Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100731

»First Democratic Congressman Calls for Charges Against Black Panthers
»Gas Explosion Destroys Building in Calif.
»Microsoft Rushes Fix for Windows Shortcut Hole
»Portland’s Dark World of Child Sex Trafficking
»The Elite Turn Against Obama
»Will Washington’s Failures Lead to Second American Revolution?
Europe and the EU
»Germany: Probe at U.N. Climate Talks After Saudi Sign Smashed
»UK: NHS Patient Chronicles Her Own Death by Texting Photos to Family
»UK: Prince Charles: My Duty is to Save the World
»UK: Romanian Gang of Fagins ‘Smuggled 200 Children Into UK to Beg and Steal’
Israel and the Palestinians
»Albert the Alligator and the British Ambassador
»Drifting Away From Israel
»Hamas Leader Killed in Israeli Air Strikes
Middle East
»2 Strong Earthquakes Hit Iran, Over 200 Injured
»Illusion and Reality Clash in Lebanon
»Saudi, Syrian Leaders Visit Lebanon Amid Tension
»Russia Calls in Army as Fires Escalate
South Asia
»Second Sailor’s Body Recovered in Afghanistan
»Why Indians Don’t Care About David Cameron
Far East
»China’s Strategy for a Post Western World
»How North Korea Could Build a Cyber Army to Defeat the US
Sub-Saharan Africa
»Al-Shabaab Introduces Terrorist News Network
»Arizona Governor’s Request for Expedited Appeal Denied by 9th Circuit Court
»France: The Minister of Mixed Marriages
»Judge ‘Inundated’ With Death Threats After Arizona Ruling
»Mexico: Where is Your Shame?
»Genes From Ebola Virus Family Found in Human Genome


First Democratic Congressman Calls for Charges Against Black Panthers

U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, California Democrat, has written a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that Mr. Holder re-file “criminal” charges against the now-infamous New Black Panthers involved in a 2008 voter-intimidation incident in Philadelphia…


Rep. Sherman, of course, is the congressman whose town meeting a few weeks ago erupted in anger when he claimed to be utterly unfamiliar with the Black Panther case. This letter would appear to be a response to that incident.

The congressman’s point, however, was not merely to acknowledge the seriousness of the Black Panther case. Instead, it was a clear attempt to turn the tables and blast the Bush administration…which he accused of “flagrantly ignor[ing] its constitutional responsibilities in white washing [sic] cases involving voter intimidation.” He demanded renewed investigation into six Bush-era voting mini-controversies.

There appears to be a big problem with his list, however…

[Return to headlines]

Gas Explosion Destroys Building in Calif.

A deadly gas explosion obliterated an industrial building with such violent force Friday that a worker was hurled into the street, car windows were shattered and a survivor had his hair singed in the inferno.

One man died and another was critically injured in the blast…


The natural gas supply had been disconnected Thursday because the business was behind on its payments, Southern California Gas Co. spokesman Dennis Lord said.

To keep the gas flowing, someone had rerouted a pipe around the meter and a regulator designed to reduce gas pressure to safe levels.

Elizabeth Alvarado, a secretary at the metalworking business known as J.L. Spray, said it was owned by Jaime Lara…

[Return to headlines]

Microsoft Rushes Fix for Windows Shortcut Hole

Microsoft plans to release a patch on Monday for a flaw involving how Windows handles shortcut files, after seeing the hole being used to spread a particularly nasty and fast-spreading virus, the company said Friday.

Initially, the Windows flaw was used to spread the Stuxnet worm via USB drives. The vulnerability, which is in all versions of Windows, is in the code that processes shortcut files ending in “.lnk,” according to the Microsoft advisory from two weeks ago that included information on a work-around.

Now there are copycat attacks in which the .lnk hole, or “shortcut hole,” is being used in combination with a virus dubbed “Sality.AT,” which has spread faster than the Stuxnet worm, Microsoft said in a Microsoft Malware Protection Center blog post.


“Sality is a highly virulent strain. It is known to infect other files (making full removal after infection challenging), copy itself to removable media, disable security, and then download other malware. It is also a very large family—one of the most prevalent families this year.”

The situation is dire enough for Microsoft to release what it calls an “out of band” patch…

[Return to headlines]

Portland’s Dark World of Child Sex Trafficking


Portland’s legal commercial sex industry is the biggest per capita in the country, according to a report by researchers at Willamette Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic. Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather once called the city “Pornland.” The city has more strip clubs per capita than glittery Las Vegas, and a tolerant attitude toward sex, both legal and illegal.

Combining those facts, a demand for sex workers, the city’s geography that provides easy access for traffickers, and its reputation as a progressive youth-oriented community attracting runaways creates a toxic brew rivaling the notorious red-light district of Amsterdam.

“It’s nonstop. It’s every day,” said Sgt. Doug Justus of the Portland Police Department’s vice squad.

Victims of domestic minor sex trafficking have been picked up in every major city in the country and in many rural areas as well. Those “walking the track” on Portland’s 82nd Avenue are often children exploited in their hometown.

Linda Smith, president of Shared Hope International, a Vancouver, Wash.-based advocacy group, calls Portland a “mecca” for underage trafficking. Of the domestic minors trafficked every year in the U.S. — the FBI estimates 300,000, the majority being runaway or “throwaway” children — hundreds are being sexually exploited in a city of 600,000.


[Return to headlines]

The Elite Turn Against Obama

Even the Aspen Ideas Festival, an annual gathering of the country’s brightest lights, isn’t Obama country anymore. Lloyd Grove on the president’s waning support among the intelligentsia:

…Harvard business and history professor Niall Ferguson …during Monday’s kickoff session, offer[ed] a withering critique of Obama’s economic policies, which he claimed were encouraging laziness.

Ferguson was joined in his harsh attack by billionaire real estate mogul and New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman. Both lambasted Obama’s trillion- dollar deficit spending program—in the name of economic stimulus to cushion the impact of the 2008 financial meltdown—as fiscally ruinous, potentially turning America into a second-rate power.

…Ferguson warned: “Do you want to be a kind of implicit part of the European Union? I’d advise you against it.”


This was greeted by hearty applause from a crowd that included Barbra Streisand and her husband James Brolin. “Depressing, but fantastic,” Streisand told me afterward, rendering her verdict on the session. “So exciting. Wonderful!”…

           — Hat tip: LS[Return to headlines]

Will Washington’s Failures Lead to Second American Revolution?

The Internet is a large-scale version of the “Committees of Correspondence” that led to the first American Revolution — and with Washington’s failings now so obvious and awful, it may lead to another.

People are asking, “Is the government doing us more harm than good? Should we change what it does and the way it does it?”

Pruning the power of government begins with the imperial presidency.

Too many overreaching laws give the president too much discretion to make too many open-ended rules controlling too many aspects of our lives. There’s no end to the harm an out-of-control president can do.

Bill Clinton lowered the culture, moral tone and strength of the nation — and left America vulnerable to attack. When it came, George W. Bush stood up for America, albeit sometimes clumsily.

Barack Obama, however, has pulled off the ultimate switcheroo: He’s diminishing America from within — so far, successfully.

He may soon bankrupt us and replace our big merit-based capitalist economy with a small government-directed one of his own design.

He is undermining our constitutional traditions: The rule of law and our Anglo-Saxon concepts of private property hang in the balance. Obama may be the most “consequential” president ever.

The Wall Street Journal’s steadfast Dorothy Rabinowitz wrote that Barack Obama is “an alien in the White House.”

His bullying and offenses against the economy and job creation are so outrageous that…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Germany: Probe at U.N. Climate Talks After Saudi Sign Smashed

BONN Germany (Reuters) — U.N. climate negotiators agreed to an investigation on Friday after protesters smashed a sign emblazoned “Saudi Arabia” and dropped it in toilet after Riyadh blocked a study of deeper cuts in greenhouse gases.

Many countries condemned the protest, after Saudi Arabia blocked a request by small island states at the May 31-June 11 talks for a study of tougher cuts in greenhouse gases to help slow a rise in world sea levels.

Mexico’s delegate Luis Alfonso de Alba, whose country will host the main climate talks in late 2010, said he was initiating an investigation by the U.N. Climate Change Secretariat.

Pieces of the smashed Saudi Arabia sign — about 30 cm and placed on a table to identify the delegation during negotiations — were dropped in a toilet and then photographed, delegates said. The pictures were then put up on some walls.

“This is a serious incident. We should fully support that the secretariat should carry out an investigation and the result should be informed to the parties,” Chinese delegate Su Wei said.

Lebanon’s delegate also said that the Saudi flag was abused during a protest in the conference hall after Saudi Arabia blocked the small island state’s push.

Saudi Arabia has often expressed worries at U.N. climate negotiations that a shift toward renewable energies will undermine its oil export earnings.

It opposed the small island state’s push for a study of limiting global warming, saying that wider issues such as the impact on exporters, also had to be taken into account.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]

UK: NHS Patient Chronicles Her Own Death by Texting Photos to Family

A desperate patient texted photos of a deadly rash spreading across her body to her mother as she lay dying on a hospital bed while being ignored by NHS doctors.

Critically ill Jo Dowling, 25, sent more than 40 pictures and messages to her mother and best friend as her life ebbed away.

Doctors ignored the rash and refused to believe she had blood poisoning caused by the meningitis bug, taking her off antibiotics and giving her painkillers instead.

Hours earlier, the young woman had been diagnosed by her family GP with suspected meningococcal septicaemia after developing a purple skin rash and low blood pressure.

She was rushed to Milton Keynes Hospital where A&E doctors rejected the diagnosis believing instead her illness was a mild infection caused by her cystic fibrosis.

But doctors abandoned Miss Dowling on an observation ward and gave her headache tablets and fluids as they failed to spot the purple rash spread over her arms, hands and legs.

As the hours passed, terrified Miss Dowling took photos of her rash on her mobile phone and sent them to her mum and best friend describing her condition as ‘getting worse’.

The meningitis bug left her in septic shock choking and coughing as fluid filled her lungs and she died four hours after her last text message — just 14 hours after arriving at hospital.

er family yesterday accused the hospital of ‘neglect’ after an inquest at Milton Keynes Coroners’ Court heard doctors failed to spot she was suffering ‘blood poisoning shock’.

Coroner Tom Osborne criticised the hospital for a ‘communication breakdown’ that led to her death as tragically a simple dose of penicillin and antibiotics would have saved Miss Dowling’s life.

The inquest heard there were only two doctors on duty to cover the entire hospital the night she died last November.


He criticised hospital doctors for failing to realise she was in ‘blood poisoning shock’.

Mr Osborne said: ‘As a result of a breakdown in communication the antibiotics was not continued and resulted in lost opportunities to render further medical treatment.’

Miss Dowling, who was on a waiting list for a lung transplant, occasionally needed a wheelchair to get around after she was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis as a baby.

She worked as a cashier at Great Mills and The Bag Shop, in Milton Keynes, and competed in junior cross country championships…


Former director Maggie Southcote-Want, 48, alleged a series of shocking incidents at the hospital at an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal in May.

Ms Southcote-Want claimed bodies were routinely dumped on the floor of the mortuary fridge and photographs of a car crash victim uploaded to websites, prompting a police inquiry.

She also claimed a locum doctor wrongly analysed dozens of breast cancer biopsies, a leading consultant was suspended for surgical blunders and two employees were caught having sex in the pharmacy during working hours.

The hospital denied the claims.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Prince Charles: My Duty is to Save the World

The Prince of Wales says he believes he has been placed on Earth as future King ‘for a purpose’ — to save the world.

Giving a fascinating insight into his view of his inherited wealth and influence, he said: ‘I can only somehow imagine that I find myself being born into this position for a purpose.

‘I don’t want my grandchildren or yours to come along and say to me, “Why the hell didn’t you come and do something about this? You knew what the problem was”. That is what motivates me.

‘I wanted to express something in the outer world that I feel inside… We seem to have lost that understanding of the whole of nature and the universe as a living entity.’


But the Prince has previously come under fire for hypocrisy over his eco-values.

Last year he commandeered a jet belonging to the Queen’s Flight to attend the Copenhagen climate change summit, generating an estimated 6.4 tons of carbon dioxide — 5.2 tons more than if he had used a commercial plane.

Critics condemned his words as ‘delusional’.

‘I don’t want my grandchildren or yours to come along and say to me, “Why the hell didn’t you come and do something about this? You knew what the problem was”. That is what motivates me’

Graham Smith, of the anti-monarchy group Republic, said: ‘He is under the impression he has been sent to save the world and deliver us from our sins. It’s quite delusional.

‘He will have to be impartial and keep his mouth shut when he’s king. If he really believes this is his mission and he disagrees with Government in future, he risks plunging us into a constitutional crisis.’ …

[Read the comments!]

[Return to headlines]

UK: Romanian Gang of Fagins ‘Smuggled 200 Children Into UK to Beg and Steal’

The leaders of a Romanian gipsy gang accused of sending almost 200 children to beg and steal on Britain’s streets have been charged with a series of crimes in their home country.

Dubbed ‘modern day Fagins’, the 26 men — all Roma gipsies — face a mixture of charges including trafficking children, money laundering, membership of an organised crime group and possession of illegal firearms.

The men were arrested in April this year when 300 armed Romanian police raided 17 heavily-fortified ‘gipsy palaces’ in the dirt-poor town of Tanderai, a gang-heartland in the south of the country.


Yesterday, as the men were officially charged in the Romanian town of Harghita, the prosecutor disclosed that they sent at least 181 children to Britain over the past three years.

Court papers show that the gangmasters, who recruited children from all over Romania, preyed on the weakest within their own society and showed particular preference for children with physical handicaps.


British police estimate that determined and desperate children can make as much as £100,000 a year for their criminal masters from begging on Britain’s streets.

Once in the UK, the children were constantly under supervision by at least one gang member.


A police spokesman said: ‘The children were told their families would be at risk if they tried to flee, and families were told the children would be harmed if they made a complaint to the authorities.’

Romanian police started investigating the gipsy gang when they were informed by their British counterparts about a Roma gipsy ‘crimewave’ that started almost as soon as Romania joined the EU…

[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Albert the Alligator and the British Ambassador

by Barry Rubin

Once upon a time in an intellectual galaxy now seemingly far away, liberals and conservatives shared a common view. There were the forces of democracy and the forces of totalitarianism (or, if you prefer, authoritarianism) that threatened the world, took away freedom, and held back both economic and social development. The goal of Western foreign policy was to help those favoring liberty against the tyrants and would-be tyrants.

Naturally, there were different views about how to do this, for example should some dictatorships be backed against those deemed worse, but the basic template was the same.

Then came a turning point which can be symbolized by a line in Walt Kelly’s comic-strip “Pogo.” A dialogue balloon destined to shake the world: “We have met the enemy,” said either Pogo the possum or Albert the alligator, “and he is us.” Kelly later wrote that he originated this line in 1953 in an essay opposing McCarthyism but it really took off in a 1972 cartoon, perfectly timed for the “1960s,” the era whose ideas rule us today in much of the West.

The sentence was a parody of Oliver Hazard Perry’s message-”We have met the enemy and they are ours”-describing his naval victory during the War of 1812. So what had once been a triumphant shout of American victory was transmuted in a post-Pogo world to symbolize a vitriolic yell of self-induced anti-Americanism.

And so if there are evil forces in the world, they are said either not to be evil at all (mislabeled as so by false Western propaganda) or were only made to behave that way by our (Western, American, democratic, capitalist, etc) sins. In other words, the guilty party is the democratic victim whose bad behavior created the monsters. In this spirit, a supposedly great American intellectual claimed America was the cancer of the world. Formerly, it had been known as the last, best hope of humanity.

How often do we see this worldview evinced nowadays? After September 11, America was said to be the cause of the terrorism that struck it. After the bloody July 7 attacks on British mass transport, a top British intelligence official said the terrorism happened due to Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war. President Barack Obama has made this a constant theme, most recently putting the Turkish trend toward Islamism (without admitting it exists) on the shoulders of European states that didn’t admit Turkey into the EU.

So nowadays, the most common way of dealing with radicalism, repression, terrorism, and such things in the Third World is to blame it on democratic states so often victimized by such issues.

The latest contribution to this genre comes from British ambassador to Israel Tom Phillips who said Israel’s sanctions’ regime on the Gaza Strip “was breeding radicalism.”…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Drifting Away From Israel

Tom Phillips is a model British ambassador. He’s personable, empathetic and he knows his stuff. He’s well-liked by his Israeli interlocutors, and by his colleagues in the diplomatic corps.

He’s served in Tel Aviv for four years — years when Israeli-British relations have seen their ups and downs — without causing offense or making enemies here, and also without doing or saying anything that would cause offense or make enemies elsewhere in this region. That much is evident in the fact that, as he now completes his term, he will head off almost immediately to another challenging posting, though one where his hosts will probably be more deferential: Saudi Arabia.

The successive high-ranking appointments underline his standing and prestige back home — a status further highlighted by the knighthood he was awarded in the Queen’s Birthday Honors List just last month.

He comes to an interview well organized, with a folder of paperwork to make sure he faithfully represents British policy where necessary. And though he’s not working from any prepared script, and this is a farewell conversation, Sir Tom is a diplomat to his soul.

What follows, therefore, is emphatically not a case of a demob happy, departing ambassador cutting loose. It constitutes, rather, the carefully measured assessments of an intelligent, highly credible, experienced envoy — Her Majesty’s man in Tel Aviv relaying, in typically unruffled terms, the kind of insights he more routinely vouchsafes to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London.

As an ex-Brit who goes back once a year or so, I find Britain to be increasingly troubling territory. I lament that Britain appears incapable of internalizing the challenges we face, and it faces, from Islamic fundamentalism. And I chafe with indignation, frustration and anger at a growing sense that our reality is misrepresented, misreported and misunderstood in Britain. As such, I found our conversation profoundly dispiriting. Not because of any feeling that Sir Tom Phillips is himself hostile to Israel. Quite the reverse. I’m certain he entertains a genuine affection for our country. But his overview, to my mind, gives relatively marginal weight to what I would consider Israeli mainstream sentiment, and more amply encompasses the arguments of those, within this country and without, who would point disproportionately at Israeli failures when explaining the years of peace process setback and deadlock.

The uncertainty Phillips highlights about whether this coalition, under Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is ready and willing to make drastic territorial concessions to the Palestinians, is more than legitimate; it may well be that even Netanyahu hasn’t made his mind up. The conviction that the Palestinian Authority is ready and willing for a viable deal is more jarring.

The devastating impact on the Israeli psyche of the second intifada, though Phillips acknowledges it, seems underappreciated, as does the impact of the security barrier in necessitating a Palestinian change of course. The unilateral withdrawal from Gaza and its dismal consequences goes unmentioned; so, too, Netanyahu’s settlement freeze and his repeated calls for direct talks. And Ambassador Phillips, remember, is not analyzing us through the filter of The Guardian, The Independent and the BBC. He’s been right here — representing Britain to us, and us to the Brits. He evidently believes we risk making a frightful mess of things. He fears we are blind to the peacemaking bona fides of Mahmoud Abbas. He’s far from convinced that we’re ready to relinquish “Fortress Israel.” And he’s being diplomatic.


Israel was quite distressed by David Cameron’s comments in Turkey this week (including his description of Gaza as a “prison camp,” his insistence that “the situation in Gaza has to change,” and his renewed condemnation of the “unacceptable” Gaza flotilla “attack”). Does this reflect new British government policy?

The remarks that the prime minister made in Turkey in broad terms were not new language. He’s used language along pretty much the same lines in the House of Commons in the past. It doesn’t mean that we don’t welcome the steps Israel has taken to relax access to Gaza… but we think more can be done. The number of trucks going in could be increased quite substantially.

And in the end there’s got to be some more allowance for Palestinian exports as well.

We accept that all of this has got to be consistent with Israel’s security concerns. But one of the effects of the blockade has been that you’ve driven the economy into a Hamas-controlled tunnel economy and the Palestinian Gaza private sector has been almost completely destroyed.

We need to get that going again.

Broadly speaking, it’s the British sense that Israel has been dealing with Gaza in the wrong way?

Yes. The situation is unsustainable, very difficult — as it was before there was any relaxation.

And counterproductive.

We had people going into Gaza, and they were bringing back stories of the “legal economy” being severely undermined.

The economy becoming totally dependent on the tunnel trade. Hamas being able to benefit from that politically, to take credit. The private sector being destroyed. Young boys on the streets with no role models apart from the Hamas guy in the black shiny uniform on the street corner.

So although one understood all the political pressures that were leading Israel to that situation, the fact is it was causing significant humanitarian concerns. But also it was creating, in psychological terms, another generation of people that are not going to feel that friendly about Israel.

What of the argument that the easier it is for Hamas to rule Gaza, the more it can solidify its hold there, and allocate resources for arms?

The blockade was helping Hamas to solidify its rule there, giving them a total grip of the economy. I’ve been out to Sderot many times. I understand the security concerns. We have to find a way that doesn’t mean more harm is going to come to them. There are many aspects of this problem. But where we were was not solving the problem. It’s as simple as that.

Is the British government thinking that Hamas should be granted more legitimization?

We are firm on the Quartet principles. We want the political focus to be squarely on the Mitchell process — and that’s the discussion between the PA and the Israeli government.

Do you see an optimistic scenario for Gaza?

It’s very difficult. In the short term, unless Hamas surprises us by evolving, we have to find more clever ways to prevent the humanitarian situation getting worse there, but without empowering Hamas in the way that the blockade was empowering Hamas. In the meantime, progress should be made on the negotiating tracks so that the choices for the Palestinian people, including Hamas, get clearer and clearer.

So the people of Gaza will look across to the West Bank and say, “There you see the benefits of dialogue and conciliation. We need something like that here”?

Something like that. This is a question of degree. One doesn’t want to keep all the people of Gaza in a total, locked down, negative economy.

If you imagine any peace process, there’s going to be a moment of choice for the Israeli people and for the Palestinian people — however it’s done, referendum, elections, whatever. At that moment of choice, it has to be clear: what the gains would be from going for what I hope will be the offer of a sustainable two-state solution, as opposed to anybody else pushing another agenda.

Is Britain broadly coming to the opinion that Israel is not acting in its own interests, that the Israelis are being very foolish?

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

Hamas Leader Killed in Israeli Air Strikes

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip have killed a Hamas commander and wounded 11 other people.

Warplanes fired missiles at five targets across Gaza, including Gaza City, last night for the first time since Israel’s three-week offensive in the territory ended 18 months ago.

Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the territory, said the man killed was Issa Batran, 42, a commander of its military wing in central Gaza and a rocket maker. Eight of its supporters and three civilians were also injured.

The air raids came after a Palestinian rocket attack struck the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon on Friday, causing no casualties but damaging buildings and cars in the city.


The targets hit in last night’s air strike included a military training camp in Gaza City, smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border and Batran’s shack, on the outskirts of the Nusseirat refugee camp, according to Hamas security officials.

[Return to headlines]

Middle East

2 Strong Earthquakes Hit Iran, Over 200 Injured

The first quake, which had a magnitude of 5.7, struck villages and towns in the northeast on Friday evening, injuring more than 200 people, said Mojtaba Sadeqian, governor of the town hardest hit, Torbat-e Heydariyeh. Two of the injured were in critical condition, the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.

The semiofficial ILNA news agency reported a higher injury toll, putting the number at 274.

Iranian TV footage showed parts of buildings reduced to rubble and homes strewn with shattered glass and other debris. Communications were also temporarily disrupted.

Late Saturday morning, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake rattled the Negar region, 670 miles (more than 1,000 kilometers) south of the capital, Tehran. There were no reports of casualties, but state television said there was extensive damage, most of it to buildings made of mud and brick…

           — Hat tip: JTT[Return to headlines]

Illusion and Reality Clash in Lebanon

by Jonathan Spyer

Initially, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon probing the murder of Rafik Hariri focused on Syria. Lately, indications suggest that the main focus is now on Hizbullah.

Tension is currently rising in Lebanon, amid reports that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) is to issue indictments in the coming months. The tribunal is tasked with investigating the 2005 murder of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri. Earlier this year, its president, Antonio Cassese, said he expected that indictments would be issued at some stage between September and December.

The Hariri tribunal has followed a long and winding path since its formation shortly after the murder, which took place on February 14, 2005. In its initial period, it was expected that its main angle of investigation would focus on the Syrians. Hariri was known as a defender of Lebanese sovereignty and therefore a natural adversary of the Syrian regime.

The latest indications, however, suggest that the main focus of the investigation is now on Hizbullah. This has led some Lebanon watchers to raise the specter of possible renewed civil strife in the country. Others have suggested that the prospect of indictments represents a serious dent in Hizbullah and Iran’s power in the country. Neither of these claims, however, holds water.

The first claim rests on the idea that if Hizbullah is indicted for the murder of Rafik Hariri, this will place Saad Hariri — current prime minister and son of the murdered man — on a collision course with it.

But for a civil war, you need two sides. In 2008, it was the effective capitulation of Hariri and his March 14 movement which averted conflict. This time around, Hariri has even fewer options and this makes renewed confrontation less likely.

In a press conference last week, Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that he had been personally informed by Hariri that the tribunal would accuse some “undisciplined members” of Hizbullah (i.e. not the movement as a whole) of the murder of his father.

Nasrallah also noted that he had received a personal assurance from Hariri that he would publicly confirm that individual Hizbullah members, rather than the movement itself, were implicated in the murder.

Informed sources suggest that Hizbullah has already selected the individuals it will throw to the wolves if indictments are indeed issued (which is itself not certain).

The men in question are low-level operators reputed to be involved in crime as well as movement activity.

Nasrallah’s rare press conference may have indicated that Hizbullah is uncomfortable at the prospect of the indictments. But his name-checking of Hariri also confirmed that he thinks he has little to worry about from the murdered man’s son.

The available evidence suggests that he is right…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Saudi, Syrian Leaders Visit Lebanon Amid Tension


The summit was unusual on multiple levels, a sign of the depth of concern over the potential for violence. Mr. Assad rarely goes to Beirut — his last trip was in 2002, which at the time was the first visit by a Syrian leader to the Lebanese capital in nearly three decades.

Many in Lebanon blame Syria for the truck bombing on Valentine’s Day 2005 that killed Hariri, charges that Damascus denies. The blast deepened a rift between Mr. Assad and Saudi King Abdullah, who each backed rival sides in the ensuing power struggle that nearly tore Lebanon apart since 2005: Syria backing a Hezbollah-led coalition and Saudi Arabia and the United States supporting a Sunni-led coalition…


[Return to headlines]


Russia Calls in Army as Fires Escalate

Russia called in the army on Friday to combat fires sweeping across the drought-stricken European part of the country and forcing thousands of people to flee.

The emergencies ministry said at least 25 people had been killed as high winds fanned fires in forests and farmland parched by a prolonged heatwave.

More than 2,170 people fled their homes as fires engulfed large swathes of the Moscow, Voronezh, Nizhnenovogorod, Vladimir and Ryazan regions.

Hot summers are not unusual even in northern Russia, but this year temperatures have soared to record levels, destroying one-fifth of the country’s grain crop and causing hazardous health conditions…

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Second Sailor’s Body Recovered in Afghanistan

A second U.S. Navy Sailor who went missing in a dangerous part of eastern Afghanistan was found dead and his body recovered, a senior U.S. military official and Afghan officials said Thursday.

The family of Petty Officer 3rd Class Jarod Newlove, a 25-year-old from the Seattle area, had been notified of his death, the U.S. military official said on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to disclose the information.

Newlove and Petty Officer 2nd Class Justin McNeley went missing last Friday in Logar province. NATO recovered the body of McNeley — a 30-year-old father of two from Wheatridge, Colo. — in the area Sunday…

[Return to headlines]

Why Indians Don’t Care About David Cameron

by Leo Mirani, “Comment Is Free”


Not so long ago, if the British head of government had visited [India], the papers would have been full of reports…In the UK, the PM’s tour of India would have been unremarkable.

How did this happen? How did the world turn upside down?

…Indians like celebrities. Cameron hasn’t been prime minister long enough…for Indians to even know who he is…

The second explanation could [be] the visitors themselves. While Cameron needs to seek a relationship…no reason to go about telling the whole world how awful your cards are.

Third, the callousness [of] the Indian political establishment…suggests that India, with a giant chip on its shoulder, is finally getting the chance to feel just a little smug.

…far more likely is [that]… India — especially the navel-gazing middle class — were just too busy being self-obsessed…to notice…And even if they did, they probably dismissed him as “just another white guy who’s shown up to make some money”…

[Return to headlines]

Far East

China’s Strategy for a Post Western World


Beijing’s official view — first outlined by Hu Jintao, China’s president, at the United Nations in September 2005 — is that China is guided by the notion of “building a harmonious world” (????). But two other visions of China’s purpose in the global arena are growing in influence alongside this one: an unofficial view of a Chinese-style utopian world society, and a quasi-official description of how China can compete to become the world’s “number-one power”.


Official Policy: “Harmonious World”


In practice, the official view of hexie shijie lacks detail. The Beijing government tends to describe the policy in terms of vague platitudes, making it hard (for example) to establish whether the strong state thought essential to building a “harmonious society” is also needed to build a “harmonious world”. Other channels are more outspoken; the Hong Kong Wen Wei Po has called on Beijing to be the “‘formulator, participant and defender of world order,’ in order to push the entire world toward harmony.”…

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How North Korea Could Build a Cyber Army to Defeat the US


North Korea has an estimated cyber war budget of $56 million, and the cheap way it could attack the U.S. is by herding a bunch of compromised computers to do its bidding.

That’s the assessment by Charlie Miller, a veteran computer security tester whose accomplishments include hacking Apple’s operating system and the iPhone. He spoke at the Defcon security conference in Las Vegas today.

Miller gave his talk the humorous name: “Kim Jong-Il and Me: How to build a cyber army to defeat the U.S.” It drew a big crowd of hackers and security researchers. He pretended what would happen if he were kidnapped by Kim Jong-Il’s secret agents and forced to make war on the U.S.

How to do it…

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Sub-Saharan Africa

Al-Shabaab Introduces Terrorist News Network

Somalia’s Al Qaeda-backed militant group Al-Shabab has launched an on-line “news” channel called Al Kataib, and its first propaganda newscast, in English, uses graphic footage to warn African countries to stop sending troops to Somalia. The launch comes as U.S. and Somali officials warn of Al Shabab’s increased sophistication, and strengthening ties to Al Qaeda.

The 21-minute videotape, called “Mogadishu: The Crusaders Graveyard” shows Al Shabab fighters taking on Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers. It is narrated in English and formatted like a Western news program, complete with sophisticated graphics…

[NOTE: There is a link to the videotape at the URL, with a warning re contents]

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Arizona Governor’s Request for Expedited Appeal Denied by 9th Circuit Court

The state…asked that District Judge Susan Bolton’s preliminary injunction on the immigration law be lifted so that all of the law could take effect.


Instead, a hearing is scheduled for the first week of November.

AZ Governor Brewer said she’ll take it to the Supreme Court if necessary…

[NOTE: Given the record of the 9th Circuit Court, this will indeed go all the way up]

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France: The Minister of Mixed Marriages

French Minister of Immigration and National Identity, Eric Besson, divorced with three children, will marry his Tunisian companion, Yasmine Tordjman, 23. The question everyone is asking: Will he convert to Islam?

François Desouche links to the article in Le Parisien:

After some delays his decision has been made. Eric Besson, 52, Minister of Immigration and National Identity will marry Yasmine Tordjman, the 23-year-old Tunisian girl who has been his companion since his divorce from Sylvie Brunel in June 2009. The marriage is to take place in Paris on September 16, probably in the offices of the mayor of the 7th arrondissement. A few days ago, Eric Besson and his companion traveled to Tunisia, on the occasion of the marriage of the granddaughter of President Ben Ali. The couple plans to spend part of their summer vacation in Tangiers, Morocco.

Reminders: Former Minister of Justice Rachida Dati is mayor of the 7th arrondissement. It is rumored she will perform the ceremony. Rachida Dati, a Muslim woman, who recently gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, whose father is still unknown (at least his name has not been revealed by the press), will marry a 23-year-old Muslim woman to a man 29 years her senior. Since he is not (yet) a Muslim, and since Muslim girls are forbidden to marry outside their faith, we are waiting with bated breath to see how these loose ends are tied. Obviously, Muslim women who work their way into the upper echelons of French government have certain privileges.

The issue of his conversion to Islam is still up in the air. If you do a Google on the topic, you will find some saying that he will not convert, others saying that he will. The following report from Islam en France, a blog connected to the news source 20 Minutes, claims that he will. It also uses as its source Le Parisien, and gives the same basic information as above, except for the following:

The happy bride is Yasmine Tordjman, 23, a student in Paris, and the great granddaughter of Madame Wassila Bourguiba, the wife of the former Tunisian president, Habib Bourguiba. Mr. Besson has promised his in-laws that he will convert to Islam as the religion requires.

The story of his possible conversion goes back a few months…

           — Hat tip: SF[Return to headlines]

Judge ‘Inundated’ With Death Threats After Arizona Ruling

U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton received hundreds of threats at her court offices within hours of her ruling last week on Arizona’s tough and controversial immigration law.

“She has been inundated,” said U.S. Marshal David Gonzales, indicating his agents are taking some seriously. “About 99.9 percent of the inappropriate comments are people venting. They are exercising their First Amendment rights, and a lot of it is perverted. But it’s that 0.1 percent that goes over the line that we are taking extra seriously.”

Bolton put on hold key provisions, including the heart of the statute that would give police the authority to check a suspect’s immigration status during routine stops if there was reasonable suspicion that the suspect was in the country illegally. Her decision also blocks sections of the law that would require documented immigrants to carry their registration papers.

She agreed with the Obama administration that the Arizona law was unconstitutional because legal immigrants and U.S. citizens “will necessarily be swept up” by it.

Last year, the Arizona Republic reported that the number of threats nationwide against federal judges and prosecutors, plus jurors and witnesses, more than doubled in the last six years, from 592 to nearly 1,300. Gonzales indicated at the time that the federal judges in Arizona get three to four threats a week.

The increase in threats coincides with more online use and the proliferation of blogs, he said. A quick scan shows many sites and discussion forums where Bolton is called a traitor or other, unprintable names.

“She’s tough as nails. She takes this as all part of her job,” Gonzales said.

Bolton was nominated to the U.S. District Court by President Bill Clinton in 2000 at the recommendation of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), who said he was “deeply disappointed” by her ruling.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

Mexico: Where is Your Shame?

Mexico’s government gloated triumphantly after a federal judge’s injunction blocked Arizona’s immigration law. But it’s no victory for Mexico. In fact, Mexico’s leaders ought to be mortified.


Mexico made a big show of saying its interest was in protecting its nationals from the dreadful racism of Arizona that its own citizens, curiously enough, keep fleeing to.

Espinosa said her government was busy collecting data on civil rights violations and her department had issued an all-out travel warning to Mexican nationals about Arizona.

That’s where Mexico’s hypocrisy is just too much.

First, Mexico encourages illegal immigration to the U.S. Oh, it says it doesn’t, but it prints comic book guides for would-be illegal immigrants and provides ID cards for illegals once they get here. In Arizona alone, Mexico keeps five consulates busy…

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Genes From Ebola Virus Family Found in Human Genome

A rush of new research has found evidence that some RNA viruses made their way into vertebrate genomes millions of years ago

Viruses do not make good fossils. But advances in genomic technology have allowed scientists to peer into the genetic material of viruses and their hosts to search for clues about their shared evolutionary history.

Genetic code from retroviruses has been found to compose some 8 percent of the human genome, having been copied in during replication and left to be inherited by us and our progeny. But non-retroviral RNA viruses do not use their host’s DNA to replicate—and some do not even enter the host cell’s nucleus. Nevertheless, new research has turned up surprising evidence that some of these viruses are enmeshed in the genomes of vertebrates—including humans and other mammals.

One of these new studies, published online July 29 in PLoS Pathogens, has uncovered some 80 examples of viral genetic data circulating in the genomes of vertebrate species for the past 40 million years.

To discover these connections, the group ran computer analyses of 5,666 genes from all known non-retroviral, single-stranded RNA virus families against the genomes of 48 vertebrate species. The strongest matches belonged to just two virus groups: Bornaviruses and filoviruses, the latter of which includes the deadly Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fever pathogens.

Another recent paper, published January 2010 in Nature, found bornavirus genes in the human genome. (Scientific American is part of Nature Publishing Group.)

Previous research had located evidence of viral fragments in the genomes of plants and insects, but in the past year new findings of these code segments in vertebrates surprised many biologists. “Retroviruses are an enormous fraction of the human genome, but that was a little understandable because the viruses have to inject their material into the DNA to survive,” says Anna Marie Skalka, basic science director emeritus at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and co-author of the PLoS Pathogens paper. Otherwise, errant genetic material from viruses that are not retroviruses can find its way into the genome of germ line cells during the RNA copy process. That material can then get spliced into the genome by long interspersed repetitive elements (LINE) that are usually busy copying their own RNA.

When these infrequent flubs happen, they can be beneficial, harmful or neutral, Skalka explains. “There are LINE integrations that cause cancer or you could look at them as providing fodder for evolution—we have more sequences in there that can evolve and eventually make other genes.”…

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]