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Friday, August 26, 2011

MFS - The Other News

                        Morning Posting.

  • Updated !Earthquakes in the last 24 hours in the world seismic activity in South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands: 5.1 and Guam 5.1! More info here.

  • Japan : For the most accurate info on the nuclear disaster go to : Paul Langley's Nuclear History Blog.Here.
  • Hurricane Irene : Latest Updates here , more here. Two forecast models give a more land inwards track.(First link).
Hurricane Irene : danger to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, and the rest of the New England coast. Irene is capable of inundating portions of the coast under 10 - 15 feet of water, to the highest storm surge depths ever recorded.I strongly recommend that all residents of the mid-Atlantic and New England coast familiarize themselves with their storm surge risk‏.Read the full warning here.

  • GOP Sen. Jim Inhofe Gives a left hook and a right uppercut: Obama “Destroying” America.(Tulsa World) — President Barack Obama alone is to blame for the nation’s budget deficit — and just about everything else, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe told the Broken Arrow Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.“We now have a president, and I don’t mean this disrespectfully, who is destroying these very institutions that made America great,” Inhofe, R-Okla., said.Inhofe went on to say the Obama administration has “disarmed America,” is solely responsible for the federal budget deficit, mostly responsible for the nation’s dependence on imported oil and suffocating business with regulations.He said military spending, as a share of gross domestic product, has declined during the Obama administration and criticized unflattering descriptions of the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where terror suspects are held, saying, “You know the biggest problem for prisoners when they get to Gitmo? Obesity.”Inhofe said the idea that prisoners have been tortured there was invented by Obama and others “to make you think something bad is happening in America — the same thing he does and others do when they go around talking about how bad America is.”Inhofe said the deficit is Obama’s fault because “it’s the president’s budget. Period. That’s the end of it.”He said the recent debtlimit agreement is a sham that does little or nothing to reduce overall spending. One solution, he continued, would be to repeal the health-care reform law, which he said is an example of “social engineering” designed to make Americans more dependent on the federal government.Hmmm.....Hear,hear!Read the full story here.

  • Judicial Watch Sues US Air Force for Documents Detailing the Cost to Taxpayers for Michelle Obama’s Family Trip to Africa.(JW).Judicial Watch, the organization that investigates and fights government corruption, announced today that it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit on August 19, 2011, against the United States Air Force to obtain records related to the June 21-27, 2011, trip taken by First Lady Michelle Obama, her family, and her staff to South Africa and Botswana (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Air Force (No. 11-1496)). Judicial Watch is seeking the documents to determine details about the trip and, in particular, a breakdown of the costs to taxpayers.
The Judicial Watch FOIA request filed on June 28, 2011, seeks:
Any and all records concerning mission taskings of First Lady Michelle Obama’s June 21-27,2011 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
Any and all records of concerning transportation costs for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
Any and all passenger manifests (DD-2131) for Mrs. Obama’s June 21-27, 2011 trip to South Africa and Botswana.
According the U.S. Postal Service records, Judicial Watch’s FOIA request was received by the Air Force on July 6, 2011. A response to the request was due within 20 working days, or by August 3, 2011. As of August 19, 2011, the date of the complaint, the Air Force has failed to produce the records requested or respond with a date they will be forthcoming.The professed purpose of Mrs. Obama’s trip was to encourage young people living in South Africa and Botswana to get involved in national affairs. The First Lady’s remarks focused on education, health, and wellness issues. However, accompanied by her daughters Malia and Sasha, her mother, Marian Robinson, and her niece and nephew, Leslie and Avery Robinson, the trip also included such tourist events as visits to historical landmarks and museums as well as a visit with Nelson Mandela, described by Mrs. Obama as “surreal”. The trip ended with a private family safari at a South African game reserve before the group returned to Washington on June 27.Judicial Watch is investigating the total cost of the trip to the taxpayers in the face of a ballooning federal debt and a sinking economy. As stated in an analysis by White House Dossier (the blog of White House reporter Keith Koffer, who writes for CongressDaily, National Journal, Roll Call and Politico), the cost to taxpayers for the C-32 was $430,000 alone. This cost is based on an estimated charge of $12,723 an hour, which is what the Department of Defense charges other federal agencies for use of the aircraft. If a military cargo plane was included – which typically accompanies a First Lady – the cost of transportation could have escalated by another $200,000.Other costs, such as Secret Service protection, the care and feeding of staff, and pre-trip advance work done by administration officials in Africa, cannot be determined without examining records.“How much did the American people spend to send the First Lady on a family outing in Africa? That’s what we want to know,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “On the surface, the trip seems to have been totally unnecessary and was as much an excuse for the Obama family to go on a safari as it was a mission intended to advance the nation’s business in Africa.”Previously, Judicial Watch uncovered that the First Couple’s 2009 “date night” trip to New York for dinner and a Broadway show cost taxpayers over $11,000 in Secret Service costs alone.Judicial Watch continues to probe the abuse of Air Force Aircraft by Members of Congress. For example, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s military travel cost the United States Air Force $2,100,744.59 over a two-year period – $101,429.14 of which was for in-flight expenses, including food and alcohol. Judicial Watch also uncovered documents showing the widespread use of luxury military aircraft by Members of Congress on Speaker-authorized congressional delegation trips (CODELS).Hmmmm.....'WE' Feel your pain?Read the full story here.

  • 1 Mil Safety Violations Won’t Keep Mexican Trucks Out Of U.S.(Judicial Watch).Weeks before the Obama Administration starts letting Mexican cargo trucks travel deep into the U.S., the Texas Department of Public Safety reveals that, in the last few years, trucks coming from Mexico had more than 1 million safety violations.This is hardly earth-shattering news since Mexican trucks have long failed to meet U.S. safety standards. That’s why they aren’t allowed to travel freely throughout the country, but rather in restricted zones within 25 miles of the southern border. Even within their limited boundary, they have created a huge risk to Americans’ safety, according to the Transportation Department Inspector General.Regardless, the Obama Administration carved out a deal to allow Mexican trucks to travel freely on U.S. highways as part of a 17-year-old international trade pact known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In a few weeks Mexican trucks will be allowed to travel into the interior of the United States, even though it could endanger American lives.In Texas alone, 1.2 million Mexican trucks had safety violations between 2007 and 2011, according to an El Paso newspaper report that quotes official statistics from state public safety officials. Among the safety violations in trucks coming from Mexico were bad brakes, flat tires, axle problems and defective lights. During that period inspectors placed more than 30,000 trucks and 625 drivers out of service.Federal transportation officials claim that, under the new cross-border trucking program, all Mexican vehicles will be thoroughly inspected and all must comply with rigid U.S. safety standards. The Mexican trucks, notorious for their dismal, third-world country safety standards, must also be equipped with electronic monitoring systems to keep track of drivers’ service hours.Don’t be surprised if U.S. taxpayers get stuck with the tab. After all, earlier this year the Obama Administration paid to upgrade outdated Mexican trucks that hemorrhage illegal amounts of exhaust when they deliver merchandise near the border. Generous Uncle Sam stepped in for the sake of improving air quality on both sides of the border by replacing old mufflers on dozens of Mexican trucks at a cost of $1,600 each. U.S. truck drivers are required to have the type of converters that Mexicans are getting from the government but they must pay for theirs.Hmmmm......If he really wanted to destroy the American economy would he do anything different? Read the full story here.

  • Caroline Glick on Glenn Beck's revealing visit.(CarolineGlick).American media superstar Glenn Beck's visit to Israel this week was a revealing and remarkable event. It revealed what it takes to be a friend of Israel. And it revealed the causes of Israel's difficulty in telling its enemies from its friends.Beck said that his movement will be one of individuals who work together to defend Israel and the Jews from those who seek our destruction. He argued that regular people are far more capable of understanding what needs to be done than the well-heeled experts who lead us down the garden path of weakness and demoralization.And he is right.And in bringing this message to Israel, he demonstrated his friendship. We should return the favor by taking his advice. We should trust ourselves and our instincts and stop listening to the "experts" who preach weakness and surrender.Read the full story here.

  • Israeli Ambassador: Turkey’s PM Erdogan “Hates Us Religiously”.(Washington Times) — An Israeli ambassador described Turkey’s prime minister as a “fundamentalist” who hates the Jewish state on religious grounds, according a U.S. diplomatic cable recently released.The confidential October 2009 cable cites the musings of Gabby Levy,Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, on why Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had turned on Turkey’s longtime ally.“Levy dismissed political calculation as a motivator for Erdogan’s hostility, arguing the prime minister’s party had not gained a single point in the polls from his bashing of Israel,” says the cable, which was sent by the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, and released by the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.“Instead, Levy attributed Erdogan’s harshness to deep-seated emotion: ‘He’s a fundamentalist. He hates us religiously’ and his hatred is spreading,” according to the cable.Hmmmm......No......Really?Erdogan said:“God will punish” Israel and that its actions would lead to its destruction".Read the full story here.

  • Iran tells Qatar region must solve issues on its own.(AlArabiya).Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the visiting Qatari emir the region must resolve issues on its own, saying Western “interference” would complicate the situation, the presidency website reported Friday.“Regional countries can resolve (their) issues... without the interference of the West,” Ahmadinejad said Thursday in a two-hour meeting with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.The Qatari emir arrived Thursday night for talks on regional issues with President Ahmadinejad, before wrapping up his hours-long visit after midnight.“The president emphasized that the interference of foreigners and domineering powers in the regional countries’ internal affairs would complicate the situation and make it more difficult,” the website quoted him as saying.Sheikh Hamad, for his part, said “those who cannot meet the demands of their people and resolve their issues through understanding... are pushing their country and nation as well as the region towards insecurity,” the website reported.Iran and the Gulf Arab monarchies do not see eye-to-eye on regional crises of recent months, including the uprisings in Bahrain and Syria, which were not explicitly mentioned by the website.Tehran supports the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad while advocating reforms in its key regional ally. The Gulf countries have denounced Damascus’s deadly crackdown on protesters.But on Bahrain, Iran has repeatedly expressed its backing for the anti-regime protest movement led by the Shiite majority in the Sunni-ruled island. The Arab states, meanwhile, support the government, and have even provided military support.Sheikh Hamad’s visit to Tehran marked the first by one of the leaders of Gulf monarchies following the political crisis in Bahrain.Despite lingering tensions between the Islamic republic and the Gulf Cooperation Council − comprised of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman − Doha has kept close relations with Tehran.Qatar has also acted several times as mediator between Tehran and Riyadh.Read the full story here.

  • 'Islamic Jihad vows to send rockets deeper into Israel'(Jpost).Hours after Palestinian sources reported that the IAF killed to Islamic Jihad operatives in the Gaza Strip, the terrorist group vowed to extend the range of their rocket capabilities, sending projectiles deeper into Israeli territory, Israel Radio reported Thursday.According to Islamic Jihad, a small terrorist group with roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, it would triple the number of Israelis affected by rocket attacks.A ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza seemed distant Thursday evening as the violence in the south of the country continued with at least 15 rockets and mortar shells exploding in Israeli territory.The Code Red siren was heard throughout the Eshkol and Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Councils and in Ashkelon as 15 rockets and mortar shells fell throughout those areas, the IDF Spokesman's Office said in a statement.No injuries were reported in Thursday's attacks, but their was damage caused to a building in the Erez border crossing at the Gaza border.In response to the building damage at Erez, the IAF struck a rocket-launching pad in the northern Gaza Strip, the spokesman's statement said.Palestinians sources said the IAF killed two Palestinians when a missile struck their motorcycle while they were riding in the northern Gaza Strip. It was unclear whether this was the same missile strike as the IDF Spokesperson's Office announced.While the IDF issued no comment on the strike, a medical source in Gaza said that one of the victims was identified as Salim Khaled al-Arabid, Ma'an reported. Another Palestinian source said the riders were members of Islamic Jihad's militant wing.At least 20 rockets have exploded in Israel since Tuesday night. A nine-month-old baby was injured yesterday in the Ashkelon area when a rocket exploded on a car nearby, causing hand wounds.Hmmmm.......When will it be enough?Read the full story here.

  • EU diplomat: Aid to Palestinians in question.(Ynet).Europe's financial crisis is causing some European Union lawmakers to question whether the bloc can continue to deliver millions in aid to the Palestinians, an EU diplomat said Thursday.The EU is the largest single donor to the Palestinians, contributing about €500 million ($720 million) a year to build institutions for a future state and pay salaries.Under Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Palestinians embarked in 2009 on a two-year state-building plan to be ready for independence by September. But with peace talks deadlocked, the diplomat said that some EU lawmakers doubt a Palestinian state will ever emerge. The Palestinians are now turning to the United Nations for a largely symbolic statehood recognition. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter. The earliest the EU could cut back aid would be in 2014, when the next seven-year budget begins. Palestinian government spokesman Ghassan Khatib said Israel was to blame for their assistance needs: "We look forward to the day when the occupation will be over, so as to end our need for foreign assistance," Khatib said. Foreign donations make up about a quarter of the Palestinian Authority's $3.7 billion annual budget. In July, Fayyad halved the salaries of government employees and appealed to the international community to bridge a $640 million shortfall caused largely by Arab countries' unfulfilled pledges. Hmmmm....The more financial aid they receive the lower their GDP,perhaps it's time to turn things around?Read the full story here.

  • German state minister of Turkish origin:"“The more Turks are in the country, the more unrest there will be in the country,”.(TodaysZaman). A recent statement by a German state minister of Turkish origin working on the integration issue, to the effect that Turks are a source of unrest within German society, has sparked harsh reactions from Turkish immigrants.Bilkay Öney, a member of the Green-Social Democratic Party (SPD), took over as the integration minister of Baden-Württemberg in May. In her remarks, published by German Sunday newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Öney defended Germany's visa regime for Turkish citizens, a regime which has garnered complaints from both Turkish officials and Turkish immigrants. “The more Turks are in the country, the more unrest there will be in the country,” Öney was quoted as saying. In an apparent criticism of Turkish immigrants' intellectual level, Öney also suggested that Germany's Turks watch five times as much television per day as do other Germans.Bernhard Lasotta, a spokesperson from the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), an opposition party in the state of Baden-Württemberg, said Öney's remarks were harmful to integration efforts, the Deutsche Welle Turkish service reported on Thursday. “Öney's comments saddened a lot of people, and the slang and rude language she used did not befit her post as a minister,” Lasotta said.The Berlin Turkish Society, in a written statement, called Öney's remarks “discriminatory, offensive and aggressive,” while Hilmi Kaya Turan of the Germany Turkish Society, also based in Berlin, said that his organization was shocked by Öney's remarks. Turan also said these remarks could strengthen existing prejudices against the Turkish immigrant community in the country.Hmmmmm..........Read the full story here.

  • Turkey - Justice Ministry says journalists not jailed for journalistic activities.(TodaysZaman).The Turkish government has dismissed claims that dozens of outspoken journalists who have been jailed were arrested or convicted because of their journalistic activities and reiterated that the jailed suspects are accused of crimes not directly linked to their profession.The Turkish Justice Ministry said on Thursday in a statement released in order to “answer media allegations regarding jailed journalists” that nearly 70 journalists have been arrested or convicted because of their writings, saying 59 out of the 63 journalists currently in jail have been arrested or convicted because of criminal activities other than their writings. The statement also said most of the complaints in the media are voiced by the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) and that the Justice Ministry earlier demanded the union submit a list of jailed journalists. It said the union submitted a list on Aug. 2 on which 72 names were alleged to be those of journalists currently in jail.The Justice Ministry said it could not find three people on the list who were allegedly jailed and six of the names were those of people who have already been released. Noting that only 63 suspects that are included on the union's list are currently in jail, the statement said cases have been filed against 36 of the 63 names and 18 have already been convicted. Investigations continue regarding the rest of the 27 suspects. It added while 18 of the journalists have press cards, 45 of them don't have one.The Washington-based Freedom House labeled the Turkish press “partly free” in its report titled “Freedom of the Press 2011: A Global Survey of Media Independence.” According to the report, Turkey ranked 112th among 196 countries. Since Turkey was listed as a country in Western Europe, it ranked at the bottom of the list of these countries with regard to freedom of the press.Other international media watchdogs also previously harshly criticized Turkey for still retaining laws that restrict freedom of the press. Lawyers claim there are at least 20 provisions in the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) that give prosecutors the leeway to launch a case against journalists.Read the full story here.

  • Iranian Basij: Martyrdom Operations – The Palestinian Trump Card.(Memri).Preparations are underway in Iran for Qods Day, which is marked each year on the last Friday of Ramadan as an expression of Iran's desire to liberate Palestine. In a Quds Day communiqué, the Basij stated that martyrdom operations are the Palestinian trump card.Regime officials called on the public to participate in Al-Quds Day events, and Iranian cleric Hossein Ansarian said that such participation constitutes religious worship.Basij Commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi said that the 2020 Olympic games would be held in Egypt and Palestine, and would mark the liberation of Palestine. He called on the 'besieged' Zionists to leave Palestine, before it is too late.Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV that his country would support the establishment of a Palestinian state, if it were the first step towards liberating all of Palestine.Read the full story here.

  • Syrian Regime Supporter in Moscow: Iran Providing Massive Support to Syria.(Memri).Ali Salim Al-Assad, an official in the Syrian Committee for National Unity – an organization established in Moscow to support the Syrian regime – told that Iran is assisting Syria with weapons, a daily supply of 250,000 barrels of oil, and money totaling $6 billion.It was also reported that Iran plans to build an air base near the Syrian city of Latakia, which would enable swift delivery of defense equipment to Syria.Furthermore, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu was told, after he warned that Syria would be attacked if it continued suppressing protests, that Syria is not Libya, and that it has response capabilities that include surface-to-surface missiles that could destroy Tel-Aviv.Read the full story here.

  • Assad Knows What He's Doing.(MidEastForum).By Gary C. Gambill.For all of their disagreement over particulars, Western pundits share a nearly unanimous consensus that Syrian President Bashar Assad has bungled his response to the current uprising. The Syrian regime is "digging its own grave," the International Crisis Group concluded in a report last month. One prominent analyst went so far as to assert that the president "is losing his marbles." The Obama administration's recent call for Assad to resign, while long overdue, is largely premised on such boat-without-a-paddle views of the Syrian leader.In fact, Assad's strategy and tactics have proven astonishingly effective. By any objective measure of political vulnerability, Assad should have been among the first casualties of the Arab Spring. That he's held on this long is no small achievement.Unflattering portrayals of Assad's decision making are invariably premised on the assumption that some combination of reform and restraint on his part could have defused popular mobilization after the outbreak of protests in March. However, given his Alawite-dominated regime's unusually thin claim (even by Middle Eastern standards) to represent the will of the people and the infectious wave of popular revolt spreading across the surrounding Arab world, allowing his predominantly Sunni subjects to assemble and express themselves without consequence would have doomed the regime (or doomed Assad by precipitating a hard-liner coup).The Syrian president recognized very early on that brute force (tempered by largely cosmetic "reforms") would have to be the mainstay of his survival strategy, and he has employed it with great acumen. Contrary to formulaic Western media characterizations, government violence against protestors has hardly been "indiscriminate." Most of the deaths have been the result not of panicked security personnel firing blindly into crowds of people, but of what the UN recently called an "apparent shoot-to-kill" policy. Regime snipers carefully selected their targets on the basis of specific criteria (filming demonstrations with cell phones, using megaphones, carrying banners, etc) designed to incapacitate mid-level organizers. It took nearly three months for the death toll in Syria to surpass the number of people murdered by Egypt's government in just 18 days—an extraordinarily large bang for the bullet.To be sure, security forces have opened fire on crowds—particularly in predominantly Sunni areas close to Syria's porous borders with Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon—but these have mostly been targeted massacres. Lacking the ability to suppress all protests at all times, the regime has been selective as to when and where it strikes. In June, for example, Assad allowed the city of Hama to slip from his control, only to storm it with tanks last month. The fact the protests have not yet snowballed into a nationwide mass uprising (Syria's two largest cities, Aleppo and Damascus have experienced comparatively little unrest) testifies to the effectiveness of these tactics.This doesn't mean Assad can "win" in the sense implicit in most outside commentary. Bloodletting cannot restore the status quo ante in Syria. It only takes a small minority of highly committed people to ensure that protests and killings continue as Assad remains in power. This can only spell the end of his regime in the long-term, pariah status a few notches above North Korea in the medium term, and the looming threat of civil war in the short term.Assad likely recognizes this (the assumption that he is somehow ignorant of political realities apparent to outside observers is another glaring absurdity of conventional wisdom in the West), but that doesn't mean the game is over. At this stage, maintaining Alawite solidarity is his primary goal, not subduing the masses. So long as the security apparatus remains loyal, he can be overthrown only through a long and bloody civil war that may prove unpalatable to regional and international governments. Even if the regime collapses, it's quite possible that Assad and his security barons will regroup in the coastal mountain enclaves of their ancestors (offering physical protection and access to Iranian resupply by sea) and set up a de facto Alawite micro-state. Although the Syrian president's predicament is unquestionably dire, it's a good bet he knows what he's doing.Read the full story here.

  • Canada - Toronto Imam accused of sexual assault travelled under aliases.(NationalPost).An imam who worked in a Toronto mosque who was arrested last week and is facing 13 charges in relation to sexual offenses allegedly committed globally has used several aliases, the Toronto Police are saying.Mohammad Masroor, 48, worked as a travelling imam and visited numerous countries teaching children and young people Koranic studies. In their investigation, police have found Mr. Masroor to be in possession of three passports than bear names other than his own.
A passport with the name Junaid Salman, with no birth date listed, was allegedly used in the early 1990s in Hungary, Austria and extensively in Italy, as well as other European nations.
A passport with the name Abdur Rahim, also with an unknown birth date, was used during the 1980s in India, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Police say Mr. Masroor has also been known as Abdul Karim Abdul Aziz, a Gulf Arabic name.The aliases were used on passports that have since been destroyed, which is why no birth dates are known.The imam may have been a member of the Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic movement aimed at proselytizing at the grassroots level. The movement is largely based in Bangladesh now.The 13 charges against Mr. Masroor stem from alleged abuses committed against five former students. Because the imam traveled so extensively, Det. Const. Karen Armstrong said she worried there are more victims are out there, if not in Canada.“Mohammad Masroor was a leader in the community, he was in a position of trust,” she told a press conference last week. “Because he was in a position of power, we believe there are other victims.”Det. Caroline Glen said Toronto Police are currently working with Interpol and that they are currently conducting investigations in America, searching for other victims of Mr. Masroor.Mr. Masroor arrived in Toronto in 2008; the investigation started shortly after.Det. Const. Armstrong said Mr. Masroor was known to his alleged victims, but did not elaborate on their ages or relations to him.Police are urging anyone with information to contact the sex crimes unit.Hmmmm.........Although Tabligh Jamaat has claimed a pacific stance since its inception, after the 9/11 attacks in the USA, concerns have risen about its role as a springboard to terrorist organizations.Read the full story here.

  • Former Libyan General: Al-Qadhafi Killed Musa Al-Sadr.(Memri).Abdullah Zaidani, a former General in Libya's external security forces, and a current representative of the Libyan Interim Transitional National Council, told the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal that Mu'ammar Al-Qadhafi had killed the Shi'ite Imam Musa Al-Sadr and his two companions.Zaidani said that Al-Sadr was killed because he objected to Al-Qadhafi's suggestion to erase words from the Koran during a live televised broadcast.Read the full story here.

  • Deadly blast strikes UN building in Nigerian capital.(AlArabiya).A bomb rocked the UN building in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Friday, killing at least 18 people, leaving others trapped and causing heavy damage, officials and witnesses said.Some witnesses reported that the bomb exploded after a suspect rammed a car through the front gate. Parts of the first two floors of the building were blown out and rescue workers scrambled to rescue those left inside.There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but an Islamist sect known as Boko Haram has been blamed for scores of bombings in recent months.“A number of dead people and injured have been moved in ambulances to the hospital,” police spokesman Yemi Ajayi said, adding that he was unable to provide a figure for the number of casualties.A member of the security personnel speaking on condition of anonymity spoke of “many dead.”“It looks like a suicide bombing,” the source said at the scene. “A guy drove a Honda car, forced his way through the gate and rammed into the building, and then the bomb exploded.”One UN staff member said people were still trapped in the building that sustained heavy damage.“I don’t know what is going on. Many people are still trapped upstairs and we need a crane to bring people down,” said the UN staffer who did not want to give her name.Two cranes were later brought to the scene and rescue workers were trying to free those trapped on the upper floors.Police said there was an explosion and UN officials said it was caused by a bomb.“We spoke to our colleagues in Lagos, who confirmed that the explosion was caused by a bomb. But we have no further information for now,” a UN spokeswoman in Geneva told AFP.A spokeswoman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs meanwhile told AFP that a colleague on site had sent an SMS message to say that the explosion “appears to have come from the gate entrance to the building.”The UN building is located in Abuja’s diplomatic zone, not far from the US Embassy, and houses a number of United Nations agencies.Read the full story here.

  • Shahbaz Taseer, son of late Governor Punjab Salmaan Taseer, was abducted from Lahore.(Tribune).The Express Tribune’s Asad Kharal reports Taseer had left his house from Cavalry Ground in his silver Mercedes Kompressor (LZT-1) for his office around 10:15am. Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Lahore said his car was intercepted by a black SUV and motorbike around 600 yards from the office and up to three men dragged Taseer out of the car and took him away. Family sources said they had been informed of the kidnapping when a company driver passing by the area saw Taseer’s car abandoned in the street. The kidnappers headed to Firdous Market via Cavalry Flyover, which leads straight to DHA Lahore and the cantonment areas. A traffic warden in the area reported a black SUV, white corolla and a motorbike sped through the area and made a sharp turn, which resulted in a black Kalashnikov dropping out of one of the cars. “Shabhaz was out with a friend when four unidentified people kidnapped him,” his brother Sheryar Taseer told Reuters. “Our family has been receiving threats from the Taliban and extremist groups,” he said, adding they could be behind the abduction. Official sources said Shahbaz Taseer had some property disputes and had also been receiving threats recently. No one has claimed responsibility. Taseer was travelling without any security today and is normally reported to have travelled in a silver Prado with Elite force and police guards. Police is also retrieving CCTV footage from the area to help with investigations. One of the guards posted with Shahbaz Taseer was taken into custody and had his weapon seized when police questioned him and he revealed another guard was on leave. He had not left the house with Taseer but had later been told to go to the office. Two police personnal, Liaquat and Sharafat, were posted with Taseer. Police officials said the Taseer family had a total of 12 police and five Rangers personnel posted with them. Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has taken notice of the incident and has issued directives to Inspector General of Police (IG) Punjab and Chief Secretary Punjab to take immediate action. A Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) team, on the directives of Director Punjab and Interior Minister Rehman Malik, has started investigations.Read the full story here.

  • China says concerned about Europe debt.(Emirates24/7).China is concerned about the European debt crisis and hopes that Europe will take measures to protect China's investments there, Chinese President Hu Jintao told the visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday.Hu also told Sarkozy that China hopes the European economy can maintain stability, and that China has confidence in the European economy and the euro, Chinese television reported."China is concerned about the impact of the euro debt crisis, and hopes that the European economy can maintain stability, and hopes that the countries concerned can achieve success in their financial reforms," said Hu."China has confidence in the European economy and the euro, and we are sure that Europe has the wisdom and ability to surmount its current hardships and maintain economic stability and growth. China will continue making Europe one of its principle investment markets, and we hope that Europe will take measures to ensure the security of Chinese investments there."With about a quarter of China's record foreign currency reserves of more than $3 trillion held in euro assets, Beijing has been unsettled by the threat to the euro, even as Chinese leaders have said they believe Europe can surmount its woes.Along with Germany, France has resisted calls from other countries in the euro zone to expand the zone's 440 billion euro bailout fund and introduce joint issuance of bonds by countries in the bloc as ways to address the crisis.Read the full story here.

  • Turkey Poised For Military Operation In Iraq against PKK.(Memri).The Iraqi government daily Al-Sabah reported that Turkish commando units have been moved forward toward the Iraqi border in preparation for a wide-scale land operation against PKK [Kurdish Workers Party] bases on the Iraqi-Turkish border after id il-fitr [a holiday that follows the fasting month of Ramadan] which falls early next week. The Iraqi ministry of foreign affairs summoned the Turkish ambassador in Baghdad to hand him a protest note concerning the Turkish shelling of Iraqi territory. [It has not taken a similar measure with regard to the Iranian ambassador].It was also reported that the head of the Sadrist Movement Muqtada al-Sadr sent separate delegations to Tehran and Ankara to urge them to stop shelling the Iraqi territory.Read the full story here.
      • Egyptian Churches Reject Calls For Massive Anti-Israel Protest In Cairo.(WZ).Egyptian churches announced on Thursday their rejection of a protest scheduled for next Friday to demand the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Cairo.A number of activists who have been staging a sit-in in front of the Israeli Embassy called Tuesday for a million-strong demonstration to take place this Friday to demand the removal of the Israeli ambassador, a move that would likely further strain relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv.On 18 August, six Egyptian military and security personnel were killed by Israeli gunfire at the border between Egypt and Israel.The Coptic Church called for political groups and coalitions to leave the issue to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and the government. It urged youths to cooperate with the military junta so that they do not become separated from their political leaders, as was the case under the former regime.The Catholic Church spokesman Rafiq Greish said that youth should not interfere in what should be done with the Israeli ambassador and should leave the SCAF to deal with the matter.The Salafi Front and 18 Sufi orders have announced their planned participation in Friday’s demonstration outside the Israeli Embassy to demand the expulsion of the ambassador.However, the Muslim Brotherhood, the revolutionary coalitions and the various political parties have not so far confirmed their participation in the event.“We will hold demonstrations in all governorates,” said Salafi Front spokesman Khaled Saeed. “And we call on the secular and liberal forces to take part.”Read the full story here.
          • Arab League: Israel-Egypt peace treaty isn't sacred.(Ynet).Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said Friday that all peace treaties are subject to the Vienna Convention which stipulates that if one side violates the agreement, the other can reserve the option to amend or annul the agreement.   In an interview with Al-Arabiya TV, Elaraby said that the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt can be amended, noting that the accords are "not sacred - they are not the Koran or the New Testament." In a jab addressed at ousted President Hosni Mubarak he noted that no one ever told Israel off under the old regime. "There were violations and they were ignored," he said. Meanwhile, Egypt gears for a mass anti-Israel demonstration scheduled to be held outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo later on Friday. It is estimated that only several thousands will show up for the protest rather than the one million declared on Facebook. The protesters will demand that the Israeli ambassador be expelled from Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood announced it will take part in the rally. Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm Al-Sabe'a reported that several political movements are opposed to the demonstration.Read the full story here.

            • Indonesia - Lesbian Lovers Released in Aceh, forcefully Separated.(JakartaGlobe).Authorities in Aceh released a married lesbian couple from detention after the lovers agreed not to see each other again.Nuraini, 21, and her ‘husband’ Rinto, 25, were arrested by the Public Order Officers (Satpol PP) in Southwest Aceh district after it was revealed that Rinto was actually a woman named Rohani. She faked her identity to be able to marry Nuraini.However, the authorities were clueless as to what charges they should lay against on the couple because lesbianism is not regulated under qanun (Islamic bylaws).After three days in detention, the couple were released on Wednesday.Speaking on the phone to the Jakarta Globe, Muddasir, the head of Satpol PP in the district, said that Nuraini and Rohani had been returned to their respective parents.“They were returned to their parents after they promised not to see each other again. If they violate the agreement, they will be given sanctions according to the customary law [adat],” Muddasir said. However, the agreement did not mention the form of punishment.“The punishment will be decided later by adat leaders,” he said.According to Muddasir, some village officials were angry at Rohani but they finally agreed to let her return home.“I told them not to beat her up because she had promised to repent for her sins,” he said.Both women signed the agreement witnessed by local officials and religious leaders.“[Officials and ‘adat’ leaders] had also agreed to keep the women from seeing each other again. They will monitor and guide them,” he said. “Of course they agreed because otherwise they should be beheaded because what they did was strongly forbidden in Islam.”Previously, Rohani told local media that her marriage to Nuraini had been “annulled” by the Religious Affairs Office in Darul Makmur district.They were married by an unofficial cleric provided by the district.“We were married so that we could still live under the same roof but then they found out my real identity,” she said.Muddasir played down Rohani’s statement about the marriage, claiming it had never been legal.“How could we divorce them if their marriage was illegal because there are no legal regulations that allow a woman to marry another woman.”Hmmmm......Obama "Indonesia is an example of religious tolerance".Read the full story here.

            • Afghan Editor Condemns the Custom of Dancing Boys, Says: '[Boys] of Ages 15 to 20 are Normally Dressed in Women's Clothes, Dancing All the Night, Then Abused by Several Men'.(Memri).In a recent report, senior Afghan journalist Musa Khan Jalalzai drew attention to the custom of Afghan dancing boys and their sexual exploitation by powerful and wealthy warlords in the country. The report notes that the custom has become a status symbol in Afghanistan."A shameless business of teenage rape or Bacha-bazi has brought disgrace and shame to Afghan society. The tradition of teenage rape is an old tradition in northern and southern provinces. The tradition has roots in Afghan history. President Hamid Karzai, in his recent statement, warned that rapists should face 'the country's most severe punishment. "The interior ministry has failed to arrest powerful rapist warlords in northern Afghanistan, as the police administration has long been involved in many illegal businesses like drug trafficking, prostitution, and playboys. Corruption in the Afghan justice system is another problem. Courts are helpless before war criminals. Judges are the most corrupt people, who bail out or release criminals and receive millions in Afghan currency."Local residents now have demanded for a crackdown against these elements, but are skeptical because criminals are powerful and well-armed. War criminals have representation in Afghan parliament and in government institutions. Why did this illegal business take deep roots after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001? Afghan men of letters understand that both unemployment and poverty are the main motivators for the revival of the business of Bacha-bazi in Afghanistan. Recruitment of young and beardless beautiful boys is in progress."Powerful and wealthy warlords in northern Afghanistan, according to press reports, recruit young boys for sex and dance, while local authorities remain powerless in stopping the practice. Bacha-bereesh [boys] of ages 15-20 are normally dressed in women's clothes, dancing all the night, then abused by several men.""This is an established fact that a boy without beard and [is] smart normally becomes a status symbol for his master. Mohammad Zaher Zafari, head of the Northern Branch of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, hopelessly said: 'Sexual abuse and even the sale of boys has been going on for years; the boys involved are usually poor, underage or orphans, and they are forced into it by their economic circumstances."Another senior official, Hafizullah Khaliqyar, head of the prosecutor's office for Baghlan province, complains that teenage boys are forced to dance. 'They are sexually abused, and they are even bought and sold. Fights take place over these Bacha-bereesh. It's increasing day by day, and it's catastrophic,' he said.""A local Afghan reporter, Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, recently interviewed some warlords saying that they play with dogs, boys, and love teenage girls. 'Some men enjoy playing with dogs, some with women. I enjoy playing with boys,' warlord Allah Daad told Ibrahimi. After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Bacha-bazi increased tremendously and is still on the rise."In the past, Afghans were ashamed of it and trying to hide it, but nowadays, nobody feels shame and they openly enjoy this shameless business. Religious scholars condemn the custom, which they count as one of the most sinful acts possible. Afghan ulema [Islamic scholars] are of the opinion that making boys dance and sexually abusing them is not allowed in Islam. Maulana Ghulam Rabbani of Takhar province understands that those involved in it need to be punished."Local officials in northern provinces of Afghanistan admit the practice is prevalent but show no specific interest to intercept it. The authorities are in much dismay about the police officers' involvement in this business. Members of Afghan police in various provinces are deeply involved in male prostitution. The interior ministry in Kabul has received thousands of complaints from locals regarding the police sexual attacks on young boys.""Keeping in view their sexual needs, in December 2010, WikiLeaks cables reported [that] U.S. company DynCorp had spent money on pimps who purchased young boys for Afghan policemen. The boys were used in Bacha-bazi. This shameless practice has also prompted the Defense Department of the United States to hire a social scientist, Anna Maria, to investigate the problem, as several U.S. soldiers on patrol often passed older men walking hand-in-hand with pretty young boys."Reuters, in its November 19, 2007 report and Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan [RAWA], quoted a 42-year-old landowner, Inayatullah, of Baghlan province as saying, 'Having a boy has become a custom for us. Whoever wants to show off should have a boy.' In his short interview with Reuter's reporter, Mr. Inayatullah vowed: 'I was married to a woman 20 years ago; she left me because of my boy,' he said. 'I was playing with my boy every night and was away from home. Eventually my wife decided to leave me. I am happy with my decision, because I am used to sleeping and entertaining with my young boy,' He told Reuters."A recent U.S. State Department report assessed the situation bluntly, saying that it amounts to a 'widespread, culturally sanctioned form of male rape.' The majority of Afghans have no knowledge of their country's law about male prostitution. All kinds of prostitution are illegal under the Afghan law. In Afghan society, the victims of rape and assault – both male and female – are sometimes persecuted rather than the criminals who abuse them."There are thousands of young boys who have undergone ordeals. But the actual numbers of these vulnerable boys are not known. In Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif, Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan, Samangan, Panjshir, and Herat bazaars, Bacha-bazi CDs and DVDs are widely circulated serving an audience who can't afford the real thing."Read the full story here.

            • And now for something completely different!Saudi Arabia has found traces of a civilisation that was domesticating horses about 9,000 years ago.(Emirates24/7).Saudi Arabia has found traces of a civilisation that was domesticating horses about 9,000 years ago, 4,000 years earlier than previously thought, the kingdom said."This discovery shows that horses were domesticated in the Arabian Peninsula for the first time more than 9,000 years ago, whereas previous studies estimated the domestication of horses in Central Asia dating back 5,000 years, Ali Al Ghabban, vice-chairman of the Department of Museums and Antiquities, said at a news conference late Wednesday.The remains of the civilisation were found close to Abha, in southwestern Asir province, an area known to antiquity as Arabia Felix.The civilisation, given the name Al Maqari, used "methods of embalming that are totally different to known processes," Ghabban said.Among the remains found at the site are statues of animals such as goats, dogs, hawks, and a metre-tall bust of a horse, Ghabban said."A statue of an animal of this dimension, dating back to that time, has never been found anywhere in the world," Ghabban said.He added that archaeologists also found arrowheads, stone tools, weaving tools and mortars for pounding grain, reflecting the development of that civilisation.The remains were found in a valley that was once a riverbed, at a time when the now-arid Arabian Peninsula was more humid and fertile, the official said.An international team of archaeologists published an article in January that suggested human beings could have been present on the Arabian Peninsula about 125,000 years ago.Read the full story here.

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