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TOKYO, December 22 - Japanese exports plunged a record 26.7 percent in November, the Ministry of Finance said Monday, highlighting the drop in global consumer demand for automobiles, electronics parts and other Japanese products. Economists warned that exports - a mainstay of the world's second-largest economy - would tumble further with no recovery in sight for the global economy. Even exports to the rest of Asia are falling sharply. "Demand is rapidly cooling not only in the United States and Europe but also in Russia and the Middle East, and we are expecting a further plunge in exports as the global economy is deteriorating,"' said Hideki Matsumura, a senior economist at the Japan Research Institute in Tokyo. [More>>thestar.com.my]
12.22.08 Why are Russia and the US arming the Lebanese army?
December 22 - In an unusual one-two move the Russians then the Americans announced they would deliver new weaponry to the Lebanese army. First Russia said last week it would offer "a gift" of 10 MiG-29s to the Lebanese air force, boosting it considerably, given that Lebanon does not have a force worthy of that name. Now comes the announcement from Washington that the United States said it would give the Lebanese army an unspecified number of M-60 tanks, according to a State Department official.
What is Lebanon supposed to do with 10 MiGs? What is Lebanon supposed to do with M-60 tanks? The M-60, though now superseded by the Abrams M1-A1, remains widely used by several armed forces around the world. Egypt, for example, has about 1,700 M-60s, as does Turkey (900), and Israel has some 700 upgraded models. Supporting the Lebanese army remains a "pillar of Washington's policy," said US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Hale. As does of course containing the ever-growing threat of expanding Islamist groups now firmly entrenched in several areas of Lebanon, principally in the dozen Palestinian refugee camps scattered across the country.
12.22.08 Mugabe unleashes wave of terror with mass abductions
December 22 - Fears are mounting in Zimbabwe for the lives of more than 40 opposition officials and human rights activists who have been abducted as part of a renewed crackdown by the regime in Harare. At least two more members of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change have disappeared in the past week, along with a freelance investigative reporter. "The abductions are increasing and it now seems to be happening nationwide," Nelson Chamisa, an MDC spokesman,said yesterday.
12.22.08 5 convicted of plotting to kill Fort Dix soldiers
CAMDEN, New Jersey (AP) December 22 - Five Muslim immigrants were convicted Monday of plotting to massacre US soldiers at Fort Dix in a case the government said demonstrated its post-Sept. 11 determination to stop terrorist attacks in the planning stages. The defendants were acquitted of attempted murder charges but face life in prison for conspiring to kill military personnel. The federal jury spent about 38 hours deliberating over the past six days. The men lived in and around Philadelphia for years. The government said after their 2007 arrest that an attack had been imminent and that the case underscored the dangers of terrorist plots hatched on US soil. [More>>washingtonpost.com]
12.22.08 8 killed in missile strikes in Pakistan's tribal belt
ISLAMABAD, December 22 - Suspected twin missile strikes by US drones killed at least eight persons most of them reported to be Taliban Commanders in Pakistan's restive North West tribal areas, which is believed to be a sanctuary of al-Qaeda militants. The missiles targeted and destroyed two gun-mounted vehicles which were being used by the militants to fire on the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, local residents said. Four people were killed as one of the missiles blasted away one of the armed vehicles and a fort-like house adjacent to it in Karikot village in South Waziristan.
12.22.08 'Banned group' blamed for Mumbai attacks
ISLAMABAD (AFP) December 23 - Pakistan says the banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was involved in the deadly September bomb attack on the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, and announced two new arrests. No one has claimed responsibility for the September 20 attack, which killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 260, but officials had pointed the finger at Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. The group (LJ) — which is said to have links to al-Qaeda — is regarded as Pakistan's fiercest Sunni extremist outfit. Former president Pervez Musharraf banned the group in August 2001. [More>>news.com.au]
12.22.08 Russia denies supplying S-300 missile systems to Iran
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 22 - Russia is not selling S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran, the Russian federal service for military cooperation said in a statement on Monday. "Reports on deliveries of S-300 systems are untrue," the statement said. Iran's official news agency IRNA, quoting a deputy head of Iran's parliamentary foreign policy and security commission, reported on Sunday that Russia had started supplying components for S-300 surface-to-air missile systems. Russia's state-run arms exporter said earlier on Monday that Moscow only sold defensive weapons to Iran, in strict compliance with the international nonproliferation regime. [More>>en.rian.ru]
12.21.08 Cash injections fail to reach citizens
SEOUL, December 21 - Even as the nation's central bank has injected some 20 trillion won ($15 billion) into local banks since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September, the fresh capital has not benefited firms and households, industry sources reported yesterday. According to the Bank of Korea's data, local banks have neither lowered their interest rates on par with the central bank's key interest rate cut nor expanded lending to firms faltering from a cash shortage.
12.21.08 Property and banking shares drag UAE stock markets down
DUBAI, December 21 - Gulf shares fell, led by real-estate companies, on concern declining crude prices will slow government spending in the region. Emaar Properties PJSC dropped the most in more than a month after Credit Suisse cut its price target to more than half for the Middle East's biggest developer. Sorouh Real Estate Co., Abu Dhabi's second-largest property developer, had its biggest drop since November 10. Global Investment House closed at its lowest level in four years after Al Qabas reported an investor in the company lowered its stake.
12.21.08 Police break up Russian protests
December 21 - Russian riot police have forcibly broken up a rally being held in the eastern city of Vladivostok. About 500 people had gathered in the city's central square to demonstrate against a new tax on imported cars. Witnesses said police officers kicked protesters, damaged journalists' equipment and made dozens of arrests. Vladivostok, one of several cities holding protests, depends heavily on car imports from Japan and critics say the tax could push prices up by 50%. The tax is intended to help prop up Russia's domestic car industry and prevent people buying cheaper, imported products. Protests against it began a week ago and have also been held in at least nine other cities in far eastern Russia, local Russian media report. [More>>bbc.co.uk]
12.21.08 Russia starts S-300 missile supplies to Iran - Iranian MP
TEHRAN (RIA Novosti) December 21 - Russia has started the supplies of components for S-300 air defense systems to Iran, a senior Iranian lawmaker said on Sunday. Esmaeil Kosari, deputy chairman of the parliamentary commission on national security and foreign policy told the Iranian news agency IRNA that Iran and Russia had held negotiations for several years on the purchase of S-300 air defense systems and had finalized a deal. [More>>en.rian.ru]
12.21.08 Iran police shut down Nobel laureate's office
TEHRAN(AFP) December 21- Iranian police shut down the office of a human rights group headed by Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi on Sunday, the deputy head of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, Narges Mohammadi, told AFP. "They have sealed off the office and are telling us to leave the premises without resistance," Mohammadi said. "Mrs. Ebadi is there too. We have no choice but to leave." She said dozens of policemen had gathered in front of the group's office in northwest Tehran and that the officials had not "shown a judicial warrant but only provided the number of a warrant."
12.21.08 IAF planes strike Gaza rocket launcher
December 21 - The Israeli Air Force responded to continued rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip with a missile strike Sunday morning. An IAF aircraft targeted a rocket launcher that had been primed and was ready to fire in northern Gaza, the IDF said. Terrorists typically prepare rockets for launch and then fire them from cover a safe distance away...Earlier on Sunday, one person was lightly hurt by shrapnel, and another suffered shock, as Palestinian terrorists fired some 14 Kassam rockets and one mortar shell at the western Negev. A Sderot house was directly hit by one of the rockets, causing damage to the building. [Full story>>jpost.com; See also:
12.21.08 4 militants killed, 5 more arrested in S. Afghanistan
KABUL, December 21 - The US-led Coalition forces killed four armed militants and detained five suspected militants during an operation targeting the Taliban's roadside bomb network in Zabul province of southern Afghanistan, said a Coalition statement released here on Sunday. Coalition forces targeted a Taliban militant known to traffic weapons and coordinate roadside bomb attacks along Highway One in Qalat district of Zabul on Saturday, the statement said. "During the operation, Coalition forces were engaged by multiple militants armed with AK-47s," it said. "The forces returned fire and killed four armed militants." Spiraling conflicts and Taliban-linked insurgency have claimed lives of more than 5,000 people, mostly militants, so far this year, despite over 70,000-strong international troops stationed in strife-torn Afghanistan. [>thenews.com.pk; See related story, thenews.com.pk, December 21, "Militants set ablaze another oil tanker at Pak-Afghan road" : ...So far five tankers supplying oil to Nato forces have been burned during this month.
12.21.08 Saudi girl's plea to divorce rejected until puberty
RIYADH (AFP) December 21 - A Saudi court has rejected a plea to divorce an eight-year-old girl married off by her father to a man who is 58, saying the case should wait until the girl reaches puberty, a lawyer involved told AFP. "The judge has dismissed the plea—filed by the mother—because she does not have the right to file such a case, and ordered that the plea should be filed by the girl herself when she reaches puberty," lawyer Abdullah Jtili told AFP in a telephone interview after Saturday's court decision. The divorce plea was filed in August by the girl's divorced mother with a court at Unayzah, 220 kilometers (135 miles) north Riyadh just after the marriage contract was signed by the father and the groom.
12.20.08 Stop 'demonizing' Muslims: Islam chief
GENEVA, December 20 - The world's top diplomat for Islam called on Friday for an end to efforts to equate the religion with terrorism and said the 'demonization' of Muslims around the world must be fought. But speaking soon after the UN General Assembly passed an Islamic-sponsored resolution condemning "defamation of religion" for the fourth year in a row, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said his group was committed to respecting freedom of expression. There was a "rising tide of incitement to religious hatred and discrimination and intolerance targeting Muslims," he told a meeting called by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at the United Nations in Geneva. The 57-nation OIC, based in Saudi Arabia, represents 1.5 billion Muslims. "Attempts to equate Islam with terrorism should be stopped. Stereotyping and demonization of Muslims should be combated," said Ihsanoglu, a Turkish history professor who became OIC Secretary-General in 2005.
aljazeera.net, December 20, "Swedish city hit by youth riots" : About 100 youths have rioted in overnight clashes in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, setting cars and garbage bins on fire and stoning police. Ewa-Gun Westford, a police spokeswoman, said the clashes on Wednesday and Thursday night were linked to the recent closure of an Islamic cultural centre in Malmo's heavily-immigrant populated neighbourhood of Rosengard. The owner of the building had decided not to renew the centre's lease, which houses a mosque. "We've had a very difficult evening. There's extensive damage to public property and there's been stone-throwing and bomb threats against police," Westford said. He said: "The origin of the riots is the occupation of the building. But that's not really the reason now ... Now other trouble makers have just joined in, taking advantage of the situation."...
Editorial note: Islamic scholars need to reexamine the Koran and other Islamic teachings that encourage militant acts — even murder — against non-believers (kafirs). These teachings dominate "Islamist" sermons in mosques around the world. most of which are connected with the Wahabbi sect out of Saudi Arabia. With Islamic migrants to Western nations came the need for mosques and the preaching of the Islamic faith. Among Western societies the free practice of religion is honored, but the connection of Islamic militancy to the mosques and schools (madrassas) has led to a world-wide suspicion of Islam as a peaceful religion.
The Byzantine Church, a church that has suffered long persecution in Iraq and Arab lands, posted Islamic teachings that argue the persecution and destruction of non-Islamic peoples. The site is at: http://www.byzantines.net/byzcathculture/islamworldview.html. The teachings complained about in this site must also be addressed by Islamic scholars complaining about "Islamaphobia." Maravot News also recorded other arguments complaining about Islamic persecution, such as Maravot News 8.08.05, article 08.07.05 Inside the sect that loves terror. Links to an Islamic scholars' work, based on the Koran, "Punishing the Disbelievers," are provided here. This edition of Maravot News also contains reports, such as article 08.08.05 Update, 08.07.05 UK to deport 500 Muslim extremists.
We must recognize that the militant verses of the Islamists are not consistent with the authority (the God of the Bible) from whom the Koran says it was sourced. The first step to peace — even the Peace of Jerusalem — is this way.
12.20.08 Oil price volatility threatens investment, Brown warns
December 20 - Energy ministers from across the world claimed a victory over oil price volatility yesterday by agreeing on the need for better regulation of the global market – but the widely different agendas of producing and consuming nations make cooperation difficult. Delegates at the heavyweight London Energy Meeting — including the UK Prime Minister, the Saudi Oil minister, and the President of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) — met in an effort to combat unpredictable peaks and troughs that hurt consumers and producers alike. The session concluded with an agreement that the International Energy Forum will collect and publish data on annual energy investment plans for the first time, and with plans to create a group to ensure an ongoing dialogue.
koreaherald.co.kr, December 20, "Plunging oil is double-edged sword for Korea" : The drastic collapse in oil prices, from nearly $150 in mid-July to $37 a barrel this week, is providing much-needed relief to the Korean economy, which is now struggling to cope with a worldwide and domestic slowdown. But economists warn that falling consumer demand globally could still take a bite out of Korea's economy. But the severity of the drop in prices is a symptom of the dire situation the world economy is in, experts said yesterday...The fall in prices is a double-edged sword for Korea, which imports nearly all of its petroleum needs. Cheaper oil means lower production costs for Korean corporations. But those corporations' export markets have entered recessions, meaning lower demand for Korean products...
12.20.08 Madoff scheme kept rippling outward, across borders
December 20 - By the end, the world itself was too small to support the vast Ponzi scheme constructed by Bernard L. Madoff. Initially, he tapped local money pulled in from country clubs and charity dinners, where investors sought him out to casually plead with him to manage their savings so they could start reaping the steady, solid returns their envied friends were getting...Then, he and his promoters set sights on Europe, again framing the investments as memberships in a select club...Mr. Madoff's agents next cut a cash-gathering swath through the Persian Gulf, then Southeast Asia. Finally, they were hurtling with undignified speed toward China, with invitations to invest that were more desperate, less exclusive.
12.20.08 Inaugural security: Leave chairs, strollers home
WASHINGTON (AP) December 20 - No strollers near the Capitol. No tents on the National Mall. None of that Silly String on the parade route. That's just a sample of the items forbidden from President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration for security reasons. And while many people say the inconvenience is a small price to pay to witness the swearing-in of the nation's first black president, others are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how they will sit, snack, carry diapers or transport tired tots. Some older people are backing out of their inaugural plans, partly because of a no-chair rule for the parade route. Parenting blogs are abuzz with complaints about the less-than-kid-friendly restrictions. [More>>abcnews.go.com]
12.20.08 Military: Up to 30,000 new troops to be sent to Afghanistan
KABUL, December 20 - Up to 30,000 additional US troops could be sent to Afghanistan next year, military officials said Saturday. Of those, 20,000 will be comprised of four ground/maneuvering brigades, said Col. Gregory Julian, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan. That number is consistent with what Gen. David McKiernan, the US commander in Afghanistan, called for in October, he said. The additional 10,000 likely refers to support personnel, Julian said. McKiernan requested the additional 20,000 troops be sent to fight the increasing violence by the resurgent Taliban forces in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
12.19.08 Bush approves $17.4 billion auto bailout
WASHINGTON, December 19 - President Bush announced $13.4 billion in emergency loans on Friday to prevent the collapse of General Motors and Chrysler, and said another $4 billion would be available for the hobbled automakers in February. The entire bailout is conditioned on the companies undertaking sweeping reorganizations to show that they can return to profitability. The loans, as G.M. and Chrysler teeter on the brink of insolvency, essentially throw the companies a lifeline from the taxpayers that will keep them afloat until March 31.
12.19.08 55 Jamaat leaders under detention: Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, December 19 - Pakistan on Friday said it has detained 55 leaders of the outlawed Jamaat-ud-Dawa as part of the crackdown against the group designated as a terrorist outfit by [the] UN Security Council but claimed that no eveidence linking them to the Mumbai attacks has been found so far. The crackdown on JuD, the front organisation of Lashkar-e-Taiba blamed for the Mumbai attacks, is continuing and 55 of its leaders, including its chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, have been detained. Twenty-two JuD leaders have also been barred from travelling abroad, an interior ministry spokesman said. The detained leaders were being interrogated and no clues about links to the Mumbai terror attacks have been found so far, the spokesman told a TV channel.
12.19.08 Somali fighters warn Western powers
December 19 - An armed group battling Ethiopian forces in Somalia has told Al Jazeera it will take its fight beyond the country once it defeats its rivals. "We are fighting to lift the burden of oppression and colonialism from our country ... We are defending ourselves against enemies who attacked us," Abu Mansoor, the leader of al-Shabab, said. "Once we are successful with that we will fight on and finish oppression elsewhere on earth," he said. Al-Shabab, meaning youth, split last year from the Islamic Courts Union which controlled much of Somalia, including the capital Mogadishu, until it was pushed out by government and Ethiopian troops in 2006. It has since retaken large areas of central and southern Somalia and is putting increased pressure of the transitional government, which exercises little control from its base in the town of Baidoa..."We will establish Islamic rule from Alaska and Chile to South Africa, Japan, Russia, the Solomon Islands and all the way to Iceland, be warned, we are coming." [More>>aljazeera.net]
12.19.08 Turkish police detain 38 in al-Qaeda raids - agency
ISTANBUL, December 19 - Turkish police have detained 38 people in raids on suspected members of al-Qaeda, state-run Anatolian news agency reported on Friday. The raids were the latest in a series targeting suspected members of the Islamic militant group in recent years. Islamist radicals have carried out bomb attacks in Turkey in the past, most notably in 2003 when al-Qaeda militants killed more than 60 people in a series of bombings in Istanbul. "Thirty-eight people were detained in an operation against a radical right-wing group carried out simultaneously in Istanbul, Izmir and Manisa," the agency reported Istanbul police chief Celalettin Cerrah as telling a news conference. [More>>turkishpress.com]
12.19.08 US to supply tanks to Lebanon in spring 2009
BEIRUT (AFP) December 19 - The United States plans to deliver M-60 tanks to Lebanon in spring next year as part of a commitment to help the country's army, a senior US state department official said in Beirut on Friday. David Hale, US deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, denied the US is in competition with Russia, which announced on Wednesday that it would give Lebanon 10 MiG-29 fighter jets. [More>>khaleejtimes.com]
12.19.08 'Russian arms sales could help Iran obliterate Israel'
(AP) December 19 - A senior Defense Ministry envoy has urged Russia not to sell Iran advanced anti-aircraft missiles, saying they could help the Islamic Republic destroy Israel, according to a Russian news agency report. "The deliveries of dangerous armaments to our enemies won't serve the interests of peace and, for instance, can help Iran wipe Israel off the face of earth," the Interfax news agency quoted envoy Amos Gilad was quoted as saying. Gilad also reportedly said Israel believes Russia will respect his country's interests. "So we expect Russia to demonstrate responsibility on the issue." The official, who was visiting Moscow, was responding to a question about possible deliveries of Russian S-300 air defense missiles to Iran.
12.18.08 British Muslim, Rangzieb Ahmed, convicted of being al-Qaeda mastermind in landmark trial
December 18 - A British Muslim, described by counter-terrorism officers as an al-Qaeda mastermind who considered mass murder part of his duty, became the first person to be convicted of a charge of "directing terrorism" today. Rangzieb Ahmed, 33, was part of a three-man active service cell on an unknown terrorist operation in Dubai and Saudi Arabia in December 2005 when it had to be aborted. He was regarded as so important to the organization that a second man, Habib Ahmed, 28, was recruited to carry incriminating documents written in invisible ink that amounted effectively to a "terrorist's contacts book."
12.18.08 Dawood directly involved in mumbai attacks, says Russia
MOSCOW, December 18 - Underworld don Dawood Ibrahim was directly involved in the deadly 26/11 attacks in Mumbai as his clandestine drug trafficking network was used to finance the Terror strikes in India's financial hub, according to a top Russian crime buster. "The gathered inputs testify that infamous regional drug baron Dawood Ibrahim had provided his logistics network for preparing and carrying out the Mumbai terror attacks by the militants," Director of Russia's Federal Anti-narcotics Service, Viktor Ivanov, said.
12.18.08 Over 30 Iraq Interior Ministry officials detained
BAGHDAD (Reuters) December 18 - A number of officers from Iraq's Interior Ministry have been arrested on charges of trying to rebuild former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's Baath party, a ministry spokesman said on Thursday. The New York Times reported on Thursday that an elite counterterrorism force, reporting directly to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, arrested up to 35 officials, some of whom were accused of plotting a coup against the government. Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf said the officers were arrested under suspicion of being part of the Awda ("Return") party, which is seen as a new incarnation of the once omnipotent Baath party...Brigadier-General Alaa al-Taei, the ministry's head of public relations, said those arrested were not accused of plotting a coup, but instead were suspected of planning to burn down the ministry, possibly to destroy evidence against them. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com; See also:
alarabiya.net, December 18, "Iraq arrests 50 over coup plot: security official" : ..."Fifty interior ministry civil servants, including senior officials, were arrested over the past three days for trying to topple the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity. The New York Times earlier reported that some of the arrested officials were accused of quietly working to reconstitute Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. The arrests,according to the paper, included four generals, one of whom, Gen. Ahmed Abu Raghif, who is the ministry's director of internal affairs. It reported that the arrests had come at the hand of an elite counterterrorism force that reports directly to the office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki...
12.18.08 Modern day slavery flourishes in Lebanon
BEIRUT (Reuters) December 18 - An Ethiopian housemaid lies bandaged in a government hospital after falling from a 12th floor balcony. She says her Lebanese employer pushed her off. "Madam asked me to hang the clothes. Then she came and pushed me from behind," the 25-year-old woman told Reuters. Too frightened to let her name be published, she said her employer had frequently threatened and abused her. "Madam would tell me, 'I will spill hot oil on you,' so I hid the oil. She would take a knife and threaten to kill me. She would beat me with shoes, pull my hair to the floor," the injured woman said, her face still bruised a month later.
12.18.08 Pakistan says militant leader Azhar not in custody
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) December 18 - A Pakistani militant leader who is one of the men most wanted by India is not in the custody of Pakistani authorities and is at large, Pakistan's foreign minister said on Thursday. Maulana Masood Azhar is leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group that for years has battled Indian security forces in its part of the divided
12.18.08 UN court convicts colonel for Rwanda genocide
(Reuters) December 18 - A UN court sentenced a former army colonel accused of masterminding Rwanda's genocide in 1994 to life in prison today. The Arusha-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had accused Theoneste Bagosora, 67, of being in charge of the troops and Interahamwe Hutu militia who butchered 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days. "Colonel Bagosora is guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity and war crimes," the court said.
12.18.08 Oil prices slip below $40 a barrel
December 18 - Wall Street shares were mixed on Thursday as oil prices continued to decline, sliding below $40 a barrel to their lowest levels in more than four years, even after the OPEC cartel said it would cut production by another 2.2 million barrels a day. Crude oil was trading for $38.85 in New York on Thursday morning, down $1.21 a barrel, as the widening global recession showed no signs of relenting anytime soon. Oil and gas consumption has plunged this fall as the economy has deteriorated, dragging oil prices down from their July peak of slightly more than $145 a barrel. [More>>nytimes.com]
12.18.08 Bush says he plans to address auto crisis before leaving office
December 18 - President Bush said today he does not intend to leave behind a "major catastrophe" for President-elect Barack Obama in the auto industry and expressed worry about the impact of a collapse on wider financial markets. The White House also said that it was seriously considering "orderly bankruptcy" as a way to save distressed automakers. Bush, speaking at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, said he has not yet decided on a course of action to rescue the auto industry. He also said he was "worried about a disorderly bankruptcy and what it would do to the psychology of the markets."
12.17.08 OPEC agrees to another cut in production
December 17 - The OPEC cartel agreed on Wednesday to reduce production by 2.2 million barrels a day, the group's largest ever cut, in an effort to put a floor on falling oil prices. It is the third time producers reduced their output in as many months. Since September, members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries have pledged cuts totaling 4.2 million barrels a day, or nearly 12 percent of their capacity, a record in such a short time. But oil futures fell more than 3.5 percent to $41.99 a barrel on Wednesday, as the market focused on the dire state of the global economy and many experts doubted that OPEC would manage to carry out its promises, leaving markets oversupplied in the face of falling demand.
12.17.08 Chinese ship rescued from pirates in Gulf of Aden
NAIROBI, Kenya (Reuters) December 17 - A multilateral force rescued a Chinese ship from Somali pirates on Wednesday, in a sign foreign navies patrolling the shipping lane linking Europe to Asia are adopting tougher new tactics. The Chinese boat Zhenhua 4 was one of four vessels seized by pirates on Tuesday, the same day the United Nations Security Council took a strong stand against the attacks and authorised countries to pursue the gunmen on land. A Kenyan maritime group said the crew locked themselves in their cabins and radioed for help. A warship and two helicopters came and fired on the pirates, but did not kill them, it said. Chinese state media said a "multilateral" force with helicopters hovered over the ship and successfully fought off the pirates. Rampant piracy off the coast of Somalia this year has earned gunmen millions of dollars in ransom, hiked shipping insurance costs and caused international alarm. [More>>khaleejtimes.com; See related story,
timesofindia.indiatimes.com, December 17, "China to send naval fleet to Somalia" : ...Chinese naval warships would escort their flag carriers while moving through pirate infested Gulf of Aden, the paper quoting high level Chinese military officials said. This will be the first time in over five decades the Chinese naval warships would head to international waters to carry out such mission...
12.17.08 Russia to donate 10 MiG-29 fighters to Lebanon
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 17 - Russia will supply Lebanon with 10 used MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter planes free of charge, the head of the federal military cooperation service said on Wednesday. The usual export price for a new MiG-29 is around $30 million. Mikhail Dmitriyev said that before being shipped to Lebanon, all aircraft would be repaired and modernized "to export standards." He also said Russia and Lebanon were holding talks on a deal for the Arab country to buy Russian military hardware. [More>>en.rian.ru]
12.17.08 Mideast governments should act against maid abuse: HRW
DUBAI (Reuters) December 17 - Governments in the Middle East should act quickly in 2009 to fulfil promises to protect the rights of migrant women, a U.S.-based rights group said on Wednesday. Millions of women from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia and the Philippines work as maids in Arab states, many of which exclude domestic workers from protection in their labour laws. Several countries including Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar are in the process of drafting or debating changes to extend protection to domestic workers, but these have yet to be finalized...Human Rights Watch said abuses against domestic workers include 18-hour workdays with no days off, physical confinement in the workplace, denial of food, lack of payment for months or years, physical and sexual abuse. [Full story>>khaleejtimes.com]
12.17.08 Malaysia denies any plan to close Catholic paper
KUALA LUMPUR (AP) December 17 - Malaysia's Muslim-majority government denied any plan Wednesday to shut down a Catholic newspaper accused of flouting publication rules by running articles deemed political and insulting to Islam. The Herald, the main Roman Catholic weekly in Malaysia, has received warnings over the past year that it could lose its publishing license, which expires Dec. 31. All Malaysian publications must renew their government license every year. The Rev. Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, said the Home Ministry has not renewed the paper's license even though it submitted an application months ago, while in past years a license was typically issued far in advance...Che Din Yusoh, an official with the Home Ministry's publishing unit, however, said officials were merely bogged down with a large number of license applications. "We will issue it by the end of the month," he told The Associated Press. "There is nothing to worry about."
Editorial note: There is a fundamental problem among Muslims in understanding the foundations of their Koran. The Koran says in many places that it "confirms" the Jewish Scriptures and Gospel of Christ. (sic. The Bible). When Islamic teachers acknowledge that the confirmation of the Bible precludes any contradiction between the Koran and the Bible, then the Malaysian action on the use of the word "Allah" should be negated. Indeed, with the understanding that the Koran cannot contradict its source (the God of the Bible) reason dictates that many disputes between Muslims and Christians should be reconciled.
12.17.08 Muslims, Vatican aim to prevent youth extremism
VATICAN CITY, December 17 - Pope Benedict XVI received a Muslim delegation on Wednesday that participated in a seminar focused on steering young people away from "religious radicalism." The theme of the talks, involving the Catholic church and the Libya-based World Islamic Call Society, was "Responsibilities of Religious Leaders in Times of Crisis." "Religious leaders have a special responsibility toward youth, who require particular attention so that they do not fall victim to religious fanaticism and radicalism," said a joint statement, issued after three days of talks at the Vatican. [More>>alarabiya.net]
12.17.08 18 killed, 53 wounded in Baghdad blasts
BAGHDAD, December 17 - A car bomb and a second explosion killed police and civilians here on Wednesday. Twin bomb blasts have killed 18 people and wounded 53 in central Baghdad as British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an unannounced visit to Iraq, police said. The car bomb and a second explosion killed police and civilians in the Nahdha neighbourhood of central Baghdad, near a traffic police station and a hospital.
12.17.08 YU confirms $110 million loss in Madoff scam
December 17 - Yeshiva University has confirmed that it lost $110 million, or about eight percent of its endowment, in the evaporation of the multibillion-dollar investment operation run by Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff. The losses came from an indirect investment in Ascot Partners, a fund run by J. Ezra Merkin that hd its $1.8 billion assets completely wiped out in Madoff's alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Yeshiva president Richard Joel said in a statement that the university had lost half-a-billion dollars since January from its endowment, which now stands at $1.2 billion, according to Joel's statement. He said the losses would be covered by cuts in operating costs and programs, but committed to protecting both student financial aid and faculty pensions. [More>>jpost.com; See related story, news.com.au, December 17, "Madoff's court hearing cancelled." : Disgraced investment baron Bernard Madoff's first court appearance since his arrest was cancelled today after he agreed to stricter new bail conditions...
12.16.08 Retail prices fell at record rate in November
December 16 - Consumer prices fell at the fastest rate on record in November while home construction plunged nearly 20 percent in a single month, skidding to its lowest levels in 50 years, according to new government data that shows further weakness in the ailing economy. The reports on Tuesday morning heightened investors’ expectations that the Federal Reserve would cut its target overnight interest rate to 0.5 percent, from 1 percent, later in the day. Financial markets in New York opened higher as investors awaited a 2:15 p.m. announcement from the Fed's Open Market Committee.
12.16.08 Russia mulls buying Israeli drones
(AP) December 16 - Russia is negotiating with Israel to buy a batch of spy drones, the head of the Russian armed forces said Tuesday, in what would be its first ever purchase of military hardware from the Jewish state. Israel sparked concern in Moscow after it previously sold drones to Georgia that were used successfully before and during its August war with Russia. Russia's weapons industries have failed to supply the military with drones, developing only experimental models that experts have described as outdated. Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said that Russia would like to buy an unspecified number of drones from Israel, the Interfax news agency reported. [>jjpost.com]
12.16.08 3 months after Lehman, Korea still struggles
December 16 - Three months after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the initial shock in Korea's financial markets seems to be easing — albeit slowly — aided by a barrage of government measures to protect local banks and companies, government officials and experts said yesterday. However, fears of a worldwide economic recession have replaced initial financial woes, casting a cloud over Korea's export-driven economy. Companies are struggling to secure funds to repay maturing debts amid dropping sales.
12.16.08 US auto industry problems spell trouble for Japan as well
TOKYO, December 16 - Even as General Motors and the entire US auto industry teeters on the edge of collapse, its major rivals are hardly celebrating. Toyota and other Japanese carmakers say the bankruptcy of any of Detroit's Big Three would spell serious trouble for them as well. Should that happen, “the damage to our business is certain to be tremendous,” Toyota Motor Corp spokesman Hideaki Homma said Monday. "The conditions for the US auto market are extremely tough right now, and any additional negative is sure to make things worse."
12.16.08 Police find explosives in Paris store after warning
PARIS (Reuters) December 16 - Police found explosives hidden in a Paris department store on Tuesday after a tip-off from a group demanding the withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan. The group called itself the Afghan Revolutionary Front, but French officials said they had never heard of it before and warned it might prove a false lead. Police recovered five sticks of dynamite from the Printemps store. The explosives were not attached to detonators, suggesting that the aim was to spread alarm rather than cause death and destruction.
12.15.08 Iraqis protest for release of journalist
BAGHDAD (AP) December 15 - Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets Monday to demand the release of a reporter who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush, as Arabs across the Middle East hailed the journalist as a hero and praised his insult as a proper send-off to the unpopular US president. The protests came as a suicide truck bomber killed at least five police officers Monday at a checkpoint west of Baghdad, said Iraqi police. Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who was kidnapped by Shiite militants last year, was being held by Iraqi security Monday and interrogated about whether anybody paid him to throw his shoes at Bush during a press conference the previous day in Baghdad, said an Iraqi official.
12.15.08 Israel frees 224 Palestinian inmates
December 15 - Israel released 224 Palestinian prisoners Monday in a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who welcomed the former inmates in Ramallah, but said the "joy won't be complete until Israel frees all Palestinian prisoners." Buses carrying former inmates, most from the Fatah movement, drove from Ofer Prison near Ramallah to the Beitunya checkpoint where hundreds of anxious relatives waited.
As the first bus pulled into sight, some of the released men jumped on the roof of the bus, hopping up and down with joy. Others waved Fatah flags and draped the Palestinian black-and-white scarf around their necks. The buses headed from the checkpoint to Abbas's headquarters in Ramallah, where the president hugged and kissed each former detainee. [More>>jpost.com]
12.15.08 Egypt accuses Iran of trying to dominate Mideast
CAIRO / DUBAI, December 15 - Rebukes Iran criticism for refusing to open Rafah crossing. Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit lashed out at the Iranian government on Sunday, accusing the regime of the Islamic Republic of trying to dominate the Middle East. Abul Gheit's statement signaled an escalation in a simmering diplomatic dispute between the two countries, which have both vied for a dominant role in the region. "The Iranians are trying to spread and impose their specific ideology on the region, and they are using some of the Palestinians... for Iranian purposes," he said, in an apparent reference to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
12.15.08 US wants Gulf to buy into missile defense system
MANAMA, December 15 - The United States wants to see the oil rich Gulf states purchase, install and join a unified missile defense system that would provide complete aerial coverage to the entire region, from Kuwait in the northern Gulf to Oman on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. "Something not unlike NORAD," said a high-ranking US official who is directly involved in the planning of this project, and who asked not to be named.
12.15.08 Russia hopes for deal on START-1, missile defense by 2010
MOSCOW (RIA Novosti) December 15 - Russia is hoping to draft a new arms reduction treaty with the U.S. and reach a compromise on the US missile shield in Europe by the end of 2009, a Russian deputy foreign minister said on Monday. Russia and the United States have held a new round of talks in Moscow on a new document to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START-1), missile defense in Europe and issues of non-proliferation.
12.15.08 Mystery grows over general's slaying in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) December 15 - Pakistani newspapers gave prominent coverage on Monday to a British media report that a retired general gunned down in Islamabad last month planned to blow the whistle on fellow generals' dealings with the Taliban. Jang, Pakistan's biggest selling Urdu-language newspaper, ran a story on its front page headlined: 'Gen. Alavi was against pacts with Taliban, Musharraf had sacked him.' The reports in Jang [
12.15.08 40 Taliban killed in Afghan-NATO operation
KABUL, December 15 - A joint Afghan-NATO operation in Afghanistan's dangerous south has killed 40 militants, including the Taliban's leader in that region, a government official said Monday. The operation in the Nad Ali and Murja districts of Helmand province began on Thursday and continued through Monday, said Dawood Ahmadi, spokesman for Helmand's governor. Ahmadi said that 40 militants were killed in the operation, though he said that government officials had recovered only seven bodies, which were given to tribal elders for burial. Ahmadi said the government knows another 33 fighters were killed through intelligence sources. Among the dead was a Mullah Salim, a Taliban leader who was the head of the militant's council in the two districts, Ahmadi said. The councils, also called shuras, are sometimes referred to as a shadow government structure that operates separately from the Afghan government. [>thenews.com.pk]
12.15.08 Red Cross to wind down tsunami projects
GENEVA (AFP) December 15 - The Red Cross says it will have built more than 55,000 houses for people hit by the devastating 2004 South Asian tsunami by the end of 2009, when most major construction work should wind down. "Almost all major construction programs are due to be completed by the end of 2009, when about 90 per cent of funding will have been spent," the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in a statement yesterday. As of September this year, some 41,215 permanent houses have been built, while another 12,722 were under construction, it said.
12.15.08 Blasphemy suspect Lia detained, refuses lawyers
JAKARTA, Indonesia, December 15 - Cult leader Lia Aminuddin, a.k.a. Lia Eden, has refused legal representation, though the Jakarta Police have charged her with blasphemy, Lia's spokesperson said Monday. Earlier Monday morning, Lia and 23 of her followers, including 10 minors, were taken to Jakarta Police headquarters."She said divine revelation had not permitted her to be accompanied by any lawyer," Lia spokesperson Saor Siagian told reporters at Jakarta Police headquarters, adding Lia would rely on divine support to defend herself. Saor said Lia was charged because she had put out an edict that annulled every religion.
12.15.08 Bird flu confirmed in eastern India
CALCUTTA, India (AP) December 15 - The deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu has been found in samples taken from dead chickens in eastern India, authorities said on Monday. It was the second outbreak of bird flu in India's West Bengal state and came as several thousand birds have been slaughtered in the neighboring state of Assam, where authorities have been battling an outbreak for several weeks.
12.15.08 S. Korea's Madoff-linked losses reach $100 million
December 15 - Korean financial firms' losses linked to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme are expected to reach $100 million, the nation's financial watchdog said yesterday. The Financial Supervisory Service said that Madoff-linked losses at six local firms are estimated at $95.1 million. The regulator said that all the victims were institutional investors who invested through hedge funds in private equity funds, causing no losses to individual investors. "No individual investors suffered losses from the fraud, since it was mostly institutional investors who entrusted their money with international hedge funds. Companies involved are looking into ways to recover their entrusted assets and minimize damage," an FSS official said.
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