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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Kabul police chief quits after South African family die in Taliban attack

Kabul police chief quits after South African family die in Taliban attack Sun, Nov 30 10:43 AM EST image 1 of 2 By Kay Johnson and Jessica Donati KABUL (Reuters) - The Kabul police chief resigned on Sunday after Taliban gunmen killed three members of a South African family in the capital, while officials said Afghan forces had ousted insurgents trying to seize former U.S. and British base Camp Bastion in the south. Taliban fighters breached the perimeter of Camp Bastion in the southern Afghan province of Helmand three days ago, just one month after the base was handed over to the Afghan army. The latest Taliban attacks have dented confidence in the country's security force and added to concern the police and army will struggle to hold strategic territory after most foreign troops pull out at the end of 2014. The guest house attacked by the Taliban in Kabul on Saturday, the third attack on a foreign guest house in 10 days, was home to staff of the U.S.-based charity Partnership in Academics and Development (PAD). PAD said on its website that three people were killed by insurgents who used guns and explosives. They were identified as members of the same South African family - a father and his two teenage children - by a colleague of the mother, who was not in the compound at the time. The family had lived in Afghanistan for nearly 12 years, with the father running the charity and the mother working as a doctor at a Kabul clinic, the colleague said. The Taliban said on Saturday they had attacked the foreign guesthouse because they believed it to be a Christian center. This was the second time this year the Taliban targeted a group that it said had links to Christianity. The 17-year-old son had been applying to universities in the United States, while his sister was 14, according to their mother's colleague, who asked not to be identified for security reasons. Kabul's police spokesman declined to comment on the reason for the chief's resignation. "We can only confirm... he will not continue his job as police chief anymore," Hashmat Stanekzai said. PAD, which supports education in Afghanistan, could not be reached immediately for comment. Violence across Afghanistan has surged this year as the Taliban and their allies have stepped up their activities ahead of the scheduled withdrawal of most international troops by the end of next month. Over the past 10 days, three compounds used by foreign organizations have been hit by armed attackers. In separate attacks in Kabul, two American soldiers, two British embassy workers and dozens of Afghan civilians have died. In Helmand province, Afghan soldiers ousted a group of Taliban from Camp Bastion after a third day of fighting. At least five soldiers were killed in the battle that started late on Thursday. By Sunday, troops were clearing the part of the sprawling base that had been seized by a few dozen insurgents, according to the governor's spokesman, Omar Zwak. Violence in another part of Helmand added to the weekend toll, Zwak said, with 12 soldiers dying in Sangin district after their smaller outpost was attacked. (This story has been refiled to fix layout of third paragraph, no change to text) (Additional reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Richard Borsuk and Raissa Kasolowsky)

Qatar court overturns conviction of U.S. parents in adopted girl's death

Qatar court overturns conviction of U.S. parents in adopted girl's death Sun, Nov 30 15:30 PM EST By Carey Gillam (Reuters) - An appeals court in Qatar on Sunday overturned the convictions of a Los Angeles couple who were sentenced to three years in jail for the death of their adopted African-born daughter, but the government was refusing to let the couple leave the country, a spokesman for the family said. Matthew and Grace Huang were trying to return to the United States after the tribunal found the lower court had made numerous errors, family spokesman Eric Volz told Reuters. But as soon as they arrived at the airport in Doha, their passports were seized and they were told a new arrest warrant had been issued for them, Volz said. "This is sort of a spiteful move," Volz said. Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement saying he was "deeply concerned" about "new delays that have prevented their departure," and called on Qatari officials to immediately allow the couple to return to the United States. "The thoroughly documented findings of the court clearly establish the Huangs' innocence," Kerry said. "The 22 long months of court proceedings following their daughter's tragic death have compounded the tragedy for the Huang family, and it is time now, as the Appeals Court stated, to let the Huangs return home." A representative of the Qatari government could not be reached immediately. The Huangs were arrested in January 2013 after their 8-year-old daughter, Gloria, died unexpectedly. An autopsy found that the girl had died of "cachexia and dehydration," and a prosecutor charged the couple with "murder with intent by forced starvation." Cachexia is an irreversible loss of body mass. They were convicted in April. The couple argued that Gloria had been suffering from malnutrition-related diseases since they adopted her from Ghana at the age of four, and that the Qatari authorities had failed to acknowledge this. A website created to publicize the case (http://freemattandgrace.com ) said Matthew Huang, a Stanford University-trained engineer, had moved to Qatar with his wife and their three young children in 2012 to help oversee a infrastructure project related to the 2022 soccer World Cup. Gloria died on Jan. 15, 2013, and Qatari police charged the couple the next day. The family's two other adopted children were placed in an orphanage initially, but have since returned to the United States. (Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Eric Walsh)

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Shiite militia leader angry at UAE foreign minister’s visit to Iraq

Shiite militia leader angry at UAE foreign minister’s visit to Iraq By RUDAW 17 hours ago Qais al-Khazaali, the leader of the powerful Asaib Ahl al-Ahaq militia group. BAGHDAD—The leader of one of Iraq’s Shiite militia groups criticized Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi today for meeting with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates, saying the UAE has listed his militia group as a terrorist organization. Qais al-Khazaali, the leader of the powerful Asaib Ahl al-Ahaq militia group said in a statement that Abadi was wrong to receive UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Wednesday when his government “has put Asaib Ahl al-Haq and a number of other Shiite groups on the terrorist list.” “Iraqi leaders welcoming the UAE foreign minister without taking a clear stance on this subject will put them under question for which they will have to answer,” read the statement. Asaib Ahl al-Haq is one Iraq’s militia groups, currently involved in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Baghdad, Diyala and Salahaddin and it is allegedly funded by the Iraqi government. The UAE government recently announced its terrorist list that includes Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Badr Brigade and several other Iraqi Shiite militia groups. "We stand by brotherly Iraq as it is making efforts for reconstruction and achievement of peace and safety and in combating the forces of terrorism which poses a danger to all the countries of the region and defaces the values of our true religion, Islam," the UAE’s foreign ministry website quoted Al Nahyan as saying in Baghdad.

Living Wells

Living Wells Wells Fargo: first big bank simple enough to fail 26 November 2014 | By Daniel Indiviglio EmailShare CommentSave Wells Fargo is the first big bank to get its affairs in order. The $1.6 trillion lender secured a conditional stamp of approval from regulators for its living will. Less credible plans from 11 other titans suggest size isn’t the main issue. The real problems are complexity and interconnectedness. The provisional post-collapse plan submitted by Wells Fargo wasn’t perfect. The Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp want a revised version for next year. Unlike with other big banks, however, U.S. authorities expressed optimism that Wells Fargo’s blueprint could facilitate an orderly resolution in bankruptcy. The regulatory response also lacked some of the tougher language used by the FDIC when it reviewed the others. When it comes to scale, Wells Fargo sits in the exclusive $1 trillion-plus balance sheet club. The other three members, JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup, all failed their unwinding-plan tests in August. In terms of market capitalization, Wells Fargo, at $280 billion, also surpasses its rivals. If systemic risk were correlated to size alone, then Wells Fargo ought to be among the riskiest of the bunch. Its ability to craft a living will more quickly underscores the two big ways in which it differentiates itself. First, Wells Fargo lacks the global reach of other mega-banks. That minimizes cumbersome, cross-border issues others face. The bank led by John Stumpf also has a significantly smaller presence on Wall Street, which means its web of securities and counterparties is far less entangled. A bank that is easier to disassemble when dead is also probably one easier to manage while it’s alive. That may be a growing part of the message from the living will process. At the same time, the ability of a bank like Wells Fargo to forge a doomsday path, at least on paper, is a sign that the once-maligned concept is taking hold. Wells Fargo being simple enough to fail should be a small sign of encouragement for shareholders, bondholders and taxpayers. If the more complex institutions can’t draft similarly credible plans, however, they may yet find themselves under renewed pressure to be taken apart long before they expire.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Bombs, gunfire kill 81 at crowded mosque in Nigeria's Kano

Bombs, gunfire kill 81 at crowded mosque in Nigeria's Kano Fri, Nov 28 16:53 PM EST image 1 of 7 By Nnekule Ikemfuna KANO, Nigeria (Reuters) - Gunmen set off three bombs and opened fire on worshippers at the main mosque in north Nigeria's biggest city Kano on Friday, killing at least 81 people, witnesses and officials said, in an attack that bore the hallmarks of Islamist Boko Haram militants. Blasts from the coordinated assault rang out as scores of people packed into the ancient building's courtyard for afternoon prayers. "These people have bombed the mosque. I am face to face with people screaming," said local reporter Chijjani Usman. The mosque is next to the palace of the emir of Kano, the second highest Islamic authority in Africa's most populous country and a vocal critic of Boko Haram. The emir, former central bank governor Lamido Sanusi, was not present. Boko Haram, a Sunni jihadist movement which is fighting to revive a medieval Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria, regards the traditional Islamic religious authorities in Nigeria with disdain. It has attacked mosques that do not follow its radical ideology in a bloody near six-year campaign that has also targeted churches, schools, police stations, military bases and government buildings. "After multiple explosions, they also opened fire. I cannot tell you the casualties because we all ran away," a member of staff at the palace told Reuters on Friday. After the attacks, angry youths blocked the mosque's gates to police, who had to force their way in with tear gas. Reuters visited two mortuaries, one with 20 bodies from the attack, the other with 61, according to medical officer Muhammad Ali. The victims had blast and gunshot wounds, he said. President Goodluck Jonathan said in statement that he would "not to leave any stone unturned until all agents of terror undermining the right of every citizen to life and dignity are tracked down and brought to justice." A MILLION DISPLACED The old mosque and palace date back centuries to when Kano was one of several Islamic empires thriving off trade in gold, ivory and spices from caravan routes connecting Africa's interior with its Mediterranean coast -- glory days of Saharan Islam that Boko Haram says it wants to recreate. Islamic leaders sometimes shy away from direct criticism of Boko Haram for fear of reprisals, but Kano's emir Sanusi, angered by atrocities such as the kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in April, has become an increasingly vocal Boko Haram critic. He was quoted in the local press as calling on Nigerians this month to defend themselves against Boko Haram. During a broadcast recitation of the Koran he was reported to have said: "These people, when they attack towns, they kill boys and enslave girls. People must stand resolute ... They should acquire what they can to defend themselves. People must not wait for soldiers to protect them." The insurgency has forced more than one million people to flee during its campaign focused on Nigeria's northeast, the Red Cross told reporters on Friday, an increase on a September U.N. refugee agency estimate of 700,000. Persistent insecurity is dogging President Jonathan's campaign for re-election to a second term in February 2015. He has asked parliament for approval to extend an 18-month-old state of emergency in the northeast. (Additional reporting by Julia Payne, Isaac Abrak and Abraham Terngu in Abuja; Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Livestream: Obama on Ferguson: U.S. 'has more work to do' on race relations

========== Thousands rally across US after Ferguson decision By SADIE GURMAN Nov. 25, 2014 12:55 AM EST Protesters shut down I-44 at Grand Protesters shut down I-44 at Grand Avenue in both directions in St. Louis on Monday, Nov. 24,... Read more Thousands of people rallied late Monday in U.S. cities including Los Angeles and New York to passionately but peacefully protest a grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer who killed a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri. They led marches, waved signs and shouted chants of "hands up, don't shoot," the refrain that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country. The most disruptive demonstrations were in St. Louis and Oakland, California, where protesters flooded the lanes of freeways, milling about stopped cars with their hands raised in the air. Activists had been planning to protest even before the nighttime announcement that Officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The racially charged case in Ferguson has inflamed tensions and reignited debates over police-community relations even in cities hundreds of miles from the predominantly black St. Louis suburb. For many staging protests Monday, the shooting was personal, calling to mind other galvanizing encounters with local law enforcement. Police departments in several major cities braced for large demonstrations with the potential for the kind of violence that marred nightly protests in Ferguson after Brown's killing. Demonstrators there vandalized police cars and buildings, hugged barricades and taunted officers with expletives Monday night while police fired smoke canisters and tear gas. Gunshots were heard on the streets and fires raged. But police elsewhere reported that gatherings were mostly peaceful following Monday's announcement. As the night wore on, dozens of protesters in Oakland got around police and blocked traffic on Interstate 580. Officers in cars and on motorcycles were able to corral the protesters and cleared the highway in one area, but another group soon entered the traffic lanes a short distance away. Police didn't immediately report any arrests. A diverse crowd of several hundred protesters marched and chanted in St. Louis not far from the site of another police shooting, shutting down Interstate 44 for a time. A few cars got stuck in the midst of the protesters, who appeared to be leaving the vehicles alone. They chanted "hands up, don't shoot" and "black lives matter." "There's clearly a license for violence against minorities, specifically blacks," said Mike Arnold, 38, a teacher. "It happens all the time. Something's got to be done about it. Hopefully this will be a turning point." In Seattle, marching demonstrators stopped periodically to sit or lie down in city intersections, blocking traffic before moving on, as dozens of police officers watched. Groups ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred people also gathered in Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Washington, D.C., where people held up signs and chanted "justice for Michael Brown" outside the White House. "Mike Brown is an emblem (of a movement). This country is at its boiling point," said Ethan Jury, a protester in Philadelphia, where hundreds marched downtown with a contingent of police nearby. "How many people need to die? How many black people need to die?" In New York, the family of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man killed by a police chokehold earlier this year, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a speech in Harlem lamenting the grand jury's decision. Later, several hundred people who had gathered in Manhattan's Union Square marched peacefully to Times Square. In Los Angeles, which was rocked by riots in 1992 after the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, police officers were told to remain on duty until released by their supervisors. About 100 people gathered in Leimert Park and some held a small news conference demanding changes in police policies. A splinter group of about 30 people broke away and marched through surrounding streets, blocking intersections, but the demonstrations remained mostly small and peaceful. Chris Manor, with Utah Against Police Brutality, helped organize an event in Salt Lake City that attracted about 35 people. "There are things that have affected us locally, but at the same time, it's important to show solidarity with people in other cities who are facing the very same thing that we're facing," Manor said. At Cleveland's Public Square, at least a dozen protesters' signs referenced police shootings that have shaken the community there, including Saturday's fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had a fake gun at a Cleveland playground when officers confronted him. In Denver, where a civil jury last month found deputies used excessive force in the death of a homeless street preacher, clergy gathered at a church to discuss the decision, and dozens of people rallied in a downtown park with a moment of silence. ___ Associated Press writers Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco; Jim Salter and Alan Zagier in St. Louis; Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles; Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; Sean Carlin in Philadelphia; Deepti Hajela in New York; Michelle L. Price in Salt Lake City; and Joshua Lederman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report. ======================= Obama on Ferguson: U.S. 'has more work to do' on race relations Mon, Nov 24 23:42 PM EST image By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama issued an appeal on Monday for restraint by protesters and police after a Missouri grand jury decided not to indict a white police officer in the shooting death of a black teen last August. In a late-night appearance in the White House briefing room, Obama also urged Americans to understand that much work remained to be done to improve relations between black Americans and law enforcement. "We need to accept that this decision was the grand jury's to make. There are Americans who agree with it and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction," Obama said. Angry crowds in Ferguson, Missouri, took to the streets on Monday night and there were flashes of violence after the grand jury determined there was no probable cause to charge officer Darren Wilson in the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown. The shooting set off weeks of sometimes violent protests in the St. Louis suburb and highlighted racial tensions in the community. Obama said there were still many parts of the country where a deep distrust existed between law enforcement and communities of color, and that steps must be taken to improve the situation, such as increasing the number of minority people who enter the police ranks. "Some of this is the result of racial discrimination in this country and this is tragic because nobody needs good policing more than poor communities with higher crime rates. The good news is we know there are things we can do to help," he said. About 200 protesters demonstrated peacefully outside the White House on Monday night, holding signs and chanting: "We are Michael Brown." Obama has weighed in on questions of race previously. When black Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer in 2012, Obama said: "If I had a son, he'd look like Trayvon." In 2009, he criticized the police handling of the arrest of Harvard University professor Henry Gates, saying police acted "stupidly." (Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Peter Cooney) ============= No charges for US policeman who shot black teen . AFP By Jennie Matthew 20 minutes ago Police take cover as demonstrators throw bottles at them after learning that the police officer who shot dead 18-year-old Michael Brown will not face charges, outside the police station in Ferguson, Missouri, on November 24, 2014 . Ferguson (United States) (AFP) - The policeman whose killing of an unarmed black teen sparked weeks of riots in the US town of Ferguson will not face charges, the county prosecutor said, amid mounting anger in the streets. Related Stories 1. Factbox: Composition and workings of grand jury in Ferguson shooting case Reuters 2. Q&A on flashpoint shooting case in US town of Ferguson AFP 3. St. Louis-area schools will get notice of grand jury decision: letter Reuters 4. Early Glance: Computer companies Associated Press 5. Grand jury reaches decision on Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson; will be announced at 8p.m. CT Yahoo News The tearful family of 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was shot dead in August, expressed profound disappointment after St Louis County prosecutor Robert McCulloch relayed the grand jury's decision. A crowd of several hundred protesters gathered in front of the police station in Ferguson where Officer Darren Wilson was based chanting: "Hey, hey, ho, ho! These killer cops have got to go." But there were no initial reports of violence, amid tight security and lines of officers in riot gear awaiting the highly-anticipated verdict. Brown's devastated mother was hugged by supporters. President Barack Obama was due to make a statement at 10:00 pm (0300 GMT). McCulloch told reporters the evidence presented to the grand jury had suggested Wilson had shot as a legitimate act of self-defense during a tussle that broke out as he was responding to a robbery. .. View gallery Demonstrators react after learning that the police … Demonstrators react after learning that the police officer who shot dead 18-year-old Michael Brown w … He said "an altercation" had broken out as Wilson was sitting in his patrol car and Brown was standing at the window. "During the altercation, two shots were fired by Officer Wilson while still inside the vehicle," McCulloch said. "Mr Brown ran east... and Officer Wilson gave chase," he said. "Mr Brown stopped and turned back toward Officer Wilson. "Officer Wilson also stopped. Michael Brown moved toward Officer Wilson. Several more shots were fired by the officer and Michael Brown was fatally wounded." Having examined the physical evidence and listened to witness testimony behind closed doors, the grand jury deliberated for two days, concluding that Wilson had no case to answer. .. View gallery Demonstrators gather outside the Ferguson Police Department … Demonstrators gather outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson Missouri, on November 24, 20 … "We are profoundly disappointed that the killer of our child will not face the consequence of his actions," the Brown family said in a statement. "We respectfully ask that you please keep your protests peaceful," the family said, calling for legal reform. "Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction." Brown, an 18-year-old high school graduate who had planned to go to technical college, was shot at least six times by Wilson in an incident on a Ferguson street. The shooting sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests and a nationwide debate about police tactics and race relations. .. View gallery Retired captain Ray Lewis of the Philadelphia Police … Retired captain Ray Lewis of the Philadelphia Police department holds a sign outside the Ferguson Po … Before the verdict, St Louis Mayor Francis Slay admitted that "what happened to Michael Brown has deeply divided us." - Plea for non-violence - Ferguson's mainly African American community of 21,000 has been on edge for days, braced for further protests should the officer not be indicted. The mostly black suburb has an overwhelmingly white police force and residents complain of years of racial prejudice and heavy handed police tactics. Missouri's governor declared a state of emergency and called up the National Guard last week in readiness. The FBI has also deployed extra personnel. "There's going to be a war. Starting from today. A war," shouted an angry neighbor wearing an "I am Michael Brown" T-shirt at the spot where Brown died. "By activating the National Guard, you've basically told black people that's a war on us," said the man, who identified himself only as "D," convinced the jury would exonerate Wilson. Shops were boarded up in Ferguson and schools in the Ferguson-Florissant District announced they would be closed Tuesday for the safety of staff and pupils.

Toll rises to 57 as survivors tell of Afghan volleyball bombing

Toll rises to 57 as survivors tell of Afghan volleyball bombing By Emal Haidary 1 hour ago  . Afghan security forces arive at the site of another suicide car bomb at the gate of Kabul's Green … Survivors of a horrific suicide attack which killed 57 people at a volleyball game in eastern Afghanistan told Monday how the blast ripped through a crowd of spectators enjoying the final moments of the match. In the country's deadliest single attack since 2011, the bomber detonated his explosives Sunday as hundreds of young men and boys attended a tournament featuring three local teams in the volatile province of Paktika. Separately, two NATO soldiers were killed in an attack in the east of Afghanistan on Monday morning, the coalition said, giving no further details. Paktika provincial spokesman Mukhlis Afghan said in a statement the death toll from Sunday's blast had risen to 57 after 15 people died of their injuries overnight. "The game was about to end when we heard a big bang," Salaam Khan, 19, told AFP at a military hospital in Kabul where he was flown for treatment to his injured chest and right leg. "I was shouting for help. Just beside me was a dead army officer," he said. "There were local police and commanders watching the game. I saw some killed and wounded." Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the interior ministry, said four local police were among the fatalities, but they did not appear to have been specially targeted. The attack underlined the challenges facing President Ashraf Ghani, who came to power in September, as US-led NATO troops wind down operations and Afghan security forces take over full responsibility for fighting Taliban insurgents. "I was watching the game, sitting on the ground with my brother, when the blast happened," said Mohammad Rasoul, 11, who was wounded in the chest and whose brother was in intensive care. Afghan security forces have struggled to counter Taliban insurgents (AFP Photo/Shah Marai) "People were covered in blood all around me. There were many friends of mine among them." Many of the wounded were children or young men, wrapped in bloody bandages. Doctor Seyawash, head of health services at the hospital in Kabul, told reporters that about 12 victims were in a critical condition. The injuries were from ball bearings packed in the bomb. There was no immediate response from the Taliban, but the insurgents often distance themselves from attacks that claim many civilian lives. The blast, in the Yahya Khail district of Paktika, came at about 5:00 pm (1230 GMT) Sunday as crowds peaked at the volleyball, a popular sport among young men in Afghanistan. - 'Inhumane, un-Islamic' - "I arrived after the bombing, it was an emergency situation. People were rushing the dead and wounded into cars," said Ghulam Mohammad, 60, whose injured grandson cradled a teddy bear in hospital. "I went looking for my son and grandson. My son was fine but my grandson was wounded and we came to Kabul in a helicopter." Late on Sunday President Ghani visited victims at the 400-bed military hospital in the Afghan capital. An Afghan policeman looks at a bomb crater after a suicide attack targeted a vehicle convoy of Afgha … He condemned the attack as "inhumane and un-Islamic", adding that "this kind of brutal killing of civilians cannot be justified". Paktika, one of the most restive provinces in Afghanistan, borders Pakistan's lawless tribal areas, where many insurgent leaders seek refuge from NATO and Afghan forces. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif denounced the bombing and vowed to fight the "terrorism that is the common enemy of both countries". Paktika was also hit by a massive suicide blast in July, when a bomber driving a truck packed with explosives killed at least 41 people at a busy market in Urgun district. In April last year 46 people -- 36 civilians and 10 troops and police -- were killed in a Taliban attack against the law courts in the western province of Farah. A suicide blast at a shrine in Kabul on the Shiite holy day of Ashura in December 2011 killed 80. Sunday's attack occurred on the same day that the lower house of parliament approved agreements to allow about 12,500 NATO-led troops to stay on next year. US-led NATO combat operations will finish at the end of this year, but the Taliban have launched a series of offensives that have severely tested Afghan soldiers and police. The new NATO mission -- named Resolute Support -- will focus on supporting the Afghan forces, in parallel with US counter-terrorism operations. But fears are growing that Afghanistan could tip into a cycle of violence as the US military presence declines, with the national security forces already suffering huge casualties. ============================= Islamic State fighters battle Iraqi forces near Baiji refinery Tue, Nov 25 09:25 AM EST image 1 of 3 BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State insurgents battled Iraqi forces in the center of Baiji on Tuesday, a week after the army broke their prolonged siege of the country's largest oil refinery just outside the town, an army officer and residents said. The renewed fighting in Baiji by the Islamist militants, who control thousands of square miles of territory in Iraq and Syria, appeared aimed at reimposing that stranglehold around the sprawling oil facility 2 miles (4 km) to the north. Islamic State (IS) fighters were present in four of Baiji's 12 neighborhoods, as well as areas on the perimeter of the sprawling refinery complex. But the army controlled its southern approaches, preventing insurgents from surrounding it, according to a Baiji resident who toured the area. On Monday an Islamic State video circulated on the Internet showing its fighters denying that they had been driven out of Baiji, and what purported to be two suicide truck bombings targeting the refinery defenses. "Yes, they infiltrated some areas," one of the speakers said, referring to the Iraqi security forces. "But, God willing, either they will withdraw or they will be exterminated." One resident of the town some 200 km (125 miles) north of Baghdad said IS gunmen launched an attack on Monday night in the center of Baiji, advancing into the town's Asri district. There had also been fighting in the Naft and Kahraba neighborhoods. Around the refinery, IS insurgents still held a housing complex on its western edge and were digging trenches in the Makhmour hills overlooking the installation from the north, despite coming under fire from helicopters, the resident said. To the east, he said, insurgents could be seen crossing the nearby Tigris river by boat. Islamic State seized Baiji and surrounded the refinery during a June offensive when it swept south towards the capital Baghdad, capturing cities, farmlands and oilfields and meeting virtually no resistance from Iraq government forces. Shi'ite militias and Kurdish peshmerga, backed by U.S.-led air strikes since August, have helped contain the radical Sunni insurgents and pushed them back in some provinces. But they have continued to make gains in the western Sunni province of Anbar. (Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Michael Georgy/Mark Heinrich) ==================== Peshmerga and Shiite militias vie for control of liberated town By RUDAW 12 hours ago - - ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—Peshmerga forces have asked the Shiite Badr brigade to handover the control of Saadiya in northern Diyala to the Kurds a day after the town was liberated from Islamist militants, a Peshmerga spokesman said. “There is the Badr brigade in Saadiya now and we need to negotiate with them in order to take the town back from that militia force,” Brigadier Ahmed Latif, Peshmerga spokesperson in the area told Rudaw. “They [Shiite militia] helped the Peshmerga in taking back the town,” Latif added. Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a massive attack on the Islamic State (ISIS) in Jalawla and Saadiya in the early hours of Sunday morning in which 20 Peshmerga fighters were killed and 49 others were wounded. “Many ISIS militants were killed but most of their bodies are lost under the rubble or drowned in Sirwan River,” said Latif. Shiite militia leaders claimed to have played a major role in the offensive, but on Monday the Ministry of Peshmerga said that both towns were “liberated only by the Kurdish Peshmerga forces.” “In Saadiya Iraqi federal troops took part in the offensive, too” Jabar Yawar, Peshmerga ministry chief of staff said in a statement. The Kurdish Peshmerga and Shiite militias have clashed on a few occasions in the past in Tuz Khurmatu and Amerli where militia groups maintain a heavy presence. Meanwhile, Anwar Hussein, the mayor of Jalawla urged residents of both towns to “not hurry in returning to their homes until all bombs and explosives have been cleared by the special teams.” =============

Friday, November 21, 2014

Obama seeks support for immigration plan, blasts Boehner

Certain gridlock offsets Obama's immigration move Coaxing 5 million undocumented immigrants out of the shadows could provide an economic boost, generating tax revenue and jobs. But the executive action virtually ensures Republicans won’t compromise on other priorities like tax reform, infrastructure and trade. It’s a wash. Obama seeks support for immigration plan, blasts Boehner Sat, Nov 22 01:02 AM EST image 1 of 2 By Steve Holland LAS VEGAS (Reuters) - President Barack Obama defended his decision to bypass Congress and overhaul U.S. immigration policy on his own on Friday, saying he was forced to act because House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner would not let legislation come to a vote. With many Americans skeptical of his decision to bypass Congress and impose an immigration overhaul unilaterally, Obama attempted to rally support for his move in a speech at a Las Vegas high school, saying illegal immigrants need a chance to come out of the shadows. He engaged in a cross-country debate with Boehner, the top U.S. Republican, who accused Obama in Washington of sabotaging chances for bipartisan legislation and vowed to lead a fight to block his executive actions. In the summer of 2013, the Democratic-run Senate passed compromise immigration legislation but the bill died in the Republican-controlled House. Obama said he waited to see if the House would ever pass the legislation, but Boehner would not let it come to a vote. "I told John Boehner, 'I'll wash your car, walk your dog, whatever you need to do, just call the bill," Obama said. "And he didn't do it." To those lawmakers who feel he overstepped his constitutional authority, Obama said his message to them is: "Pass the bill." Obama's move threatens to herald a new round of partisan gridlock in Washington as Republicans who will control both chambers of Congress in January react with scorn to his decision. Republicans remain split on the best course of resistance to Obama's action easing the threat of deportation for some 4.7 million undocumented immigrants. Conservative groups were already pulling together legal strategies to challenge it. "With this action, the president has chosen to deliberately sabotage any chance of enacting bipartisan reforms that he claims to seek. And as I told the president yesterday, he's damaging the presidency itself," Boehner told reporters. "We're working with our members and looking at the options available to us," he said. "But I will say to you, the House will, in fact, act." Obama received a rousing welcome from a largely Latino audience at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, the same place he visited just after beginning his second term in 2013, when he laid out his principles for immigration reform. "Si se puede," they chanted. A heckler shouted at Obama that his order did not go far enough. Obama engaged him from across the high school gym. "I've heard you, young man, I’ve heard you. But what I’m saying is that this is just a first step," Obama told him. Outside, a couple of dozen protesters who opposed his actions shouted slogans and held up signs that said: "Stop Obama Amnesty." Before getting off Air Force One shortly after landing in Las Vegas, Obama signed two presidential memoranda to set in motion part of the biggest U.S. immigration changes in a decade. Just hours after his speech on Thursday night, Republicans launched a long-threatened lawsuit against the administration on another topic, accusing it of abusing executive authority through implementation of the president's "Obamacare" health reform law. Republicans have said in recent weeks they would consider adding a challenge to the Obama immigration order to the healthcare lawsuit. But the most prominent strategy under consideration, supported by many conservatives in Congress, is to withhold funds for implementation of the immigration order from a major spending bill needed to fund the government by Dec. 11. A fight over the spending bill could lead to another shutdown of federal agencies, one year after a 16-day closure that inflicted heavy political damage on Republicans. "We do need to find a way to really push back," Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who has called for using the spending bill as a vehicle to challenge the order, said at the Heritage Foundation. Other Republicans have suggested a range of options, from opposing all of Obama's nominees unless he relents, to stand-alone legislation undoing the order and even impeachment. (Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, David Lawder and Amanda Becker in Washington; Editing by John Whitesides and Tom Brown) ============= Boris should pay up but not shut up over U.S. tax The London mayor, an American citizen, objects to paying a U.S. capital gains levy on his UK residence. Uncle Sam’s ex-pat tax laws are worthy of reform. But if Johnson really cares about that, the way to show it is to clear his debt and then campaign for change. China’s rate cut shows depth of growth concern The first cut to lending rates since 2012 shows the limits of Beijing’s tolerance of slowdown. It should save some riskier loans from going bad, and breathe some life into a zombified property market. But huge adjustments remain, and long-suffering savers will still be left worse off. ==

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Chelyabinsk meteor #2? Massive flash over Russia’s Urals stuns locals & scientists

Home / News / Chelyabinsk meteor #2? Massive flash over Russia’s Urals stuns locals & scientists Published time: November 18, 2014 22:03 Edited time: November 19, 2014 10:52 Get short URL Still from RT video 10K1.1K5 Tags Accident, Blast, Russia, Science, Security, Social networks, Thrills&Spills, True Fiction, Weather An extraordinary bright orange flash has lit up the sky in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region in the Urals. While locals captured the massive ‘blast’ on numerous cameras, both scientists and emergency services still struggle to explain the unusual event. Dark evening skies in the town of Rezh in Sverdlovsk region near Russia's Ekaterinburg turned bright orange for some ten seconds on November 14, with the event being caught on several cameras by the locals. A driver filmed the massive flash with his dashcam, later posting the video on YouTube, with more people commenting they’ve seen it too. Teenagers in the town of Rezh also filmed the phenomenon with a mobile phone. Theories of what might have caused the “blast” appeared both on social and traditional media, with a new meteorite or military exercise in the region being among the top guesses. Regional emergency services said no accidents in connection with the event had been recorded. No sound of explosion has been reported either. According to E1.ru, the emergency officials suggested the military were behind the flash, as they might have had a scheduled explosive ordnance disposal procedure. The city administration has also said such ammunition disposal might have taken place, while the military themselves denied they were behind the mystery. “No exercise and training were underway on that day, and no military units are based in the region, so we have nothing to do with it,” a military press service told E1.ru. A fireball caused by an asteroid’s collision with the Earth's atmosphere is among other presumed reasons for the burning sky. “Looks like a falling bolide, which invaded us. Because of the low cloud cover it ceased to exist above the clouds and lit up the whole sky,” a member of the meteorites committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences Viktor Grokhovsky told 66.ru. READ MORE: 556 asteroids size of washing machine hit Earth over past 20 years - NASA report Another astronoma, Vadim Krushinsky, doubted his colleague's theory, saying the color of the flash does not support the asteroid speculation. The shade of light depends on the body’s temperature, and flashes caused by bolides are usually whiter, he explained to Ekburg.tv. The observatory engineer suggested his own theory, saying a space rocket launch might have been the cause. Still from youtube video (Andrey Kazantsev) A path of launches from the Plesetsk cosmodrome lies above the area, Krushinsky said. But, according to Russian Federal Space Agency's website, the latest launch from the Plesetsk cosmodrome happened on October 29, with the next one planned for November 24. People in the Urals witnessed a space ‘invasion’ event a year and a half ago, when the famous Chelyabinsk meteorite hit the region. A massive fireball explosion in February 2013 injured over a thousand people with shattered glass mostly, and damaged many residential and industrial buildings. 10K1.1K5 by TaboolaMore from rt.com Sweden ready to use force to surface foreign sub as search continues Stunning NASA image reveals surface of Saturn's Titan moon ‘RT will soon be banned in Germany too’: Russian FM jokes at media conference Sponsored LinksMore From The Web How People are Paying Next To Nothing For New iPads Swoggi The 10 Most Astonishing Ghost Towns in the World www.PerfectVacation.co 5 Worst Big Cities For Buying A Home, And 5 Good Ones Investors.com by Taboola 130 comments Login JourneyIntoThe Light 0 Everybody probably heard about 27 thousand-year "great cycle". The entire solar system travels like a coil up and down the Galactic plane of Milkyway galaxy every 13K years. As you know, the force field gradients would be denser at the plane and all planets will be affected. That is probably why the recorded human civilization does not go back further than 13K years. "disclosurebypeople" 8 minutes agoReply rssflip 0 Looks like i farted 36 minutes agoReply John Bixler -3 God targeting Putin!? an hour agoReply Jean Roche -1 Putin targeting God 42 minutes agoReply John Bixler 0 Looks like someone's funny bone is broken. Maybe it is 'Starship trooper' in reality??? an hour agoReply Dickson Pirtheesingh +5 If god has to target anyone - it will be you jews- the Children Of Lucifer, Nuta-yahoo and Obomba, Cameron and Harper to neame a few!! an hour agoReply Nikelo -3 Ukraine Karma? about 2 hours agoReply Russia My Love -12 The next flash these people and all Russians will see is the end of their lives in a nuclear Holocaust. about 2 hours agoReply Amidu Momodu 0 you'all sacarstic spec personality, you all need a new orientation, you all mentaly ill. 39 minutes agoReply pittah -2 Is this another one of those plots by the US to subdue Russia ?...or maybe it was the dreaded Mossad trying to bring down Putin...or maybe it was Ukraine"s nationalist militia...or maybe it is the EU ?....hehe... about 3 hours agoReply Next comments

One of the world’s biggest oil projects has become a fiasco

Cash all gone One of the world’s biggest oil projects has become a fiasco Oct 11th 2014 | ASTANA | From the print edition WHEN it was discovered in 2000, the Kashagan oilfield in Kazakhstan’s waters in the northern Caspian Sea was the world’s biggest oil find in three decades. By now it was supposed to be pumping out 1.2m barrels a day (mbd), enough to meet Spain’s entire consumption. But the project, whose name sounds unfortunately like “cash all gone”, went spectacularly awry. A year ago, when the first trickle of crude briefly flowed, it was already eight years behind schedule. Having cost $43 billion, it was $30 billion over budget. And production lasted only a few weeks before leaks of poisonous gas forced its suspension. Earlier this month a government minister admitted it would not restart until at least 2016. Undeterred by the Kashagan fiasco, this week the government said it would approve a plan to expand the onshore Tengiz oilfield, another huge budget-buster. Tengiz was first expected to cost $23 billion but the government said this week that the bill had risen to $40 billion. In this section Banks? No, thanks! Which MBA?, 2014 Unsustainable energy Cash all gone Split today, merge tomorrow Friends in high places Polishing up Beware the angry birds Reprints Related topics Technology Science and technology Energy technology Oil production and refining Kazakhstan Each of the two oilfields is owned by a different consortium of foreign firms and the state oil company, KazMunaiGaz. In Kashagan’s case they include Exxon, Shell, Total and ENI. In part the project’s setbacks are due to unexpected technical problems. Corrosive and poisonous hydrogen sulphide gas, pumped up from the seabed along with the oil, has eaten through pipes bringing it onshore. It may cost another $5 billion to fix the problem. But insiders say privately that with so many companies involved, the project has lacked clear leadership and suffered from government meddling. Investors of all kinds worry about “the declining predictability of Kazakhstan’s regulatory and legal environment”, says Mariyam Zhumadil of Halyk Finance, an investment bank in the commercial capital, Almaty. In 2010 the government filed a $1.2 billion tax claim against the consortium that operates another field, Karachaganak, while making noises about breaches of environmental rules, not long after expressing an interest in buying a stake in the field. Later the consortium gave it 10% in return for it agreeing to expand the field. Likewise, at Kashagan, environmental officials have fined the field’s operators $737m for burning off the poisonous gas, which the consortium argues was an emergency measure. Ms Zhumadil reckons the fine is a “tool for future negotiations, perhaps to strengthen the national oil company’s presence in the project.” This may not be the best way to encourage foreign firms to pump in the tens of billions of dollars more that are still needed to develop Kazakhstan’s oilfields. From the print edition: Business Submit to reddit inShare 310 View all comments (6) More from The Economist Slavery in Islam: To have and to hold The age of consent: How young is too young? Russia’s economy: The rouble’s rout

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Riyadh fears Islamic State wants sectarian war in Saudi Arabia

Riyadh fears Islamic State wants sectarian war in Saudi Arabia . Reuters By Angus McDowall By Angus McDowall RIYADH (Reuters) - Tighter security in Saudi Arabia has made it hard for Islamic State to target the government so the militants are instead trying to incite a sectarian conflict via attacks on the Shi'ite Muslim minority, the Saudi Interior Ministry said. Last week the Sunni group's leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi called for attacks against the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia, which has declared Islamic State a terrorist organization, joined international air strikes against it, and mobilized top clergy to denounce it. He spoke after an attack on Shi'ite civilians, the first since 2006 by militant Saudis based inside the kingdom. Islamic State has not claimed the shooting and the Saudis have not held the group responsible but they arrested more than 50 people including some who fought with Sunni jihadis in Syria or had been previously jailed for fighting with al Qaeda. As the world's top oil exporter, birthplace of Islam and a champion of conservative Sunni doctrine, Saudi Arabia represents an important ally for Western countries battling Islamic State and a symbolic target for the militant group itself. "Islamic State and al Qaeda are doing their best to carry out terrorist acts or crimes inside Saudi Arabia," Major General Mansour Turki, security spokesman for the Interior Ministry, told Reuters. "They are trying to target the social fabric and trying to create a sectarian conflict inside the country." The attack by gunmen in the Eastern Province district of al-Ahsa on November 3 killed eight members of the kingdom's Shi'ite minority who were marking their holy day of Ashoura. Turki said he was not aware of any evidence that it was coordinated with Islamic State operatives outside Saudi Arabia. He said improved government security, such as guards at possible targets, increased border defenses and surveillance, have made it much harder for militants elsewhere to organize violence inside Saudi Arabia such as al Qaeda's 2003-06 uprising which killed hundreds and led to the detention of more than 11,000 people. Although Saudi citizens have played important leadership roles in various al Qaeda organizations, Riyadh has not yet identified any in senior positions in Islamic State, Turki said. However, the group tends to use Saudi members of Islamic State in its propaganda because of the kingdom's role as the leading Sunni state, he said. "THEY WANT OUR PERSONALITY" Riyadh is worried that the rise of militant Sunni groups, including al Qaeda affiliate Nusra Front and Islamic State, as participants in the Syrian war would radicalize Saudis who might then carry out a new wave of strikes inside the kingdom. Although it has backed rebel groups fighting alongside jihadis against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Saudi Arabia has also taken steps to stop its people joining militants in Syria or Iraq or giving them money. Turki said a royal decree in February imposing long prison terms for people who went abroad to fight or helped others to do so, and for people who gave moral or material support to militant groups had reduced the number of Saudi jihadis. "One of the people we arrested (since the decree) was used by them (Islamic State) to write Friday sermons. Does this mean they do not have anybody capable of doing that? Of course not, but they want our language, our personality, to be reflected in their speeches," he said. Since the decree was issued, the rate of Saudis traveling to Syria or Iraq for jihad had slowed sharply, while the rate of Saudis returning to the kingdom from those countries had accelerated, he said. The authorities have identified between 2,000-2,100 Saudi citizens who have fought in Syria since its crisis began in 2011, of whom around 600 have returned, he said. Of those numbers, only about 200 had left Saudi Arabia since the February decree while around 170 had come back. SECTARIAN ATTACK The difficulty of getting its fighters past security and into Saudi Arabia has pushed Islamic State to try to incite sympathizers inside the kingdom to carry out their own attacks, Turki said. Unlike the al Qaeda campaign last decade, the attack in al-Ahsa was not aimed at government, infrastructure or foreign targets, which are now better protected by security forces, but struck at unarmed Shi'ite villagers. That showed the increasingly sectarian nature of jihadi ideology but also that tighter security had reduced the number of straightforward targets for militant attacks, Turki said. The authorities detained 10 more people on Sunday for the attack, taking to 54 the total number of suspects arrested in 11 different Saudi cities. "The situation is unlike 10 years ago when we had the first al Qaeda attacks. We were not ready at that time. Our public was not informed, our policemen were not trained or equipped for such a danger," he said. (Editing by Anna Willard) =========================================================== Islamic State kills at least 25 Iraqi tribesmen near Ramadi: officials Sat, Nov 22 19:54 PM EST By Raheem Salman BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Islamic State militants have killed at least 25 members of a Sunni Muslim tribe in a village on the eastern edge of the provincial capital Ramadi, local officials said on Saturday, in apparent revenge for tribal opposition to the radical Islamists. They said the bodies of the men from the Albu Fahd tribe were discovered by the Iraqi army when it launched a counter-offensive on Saturday against Islamic State near Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. "While they were combing the territories they are liberating, security forces found 25 corpses in the Shujariya area," Hathal Al-Fahdawi, a member of the Anbar Provincial Council, told Reuters. Albu Fahd tribal leader Sheikh Rafie al-Fahdawi said at least 25 bodies had been found and said he expected the total to be significantly higher. He said the bodies were found scattered around with no signs of weapons next to them, suggesting they were not killed during fighting. Last month Islamic State fighters killed hundreds of members of the Albu Nimr tribe in Anbar in an attempt to break local resistance to their advances in the Sunni Muslim province they have largely controlled for nearly a year. Islamic State, which has seized control of large parts of Syria and Iraq, continues to gain territory in Anbar despite three months of U.S.-led air strikes launched against the group. On Friday it launched coordinated attacks in central and outlying areas of Ramadi in an attempt to take full control over a city which is already mostly in its hands. The road from Ramadi to the military air base of Habbaniya, about 25 km (15 miles) to the east, remained under Islamic State control on Saturday, Hathal Fahdawi said, preventing the army from reinforcing security forces in the city. He said tribal fighters backed by army tanks were trying to secure the road to allow forces through from Habbaniya. Islamic State's lightning offensive through northern Iraq in June plunged the country into its gravest security crisis since the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and raised concerns that its radical ideology will spread. In northern Iraq, a farmer near the city of Mosul discovered around 60 bodies believed to be those of prisoners killed by Islamic State fighters when they overran the city's Badush prison on June 10, witnesses said on Saturday. The bodies were found after heavy rain disturbed their mass grave. The United Nations said up to 670 prisoners from Badush were killed by Islamic state five months ago. (Reporting by Raheem Salman; Writing by Dominic Evans; Editing by Michael Georgy and Raissa Kasolowsky) ========================

5 dead in suspected Palestinian attack on Jerusalem synagogue

Palestinians kill four in Jerusalem synagogue attack Tue, Nov 18 10:44 AM EST image 1 of 19 By Maayan Lubell JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Two Palestinians armed with a meat cleaver and a gun killed four worshippers in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before being shot dead by police, the deadliest such incident in six years in the holy city amid a surge in religious conflict. Three of the victims held dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship and the fourth man was a British-Israeli national, police said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to respond with a "heavy hand", and again accused Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of inciting violence in Jerusalem. Abbas condemned the attack, which comes after weeks of unrest fueled in part by a dispute over Jerusalem's holiest shrine. A worshipper at the service in the Kehillat Bnei Torah synagogue in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of West Jerusalem said about 25 people were praying when shooting broke out. "I looked up and saw someone shooting people at point-blank range. Then someone came in with what looked like a butcher's knife and he went wild," the witness, Yosef Posternak, told Israel Radio. Photos distributed by Israeli authorities showed a man in a prayer shawl lying dead, a bloodied butcher's cleaver on the floor and prayer books covered in blood. "We are viewing this as a terrorist attack," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, who confirmed the four dead and that the two assailants, both from predominantly Arab East Jerusalem, had been shot dead by police. Israel's ambulance service said at least eight people were seriously wounded. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said it carried out the attack, which it called a "heroic operation". Israeli police and the U.S. State Department identified one of the dead as Rabbi Mosheh Twersky, who taught at a Jerusalem seminary. Twersky was from a Hassidic rabbinical dynasty and a grandson of Joseph Soloveitchik, a renowned Boston rabbi who died in 1993. Twersky and two other victims, Aryeh Kupinsky and Cary William Levine, were U.S. citizens, according to the State Department and the Israeli police, which said they were also Israeli nationals. The British-Israeli killed in the attack was named by the police as Avraham Shmuel Goldberg. In a statement, Abbas said: "The presidency condemns the attack on Jewish worshippers in one of their places of prayer in West Jerusalem and condemns the killing of civilians no matter who is doing it." U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described the attack as an act of "pure terror". Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said he was seeking a partial easing of gun controls so that military officers and security guards could carry weapons while off-duty. "MARTYRS" Palestinian radio described the attackers as "martyrs" and the Islamist group Hamas praised the attack. Loudspeakers at mosques in Gaza called out congratulations and youngsters handed out candy in the streets. Palestinian media named the attackers as Ghassan and Udai Abu Jamal, cousins from the Jerusalem district of Jabal Mukaber, where clashes broke out as Israeli security forces moved in to make arrests. "Hamas calls for the continuation of revenge operations and stresses that the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for tension in Jerusalem," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. The synagogue attack came a day after a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in his vehicle in Jerusalem. Israel said he committed suicide, but his family said he was attacked. Netanyahu said the synagogue attack was a result of incitement by Hamas and Abbas. "We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by lowly murderers," he said. At a meeting of parliament's Foreign Affairs and Defence committee, Yoram Cohen, head of the internal Shin Bet security service, appeared to take a softer line toward Abbas, saying he was not espousing terror, according to a political source. But Cohen added: "There are those in the Palestinian public who might interpret his comments as legitimation for terror attacks". Violence in Jerusalem, areas of Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories has surged in the past month, fueled in part by a dispute over Jerusalem's holiest shrine, and Abbas has said Muslims have a right to defend their sacred places if attacked. Five Israelis and a foreign visitor were killed in the Palestinian attacks that preceded Tuesday's incident. About a dozen Palestinians have also been killed, including those accused of carrying out the attacks prior to the synagogue assault. Residents trace the violence in Jerusalem to July, when a Palestinian teenager was burned to death by Jewish assailants, an alleged revenge attack for the abduction and killing of three Jewish teens by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank. The summer war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and a row over access to a Jerusalem compound that is sacred to Muslims and Jews alike have also triggered violence. The synagogue attack was the worst in the city since 2008, when a Palestinian gunman killed eight people in a religious school. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Noah Browning; Editing by Jeffrey Heller, Luke Baker) Tue, Nov 18 03:02 AM EST image 1 of 3 By Maayan Lubell JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Two suspected Palestinian men armed with axes and knives killed four people in a Jerusalem synagogue on Tuesday before being shot dead by police, Israeli police and emergency services said, the deadliest such attack in the city in years. The attack took place shortly after dawn in an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood of West Jerusalem. Pictures posted by an Israeli army spokesman on the Internet showed a man in a Jewish prayer shawl lying dead, a bloodied butcher's cleaver discarded on the floor and overturned prayer tables. "We are viewing this as a terrorist attack," said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. Israel's ambulance service said at least eight people were seriously wounded. Police said at least one of the assailants was from East Jerusalem, the predominantly Palestinian side of the city. Palestinian radio reports described the attackers as "martyrs" and the Islamist group Hamas praised the attack. Loudspeakers at mosques in Gaza called out congratulations. "Hamas calls for the continuation of revenge operations and stresses that the Israeli occupation bears responsibility for tension in Jerusalem," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed the attack on both Hamas and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who he accused of urging Palestinians towards violence. "This is a direct result of incitement led by Hamas and Abu Mazen, incitement that the international community has been irresponsibly ignoring," he said in a statement. "We will respond with a heavy hand to the brutal murder of Jews who came to pray and were killed by lowly murderers." Violence in Jerusalem, areas of Israel and the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories has surged in the past month, fueled by a dispute over Jerusalem's holiest shrine, which has given rise to fears of a religious conflict. Five Israelis and a foreign visitor have been deliberately run over and killed or stabbed to death by Palestinians. About a dozen Palestinians have also been killed, including those accused of carrying out those attacks. On Monday a Palestinian bus driver was found hanged in a vehicle in Jerusalem. Israeli police, citing autopsy results, said he had committed suicide but the driver's family said they suspected foul play and the incident led to clashes. Hamas called for retaliation after the bus driver's death. Residents trace the violence in Jerusalem to July, when a Palestinian teenager was burned to death by Jewish assailants, an alleged revenge attack for the abduction and killing of three Jewish teens by Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank. The summer war in Gaza and a row over access to a Jerusalem compound that is sacred to Muslims and Jews alike have also been triggers for violence. The synagogue attack was the worst in the city since 2008, when a Palestinian gunman shot dead eight people in a religious seminary school in the city. Media reports said one of the synagogue attackers was armed with a gun and a hospital spokesman said two people were being treated for gunshot wounds, but police did not immediately confirm that either of the attackers fired a gun. (Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Luke Baker and Andrew Heavens)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Multi-billion-dollar IP project virtually runs aground

Multi-billion-dollar IP project virtually runs aground By Zafar Bhutta Published: November 18, 2014 According to sources, the economic decision-makers believe the project couldn’t be implemented under the present geopolitical situation because of Tehran’s association with the project. PHOTO: AFP ISLAMABAD: The troubled multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project between Pakistan and Iran is virtually dead. With the sword of possible international sanctions dangling over their head, Pakistan’s economic managers have decided to stall the $7.5 billion Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project until the international community lifts sanctions against the Islamic Republic, The Express Tribune has learnt. According to sources, the economic decision-makers believe the project couldn’t be implemented under the present geopolitical situation because of Tehran’s association with the project. They decided the border phase of the project would only be implemented once international sanctions were lifted and Pakistan was in a position to construct and connect its portion of the pipeline with the Iranian pipeline with no concern for sanctions on its companies for receiving gas or making gas payments to Iran. The decision-makers in a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) held on October 2 had noted that since phase-II would comprise construction of an approximately 80-kilometre long pipeline, it would require little time for completion, sources said. The meeting was informed that a gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA) between the Inter-State Gas Systems Pvt Limited (ISGS) from Pakistan and the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) was signed in June 2009. Despite Pakistan’s best efforts, the project repeatedly hit snags due to the international sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic for its controversial nuclear programme. Iran’s association with the project and possible risk of violating sanctions has scared away potential financiers, reputable international suppliers of crucial equipment and contractors. The economic managers were also informed about Iran’s unilateral withdrawal from the government-to-government cooperation agreement and the $500 million financing for the construction of Pakistan’s portion of the pipeline. This had created a force majeure situation for Islamabad and accordingly the matter was taken up with Tehran as per the provisions of the GSPA. It was also stated that the Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG terminal and pipeline project had been planned keeping in view any future developments in the IP project. The pipeline would meet growing needs of the energy-starved Pakistan and could also be utilised to link up to the Iranian border in future. “As work of pipeline route has already been done for the IP project, it has been envisaged that the same specifications should be utilised for this project,” an official of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said, adding that this project would provide capacity of up to 500mmcfd of LNG-based gas supply which could be used to cater for the needs of public and private sectors. It shall also serve as a means to realise the objectives of the IP project for the import of substantial qualities of urgently needed natural gas within three years. After detailed deliberations, the ECC approved in principle the Gwadar-Nawabshah LNG terminal and pipeline. Officials of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources said that proposals for this purpose had been shared with Iranian authorities who would respond after discussing with their high-ups. Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2014. ==================== Exclusive: Iran uses China bank to transfer funds to Quds-linked companies – report By Louis Charbonneau, Jonathan Saul and James Pomfret NEW YORK/LONDON/SHENZHEN Tue Nov 18, 2014 12:19am EST A general view of the Central Bank of Iran building in Tehran January 23, 2006. REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl A general view of the Central Bank of Iran building in Tehran January 23, 2006. Credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl Related News U.S. 'disappointed' with Iran's IAEA cooperation ahead of nuclear talks China gives Australia investment rights, yuan clearing bank India's Oct Iran oil imports rise 60 pct y/y -trade Analysis & Opinion How to fix the climate change beat China’s stock connection: a guide to the perplexed Related Topics China » (Reuters) - There is no trace of Shenzhen Lanhao Days Electronic Technology Co Ltd at its listed address in the beige and pink-tiled "Fragrant Villa" apartment complex in this southern Chinese city. The building's managers say they’ve never heard of it. But a Western intelligence report reviewed by Reuters says Shenzhen Lanhao is one of several companies in China that receives money from Iran through a Chinese bank. Such transfers help to finance international operations of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps' elite Quds Force, the report said. The Quds provides arms, aid and training for pro-Iranian militant groups in the Middle East, such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Shi'ite Muslim militias in Iraq. They have also armed and trained government forces in Syria's civil war in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, U.S. and European officials say. Washington designated the Quds a supporter of terrorism in 2007. The European Union sanctioned them in 2011. The report said that the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) holds accounts with the Bank of Kunlun Co Ltd, a China National Petroleum Corp unit. Quds-controlled Iranian companies, including one called Bamdad Capital Development Co, initiate transfers from these accounts to either Chinese entities directly controlled by the Quds or to Chinese entities owed money by the Quds, such as Shenzhen Lanhao. "The money transfers from accounts held by the CBI with Bank Kunlun are initiated by the Quds Force and transferred to Chinese companies connected to the Quds Force in order to meet its financial needs," the seven-page report said. Reuters could not independently verify the claims in the report. The suspected movement of Iranian funds linked to the Quds Force through a Chinese bank and Chinese companies is a reminder of the difficulty of enforcing sanctions on Iran at a time when the United States and other world powers hope to clinch a nuclear deal with Tehran by Nov. 24. The U.S. Treasury sanctioned Kunlun in 2012 for conducting business with Iran and transferring money to an entity linked to Iran's Revolutionary Guards, but there was no mention then of any link to the Quds. Once the money is transferred from Kunlun to other entities, the intelligence report said, the Quds can use it for acquisitions in China and to finance all sorts of covert activity in other countries. The report does not say how specific funds moving out of the CBI's accounts at Kunlun would be used by the Quds. The report does not suggest that either the Chinese government or Bank of Kunlun were aware of the possibility that there could be a Quds Force connection to Kunlun's transactions. But the report's assertions underline Tehran's complex and economically close relationship with Beijing: Iran is China's third-largest crude oil supplier, making China the Islamic Republic's biggest oil client. BEIJING PICKED KUNLUN The exact amount of money the Quds could have received from the Kunlun channel is unclear. But the sums flowing from the Iranian central bank to Kunlun over the past year have been in the hundreds of millions of dollars, the report said. As Western sanctions tightened on Iran in 2012, Beijing picked Kunlun as its main bank to process billions of dollars in oil payments to Iran, shielding other banks from penalties. Kunlun had assets of 246.5 billion yuan ($40 billion) at the end of 2013, according to its annual report. The U.S. Treasury's 2012 sanctions targeted money Iran was being paid for oil exports, including $22 billion held at Kunlun. However, there was an easing in the restrictions on Iran’s access to the money in November 2013 under a bilateral agreement with China, and as an interim nuclear deal was reached with six world powers in the same month. The deal between Iran and the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China gave Tehran access to several billion dollars in assets frozen at banks worldwide in exchange for assurances it would curtail a nuclear program that Western powers suspect will give it the ability to build nuclear weapons. Negotiators gather in Vienna this week to try to reach a comprehensive deal that would prevent Iran from building a nuclear bomb while eventually lifting sanctions that have badly hurt its economy. Hopes of a breakthrough are slim. METALS PURCHASE Officials at Kunlun did not respond to Reuters requests for comment, nor did CNPC, China's biggest oil and gas company. The Chinese government said China's trade relations with Iran and other countries do not violate international laws. "China maintains normal trade relations with relevant countries, including Iran," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a statement in response to queries from Reuters. "This does not violate any international law or (U.N.) Security Council resolution, and does not harm the interests of other countries or the international community." Iran’s U.N. mission declined to comment. Reuters viewed a payment transfer order from 2014 showing Bamdad requesting Iran's central bank transfer 1.45 million euros ($1.81 million) from an account at Kunlun to Shenzhen Lanhao for a payment "related to purchasing metals." While it was unclear how and whether the Quds Force received any funds through the transaction, it appeared to show the movement of funds as described in the report. The report says other companies also initiate and receive transfers from the central bank's Kunlun accounts in this way. Bamdad's website said it is engaged in pharmaceutical and base metals trading. Its Iranian telephone number was out of service. It lists an address in a non-existent Iranian province. A person listed as a general manager in a directory for Shenzhen Lanhao said he does not work for the company when contacted by telephone. The apartment complex listed as the business address for Shenzhen Lanhao in Shenzhen's western suburbs is occupied by a family. They told a Reuters reporter they hadn't heard of the company, nor of its general manager. (Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Fayen Wong and Chen Aizhu in Beijing, and Parisa Hafezi in Ankara. Editing by Jason Szep and Martin Howell) ============================

State Department's unclassified email systems hacked

State Department's unclassified email systems hacked Mon, Nov 17 16:32 PM EST image 1 of 2 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Monday said its unclassified email systems were the victim of a cyber attack in recent weeks, around the same time as White House systems were breached, but no classified data was compromised. The department shut down portions of its unclassified system over the weekend to improve its security but said they should be back online shortly, though it declined to predict when. As a result of the shutdown, State Department employees are unable to access the Internet through their unclassified system or to reliably receive e-mails from people outside the agency. Unclassified e-mails within the department continue to flow. "The State Department, like any other large organization that has a global span, is a constant target of cyber attacks," State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters. "We detected activity of concern several weeks ago." Rathke said the agency's classified systems were not breached, adding: "We have no reason to believe classified information was compromised." The spokesman also said the State Department breach was part of the same incident recently reported by the White House's Executive Office of the President. While the department detected the infiltration of its system some weeks ago, it did not close down the unclassified system until over the weekend, during a previously scheduled shutdown. The State Department breach follows similar intrusions disclosed in recent months at the White House, the Office of Personnel Management and, just last week, the U.S. Postal Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. USPS said the personal information of more than 800,000 employees may have been compromised, as well as data on customers who contacted its call center during the first eight months of the year. At NOAA, four of the agency's websites were affected. The State Department has agreed to brief lawmakers on the cyber attack, according to U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings. In a letter on Monday to Secretary of State John Kerry, Cummings, the senior Democrat on the House government reform committee, also asked State to provide more information by Jan. 5 to help Congress as it considers cybersecurity laws and other ways to protect consumer and government information. A Pentagon spokesman said on Monday none of the military's systems has been affected. (Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Brunnstrom; Writing by Doina Chiacu and Arshad Mohammad; Editing by Jim Loney and Dan Grebler)

SNC-Lavalin picked to build Vancouver-area light rail line

SNC-Lavalin picked to build Vancouver-area light rail line Thu, Oct 04 15:45 PM EDT * 11 km Evergreen Line will connect with existing SkyTrain * Operations scheduled to start in summer of 2016 * Funding provided by Ottawa, province, transport authority * Shares of SNC-Lavalin rise 1.3 pct VANCOUVER, Oct 4 (Reuters) - Canada's SNC-Lavalin Inc will design, build and finance a C$1.4 billion ($1.43 billion) light-rail line linking three cities near Vancouver, the provincial government said on Thursday. The planned 11-kilometer (6.9-mile) rapid transit line, set to begin running in the summer of 2016, will connect the cities of Burnaby, Port Moody and Coquitlam in the western Canadian province of British Columbia. The Evergreen Line project, which will feed into the region's existing SkyTrain system, will include a 2 km bored tunnel, seven stations, power substations and parking facilities. Shares of Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin - designated by the province as the Evergreen Line's preferred lead contractor - rose 1.3 percent to C$38.18 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Thursday. The company's stock is down by a quarter this year, hit by a missing payments scandal and the resignation of its chief executive. The B.C. government is contributing C$583 million to the project, and will oversee its construction. The Canadian government's contribution is up to C$417 million. Translink, which is the Greater Vancouver area's transportation authority and which will operate the Evergreen Line once it is built, is contributing C$400 million. Construction will create 8,000 direct and indirect jobs, the B.C. government statement said. Early construction work is underway and will pick of speed later in the year after the contract is signed, it said.

Zardari serves Rs1 billion legal notice to Sadrudin Hashwani

Mateen Haider Sadruddin Hashwani, chairman of the Hashoo Group. — AFP/File ISLAMABAD: Former President Asif Ali Zardari served a legal notice of Rs1 billion to chairman of Hashoo Group, Sadrudin Hashwani on his book “The Truth Always Prevails”, claiming that it was aimed at tarnishing his image and that of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). The legal notice drafted by Senator Farooq H. Naek, senior advocate Supreme Court, was served to the author along with the publishers. The book was published by the Penguin Books in Haryana (India) and was being distributed under the banner of Liberty Books in Pakistan. Sadrudin Hashwani, known as one of the country's biggest tycoon, is the owner of Marriott Hotel which suffered a terrorist attack in 2008. More than 60 people had lost their lives after a suicide truck bomber rammed 600 kilograms of high explosives into the hotel's outer gates. Naek said “the book was aimed at damaging the former president’s reputation by negating all his contributions to the state and society of Pakistan”. “Zardari believed in freedom of speech as guaranteed in Article 19 of the Constitution,” the notice said, adding that the statements made in the book were not properly investigated and were not made in the spirit of freedom of expression. “The PPP co-chairman was entitled to Rs500 million in damages for loss of reputation and another Rs500 million for mental agony and torture,” the notice said, asking the author and publishers to immediately withdraw the book from stores. Moreover, Naek said if the demands were not complied with within 14 days, then the former president would be entitled to seek further monetary damages and equitable relief. “In the event that you fail to meet this demand, please be advised that our client has asked us to communicate to you that he will pursue all available legal remedies, including seeking monetary damages to initiate criminal proceedings under the law,” said the notice.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Controversial Keystone pipeline bill now goes to the Senate for approval

Controversial Keystone pipeline bill now goes to the Senate for approval, where it appears sponsor Mary Landrieu is just 1 vote away from securing its passage with a a filibuster-proof majority - @nationaljournal Read more on nationaljournal.com  Barack Obama  1d House passes bill approving controversial Keystone pipeline; White House has signaled Obama won't be forced on issue - live video End of alert  Barack Obama  1d President Obama says his position on Keystone XL pipeline has not changed - @Reuters Read more on reuters.com  United States  2d US House now debating Rep. Cassidy, R-La., measure to OK construction of Keystone pipeline; final vote set for Friday, Senate vote expected Tuesday - @ChadPergram see original on twitter.com  John Hoeven  2d Sen. John Hoeven, R-ND, says if there are not 60 votes to pass Keystone bill next week, there will be enough support to pass it in the Senate next year - @Reuters End of alert  petroleum  2d House of Representatives plans to vote on Keystone XL bill on Friday, according to a congressional aide - @Reuters Read more on investing.com  United States  2d President Obama takes 'dim view' of legislation to force action on Keystone pipeline, White House spokesman says - @FoxNews Read more on foxnews.com  2014 US elections  3d Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Keystone pipeline: 'The American people have elected a new Republican majority in the Senate and that has already made a difference. I was glad to see that Senate Democrats have finally backed off trying to obstruct construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline' - statement End of alert  Keystone Pipeline  3d Senate set to vote on Keystone pipeline on Nov. 18; Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., amends Unanimous Consent request to fast-track bill if they get identical bill from the House - @ChadPergram see original on twitter.com  2014 US elections  3d Editor's note: To recap, Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is urging the Senate to vote on a Keystone pipeline bill, while House Republicans are moving forward on a Keystone bill sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is facing Landrieu in a runoff Senate race. - Stephanie End of note  2014 US elections  3d More: House expediting vote on Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La., Keystone pipeline bill; Cassidy is in a runoff with Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu - @rollcall Read more on rollcall.com  Keystone Pipeline  3d House Rules Committee meeting today at 5:15 pm ET to move a bill to approve the Keystone pipeline to the floor for a vote tomorrow - @frankthorpNBC see original on twitter.com  2014 US elections  3d Editor's note: Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is facing a December runoff for re-election. A vote on the Keystone pipeline could aid her campaign, @nationaljournal reports. - Stephanie Read more on nationaljournal.com  Keystone Pipeline  3d Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., on the Senate floor says she's going to ask unanimous consent to pass Keystone pipeline - @kasie see original on twitter.com  United States House of Representatives  9d House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, puts Keystone oil pipeline construction, Obamacare changes, addressing federal debt at top of agenda - @Reuters Read more on reuters.com  Barack Obama  9d White House's Josh Earnest declines to say whether President Obama would veto a Keystone XL bill - @jonallendc see original on twitter.com  John Hoeven  10d Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D. says there will be a standalone bill in 1st quarter to approve Keystone pipeline project - @Reuters Read more on reuters.com  United States  11d TransCanada raises estimate for Keystone XL pipeline cost from US $4.74 billion to $7.02 billion as political deadlock continues - @BloombergNews Read more on bloomberg.com  Canada  18d US Secretary of State John Kerry said during Canada visit that he would like to make a decision soon on TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL crude oil pipeline; says needs to wait for due diligence - @Reuters End of alert  Nebraska, US  4mo Nebraska Supreme Court to announce it will hear oral arguments in the case over the Keystone XL pipeline's route in early September, effectively postponing any final federal decision on the controversial project until after the midterm elections - @washingtonpost Read more on washingtonpost.com

U.S. military chief says battle with IS starting to turn: To Obama, the dog of Rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we will be slaughtering your soldiers

Ambassadors of Gulf Arab states to return to Qatar By ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI Nov. 16, 2014 7:46 PM EST Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011, file photo, Qatar's crown prince, Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al... Read RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain said Monday they will reinstate their ambassadors to Qatar after withdrawing them in an unprecedented move eight months ago. The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, which also includes Kuwait and Oman, had been rattled by the rift in relations that was widely seen as a result of Qatar's support for Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region. The UAE and Saudi Arabia perceive the Brotherhood as a threat to their political systems. Both have branded the 86 year-old organization as a "terrorist group". After several rounds of high-level talks and months of pressure, Qatar recently forced top Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood figures to leave and seek refuge elsewhere. Additionally, pro-Brotherhood cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi has not appeared on the pulpit in Qatar since ambassadors were withdrawn. State media and government-linked commentators across the Gulf had been calling for an end to the diplomatic spat in the face of emerging threats from the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Several Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar, are playing a role in the U.S.-led military coalition conducting airstrikes against the extremist group. The decision to reinstate ambassadors came after rulers of the GCC member-states met in an emergency session in Saudi Arabia late Sunday. Among those present were Saudi King Abdullah and Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. The GCC leadership said the meeting was called to "consolidate the spirit of sincere cooperation, to confirm the mutual destiny and aspirations of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the unity of its people and close rapprochement." The statement, released after midnight Monday, heralded the "opening of a new page" in relations with the reinstatement of ambassadors. The move paves the way for the GCC's annual summit to be held in Doha, Qatar next month. A regional security agreement drawn up late last year had called on Qatar to stop supporting organizations that threaten the Gulf's stability and to stop interfering in other nations' politics. Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain said in March that withdrawing their ambassadors was a move to protect their security. The oil-rich Gulf neighbors are strong supporters of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who was elected this year after leading a crushing military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. ===================== U.S. hostage Peter Kassig is killed by Islamic State Sun, Nov 16 20:27 PM EST image 1 of 6 By Mariam Karouny BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State militants have beheaded another American hostage, Peter Kassig, issuing a video claiming the killing on Sunday and warning the United States they would kill other U.S. citizens "on your streets." U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed the death of the aid worker in what he called "an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity." The announcement of Kassig's death, the fifth such killing of a Western captive by the group, formed part of a 15-minute video posted online in which Islamic State showed the beheadings of at least 14 men it said were pilots and officers loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Kassig, 26, from Indiana, was also known as Abdul-Rahman, a name he took after converting to Islam in captivity. His family has said he was taken captive on his way to the Syrian city of Deir al-Zor on Oct. 1, 2013. “We are heartbroken to learn that our son, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, has lost his life as a result of his love for the Syrian people and his desire to ease their suffering," Ed and Paula Kassig said in a statement. "Our heart also goes out to the families of the Syrians who lost their lives, along with our son." The video did not show the beheading of Kassig, who previously served in the U.S. Army, but showed a masked man standing with a decapitated head covered in blood at his feet. Speaking in English in a British accent, the man says: "This is Peter Edward Kassig, a U.S. citizen." The video appeared on a jihadist website and on Twitter feeds used by Islamic State. In a statement to reporters on Air Force One on his way home from a G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, Obama praised Kassig's humanitarian work and offered condolences to his family. BRITISH ACCENT The man in the video spoke with the same southern British accent as the killer of previous hostages, dubbed "Jihadi John" by British media. He was believed to have been wounded in an air attack on an IS leaders' meeting in Iraq near the Syrian border earlier this month, some media reports have said. French daily Le Figaro said on its website that the French Interior Ministry was studying the possibility of the presence of a French national among the Islamic State militants involved in the beheadings shown in the video. In the video, a masked militant says: "To Obama, the dog of Rome, today we are slaughtering the soldiers of Bashar and tomorrow we will be slaughtering your soldiers," in a prediction that Washington would send more troops to the region to fight Islamic State. "And with Allah's permission ... the Islamic State will soon ... begin to slaughter your people in your streets." The format of the video was different from previous such announcements, showing other beheadings in graphic detail, and also showing most of the killers unmasked. The purported location also was disclosed as the northern Syrian town of Dabeq. An Islamic State supporter in Syria contacted by Reuters said: "The message is very clear. This is what the West understands. They think they can scare us with their planes and their bombs. No, not us. We are out to impose the religion of God and, by his will, we will." Kassig was doing humanitarian work through Special Emergency Response and Assistance, an organization he founded in 2012 to help Syrian refugees, the family has said. Obama said Kassig's life stood in stark contrast to the values represented by Islamic State, adding he was a "humanitarian who worked to save the lives of Syrians injured and dispossessed by the Syrian conflict." Islamic State's "actions represent no faith, least of all the Muslim faith which Abdul-Rahman adopted as his own," Obama added. Islamic State previously killed U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and British aid workers David Haines and Alan Henning. The masked militant, who appeared to be the leader of a beheading squad, said Kassig was buried in Dabeq, near the Turkish border. "Here we are burying the first American crusader in Dabeq. Eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive," he says. Western leaders and officials condemned the killing. British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was horrified by the "cold-blooded murder." The beheadings of the Syrian personnel were filmed in death squad style, with militants standing behind a kneeling man in a dark blue overall. In slow motion shots, each of the militants is shown drawing a knife from a box on the side of the road. (Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy, Lin Noueihed, Kylie MacLellan, Karey Van Hall, Geert De Clercq, Jane Wardell and Viktor Szary, Mark Hosenball, Alina Selyukh and Bill Trott; Editing by William Maclean, Janet Lawrence, Giles Elgood, Eric Walsh and Frances Kerry) ============================= U.S. military chief says battle with IS starting to turn Sat, Nov 15 16:41 PM EST image 1 of 4 By Phil Stewart BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The United States' top military officer told American troops on a surprise visit to Baghdad on Saturday that the momentum in the battle with Islamic State was "starting to turn", but predicted a drawn-out campaign lasting several years. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was visiting Iraq for the first time since President Barack Obama responded to Islamic State advances this summer by ordering troops back into a country they left in 2011. Hours earlier, an Iraqi army colonel said security forces appeared close to retaking the country's biggest refinery at Baiji, which has been under siege for months by Islamic State militants. Obama last week authorized roughly doubling the number of American ground forces as the military expands the reach of its advisers after slowing the militants' advances with U.S. airstrikes. Dempsey told the troops the U.S. military had helped Iraqi and Kurdish forces "pull Iraq back from the precipice". ((1. An overhanging or extremely steep mass of rock, such as a crag or the face of a cliff. 2. The brink of a dangerous or disastrous situation: on the precipice of defeat.)) "And now, I think it's starting to turn. So well done," Dempsey told a group of Marines at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Reuters accompanied him on the trip. Islamic State has captured swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria, where the United States is also conducting air strikes with its allies in pursuit of Obama's declared objective to "degrade and destroy" the militants. CHALLENGES REMAIN Dempsey said it had been crucial to show Islamic State was not an unstoppable, 10-foot-tall force and instead "a bunch of midgets running around with a really radical ideology". He was hardly triumphant, however. Earlier, he visited a Joint Operations Center and watched a live video feed of a location showing Islamic State's black flag waving. Thirty-six people were kidnapped by Islamic State in western Iraq on Saturday, security sources said, members of the same tribe massacred in the hundreds by the group recently. Mortar attacks on oil and gas facilities wounded two people near the northern city of Kirkuk, oil officials said. Dempsey repeatedly made the point that military force could not root out Islamic State unless Iraq's government manages to work across the Sunni-Shi'ite divide. Building trust would take time. So would the U.S. mission, he said. "How long? Several years," said Dempsey. Dempsey, who also met top Iraqi officials, told Reuters he wanted to find out whether the Iraqis believed they could win recruits for a program the United States hopes to get under way next year to re-train Iraqi units. "I want to get a sense from them on whether they believe our timeline is feasible," Dempsey said. About 1,400 U.S. troops are now in Iraq. Obama's new authorization allows for deployment of up to 3,100. After meeting senior Iraqi officials in Baghdad including Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Dempsey traveled to Arbil, capital of the Kurdistan semi-autonomous region in the north. U.S. troops will also train Kurdish forces. (Editing by Michael Georgy, Sonya Hepinstall and Mark Trevelyan)

Friday, November 14, 2014

7.3 quake hits Indonesia waters; tsunami possible

Nov. 14, 2014 10:37 PM ET 7.3 quake hits Indonesia waters; tsunami possible THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STATEMENT OF NEWS VALUES AND PRINCIPLES AIM Share More News Video 7.1 quake hits Indonesia, causes small tsunami Nov. 15, 2014 12:08 AM ET 7.3-magnitude undersea quake hits Indonesia waters; monitoring agency says tsunami possible Nov. 14, 2014 10:00 PM ET Pope to comfort Filipino victims of deadly typhoon Nov. 14, 2014 9:05 PM ET 5.6 quake rattles Peru's capital without damage Nov. 14, 2014 8:02 PM ET Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes Nov. 12, 2014 9:25 PM ET Buy AP Photo Reprints JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — A 7.3-magnitude quake hit Indonesian waters Saturday morning and has the potential to generate tsunami waves along nearby coasts, a monitoring agency said. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the quake hit 154 kilometers (96 miles) northwest of Kota Ternate at a depth of 47 kilometers (29 miles). There are no immediate reports of casualties or damage. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake could cause hazardous tsunami waves within 300 kilometers (186 miles) of the epicenter along the nearby coasts of Indonesia and the southern Philippines. Waves could reach up to a meter (3.28 feet) or less, it said. The nearest communities of Tabukan Tengah on North Sulawesi island could be at risk within an hour or so if a tsunami occurs, the agency said. The waves could also reach as far as Taiwan, Okinawa in southern Japan, the U.S. territory of Guam, Papau New Guinea, Solomon Islands and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific within the next six hours, it said. The world's largest archipelago, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire," an arc of volcanoes and fault lines in the Pacific Basin. In 2004, a monster temblor off Aceh shores triggered a tsunami that killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries. Most of the deaths were in Aceh.