"Am I therefore become your enemy,because I TELL YOU THE TRUTH...?"
(Galatians 4:16)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Israel tells Gazans to brace for war escalation

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip-Israel dropped bombs and leaflets on Gaza on Saturday, pounding suspected rocket sites and tunnels used by Hamas militants and warning of a wider offensive despite frantic diplomacy to end the bloodshed.Egypt hosted talks aimed at defusing the crisis, but war had the momentum on a bloody day on which more than 30 Palestinians, many of them noncombatants, were killed, according to Gaza medics.At hospitals, distraught relatives - men in jeans and jackets and women in black Islamic robes - sobbed and shrieked at the loss of family. Flames and smoke rose over Gaza City amid heavy fighting.Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas predicted a "waterfall of blood" unless all parties adhere to a United Nations call for a cease-fire. But Israel has said the Security Council resolution passed Thursday was unworkable and Hamas, the Islamic group whose government controls Gaza but is not recognized internationally, was angry that it was not consulted.A top Hamas leader said Saturday the Gaza war has ended chances of settlement and negotiations with Israel, though Hamas has always opposed both, and urged Arabs to pressure the Jewish state to end attacks in Gaza.Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made a fiery speech on Arab news channel Al-Jazeera, describing the Israeli assault as a "holocaust.""We are living the hardest moments of the resistance now, we want another intifada (uprising) in Palestine and on the Arab street," he said. Still, Hamas teams were in Cairo to discuss a cease-fire proposed by Egypt.At least 814 Palestinians, roughly half of them civilians, have died since war broke out on Dec. 27, according to Palestinian medical officials. Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, have been killed.Weary Palestinians watched from apartment windows as thousands of leaflets fluttered from aircraft with a blunt warning: Israeli forces will step up operations against Islamic militants who have unleashed a daily barrage of rocket fire on southern Israeli towns."The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is not working against the people of Gaza but against Hamas and the terrorists only," the leaflets said in Arabic. "Stay safe by following our orders."The leaflets urged Gaza residents not to help Hamas and to stay away from its members. There was no immediate sign of an escalation, though earlier in the day, witnesses said Israeli troops moved to within one mile of Gaza City before pulling back slightly.Israeli defense officials say they are prepared for a third stage of their offensive, in which ground troops would push further into Gaza, but are waiting for approval from the government. Early on Sunday, Israeli tanks were heard moving near the central Gaza border as Israeli artilley pounded the area, indicating the possibility of a larger operation.Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces fired phosphorus shells at Khouza, a village near the border, setting a row of houses on fire. Hospital officials said a woman was killed and more than 50 injured, most suffering from gas inhalation and burns....
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Gaza Protesters Take to Washington Streets

Scores of protesters hold a rally near the White House, lamenting the plight of people in Gaza after the latest skirmish with Israel. Later, the crowd marched to media outlets and businesses felt to be sympathetic to Israel...

Venezuela's Chavez threatens to expel US diplomats...

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he’s investigating whether representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas met with leaders of the political opposition, and said he may expel them from the country.Chavez said he knows a group of opposition leaders recently flew to Puerto Rico to meet with “U.S. advisers” to discuss strategies to defeat the president’s proposal to eliminate his term limits in a referendum this year. Chavez said U.S. Embassy representatives may have been present.“If I can confirm this, I’ll throw them out of the country,” Chavez said at ceremony in Caracas commemorating the launch of Venezuela’s first satellite.The socialist Venezuelan leader expelled the U.S. ambassador in Caracas in September and has repeatedly accused President George W. Bush of supporting opposition groups in Venezuela. Venezuela is the fourth-biggest supplier of foreign crude oil to the U.S.Jennifer Rahimi, the deputy press secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Caracas, said the accusations that U.S. diplomats met with opposition leaders are “completely false.”The U.S. and Venezuela maintain diplomatic ties despite U.S. Ambassador Patrick Duddy’s expulsion, and the U.S. Embassy in Caracas remains open.
By Matthew Walter
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Biden Arrives in Pakistan, Gets High Honor

Pakistan conferred one of its highest awards on visiting Vice President-elect Joe Biden as he arrived Friday for talks with the country's top military and political leaders...

Friday, January 9, 2009

U.S. seeks ship to move arms to Israel

LONDON, Jan 9-The U.S. is seeking to hire a merchant ship to deliver hundreds of tonnes of arms to Israel from Greece later this month, tender documents seen by Reuters show.The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) said the ship was to carry 325 standard 20-foot containers of what is listed as "ammunition" on two separate journeys from the Greek port of Astakos to the Israeli port of Ashdod in mid-to-late January.A "hazardous material" designation on the manifest mentions explosive substances and detonators, but no other details were given."Shipping 3,000-odd tonnes of ammunition in one go is a lot," one broker said, on condition of anonymity."This (kind of request) is pretty rare and we haven't seen much of it quoted in the market over the years," he added.The U.S. Defense Department, contacted by Reuters on Friday in Washington, had no immediate comment.The MSC transports armour and military supplies for the U.S. armed forces aboard its own fleet, but regularly hires merchant ships if logistics so require.The request for the ship was made on Dec. 31, with the first leg of the charter to arrive no later than January 25 and the second at the end of the month.The tender for the vessel follows the hiring of a commercial ship to carry a much larger consignment of ordnance in December from the United States to Israel ahead of air strikes in the Gaza Strip.A German shipping firm which won that tender confirmed the order when contacted by Reuters but declined to comment further.
Shipping brokers in London who have specialised in moving arms for the British and U.S. military in the past said such ship charters to Israel were rare
.Israel is one of America's closest allies and both nations regularly sell arms to each other.A senior military analyst in London who declined to be named said that, because of the timing, the shipments could be "irregular" and linked to the Gaza offensive.The ship hired by the MSC in December was for a much larger cargo of arms, tender documents showed.That stipulated a ship to be chartered for 42 days capable of carrying 989 standard 20-foot containers from Sunny Point, North Carolina to Ashdod.The tender document said the vessel had to be capable of "carrying 5.8 million pounds (2.6 million kg) of net explosive weight", which specialist brokers said was a very large quantity.The ship was requested early last month to load on December 15.In September, the U.S. Congress aproved the sale of 1,000 bunker-buster missiles to Israel. The GPS-guided GBU-39 is said to be one of the most accurate bombs in the world.The Jerusalem Post, citing defence officials, reported last week that a first shipment of the missiles had arrived in early December and they were used in pentetrating Hamas's underground rocket launcher sites.
(Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi; editing by Michael Roddy)
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Argentine Jews support Israel

West Bank clashes over Gaza

Palestinians protesting against the Israeli offensive on the Gaza strip have clashed with Israeli security forces in the West Bank....
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Venezuela's Jews close their schools

Demonstrators burn an Israeli flag during a protest outside Israel's embassy in Caracas, Thursday.Photo: AP
The Jewish community in Caracas is "tense" and "preoccupied" in the wake of President Hugo Chavez's decision to expel the Israel ambassador, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Venezuela Pynchas Brener said on Thursday."This government has been very friendly with Iran," Brener said. "And many Venezuelans make no distinction between Jews and Israelis -maybe they are right." Brener, 77, who spoke with The Jerusalem Post by telephone from New York, said that Jewish schools in Caracas closed for few days out of concern that they would attract anti-Israel demonstrations. Chavez's decision to expel Ambassador Shlomo Cohen came in protest against what he called Israel's "barbaric" military operation in Gaza. In 2002, Brener, a graduate of Yeshiva University who has been a rabbi in Venezuela for 41 years, supported a coup against Chavez that succeeded in deposing him for less than a week in April 2002. Since then, Brener has been on bad terms with the government.The rabbi said the latest incident affecting the Jewish community was the decision by the government to expropriate ownership of a large mall that was built by a Jewish businessman outside the San Bernadino district in Caracas.In addition, twice in recent years Venezuelan military forces have raided the 1,400-pupil Jewish school in the Los Chorros neighborhood, ostensibly looking for arms.But the most important development, which could have a major impact on the future of the country, is a referendum slated for next month.Venezuelans will be asked to approve a measure that would allow Chavez and other politicians to be reelected indefinitely.Chavez has been president since 1998."If that referendum passes I expect a lot of Jews will leave Venezuela, because it would mean Chavez is here to stay," the rabbi said.Shmuel Kornblit, Bnei Akiva's Buenos Aires-based regional director for Latin America, said that in addition to the diplomatic staff, Bnei Akiva's emissary to Venezuela, Yoav Weiner, and his wife, Maya, a Jewish Agency emissary were forced to leave. "This move does not bode well for Jewish education in Venezuela," Kornblit said by by telephone from Argentina."Jewish education in South America depends on outside educators. Now with the diplomatic mission forced to leave it will be very difficult to convince educators to come to Venezuela," he said.Kornblit explained that for security reasons the Weiners could not remain in Caracas. He added that Israelis who lacked non-Israeli passports had a difficult time obtaining visas to visit Venezuela."There is a strong anti-Israel sentiment in Venezuela, not so much anti-Semitism more anti-Zionism. That's why Haredim have fewer problems there."Over the past decade thousands of Jews left Venezuela for Miami, Madrid and other cities, he said.The Jewish community, like other affluent Venezuelan communities, was deeply concerned about Chavez's Marxist economic policies, he said."People are afraid he is going to nationalize the economy and take possession of privately owned factories and businesses. I think that concerns them more than anti-Semitic-related violence," Kornblit said.
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Chile's Palestinians dump shoes at Israeli embassy

SANTIAGO-Around 200 members of Chile's Palestinian community, the largest in South America, dumped hundreds of old shoes outside the Israeli embassy in Santiago on Thursday to protest Israel's incursion into the Gaza Strip.Inspired by an Iraqi journalist who narrowly missed U.S. President George W. Bush with his shoes and chanting "The Nazi Zionists are terrorists," the protesters called for an end to Israel's 13-day-old offensive in Gaza."We are here to repudiate the state of Israel, to show that we are suffering because of this and so that the country understands that we are being massacred," said Mauricio Abu-Ghosh, president of the Palestinian Federation in Chile.Chile is home to 120,000 people of Palestinian descent, community leaders say, making it one of the largest expatriate Palestinian communities in the West.
(Reporting by Claudio Cerda; Editing by John O'Callaghan http://www.reuters.com/article/email/idUSTRE5080IN20090109
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Oslo Muslim Pro-Hamas Riots:Anti-Israel Brutality

Italy criticizes call for Jewish boycott over Gaza

ROME-Italian politicians from right and left joined Jewish groups Friday in condemning a trade union's call to boycott Jewish-owned shops in Rome in protest at the Israeli bombing offensive in the Gaza Strip.While the union denied accusations of anti-Semitism, Rome's right-wing mayor Gianni Alemanno visited the city's ancient Jewish quarter known as the Ghetto and said the "criminal" proposal echoed the race laws under fascism in the 1930s."I am an Italian citizen and it infuriates me that people don't differentiate between the mentality and opinions of an Italian from what is happening in Israel," Jewish Italian shopkeeper Giuseppe Livoli told La Repubblica newspaper.Israel's offensive against Hamas guerrillas has lasted two weeks and the U.N. Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire. Hamas officials say the Palestinian death toll is now 783 people, more than a third of them children. Israel says its aim is to put a stop to years of rocket fire by Hamas on Israeli towns that have killed 22 people since 2000.Italian newspapers reproduced handbills they said were dished out Thursday by the small Flaica-Cub union, linked to the retail and food sectors. The flyers urged a boycott of "shops in central Rome linked to the Israelite community."But the union's provincial president Giancarlo Desiderati said on its website Friday that "we never singled out Rome's Jewish community ... We condemn any form of anti-Semitism.""What we propose with our initiative is a definitive boycott of Israel because whoever uses military force against unarmed civilians, whether they are Palestinian or Israeli, commits a crime against human life," said Desiderati.The head of Rome's Jewish community, Riccardo Pacifici, said he would be suing the union under Italian anti-racism laws.Rome's Ghetto is home to what may be the oldest surviving Jewish diaspora in the world, dating from the 2nd century BC. Singled out by race laws under dictator Benito Mussolini in the 1930s and '40s, thousands died in Nazi concentration camps.Italy's main trade unions denounced the boycott proposal as "shameful" and suggested that Rome shopkeepers throw the Flaica handbills-which they said listed streets dominated by Jewish shops under the slogan "sales dirtied by blood"-in the trash.
(Editing by Jon Boyle)
By Stephen Brown

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Obama:Teheran threatens US security

President-elect Barack Obama on Friday repeated his campaign assertion that Teheran "is a genuine threat to US national security."Obama told reporters at a Washington news conference that he would have more to say about the Iranian nuclear program after he is inaugurated.Obama also touted a "practical, pragmatic approach" to concerns about its nuclear development and said once more that he believes diplomacy should be put into play more than it has been in the past.Obama also said his administration will "uphold our highest values and ideals" in its approach to fighting terrorism.He was asked at the conference whether he would continue a policy of harsh interrogation, for instance.Obama replied that he has told CIA Director-designate Leon Panetta and retired Adm. Dennis Blair that he expects the Geneva Conventions to be honored.The president-elect introduced his choices for CIA chief, Panetta, and national intelligence director, Blair, earlier on Friday.Obama described them as men of "unquestioned integrity" and "broad experience" who are "uniquely qualified" for the posts. He said they will help the United States stay ahead of emerging threats.The introduction of Panetta and Blair comes four days after their names were leaked to reporters.There was surprise in Washington over the choice of Panetta for the CIA post. The former White House chief of staff has no direct intelligence experience.Blair is a former head of US Pacific Command who was credited with fighting terrorism in southeast Asia after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
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"NOT PRACTICAL":Israel Responds to UN Resolution Calling for Inmediate Cease Fire

Somali Pirates Reportedly Release Saudi Oil Supertanker

MOGADISHU,Somalia-Somali pirates released an oil-laden Saudi supertanker after receiving a $3 million ransom, a negotiator for the bandits said Friday. The MV Sirius Star, a brand new tanker with a 25-member crew, was seized in the Indian Ocean Nov. 15 in a dramatic escalation of the high seas piracy that has plagued the shipping lanes off Somalia.Mohamed Said, a negotiator with the pirates that held the Saudi tanker, told The Associated Press by telephone the ship had been released and was traveling to "safe waters."The ship owner, Vela International Marine Ltd., declined comment on the claim Friday.But Poland, which has some of its nationals among the tanker's crew, said it had official confirmation from the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Kenya that the Sirius Star had been released by the hijackers.A Western diplomat based in Nairobi, Kenya, also said the ship was free, citing the International Maritime Organization. He requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.The U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain would not explicitly confirm the release of the tanker. But Lt. Virginia Newman, a spokeswoman for the Combined Maritime Forces based in Bahrain, said it was likely that "a considerable sum" had been paid in ransom and that "It is expected that the ship will get under way in the next 24 hours." She would not elaborate.The tanker was hijacked more than 500 miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya. That is far south of where warships have recently increased their patrols in the Gulf of Aden, one of the busiest channels in the world, leading to and from the Suez Canal, and the scene of most past attacks....
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Obama camp 'prepared to talk to Hamas'

The incoming Obama administration is prepared to abandon George Bush's ­doctrine of isolating Hamas by establishing a channel to the Islamist organisation, sources close to the transition team say.The move to open contacts with Hamas, which could be initiated through the US intelligence services, would represent a definitive break with the Bush ­presidency's ostracising of the group. The state department has designated Hamas a terrorist organisation, and in 2006 ­Congress passed a law banning US financial aid to the group.The Guardian has spoken to three ­people with knowledge of the discussions in the Obama camp. There is no talk of Obama approving direct diplomatic negotiations with Hamas early on, but he is being urged by advisers to initiate low-level or clandestine approaches, and there is growing recognition in Washington that the policy of ostracising Hamas is counter-productive. A tested course would be to start ­contacts through Hamas and the US intelligence services, similar to the secret process through which the US engaged with the PLO in the 1970s. Israel did not become aware of the contacts until much later.A UN resolution was agreed last night at the UN, calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire between Hamas and Israeli forces in Gaza. The resolution was passed, though the US, represented by secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, abstained.Richard Haass, a diplomat under both Bush presidents who was named by a number of news organisations this week as Obama's choice for Middle East envoy, supports low-level contacts with Hamas provided there is a ceasefire in place and a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation emerges.Another potential contender for a ­foreign policy role in the Obama administration suggested that the president-elect would not be bound by the Bush doctrine of isolating Hamas."This is going to be an administration that is committed to negotiating with ­critical parties on critical issues," the source said.There are a number of options that would avoid a politically toxic scenario for Obama of seeming to give legitimacy to Hamas."Secret envoys, multilateral six-party talk-like approaches. The total isolation of Hamas that we promulgated under Bush is going to end," said Steve Clemons, the director of the American Strategy ­Programme at the New America ­Foundation. "You could do something through the Europeans. You could invent a structure that is multilateral. It is going to be hard for the neocons to swallow," he said. "I think it is going to happen."But one Middle East expert close to the transition team said: "It is highly unlikely that they will be public about it."The two weeks since Israel began its military campaign against Gaza have heightened anticipation about how Obama intends to deal with the Middle East. He adopted a strongly pro-Israel position during the election campaign, as did his erstwhile opponent and choice for secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. By Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
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RUSSIA TODAY:"UN supports Gaza ceasefire plan"

The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution calling for an immediate and durable ceasefire between Hamas militants and Israeli forces in Gaza. It also welcomed the prospect of an international conference on the Middle East peace process in Moscow in 2009....

Gaza Violence Continues Despite U.N. Resolution

Israel and Hamas are still intensely fighting despite a U.N. resolution calling for a cease-fire. A Hamas spokesman says it's not interested in the cease-fire, because the group was not consulted...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Israel Bombs Gaza After U.N. Calls for Cease-Fire

Israeli warplanes continued bombing Gaza into the night Friday after the U.N. called for an immediate end to the fighting between Israel and Hamas militants.A reporter for the BBC located at the Israel-Gaza border said explosions could still be heard and smoke was seen drifting over the Strip on Friday morning.Three days of intense negotiations over the wording of a Gaza cease-fire resolution culminated Thursday evening with the U.N. Security Council passing the measure, calling for an immediate, durable truce between Israel and Hamas.The resolution passed by a 14-0 vote, with the United States abstaining. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. agrees with the principles of the cease-fire resolution but wants to see the outcome of an Egyptian effort to bring the Israelis and Palestinians to the negotiating table.The cease-fire resolution spearheaded by Egypt and France must be "not just applauded, but supported," Rice said.Despite the breakthrough in the United Nations, the two-week-old war in the Gaza Strip raged on, and early Friday, an Israeli airstrike flattened a five-story building in northern Gaza, one of more than 30 targets struck before dawn by Israeli warplanes.Hamas security officials said the strike killed at least seven people, including an infant...
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US abstains as UN calls for Gaza cease-fire

UNITED NATIONS-In a surprise move, the United States abstained from a U.N. Security Council vote Thursday night urging an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, saying it wanted to see the results of Egyptian-mediated talks with Hamas and Israel before calling for a halt to military action.The 14-0 U.N. vote came on the 13th day of an Israeli air and ground offensive against the Islamic group Hamas which rules Gaza and has been launching rockets and mortars into southern Israel for years. It followed three days of intense negotiations between ministers from key Arab nations and the council's veto-wielding Western powers-the U.S., Britain and France.Israel and Hamas were not parties to the vote and it will now be up to them to stop the fighting. But the text of the resolution was hammered out by the United States, Israel's chief ally, and by Arab nations that have ties to Hamas and the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories."We are all very conscious that peace is made on the ground while resolutions are written in the United Nations," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States "fully supports" the resolution but abstained because it "thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation," referring to an Egyptian-French initiative aimed at achieving a cease-fire.In deciding that the U.S. should not block the resolution, Rice said, "the Security Council has provided a road map" for Gaza."I believe that it is those efforts that will ultimately help to lead to a durable cease-fire ... but to a sustainable peace in Gaza, and we must all support the Egyptian efforts," Rice said.Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki told reporters he was "not happy" and had expected all 15 council members to vote for resolution. He said Palestinians are concerned that Israel will delay a cease-fire for several days and expand its attack to new targets in Gaza.Israel "must immediately implement this resolution," Malki said. "The moment that they do so, I believe that Hamas will do the same."Malki is a member of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' government, whose authority extends only to the West Bank after rival Hamas violently took over Gaza in June 2007.Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev did not comment directly on the call for an immediate cease-fire, saying the international community must focus its attention on the cessation of "Hamas terrorist activity and make clear that a terrorist organization can never be a legitimate leadership." "The past eight years have taught us that an arrangement must be fully respected and secured, including the total cessation of rocket fire and smuggling, in order to be durable and to allow the possibility of lasting peace," Shalev said.With Palestinian civilian casualties mounting, the Arabs were under intense pressure to get a resolution-and several diplomats said they wanted it before Friday prayers at mosques in the region.As of Thursday, about 750 Palestinians, at least a quarter civilians, had been killed along with 13 Israelis.The resolution expressed "grave concern" at the escalating violence and the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and emphasized the need to open all border crossings and achieve a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.Arab nations called for the emergency Security Council meeting to get the council to call for an immediate cease-fire.They had been pressing their own resolution, which not only would have demanded an end to all military activity in Gaza but was revised to include mention of Hamas by name and call for an international force to prevent arms smuggling-two key U.S. demands.But the changes in the Arab text didn't meet all the demands of the United States and its key Western allies, Britain and France, all veto-wielding members of the council....
By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press Writer
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UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire

UN Security Council calls for immediate Gaza truce

JERUSALEM-The U.N. Security Council called for an "immediate" and "durable" cease-fire in Gaza in a resolution Thursday night even as fighting between Israel and Hamas raged-with early morning airstrikes killing seven Palestinians and pushing the death toll to about 760 in the near two-week conflict. U.N. action came hours after the world body suspended food deliveries to Gaza and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance after forces fired on aid workers. It also followed concerns of a wider conflict which flared as militants in Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel.The vote was 14-0, with the United States abstaining. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the U.S. "fully supports" the resolution but abstained "to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation" with Israel and Hamas, also aimed at achieving a cease-fire.Israel and Hamas were not parties to the vote and it will now be up to them to stop the fighting. But the text of the resolution was hammered out by the United States, Israel's chief ally, and by Arab nations that have ties to Hamas and the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.As the Security Council took action late Thursday in New York, it was early Friday in Gaza and violence continued unabated.an Israeli airstrike flattened a five-story building in northern Gaza, killing at least seven people, including an infant, Hamas security officials said. It was one of more than 30 targets struck before dawn by Israeli warplanes.It was not immediately clear whether the owner of the destroyed house was linked to Hamas.Militants in Lebanon fired several Katyusha rockets into northern Israel early Thursday, including one that tore through the roof of a nursing home and injured two people. Israel responded swiftly with mortar fire, raising the possibility of a two-front conflict.The Security Council resolution "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza." It expressed "grave concern" at the escalating violence and the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and emphasized the need to open all border crossings and achieve a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.It also calls on U.N. member states "to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable cease-fire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained re-opening" of border crossings.In addition, the resolution "condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians," calls for "unimpeded" humanitarian access to Gaza, and welcomes the initiative to open "humanitarian corridors."
By ARTHUR MAX and IBRAHIM BARZAK, Associated Press Writers
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Feminists worldwide promoting 'sexual genocide'

Sex-selective abortion is rampant in many countries and continues to grow. According to a publication in Orissa, the female sex ratio in India alone is at an all-time low. Steven Mosher heads the Population Research Institute, which monitors abortion internationally. "This is done in India in epidemic proportions. It's done in China," he notes. "It's done in many, many of the civilizations of East Asia and Southeast Asia."Mosher contends it has been a losing situation for female children for centuries.However, he says the rise of Christianity has actually helped females, not hurt them, because the Bible recognizes them as having souls and also as the pinnacle of God's creation in Genesis 2. "Let's look back in history before the coming of Christianity. Virtually all societies treated women as not just the weaker sex, but the disposable sex," he points out. "Female infanticide was practiced by the Greeks, by the Romans, by most of the pagan societies-and it was only with the coming of Christianity that the status of women was raised." But Mosher adds that radical feminists continue to promote abortion internationally at the expense of their own gender. "The feminists, who want to eliminate all distinctions between men and women, are only exposing their unborn sisters to a horrible form of sexual genocide," he concludes.
By Charlie Butts
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GAY WATCH:Homosexuals immune to Mass. budget cuts

A pro-family advocate says budget cuts are coming for Massachusetts schools, but programs aimed at promoting homosexuality need not worry.Many states across the U.S. are facing budget deficits, and Massachusetts is not immune. Governor Deval Patrick and state lawmakers have already slashed millions from the budget, but more cuts are on the way.Brian Camenker of MassResistance says more than 1,000 state jobs as well as public school funding have been cut, while mental health facilities have also been closed.However, pro-homosexual programs in Massachusetts' public schools have remained.According to Camenker, the governor and the legislature are "very tight" with the homosexual lobby."Very publicly, I might add, as anyone I've ever seen.The governor marches in the gay pride parades," he points out. "Anything they want, they get." A large sum of money-$850,000-that is allotted for these pro-homosexual school programs is being questioned. "And that has been untouchable," Camenker contends. "I have spoken with the Senate president's office; I've spoken with the governor's office. I've spoken with the governor's budget office-and you know,they all support it,and that's that. "Camenker notes that $150,000 of the $850,000 was cut. But upon further investigation, he found that the $150,000 was being funneled back in through the Department of Public Health. MassResistance plans to organize thousands of concerned citizens to converge on the legislature and demand that this "outrage" stop.
By Pete Chagnon
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Two Top Al Qaeda Terrorists Killed in Missile Attack

A New Year's Day predator strike on an Al Qaeda safe house in northern Pakistan has killed two top Al Qaeda terrorists, FOX News has learned.The men were high on the FBI's "most wanted" list, identified by agency officials as Usama al-Kini-also known as Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam, Al Qaeda's chief of operations in Pakistan-and his lieutenant, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan.A U.S. counter-terrorism expert says that they were two of the most lethal rising stars in Al Qaeda and had killed Americans in the past and planned to kill Americans again in the future.Al-Kini and Swedan were indicted in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, which many consider the key precursor to 9/11. Also, they are believed to be behind a deadly suicide bombing at a Marriot hotel in Pakistan's capital that killed 53 in September."They died preparing new acts of terror," the counter-terrorism expert told FOX News.
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Sleeping Security Guards Cost Nuclear Plant $65,000

The operators of a Pennsylvania nuclear power plant have been fined $65,000 after a federal commission learned several security guards at the facility were sleeping while on duty. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) leveled the penalty against Chicago-based Exelon Nuclear after an investigation found "multiple occasions during which multiple guards were inattentive" at the Peach Bottom plant outside of Philadelphia."They are in the ready room to be on watch or to respond," said Diane Screnci, a spokesperson for the NRC. "They were not attentive."Beth Archer, a spokesperson for Exelon Nuclear, agreed that the behavior of the guards was unacceptable. "We have agreed to pay the fine," said Archer. "We feel the amount was appropriate for the issue."Peter Stockton, a senior investigator at Project on Government Oversight, a Washington-based government watchdog organization, called the fine incurred by Exelon "unbelievable" and said it was not enough. "The NRC really needs to change the fee structure and make it painful for them," said Stockton. "It's not much of a deterrent. What good does it do to whack them with a $65,000 fine? That company makes hundreds of millions of dollars. That's a drop in the bucket for them."The violation against Exelon was issued as a Severity Level III in accordance with Nuclear Regulatory Commission enforcement policy and carries a minimum fine of $65,000. Security levels II and I carry higher minimum fines.The NRC investigation began after they received a videotape in September 2007 that showed security guards sleeping in the ready room of the Peach Bottom nuclear plant.Video of the sleeping guards was first obtained and the story reported by WCBS-TV in New York.While Exelon expressed concern about the guards sleeping on duty and has agreed to pay the fine, Archer insisted "This was not a significant impact on the security of Peach Bottom," and "at no time was security compromised."Archer continued by saying Peach Bottom's defense and depth security system includes security officers on duty at various check points and security towers, as well as those constantly patrolling the station.She noted that other on duty officers would have responded in the case of an emergency, although she admitted "There would be a slight delay."
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Putin Blames EU in Gas Crisis as Europeans Freeze to Death

NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the European Union of moving too slowly to help negotiate an end to the gas dispute between Russia and Ukraine, as a deal to dispatch EU pipeline monitors was reached Thursday.EU governments criticized both countries, saying it was unacceptable to see homes unheated, businesses closing and schools shut down in the middle of winter due to gas shortages because neither Russia nor Ukraine could stick to its supply contracts.The chiefs of Russia's state-controlled gas monopoly Gazprom and Ukraine's Naftogaz held talks Thursday for the first time since negotiations collapsed on New Year's Eve over 2009 gas prices. Russia said it was willing to resume pumping natural gas to Europe through Ukrainian pipelines as soon as monitors were in place to verify the gas flow.Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the EU presidency, said Thursday he spoke to Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and they agreed on how monitors should check Russian gas entering and leaving Ukraine."Our European partners must act quickly in these unusual conditions," Putin told journalists at his residence outside Moscow."We don't need some group of ladies and gentlemen to go to Kiev and sit and drink vodka in the hotel," Putin said. "We need people at the points where our gas enters and exits Ukraine in the direction of Europe."Russia stopped all natural gas supplies to Ukraine on Jan. 1 but kept supplies flowing to Europe through Ukraine's pipelines until Wednesday, when all deliveries stopped.Russia accused Ukraine of siphoning off gas intended for European customers.Ukraine denied this.Putin said Ukraine must pay the current European price for natural gas, which is more than twice what Ukraine paid last year. Russia then would agree to double the fee it pays to ship that gas over Ukrainian pipelines to Europe, he said, a change from Gazprom's earlier stance that it would not pay more in transit fees.Ukraine, however, was unlikely to agree to that arrangement. It has offered to pay $201 per 1,000 cubic meters, up from last year's price of $179.50 but nowhere near the Russian demand of $418...
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Effort to resolve gas crisis inches ahead

PARIS: A high-level effort to resolve the gas crisis in Europe inched forward Thursday after Gazprom, the Russian natural gas monopoly, said it would resume shipments as soon as monitors were in place to verify that Ukraine was not tapping supplies meant for European Union customers.But Ukraine balked at Gazprom's demand that Russian monitors be allowed to inspect the Ukrainian pipeline network, frustrating a deal amid an increasingly serious fuel shortage.Aleksei Miller, Gazprom's chief executive, said in Brussels that monitors from 10 countries would help verify that the gas arriving at Ukraine's eastern border for European customers was being shipped to the west. He said that once the monitors were fully deployed, "we will resume gas supplies to ensure 100 percent of European transit."Oleh Dubyna, chief executive of Naftogaz, the Ukrainian national energy company, said Ukraine was ready to resume pumping as soon as Gazprom restarted shipments, on the condition that Gazprom provided gas to run the pipeline system.The Ukraine government also signed a protocol with the EU to accept European monitors, who could be in place Friday.But EU officials in Brussels said that Gazprom refused to restart exports unless Russian experts were included in the monitoring group in Ukraine, and that Ukraine would not accept the condition.The EU energy commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, said he did not know when gas service would be restored, despite the fact that European citizens were "suffering a lot."The impact of the gas cuts was most painful in southeastern Europe, where hundreds of thousands of people in Serbia, Bosnia and Bulgaria were without heat. In a European parliamentary committee hearing Thursday, Evgeni Kirilov, a member from Bulgaria - which depends almost completely on Russia for its gas and has reserves sufficient for only a few more days - said he could not understand "how two of the biggest countries in Europe can be so uncivilized and irresponsible."He added:"We are hostage to this irresponsibility. "Christopher Beazley, a British member, warned Russia that it was harming relations with Europe. He pointed to "cyberwars in Estonia" - a wave of Internet attacks was launched from Russia against Web sites in Estonia in 2007 during a political dispute - as well as the brief war with Georgia last summer, and now the cutoff of gas."Mr. Putin must understand that these tactics will not work," he said, referring to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia.
Gazprom halted all shipments to Ukraine for its own use on Jan. 1, then stopped gas exports for transshipment through Ukraine on Wednesday, saying its western neighbor was taking gas from the pipeline meant for EU customers. The dispute has left Ukraine and 17 European countries with either no gas supplies or a sharp reduction in supplies in the middle of winter...
By David Jolly
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NATO might offer gas help to Europe

BRUSSELS, Belgium-A senior U.S. diplomat says NATO may have to help alleviate the effects of natural gas shortages in member states if the dispute between Ukraine and Russia continues to hinder deliveries.U.S. ambassador to NATO Kurt Volker says the although the dispute between the Russian and Ukrainian gas companies is a commercial one, it also has political and security implications.Russia stopped all gas shipments to Ukraine but kept supplies flowing to Europe through Ukraine's pipelines until Wednesday, when all deliveries ceased.That has affected energy supplies to at least a dozen European nations.Officials say NATO has a number of military pipelines that could be put to use to provide fuel.
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RUSSIA TODAY:Ukraine leaves Europe without gas - Gazprom

Russian energy company Gazprom says Ukraine is responsible for gas cuts affecting more than a dozen European countries. Russia says it has been forced to stop shipments of gas through Ukraine after supplies were being siphoned off. Many EU states are now facing fuel shortages as the continent is gripped by a cold winter snap....

Serbia Shivers As Gas Supplies Dry Up

The gas war between Ukraine and Russia is leaving more than a dozen nations in the cold and many residents searching for alternative ways to stay warm....

New Cold War in Europe as Russia Turns Off Gas Supplies...

Russian PM Vladimir Putin has said Moscow will resume pumping gas to Europe once independent monitors are in place to check the flow to EU markets.Ukraine, whose dispute with Russia over pricing led to the crisis, said it would guarantee transit to Europe.The Czech EU presidency said monitors would check Russian gas entering and leaving Ukraine but it was unclear if a firm deal had been agreed.Earlier, talks between the EU, Russian and Ukrainian officials stalled.Ukraine, whose dispute with Russia over pricing led to the crisis, earlier said it would guarantee transit to Europe.The EU presidency did not specify when the monitors would be in place or when gas supplies would resume."This deployment should lead to the Russian supplies of gas to EU member states being restored," the EU presidency statement said.The talks in Brussels on Thursday were aimed at ending the row that has seen supply to Europe cut off.Ten of thousands of homes in Europe have been left with no heating, a situation which the European Commission has described as completely unacceptable.
International monitors
Mr Putin had urged the EU to send monitors to Ukraine "as soon as possible", so that gas deliveries to Europe could resume."As soon as people show up there and really sit down and start working, gas will immediately resume flowing," he told reporters at his residence outside Moscow.Ukrainian officials say the monitors could be in place as early as Friday.Mr Putin also said Russia was prepared to pay the market price for Ukraine's transit fee, as long as Kiev paid the market price for gas for its own use.However, Russian officials say they have not yet signed a deal with Ukraine.Oleg Dubyna, the head of Ukrainian gas company Naftogaz, said Kiev would transport Russian gas to Europe as long as Russia provided additional gas to keep the system running.Some EU states are getting no gas at all or have seen supplies sharply cut.Ukraine denies Russian accusations that it is stealing gas passing through export pipelines on its territory.Russia cut gas to Ukraine itself a week ago as the row over pricing and allegedly unpaid bills escalated.The EU depends on Russia for about a quarter of its total gas supplies, some 80% of which are pumped via Ukraine.Brussels has so far avoided taking sides in the dispute, calling only for deliveries to resume urgently, the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse reports from Kiev.Apart from the immediate question of who is to blame, Kiev and Moscow have fundamental disagreements over how much Ukraine owes Russia for last year's gas and how much it should pay this year, our correspondent adds.
Nuclear U-turn?
On Wednesday, heating systems shut down in some parts of central Europe, as outdoor temperatures plunged to -10C or lower.The list of countries that reported a total halt of Russian supplies via Ukraine included Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Macedonia, Serbia, and Austria. Countries in eastern and central Europe have been particularly badly affected, as they rely heavily on Russian gas supplies but don't have access to the same kind of reserves found in Germany, Italy and France.
Power stations have been told to switch to fuel oil where possible, while big industrial users have been told to prepare to limit or halt use.There have also been calls for Soviet-era nuclear plants to be restarted in Bulgaria and Slovakia.

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Group That Funded Rep. Ellison's Pilgrimage to Mecca Called a Front for Extremism

Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison's groundbreaking pilgrimage to Mecca last month was paid for by an American Muslim organization that has ties to Islamic radicals and is "the Muslim equivalent of the neo-Nazi party," his critics say.Ellison, a Democrat, became the first U.S. congressman ever to make the hajj pilgrimage when he visited Islam's holy city in December.The trip was funded by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, a non-profit interfaith group that is one of 55 branches of the MAS nationwide. The pilgrimage was hailed by Muslim activists in the U.S."A U.S. congressman going on hajj sends a very positive message to the Muslim world about America and the religious diversity in America," said Ibrahim Hooper, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group.But Ellison, the only Muslim in Congress, is coming under fire for his ties to MAS, which one terrorism expert called "the Muslim equivalent of the neo-Nazi party.""It is the de facto arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in the U.S.," said Steven Emerson, director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism. "The agenda of the MAS is to ... impose Islamic law in the U.S., to undermine U.S. counterterrorism policy."The MAS was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, an international Islamist movement created in Egypt in 1928. Radical members of the Brotherhood founded the terror group Hamas and were among the first members of Al Qaeda.The Muslim American Society's former secretary general has acknowledged that the group was founded by the Brotherhood, and in 2004 he estimated that about half of MAS members were in the Muslim Brotherhood."Ikhwan [Brotherhood] members founded MAS, but MAS went way beyond that point of conception," Shaker Elsayed told the Chicago Tribune, explaining that the group had expanded to include a wider viewpoint.The Department of Justice has never taken action against MAS and declined to comment on whether it was investigating the group's ties."As a general rule, the Justice Department does not comment on whether or not a particular group or individual is under investigation or has been under investigation," said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for DOJ.Ellison gave the keynote address at MAS-Minnesota's conventions in 2007 and 2008, and one of the organization's directors took time off his job to campaign for Ellison during his run for the House in 2006. Ellison was also the first guest on an MAS radio show launched last month.Representatives for MAS-Minnesota did not return calls or e-mails requesting comment. But Mahdi Bray, the national director who campaigned for Ellison, denied his group had funded the congressman's pilgrimage, calling the story a "myth" and "urban legend" that needed to be laid to rest."Keith Ellison is a member of Congress who knows that congressmen don't take trips sponsored by nonprofits. That would be a breach of congressional ethics," said Bray, executive director of the MAS Freedom Foundation.But Ellison's office told FOXNews.com that MAS had indeed paid for the congressman's hajj."The trip, funded by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, was fully reviewed and approved in advance by the House Ethics Committee," Ellison's office said in a statement to FOXNews.com.The office, which did not say how much Ellison's trip cost, defended MAS as a highly regarded interfaith organization with many ties in Minnesota."The Muslim American Society of Minnesota is a widely respected 501c3 organization incorporated in Minnesota, whose mission is to promote interfaith understanding," Ellison's office said in a statement to FOXNews.com. "The Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MASMN) has an ongoing interfaith project with the Minnesota Council of Churches, and a community outreach partnership with the St. Paul Police Department..."
By Joseph Abrams
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FBI Warns of Inauguration Terror Threat

WASHINGTON – The upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama is an attractive target for international and domestic terrorists, but U.S. intelligence officials have no information about specific threats to the Jan. 20 event.An internal intelligence assessment, obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, says the high visibility of the event, the presence of dignitaries and the significance of swearing in the country's first black president make the inauguration vulnerable to attacks.What concerns analysts most, the report says, is the potential use of improvised explosive devices, a hostage situation or suicide bombers.While security will be tight around the U.S. Capitol, the joint FBI and Homeland Security assessment says nearby hotels, public gatherings, restaurants and roads could be vulnerable to some kind of attack.Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said security concerns during inaugurations have been elevated since the 2001 terror attacks. "I think it will be the most security, as far as I'm aware, that any inauguration has had," Chertoff said in an interview with the AP.Chertoff also said there is no specific intelligence pointing to terrorist plots during the event."We have scrubbed very hard to look at anything that would suggest a credible, imminent threat or one that was specifically focused on the inauguration," Chertoff said, though not referring to the intelligence assessment."We're not, at this point, aware of a credible, specific, imminent threat that would affect the inauguration."The Secret Service, which is in charge of the overall security for the event, announced Wednesday that bridges into Washington and about 3.5 square miles of the downtown will be closed on Jan. 20. The security perimeter covers more of the city than previous inaugurations.The analysis says that threats against Obama have increased since he was elected, which also poses concern for the inauguration.According to the intelligence assessment, a so-called lone wolf poses the greatest threat during the inauguration because such criminals are generally not affiliated with any specific group or act without the direction of a group. There have been some lone wolf threats reported, but nothing points to a well-planned plot, the assessment said.Officials are concerned about explosives placed in crowded areas and people impersonating emergency and law enforcement officials, but they have no specific information that indicates terrorists are planning to do this, the assessment said.While intelligence officials have seen no credible threats to the event from international terrorists or domestic terrorists, al-Qaida and its affiliates remain a threat to U.S. interests within the country and abroad, and the significance of Obama's presidency raises the potential threat from hate groups.

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UFO WATCH:British Wind Turbine Possibly Hit by UFO

Locals were woken by the 4am smash after strange lights were spotted streaking towards the 290ft-tall generator on a wind farm.Baffled power chiefs said of the smash in Conisholme, Lincs: “We have a team investigating.” There was no trace of the missing blade. A UFO expert said: “We are very excited.” A woman motorist told how she saw a UFO zoom towards the wind farm and strike the 290ft turbine. Dorothy Willows-who lives half a mile from the scene of the hit-and-run-was in her car when “strange lights” loomed in the evening sky. She was among dozens who spotted the mysterious flashing orangey-yellow spheres over Lincolnshire-where the turbine was left wrecked.Dorothy, of Louth, said: “The lights were moving across the sky towards the wind farm."Then I saw a low flying object. It was skimming across the sky towards the turbines.”Hours later there was an almighty smash.Dorothy said: “My husband Stephen was woken at 4am by the bang.”Afterwards there was no trace of one of the turbine’s three huge 65ft blades-ripped off in the collision.Another was left twisted and useless. Other locals told how the lights looked like balls of flames.Lesley Whittingham, 71, even managed to photograph it-and said: “It looked like a giant explosion in the air.”John Harrison, another witness, described how he looked out of his landing window and saw a “massive ball of light with tentacles going right down to the ground” over the wind farm. He said: “It was huge. With the tentacles it looked just like an octopus.”The object that struck the turbine at Conisholme near Louth on Sunday dodged others surrounding it-and last night experts had no explanation for what it was. There were NO reports of any aircraft collisions.Council health and safety officials said even the strongest gale was unlikely to be responsible.The damage was described by the Health and Safety Executive as a “unique incident”.Wind farm company Ecotricity admitted: “We don’t know what caused the problem. We are investigating.”UFO expert Russ Kellett, of Flying Saucer Review, told how dozens of reports of mystery objects poured in before the crash.He said: “Balls of light were seen in the sky and the MoD has no explanation. We are very, very excited about this.”Last night the incident was the talk of the internet. It was dubbed the “Octopus UFO” because of the tentacles and how the lights appeared joined in formation.The MoD said of the latest scare: “Unless there is evidence of a potential threat, there is no attempt to identify the nature of each sighting.”
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Mystery Roar Detected From Faraway Space

LONG BEACH, Calif.-Space is typically thought of as a very quiet place. But one team of astronomers has found a strange cosmic noise that booms six times louder than expected.The roar is from the distant cosmos.Nobody knows what causes it.Of course, sound waves can't travel in a vacuum (which is what most of space is), or at least they can't very efficiently. But radio waves can.Radio waves are not sound waves, but they are still electromagnetic waves, situated on the low-frequency end of the light spectrum.Many objects in the universe, including stars and quasars, emit radio waves.Even our home galaxy, the Milky Way, emits a static hiss (first detected in 1931 by physicist Karl Jansky). Other galaxies also send out a background radio hiss.But the newly detected signal, described here today at the 213th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, is far louder than astronomers expected. There is "something new and interesting going on in the universe," said Alan Kogut of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.A team led by Kogut detected the signal with a balloon-borne instrument named ARCADE (Absolute Radiometer for Cosmology, Astrophysics, and Diffuse Emission).In July 2006, the instrument was launched from NASA's Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas, and reached an altitude of about 120,000 feet (36,500 meters), where the atmosphere thins into the vacuum of space.ARCADE's mission was to search the sky for faint signs of heat from the first generation of stars, but instead they heard a roar from the distant reaches of the universe."The universe really threw us a curve," Kogut said. "Instead of the faint signal we hoped to find, here was this booming noise six times louder than anyone had predicted."Detailed analysis of the signal ruled out primordial stars or any known radio sources, including gas in the outermost halo of our own galaxy.Other radio galaxies also can't account for the noise-there just aren't enough of them."You'd have to pack them into the universe like sardines," said study team member Dale Fixsen of the University of Maryland. "There wouldn't be any space left between one galaxy and the next."The signal is measured to be six times brighter than the combined emission of all known radio sources in the universe.For now, the origin of the signal remains a mystery."We really don't know what it is,"said team member Michael Seiffert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.And not only has it presented astronomers with a new puzzle, it is obscuring the sought-for signal from the earliest stars.But the cosmic static may itself provide important clues to the development of galaxies when the universe was much younger, less than half its present age.Because the radio waves come from far away, traveling at the speed of light, they therefore represent an earlier time in the universe."This is what makes science so exciting," Seiffert said. "You start out on a path to measure something-in this case, the heat from the very first stars-but run into something else entirely, some unexplained."
By Andrea Thompson
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Powerful Solar Storm Could Shut Down U.S. for Months

A new study from the National Academy of Sciences outlines grim possibilities on Earth for a worst-case scenario solar storm.Damage to power grids and other communications systems could be catastrophic, the scientists conclude, with effects leading to a potential loss of governmental control of the situation.The prediction is based in part on major solar storm in 1859 caused telegraph wires to short out in the United States and Europe, igniting widespread fires.It was perhaps the worst in the past 200 years, according to the new study, and with the advent of modern power grids and satellites, much more is at risk."A contemporary repetition of the 1859 event would cause significantly more extensive (and possibly catastrophic) social and economic disruptions," the researchers conclude.When the sun is in the active phase of its 11-year cycle, it can unleash powerful magnetic storms that disable satellites, threaten astronaut safety, and even disrupt communication systems on Earth.The worst storms can knock out power grids by inducing currents that melt transformers.Modern power grids are so interconnected that a big space storm-the type expected to occur about once a century-could cause a cascade of failures that would sweep across the United States, cutting power to 130 million people or more in this country alone, the new report concludes.Such widespread power outages, though expected to be a rare possibility, would affect other vital systems."Impacts would be felt on interdependent infrastructures with, for example, potable water distribution affected within several hours; perishable foods and medications lost in 12-24 hours; immediate or eventual loss of heating/air conditioning, sewage disposal, phone service, transportation, fuel resupply and so on," the report states.Outages could take months to fix, the researchers say. Banks might close, and trade with other countries might halt."Emergency services would be strained, and command and control might be lost," write the researchers, led by Daniel Baker, director of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder."Whether it is terrestrial catastrophes or extreme space weather incidents, the results can be devastating to modern societies that depend in a myriad of ways on advanced technological systems," Baker said in a statement released with the report.
Stormy past
Solar storms have had significant effects in modern time:
— In 1989, the sun unleashed a tempest that knocked out power to all of Quebec, Canada.
— A remarkable 2003 rampage included 10 major solar flares over a two-week period, knocking out two Earth-orbiting satellites and crippling an instrument aboard a Mars orbiter.
"Obviously, the sun is Earth's life blood," said Richard Fisher, director of the Heliophysics division at NASA. "To mitigate possible public safety issues, it is vital that we better understand extreme space weather events caused by the sun's activity.""Space weather can produce solar storm electromagnetic fields that induce extreme currents in wires, disrupting power lines, causing wide-spread blackouts and affecting communication cables that support the Internet," the report states. "Severe space weather also produces solar energetic particles and the dislocation of the Earth's radiation belts, which can damage satellites used for commercial communications, global positioning and weather forecasting."
Rush to prepare
The race is on for better forecasting abilities, as the next peak in solar activity is expected to come around 2012.While the sun is in a lull now, activity can flare up at any moment, and severe space weather — how severe, nobody knows — will ramp up a year or two before the peak.Some scientists expect the next peak to bring more severe events than other recent peaks."A catastrophic failure of commercial and government infrastructure in space and on the ground can be mitigated through raising public awareness, improving vulnerable infrastructure and developing advanced forecasting capabilities," the report states. "Without preventive actions or plans, the trend of increased dependency on modern space-weather sensitive assets could make society more vulnerable in the future."The report was commissioned and funded by NASA. Experts from around the world in industry, government and academia participated. It was released this week.
By Robert Roy Britt

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Homeland Security forecasts 5-year terror threats

WASHINGTON-The terrorism threat to the United States over the next five years will be driven by instability in the Middle East and Africa, persistent challenges to border security and increasing Internet savvy, says a new intelligence assessment obtained by The Associated Press.Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks are considered the most dangerous threats that could be carried out against the U.S. But those threats are also the most unlikely because it is so difficult for al-Qaida and similar groups to acquire the materials needed to carry out such plots, according to the internal Homeland Security Threat Assessment for the years 2008-2013.The al-Qaida terrorist network continues to focus on U.S. attack targets vulnerable to massive economic losses, casualties and political "turmoil," the assessment said.Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction remains "the highest priority at the federal level." Speaking to reporters on Dec. 3, Chertoff explained that more people, such as terrorists, will learn how to make dirty bombs, biological and chemical weapons. "The other side is going to continue to learn more about doing things," he said.Marked "for official use only," the report does not specify its audience, but the assessments typically go to law enforcement, intelligence officials and the private sector. When determining threats, intelligence officials consider loss of life, economic and psychological consequences.Intelligence officials also predict that in the next five years, terrorists will try to conduct a destructive biological attack. Officials are concerned about the possibility of infections to thousands of U.S. citizens, overwhelming regional health care systems.There could also be dire economic impacts caused by workers' illnesses and deaths. Officials are most concerned about biological agents stolen from labs or other storage facilities, such as anthrax."The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremist ideologies has not abated," Chertoff said in his year-end address on Dec. 18. "This threat has not evaporated, and we can't turn the page on it."These high-consequence threats are not the only kind of challenges that will confront the U.S. over the next five years.Terrorists will continue to try to evade U.S. border security measures and place operatives inside the mainland to carry out attacks, the 38-page assessment said. It also said that they may pose as refugees or asylum seekers or try to exploit foreign travel channels such as the visa waiver program, which allows citizens of 34 countries to enter the U.S. without visas.Long waits for immigration and more restrictive European refugee and asylum programs will cause more foreigners to try to enter the U.S. illegally. Increasing numbers of Iraqis are expected to migrate to the U.S. in the next five years; and refugees from Somalia and Sudan could increase because of conflicts in those countries, the assessment said.Because there is a proposed cap of 12,000 refugees from Africa, officials expect more will try to enter the U.S. illegally as well. Officials predict the same scenario for refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan.Intelligence officials predict the pool of radical Islamists within the U.S. will increase over the next five years due partly to the ease of online recruiting means. Officials foresee "a wave of young, self-identified Muslim 'terrorist wannabes' who aspire to carry out violent acts."The U.S. has already seen some examples of these homegrown terrorists. Recently five Muslim immigrants were convicted of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix in a case the government said demonstrated its post-Sept. 11 determination to stop terrorist attacks in the planning stages.The Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah does not have a known history of fomenting attacks inside the U.S., but that could change if there is some kind of "triggering" event, the Homeland assessment cautions.A 2008 Interagency Intelligence Committee on Terrorism assessment said that Hezbollah members based in the U.S. do local fundraising through charity projects and criminal activity, like money laundering, smuggling, drug trafficking, fraud and extortion, according to the homeland security assessment.In addition, the cyber terror threat is expected to increase over the next five years, as hacking tools become more sophisticated and available."Youthful, Internet-savvy extremists might apply their online acumen to conduct cyber attacks rather than offer themselves up as operatives to conduct physical attacks," according to the assessment.Currently, Islamic terrorists, including al-Qaida, would like to conduct cyber attacks, but they lack the capability to do so, the assessment said.The large-scale attacks that are on al-Qaida's wishlist-such as disrupting a major city's water or power systems-require sophisticated cyber capabilities that the terrorist group does not possess.But al-Qaida has the capability to hire sophisticated hackers to carry out these kinds of attacks, the assessment said. And federal officials believe that in the next three to five years, al-Qaida could direct or inspire cyber attacks that target the U.S. economy.Counterterrorism expert Frank Cilluffo says the typical cyber attack would not achieve al-Qaida's main goal of inflicting mass devastation with its resulting widespread media coverage. However, al-Qaida is likely to continue to rely on the Internet to spread its message, said Cilluffo, who runs the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University.
Officials also predict that domestic terrorists in the forms of radical animal rights and environmental extremists will become more adept with explosives and increase their use of arson attacks.
By EILEEN SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer
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SURVEILLANCE WATCH:S.Korean woman passes through Japan's biometric immigration screening

TOKYO-A South Korean woman entered Japan last April passing through Japan's biometric immigration screening despite her previous deportation record, Justice Ministry officials said Thursday.The woman has told authorities she went through the screening by placing her fingers over a fingerprint reader after putting a special tape on the fingers, which she said was provided by a broker, the officials said.The woman was deported in July 2007 for illegally staying in Japan after she worked as a bar hostess in Nagano, central Japan, according to the ministry.She is not allowed to reenter Japan for five years after deportation but the Tokyo immigration bureau found last August, or four months after her second entry, that she was again in Nagano, they said.The woman has told bureau officials she bought a forged passport from a broker and entered Japan via Aomori airport, northeastern Japan, and that she used the special tape to pass through the screening, they said.There was a record of her passing through the screening at Aomori airport, they said.The Justice Ministry said it will look into whether such special tape can get by a fingerprint reader.Japan began the biometric immigration screening in November 2007 under which foreign nationals undergo fingerprinting and photographing at airports and seaports nationwide to see if their data match those of deported or wanted foreign nationals.The ministry said in late November that 846 foreign nationals were refused entry to Japan since the beginning of the screening under revised immigration rules.Most of the refusals were due to arriving passengers' fingerprints matching those of people deported in the past while, in several cases, they matched those of wanted people.Of the total refused entry, 297 were South Koreans, 155 Filipinos and 90 Chinese.Some carried other people's passports.Under a revised immigration law enforced in November 2007 as part of an antiterrorism measure, foreign nationals aged over 16 are basically required to be fingerprinted and photographed.

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Jamaica Installs Surveillance Cameras to Thwart Crime in Rough Town

KINGSTON, Jamaica-Jamaica has installed surveillance cameras to reduce crime in one of its most violent cities.Mayor Milton Brown on Tuesday said the federal government invested $13,000 in the project.The city of May Pen, just west of Kingston, has reported more than 200 killings this year.Cameras already monitor Kingston and a tourist district in Montego Bay.The Works Ministry says it plans to install additional cameras in tourist areas including Negril and Mandeville.Some 1,240 people have been killed in Jamaica this year, down 11 percent from 2007.