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MUMBAI (AFP) January 7 - Militants who attacked Mumbai were urged to kill their hostages in cold blood and fight to the death in the name of Islam, according to transcripts of intercepted telephone calls that have been made public. In one exchange, one of the two attackers who stormed the luxury Oberoi-Trident hotel was told to "inflict the maximum damage" and to "kill all hostages, except the two Muslims" they were holding. "We have three foreigners, including women," the attacker identified as Fahadullah said. "Kill them. Keep your phone switched on so that we can hear the gunfire," he was told.
01.07.09 Heavy shelling reported as IDF steps up anti-tunnel ops
January 7 - Heavy shelling was reported in Rafah on Wednesday night as the IDF stepped up its operations against weapons smuggling tunnels along the Philadelphi Corridor. The army had earlier dropped flyers on Rafah urging residents of the town living near the corridor to vacate the area. "Because Hamas uses your houses to hide and smuggle military weapons, the IDF will attack the area, between the Egyptian border until the beach road," the flyer said, according a local UN official. After the flyers were dropped, about 5,000 people fled to two UN schools turned into temporary shelters, the official said.
01.07.09 Russia forced to end gas supplies to Ukraine
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) January 7 - Russian energy giant Gazprom halted on Wednesday gas supplies to Ukraine for transit to Europe. A final check established that Ukraine was not carrying any gas to Europe despite Russia's move to continue gas supplies to Ukraine through the Sudzha station. Earlier in the day, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin warned his Czech counterpart that Gazprom would be forced to cut gas supplies to Ukraine unless Kiev cancels its decision to close all four pipelines carrying Russian gas to the EU. [More>>en.rian.ru]
01.07.09 Troops kill 32 insurgents in east Afghanistan: US
KABUL (AP) January 7 - Forces from the US-led coalition killed 32 armed insurgents during a clash in eastern Afghanistan, the military said Wednesday. The firefight broke out Tuesday during a strike on a Taliban bomb-making cell in Laghman Province, the military said in a statement. As many as 75 armed militants converged on the troops, shooting at them from rooftops and alleyways, the statement said. The 32 insurgents were killed when coalition troops returned fire. The troops also destroyed two caches of weapons and roadside bomb-making materials that were too unstable to move to another location, the statement said. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
01.07.09 Report: US $1.2 trillion in the hole
January 7 - The US federal budget deficit will hit an unparalleled $1.2 trillion for the 2009 budget year, according to a Capitol Hill aide briefed on new Congressional Budget Office figures. The aide says the CBO also sees a $703 billion deficit for 2010. The dismal figures come a day after President-elect Barack Obama warned of "trillion-dollar deficits for years to come." CBO's figures don't account for the huge economic stimulus bill that Mr. Obama is expected to propose soon to try to jolt the economy. At the same time, they do not reflect the immediate cost of the Wall St. bailout. [More>>cbsnews.com]
That the US government and media seem shocked at the $1.3 trillion deficit seems disingenuous, since anyone computing interest on a $11.3 trillion national debt — it was ~$10.3 trillion in the fall of 2008 — (using historic interest rates applied to the US debt, which have been ~5%) will arrive at the conclusion that 11.3 trillion x 5% interest = $565 billion + the $700 billion bailout = $1.265 trillion. This is probably a conservative number, compared to what may be confessed in the future. Government officials tend to suggest that borrowing and increasing the national debt (public debt) is in effect — for this generation — free money, since we are told "We are putting our debt onto our children." The truth is the national debt is an accrued debt (most of which originated in the Reagan-Bush administrations) that carries service (interest) costs.
01.07.09 4.3 lakh birds culled in Assam: Minister
GUWAHATI, India, January 7 - The bird flu situation in Assam was 'stable' and nearly 4.34 lakh birds, including commercial and backyard poultry, were culled till December last, state veterinary minister kher Sing Engti [said] on Wednesday...Of the total birds killed, 3.32 lakh were from 250 commercial farms and rest from backyard poultry farms, Engti said. [Full story>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; wikipedia.org: 1 lakh = 100,000]
01.07.09 The big question: Why is Braille under threat, and would it really matter if it died out?
January 6 - (Article by Jeremy Laurance)
Why are we asking this now?
This week marks the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth on 4 January 1809. He was the inventor of the embossed system of type that is now used for reading and writing by blind and partially sighted people all over the world. Texts from almost every known language have been translated into Braille from Albanian to Zulu.
So what is the problem?
Braille is under threat from new technologies such as voice recognition and talking computers that can "read" text. It is not being taught widely in schools, is not popular with parents of blind children, and social services departments often do not have the budget to help adults learn. It is feared that, without a campaign to save it, Braille could become redundant.
Why does this matter?
The more blind you are, and the longer you have been blind, the more essential it is. Experts liken the invention of Braille for the blind to the invention of the printing press for the sighted. Although computers and the internet are now the tools of choice for millions of sighted readers, none has yet dispensed with pen and paper. Of 500,000 people in the UK who are registered (or registrable) as blind, around 50,000 have no alternative to Braille, i.e., their sight is so bad that they cannot manage with large-print books. Of these an estimated 18,000 are current users of Braille. [More>>independent.co.uk]
01.06.09 30 reported killed in blast at UN school
January 6 - At least 30 people were reportedly killed and 53 wounded in an explosion in a UN-run school in the town of Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, according to Palestinians. The IDF issued a statement saying the school grounds were used by terrorists to fire mortar shells at the troops. According to the IDF, among the dead were members of a Hamas launching cell, including operatives Immad Abu Askar and Hassan Abu Askar.
The infantrymen returned mortar shell fire into the school grounds, the army said. Defense officials told The Associated Press that booby-trapped bombs in the school triggered the secondary explosions which killed scores of Palestinians on the site. The IDF released a video taken by a UAV in the end of 2007 showing terrorists firing mortar shells from right outside the school. "Hamas has in the past fired at Israel and at troops from inside schools, cynically using civilians, as is proven by UAV footage," the army said. [More>>jpost.com; See other reports and details, some of which appear to have an "inciteful" bias:
nytimes.com, January 6, "Israeli strike reportedly hits United Nations school in Gaza" : JERUSALEM - The Israeli military struck near a United Nations school in Gaza on Tuesday, killing at least 30 people among hundreds who had sought refuge at the school from the fighting in the beleaguered territory, the United Nations and hospital officials in Gaza said. The officials said those killed included men, women and children. The Israeli military, in a statement, confirmed it had carried out a mortar attack on the school, saying an initial investigation suggested its forces had responded to mortar fire coming from the school. The United Nations has opened its schools in Gaza to provide shelter and gave the Israelis the coordinates of those locations. John Ging of the United Nations relief agency said.
According to Mr. Ging, 30 people had been killed in the strike near the school, where 350 people were taking shelter and which is in Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza. Another 55 were injured, five of them critically, he said. Most of the casualties occurred outside the school rather than in the building itself, Mr. Ging said, describing the neighborhood as a built-up area. But in Gaza, three hospital officials at Shifa hospital, where some of the wounded from the school were taken, said at least 42 people were killed and that the number of dead was likely to rise. Despite mounting diplomatic pressure to end its offensive in Gaza, Israel's military onslaught unfolded for an 11th day on Tuesday. Since launching its ground offensive, Israel has killed 130 Hamas fighters, Israeli officials say. Hamas has killed five Israelis by rocket fire and in combat...
The attack, which appeared to come from an air strike from two Israeli F16s, happened at the al-Fakhora school in Jabaliya refugee camp, causing carnage inside and outside the building, where hundreds of Palestinians had sought refuge from fighting between Israeli soldiers and Hamas militants. Initial reports had said the devastation was caused by a tank shell exploding. Bodies lay scattered on the ground in pools of blood amid shredded clothing and shoes after the attack, in which several dozen people were also wounded...Dana Perino, spokeswoman for the White House, said: “I saw the reports about the school. I don't have any information about that. I think that we should not jump to conclusions and we should wait to find out what the evidence says. "What we do know is that Hamas often hides amongst innocents and uses innocent people, including children, as human shields."..
"The initial findings... are that there was hostile fire at one of our units from the UN facility," Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, said. "Our unit responded. Then there were explosions out of proportion to the ordnance we used," he said. Avital Liebowitz, an Israeli military spokesperson, told Al Jazeera that Hamas had "booby-trapped" installations in Gaza and Israel had "no choice but to retaliate. This is how it is in wars, we did not choose to be in a war. However, Hamas chose to target Israelis, we did not force them to do anything, and Hamas chose terror." But Azmi Bishara, a former Arab member of the Israeli Knesst, told Al Jazeera that Hamas' rockets were a "protest shout" against a "an occupying power."
01.06.09 Bird flu patient in Beijing dies, investigation ongoing
BEIJING, January 6 - Beijing municipal health authorities confirmed Tuesday a 19-year-old woman was infected with bird flu and died in Beijing Monday. Huang Yanqing died at 7:20 a.m. on Monday. This was the first human bird flu case reported in Beijing since 2003, according to the municipal health bureau. Huang fell ill on Dec. 24. Her condition deteriorated and she was admitted to hospital Dec. 27. Experts with the Beijing Municipal Center for Diseases Control and Preventive Medical Research and the Academy of Military Medical Sciences launched examinations on the samples from Huang. Both tested the samples positive for the H5N1 bird flu strain. Ministry of Health experts determined that Huang was infected with bird flu.
thenews.com.pk, January 6, "Bird flu triggers alert in Nepali border areas" : KATHMANDU: Following the reported outbreak of Avian Influenza in bordering Indian state of West Bengal a few days ago, Nepali Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives directed local administrations in the areas bordering the Indian state to fully prohibit the import of birds, ducks and poultry products from India, media sources reported on Tuesday. The Ministry called on all people concern[ed] to be on high alert to prevent a possible outbreak of the deadly disease in Nepal. The outbreak of bird flu was reported a few days ago in Darjeeling and Malad in West Bengal. Darjeeling is merely 13 km away from Nepal. The ministry has also directed [the] local administration to take action against anyone violating the government's instruction.[end]
01.06.09 Russia cuts gas supplies to Europe
KIEV, Ukraine (AFP) January 6 - Russia had drastically cut gas supplies to Europe, the Ukraine Government says. Ukraine warned of "problems" ahead as several European countries reported that deliveries of Russian gas had stopped. Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom slashed deliveries of gas bound for Europe by nearly 60 per cent, its Ukrainian counterpart Naftogaz said, as a six-day stand-off between the two countries deepened. The announcement came a day after Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered Gazprom to start cutting supplies bound for Europe via Ukraine in retaliation for Ukraine's alleged theft of Russian gas.
en.rian.ru,(RIA Novosti) January 6, "Europe a hostage to Ukraine's heedless behavior" : BERLIN - Europe has become a hostage to Ukraine's heedless behavior, a first deputy CEO of Russian energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday. "We have faced an undisguised theft of Russian gas by Ukraine," Alexander Medvedev told journalists, adding that an independent international company has registered the theft. "We are forced to use such terms as 'gas theft' as these facts have been registered by an independent international company. Despite Ukraine preventing specialists from accessing its gas measuring stations, measurements of incoming and outgoing gas [volumes] have led us to this conclusion," he said.
01.06.09 Tossing iron powder into ocean to fight global warming
NEW DELHI, January 6 - Can tossing tones of iron powder into the ocean help the world fight global warming? A team of Indian scientists, along with their counterparts from Germany and elsewhere, is embarking on an ambitious 70-day ocean expedition on Wednesday to find answers to that question. Twenty-nine scientists from India, eleven from Germany and ten others will board German research vessel, Polarstern, in Cape Town and head to the experiment site in southwest Atlantic near Antartica. They will stay in the cold and notoriously stormy waters for nearly two months to test a controversial hypothesis that, experts say, has the potential to clean up as much as 1 billion tonne (1 Gt) of CO2 from the atmosphere every year and store it below the ocean for centuries.
01.05.09 Hamas won't stop rocket attacks on Israel
GAZA CITY, January 5 - Hamas militants fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel on Monday despite a 10-day Israeli military campaign that reportedly has left more than 500 Palestinians dead. Neither Israel nor the Hamas leaders in Gaza showed any sign of considering a cease-fire in the face of continuing international pressure to do so. "I can understand the eagerness of the international community to see the return to calm," Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told European foreign ministers in Jerusalem. "This is our dream as well. This is what we are looking for. Unfortunately, there are those who cannot accept the idea of living in peace in this region."
01.05.09 India hands over Mumbai evidence to Pakistan
NEW DELHI, January 5 - India on Monday handed over to Pakistan evidence about involvement of elements based in that country in the Mumbai Terror attacks and asked Islamabad to implement its commitments. Stepping up the diplomatic offensive, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said he has written to his counterparts around the world and that countries are being briefed separately giving details of the Mumbai attacks and its links in Pakistan. "We have today handed over to Pakistan evidence of the links with elements in Pakistan of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008,"
01.05.09 Baghdad bombs kill two, wound dozens
BAGHDAD (AFP) January 5 - Two people were killed and dozens more wounded in Baghdad on Monday by multiple roadside bombings and one car bomb, security forces told AFP on Monday. "Two people were killed and six others were injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) targetting a police patrol blew up in central Baghdad," the police said. They said another 20 people were wounded in four separate roadside attacks in various areas of Baghdad. In addition, a car bomb in south western Baghdad injured five, according to security forces. [>khaleejtimes.com]
01.05.09 US sending emergency aid to Darfur
WASHINGTON, January 5 - President Bush has authorized an immediate airlift of vehicles and equipment to bolster the international peace-keeping mission in the conflict-torn Darfur region of western Sudan, the White House announced on Monday. Because of the urgency of the situation, the president is waiving the normal 15-day period to notify Congress of his intentions “because failing to do so would pose a substantial risk to human health and welfare,” Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, said in a statement.
The airlift to aid the peace mission, formally known as the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur, is a significant step up in American involvement in the region, even though it will not involve military action. The region has long been riven by ethnic and sectarian strife, which has claimed thousands of lives. Details of the airlift, like how many planes will be used and from what bases, and how much cargo they will carry, were not announced. [More>>nytimes.com]
01.04.09 Six European countries hit by shortages as Russia-Ukraine gas row deepens
MOSCOW, January 4 - Ukraine and Russia's acrimonious gas dispute was blamed today for disrupting supplies across Europe, with six countries reporting reductions, in the middle of a New Year’s cold snap. As Russia’s state gas company Gazprom hardened its position by threatening to increase the gas price to Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Turkey today reported falls in their supplies in addition to Poland, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.
01.04.09 Israeli forces bisect Gaza and surround biggest city
(AP) January 4 - Israeli ground troops and tanks cut through the Gaza Strip early today, cutting the coastal territory into two and surrounding its biggest city as the new phase of a devastating offensive against Hamas militants gained momentum. The military used overwhelming firepower from tanks, artillery and aircraft to protect the advancing soldiers, and Gaza officials said at least 31 civilians were killed in the onslaught. The military said troops killed several dozen militants, but Gaza officials could confirm only four dead — in part because rescue teams could not reach the battle zones. One Israeli soldier was killed.
jpost.com, January 4, "Hamas moves on Fatah 'collaborators' " : The Hamas government has placed dozens of Fatah members under house arrest out of fear that they might exploit the current IDF operation to regain control of the Gaza Strip. The move came amid reports that the Fatah leadership in the West Bank has instructed its followers to be ready to assume power over the Gaza Strip when and if Israel's military operation results in the removal of Hamas rule. Fatah officials in Ramallah told The Jerusalem Post that Hamas militiamen had been assaulting many Fatah activists since the beginning of the operation last Saturday. They said at least 75 activists were shot in the legs while others had their hands broken...
france24.com (AFP) January 4, "Hamas shares responsibility for civilian suffering: Sarkozy" : Hamas "bears a heavy responsibility in the suffering of the Palestinian people in Gaza," French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Lebanese newspapers in an interview out Monday. While condemning the Israeli ground offensive itself, Sarkozy told the newspapers: "I want to say again here that we condemn with the same firmness (Hamas') continuing rocket fire, which is an unacceptable provocation.
01.04.09 British reporter freed in Somalia
January 4 - Somali kidnappers have released a British journalist and Spanish photographer, according to officials. Sunday Telegraph chief foreign correspondent Colin Freeman, 39, and Jose Cendon, 34, were seized on 26 November in the country's north-east. They had been investigating piracy in the Gulf of Aden but were captured by gunmen after leaving their hotel for Bosasso airport. The UK Foreign Office and Spanish government confirmed their release. [More>>bbc.co.uk; See related story, france24.com, "France foils two Somali pirate attacks."]
01.04.09 Woman suicide bomber kills 35 by Baghdad shrine
BAGHDAD (AFP) January 4 - A female suicide bomber killed at least 35 people, including women and children, and wounded 65 others on a religious march near the holy Kadhimiyah shrine in northern Baghdad on Sunday. The woman blew herself up at a checkpoint as pilgrims commemorating the Muharram ceremonies converged on the mausoleum of Iman Mousa al-Kadhim, the most important religious site in Baghdad for Shiite Muslims, officials said.
01.04.09 Taliban bans co-ed in Pakistan tribal area
ISLAMABAD, January 4 - After banning girls' education in [the] Swat district of North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan, Taliban militia on Sunday imposed restrictions on co-education in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Pamphlets attributed to the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) were distributed in the restive tribal areas of the country, asking school owners and teachers to close down all institutes offering co-education even at the pre-school level. The pamphlets in Urdu asked the government to stop issuing identity cards to women "with or without pictures". According to Pakistani rules, every adult above 18 years of age has to have an identity card with his/her photo pasted on it. [More>>timesofindia.indiatimes.com]
01.04.09 Suicide jackets, explosives recovered in Khyber Agency
BARA, Pakistan - Security forces arrested nine suspected persons and recovered a huge quantity of explosives from their possession in Khyber Agency on Sunday. According to reports, security forces raided a home in Shalobar area in Bara and seized explosive-laden vehicle, three suicide vests, Ids, 29 hand grenades, 12 RPG rockets and six light gun machines. Nine suspected persons were also held by security forces and were later shifted to some undisclosed location for interrogation. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story,
01.04.09 Several die in Kashmir fighting
January 4 - At least seven people have been killed in a gun battle between government forces and armed separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir, the local police say. Four suspected fighters, two army soldiers and one police officer were killed, K Rajendran, an inspector-general of police, said on Sunday. "We have killed four suspected militants but their bodies are yet to be recovered because of the continuing exchange of gunfire," Rajendran added. Government forces and the fighters had been engaged in fierce fighting since Thursday near the village of Bhatidhar, about 180km southwest of Srinagar. [More>>aljazeera.net]
01.03.09 World stock markets open 2009 on high note
HONG KONG, January 3 - World stock markets opened 2009 on a high note, with Hong Kong’s index up more than 4 percent, as investors shrugged off more dreary economic news to focus on government moves to ease the global slump. With most investors away for the holidays and more than half the region’s markets still closed, trading volumes were extremely light, which exaggerates price moves. Chinese telecom firms surged after Beijing approved next-generation mobile licenses, and commodity companies were lifted by stronger prices for raw materials.
01.03.09 Europe shivers as gas row widens
MOSCOW, January 3 - Russian gas flows to four European Union countries were below normal levels yesterday after Moscow cut off supplies to Ukraine in a pricing dispute, and there were no talks in sight to resolve the dispute. With temperatures below zero overnight in Europe, Bulgaria's Bulgargaz operator joined energy firms in Poland, Romania and Hungary in saying they had noted falls in supply, though flows to Europe's biggest economy, Germany, were not affected.
en.rian.ru (RIA Novosti) January 3, "Ukraine and Rssia swap accusations as gas dispute continues" : MOSCOW - The gas dispute between Russia's Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz is set to continue with both sides swapping accusations on Saturday as EU states reported drops in Russian gas deliveries via Ukraine. As temperatures plummeted across Europe, a number of EU countries reported decreases in Russian supplies after Russia's Gazprom cut gas deliveries supplies on Thursday to Ukraine amid a long-standing dispute over a $2 billion unpaid debt and gas prices for 2009...
Editorial note: Because of the previous pipeline shutoff, the EU sought the development of pipelines that did not pass through Russia. The pipeline from Baku to Turkey's Ceyhan port on the Mediterranean ("Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline,") was a solution to the problem until Russia defended the breakaway South Ossetia region of Georgia in response to a Georgian military attack to regain the region. A week prior to the invasion(s) of South Ossetia Russia persuaded Turkmenistan to reroute it's planned "Nabucco" pipeline to the EU — across the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan and Turkey and into Eastern Europe — through Russia. A background on the Nabucco pipeline is described at Maravot News 8.18.08, article 8.15.08 War casts cloud over pipeline route. This is not the complete story, however, since intermixed with control of the pipelines is the US desire to establish a missile shield in Europe, including Ukraine. This aspect of the pipeliine crisis is also in Maravot News 8.18.08, articles and editorial notes, 8.15.08 US missile shield in Europe targets Russia - Medvedev. and 8.14.08 Gates: Russia must step back from 'aggressive posture.'
01.03.09 Use oil as weapon to help end Gaza bombing, Bahraini MPs
MANAMA, January 3 - Bahrain's MPs have called upon the Arab states to use the oil weapon and their investments in the West as bargaining chips to help end the Israeli bombing campaigns on Gaza. The MPs also piled up pressure on the government by asking it to freeze its bold initiative for peace with Israel and the reopening of the anti-Israel office it closed in 2005. "As we condemn the Israeli ruthless attacks and criminal acts that violate all international agreements and covenants, we demand that all retaliation options remain open for Arab governments," the lower house said. "These include using the economic weapons such as oil and the huge investments and funds that Arabs have in the West. Such options should influence the current situation on the ground and lead the West to reconsider their biased attitudes against the Palestinians," the MPs said during a meeting with Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the Foreign Minister, to discuss Bahrain's actions regarding the raids. [More>>gulfnews.com]
01.03.09 World rallies against, for Gaza airstrikes
(CBS / AP) January 3 - As Diplomacy Fails To Halt Israeli Offensive, Protestors Lash Out Against Both Attacks On Hamas, Palestinian Rockets. Protests against Israel's airstrikes on Gaza continued around the world, as calls for a ceasefire were raised - along with cries for revenge. Meanwhile, thousands of Jews and Christians are expected at demonstrations to be held this weekend in New York, London, Toronto, Miami, Washington, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv to protest Hamas' rocket attacks from Gaza. Some activists are billing the demonstrations as counter-rallies against what they call "assemblies of hatred for Jews and Israel." [More>>cbsnews.com; See related stories:
aljazeera.net, January 3, "Worldwide protests denounce Israel" : Angry protests against Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip have continued throughout the world, with two of the largest demonstrations taking place in London and in Sakhnin in northern Israel. Other large demonstrations were staged in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, Lebanon, Turkey and the West Bank...
khaleejtimes.com, January 3, "Top Saudi lawyer says pro-Gaza protests 'corrupt' " : RIYADH - A top Saudi cleric and justice official has branded protests in support of Gaza's Palestinians as corrupt, saying they only serve to foment anger and aggression, a newspaper reported on Saturday. Sheikh Saalih al-Fawzaan, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Council and one of the country's top scholars of Islamic shariah law, said the protests represent "corruption on Earth, and not righteousness or reform," according to Al Hayat daily...
01.03.09 Soldiers exchange fire with Hamas gunmen inside Strip
January 3 - For the first time since the start of Operation Cast Lead, IDF ground troops entered the Gaza Strip on Saturday evening, exchanging fire with Hamas gunmen. The IDF said that a large amount of troops from the Armored Corps, Engineering Corps and Infantry Corps entered the territory with the purpose of destroying Hamas infrastructure and preventing rocket fire by taking control of launching pads "in order to greatly reduce the quantity of rockets fired at Israel and Israeli civilians." The IDF warned that terrorists using civilians as human shields would bear full responsibility for their fate. The IDF spokesperson emphasized that "anyone who hides a terrorist or weapons in his house is considered a terrorist," adding that "the residents of Gaza are not the target of the operation."
The IAF also hit the home of senior Hamas commander Abu Zacharia Al-Jamal. A Hamas spokesman announced that al-Jamal was killed in the attack, which would make him the third senior operative in the group to be targeted in the past three days...In Saturday morning attacks, the army struck the homes of two Hamas operatives, saying the buildings were used to store weapons and plan attacks. Hamas outposts, training camps and rocket launching sites also were targeted, it said. The army also struck the American International School, the most prestigious educational institution in Gaza. The school is not connected to the US government, but teaches an American curriculum in English...[Full story>>jpost.com]
01.03.09 Baghdad bomb blast kills two, wounds eight
BAGHDAD, January 3 - Two civilians were killed and eight others were injured in a bomb explosion on Saturday in a neighbourhood in southern Baghdad, a security forces official told reporters. "At least two civilians were killed and eight others were injured when an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near an Ashura mourning procession in southern Baghdad, heading to the southern city of Karbala," the official added. The annual Ashura ceremonies in Karbala, attended by millions of pilgrims, are characterized by processions of wailing men beating their chests and engaged in devotional self-flagellation. [>thenews.com.pk]
01.03.09 Pakistan arrests former Taliban spokesman
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) January 3 - Security officials say Pakistan has arrested a former Taliban spokesman released by Afghanistan in 2007 in exchange for a kidnapped Italian journalist. An intelligence official says authorities detained Ustad Mohammed Yasir in Peshawar near [the] Afghanistan border. He says Yasir was Taliban leader Mullah Omar's spokesman after the regime's fall in Afghanistan in 2001. The official said that Pakistan first arrested Yasir in 2005 and sent him to Afghanistan, where he was released along with four other Taliban figures for journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo. A Peshawar police official confirmed the arrest. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. [>timesofindia.indiatimes.com; See related story:
indianexpress.com, January 3, "Chidambaram to visit US with dossier on Mumbai terror" : NEW DELHI - As part of efforts to drum up international pressure for nailing Islamabad's lies, Home Minister P Chidambaram will travel to the US next week armed with evidence about involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in the Mumbai attacks. "I will be going to the US next week. The dates are being finalized," Chidambaram said. Asked about his mission, he said the Ministry of External Affairs has prepared dossiers on evidence relating to Mumbai attacks and he would discuss them with his interlocutors in Washington. Details are being finalized, Chidambaram said...External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said India will share evidence regarding the role of Pakistan-based elements with the world community, which he feels should do more to ensure that perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks are brought to justice.
01.03.09 Cuba offers direct talks with US
January 3 - Cuban President Raul Castro has said he is ready to hold direct talks with US President-elect Barack Obama, but played down any quick breakthrough. Mr. Castro described Mr. Obama as an "honest man," but said his election had given rise to "excessive hopes." Mr. Castro, who took over from brother Fidel in 2008, was speaking a day after Cuba marked the 50th anniversary of its communist revolution. Mr. Obama has pledged to ease the 46-year-old US trade embargo against Cuba. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
01.02.09 UK: Mortgage lending falls to new record low
LONDON, January 2 - The home loans drought has deepened with mortgage borrowing activity dropping to another record low in November and banks further restricting access to loans over the past three months. The Bank of England reported this morning that the number of new home loans agreed in November fell to the lowest level since records began a decade ago. Just 27,000 mortgages for house purchase were approved by banks and building societies, down from a revised 31,000 in October, the Bank's figures revealed. The worse-than-expected total was the lowest since the Bank's data began in 1999. [More>>timesonline.co.uk; See related story,
01.02.09 Russia looks to re-route EU gas
January 2 - Russian gas giant Gazprom says it can no longer depend on Ukraine as a transit route to the EU and is looking to develop alternatives. In a BBC interview, the deputy chairman of Gazprom, Alexander Medvedev, said he hoped EU countries would back the move. Gazprom cut off Ukraine's gas supply on Thursday in a row over payment. The firm has since accused Ukraine of stealing gas, however Ukraine's state energy firm said Russia was not sending enough gas to ensure the EU supplies. Ukraine's state gas company, Naftogaz, denied illegally siphoning Russian gas, saying it was ensuring the export supply. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
01.02.09 Manufacturing reports show depth of global downturn
January 2 - From Australia, to Asia and Europe and the United States on Wednesday, the message in the latest economic reports was clear: manufacturing continued to slump amid the worst slowdown since the Great Depression. In the United States on Friday, a crucial measure of manufacturing activity fell to the lowest level in 28 years in December. The Institute for Supply Management, a trade group of purchasing executives, said its manufacturing index was 32.4 in December down from 36.2 in November.
01.02.09 IAF strikes 35 targets in Gaza Strip
January 2 - There was no sign of respite in IAF air raids on the seventh day of Operation Cast Lead on Friday, as aircraft destroyed the Gaza homes of more than a dozen Hamas terror operatives, a day after one of the group's top five leaders, Sheikh Nizar Rayyan, was killed in a northern Gaza air strike. A Hamas television station said that the IAF on Friday night bombed an airport in the Gaza Strip, Israel Radio reported. One person was reported dead in the attack, and five wounded. Throughout Friday, IAF planes attacked 35 targets in the Strip, including homes of Hamas terrorists, weapons caches, and smuggling tunnels, according to Israel Radio.
01.02.09 Iraq suicide bomber kills 23 at tribal lunch
BAGHDAD (Reuters) January 2 - A suicide bomber struck a lunch gathering of Sunni Arab tribal leaders on Friday in a town south of Baghdad, killing at least 23 people and wounding 42 others, security spokesman Major-General Qassim Moussawi said. The US military said its initial reports said 21 were killed and 44 were wounded. An Iraqi security source said as many as 30 people died and more than 100 were hurt. Moussawi said Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Salih, a leader of the Sunni al-Qaraghouli tribe, hosted the lunch for tribal leaders at his home. The bomber, a relative of the host named Amin al-Qaraghouli, entered through the rear gate of the house and blew himself among the guests, Moussawi said. The sheikh was among the wounded. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
01.02.09 More than 30 terrorist outfits operating in Pakistan: India
NEW DELHI, January 2 - The war of words intensified on Friday with India pointing out to Pakistan that ‘more than’ 30 Terror outfits are ‘still operating’ in that country while making it clear that it was Islamabad's responsibility to act firmly against militant groups assuming new names to evade UN sanctions. With Islamabad dilly-dallying on taking action, two senior ministers talked tough saying there was 'no noticeable change' in Pakistan's attitude and Indian forces will have to remain alert. "More than 30 terrorist outfits are still operating in Pakistan. There is no improvement or any change in their attitude," Defence Minister A K Antony said...Mukherjee's remarks came on the move by JuD to rename itself as 'Tehreek-e-Hurmat-e-Rasool' (Movement for defending the honour of God) to avoid restrictions which Pakistan could be forced to impose on it because of UNSC sanctions in the wake of the Mumbai attacks. [Full story>.indianexpress.com]
01.02.09 Girls to marry militants, orders Taliban
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, January 2 - On the heels of their crusade against girls going to schools, the Taliban have now issued [a] new dictum in the areas under their sway asking parents of the grown up daughters to marry them to militants or "face dire consequences." This new force-marriage campaign is being run in most of the areas in the Pakistan's troubled NWFP through regular announcements made in mosques to congregations. Such instances have come to light recently through some of the affected women daring to go to authorities for justice rather than meekly surrender to the militants' dictates. Salma, who teaches in a primary school in Peshawar, told the Dawn newspaper that Taliban have told families to declare in mosques if they have unmarried girls so that their hand could be given in marriage, most probably to militants.
01.02.09 Teen trained to be suicide bomber feels tricked
KABUL, Afghanistan, January 2 - A 14-year-old who was trained to kill by radicals in the tribal regions of Pakistan now sits in a crowded classroom at a detention facility in Kabul. His only wish is to see his parents again. "I miss my parents, my mom and dad," Shakirullah says in soft tones. Like others in tribal regions, he goes by one name. Shakirullah is already a convicted terrorist for planning to carry out a suicide bombing. He says Muslim radicals lied and tricked him into becoming a would-be bomber. "I have been detained for trying to commit a suicide attack," he says.
01.01.09 Russia cuts off gas to Ukraine, ups supplies to Europe
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) January 1 - Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Thursday after last-ditch talks on a 2009 contract failed late on Wednesday, but increased shipments to other European states, gas monopoly Gazprom said. A similar dispute between the two ex-Soviet neighbors resulted in a brief cutoff of supplies to Ukraine in 2006, when shortages were reported in some Eastern European countries. Russia accused Ukraine of siphoning off Europe-bound gas. "Deliveries to Ukraine were cut in full at 10:00 a.m. on January 1," Gazprom said.
01.01.09 On eve of his death, Hamas leader Nizar Rayan predicted victory
(AFP) January 2 - The day before a powerful blast sent his headless body flying out of his Gaza home, senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayan predicted that the Islamist movement would defeat Israel. "God willing, Hamas will win," Rayan said in a vitriol-laden speech that the movement's television broadcast just after he, his four wives and two of his daughters were killed in the Israeli blitz of the Gaza Strip on Thursday. Rayan, who was 51, is the most senior Hamas leader killed since Israel unleashed its massive bombardment on Saturday in response to persistent rocket fire from the enclave. Israeli F-16 jets fired two missiles at Rayan's five-storey house in the Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.
01.01.09 Egypt FM: Hamas gave Israel the excuse to launch Gaza offensive
(AP) January 1 - Egypt's foreign minister said Thursday that Hamas must ensure rocket fire stops in any truce deal to halt Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip, criticizing the Palestinian militants for giving Israel an excuse to launch the bombardment. Ahmed Aboul Gheit's comments came as Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, part of a tour by the Turkish leader to work out an Egyptian-Turkish initiative to end the violence.
01.01.09 'US has already shared evidence with Pakistan'
NEW DELHI, January 1 - The US has shared with Pakistan "strong evidence" about involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the Mumbai attacks, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said today and asked Islamabad to hand over the perpetrators for which an Extradition Treaty is not required. "We have been told that there is some strong evidence available with [the] FBI and they have shared it with Pakistan. We expect that Pakistan will act on them and hand over the perpetrators of Terror attack in Mumbai to us," said Mukherjee. The Minister said it was expected of Pakistan to take action against the perpetrators of terror attacks in the wake of evidence provided to them and various international conventions pacts to which Islamabad is party to.
01.01.09 Blazing new year as Paris cars torched
(Reuters) January 1 - At least 445 cars were torched over the night of New Year's Eve in France, a 20-percent rise on last year, but there were relatively few clashes with police, the Interior Ministry and police said today. Car burnings are regular occurrences in France but the registering [of] the New Year's Eve total has become something of a tradition since they achieved symbolic status in the violent rioting that shook many of the country's poor suburbs in 2005. With riots in Athens heightening worries that the economic crisis might spark a resurgence of the violence seen in the run-down "banlieues" then, 35,000 police were mobilized on New Year's Eve, some 7,000 more than last year.[More>>independent.co.uk]
01.01.09 Somali pirates hijack Egyptian cargo ship
CAIRO (AFP) January 1 - Somali pirates hijacked an Egyptian cargo ship with a crew of 28 near the coast of Somalia, the Egyptian foreign ministry said on Thursday. bout 15 pirates, some of them heavily-armed, attacked the Blue Star, which carried 6,000 tones of fertiliser, near Bab al-Mandab at it was headed east, said foreign ministry official Ahmed Rizq. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
01.01.09 20 Afghan police killed in Taliban ambush
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) January 1 - Taliban militants ambushed a group of Afghan police while they were eating lunch in a remote and dangerous part of southern Afghanistan, killing 20 officers and one of the policeman's mother, an Afghan official said Thursday. A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, said two Taliban were killed and four wounded during the ambush. Ahmadi claimed 32 police were killed, but that number had not been confirmed by Afghan officials. The attack came Wednesday in the small village of Shaghzay in the district of Kajaki in Helmand province, said Daud Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand's governor. He said 20 police — bodyguards for the district chief of nearby Musa Qala — were killed.
01.01.09 10 militants arrested in Mohmand agency operation
PESHAWAR, Pakistan, January 1 - Security forces arrested 10 militants in an operation in Tehsil Lakro, Mohmand Agency while a woman was killed as a result of a shell landing on a house. According to sources, the security forces arrested 10 militants during a search operation in Kandharo area of Tehsil Lakro and recovered 2 jackets used in suicide attacks, an improvised bomb and other explosives. Security forces also demolished 25 houses in another action. [>thenews.com.pk]
01.01.09 Suspected US missile strike kills 3 in Pakistan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan, January 1 - A suspected US missile strike by a drone aircraft destroyed a vehicle in northwest Pakistan on Thursday, killing at least three foreign militants, said intelligence officials. At least one local militant was wounded in the attack in the South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border, said the two officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media...The three militants killed Thursday were from a Central Asian country, said the officials without providing further details. [Full story>>japantoday.com]
01.01.09 Heart of US occupation reverts to Iraqi control
BAGHDAD, January 1 - The Green Zone, for nearly six years the headquarters of the American occupation of Iraq, passed from American to Iraqi control on Thursday, in a handover that was marked by two ceremonies of speeches, poems and music on a blustery cold day in Baghdad. The Iraqi flag was raised during a small ceremony at what had been the Republican Palace of Saddam Hussein attended by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. In a speech broadcast on state television, Mr. Maliki said that the handover had a special meaning for Iraqis. "It means we have gotten rid of the most dangerous remains of the policies that the former regime adopted," he said.
01.01.09 Grape extract could fight cancer
January 1 - A supplement made from grape seeds can destroy leukaemia cells, according to scientists at the University of Kentucky in Philadelphia. In laboratory experiments, grapeseed extract forced the cancer cells to self-destruct. Within 24 hours, 76 percent of leukaemia cells exposed to the extract died through a process called apoptosis. Healthy cells were unharmed. The researchers believe the discovery could lead to promising new treatments, but warned it was too early to justify recommending that people take grapeseed extract to stave off cancer. [More>>independent.co.uk]
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