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9.13.08 Can Sarkozy and Putin bring world peace?

September 13 - Two stories have appeared on the internet that suggest an unusual relationship taking place between Putin and Sarkozy.

The first is the cover of the Polish journal Wprost, seen on xinhanet.com with the following caption: "Poland right-wing weekly Wprost publishes a picture Tuesday in which Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is spanking French President Nicolas Sarkozy. This retouched PS photo has aroused a lot of controversy. (Photo Source: Dayoo.com)." A google translation of the cover is: "for peace is whether Europe is a colony of Russia."

Another article published today announced that Sarkozy has asked Putin to give him Judo lessons"

khaleejtimes.com (Reuters) September 13, "Sarkozy limbers up for judo lessons from Putin." PARIS - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a champion judoka, could soon be flooring France's Nicolas Sarkozy with some of his famous throws after agreeing to pass on some of his black belt skills to the French president. "He (Sarkozy) is interested in martial arts and we have decided to do some training together," Putin was quoted as saying in an interview with French newspaper Le Figaro published on Saturday.

A press officer at Sarkozy's office had no immediate comment. The 55-year-old Putin's prowess in the martial art of judo is well documented and videos of him wearing his black belt and throwing opponents to the ground are easy to find on the Internet. Sarkozy, 53, was not previously known to have an interest in martial arts. He has often been photographed jogging. (end)

9.13.08 Many versions of 'Bush Doctrine'

September 13 - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin seemed puzzled Thursday when ABC News anchor Charles Gibson asked her whether she agrees with the "Bush doctrine."

"In what respect, Charlie?" she replied.

Intentionally or not, the Republican vice presidential nominee was on to something. After a brief exchange, Gibson explained that he was referring to the idea — enshrined in a September 2002 White House strategy document — that the United States may act militarily to counter a perceived threat emerging in another country. But that is just one version of a purported Bush doctrine advanced over the past eight years.

Peter D. Feaver, who worked on the Bush national security strategy as a staff member on the National Security Council, said he has counted as many as seven distinct Bush doctrines. They include the president's second-term "freedom agenda"; the notion that states that harbor terrorists should be treated no differently than terrorists themselves; the willingness to use a "coalition of the willing" if the United Nations does not address threats; and the one Gibson was talking about — the doctrine of preemptive war."If you were given a quiz, you might guess that one, because it's one that many people associate with the Bush doctrine," said Feaver, now a Duke University professor. "But in fact it's not the only one." [More>>washingtonpost.com]

Editorial note: "Gibson's loaded questions." I was struck by the tone and apparent intentions of Gibson's interview. It was advertised as an interview that would tell us more about Palin and her views. Instead Gibson took a position that was contentious — if not down right hostile — and posing questions as if Gibson viewed himself as a history professor. We all know that after 9/11 Bush gave a warning to all nations that might harbor terrorists, that the US will initiate a first-strike — and this threat also implied the use of nuclear weapons. At the time the threat was quite controversial, since it caused Russia to reexamine its defense posture. Also, Bush pulled out of the ABM Treaty in 2004, causing further concern on the part of Russia. The doctrine was expressed in several Bush documents:

cnn.com, October 11, 2001, Bush gives update on war against Terrorism: "...As I mentioned, this is a long war against terrorist activity, and the doctrine I spelled out to the American people in front of Congress said not only will we seek out and bring to justice individual terrorists who cause harm to people -- to murder people, we will also bring to justice the host governments that sponsor them, that house them and feed them.." [Note: this complicated press conference also addressed Bush's anticipated withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and the problems it could present with Russia]

National Security Strategy, September 17, 2002: "...To defeat this threat we must make use of every tool in our arsenal—military power, better homeland defenses, law enforcement, intelligence, and vigorous efforts to cut off terrorist financing. The war against terrorists of global reach is a global enterprise of uncertain duration. America will help nations that need our assistance in combating terror. And America will hold to account nations that are compromised by terror, including those who harbor terrorists— because the allies of terror are the enemies of civilization. The United States and countries cooperating with us must not allow the terrorists to develop new home bases. Together, we will seek to deny them sanctuary at every turn.

"The gravest danger our Nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. Our enemies have openly declared that they are seeking weapons of mass destruction, and evidence indicates that they are doing so with determination. The United States will not allow these efforts to succeed.We will build defenses against ballistic missiles and other means of delivery. We will cooperate with other nations to deny, contain, and curtail our enemies’ efforts to acquire dangerous technologies. And, as a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. So we must be prepared to defeat our enemies’ plans, using the best intelligence and proceeding with deliberation. History will judge harshly those who saw this coming danger but failed to act. In the new world we have entered, the only path to peace and security is the path of action..."

January 20, 2002 State of the Union Address: ..."Our second goal is to prevent regimes that sponsor terror from threatening America or our friends and allies with weapons of mass destruction.  Some of these regimes have been pretty quiet since September the 11th.  But we know their true nature.  North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens.

"Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom.

"Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror.  The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.  This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children.  This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world. States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil.

"...We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction.  We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack.  (Applause.) And all nations should know:  America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation's security..."

President Bush delivers Graduation Speech at West Point, June 1, 2002 "...Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they're prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives. (Applause.)..All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price. We will not leave the safety of America and the peace of the planet at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants. (Applause.) We will lift this dark threat from our country and from the world..."

[See also abc.net.au June 19, 2002, US defense analyst questions Australia's first strike support "...ELEANOR HALL...But strategic analyst with the Carnegie Institute and author of the book Tracking Weapons of Mass Destruction", Dr Joseph Cirincione, says Australia's backing for a US proposal that would radically alter the international security landscape is premature because, as yet, the First Strike doctrine has not even been properly formulated by the President's National Security experts. Dr Cirincione spoke to me from Washington a short time ago.

"JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: It's a little hard to know what this doctrine is going to be but if the President intends to make the tactic of pre-emptive strike some sort of doctrine it would be a radical break with most international practices, most international law on the subject and the very basis of most United States alliances.

"ELEANOR HALL: So a pre-emptive first strike doctrine would run counter to the UN and NATO and so on?

"JOSEPH CIRINCIONE: Yes, elevating it to a doctrine. The United States has always reserved the right to strike out first under an emergency situation if it felt under imminent threat of attack but it's never been enshrined as a principle as some sort of operating tenant of how reasonable nations should behave..."

The so-called first-strike strategy or doctrine also addressed the need to spread democracy in the world, particularly the Middle East. After invading Iraq in March 2003 and the revelation that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, Bush adapted the doctrine of speading democracy as his reason for invading Iraq and removing Saddam Hussein.

The final thrust, or threat against Russia from the "Bush Doctrine" so described, has surfaced in the Bush administration's pursuit of anti-missile installations, first discussed with respect to an existing installation of Russia's in Georgia, and later developed as US unilateral facilities in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Also connected with the issue is the interest of Ukraine and Georgia in joining NATO. These policies all represent a "Bush Doctrine" directed against Russia and containing elements of an effort to combat "the threat of nuclear missile strikes from Iran." Russia has had an agreement yet to be consummated to supply Iran with a new defensive missile system (apparently either scrapped because of Israeli-US objections or tabled on the back burner). Russia has also been seen by the Bush administration as an important intercessor in resolving the conflict with Iran. regarding the development of nuclear energy.

Russia has been important in the conversation, since Russia, the EU and the US proposed a solution to Iran's nuclear energy development in the context that Russia would supply the nuclear fuel and take back the spent nuclear fuel for Iran's nuclear plants. Iran continues to reject this arrangement, though Russia is the contractor building Iran's nuclear plant. A major problem with nuclear power plants is the disposal of spent fuel, and one might think that Iran would prefer Russia assumes the risk of disposing of the spent fuel.

After the threat to the nations of an American first-strike policy, the Bush administration took the argument to Libya and got Libya to drop its programs. The news media now carry a story of the distribution of nuclear bomb designs on the internet. See nytimes, January 23, 2004, "Why Libya gave up on the bomb" and the current story 9.06.08 Gaddafi meets Rice on historic Tripoli visit and:

washingtonpost.com, September 13, 2008 "Nuclear ring was more advanced than thought, UN says" : The nuclear smuggling ring headed by Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan possessed a broader range of secret nuclear designs than was previously known and shared them electronically among members of the network, a U.N. watchdog group said yesterday.

A report by the International Atomic Energy Agency also acknowledged large gaps in investigators' understanding of the smuggling ring, raising concerns that Khan's nuclear black market may have had additional customers whose identities remain unknown.

"Much of the sensitive information coming from the network existed in electronic form, enabling easier use and dissemination," the Vienna-based agency stated in an internal report, copies of which were obtained by several news outlets and nonprofit groups. Among the key documents, the report said, were instructions for making enriched uranium, and "more disturbingly, information related to nuclear weapons design." US and UN officials have previously confirmed that blueprints for at least two types of nuclear weapons were found on computers owned by Swiss businessmen associated with Khan.

Yesterday's report summarized the IAEA's five-year investigation into Libya's former weapons program, which the country's leader officially renounced in 2003. Libya acknowledged being a longtime customer of Khan's, and it voluntarily turned over evidence, including hundreds of documents, that described the country's business dealings with the Pakistani scientist...

See also a background on the nuclear drawings:

cbsnews.com (AP) January 23, 2004, "Libya gives up nuclear weapons pix" : Libya has handed U.N. inspectors drawings of a nuclear weapon, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday, in the most concrete sign that the North African nation was serious about building such arms. "We have been shown nuclear weapons drawings that the Libyans have in their possession,"Mark Gwozdecky, chief spokesman for the UN nuclear watchdog agency, said in Vienna. "We have put those drawings under our seal, and they are secure." Asked about the significance of the drawings and the IAEA's announcement that it had them, a diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "It's the first time anyone has acknowledged" that Libya entertained intentions of building such a weapon.

Agency inspectors are in Libya, along with a separate team of US and British experts, to take inventory of its nuclear arms program, part of plans to scrap the weapons of mass destruction that the country admitted last month to possessing. The diplomat, who is familiar with the agency's work in Libya, said the drawings did not depict a complete weapons system such as a missile, but showed a device more like a warhead. He described it as "a device that goes 'boom' which can be put on a missile or can be put into a bomb form." ...

In essence Gibson's questions to Palin could have been more professionaly presented. He could have begun his question with his definition of what he thought he was talking about; for instance: "Bush introduced a doctrine of first-strike against any country that threatens the US. What is your position?" He got a specific answer when he finally brought up the issue of terrorist attacks from Pakistan on the US and its allies in Afghanistan.

Another aspect of the "Bush Doctrine" is being tested in respect to the "Monroe Doctrine." Venezuela and recently Bolivia have joined in a compact against the US. Russia recently landed its long-range bombers in Venezuela, with the concurrence of Venezuelan President Chavez. China has spent some effort also in developing relationships in South America. Discussions by Russian analysts also addressed the possibility of establishing Russian bases in Cuba and Venezuela. In response to Bush's initial threat against the nations Russia has taken extraordinary steps to secure its place in the world, even to the extent that the "Monroe Doctrine" is being challenged. Some have called this new conflict another "Cold War." Complicating the matter is Hezbollah's activity in Venezuela (See counterterrorismblog.org, June 18, 2008, "Treasury moves on Hezbollah in Venezuela." and:

haaretz.com, September 3, 2008, "Officials: Israel foiled 2 Hezbollah kidnap attempts" : Israeli officials say security services have foiled two attempts by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah to kidnap Israeli businessmen.

The details about the two attempts are sketchy, and Israel's military censor banned publication of some of them. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because no official statement had been made. Channel 2 TV said Hezbollah has cells in West Africa and South America. The officials said the kidnap plots were both stopped at advanced stages of development. On August 20, security officials here put out an unusual travel advisory, warning that Hezbollah was planning to kidnap Israelis abroad. New intelligence on Hezbollah's intentions to abduct Israelis abroad had prompted the government's counterterrorism unit to issue a warning to travelers, who were advised to take special precautions, to be on the alert and to be way about unknown persons entering their lives and suggestions to participate in activities in new places...

The issue that brought to a head the new "Cold War" was, of course, Georgia. The EU interest in Georgia is foremost with respect to the oil pipeline that flows through it to Turkey's Cayhan port on the Mediterranean. The pipeline was developed by the EU to obtain oil supplies from the Caspian Sea (Azerbaijan) that did not pass through Russia. Russia controls the other pipelines that directly serve the EU (through the Ukraine and Baltic). In controversies involving transit fees through Ukraine Russia cut off the supply, even in the winter, prompting the EU to seek a more secure supply of oil. Because of Russia's invasion of Georgia another pipeline intended to bypass Russia has been put on the backburner.

Palin knows something about oil and its relationship to a nation's security and economic health. Gibson was not apparently sure of the depth of his questions when he addressed security and economics and got an answer from Palin on the importance of our oil supply. She attempted to explain the connection between a nation's security and oil, and even noted how the price of oil, food, heating and our political and economic security are related. Had Gibson's questions been more thoughtful, I suspect Palin could have addressed these problems in more detail.

Gibson's interview of Palin was one of the most unprofessional and unschooled interviews — featuring loaded questions — I have ever seen.

Mel Copeland

9.13.08 Palestinian victory is God's promise: Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN (AP) September 13 - Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says Palestinian resistance has shaken Israel and that Palestinian victory is God's promise. According to state TV, Ahmadinejad told Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, in a phone conversation Friday that Iran will stand beside the Palestinian people until "final victory" against Israel.

The TV quoted Haniyeh as saying the Palestinian resistance will continue despite Israeli attacks and the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip. Haniyeh is also quoted as saying that his government in Gaza won't recognize Israel despite Israeli attacks and political pressure. Iran doesn't recognize Israel and supports Hamas and other Palestinian groups fighting Israel. [>khaleejtimes.com ; See also mehrnews.ir, September 13, "Iran says will stand by Palestine until final victory."]

9.13.08 Delhi shopping areas hit by bombs

September 13 - Five bombs have ripped through busy shopping areas of India's capital, Delhi, within minutes of each other, killing at least 18 people, police say. The explosions, which also injured about 80 people, are not thought to have been very powerful but happened in crowded areas. Two unexploded bombs were also found and defused, police said. More than 400 people have died since October 2005 in bomb attacks on Indian cities such as Ahmedabad and Bangalore. India has blamed Islamist militant groups for these previous bombings. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

9.13.08 Bolivia province under martial law

September 13 - The Bolivian government says it has declared martial law in an eastern province where at least eight people have been killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government activists. On Friday, troops took control of the airport in the capital of Pando province and fired shots to disperse protesters, according to an Associated Press report. Earlier, Evo Morales, the president, said he had ruled out the use of force to clampdown on pro-autonomy protests that have raged across the country for several days.

The move came as Morales began talks with a commission of opposition leaders from the four eastern provinces that have led the protests against his rule. The Bolivian government banned protests and meetings in Pando and said anyone carrying weapons would be arrested. [More>>aljazeera.net]

9.13.08 Warning: 30 airlines will go bust this year

September 13 - Up to 30 more airlines will go bankrupt before Christmas, the chief executive of British Airways warned yesterday, as the biggest rescue of stranded passengers in travel industry history began. Willie Walsh said the scenes of chaos in which 85,000 passengers have been stranded at locations around the world after the collapse of XL, Britain's third largest holiday company, would become a familiar sight as the travel industry struggled with soaring fuel costs and the effects of a global economic downturn.

"We are in the worst trading environment the industry has ever seen," said Mr. Walsh. "We have already seen 30 or so airlines go bust this year and it would be fair to expect a similar number of casualties worldwide over the next three to four months." Mr. Walsh also announced up to 1,400 redundancies at his own airline yesterday. Travel industry experts said smaller airlines and tour operators were most at risk and warned passengers to book in a way that ensured they got their money back if an airline went bankrupt. [More>>independent.co.uk; See related story, bbc.co.uk, September 13, "Alitalia 'running out of fuel.' "]

9.13.08 20 years' jail for errors in Koran translation

KABUL, Afghanistan, September 13 - An Afghan court has sentenced an ex-journalist and a mullah to 20 years in prison each for publishing a translation of the Koran alleged to contain errors, friends and media rights groups said today. Afghan and international media rights organizations condemned the sentences handed down yesterday and called on President Hamid Karzai to intervene.

Former journalist Ahmed Ghous Zalmai was arrested in November trying to escape into Pakistan as religious clerics and parliament were in an uproar about a Dari-language version of the Muslim holy book he had published. Mullah Qari Mushtaq, who was sentenced with him, had approved the version which other clerics and parliamentarians claimed contained errors and misunderstandings about issues such as homosexuality and adultery. Critics also complained the book did not include the original Arabic text as required by Islamic law. [More>>news.com.au; See also article, rsf.org]

9.13.08 'Enemy' bomb murders Afghan governor

KABUL, September 13 - The governor of Afghanistan's Logar province was killed in a suicide attack near Kabul on Saturday, government officials said, blaming the attack on the "enemies of Afghanistan." Logar police chief, Ghulam Mustafa, said the governor was struck by a suicide car bomb near his home in the Paghman area near the city. "He was targeted by a suicide bomber in which he, a driver and a police (guard) were martyred," Mustafa said. The governor had apparently been on his way to parliament, he said. The interior ministry, however, said it was a roadside bomb. "This morning his car hit a bomb on the side of the road. The governor has been martyred," spokesman Zemarai Bashary said. [More>>alarabiya.net]

9.13.08 70 more militants killed in Bajaur operation

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, September 13 - The Frontier Corps troops killed 85 more militants and injured 25 in fresh air-strikes and ground operations in various parts of Bajaur Agency on Saturday, said a release of FC Media Cell. It said air and land combined efforts inflicted heavy losses upon the miscreants in a number of intense encounters at different locations in Bajaur Agency. In an encounter with miscreants at Inayat Qila, the Frontier Corps troops backed by air, exterminated 60 heavily armed militants and destroyed their 16 vehicles.

During a heavy exchange of fire with militants in the area around Loesam, the Combat Aviation killed another 25 miscreants and destroyed five vehicles. In a combined effort, other major miscreants’ strongholds in the area were successfully targeted through land and air attacks. These actions resulted in uprooting the militants from their heavily defended localities, giving them sizeable losses.

The militants were killed in the operation at Loisam, Sangkhata, Shankai areas of Bajaur Agency. The number of militants killed in [the] last 24 hours has risen to over 150; two security personnel were killed in gun battle in Loisam. The ongoing clashes have continued for six weeks and have killed about 700 militants.

The security forces also continued operation against militants in tribal region of Darra Adamkhel. However no loss of life was reported. Meanwhile, experts under the surveillance of security forces surveyed the destroyed bridges to open the Indus Highway, which is closed for a couple of weeks. People are facing severe problems because of closure of Kohat tunnel and Indus highway.

9.13.08 Gunment kill Iraqi TV staff in Mosul

BAGHDAD (Reuters) September 13 - Gunmen kidnapped and shot dead three Iraqi journalists from Iraq's Sharqiya TV station along with their driver in the volatile northern city of Mosul on Saturday, the station and police said. It was one of the single deadliest militant attacks on journalists in Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003. The shootings mark a violent two days in which dozens have been killed in gun and bomb attacks mainly in northern Iraq — underscoring the security challenges the government faces even as violence has fallen to lows not seen since early 2004. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.13.08 The most fragile of deals: Mugabe finally cedes power

September 13 - For 28 years, Robert Mugabe has reigned like an absolute monarch. The power-sharing deal to be signed on Monday in theory closes that chapter in Zimbabwe's troubled history. It whittles down his powers in key respects. But some analysts are unsure whether the complex arrangement brokered by South African President Thabo Mbeki will hold together long enough to produce effective government.

The octogenarian President will now have to contend with a cabinet dominated by the combined factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). Authoritative sources say the deal to be announced on Monday creates 31 cabinet posts, of which Mr. Mugabe will pick up 15, Morgan Tsvangirai 13, and the remaining three will go to a smaller breakaway faction of the MDC led by Arthur Mutambara. However, contrary to suggestions that Mr. Mugabe's role will be reduced to a ceremonial one, he will very much remain in the driving seat as President and head of cabinet. [More>>independent.co.uk]

9.13.08 Chinese baby milk scare 'severe'

September 13 - The number of Chinese babies known to have fallen ill with kidney stones as a result of contaminated milk powder has risen to 432, officials have announced. "This is a severe food safety accident," health ministry official Gao Qiang, said. Those responsible would be "severely" punished, he added. Later, it was announced that 19 people had been arrested. Tests showed the milk powder contained the industrial chemical melamine. One infant has died. The new scare revived memories of a fake baby milk formula scandal four years ago in which at least 13 babies died. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See also xinhuanet.com, September 13, "China starts emergency response over tainted milk powder incident."]

9.12.08 'Many killed' in Iraq car bombing

September 12 - At least 28 people have been killed in a suicide car bombing in a town north of Baghdad, police say. The blast targeted a police station in the commercial district of the mainly Shia town of Dujail. At least 40 others were injured in the explosion, which happened around 1800 (1500 GMT), police said. The attack comes a day after the outgoing US troop commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, said recent security gains were "not irreversible."

Violence in Iraq has declined steadily in recent months and is currently at a four-year low. But attacks attributed to al-Qaeda-linked Sunni militants have continued in some provinces north of Baghdad. Three weeks ago, 25 people were killed in Jalawla when a suicide bomber targeted a police recruiting centre. [More>>bbc.co.uk]

9.12.08 In her first big interview, Palin says, 'I'm ready'

September 12 - For the last two weeks, Democrats and even some Republicans have asked: Does Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska have enough experience to hold the second-highest office in the nation, or the presidency if the need arises? "I’m ready," Ms. Palin answered without any hesitation in an interview with ABC News on Thursday, saying she had felt no doubt about accepting Senator John McCain's offer to run as his vice-presidential nominee.

"I answered him yes, because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink," Ms. Palin told her interviewer, Charles Gibson. "You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we’re on, reform of this country and victory in the war."

It was perhaps the most confident answer she supplied in a sometimes tense and generally probing interview with Mr. Gibson. It was her first session with a major news organization since she joined Mr. McCain's Republican ticket two weeks ago and was immediately transformed from an obscure, first-term governor to a national political star.

At times visibly nervous, at others appearing to hew so closely to prepared answers that she used the exact same phrases repeatedly, Ms. Palin most visibly stumbled when she was asked by Mr. Gibson if she agreed with the Bush doctrine. Ms. Palin did not seem to know what he was talking about. Mr. Gibson, sounding like an impatient teacher, informed her that it meant the right of “anticipatory self-defense.”

At a separate event on Thursday, a deployment ceremony for her son Track and thousands of other soldiers heading to Iraq from Fort Wainwright, Alaska, Ms. Palin told them they would be fighting "the enemies who planned and carried out and rejoiced in the death of thousands of Americans." The comments sounded reminiscent of the disputed connections the Bush administration once made, but no longer does, between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks. But a senior McCain campaign aide said Ms. Palin did not believe Saddam Hussein played a role in the attacks. [More>>nytimes.com]

9.12.08 Suspected US missile kills about 12 people in Pakistan

MIRANSHAH, Pakistan (AFP) September 12 - A missile fired by a suspected US drone Friday killed about a dozen people in a Pakistani tribal area where international forces in Afghanistan have been targeting al-Qaeda militants. The missile hit a house on the outskirts of Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, a local official said, in the fifth such strike in two weeks targeting Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters hiding out in the rugged tribal area.

"The pre-dawn strike destroyed the house and 12 people were killed<" the official told AFP, with another 10 people wounded. The 12 were believed to be rebel fighters, locals said, adding that the house hit in the Tol Khel area had been rented by an Afghan militant organization, Al Badar, and was being used as an office. Al Badar, backed by former guerrilla leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, has previously conducted operations against Afghan and international forces based across the border in Afghanistan, residents and a security official said.

Missile strikes targeting militants in Pakistan in recent weeks have been blamed on US-led coalition forces or CIA drones based in Afghanistan. Pakistan does not have missile-equipped drones. Pakistan and the United States have been drawn into a dispute over the strikes, with Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani this week strongly criticizing them and insisting no deal existed to allow foreign troops to conduct them. As well as the missile strikes, Pakistan for the first time accused Afghanistan-based troops of carrying out a direct attack on its territory, a raid in the South Waziristan tribal zone that left 15 people dead. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.12.08 Fresh clashes leave 25 Taliban militants dead in Bajaur

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, September 12 - Security forces killed 25 more militants in fresh clashes that broke out in Bajaur Agency on Friday, said official sources. The militants were killed in the operation at Loisam, Sangkhata, Shankai areas of Bajaur Agency, the sources said. The ongoing clashes have continued for six weeks and have killed about 700 militants.

The security forces also continued operation against militants in tribal region of Darra Adamkhel. However no loss of life was reported. Meanwhile, experts under the surveillance of security forces surveyed the destroyed bridges to open the Indus Highway, which is closed for a couple of weeks. People are facing severe problems because of closure of Kohat tunnel and Indus highway.

9.12.08 Pakistan black nuke network had sophisticated info

VIENNA (AP) September 12 - The UN nuclear monitoring agency says the black market nuclear network operating from Pakistan had substantial and up-to-date information on how to make an atomic bomb. The International Atomic Energy Agency says much of the sensitive information was passed on to customers in electronic form. [More>>thejakartapost.com]

9.12.08 US firm ambushed again in Afghan south, 23 dead

KABUL (Reuters) September 12 - At least 23 people were killed when Taliban insurgents ambushed a US security firm convoy in southwestern Afghanistan on Friday, provincial officials said, the second attack on the firm in as many days. Farah provincial police chief Khalilullah Rahmani said 15 of the dead were Taliban militants killed in the fighting that broke out following the ambush. Rahmani said US Protection and Investigations, a firm involved in escorting supplies for coalition forces, also suffered casualties but he had no details.

..Separately, the US military said coalition forces had killed more than 10 militants and detained two during operations in eastern Afghanistan that also targeted the network of veteran Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani. US forces have focused on Haqqani's network this week, firing missiles from drones into a house and a religious school founded by him in Pakistan's tribal region just across the border, killing 23 people, mostly his relatives.
[Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.11.08 Nation marks 7th anniversary of terror attacks

NEW YORK (AP) September 11 - The nation paused Thursday to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with heartfelt remembrances at the World Trade Center site, the dedication of a memorial at the Pentagon and a planned visit to ground zero by the presidential candidates. Relatives of victims killed at the World Trade Center gathered in a park in lower Manhattan for readings from dignitaries and a recitation of the names of the dead. Later Thursday, Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain were due at ground zero to pay silent respects.

"Today marks the seventh anniversary of the day our world was broken," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at the start of the ceremony, calling Sept. 11, 2001, a "day that began like any other and ended as none ever has." The ritual in New York included moments of silence in the morning at 8:46, 9:03, and 9:59 and 10:29 — the times when two hijacked jets slammed into the trade center buildings and the twin towers fell. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

Editorial note: Americans, and all of the friends and relatives around the world of those who were lost or injured in the 9/11 attack, may be offended by the following opinions from the Middle East:

alarabiya.net, September 11, "No consensus on who was behind Sept. 11: poll" : DUBAI - Seven years after the attacks on the United States on September 11 that left nearly 3,000 dead many people do not believe that al-Qaeda was responsible or do not know who to blame, according to a survey released Wednesday. The global public opinion survey found that majorities in eight out of the 17 nations polled did not believe al-Qaeda was behind the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington. Nor was there any consensus on another possible perpetrator, although significant minorities in many countries blamed the US government itself, and in a few Israel. In the Arab and Muslim countries polled majorities attributed the attacks to the US government, Israel, or simply had no answer...[More>>; See related stories, of Middle Eastern views:

arabtimesonline.com (Editorial by Ali Ahmed Al-Baghli, former Minister of Oil) "Tell us Laden - what was gained?"
Thursday marks the seventh anniversary of the so-called 9/11 attack on the US, which was engineered by al-Qaeda terrorists under the leadership of Osama Bin Laden — a fugitive.  We should ask Bin Laden and his followers — including MPs, those claiming to be Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) experts with extremist ideologies, and recruiters of suicide bombers in Kuwait — to present a report on the profits and losses the Arab and Islamic world incurred from the 9/11 attacks. In international conferences and through the media, the Americans blamed all Muslims and Arabs for the loss of innocent lives during the attack.  However, Muslims and Arabs repeatedly denied al-Qaeda's involvement in this heinous crime, pointing out how Christians and Jews have continued to malign Muslims...

iran-daily.com, September 11, (Editorial by Amir Ali Abolfath) "Bush's 9/11" : Seven years ago today the world entered a new and highly unpredictable era. The collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the attack on the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 raised many troubling questions on how the world’s largest terrorist operation was engineered and visibly disrupted the international order.

There are a variety of hypotheses on 9/11. The US government officially claims al-Qaeda terrorists masterminded the attack to harm American interest on its own soil. However, opponents of the embattled Bush regime believe al-Qaeda operatives, coming from an impoverished and war-ravaged Afghanistan, could not target the huge US military and commercial centers in a few minutes. Analysts in no small numbers, including many sympathetic to the United States say masterminds from within the US ruling establishment were behind 9/11 to create the grounds for George Bush to unleash his formidable firepower and take revenge.

..Small wonder that 9/11, all the gloom and doom it carries, and the catalog of unanswered queries related to it, has become synonymous with the name of George W. Bush who spread the “terrorism tumor“ across frontiers under the nonsense of fighting terror. Bush is responsible for killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people...

daralhayat.com, September 9 (Editorial by Mostafa Zein) "Seven years of the War on Terror" : ...We should remember that the Iraq war began with a lie. The White House announced, after September 11 and the invasion of Afghanistan, that the Iraqi regime was involved in making weapons of mass destruction...al-Qaeda entered Iraq with the invasion, which was a golden opportunity for the group. It turned Iraq, with militias coming from Iran, into a center of religious and sectarian struggle, spreading this model throughout the region (what is happening in Lebanon is the best example).

..After seven years of the war on terror, Bush is preparing to leave the White House, leaving behind some big accomplishments: al-Qaeda has expanded its activities, from Pakistan to the Arab Gulf. It is even regaining its strength in Afghanistan. Iraq is still drowning in the chaos of warring sects and religions. Freedoms in the Middle East have declined. The US-Israeli war against Lebanon two years ago did away with a democracy that was the dream of Arabs. The chances for peace seem more distant than any time before. Repressive regimes are getting stronger on the backdrop of religious conflicts...

Like many other Americans, I remember exactly where I was when the terrorists attacked. I heard the report on the radio as it was happening as I was driving to my newspaper office. I asked my publisher if the unbelievable story was true and he replied that it was true. The story was on the evening news on the major TV networks and continued to dominate the news for weeks thereafter. Some of the early news reports following the terrorist attack showed Moslems around the world celebrating the attack. On this grave day of remembrance we are again reminded that there are people who have a different view of the cause and the World Trade Center event that resulted in the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians from around the world.

Since the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq we have been continuously reminded of Islamist suicide bombings and other attacks against innocent civilians, most of which have been against other Moslems. Since 2004 Maravot News has recorded most of the daily news reports of such attacks and we have asked how it is that Islam's Allah advocates murdering innocents. We have also quoted the Koran at length. Many verses of the Koran claim that the Koran was written to confirm the Bible. The Koran derives its authority from the Bible (Old Testament and New testament — Gospels). The Koran also recognizes Jesus as the Messiah (See IMRANS 3.45). See, for example, Philistia Triumph thou because of me," Chapter 9, page 31, Maravot News, "Why the Crusade & Jihad?"
etc.). The "Messiah" is a term that was coined in the Bible, meaning "anointed one" and referring to a promised savior of the world after the manner of King David and of the seed of King David. The Gospels, translated into Greek, called the "Messiah" by the term "Christ." In simple terms the Koran recognizes Jesus as the Christ, as well as his Gospel. The Koran's advocacy of murdering "the unfaithful" seems to conflict with the very teachings of Christ that it says it confirms.

There seems to be a major disconnect between the teachings of the Bible and the Koran. The Bible condemns murder and it advocates peace and teaches the forgiveness of those who trespass you and turning the other cheek. There is no doubt that those who claim to follow the teachings of the Koran have a substantial misunderstanding of the teachings the Koran claims to confirm. It causes one to wonder how God could be divided against himself. Many Moslems tend to think that Allah is a god separate from the God of the Bible. See Maravot News 7.08.08 story
7.04.08 Sikh group joins protest against ban on use of word "Allah" in Malaysia.

I am particularly amazed that the imams (teachers/preachers of Islam) have no understanding of the Koran's verses that claim to confirm the Bible (called in the Koran "The Jewish Scriptures" and the "Gospel of Jesus.") Since 1989, about forty thousand readers every month from over 90 nations around the world have been exposed to this discussion from maravot. I lament that I have yet to make a connection on this revelation with pastors and imams of the faiths that derive their authority and guidance from the Bible.

Mel Copeland

9.11.08 Nasrallah: No peace in Middle East as long as Israel exists

September 11 - Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah said in a recent interview that as long as Israel exists, there will be no peace in the Middle East. "The region will not see the light of peace or any stability because of Israel's aggressiveness and militant nature," Nasrallah said. Despite hiding out in a bunker since 2006's Second Lebanon War, Nasrallah recently spoke to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting radio station, Army Radio reported. [More>>haaretz.com]

9.11.08 NATO says won't take part in Pakistan raids

BRUSSELS, September 11 - NATO will not take part in a proposed U.S. strategy of conducting raids into Pakistan from Afghanistan against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, a spokesman said on Thursday. "The NATO policy, that is our mandate, ends at the border," James Appathurai told a regular news briefing. "There are no ground or air incursions by NATO forces into Pakistani territory." Appathurai said he was sure the issue would be discussed when 26 NATO defence ministers debate Afghan strategy at a Sept. 18-19 meeting in London. But he added: "Let me stress, it is not NATO that will be sending its forces across the border." [More>>thenews.com.pk; See related story, cbsnews.com, September 11, "Busk ok'd secret US strikes in Pakistan."]

9.11.08 5 nabbed for generating terrorist hype online

JEDDAH, September 11 - Saudi authorities arrested five men on charges of promoting militant activities on Islamic Internet forums, the Interior Ministry announced yesterday. "Each of the men used more than one user name to persuade unsuspecting victims in a decisive dialogue," said ministry spokesman Gen. Mansour Al-Turki. "One engages in a dialogue thinking it's with a group of people sharing their opinions when it's actually one person supporting one thought."

The five suspects, three Saudis and two foreigners, were encouraging others on these forums to take up arms in Afghanistan and Iraq. The five men were arrested independently and are not considered to have been working together, said Al-Turki. The ministry would not confirm media reports that the two foreigners arrested were an Egyptian and a Syrian. Nor would the ministry divulge details into how these men were caught, citing security concerns. [More>>arabnews.com]

9.11.08 At least 20 killed in attack on Pakistan mosque

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) September 11 - At least 20 worshippers were killed and 30 wounded when suspected militants hurled grenades and fired into a mosque in northern Pakistan during Wednesday evening prayers, an official said. "Militants surrounded the mosque, threw grenades and then started indiscriminate firing, killing 20 people and wounding 30 others," a senior security official told AFP.

He said the attackers fled into the mountains after the attack in the remote region of Dir district in North West Frontier Province, near the Afghan border. Local district official Mahmood Khan said three grenades were lobbed into the mosque which hit the last two rows of the congregation. Children were among the victims, he said. The district borders on Bajaur and Swat districts where Pakistani troops are heavily engaged in a crackdown on al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militants.

9.11.08 US: Letters detail infighting over al-Qaeda's Iraq mission

BAGHDAD, September 11 - Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant has conveyed leaders' dissatisfaction with al-Qaeda's operations in Iraq, according to the US military, which says it has uncovered letters authored by the terror outfit's No. 2 man. Ayman al-Zawahiri allegedly wrote the March letters -- which the military released Wednesday and which were translated by CNN — to Iraqi militant groups with ties to al-Qaeda. "It is in their own words. It is reflective of what they are saying about themselves,"said Brig. Gen. David Perkins, a spokesman for the Multi-National Forces in Iraq.

Al-Zawahiri conveys advice from al-Qaeda's chief, bin Laden, on how to improve the group's performance and passed along dissatisfaction among al-Qaeda members and leaders over a range of issues. Complaints revolve around the group's recruiting efforts, poor communication between al-Qaeda central and al-Qaeda in Iraq, ineffective and dishonest propaganda techniques, and the growing difficulty in moving "assets" from other countries into Iraq. It has become very evident that it has become extremely difficult for al-Qaeda to bring assets in from outside of Iraq," Perkins said. "Therefore, we know more and more they have to generate their own operatives inside Iraq and they have to generate their own financial capabilities."

The first letter is to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. The letter conveys accusations that al-Masri is too isolated to keep tabs on his operatives and questions his ability to lead al-Qaeda's branch in Iraq. It also questions the manner in which al-Qaeda in Iraq's umbrella group, the Islamic State of Iraq, was established. Al-Zawahiri asks al-Masri to respond to the allegations from other al-Qaeda leaders. "[Al-Zawahiri] was concerned he wasn't getting any regular updates on Iraq. He wasn't getting any regular communication from al-Masri," Perkins said. "He was very dissatisfied with the quality of recruits they were getting to conduct operations in Iraq." [More>>cnn.com]

9.11.08 Greece unearths treasures at Alexander's birthplace

ATHENS (Reuters) September 11 - Archaeologists have unearthed gold jewelry, weapons and pottery at an ancient burial site near Pella in northern Greece, the birthplace of Alexander the Great, the culture ministry said on Thursday. The excavations at the vast cemetery uncovered 43 graves dating from 650-279 BC which shed light on the early development of the Macedonian kingdom, which had an empire that stretched as far as India under Alexander's conquests.

Among the most interesting discoveries were the graves of 20 warriors dating to the late Archaic period, between 580 and 460 BC, the ministry said in a statement. Some were buried in bronze helmets alongside iron swords and knives. Their eyes, mouths and chests were covered in gold foil richly decorated with drawings of lions and other animals symbolizing royal power. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.11.08 Cholera outbreak spreads in Iraq

September 11 - Babel, a central Iraqi province, is on alert after Iraqi authorities declared it a disaster zone marking the country's latest cholera outbreak. At least five people died on Thursday while 90 new cases had been reported, local and national health officials said. Babel's provincial council, said: "The laboratory reports from Babel health department indicate there are 200 cases of suspected cholera, vomiting and diarrhea in the province." At least 20 people, including seven children and two women, have died from cholera in the past three days, a local official said. [More>>aljazeera.net]

9.11.08 New 'super worms' may clean up heavy metals

September 11 - A metal-eating earthworm that can survive the toxic environment of heavily contaminated soils is being recruited in the fight to clean up the polluted land of former industrial sites. Scientists believe earthworms have undergone rapid evolutionary changes at abandoned mines in Britain, which have enabled them to survive and even thrive in an environment rich in toxic heavy metals. The researchers hope it may be possible to breed the worms and distribute them around contaminated sites in the hope they can help rid the soil of heavy metals.

"A combination of laboratory, field and synchrotron X-ray experiments have led to the finding that metal-tolerant populations of super earthworms are evolving," said Mark Hodson of the University of Reading. Earthworms can consume 30 times their own body weight each day and the super worms ingest large quantities of potentially toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, zinc and caesium, Dr. Hodson told the science festival. [>independent.co.uk; See press release, reading.ac.uk, September 10, "Worms turn detective to help with contaminated land."]

9.10.08 Surprise Opec cut pushes oil above $100

September 10 - Crude oil prices climbed back over the critical $100 level after Opec on Wednesday surprised the oil markets by announcing that it would make a small but symbolic reduction in its output because the oil cartel views the market as oversupplied. The move was immediately criticized by western countries’ energy watchdog and risks triggering a backlash in Washington less than 60 days ahead of the US elections.

Traders had been betting that the group, which controls about 40 per cent of world oil production, would maintain the status quo, and at best make gradual unannounced reductions in its production. Instead, Opec, after a five-hour session in Vienna, agreed to abide by the production limit it had set for its members in September 2007. This would reduce the group's production by 520,000 barrels per day over the next 40 days to 28.8m bpd. The price of Brent crude, the European benchmark, jumped $1.65 to $101.99 on Wednesday, rising from a five-month low of $98.89 on Tuesday. West Texas Intermediate, the US benchmark, rose 64 cents to $103.90. [More>>ft.com; See related stories:

bbc.co.uk, September 10, "Britain 'to fall into recession' "
: The UK, Germany and Spain will fall into recession in 2008, the European Commission has predicted. Brussels said the three countries would see two negative quarters of economic growth in a row, which is the technical definition of a recession. In its latest economic forecast, the commission also downgraded its outlook for eurozone growth again. It said the 15-nation euro bloc would now grow by 1.3% this year, against previous projections of 1.7%. Earlier this month, data showed the region's economy shrank by 0.2% between April and June - the bloc's first decline since its creation in 1999...

aljazeera.net, September 10, "Lehman losses hit world stocks" : World stocks have slipped after Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest US investment bank, reported a massive third-quarter loss of about $4 billion. Lehman, the latest credit crisis casualty, had already reported losses of $2.4 billion in the second quarter...World stocks, meanwhile, fell toward two-year lows on Wednesday as the problems faced by Lehman stoked concern that banks are struggling to rebuild capital and financial markets remain brittle...

thejakartapost.com (AP) September 10, "US study links oil prices to speculation" : An independent study of oil markets concludes that speculation by large investors was a primary reason for the surge in oil prices during the first half of the year and for the more recent price declines. It said investors poured $60 billion into oil futures markets during the first six months of the year as oil prices soared from $95 to $145 a barrel and since then have withdrawn $39 billion from those same markets as prices have retreated. Michael Masters of Masters Capital Management, which did the study, said the flow of money — not major changes in supply and demand — caused the volatile movement of oil prices. The report was released Wednesday by Senate and House sponsors of bills to put additional curbs on oil market speculation. (end)

9.10.08 Pakistan 'al-Qaeda leaders killed'

September 10 - Three al-Qaeda commanders in Pakistan, including a newly appointed leader, have been reported killed in North Waziristan province, sources have told Al Jazeera. Abu Hamza and Abu Qasim, believed to be two Saudi nationals, and leader Abu Haris, who was believed to be Syrian, were reportedly killed when a drone aircraft fired a missile on a housing compound near a school on Monday. At least 25 people were reported to have been killed in the assault. Casualties included women and children, who were taken to the hospital in Miran Shah, the capital of North Waziristan. One of the injured included the sister-in-law of Jallaluddin Haqqani, a Taliban leader. A religious school founded by Haqqani was at first thought to be the target of the attack near Miran Shah, intelligence officials and Pakistani villagers said. [More>>aljazeera.net; See related story:

khaleejtimes.com (DPA), September 10, "Pakistan army kills 11 insurgents in Swat Valley"
:..."Our troops targeted insurgents' positions with artillery fire in Kuza Bandai area of the district this morning. According to initial reports, 11 miscreants were killed and numerous were injured in the action," army spokesman Major Murad Khan told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa...The clashes in Swat started in October when the government dispatched troops to quell the rebellion of radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah and thousands of his followers who launched a campaign to enforce Taliban rule in the area...

9.10.08 In hunt for bin Laden, a new approach

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, September 10 - Frustrated by repeated dead ends in the search for Osama bin Laden, US and Pakistani officials said they are questioning long-held assumptions about their strategy and are shifting tactics to intensify the use of the unmanned but lethal Predator drone spy plane in the mountains of western Pakistan. The number of Hellfire missile attacks by Predators in Pakistan has more than tripled, with 11 strikes reported by Pakistani officials this year, compared with three in 2007.

The attacks are part of a renewed effort to cripple al-Qaeda's central command that began early last year and has picked up speed as President Bush's term in office winds down, according to US and Pakistani officials involved in the operations. There has been no confirmed trace of bin Laden since he narrowly escaped from the CIA and the U.S. military after the battle near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001, according to US, Pakistani and European officials. They said they are now concentrating on a short list of other al-Qaeda leaders who have been sighted more recently, in hopes that their footprints could lead to bin Laden.

In interviews, the officials attributed their failure to find bin Laden to an overreliance on military force, disruptions posed by the war in Iraq and a pattern of underestimating the enemy. Above all, they said, the search has been handicapped by an inability to develop informants in Pakistan's isolated tribal regions, where bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

With CIA officers and US Special Forces prevented from operating freely in Pakistan, the search for bin Laden and his lieutenants is taking place mostly from the air. The Predators, equipped with multiple cameras that transmit live video via satellite, have launched their Hellfire missiles against four targets in the past month alone. Since January, the reconnaissance drones have killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders with $5 million bounties on their heads.

...Bin Laden, a 51-year-old Saudi, has thwarted the US government's attempts to catch him since 1998, when he signed a fatwa calling for attacks on Americans and ordered the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa. Today, seven years after he masterminded the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, bin Laden is believed to wear disguises routinely and takes extreme care to avoid electronic communications, relying on human couriers to pass messages, officials said. Pakistani officials said the CIA and the US military have played into bin Laden's hands by pursuing al-Qaeda with bombs and missiles. Pashtun tribes along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, angry at the number of civilian casualties, see the United States as the enemy, the officials said. Despite a $25 million reward posted by the US government, no one has been willing to turn in the al-Qaeda leader.

"Unless you have people who support you, human intelligence will never work," said Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai, a retired Pakistani general who oversaw efforts to track bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders after 2001. "You have to have friendly people." Another major obstacle has been the war in Iraq. Officials with the CIA and the U.S. military said they began shifting resources out of Afghanistan in early 2002 and still haven't recovered from that mistake.
[Full story>>washingtonpost.com; See related story:

atimes.com, September 11, "Secrets of the Taliban's success" : (By Syed Saleem Shahzad)
Kandahar has traditionally been the city of Afghan royalty, warlords and the center of resistance movements against the British and Russia. It was also the spiritual heartland of the student militia, the Taliban, that emerged in the 1990s to combat the vicious civil war that was tearing the country apart.

The Taliban took over Kabul in 1996 and opened the country to al-Qaeda's training camps, while Osama bin Laden settled in Kandahar. After the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan a few months later, the Taliban agreed to lose their government but, in the tradition of the Afghan code of honor of Pashtunwali, they refused to hand over their most wanted guests to the Americans.

Seven years after 9/11, the resurgent Taliban movement is exclusively led by Kandahari clans, which still boast of their sacrifices for the Islamic brotherhood in the name of Pashtunwali, but they maintain that the Taliban have never harbored — and never will — an aggressive agenda towards the world community. In a interview with Asia Times Online, Mullah Abdul Jalil, a pioneer of the Taliban movement in Kandahar, elaborated. "There is a lot of rhetoric out of anger and frustration against the West because of the NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] oppression of the Afghan people, but the Taliban leadership still strictly abides by its code of conduct for the resistance against foreign occupation forces in our country," said Jalil, who served as deputy foreign minister and foreign minister during the Taliban regime (1996-2001) .

"Our code of conduct is documented in the Asasi Qanoon [Basic Law of Afghanistan]. Under article 103, it is mentioned that we don't want any disruptions in any country of the world. The Taliban are only a national resistance movement against foreign occupation forces in Afghanistan," said Jalil. Jalil, 49, hails from Kandahar and attended an Islamic seminary in Quetta, Pakistan, but did not finish his studies because of the emergence of the Afghan resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Jalil is a thin, down-to-earth man, his hair and beard already snow white, which he ascribes to the years of turmoil he has witnessed in his country. He has never been a military commander, but has always been a part of Taliban leader Mullah Omar's closest inner circle and he is still proud to be one of his close confidants.

..."The Taliban are not a stand-alone entity. Ninety percent of the present resistance in Kandahar survives because of the masses. They provide shelter to us in their homes, feed us and provide money for us to go back and fight against the foreign forces, and they never mind if in the course of this they suffer casualties because of aerial bombardments...let me tell you, most of the places which were previously Hezb-e Islami strongholds are completely under the Taliban's command...This is the secret to our survival. We never allow photographs, and that is why we can move freely in Afghanistan and the tribal areas [of Pakistan] as nobody recognizes us."
[Full story>>atimes.com]

cnn.com, September 10, "Admiral: Troops alone will not yield victory in Afghanistan"
: WASHINGTON: The US is "running out of time" to win the war in Afghanistan, and sending in more troops will not guarantee victory, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, warned Congress on Wednesday. At the same hearing, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the conflict in Iraq has entered the "endgame," but said the situation there remains fragile and US decisions in the coming months "will be critical to regional stability and our national security interests in the years to come."

Mullen's and Gates' remarks to the House Armed Services Committee came a day after President Bush announced troop reductions in Iraq and the deployment of 4,500 additional troops in Afghanistan. Mullen said he is convinced the Afghanistan war can be won but said the US urgently needs to improve its nation-building initiatives and its cross-border strategy with Pakistan...

Cross-border attacks into Afghanistan by militants in Pakistan's tribal region are a problem, and the US has deployed Predator drones to attack targets in Pakistan. Last week, US troops entered Pakistan, a move that prompted condemnation from Islamabad. Mullen stressed that Afghanistan can't be referenced without "speaking of Pakistan," where, he said, the militant groups collaborate and communicate better, launch more sophisticated attacks, employ foreign fighters and use civilians as human shields.

"In my view these two nations are inextricably linked in a common insurgency that crosses the border between them," he said, adding that he plans "to commission a new, more comprehensive strategy for the region, one that covers both sides of the border." [Full story>>cnn.com]

9.10.08 Saudi charity rejects entertainer's donations

DUBAI, September 10 - Two Saudi actors and a Kuwaiti singer faced an awkward situation at a charity event for orphans when the organization manager refused to accept their donations under the pretext that their job is forbidden by religion. The two comedians Hussein Useiri and Fayez al-Malki and Kuwaiti singer Abadi al-Gohar received an invitation from the Saudi magazine Sayedati to attend an iftar, the sundown meal that breaks the day-long Ramadan fast.

With more than 80 kids expected to attend the iftar hosted by the Prince Thamer bin Abdul-Aziz Charity Organization, the three entertainers came several hours in advance to hand out donations to the children. But only a few children showed up. According to report in the electronic journal Elaph, the organization's manager prevented the children from attending the event and refused to accept the food the entertainers brought. "These are actors. Their work is against religion," said the manager, whose name was not given. "We don't want them, and we want nothing from them."

9.10.08 Massive particle collider passes first key tests

GENEVA (AP) September 10 - The world's largest particle collider passed its first major tests by firing two beams of protons in opposite directions around a 17-mile (27-kilometer) underground ring Wednesday in what scientists hope is the next great step to understanding the makeup of the universe. After a series of trial runs, two white dots flashed on a computer screen at 10:26 a.m. (0826 GMT) indicating that the protons had traveled clockwise along the full length of the 4 billion Swiss franc (US$3.8 billion) Large Hadron Collider — described as the biggest physics experiment in history. [More>>abcnews.go.com]

9.09.08 Terrorists planning to attack US, Europe: President Bush

WASHINGTON, September 9 - United States President George W. Bush on Tuesday announced he would cut US troops strength in Iraq by 8,000 in coming months, and that he would send 4,500 troops to Afghanistan by January, when he leaves the White House. In November a Marines battalion was to be deployed in Afghanistan, to be followed by an army combat unit in January, Bush told an audience at the National Defense University. President Bush described Pakistan as a major war on terror battleground like Afghanistan and Iraq.

He added that extremists are using violence and terror to impose their will on whole populations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and they are killing innocent people in Karachi, Islamabad and other major cities. He began by outlining the challenges in Iraq, asserting that the frontline in the war on terror is changing from Baghdad to Afghanistan. As a result, his administration has now transferred 8,000 troops from Iraq to Afghanistan. Bush said that the Afghan National army would be doubled over the next 5 years asserting that terrorists will not be allowed to win in Afghanistan.

9.09.08 Christian Iraqi militia fight back against al-Qaeda

TEL ASQUF, Iraq (AFP) September 9 - With Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, Iraq's first Christian militia enforces one simple rule on the border of this little village. "Anyone not from Tel Asquf, is banned." This village in northern Iraq's flashpoint Nineveh province, frequently targeted by Sunni and Shiite fighters, has now taken security into its own hands with armed patrols and checkpoints at the village's four entrances. "The terrorists want to kill us because we are Christian. If we don't defend ourselves, who will?" asked militia group leader Abu Nataq.

Associated with the "Crusader" invaders and regarded as well-off, they are often victims of sectarian violence, killings and kidnappings at the hands of both Sunni and Shiite Islamists, as well as criminal gangs. Iraq's Christians, with the Chaldean rite by far the largest community, were said to number as many as 800,000 before the 2003 US-led invasion, but this number is believed to have halved as people fled the brutal sectarian violence.

Neighborhood militias have become popular in Iraq, particularly with the rise of the Awakening groups — former Sunni insurgents who switched sides and are now paid by US forces to battle al-Qaeda. "We used to pay "jezya" (protection money) and they would leave us alone," Nataq said in reference to a tax levied on the Christian community by al-Qaeda in exchange for peace. The term harks back to the seventh century, a period of great expansion in Islam when Christians and Jews were forced to pay taxes to the majority Muslims.
[More>>alarabiya.net; See also metimes.com, September 9, "Iraq spawning surge of militias."

Editorial note: Among the Christian communities in Iraq are the Assyrians. They claim to be the original, indigenous people of Iraq.

Mel Copeland

9.09.08 Low vitamin B12 level may cause brain shrinkage in old

BEIJING, September 9 - Low vitamin B12 level in old people may cause brain atrophy or shrinkage, according to a UK study in Tuesday's Neurology. This study involved 107 volunteers aged 61 to 87 who were cognitively normal at the beginning of the study, and who underwent annual clinical exams, MRI scans, cognitive tests and had blood samples taken. Individuals with lower vitamin B12 levels had a greater decrease in brain volume. Those with the lowest levels had a sixfold greater rate of brain volume loss compared with those who had the highest levels of the vitamin.

The researchers write that they were unable to investigate whether lower vitamin B12 could cause cognitive impairment by its effect on brain size. "Many factors that affect brain health are thought to be out of our control, but this study suggests that simply adjusting our diets to get more vitamin B12 through eating meat, fish, fortified cereals, or milk may be something we can easily adjust to prevent brain shrinkage and so perhaps save our memory," said study author Anna Vogiatzoglou, MSc, with the University of Oxford. 
[More>>xinhuanet.com; See also independent.co.uk]

9.09.08 UK property sales plunge to one house a week

September 9 - The number of homes changing hands plunged in August, with some estate agents selling only one home a week, as the number of first-time buyers dwindled to record lows. The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) said that, on average, estate agents made 12.7 sales in three months to August, the lowest activity since it began tracking transactions in 1978. It also emerged today that the number of first-time buyers taking out a new mortgage in July fell by 48 percent compared with last year and by 5 percent against the month before. Only 17,300 borrowers took out a new home loan in July, compared with 18,200 in June and 33,100 in July last year. [More>>timesonline.co.uk]

9.09.08 Lehman shares plunge on reports

September 9 - Shares in Lehman Brothers plunged almost 30 percent on Tuesday as efforts by the beleaguered investment bank to raise fresh capital appeared to falter, raising questions about the firm's ability to survive. The latest plunge came after reports that Lehman's efforts to secure a strategic investment from Korea Development Bank, a deal Lehman has been pursuing for months, had failed. K.D.B. has not officially commented on the reports. Lehman has declined to comment. But people close to the matter have said for some time that a deal with K.D.B. remained unlikely though not impossible. A Korean regulator said last week that K.D.B. should be cautious in making any deal with Lehman, which continues to have large exposures to troubled commercial and residential real estate assets. [More>>nytimes.com; See related story, koreaherald.co.kr, September 9, "Korean financial markets extremely volatile."]

9.09.08 Federal deficit estimated at near-record $407 billion

September 9 - Weak revenue growth and accelerated spending — including an economic stimulus package that returned billions to taxpayers — will drive the federal deficit to $407 billion in the fiscal year that ends this month, more than double last year's $161 billion, congressional budget analysts reported today. With the economy expected to remain sluggish for at least the next several months, the next president will take office facing a projected deficit of $438 billion, budget analysts predict — the largest in dollar terms in American history, exceeding the previous record of $413 billion in 2004. And that number could easily climb above $500 billion if Congress acts, as expected, in the coming months to restrain the growth of the alternative minimum tax, budget analysts said.

In January, congressional budget analysts had estimated the deficit would be only $219 billion by year's end. This summer, however, the White House estimated that that number was likely to spike to $389 billion because of new spending. Further complicating the budget picture is this weekend's takeover by the Treasury Department of mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Peter Orszag, director of the Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper of the nation's revenues and expenditures, announced that he plans to incorporate the companies directly into the budget when he re-examines the nation's fiscal picture in January. The two companies together hold or insure about half of the nation's 12 million residential mortgages and claimed more than $1.5 trillion in debt at the end of the second quarter. [More>>washingtonpost.com]

Editorial note: Since 2004 Maravot News has featured a graph on the Federal National Debt with links to US government sites giving details on the US budget and deficits, including the cost to service the national debt which, by the end of the Bush administration, is expected to approach $10.3 trillion. The debt inherited by the Bush administration from the Clinton administration was $5.6 trillion. The annual cost to service the debt (interest) during the Bush administration is: (See treasurydirect.gov)

2008: $431.27 billion (projected)
2007: $429.98 billion
2006: $405.87 billion
2005: $352.35 billion
2004: $321.56 billion
2003: $318.15 billion
2002: $332.54 billion
2001: $359.51 billion

Total interest expense paid by taxpayers: $2.95 trillion. A major component of the annual "deficit" is interest which is the highest single outlay in the US budget.

Mel Copeland

9.09.08 2 Afghans civilians killed, 10 wounded by NATO bomb

KABUL (AP) September 9 - A NATO bomb missed its target by more than 1 1/2 miles and hit a house Tuesday, killing two Afghan civilians and wounding 10 at a time of rising tension between the Afghan government and international troops over the use of airstrikes. Meanwhile, a roadside bomb killed three US coalition soldiers and an Afghan contractor, the coalition said. NATO said its weapon malfunctioned Tuesday in the eastern Khost province. The bomb's target was a spot used by insurgents to fire rockets. "An immediate investigation into the cause of the incident has been launched and further details will be forthcoming once established," the statement said. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org; See related story, independent.co.uk, September 9, "Three coalition soldiers killed in Afghanistan."]

9.09.08 US finds clues in bakery to foil Iraqi terror plot

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) September 9 - Lt. Christopher Hanes knew something was wrong as soon as he stepped into the Friends bakery. The oven was unused, the water tank was empty and a large concrete bin was full of dirt that the two employees claimed was used to cool cakes. Hanes and his soldiers moved the water tank and found the entrance to a 50-foot tunnel heading straight for the nearby provincial government headquarters.

The US military believes insurgents planned to tunnel underneath the compound's blast walls and blow up the headquarters building. With 250-300 Iraqis working in the governor's office and perhaps hundreds more there for business, casualties from such a blast could have been catastrophic. Discovery of the tunnel Sept. 1, the first day of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, drove home a message: Sunni militants have been battered but not defeated despite a monthlong operation by US and Iraqi forces to clear Mosul, Iraq's third largest city, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad. [More>>indianexpress.com: hosted.ap.org]

9.09.08 Arab League chief says angry with Palestinian groups

CAIRO (Reuters) September 9 - The head of the Arab League said on Tuesday that he was angry with fractious Palestinian political groups and that sanctions against them were being discussed by Arab governments. Egypt, the main mediator between often rival Palestinian groups, has been holding bilateral talks with minor groups in preparation for similar talks with the two main groups — Fatah and Hamas. "I am extremely angry with the Palestinian organizations," Amr Moussa, secretary-general of the league, told a news conference in an unusually harsh criticism of the Palestinians.

"We are studying the measures to be taken in the face of the current Palestinian chaos," he said, after a meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo. But he added: "The sanctions would not be against anyone in particular. They would be against the party which obstructs reconciliation and maybe against everyone or against the organization which obstructs Egyptian efforts." If talks with the main groups succeed, Egypt might bring all the factions together in October after the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan and the holiday which follows. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]

9.09.08 Regular troops to be deployed in Abkhazia, S. Ossetia - Lavrov

MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti) September 9 - Russia will deploy regular troops and not Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Russian foreign minister said Tuesday. "With the signing and ratification of the treaty we initialed today, the troops will be there on an international-legal basis. These are not peacekeepers, this is a military contingent whose number is defined by the Defense Ministry in consultation with its partners in South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Sergei Lavrov told journalists.

Lavrov also said Russia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have initialed agreements on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance, and the documents would be signed by the presidents in the near future. Earlier Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said about 3,800 service personnel will be based in each republic. [More>>en.rian.ru]

9.09.08 Iran parliament body scraps polygamy proposal

TEHRAN (Reuters) September 9 - An Iranian parliamentary committee has thrown out a government proposal which women's rights activists feared would have encouraged polygamy in the Islamic Republic, media reported on Tuesday. "It is a very positive move," campaigner Sussan Tahmasebi said of the decision by the legal and judicial committee to change the bill on families. "We think it is great that parliament listened to women's voices," she told Reuters.

Activists had lobbied against the measure, which they said would have allowed a man to take a new wife without the consent of the first one. The bill also covered other family issues and parliament is now expected to vote on the amended version. The conservative-controlled legislature was originally due to debate the "Family Support Bill" last week, but it was sent back to the committee for more work after it caused controversy." [More>>khaleejtimes.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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