ESA, European Space Agency (Paolo Twiting from Space)

Subdivision Tips, South Australia (C: +61431138537), https://www.facebook.com/RealEstateSA5000/

Monday, September 30, 2013

Car bombs kill 54 in Shi'ite districts of Baghdad

Mon, Sep 30 11:27 AM EDT 1 of 9 By Kareem Raheem BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Car bombs killed at least 54 people in mostly Shi'ite Muslim areas of Baghdad on Monday as suspected Sunni Muslim militants pursued a campaign to plunge Iraq back into sectarian strife. Altogether 14 bombs shook Baghdad, the deadliest of them in Sadr City, where a white car blew up near where men had gathered to seek work, killing seven people, including two soldiers. "The driver said he would move the car soon, but it exploded a few minutes later," said Abu Mohammed, a worker at the scene, where bits of molten metal lay among cars wrecked in the blast. Violence blamed mostly on Sunni militants who view Shi'ites as heretics has killed more than 6,000 people this year, according to the monitoring group Iraq Body Count, reversing a decline in sectarian bloodshed that had climaxed in 2006-07. At that time, Sunni tribesmen helped U.S. forces rout al Qaeda, but many of those "Sahwa (Awakening)" fighters say the Shi'ite-led government has reneged on promises to reward them. Their discontent reflects wider resentment among minority Sunnis against the government that came to power after the U.S.-led invasion that vanquished Saddam Hussein in 2003. Sunnis launched street protests in December after Shi'ite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki sought to arrest a senior Sunni politician. A bloody raid by security forces on a protest camp in April touched off a violent backlash by Sunni militants. "The (security situation) will get worse because al Qaeda and its allies will increase their attacks against both sects to incite people and force them to respond," said a senior security official who declined to be named. So far Shi'ite militias, most of which disarmed in recent years and joined the reconstituted security forces or entered the political process, have largely held their fire, but several attacks in recent weeks suggest that some are retaliating. Iraq's sectarian balance has come under further pressure from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where mainly Sunni rebels are fighting to topple a leader backed by Shi'ite Iran. Both Sunnis and Shi'ites have crossed into Syria from Iraq to fight on opposite sides of the conflict. Al Qaeda's Iraqi and Syrian branches merged earlier this year to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border. "ATTRACTIVE TARGET" On Sunday, the Kurdistan region, a northern enclave relatively insulated from the violence that afflicts the rest of Iraq, suffered its first major bombing since 2007. A charred crater in the road marks where a car bomb exploded during a suicide assault on the security headquarters in the regional capital Arbil in which at least six people were killed. A stench of burnt tarmac still hung over the scene, and the remains of a slain assailant lay on the grassy road divider. "We realize that Arbil is a big, attractive target for terrorists," said the city's governor Nozad Hadi. "During the past seven years there were constant attempts by terrorists to undermine the security of the capital." Kurdistan's relative security has attracted some of the world's largest oil companies including ExxonMobil, Chevron Corp and Total to the region, which is autonomous and polices its own borders. Most of these oil firms have their main offices in Arbil, but after Sunday's attack they took extra security measures and restricted the movements of their staff, industry sources said. No group has claimed responsibility for the Arbil attack, but it was hailed by hardline Sunni Islamists, who in recent months have been fighting a Kurdish militia in Syria. Analysts say the assault may have been carried out by al Qaeda-affiliated militants in revenge for the Kurdistan Regional Government's perceived support for Kurds in Syria. A risk consultancy said militants would try to strike the region again, but would find it difficult because the Kurdish security apparatus is "relatively well developed". "Further attacks should therefore be expected but they are likely to remain infrequent occurrences," said John Drake, of the AKE consultancy. "The day-to-day operating environment will remain stable but we will continue to warn against complacency." (Additional reporting by Suadad al-Salhy in Baghdad and Isabel Coles in Arbil; Editing by Alistair Lyon) =============================== محصلة تفجيرات اليوم 213 بين شهيد وجريح في المناطق الآتية : إنفجار سيارة مفخخة في الكاظمية إنفجار مفخخة في منطقة الشعب إنفجار سيارة مفخخة في حي أور شرقي بغداد إنفجار سيارة مفخخة في ساحة عدن إنفجار سيارة مفخخة مقابل البريد في منطقة بغداد الجديدة. إنفجار سيارة مفخخة في شارع المركز بمنطقة الغزالية. إنفجار سيارة مفخخة في منطقة الشعلة. إنفجار مفخخة في مدينة الصدر. بأي مناطق تتوقعون باجر حتصير الإنفجارات ؟؟؟!؟!؟ ================

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ezdan building over 50,000 housing units

Monday, 27 May 2013 Sheikh Dr Khaled bin Thani bin Abdallah Al Thani and Ali Al Obaidili, CEO. DOHA: Ezdan Holding, one of Qatar’s leading real estate companies, is currently engaged in the construction of more than 50,000 housing units to serve the influx of guests for 2022 FIFA World Cup. The company has an overwhelming participation at ‘Cityscape 2013’ which is set to open today at the Doha Exhibition Centre, a press statement said yesterday. On the occasion of the company’s participation in ‘Cityscape 2013’, Sheikh Dr Khaled bin Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, Chairman of Ezdan Holding Group, said: “Ezdan Group is continuing its plans, aimed at achieving the highest growth rate in the local market as interactive participants in the expansion of Qatar.” Sheikh Khaled added: “Our vision is to grab investment opportunities to achieve best returns for our shareholders and support development plans and social responsibility in Qatar.” Ezdan Holding has participated in countless key projects among which were the huge developments for the Asian Games in 2006. The company continues its participation in the nation’s expansion via the preparations being made to host the World Cup in 2022. Khaled said: “Ezdan increased its net profit from QR345m in 2011 to QR408m in 2012, which is equal to an 18 percent increase compared to 2011. In 2013, we had a strong start in the first quarter with a net profit of QR252m. That is an increase of 76 percent compared to last year’s first quarter.” The Chairman said that Ezdan Holding Group’s vision is built on being the pioneer in investment and asset development. It is this mindset that propels Ezdan forward with an unwavering commitment of implementing its successful strategy, which has two crucial points of focus; profit creation on behalf of shareholders accompanied by Qatar’s national vision and development strategy, devised under the wise leadership of the Emir H H Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the Heir Apparent H H Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. “It is a well known fact that the development and sustainable growth that Ezdan Holding has achieved last year has come through investment diversification and the development of commercial malls following us becoming a holding company. This has positively profited the company’s shareholders and has proven that Ezdan’s current success is the outcome of a good strategy, which has harnessed the strength of Qatar’s boom.” Ali Al Obaidili, CEO, said: “Ezdan focuses on local investment to support the expansion that Qatar is undergoing through.” He confirmed that Ezdan has participated in an incredible amount of real estates development through the supply of thousands of accommodation units with rent rates fitting all average incomes. Ezdan is the main partner to the national real estates development through its proven development of housing units. The company also supplies accommodation unites at a luxury range which goes in line with Qatar national vision of 2030. The Peninsula

Obama, Iran's Rouhani hold historic phone call

Obama, Iran's Rouhani hold historic phone call Fri, Sep 27 20:05 PM EDT image 1 of 2 By Jeff Mason and Louis Charbonneau WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama and new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke by telephone on Friday, the highest-level contact between the two countries in three decades and a sign that they are serious about reaching a pact on Tehran's nuclear program. The call is the culmination of a dramatic shift in tone between Iran and the United States, which cut diplomatic relations with Iran a year after the 1979 revolution that toppled U.S. ally Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and led to the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran. Obama has said for years he was open to direct contact with Iran while also stressing that all options - including military strikes - were on the table to prevent Iran building a nuclear bomb. The U.S. president had hoped to meet with the relatively moderate Rouhani at the U.N. General Assembly in New York this week, but the Iranian side decided an encounter was too complicated, in what was seen by White House officials as an effort to avoid antagonizing hardliners in Tehran. On Friday, however, the Iranians said Rouhani expressed interest in a phone discussion before he left the United States, according to a senior administration official. The White House quickly arranged the call, which took place at 2:30 p.m. (1830 GMT) and lasted about 15 minutes. A source close to Rouhani said the United States had reached out after positive talks between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif a day earlier. Speaking to reporters, Obama said he and Rouhani had directed their teams to work quickly toward an agreement on Iran's nuclear program. He said this was a unique opportunity to make progress with Tehran over an issue that has isolated it from the West. "While there will surely be important obstacles to moving forward and success is by no means guaranteed, I believe we can reach a comprehensive solution," Obama said at the White House. "The test will be meaningful, transparent, and verifiable actions, which can also bring relief from the comprehensive international sanctions that are currently in place" against Iran, Obama said. Rouhani, in his Twitter account, said that in the conversation he told Obama "Have a Nice Day!" and Obama responded with "Thank you. Khodahafez (goodbye)." He added that the two men "expressed their mutual political will to rapidly solve the nuclear issue." The price of oil fell on Friday as tensions eased between the United States and Iran after the Obama-Rouhani talk. "The phone call was an important milestone - a calculated risk by two cautious leaders mindful of domestic constraints," said Yasmin Alem, senior fellow at Atlantic Council's South Asia Center. "More than anything else it shows the high level of political capital invested in a peaceful resolution of the nuclear crisis." TABOO BROKEN The telephone call, the first between the heads of government of the two nations since 1979, came while Rouhani was heading to the airport after his first visit to the U.N. General Assembly, according to a statement on Rouhani's official website. "The biggest taboo in Iranian politics has been broken. This is the beginning of a new era," said Ali Vaez, a senior Iran analyst at the International Crisis Group. Such a call could not have been imagined under Rouhani's predecessor, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who antagonized Israel and the United States and denied the Holocaust. A hardline website believed by Iran experts to be affiliated with Ahmadinejad, Rajanews, referred to the call as a "strange and useless action." As president, Rouhani is the head of the government but has limited powers. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is the ultimate authority in Iran with final say on domestic and foreign policy, though Rouhani says he has been given full authority to negotiate on the nuclear issue. Obama, who expressed willingness as a presidential candidate in 2007 to reach out to U.S. adversaries, nodded to that power dynamic in his remarks, saying both men had given signals that Iran would not pursue nuclear arms. "Iran's Supreme Leader has issued a fatwa against the development of nuclear weapons. President Rouhani has indicated that Iran will never develop nuclear weapons," Obama said. "I have made clear that we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy in the context of Iran meeting its obligations." Western powers say they believe Iran has been pursuing nuclear weapons for some time. Iran says its aims are peaceful and focused on energy production. The Obama administration official said the United States had told the Israeli government about the Obama-Rouhani call. Israel is deeply skeptical about the shift in Iran's rhetoric and has warned its allies to be wary of Rouhani. Rouhani was on a charm offensive during his week in New York, repeatedly stressing Iran's desire for normal relations with Western powers and denying it wanted a nuclear arsenal, while urging an end to sanctions that are crippling its economy. OUTREACH In his speech to the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday, Obama cautiously embraced Rouhani's gestures as the basis for a possible nuclear deal and challenged him to demonstrate his sincerity. However, the failure to orchestrate a handshake between the two leaders that day, apparently because of Rouhani's concerns about a backlash from hardliners at home, seemed to underscore how hard it may be to make diplomatic progress. Iran and the United States back opposite sides in the Syrian civil war and have been at loggerheads for years over Israel, Tehran's support for Hezbollah militants in Lebanon and other issues. Washington broke off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1980 because of the U.S. Embassy hostage crisis. Fifty-two Americans were held hostage for 444 days. Rouhani, who took office last month, told a news conference earlier on Friday he hoped talks with the United States and five other major powers "will yield, in a short period of time, tangible results," on a nuclear deal. He said Iran would bring a plan to resolve the decade-long dispute over Tehran's nuclear program to an October meeting with the six powers in Geneva. He offered no details about that plan, but emphasized that Tehran's nuclear ambitions are entirely peaceful. (Additional reporting by Yeganeh Torbati, John Irish, Steve Holland, Mark Felsenthal and Marcus George; Editing by Alistair Bell and Xavier Briand)

Refugee boat sinks on way to Australia, 21 dead: Indonesian police

========== Refugee boat sinks on way to Australia, 21 dead: Indonesian police Fri, Sep 27 23:38 PM EDT image 1 of 3 JAKARTA (Reuters) - A boat carrying migrants to Australia sank off the Indonesian coast on Friday, killing at least 21 people, Indonesian police said, a sign that Australia's tough new immigration rules may not be enough to deter would-be asylum seekers. The latest disaster to strike refugees using Indonesia's southern coast to try to reach Australia will cast a shadow over a visit to Jakarta on Monday by Australia's new conservative prime minister Tony Abbott, whose tough stance on immigration was at the heart of his election campaign. About 400 boats carrying asylum seekers have arrived in Australia over the past 12 months and about 45,000 asylum seekers have arrived since late 2007, when the former Labor government relaxed border policies, eventually tightening them again in the face of a voter backlash. "All the passengers were from the Middle East. There were people from Lebanon and Yemen. The boat was going to Australia. Their next destination was Christmas Island," Dedy Kusuma Bakti, police chief in Cianjur, West Java, told Reuters by telephone on Saturday. Bakti said 28 survivors had been rescued. Some Indonesian media reported as many as 79 people might have drowned in the incident, although there was no official confirmation of a toll that high. Situated in the Indian Ocean not far from Indonesia, the Australian territory of Christmas Island is a frequent destination for refugee boats from Indonesia and a favored route for people-smugglers. Indonesian media reported that the motor boat sank off the south coast of Java near the town of Tegalbulued, about 190 km (120 miles) south of Jakarta. The steady flow of refugee boats is a hot political issue in Australia, polarizing voters and stoking tension with neighbors like Indonesia and Sri Lanka over hardline border security policies that have been criticized by the United Nations. In July, Canberra announced tough new measures to stem a sharp increase in the number of refugee boats heading for Australia from Indonesia. The new government has also stopped providing regular information on asylum boats turned away and emergencies at sea. The new plans have been condemned by human rights groups, with Amnesty International accusing Australia of shirking its moral obligations to help the world's most vulnerable people. Abbott has made Indonesia his first overseas destination since winning a general election on September 7. He will meet President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to seek support for his plan to have Australia's navy turn migrants away and stop people traffickers operating from Indonesian ports. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and other lawmakers have criticized Abbott's offer to pay Indonesian villagers for intelligence on people-smuggling gangs, and ridiculed the proposal to buy fishing boats often used to smuggle migrants, preferring to treat the issue as a regional problem. (Reporting by Rieka Rahadiana and Kanupriya Kapoor,; Writing by Jonathan Thatcher and Fergus Jensen; Editing by Paul Tait)

Friday, September 27, 2013

BP battles for billions in new Gulf trial phase

Reuters BP battles for billions in new Gulf trial phase Fri, Sep 27 05:17 AM EDT image By Terry Wade and Andrew Callus HOUSTON/LONDON (Reuters) - BP will battle to hold down fines that could hit $18 billion in a new phase of the Gulf of Mexico trial that will rule on how much oil it spilled in 2010 and judge its efforts to plug its well. Starting on Monday in New Orleans, this second of three phases of a trial determining responsibilities for the worst marine pollution ever seen in the United States, could - in the worst outcome for the British firm - land BP with a bill five times greater than the $3.5 billion it has set aside for fines. Its annualized earnings, based on last quarter, are running at about $17 billion. A first phase, which wrapped up in April, looked at dividing blame among BP and its contractors, Transocean Ltd and Halliburton Co, for the 2010 Macondo disaster which left 11 men dead and huge stretches of sea and coast fouled with oil. Expected to last a month, this second part of the process will be crucial for shareholders in estimating some of the extra cash BP could end up paying out beyond the $42.4 billion it has so far made provision for in its accounts to cover the clean-up, compensation and fines. U.S. District Court Judge Carl Barbier, renowned for setting a fast pace, is expected to announce his findings and penalties after a third phase of the trial, likely next year. Much depends on how the court rules on a dispute between BP and the U.S. government over how many million barrels of oil were actually spilled, and on just how culpable BP was in failing to stop it for 87 days. BP shares have lost a third of their value since the disaster, as the company hived off $39 billion of assets that generated $5 billion a year in cashflow - or about a fifth of its earning power - before 2010. Once the world's second ranked oil company by asset value, it is now the fifth.
"Until the court case is over, the potential upside on asset value is a waste of time," said Malcolm Graham-Wood, an analyst at investment bank VSA Capital. "Other investments in the sector offer greater certainty of operating results, vastly better management - and a better ability to sleep at night."
POLLUTION FINES BP says 3.26 million barrels leaked from the well during the nearly three months it took to cap the blowout at the Deepwater Horizon rig; the U.S. government says it was 4.9 million. Both those totals include 810,000 barrels that were collected during clean-up and which Barbier has agreed to exclude.
This month, BP's lawyers questioned the government's figure. "United States experts employ unproven methods that require significant assumptions and extrapolations in lieu of ... available data and other evidence," they said in a filing.
They have also sought to convince Barbier that if the company is to be found guilty, it should amount to only "negligence" and not "gross negligence" - a crucial distinction since the latter carries much higher maximum penalties. Under the Clean Water Act, negligence can be punished with a maximum fine of $1,100 for each barrel of oil spilled; a gross negligence verdict carries a potential $4,300 per barrel fine. If the court judged the spill to have been 4.09 million barrels - the government estimate less oil recovered - the price of negligence could reach $4.5 billion. Gross negligence, in the costliest scenario, could run to $17.6 billion. BP has only $3.5 billion set aside in its provision - almost all of which is already accounted for by this and other costs. Even after the Clean Water Act fines are set, BP may face other bills from a lengthy Natural Resources Damage Assessment - which could require BP to carry out or fund environmental restoration work in the Gulf - as well as other claims. This week, researchers from University of Nevada-Reno, Texas A&M and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in the online scientific journal PLoS One that the muddy deep-sea ecosystem could take decades to recover. Jason Ryan, a BP press officer, criticized that study: "The paper provides no data to support a claim that it could take decades for these deep sea species to recover," he said. "In fact, the researchers acknowledge that little is known about recovery rates of these communities following an event such as this." CHALLENGES, ADVERTS Another part of the $42.4 billion charge includes a settlement agreement reached last year with the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee (PSC) - an uncapped system funded by BP that pays out money to tens of thousands of people and business which filed claims saying the spill hurt their livelihoods. The cost of that deal was estimated at $7.8 billion but BP has revised it upwards to $9.6 billion and has complained that the settlement administrator is paying out far more generously than he was meant to in compensating the likes of fishermen, hoteliers and others making a living along the Gulf coast. BP has filed challenges to the settlement both to Barbier and in a higher court - so far without success. Once Britain's biggest company and still a major contributor to institutional dividend income, it has also filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA has banned it from bidding for new federal fuel contracts or new Gulf of Mexico drilling licences. Despite the Macondo spill, BP is still the biggest single holder of licences in the Gulf. The EPA imposed the measure a year ago after BP pleaded guilty to criminal charges, citing the company's "lack of business integrity" after the fatal accident. BP has filed more than a dozen motions and appeals all told. "We are digging in and are well prepared for the long haul on legal matters," Chief Executive Bob Dudley said in July. A flurry of filings by the company - along with newspaper adverts criticizing the high costs of the settlement agreement and television commercials urging tourists to return to the Gulf coast for fishing and birdwatching have irked environmentalists. "They are softening the beachheads for appeals down the road," said David Yarnold, president of the National Audubon Society, a wildlife conservation group. "And trying to buy American public opinion and avoid paying for what they broke." He said it would take decades for scientists to fully gauge the impact of the spill on fish and wildlife. "BP's happy-talk commercials make it sound like it's all taken care of," Yarnold said. "And it's not." A BP representative did not comment when asked about its legal strategy and ads. The case is In re: Oil Spill by the Oil Rig "Deepwater Horizon" in the Gulf of Mexico, on April 20, 2010, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, No. 10-md-02179. (Editing by Braden Reddall and Alastair Macdonald) ================ BP wins reprieve over Gulf spill payouts: U.S. appeals court Wed, Oct 02 23:04 PM EDT By Jonathan Stempel (Reuters) - BP Plc won a legal reprieve in its effort to force the administrator of a settlement related to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill to tighten standards in assessing claims, potentially sparing the oil company billions of dollars of extra costs. A divided 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans on Wednesday directed U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier, who in March had approved administrator Patrick Juneau's evaluation methods, to take a fresh look at which claims are legitimate. The 5th Circuit also directed Barbier to halt payments on those claims that don't meet stricter standards. BP had agreed in 2012 to make payments to cover economic losses arising from the spill. But it complained that Juneau's payout formula has been too generous, and compensates people and businesses that were not harmed. That argument drew sympathy from Circuit Judge Edith Brown Clement, part of a 2-1 panel majority that sent the case back to Barbier, who also sits in New Orleans. "There is no need to secure peace with those with whom one is not at war," Clement wrote. "The district court had no authority to approve the settlement of a class that included members that had not sustained losses at all, or had sustained losses unrelated to the oil spill, as BP alleges," she added. "If the administrator is interpreting the settlement to include such claimants, the settlement is unlawful." BP originally projected that the settlement would cost $7.8 billion, but in July boosted its estimate to $9.6 billion. As of Wednesday, about $3.69 billion has been paid out, according to Juneau's claims website. (http://www.deepwaterhorizoneconomicsettlement.com/docs/statistics.pdf) The 5th Circuit said Barbier should issue a narrower injunction to allow recoveries by claimants with "actual injury" from the spill, and not punish BP and its shareholders by allowing potentially "hundreds of millions of dollars of unrecoverable awards."
Stephen Herman, a lawyer for some claimants, said in an email after Wednesday's decision: "We're pleased that the vast majority of class members will continue to be paid in a timely and expeditious manner. We look forward to working with the claims administrator and the court to determine the best way to get the affected claims processed and paid as soon as possible."
BP spokesman Geoff Morrell said the ruling affirms what BP has been saying since the beginning: claimants should not be paid for fictitious or wholly non-existent losses. "BP is extremely pleased with today's ruling... setting aside the claims administrator's interpretation of the business economic loss framework in the settlement agreement BP reached with the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee last year," Morrell said. The settlement was designed to compensate victims of the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig and rupture of BP's Macondo oil well. The disaster killed 11 people and triggered the largest U.S. offshore oil spill. BP, which is based in London, has already incurred more than $42 billion of charges for clean-up costs, fines and compensation related to the spill. The 5th Circuit on Wednesday also upheld Barbier's dismissal of a BP lawsuit against Juneau. Meanwhile, the second phase of a trial before Barbier over the spill began on September 30. It focuses on how much oil was spilled and BP's effort to control the flow. The case is BP Exploration & Production Inc v. Deepwater Horizon Court-Supervised Settlement Program et al, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-30315. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; additional reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell) ===================

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Iraq's Sunni-Shiite Killings: Your Name ... An Accusation That May Lead You To An Unidentified Grave In Iraq!

An Iraqi couple ride a motorbike on Abu Nawas Street in Baghdad, Oct. 19, 2012. (photo by REUTERS/Saad Shalash) By: Mushreq Abbas for Al-Monitor Iraq Pulse Posted on September 24. إقرأ باللغة العربية Omar al-Jaffal, an Iraqi journalist, wrote a scary note on his Facebook page: “I can be killed just because of my name. Have you ever heard of someone fearing his own name?” The Iraqi poet Ahmed Abdul Hussein replied: “Mere names have become a pretext for killing people.” Summary : In a time when something as simple as your name or accent can condemn you to death, many Iraqis, particularly the youth, are distancing themselves from divisive sectarian identities. Author: Mushreq Abbas Posted on: September 24 2013 Translated by: Joelle El-Khoury Categories : Originals Iraq Security The story seems similar to a movie recalling the events of the 2006-08 civil war in Iraq, when both armed Sunni and Shiite groups decided to set up checkpoints, catching and killing members of the other sect. They mostly relied on names and religious and historical connotations to identify their targets. For instance, Omar is a Sunni name, whereas Abdel-Hussein is Shiite. Jaffal told Al-Monitor that “everything today reminds me of the civil war. [There are] unidentified bodies in the streets, bombs targeting the people brutally. Meanwhile politicians are preoccupied with signing peace documents that cannot be applied on the ground.” Through this comparison, Jaffal tries to comment with despair on “the social peace initiative” that was signed by Iraqi leaders on Sept. 19, as a solution to the security and political crises that have beset the country. According to him, the circumstances are similar. In 2006, religious leaders signed the Mecca agreement for social peace, which includes similar articles. Yet this document did not prevent the fierce civil war that left thousands of people dead from erupting. “It is a bad omen,” he said. Nevertheless, the question is not about the bad omens portended by fruitless Iraqi political initiatives. It is about the reality that demonstrates that there are manifestations of violence bringing back terminology used during the civil war. There are near-daily attacks, for most of which al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility, against Shiite civilian gatherings, including markets, restaurants, workers’ gatherings and even funerals. One example is the bombing that took place in Sadr City in eastern Baghdad on Sept. 22, which left approximately 275 people dead and injured. In parallel, Shiite militias have emerged in southern Iraq, claiming to seek vengeance from the Sunni residents there. They have killed a number of them in Basra and displaced others from the city of Dhi Qar. Moreover, over the past days, reports have circulated that the police are finding unidentified bodies in Baghdad on a quasi-daily basis. It should be mentioned that today, Iraqi youth have lived through civil war. They carry more than one ID with different names, to prevent their sectarian affiliation from being identified. In addition, they have mastered more than one accent to persuade gunmen that they are not affiliated with the targeted sect. Yet, this is not enough, especially for those who take a neutral stance and do not care about sectarian affiliation. They are considered by gunmen of both sects as potential victims, for ignoring small religious details, as well as terms and behaviors that are interpreted as proof of sectarian affiliation in Iraq. Names have become a delicate matter in Iraq. A large number of Iraqis have avoided giving their children names with sectarian connotation after 2003. Moreover, it is no longer possible for parents to give their children a name referring to icons of the other sects. According to Omar al-Maliki, a Shiite from southern Iraq, this reality did not exist before 2003. He told Al-Monitor, “My name proves that Iraqis did not care about the sectarian connotations of names in the past. In my opinion, my name was pretty until it began to be used to accuse me in a way that could lead me to an unidentified grave.” Ali Abel Sadah, a writer for Al-Monitor, suffers from the same problem. His name, which directly indicates that he is Shiite, is a burden when he goes to Mosul to visit his mother’s Sunni relatives. The distress of young Iraqis who do not care about sectarian affiliations is reflected in summarizing their convictions, thoughts and stances in a word of several characters, which they were not involved in selecting originally. Mushreq Abbas is a contributing writer for Al-Monitor’s Iraq Pulse. He has been managing editor of Al-Hayat’s Iraq bureau since 2005 and has written studies and articles on Iraqi crises for domestic and international publication. Read more: http://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2013/09/iraq-names-sectarian-affiliation-violence.html#ixzz2g4aTny1Y

JPMorgan's Dimon meets with U.S. Attorney General Holder, JPM director Jackson offers his apologies

Reynolds Holding and Breakingviews editors discuss the bank's talks to settle state and federal mortgage probes for as much as $11 billion and what that could mean for CEO Jamie Dimon. JPMorgan chief in 'constructive' talks on settlement A meeting between JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon and U.S. attorney general Eric Holder at the Department of Justice in Washington on Thursday failed to produce a final deal on the settlement of all outstanding mortgage probes for $11 billion but people familiar with the situation described the talks as "constructive". ======================================================================= UPDATE 4-JPMorgan's Dimon meets with U.S. Attorney General Holder Thu, Sep 26 19:29 PM EDT By David Henry and David Ingram Sept 26 (Reuters) - JPMorgan Chase & Co CEO Jamie Dimon met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday, seeking to make sure a possible $11 billion settlement will end the bank's pain from mortgage-securities probes, a source said. The bank is close to settling many of the probes into how it sold mortgage bonds before the financial crisis, but Dimon fears that as soon as this deal is worked out other investigations will emerge, the person familiar with the matter said. It is unusual for a CEO of a company to meet with the head of the U.S. Justice Department. But the bank is seeking to tamp down its legal problems as it fends off a spate of probes covering everything from possibly illegal nepotism in China to whether it hid losses from its disastrous "London whale" trades. On the mortgage front, the Department of Justice in California, New Jersey and Philadelphia has been looking into mortgages that the bank packaged into bonds before the financial crisis. Meanwhile, government-owned home finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have been pressuring JPMorgan to buy back mortgage bonds that they said the bank should not have sold them. Those claims and the investigation in California would be the two biggest pieces of any deal, another source said. After the meeting at the U.S. Justice Department, which lasted about an hour, Holder told reporters that he had met with representatives of JPMorgan but did not mention Dimon by name. He declined to give details of the talks. Speaking at a news conference on an unrelated topic, the attorney general also said the Justice Department plans to make announcements about financial cases in the coming weeks and months. A source familiar with the matter said a JPMorgan mortgage deal could come within days. JPMorgan has already paid billions of dollars this year to resolve probes into areas including power market manipulation and failing to supervise employees that lost $6 billion from the London whale trades. Many investors see the heat on the bank as evidence of Dimon's dysfunctional relationship with regulators. A member of JPMorgan's board of directors said on Thursday at a conference in Chicago that the company is determined to make amends and improve its reputation. "We've got these things that we actually are guilty of and we've got to fix them," said Labon Jackson, the head of the audit committee on JPMorgan's board of directors. "It's embarrassing for the board." The bank avoided the worst losses in the financial crisis but has been under intense scrutiny since May 2012, when it said it was losing money on derivatives bets that became known as the "London Whale" trades. UNUSUAL BUT NOT UNPRECEDENTED JPMorgan's settlement talks heated up this week following a threat by the Justice Department to file a lawsuit over a mortgage probe being led by federal authorities in California. Legal sources said high-level meetings between corporate executives and the U.S. attorney general are unusual but not unprecedented, especially as big investigations move toward resolution. These conversations are difficult for a U.S. Attorney General, because he or she often does not want to be seen internally as caving to pressure from people or companies being prosecuted, said a former senior employee at the Justice Department. The meeting between Dimon and Holder, the highest-ranking U.S. law enforcement official, marks another step in the nation's attempts to sort out responsibility for the financial crisis that hit five years ago. The two men were backed in the meeting by top advisors. Dimon brought with him the bank's general counsel, Steve Cutler, and outside counsel Rodgin Cohen, a partner with Sullivan & Cromwell, according to a source familiar with the matter. Joining Holder was Deputy Attorney General James Cole and Associate Attorney General Tony West, one of the sources said. Negotiations this week have involved JPMorgan paying as much as $7 billion in cash and $4 billion in consumer relief to settle several investigations - a hefty sum, but representing little more than half of the bank's 2012 profit of $21 billion. A settlement in the $11 billion range would likely include claims from the regulator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which has sought some $6 billion from the bank over risky mortgage securities sold to the government-sponsored entities, according to two people familiar with the matter. The New York Attorney General's office has been participating in those talks because it is part of a working group formed by President Barack Obama in January 2012 to investigate misconduct in mortgage securities that contributed to the financial crisis. The talks have been described as "fluid" and filled with uncertainties over exactly which claims against the bank would be resolved. JPMorgan's litigation costs totaled $17.3 billion over the last three calendar years, according to the company's annual report. The cases that prosecutors are working on include probes of the mortgage businesses of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual, two failing banks that JPMorgan bought during the financial crisis. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also sued the bank last October over mortgage-backed securities packaged and sold by Bear Stearns. It was not clear if JPMorgan would be able to include the New York state lawsuit in the settlement being discussed. ======================= On stage in Chicago, JPM director Jackson offers his apologies Thu, Sep 26 15:58 PM EDT By Ross Kerber CHICAGO Sept 26 (Reuters) - The head of JPMorgan Chase & Co's audit committee acknowledged on Thursday that the bank had made mistakes and said it has tried to learn from them. "We've got these things that we actually are guilty of and we've got to fix them," said Laban Jackson, the head of the audit committee of JPMorgan's board of directors. "It's embarrassing for the board," he added. Jackson spoke at a conference at a downtown Chicago hotel on Thursday. The remarks could underscore the bank's eagerness to resolve the raft of regulatory investigations it now faces. Earlier on Thursday, JPMorgan Chief Executive Jamie Dimon met with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in Washington to discuss a settlement to end investigations into its sales of shoddy mortgage securities leading up to the financial crisis. In Chicago, Jackson spoke publicly with Anne Sheehan, chair of the Council of Institutional Investors, which sponsored the event. Jackson did not discuss in detail the bank's settlement talks with regulators. But he did offer a picture of some board decision making and vowed that it would try to become more open with investors. When Sheehan, as moderator, suggested that many directors would not share the same goal, Jackson replied, "That's got to change, and you guys have to drive it." Asked what he learned from JPMorgan's troubles, Jackson said that while few boards or managers could stop malfeasance, JPMorgan made sure its response to problems like the so-called "London whale" trading losses were correct, such as by bringing in law firms to investigate its actions. Jackson quoted JPMorgan's top director, former Exxon Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, as saying: "our job is to get the respect back in the market." Jackson received a polite reception from attendees at the conference, which included hundreds of officials from state pension funds, endowments and other institutions. Several said, however, they wished the directors had taken a harder line. "I think he was very light on the board's self-evaluation," said Dieter Waizenegger, executive director of CtW Investment Group, an adviser to union pension funds. CtW previously had opposed Jackson's re-election to the board. Jackson noted that after problems emerged, JPMorgan had clawed back millions of dollars from executives, demoted some and fired others to send a strong message the bank's rules and culture had to be respected. "I don't know what else we could have done because we're not allowed to shoot people," Jackson said. "That's what happened. I'm sorry to all you shareholders." ==============================

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Quake kills 450 in Pakistan, creates new island in sea: Shale gas, oil reshape world energy landscape

Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft Grab the HTML/BBCodeCopy and paste the code below: Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_t.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_s.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_q.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_m.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_n.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_z.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_c.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_22b30fca64_b.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/][img]http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3723/9939357963_dc4c346460_o.jpg[/img][/url] [url=http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/9939357963/]Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft[/url] by [url=http://www.flickr.com/people/gsfc/]NASA Goddard Photo and Video[/url], on Flickr Region Hit by Large Pakistan Quake as Shown by NASA Spacecraft Size: Square 75 (75 x 75)Size: Square 150 (150 x 150)Size: Thumbnail (100 x 96)Size: Small 240 (240 x 229)Size: Small 320 (320 x 306)Size: Medium 500 (500 x 478)Size: Medium 640 (640 x 612)Size: Medium 800 (800 x 765)Size: Large 1024 (1024 x 979)Size: Original (1540 x 1472) HTML BBCode .Photo license: Some rights reserved .◣NewerOlder On September 24 at 11:29 GMT, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck in south-central Pakistan at a relatively shallow depth of 20 kilometers. The earthquake occurred as the result of oblique strike-slip motion, consistent with rupture within the Eurasian tectonic plate. Tremors were felt as far away as New Delhi as well as Karachi in Pakistan. Even though the immediate area to the epicenter is sparsely populated, the majority of houses are of mud brick construction and damage is expected to be extensive. The perspective view, looking to the east, shows the location of the epicenter in Pakistan's Makran fold belt. The image is centered near 27 degrees north latitude, 65.5 degrees east longitude, and was acquired December 13, 2012. With its 14 spectral bands from the visible to the thermal infrared wavelength region and its high spatial resolution of 15 to 90 meters (about 50 to 300 feet), ASTER images Earth to map and monitor the changing surface of our planet. ASTER is one of five Earth-observing instruments launched Dec. 18, 1999, on Terra. The instrument was built by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. A joint U.S./Japan science team is responsible for validation and calibration of the instrument and data products. The broad spectral coverage and high spectral resolution of ASTER provides scientists in numerous disciplines with critical information for surface mapping and monitoring of dynamic conditions and temporal change. Example applications are: monitoring glacial advances and retreats; monitoring potentially active volcanoes; identifying crop stress; determining cloud morphology and physical properties; wetlands evaluation; thermal pollution monitoring; coral reef degradation; surface temperature mapping of soils and geology; and measuring surface heat balance. The U.S. science team is located at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The Terra mission is part of NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington, D.C. More information about ASTER is available at asterweb.jpl.nasa.gov/. Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team Image Addition Date: 2013-09-24 NASA image use policy. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission. ========== KARACHI: On Tuesday, a 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck Balochistan, killing more than 260 people and displacing hundreds of thousands. It also triggered formation of a new island off the coast, which has quickly become a global curiosity. But scientists say the island won't last long. "It's a transient feature," said Bill Barnhart, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "It will probably be gone within a couple of months. It's just a big pile of mud that was on the seafloor that got pushed up." Indeed, such islands are formed by so-called mud volcanoes, which occur around the world, and Barnhart and other scientists suspect that's what we're seeing off the Pakistani coast. News organizations have reported that the Pakistani island suddenly appeared near the port of Gwadar after the quake. The island is about 60 to 70 feet (18 to 21 meters) high, up to 300 feet (91 meters) wide, and up to 120 feet (37 meters) long. Media reports have located the new island at just a few paces to up to two kilometers off the coast of Pakistan. It is about 250 miles (400 kilometers) from the epicenter of the earthquake. The island appears to be primarily made out of mud from the seafloor, although photos show rocks as well, Barnhart told National Geographic. He has been studying images and media accounts of the new island from his lab in Golden, Colorado. "It brought up a dead octopus, and people have been picking up fish on [the island]," he said. A similar mud island appeared off Pakistan after a 2011 earthquake there, Barnhart said: "It lasted a month or two and then washed away." How Mud Volcanoes Work Though mud volcanoes have been seen elsewhere, they don't always produce islands. Such volcanoes were seen in California after a 2010 earthquake, Barnhart noted, when the tremors caused carbon dioxide to bubble up through the ground, but the result was "vigorous boiling," not new islands. Barnhart said Pakistani scientists will soon be measuring the new landmass to better understand how it formed. "We don't know much about it so far," he added. "We haven't had a satellite pass over it yet to really identify it." Seismic waves from the quake likely caused some fluid material under the seafloor to expand, Barnhart said. The crust holding that pressurized fluid ruptured, and mud spewed up. The whole process is similar to liquefaction, Barnhart said, which is when seismic waves turn normally solid layers of soil into a flowing fluid, often with disastrous results for the buildings and people above. He was skeptical of media reports that the underlying fluid was methane hydrates. "We don't know exactly what this was, whether it was free methane, carbon dioxide, water, or some other kind of fluid," he said. But methane hydrates are offshore in much deeper water, he said. SAMAA/AGENCIES ===================== Tue, Sep 24 12:21 PM EDT By Gul Yusufzai QUETTA, Pakistan (Reuters) - A major earthquake hit a remote part of western Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 45 people and prompting a new island to rise from the sea just off the country's southern coast. Tremors were felt as far away as the Indian capital of New Delhi, hundreds of miles (kilometers) to the east, where buildings shook, as well as the sprawling port city of Karachi in Pakistan. The United States Geological Survey said the 7.8 magnitude quake struck 145 miles southeast of Dalbandin in Pakistan's quake-prone province of Baluchistan, which borders Iran. The earthquake was so powerful that it caused the seabed to rise and create a small, mountain-like island about 600 meters (yards) off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea. Television channels showed images of a stretch of rocky terrain rising above the sea level, with a crowd of bewildered people gathering on the shore to witness the rare phenomenon. Officials said scores of mud houses were destroyed by aftershocks in the thinly populated mountainous area near the quake epicenter in Baluchistan, a huge barren province of deserts and rugged mountains. Abdul Qadoos, deputy speaker of the Baluchistan assembly, told Reuters that at least 30 percent of houses in the impoverished Awaran district had caved in. The local deputy commissioner in Awaran, Abdul Rasheed Gogazai, and the spokesman of Pakistan's Frontier Corps involved in the rescue effort said at least 45 people had been killed. In the regional capital of Quetta, officials said some areas appeared to be badly damaged but it was hard to assess the impact quickly because the locations were so remote. Chief secretary Babar Yaqoob said earlier that 25 people had been injured and that the death toll was expected to increase as many people appeared to be trapped inside their collapsed homes. Local television reported that helicopters carrying relief supplies had been dispatched to the affected area. The army said it had deployed 200 troops to help deal with the disaster. (Writing by Maria Golovnina; Additional reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik in Islamabad and David Chance in New Delhi; editing by Mark Heinrich) ======================= 45 killed as 7.8 earthquake strikes Pakistan, shaking felt in New Delhi Published time: September 24, 2013 11:49 Edited time: September 24, 2013 17:05 Get short URL Image from usgs.gov Image from usgs.gov Share on tumblrTags Earthquake, Pakistan At least 45 people have been killed in an earthquake measuring 7.8 which struck southwest Pakistan on Tuesday. Tremors were felt across the region and as far as New Delhi, with the disaster creating a 'new island' in its wake. The local deputy commissioner in Awaran, Abdul Rasheed Gogazai, and the spokesman of Pakistan's Frontier Corps involved in the rescue effort stold Reuters that at least 45 people have been killed. The US Geological Survey has measured the quake at 7.8 magnitude after it struck Balochistan, just 69 km north-northeast of Awaran, the nearest city. A “RED” alert was issued by the agency meaning estimated fatalities of over 1,000 and damages costing over $1 billion. At least 30 percent of houses in the impoverished Awaran district have been destroyed, Abdul Qadoos, deputy speaker of the Baluchistan assembly, told Reuters. Roofs of two schools have collapsed in Awaran, according to Pakistan’s English-language daily The Express Tribune. The paper said that houses have been damaged across the province while the injured are in the process of being escorted to nearby hospitals. This is yet to be officially confirmed. The earthquake also created a new island off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline, according to local paper Express News. The new island stands approximately half a mile into the sea. A bemused crowd reportedly gathered to observe the phenomenon of the new island, which apparently has a mountainous terrain. The quake's epicenter was in a remote area of the country at a depth of just 15km (9.3mi), but was felt as far away as neighboring India. Pakistan's Geo TV said that the earthquake, which struck at 4:29 pm local time, lasted for about two minutes. Pakistani Met office officials say that major damage and loss of life has been averted because of the earthquake’s location in such a remote area. However, they have also forecast impending aftershocks of up to 5 in magnitude on the Richter scale. In India's New Delhi, buildings shook sending people running into the streets, Reuters witnesses said. However, there are 337,980 people within 100km of the epicenter who could potentially be affected, according to the Global Disaster Alert and coordination System (GDACS). In April this year a 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Iran-Pakistan border killing 46 people and injuring some 180 others. Houses collapsed in the disaster, causing people to flee to the streets out of fear. ================ Summary Location and Magnitude contributed by: USGS National Earthquake Information Center 20 km 10 mi Powered by Leaflet Pakistan 27.000°N, 65.514°E Depth: 20.0km (12.4mi) Event Time 2013-09-24 11:29:48 UTC 2013-09-24 16:29:48 UTC+05:00 at epicenter 2013-09-24 20:59:48 UTC+09:30 system time Location 27.000°N 65.514°E depth=20.0km (12.4mi) Nearby Cities 66km (41mi) NNE of Awaran, Pakistan 116km (72mi) NW of Bela, Pakistan 172km (107mi) NW of Uthal, Pakistan 175km (109mi) S of Kharan, Pakistan 791km (492mi) ENE of Muscat, Oman Related Links •Additional earthquake information for Pakistan •Earthquake Summary Poster •View location in Google Maps Tectonic Summary The September 24, 2013 M7.7 earthquake in south-central Pakistan occurred as the result of oblique-strike-slip type motion at shallow crustal depths. The location and mechanism of the earthquake are consistent with rupture within the Eurasia plate above the Makran subduction zone. The event occurred within the transition zone between northward subduction of the Arabia plate beneath the Eurasia plate and northward collision of the India plate with the Eurasia plate. The epicenter of the event is 69km north of Awaran, Pakistan, and 270km north of Karachi, Pakistan (population 11.6 million). On a broad scale, the tectonics of southern and central Pakistan reflect a complex plate boundary where the India plate slides northward relative to the Eurasia plate in the east, and the Arabia plate subducts northward beneath the Eurasia plate in the Makran (western Pakistan). These motions typically result in north-south to northeast-southwest strike-slip motion at the latitude of the September 24 earthquake that is primarily accommodated on the Chaman Fault, with the earthquake potentially occurring on one of the southern-most strands of this fault system. Further, more in-depth studies will be required to identify the precise fault associated with this event. Although seismically active, this portion of the Eurasia plate boundary region has not experience large damaging earthquakes in the recent history. In the past 40 years, only one significant event (M6.1), which killed 6, has occurred within 200km of the September 2013 event, in July of 1990. Seismotectonics of the Middle East and Vicinity No fewer than four major tectonic plates (Arabia, Eurasia, India, and Africa) and one smaller tectonic block (Anatolia) are responsible for seismicity and tectonics in the Middle East and surrounding region. Geologic development of the region is a consequence of a number of first-order plate tectonic processes that include subduction, large-scale transform faulting, compressional mountain building and crustal extension. Mountain building in northern Pakistan and Afghanistan is the result of compressional tectonics associated with collision of the India plate moving northwards at a rate of 40 mm/yr with respect to the Eurasia plate. Continental thickening of the northern and western edge of the India subcontinent has produced the highest mountains in the world, including the Himalayan, Karakoram, Pamir and Hindu Kush ranges. Earthquake activity and faulting found in this region, as well as adjacent parts of Afghanistan and India, are due to collisional plate tectonics. Beneath the Pamir-Hindu Kush Mountains of northern Afghanistan, earthquakes occur to depths as great as 200 km as a result of remnant lithospheric subduction. Shallower crustal earthquakes in the Pamir-Hindu Mountains occur primarily along the Main Pamir Thrust and other active Quaternary faults, which accommodate much of the region's crustal shortening. The western and eastern margins of the Main Pamir Thrust display a combination of thrust and strike-slip mechanisms. Along the western margin of the Tibetan Plateau, in the vicinity of southeastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan, the India plate translates obliquely relative to the Eurasia plate, resulting in a complex fold-and-thrust belt known as the Sulaiman Range. Faulting in this region includes strike-slip, reverse-slip and oblique-slip motion and often results in shallow, destructive earthquakes. The relatively fast moving left-lateral, strike-slip Chaman Fault system in southeastern Afghanistan accommodates translational motion between the India and Eurasia plates. In 1505, a segment of the Chaman Fault system near Kabul, Afghanistan ruptured causing widespread destruction of Kabul and surrounding villages. In the same region, the more recent 30 May 1935, M7.6 Quetta, Pakistan earthquake, occurred within the Sulaiman Range, killing between 30,000 and 60,000 people. Off the south coast of Pakistan and southeast coast of Iran, the Makran trench is the present-day surface expression of active subduction of the Arabia plate beneath the continental Eurasia plate, which converge at a rate of approximately 20 mm/yr. Although the Makran subduction zone has a relatively slow convergence rate, it has produced large devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. For example, the November 27, 1945 M8.0 mega-thrust earthquake produced a tsunami within the Gulf of Oman and Arabia Sea, killing over 4,000 people. Northwest of this active subduction zone, collision of the Arabia and Eurasia plates forms the approximately 1,500-km-long fold and thrust belt of the Zagros Mountains, which crosses the whole of western Iran and extends into northeastern Iraq. Collision of the Arabia and Eurasia plates also causes crustal shortening in the Alborz Mountains and Kopet Dag in northern Iran. Eastern Iran experiences destructive earthquakes that originate on both strike-slip and reverse faults. For example, the 16 September 1978 M7.8 earthquake, along the southwest edge of the Dasht-e-Lut Basin killed at least 15,000 people. Along the eastern margin of the Mediterranean region there is complex interaction between the Africa, Arabia and Eurasia plates. The Red Sea Rift is a spreading center between the Africa and Arabia plates, with a spreading rate of approximately 10mm/yr near its northern end, and 16mm/yr near its southern end (Chu, D. and Gordon, R. G., 1998). Seismicity rate and size of earthquakes has been relatively small along the spreading center, but the rifting process has produced a series of volcanic systems across western Saudi Arabia. Further north, the Red Sea Rift terminates at the southern boundary of the Dead Sea Transform Fault. The Dead Sea Transform is a strike-slip fault that accommodates differential motion between the Africa and Arabia plates. Though both the Africa plate, to the west, and the Arabia plate, to the east, are moving in a NNE direction, the Arabia plate is moving slightly faster, resulting in the left-lateral, strike-slip motion along this segment of the plate boundary. Historically, earthquake activity along the Dead Sea Transform has been a significant hazard in the densely populated Levant region (eastern Mediterranean). For example, the November 1759 Near East earthquake is thought to have killed somewhere between 2,000-20,000 people. The northern termination of the Dead Sea Transform occurs within a complex tectonic region of southeast Turkey, where interaction of the Africa and Arabia plates and the Anatolia block occurs. This involves translational motion of the Anatolia Block westwards, with a speed of approximately 25mm/yr with respect to Eurasia, in order to accommodate closure of the Mediterranean basin. The right-lateral, strike-slip North Anatolia Fault, in northern Turkey, accommodates much of the westwards motion between the Anatolia Block and Eurasia Plate. Between 1939 and 1999, a series of devastating M7.0+ strike-slip earthquakes propagated westwards along the North Anatolia Fault system. The westernmost of these earthquakes was the 17th August 1999, M7.6 Izmit earthquake, near the Sea of Marmara, killed approximately 17,000 people. At the southern edge of the Anatolia Block lies the east-west trending Cyprian Arc with associated levels of moderate seismicity. The Cyprian Arc represents the convergent boundary between the Anatolia Block to the north and the Africa Plate to the south. The boundary is thought to join the East Anatolia Fault zone in eastern Turkey; however no certain geometry or sense of relative motion along the entire boundary is widely accepted. ================================== Shale gas, oil reshape world energy landscape Content preferences Done File photo shows US workers laying a shale gas pipeline outside Waynesburg, in Pennsylvania . View gallery . . . AFP Frédéric Pouchot 12 hours ago PARIS (AFP) - After unleashing an energy revolution in the United States, shale gas and oil are now becoming energy game-changers worldwide, a break with the past whose ramifications are still unclear. Thanks to the advent of hydraulic fracturing technology -- used to extract oil and gas locked in sedimentary shale rock -- the United States is on track to become the world-number-one oil producer by 2017 and a net exporter by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). Besides radically changing the US energy landscape, this "fracking" revolution is also reshaping markets overseas. Thanks to the sudden abundance of cheap natural gas, American electricity suppliers are shunning domestic coal -- leading producers to export it at low prices to Europe and Asia. That trend has revived the appeal of coal-fired power plants in Europe and taken a toll on plans to transition toward gas-burning plants, despite the air-pollution concerns around coal. Energy experts say the United States will also likely begin exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe and Asia in the next several years. US authorities have already greenlighted four LNG export terminals. View gallery. "Graphic showing the policy of selected countries on … Graphic showing the policy of selected countries on shale gas and oil extraction. (AFP Photo/dp mhc/ …"We anticipate that from around 2016, we are really going to see volumes of LNG coming out of the United States and they are going to change the way that markets connect over the coming decades," said IEA analyst Tim Gould at a recent conference. "The United States won't export a huge amount of gas, because they'll be looking to keep domestic price levels as low as possible, but eventually there will undoubtedly be more than 10 export terminals geared toward Europe and Asia," said Jerome Ferrier, head of the International Gas Union. With all its new non-conventional output, the United States is now producing more than seven million barrels of oil per day, returning to the level of 25 years ago, said Olivier Appert, head of the French institute for oil and new energies (IFPEN). "The fact that the United States is set to become the top oil producer by 2020, ahead of Saudi Arabia, changes everything," said Appert. While the size and longevity of the American boom are up for debate, it will redraw the world energy-trade map at least temporarily by making North America less dependant on Middle Eastern oil. China is on track to take the United States' place as the world's top oil importer in 2017, its oil bill soaring to $500 billion in 2020, the Wood Mackenzie consultancy calculated last month. The United States' bill for oil imports is meanwhile set to fall from a peak of $335 billion in 2008 to $160 billion in 2020. View gallery. "Workers change pipes at a rig exploring the Marcellus … Workers change pipes at a rig exploring the Marcellus Shale outside the town of Waynesburg in Pennsy …This unexpected turn of events is shaking up the global oil market. At first the world's top crude producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia, considered the fracking boom "a speculative bubble that was about to burst", said Appert. "But today it's becoming a major problem for them," to the point that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries launched a study on the issue in June, he added. Keen to emulate the American boom, more than a dozen other countries around the world are currently exploring for shale hydrocarbons or moving in that direction. But environmental fears around fracking -- in which a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals is blasted deep underground to release hydrocarbons trapped between layers of rock -- may stop other countries from embracing the shale revolution with the same fervour as the United States. "The United States is atypical because landowners hold the underground rights to their property, and despite all the local protests, they're encouraged to drill," said Ferrier of the International Gas Union. "It's clear that in Poland, Romania, Great Britain, that won't happen as easily." View gallery. "British police watch an anti-shale gas and fracking … British police watch an anti-shale gas and fracking protest outside parliament in London. (AFP Photo …Energy-hungry China has the world's largest shale-gas reserves, according to preliminary estimates, but recently began exploration returned disappointing initial results. However, "the energy challenges in China are such that the country needs every exploitable resource, and if there's shale gas there, it will probably be tapped," said Ferrier. "The problem will be finding the water for fracking." Europe also faces tricky questions on shale gas. The continent depends heavily on Russian gas, with North Sea deposits quickly running out. The European Union has so far failed to adopt a unified gas strategy, but policymakers consider the issue strategically vital. EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in May that shale gas could be a good bargaining chip in reaching new deals with Russian energy giant Gazprom. ================= Earthquakes Updated: Wed, 10 Apr 2013 In detailBack to top Every day an earthquake happens somewhere in the world. Many are so light that they cannot be detected. Only a small proportion of the more than a million quakes that occur every year actually cause damage. The vast majority are very small and have no impact on the suface, or they occur in sparsely populated areas of the world. Scientists cannot predict when an earthquake will strike, but they have been able to map where earthquakes are most likely to happen. Most of the largest earthquakes occur within the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a horseshoe-shaped band of volcanoes and fault lines circling the edges of the Pacific Ocean. The Earth’s crust is divided into tectonic plates which are constantly moving. Earthquakes, like volcanoes, take place along the plate boundaries. When two plates move past each other, the jagged parts of the plate boundaries get stuck while the rest of the plates keep moving. Eventually, when the plates have moved far enough, the edges suddenly become unstuck, causing an earthquake. Underwater earthquakes, or landslides caused by an earthquake, can trigger tsunamis – large water waves that can cause widespread damage when they hit land. Anecdotal evidence suggests that animals show unusual behaviour before an earthquake. There have been reports of creatures leaving their homes ahead of an earthquake, but more research needs to be done in this field. Deadly impactsBack to top Earthquakes usually have the greatest impact in poorer countries. The main reason is building quality and regulations - buildings can now be designed to withstand significant levels of shaking, at slightly higher cost. Poorer people's livelihoods are also likely to be more vulnerable. If people aren’t trained in what to do in an earthquake, they are more likely to be killed or injured. In January 2010, Haiti experienced the biggest urban disaster in modern history, when a 7.0 magnitude quake killed more than 200,000 people and left 1.5 million homeless. The main quake was followed by several strong aftershocks. The tremors occurred near the earth’s surface, near a crowded capital city with poorly constructed buildings, and among people who had had little or no training in what to do in an earthquake. In December 2003, an earthquake in the southern Iranian city of Bam wiped it out in just 12 seconds. More than a quarter of the 120,000 population died, and nearly all the survivors were left homeless. The quake measured magnitude 6.5, but it was very shallow, and the city’s traditional architecture meant walls and roofs crumbled as they collapsed, leaving no air pockets and suffocating people inside. Although no structure is 100 percent quake-proof, buildings can be made much safer relatively cheaply, adding less than 10 percent on average to building costs. The cost can be as little as 3 to 4 percent higher when building a safe school, and a 5 to 10 percent increase when building a hospital, the U.N. Secretary-General’s special representative for disaster risk reduction, Margareta Wahlstrom, said soon after the Haiti earthquake. Time is of the essence in saving lives. Usually locals digging with their bare hands save more lives than well-equipped international rescue teams who arrive days after the quake. Terrain is an important factor in the impact of earthquakes. Building on steep slopes and on soft soil foundations increases the chance of buildings sinking or tipping over during an earthquake. The India/Pakistan earthquake of 2005 was magnitude 7.6. It killed nearly 75,000 people – including 16,000 children who were crushed when their classrooms collapsed on top of them. Aftershocks in the mountainous region caused countless landslides, blocking roads and hampering relief efforts. Measuring a tremorBack to top Earthquake size is measured by magnitude, a measure of the amount of energy a tremor releases. The magnitude is usually based on the scale worked out in 1935 by Charles Richter. But the "Richter scale" is unreliable for measuring larger earthquakes and has been heavily modified. The USGS favours describing quakes merely by "magnitude" and gives readings consistent with the Richter scale. Magnitude is the same no matter where you are, or how strong or weak the shaking is on the surface. Every increase of one whole number of magnitude represents a 10-fold increase in intensity. Below is a very rough guide to how magnitudes relate to the amount of shaking on the surface. If an earthquake of high magnitude occurs deep below the earth's surface the amount of shaking will be less than if it occurs nearer the surface. ◦Magnitude 2.5 or less - the earthquake is usually not felt ◦Magnitude 7.0-7.9 - major earthquake, serious damage ◦Magnitude 8.0 or greater - can totally destroy communities near the epicentre. Source: UPSeis Interesting facts: ◦The largest recorded earthquake in the world was magnitude 9.5 in Chile, May 22, 1960. ◦Most earthquakes occur at depths of less than 80 km (50 miles) from the Earth's surface. ◦The world's deadliest recorded earthquake occurred in 1556 in central China, where most people lived in caves carved from soft rock. An estimated 830,000 people died. ◦The earliest recorded evidence of an earthquake dates back to 1831 BC in China's Shandong province. Source: The U.S. Geological Survey's Earthquake Facts page. What to do during an earthquakeBack to top Here's what the American Red Cross says people should do during an earthquake: If you are inside when the shaking starts:◦Drop, cover and hold on. Move as little as possible. ◦If you are in bed, stay there, curl up and hold on. Protect your head with a pillow. ◦Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass. ◦Stay indoors until the shaking stops and you are sure it is safe to exit. When it is, use stairs rather than the elevator in case there are aftershocks, power outages or other damage. ◦Be aware that fire alarms and sprinkler systems frequently go off in buildings during an earthquake, even if there is no fire. If you are outside when the shaking starts: ◦Find a clear spot (away from buildings, power lines, trees, streetlights) and drop to the ground. Stay there until the shaking stops. ◦If you are in a vehicle, pull over to a clear location and stop. Avoid bridges, overpasses and power lines if possible. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully, avoiding bridges and ramps that may have been damaged. ◦If a power line falls on your vehicle, do not get out. Wait for assistance. ◦If you are in a mountainous area or near unstable slopes or cliffs, be alert for falling rocks and other debris. Landslides are often triggered by earthquakes. Jargon bustingBack to top Fault, fault plane – The edges where two tectonic plates move past each other. Hypocentre – The point at which the earthquake starts below the earth's surface. Epicentre - The point on the earth’s surface directly above the hypocentre. Foreshock – One of a series of smaller earthquakes that sometimes precede a big earthquake in the same place. Aftershock – One of the smaller earthquakes that happen after the main quake. If the mainshock (see below) is large, aftershocks can continue for weeks, months or even years. Mainshock - The main earthquake. Earthquake magnitude - The measured value of the earthquake size. It is a measurement of the size of the largest seismic wave recorded during a quake. The magnitude is the same no matter where you are, or how strong or weak the shaking is in various locations. Earthquake intensity - A measure of the shaking on the earth’s surface created by the earthquake. LinksBack to top For resources, including photos and topographical maps, see the U.S. Geological Survey's Learning Links. The USGS has also produced High Quality Earthquake Animations. For a full set of links to information about earthquakes, see the USGS's Earthquake Topics. The USGS also has information on animals and earthquake prediction. For what to do in an earthquake, see the American Red Cross's Earthquake Safety Checklist To see the latest earthquake alerts, visit: ◦USGS Latest Earthquakes ◦USGS Natural hazards - Earthquakes (Scroll down for latest quakes, with links to further information and local monitoring centres.) ◦The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System ========================== "I am sure (that) to have some shale gas option is a good instrument for our long-term negotiations (with) Gazprom and Russia," he said. =============================== Scale of damages: Nearly all of Mashkai town flattened, say survivors Injure­d victim­s are underg­oing treatm­ent at Karach­i hospit­als. By Sameer MandhroPublished: September 27, 2013 Share this article Print this page Email . A girl survivor of Balochistan’s deadly earthquake undergoes treatment at PNS Shifa hospital. PHOTO: APP KARACHI: Nearly all of Mashkai, a town of over 25,000 people, has been flattened in Tuesday’s earthquake that jolted the country’s largest, but sparsely populated, province of Balochistan. “It was a doomsday for us,” recalled Karim Dad, an earthquake survivor from Mashkai tehsil of Awaran district, who has come to Karachi for treatment. “There was a huge cloud of dust across the city and I heard cries from every direction.” The62-year-old feels as if the earthquake has ruined everything. Karim brought his wife and another relative to Civil Hospital, Karachi, on Thursday morning through an Edhi Ambulance. His 19-year-old daughter, Fatima, died when she couldn’t leave the room on time. “I had a six-room house but it was completely damaged,” he told The Express Tribune. “My daughter is buried under the debris.” Karim was taking a nap at his house when the house was shaken by strong jolts at around 4:15pm. “My room collapsed within seconds as I left it,” he remembered. According to his rough estimates, over 90 per cent of the houses, shops and other buildings in his home town have been flattened. “We had mud houses and almost all of them collapsed in the first jolts. The remaining ones will also fall down,” he feared. Scale of destruction For people living in far flung areas, it is really hard to imagine the scale of destruction. “The first thing we have to do is recover the bodies,” Karim said. “Then we should provide first aid to the injured persons as countless injured people are waiting for doctors.” By Wednesday afternoon – a day after the earthquake – only three Edhi ambulances managed to make their way to the remote town. “It took us 17 hours to reach Karachi,” said Karim, explaining that driving on the hilly terrain is difficult and most roads are damaged. He still finds it hard to shake away the memories of the countless injured people they met on their way to Karachi. “We couldn’t fit anymore people in the ambulance.” Another old survivor from Mashkai, Haji Abdul Aziz, was looking after his seven-year-old grand daughter, Mahnoor, and daughter Halima. The 67-year-old man lost five family members in the deadly earthquake after they waited for more than 24 hours for help. Hardly able to understand Urdu, Aziz said every house in Mashkai has been destroyed. “More people will die if rescue teams do not reach on time. People need food and medicine urgently.” The late arrival of the rescue teams did not go well with the residents. “We are considered insurgents,” explained an attendant, Yar Muhammad. “Do you think the entire population of our area is a rebel?” Relief efforts All the attendants stressed the need for medical camps in the affected areas, especially Awaran and Mashkai. “Thousands of people are living under the open sky. There is no shelter left for us.” A total of 12 injured survivors have been brought to Civil hospital so far and all of them have minor injuries, according to a medical officer. Meanwhile, Pakistan Relief Foundation chairperson Haleem Adil Sheikh said he was trying to take five truck loads of relief goods with him but he was stopped by the Frontier Constabulary. They told him that the law and order situation was not stable enough for a high-profile person to go there. Other vehicles that were part of large convoys were, however, allowed to go on. Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th, 2013. =============== Published time: September 30, 2013 01:44 Get short URL Photo by NASA Photo by NASA Share on tumblrTags Earthquake, History, Natural disasters Amidst the destruction caused by the devastating earthquake in Pakistan that killed more than 500 people, a new island emerged from the depth of the sea. NASA has released images of the newly formed islet. NASA has released before and after photos of a new terrestrial body that was born on September 24 during a quake that struck Pakistan. Called Zalzala Jazeera, or a an earthquake island, the terrestrial formation can now be found 380 kilometers from the earthquake’s epicenter in Paddi Zirr Bay near Swadar, Pakistan in the Arabian Sea. The first image of the island was taken by NASA’s Earth Observing-1 satellite on September 26, while the second snapshot shows the same bay on April 17 with water and no landmass around the coordinates that the new island now inhabits. Photo by NASAPhoto by NASA Photo by NASAPhoto by NASA According to scientists, the depth of the water level around Zalzala Jazeera stands at about 15 to 20 meters, stretching 75 to 90 meters across. It lies approximately one mile from the shore. Scientists say the island is nothing more than just a pile of mud, sand and solid rock that was caused by the forces of highly pressurized gas. “The island is really just a big pile of mud from the seafloor that got pushed up. This area of the world seems to see so many of these features because the geology is correct for their formation. You need a shallow, buried layer of pressurized gas—methane, carbon dioxide, or something else—and fluids. When that layer becomes disturbed by seismic waves (like an earthquake), the gases and fluids become buoyant and rush to the surface, bringing the rock and mud with them,” Bill Barnhart, a geologist at the US Geological Survey told NASA’s Earth Observatory. The Earth Observatory says this is not the first island to have surfaced along the 700-kilometer-long coast over the past century. Scientists predict that the new island will remain above surface for up to a year before sinking back into the Arabian sea. The island rose out of the water during a 7.7-magnitude earthquake that struck Balochistan, just 69 km north-northeast of Awaran - the nearest Pakistani city - on 24 September 2013. Over 300,000 people were affected by the quake, which caused over 500 deaths, and some 21,000 houses were destroyed. People use boats as they visit an island that rose from the sea following an earthquake, off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea September 25, 2013.(Reuters / Stringer)People use boats as they visit an island that rose from the sea following an earthquake, off Pakistan's Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea September 25, 2013.(Reuters / Stringer)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Apple polishes forecast after selling 9 million new iPhones

Apple polishes forecast after selling 9 million new iPhones Mon, Sep 23 14:33 PM EDT image 1 of 4 By Poornima Gupta and Jennifer Saba (Reuters) - Apple Inc sold 9 million new iPhones in an opening weekend for the product that included China for the first time and almost doubled sales from the last iPhone launch, and the company issued a more optimistic financial forecast. Apple shares jumped more than 4.6 percent after the company said revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter would gravitate towards the high end of its previous forecast for $34 billion to $37 billion. Apple, which began selling the top-tier iPhone 5s and cheaper, multi-hued iPhone 5c on Friday, rarely adjusts its outlook in the middle of a quarter. Since CEO Tim Cook took the reins, the world's largest tech company has begun to court Wall Street more visibly. "The critics have told you Apple lost its magic," said Daniel Ernst, an analyst with Hudson Square Research. "Customers are telling you something very different. Clearly, people like the product. That sentiment is almost more important than the number." Sales of the new models were nearly double those of the iPhone 5's 5 million in the first weekend after its launch a year ago, and far surpassed the roughly 6 million that analysts had projected. The record unit sales and beefed-up forecast reinforced expectations of strong demand for Apples latest gadgets. Critics had said the iPhone 5c was priced too high to take advantage of pent-up demand in emerging markets. Apple, which had grown notorious for providing conservative estimates that it routinely overshot, had resolved to improve its guidance for investors. Analysts have said the change will help rein in some over-the-top financial expectations. The forecast for Apple's latest iPhone launch proved trickier than in the past for analysts, because the company introduced two models simultaneously in 11 countries including the crucial Chinese market. Apple launched iPhone 5 in just nine countries. Another factor was that this time around, Apple signed on NTT Docomo, Japan's largest mobile carrier. China joined the rollout that included Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, Australia, Japan, Britain, Canada, Germany, France and Puerto Rico. Previously, Apple began selling phones in China only months after the global launch. "We underscore one important caveat for investors: Apple's iPhone seasonality is likely to be exaggerated this cycle because of the addition of NTT DoCoMo, and particularly because of the early launch in China," said Bernstein Research's Toni Sacconaghi, who has an "outperform" rating on Apple. "Although upside exists for the September and December quarters, the risk exists that the fall-off in iPhone sales beginning in the March quarter could be more acute than history, potentially resulting in some downside to estimates." SUPPLY LIMITED Demand for the iPhone 5S has exceeded initial supply and many online orders are scheduled to be shipped in the coming weeks, Apple said. On Friday, long lines formed outside stores in Tokyo, New York, San Francisco and other cities for the new top-of-the-line 5s and the less-expensive 5c. It was the first time Apple launched two iPhone models simultaneously. The gold-colored version of the 5S, which also comes in silver and gray, was sold out as of Friday and will now ship only in October, according to Apple's website. As of Monday, the two other colors were also set to be shipped only in October. "Thanks to all our amazing customers for the fantastic weekend!" said Cook in his second tweet, after he joined Twitter following a visit to Palo Alto Apple store last Friday. Apple also said gross profit margin would come in near the top of a range of between 36 percent to 37 percent, in line with average forecasts for 36.7 percent. The more optimistic margin forecast should allay investor concerns that, at just $100 les than the 5s, the 5c will draw buyers away from the premium gadget. Analysts' average revenue forecast for the quarter stands at $36.1 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. The company said more than 200 million iOS devices are now running iOS 7 mobile software, rolled out just before the iPhone launch. Apple did not break out separate sales figures for the 5S and 5C. The 5C, which starts at $199 with a contract, offers a touch ID that scans a user's fingerprint to unlock the phone. The 5C starts at $99, comes in five colors. "If Apple could ship so well without even having a larger screen iPhone, which we think it could deliver next year, then Apple is getting over a key hump," Shebly Seyrafi, an analyst with FBN Securities, said in a note to clients. "We believe that the immediate availability of the phone in China is also a key driver of the strength." (Reporting by Poornima Gupta in San Francisci, Jennifer Saba in New York and Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bangalore; Editing by Kirti Pandey, John Wallace and David Gregorio)

At least 80 killed in attack in Baghdad Shi'ite stronghold

At least 65 killed in attack in Baghdad Shi'ite stronghold Sat, Sep 21 14:21 PM EDT BAGHDAD (Reuters) - At least 65 people were killed in a triple bombing that targeted a tent filled with mourners in Baghdad's Shi'ite Muslim stronghold of Sadr City on Saturday, police and medical sources said. A car bomb went off near the tent where a funeral was being held, a suicide bomber driving a car then blew himself up, and a third explosion followed as police, ambulances and firefighter were gathering at the scene, police said. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, in which at least 120 others were wounded, medics said. "Crowds of people were visiting the tent to offer their condolences when suddenly a powerful blast ... threw me to ground," said 35-year-old Basim Raheem. "When I tried to get up, a second blast happened. My clothes were covered with blood and human flesh. I thought I was wounded, but later discovered I was lying in a pool of others' blood," he added. A Reuters reporter said distraught survivors attacked policemen and firefighters who tried to move them away from the scene. Puddles of blood surrounded the tent. In a separate incident, at least eight people were killed when a car bomb exploded in a busy street in the predominantly Shi'ite Ur district of northern Baghdad, police said. Iraq's delicate sectarian balance has come under growing strain from the civil war in neighboring Syria, where mainly Sunni Muslim rebels are fighting to overthrow a leader backed by Shi'ite Iran. Both Sunnis and Shi'ites have crossed into Syria from Iraq to fight on opposite sides of the conflict. Al Qaeda's Iraqi and Syrian branches merged earlier this year to form the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has claimed responsibility for attacks on both sides of the border. Around 800 Iraqis were killed in acts of violence in August, according to the United Nations. Earlier on Saturday, four attackers killed six officers in an assault on a police station in Baiji, about 110 miles north of Baghdad. (Reporting by Kareem Raheem; Writing by Isabel Coles; Editing by Andrew Heavens) ========================= At least 78 killed in Pakistan church attack: minister Sun, Sep 22 11:55 AM EDT image 1 of 5 ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - At least 78 people were killed on Sunday in a twin suicide bomb attack on a church in Pakistan, including 34 women and seven children, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said. "Who are these terrorists killing women and children?" he said on live television, speaking from the northwestern city of Peshawar where the attack took place outside the church after Sunday mass. (Reporting by Syed Raza Hassad; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Robin Pomeroy) Suicide bombers kill 78 Christians outside Pakistani church Sun, Sep 22 18:49 PM EDT image 1 of 5 By Fayaz Aziz PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - A pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside a 130-year-old Anglican church in Pakistan after Sunday Mass, killing at least 78 people in the deadliest attack on Christians in the predominantly Muslim country. Islamist violence has been on the rise in Pakistan in past months, undermining Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's efforts to tame the insurgency by launching peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban. Within hours of the attack, Sharif toughened his stance considerably but fell short of calling for outright military action against insurgents holed up in tribal areas on the Afghan border - an option supported by Pakistan's all-powerful army. "Such incidents are not conducive of peace talks," Sharif said in televised remarks. "Unfortunately, because of this, the government is unable to move forward on what it had envisaged, on what it had wished for." Explosions struck the historic white-stone All Saints Church in the city of Peshawar, near the frontier tribal areas where Islamist militants have their strongholds, as hundreds of parishioners, many of them women and children, streamed out of the building. "I heard two explosions. People started to run. Human remains were strewn all over the church," said one parishioner, who gave only her first name, Margrette. Her voice breaking with emotion, she said she had not seen her sister since the explosions ripped through the area around the gate of the church enclosure. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the death toll of 78 included 34 women and seven children, in remarks televised live from Peshawar. More than 100 people were wounded. "Who are these terrorists killing women and children?" Nisar said. The Taliban-linked militant group TTP Jundullah claimed responsibility within hours of the attack. "They are the enemies of Islam, therefore we target them," said the group's spokesman, Ahmed Marwat. "We will continue our attacks on non-Muslims on Pakistani land." TURNING POINT? An assault of such scale and audacity could be a turning point for Sharif after months of inconclusive efforts to engage the Pakistani Taliban in talks, offering him a cue to give in to the tougher approach backed by the military. The army, which keeps thousands of troops in the tribal belt, an area where insurgents are based, opposes talks with the Pakistani Taliban, saying previous attempts to bring the militants to the negotiating table yielded no results. Christians make up about 4 percent of Pakistan's population of 180 million, and tend to keep a low profile in a country where Sunni Muslim militants frequently bomb targets they see as heretical, including Christians and Sufi and Shi'ite Muslims. Attacks on Christian areas occur sporadically around the country but Sunday's assault, in a densely populated Christian residential area in the old walled city in Peshawar, was the most violent in recent history. In 2009, 40 houses and a church were set ablaze by a mob of 1,000 Muslims in the town of Gojra in Punjab province. At least seven Christians were burnt to death. Seventeen Christians were killed in an attack on a church in Bahawalpur in 2001. Some residents, enraged at the lack of adequate security at the church, took to the streets immediately after the attack, burning tires and shouting slogans. Shops were closed in the Kohati Gate area where several other churches are located. "Terrorists have not spared mosques, temples and churches. Please have mercy on us," one man outside the church, his face distorted by fear and anger, told Pakistan's private Geo television channel. Protests by Christians were also reported in other cities including Multan and the violent port city of Karachi. A bomb disposal source said two blasts had been set off by a pair of attackers. More than 600 parishioners were inside the church for the service. (Writing by Maria Golovnina; Additional reporting by Hameedullah Khan in Peshawar, Syed Raza Hassan in Islamabad, Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Asim Tanveer in Multan; Editing by Andrew Heavens) =============== Smoke pours from Kenya mall as forces 'close in' Mon, Sep 23 11:58 AM EDT image 1 of 15 By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Richard Lough NAIROBI (Reuters) - Thick smoke poured from the besieged Nairobi mall where Kenyan officials said their forces were closing in on Islamists holding hostages on Monday, the third day since Somalia's al Shabaab launched a raid that has killed at least 62 people. It remained unclear how many gunmen and hostages were still cornered in the Westgate shopping center, after a series of loud explosions and gunfire were followed by black smoke billowing from one part of the complex. Kenya's interior minister told a news conference militants had set fire to mattresses in a supermarket on the mall's lower floors. The ministry later said the blaze was under control. Two attackers had been killed on Monday, the minister added. Another assailant had died on Saturday. The gunmen came from "all over the world", Kenya's military chief said, adding: "We are fighting global terrorism here." President Uhuru Kenyatta dismissed on Sunday a demand that he pull Kenyan forces out of neighboring Somalia. Kenyatta, who lost one of his own nephews in Saturday's bloodbath, said he would not relent in a "war on terror" in Somalia, where Kenyan troops have pushed al Shabaab onto the defensive over the past two years as part of an African Union-backed peacekeeping mission across the northern border. Security officials near the mall said the explosions heard at lunchtime were caused by Kenyan forces blasting a way in, but Interior Minister Joseph Ole Lenku said he had no information on any blasts and a military spokesman declined to comment when asked if militants had set off charges. Al Shabaab warned it would kill hostages if police moved in. Echoing other officials, who have highlighted successes in rescuing hundreds of trapped people after Saturday's massacre, Ole Lenku said most of the complex was under the authorities' control and escape was impossible. A senior police officer said the authorities, who have been receiving advice from Western and Israeli experts, were "closing in". Ole Lenku said: "We are doing anything reasonably possible, cautiously though, to bring this process to an end. "The terrorists could be running and hiding in some stores, but all floors now are under our control." Ole Lenku said all the attackers were men, after witnesses had reported seeing women brandishing arms in the attack. But three sources, one an intelligence officer and two soldiers, told Reuters that one of the killed attackers was a white woman. This is likely to fuel speculation that she is the wanted widow of one of the suicide bombers who attacked London's transport system in 2005. Asked if it was Samantha Lewthwaite, called the "white widow" by the British press, the intelligence officer said: "We don't know." MULTINATIONAL AFFAIR Ole Lenku acknowledged "support" from foreign governments but said Kenyan forces were managing without it so far. Western powers have been alarmed by a spread of al Qaeda-linked violence across Africa, from Nigeria and Mali in the west, though Algeria and Libya in the north to Somalia and Kenya in the east. Nairobi saw one of the first major attacks by al Qaeda, when it killed more than 200 people by bombing the U.S. embassy in 1998. While some analysts said the latest raid may show al Shabaab lashing out in its weakness after the successes of Kenyan troops in Somalia, the risk of further international violence remains. Julius Karangi, chief of the Kenyan general staff, called the gunmen "a multinational collection". He said they had set the fire as a distraction but could now have no hope of evading capture: "If they wish, they can now surrender," he said. "We have no intention whatsoever of going backwards." On Sunday, President Kenyatta said 10 to 15 assailants were holding an unknown number of hostages in one location, apparently the supermarket. On Monday, it was not clear whether they may be more dispersed, including on the upper floors. A spokesman for al Shabaab warned they would kill hostages if Kenyan security forces tried to storm their positions. "The mujahideen will kill the hostages if the enemies use force," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said in an audio statement posted online. On Twitter, the group posted: "They've obtained large amounts of ammunition and are, by the blessings of Allah alone, still firm and still dominating the show." The Red Cross and Ole Lenku put the death toll so far at 62. The Red Cross said it had also recorded 63 people as missing. Survivors' tales of the assault by squads of attackers throwing grenades and spraying automatic fire have left little doubt the hostage-takers are willing to go on killing. Previous raids around the world, including at a desert gas plant in Algeria nine months ago, suggest they are also ready to die. SECURITY CHALLENGE It remains unclear who the assailants are. Al Shabaab - the name means "The Lads" in Arabic - has thousands of Somali fighters but has also attracted foreigners to fight Western and African Union efforts to establish a stable government. A London man, Jermaine Grant, faces trial in Kenya for possession of explosives. Police suspect an al Shabaab plot to attack restaurants and hotels used by Westerners and have been hunting for the "white widow" Lewthwaite. The term "black widow" has been used by Chechen militants for women taking part in attacks after their husbands have died. Kenya's president, son of post-colonial leader Jomo Kenyatta, is facing his first major security challenge since being elected in March. The crisis might have an impact on his troubles with the International Criminal Court at The Hague. Judges there let his vice president, William Ruto, fly home for a week, suspending a trial on Monday in which Ruto is charged with crimes against humanity for allegedly coordinating violence after an election in 2007. Kenyatta is due to face trial on similar charges in November. Al Shabaab's siege underlined its ability to cause major disruption with relatively limited resources, even after Kenyan and other African troops drove it from Somali cities. "While the group has grown considerably weaker in terms of being able to wage a conventional war, it is now ever more capable of carrying out asymmetric warfare," said Abdi Aynte, director of Mogadishu's Heritage Institute of Policy Studies. Others said divisions within the loose al Shabaab movement may have driven one faction to carry out the kind of high-profile attack that may help win new support. Al Shabaab's last big attack abroad was a double bombing in Uganda that killed 77 people watching soccer on TV in 2010. (Reporting by Edmund Blair, James Macharia, Duncan Miriri, Richard Lough, Drazen Jorgic, Humphrey Malalo, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Kevin Mwanza in Nairobi, Pascal Fletcher in Johannesburg, Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu, Roberta Rampton in Washington, Anthony Deutsch at The Hague, Myra MacDonald in Tbilisi and Maayan Lubell in Jerusalem; Writing by Edmund Blair and Alastair Macdonald; editing by David Stamp) ==================