility caused by banks' exposure to the weak US housing market. Many expect US rates to be cut from 5.25% to prevent wider economic damage.[More>>bbc.co.uk]

08.19.07 Wikipedia and the art of censorship

August 19 - It was hailed as a breakthrough in the democratization of knowledge. But the online encyclopedia has since been hijacked by forces who decided that certain things were best left unknown. The secret of Wikipedia's phenomenal success is that anyone can edit the millions of comments, facts and statistics published on the pages of the world's most popular online encyclopaedia. But that of course is also its greatest weakness.

The chance to rewrite history in flattering and uncritical terms has proved too much of a temptation for scores of multinational companies, political parties and well-known organizations across the world. If a misdemeanor from a politician's colorful past becomes an inconvenient fact at election time then why not just strike it from the Wikipedia record? Or if a public company is embarking on a sensitive takeover why should its investors know of the target business's human rights abuses?

Now a website designed to monitor editorial changes made on Wikipedia has found thousands of self-serving edits and traced them to their original source. It has turned out to be hugely embarrassing for armies of political spin doctors and corporate revisionists who believed their censorial interventions had gone unnoticed. Some of the guilty parties identified by the website, such as the Labour Party, the CIA, Republican Party and the Church of Scientology, are well-known for their obsession with PR. But others, such as the Anglican and Catholic churches or even the obscurely titled Perro de Presa Canario Dog Breeders Association of America, are new to the dark arts of spin.

The website, Wikiscanner, was designed by Virgil Griffith, a graduate student from the California Institute of Technology, who downloaded the entire encyclopaedia, isolating the internet-based records of anonymous changes and IP addresses. He matched those IP addresses with public net-address services and helped uncover the world's biggest spinning operation. [More>>independent.co.uk]

08.18.07 Concern over wider spying under new law

WASHINGTON, August 18 - Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches of American citizens and the collection of their business records, Democratic Congressional officials and other experts said.

Administration officials acknowledged they had heard such concerns from Democrats in Congress recently, and that there was a continuing debate over the meaning of the legislative language. But they said the Democrats were simply raising theoretical questions based on a harsh interpretation of the legislation. They also emphasized that there would be strict rules in place to minimize the extent to which Americans would be caught up in the surveillance. [More>>nytimes.com]

08.18.07 Fed lowers bank rate, shifts view on economy

August 18 - The Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate yesterday, trying to ease a worldwide credit crunch, and said for the first time that it viewed turmoil in financial markets as a major risk to the U.S. economy. Taken together, the two moves signaled that the central bank stands ready to take serious action to prevent disruptions that began in the market for household mortgages from spreading through the economy. Stock markets worldwide rallied on the surprise announcements.

The Fed lowered the discount rate, a rate at which banks can borrow from the central bank, to 5.75 percent from 6.25 percent. The move is meant to help stabilize credit markets, but is unlikely to directly affect the interest rates paid by consumers and businesses. The Fed's policymaking committee said that it "judges that the downside risks to growth have increased appreciably" and that it was "prepared to act as needed to mitigate the adverse effects on the economy arising from disruptions in financial markets." [More>>washingtonpost.com ; See also timesonline.co.uk, August 18, "Stock markets bounce back after US rate cut counters global jitters."]

08.18.07 Looting disrupts quake rescue bid

PISCO, Peru (AP) August 18 - President Alan Garcia called for the orderly distribution of emergency supplies as desperate victims of a magnitude-8 earthquake on Peru's southern coast looted markets and blocked arriving aid trucks. The delivery of goods "must be gradual," Garcia told reporters Friday, adding he ordered 200 navy officials to the area to maintain order. Television images showed hungry survivors leaving pharmacies and markets with bags full of food and other items. Some people ransacked a public market, while mobs looted a refrigerated trailer and blocked aid trucks.

The quake Wednesday afternoon all but leveled this city of 90,000 on Peru's desert southern coast and killed at least 510 people. Many of the structures not reduced to rubble were rickety deathtraps waiting to fall. Garcia predicted "a situation approaching normality" in 10 days, but acknowledged that reconstruction would take far longer. He said authorities were considering nighttime curfews to maintain order on the streets, which still lack electricity. Workers continued pulling bodies from the rubble, and hopes of finding more survivors diminished. At least 1,500 people suffered injuries and Garcia said 80,000 people had lost loved ones, homes or both. [More>>cnn.com]

08.18.07 Authorities cull 5,400 chickens to prevent Bali bird flu outbreak

JAKARTA (AP) August 18 - Indonesian authorities in Bali have culled more than 5,400 chickens in an effort to prevent the spread of the H5N1 virus that claimed one life on the resort island last week, a local official said Saturday.

A 29-year-old woman died last Sunday after coming in contact with infected chickens. Authorities started culling chickens Monday in the woman's village of Banyar Dangin Tukar Aya in Jembrana district, said I Gusti Sanjaya, head of the local agricultural, forestry and fishery office.

Sanjaya said nearly 5,300 chickens were slaughtered as of Friday and another 100 were killed Saturday. All of the bird's were within a one-kilometer-radius of the village. Authorities also stopped the transportation of poultry into or out of Jembrana district, Sanjaya said. Officials are still trying to determine if the woman's 5-year-old daughter, who died Aug. 3 and was later cremated, may have also had the virus. According to the World Health Organization, at least 192 people - 83 of them in Indonesia - have died worldwide from bird flu since it first infected Asian ducks and chickens in 2003. [>thejakartapost.com]

08.18.07 Iran Guards warn US of heavier blows ahead - daily

TEHRAN (Reuters) August 18 - The commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards was quoted on Saturday as threatening to deal heavier blows in the future against the United States after Washington said it may label the force a terrorist group. The Iranian daily Kayhan said commander-in-chief Yahya Rahim Safavi made clear the Guards would not bow to US pressure and would use all their leverage against the Americans. Kayhan did not provide direct quotes from the speech in the central city of Isfahan on Thursday. [More>>thestar.com.my ; See also iranfocus.com, August 17, 2007, "Iran cleric warns US not to pick on Guards."],

08.18.07 Ahmadinejad: Israel is 'flag of Satan,' may face disintegration

(Reuters) August 18 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a new verbal assault on Israel, denounced it on Saturday as the "flag of Satan" and said it may be facing disintegration, official media reported. Ahmadinejad, who triggered outrage in the West two years ago when he said Israel should be "wiped off the map," has often referred to its destruction but says Iran is not a threat. Two months ago, he said the Lebanese and the Palestinians had pressed a "countdown button" to bring an end to the state of Israel.

On Saturday, the official IRNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying of Israel in a speech: "When the philosophy of the establishment and the continuation of this regime is not just, it is not unlikely that it is on the path of decline and disintegration." Accusing Israel of "occupation and aggression," he added: "This regime is the flag of Satan."

08.18.07 Interpol issues Saddam daughter 'Red Notice'

BAGHDAD (AFP) August 18 - The international police organization Interpol on Saturday issued a wanted notice for Saddam Hussein's eldest daughter, who is sought by the Iraqi government on suspicion of terrorism. Interpol's “Red Notice” is not an international arrest warrant but is a request for foreign police forces to cooperate in tracking down 38-year-old Raghad Hussein and in extraditing her to face justice in Iraq.

"A judicial order was issued against Raghad a year ago by the Central Criminal Court accusing her of funding terrorism," Iraqi interior ministry operations director Major General Abdel Karim Khalaf told AFP. "Her arrest would depend on Jordanian authorities as she is staying in Amman and the order of Interpol binds on all countries who are associated with it."

Hussein has lived in Jordan since July 2003 and since last year has been on a list of 41 people associated with her father's regime that the new Iraqi government is seeking to prosecute for allegedly inciting violence. Her whereabouts at the time the notice was issued was not immediately clear. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

08.18.07 Iraqi Sunnis slam new Shiite, Kurdish alliance

BAGHDAD (AFP) August 17 - Leaders of Iraq's disenchanted Sunni Arab community on Friday slammed the new Shiite and Kurdish alliance formed to salvage Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's national unity government. Maliki and President Jalal Talabani, however, made fresh attempts on Friday to win support from members of the former elite. The National Concord Front, the main Sunni Arab political bloc in the country's 275-member parliament, said the new tie-up between the two Shiite and two Kurdish parties was a "futile" exercise.

On Thursday, Talabani and Maliki announced the forming of the alliance which brought together Shiite Dawa party and Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the Kurdish factions of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdish Democratic Party (PDK). The National Concord Front led by Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi's Iraqi Islamic Party had boycotted talks which led to the new bloc's creation. [More>>turkishpress.com ; See related story, independent.co.uk, August 18, "Medical crisis in Iraq as doctors and nurses flee."]

08.18.07 Five soldiers injured in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) August 17 - A suicide bomber rammed his explosive-laden car into a Pakistani security force convoy Friday in the troubled northwest, killing himself and injuring five soldiers, police said. The attack happened in the Tank district bordering South Waziristan, where tens of thousands of Pakistani troops are deployed to hunt down Taliban and Al Qaeda militants sheltering in the rugged region. "The bomber slammed his car into the convoy, leaving five soldiers injured," senior Tank police officer Amir Abdullah said. Three vehicles were carrying the soldiers from Tank to Jandola town when the bomber chased them in a car before it exploded, he said.

Earlier, Pakistani forces killed four suspected militants in a firefight after a rocket attack on their positions overnight in South Waziristan, local security officials said. Clashes between security forces and militants have been reported daily from the lawless region since the breakdown in July of a peace deal the authorities signed with pro-Taliban groups in September last year. Pakistan's army said Friday that 15 militants were killed and a dozen others injured in clashes Thursday, which erupted after militants tried to ambush a security forces convoy on the Jandola road.

"We had initially received reports about [the] killing of 10 militants, but a later report put the number of fatalities among militants at 15," chief military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad said. He said that three soldiers were killed in the attack, while four more succumbed to their injuries later, raising the number of deaths to seven. Separately, two suspected militants were killed when they failed to stop their vehicle at a check post near Mirali town in North Waziristan, security officials said.

When asked about the nationalities of the two militants killed, the spokesman said they had been identified as Uzbek and Arab. The two other militants in the group were arrested. The Waziristan region in Pakistan's tribal belt has been the scene, recently, of escalated military operations against suspected cells of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, believed to be planning attacks from there within Pakistan, over the border in Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the world.
[>metimes.com ; For related stories and a google.earth map centered around the town of Miranshah, see Maravot News8.08.07]


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