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Posts Tagged ‘blow’

Assange vows WikiLeaks to stay strong despite new blow

In Uncategorized on December 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the site will stay strong despite another blow to its funding and the publication Sunday of new details of the sex crime allegations against him

 WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the site will stay strong despite another blow to its funding and the publication Sunday of new details of the sex crime allegations against him.

The Australian began his third full day under “mansion arrest” at a friend’s house while he fights extradition to Sweden, vowing that the whistleblowing website would continue to publish more secre US diplomatic cables.

Assange on Saturday denounced Bank of America, the largest US bank, for becoming the latest institution to halt financial transactions for Wikileaks after MasterCard, PayPal, Visa Europe and others.

The bank said its decision was “based upon our reasonable belief that WikiLeaks may be engaged in activities that are, among other things, inconsistent with our internal policies for processing payments.”

“It’s a new type of business McCarthyism in the US to deprive this organisation of the funds that it needs to survive, to deprive me personally of the funds that my lawyers need to protect me against extradition to the US or to Sweden,” Assange told AFP.

The term was coined to describe the anti-communist pursuits of former US senator Joseph McCarthy from the late 1940s to the 1950s.

Assange is staying at Ellingham Hall, the mansion in eastern England of journalist friend Vaughan Smith, as part of the conditions of bail, which he was granted by London’s High Court on Thursday.

He must also report daily to a nearby police station and wear an electronic tag.

Several British newspapers published lurid new details of the allegations of sexual assault against two women, over which Swedish prosecutors want to question him. The 39-year-old denies the charges.

The Guardian newspaper — which has cooperated with WikiLeaks on the publication of the US documents — and the Mail on Sunday both reported that the two women with whom he had sex in Sweden had gone to police after he refused to take an HIV test.

Assange hit out at Swedish handling of the case, accusing authorities there of leaking fresh details about the case that even he and his defence lawyers have not had access to.

The former computer hacker also reiterated that there were threats against his life and those of the website’s staff, but he vowed that WikiLeaks would continue publishing the cables.

“We are a robust organisation. During my time in solitary confinement we continued to publish every day and its not going to change,” he said.

Assange claimed earlier in an interview with Forbes magazine that a “megaleak” by the website will target a major US bank “early next year”.

WikiLeaks has enraged Washington with its release of thousands of leaked US diplomatic cables and confidential military documents relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Assange said Friday it looked “increasingly likely” the US would try to extradite him on charges related to the leaked cables as he savoured his first day on bail.

He said his lawyers believed a secret US grand jury investigation had been started into his role in the release.

Media reports suggest that US prosecutors are trying to build a case against Assange on the grounds that he encouraged a US soldier, Bradley Manning, to steal US cables from a government computer and pass them to WikiLeaks.

A report by congressional researchers said the Espionage Act and other US laws could be used to prosecute Assange, but there is no known precedent for prosecuting publishers in such a case.

The latest US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks indicated that the United Nations offered Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe a retirement package and safe haven overseas if he agreed to stand down.

The offer was made by Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general at the time in 2000, said the memo, which was drawn up by US officials and cited the then-opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Source: SGGP

Republicans grab share of power, in blow to Obama

In Uncategorized on November 3, 2010 at 5:13 am

Latest jobs data is blow to Obama as elections loom

In Uncategorized on August 7, 2010 at 11:21 am

WASHINGTON, Aug 6, 2010 (AFP) – The latest grim data on unemployment has dealt a new blow to President Barack Obama as he struggles to maintain his party’s majority in Congress in November elections.

Obama, who has been hurt by the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, has been scrambling to highlight his economic management in helping lift the US economy out of its worst slump in decades.

But the latest data released Friday showed the recovery is sputtering: A Labor Department report showed 131,000 jobs were lost in July and the unemployment rate remained stuck at 9.5 percent, which is better than the worst levels this year but still painfully high.

(AFP file) A man uses a computer to fill out paperwork at an employment centre in Oakland, California.

The private sector created a modest 71,000 jobs for the month, which was not enough to offset the massive government layoff of 143,000 census-takers.

Overall economic growth slowed to a pace of 2.4 percent in the second quarter of 2010, and other economic indicators are soft, even though Obama points to four quarters of economic growth.

The White House has dismissed the likelihood of a double-dip recession but some economists warm of a Japanese-style economic stagnation.

Obama tried to put the best face on the most recent employment figures.

“Climbing out of any recession, much less a hole as deep as this one takes some time. The road to recovery doesn’t follow a straight line. Some sectors bounce back faster than others,” Obama said.

Obama said the data showed jobs growing in the private sector for seven consecutive months.

“That’s a good sign. Meanwhile our manufacturing sector that’s been hit hard for as long as folks can remember has added 183,000 jobs this year. That’s the most robust seven months of manufacturing growth in over a decade,” he said.

“But for America’s workers, families, and small businesses, progress needs to come faster. Our job is to make sure that happens.”

Obama said the latest figures underscored the need for final passage of a bill aimed at saving 160,000 teaching jobs, which has cleared the Senate, and for other measures favoring small business.

“We need to decide whether we’re willing to do what it takes to keep this economy moving in the right direction… but also to secure a clean energy future and accelerate our recovery and rebuild our economy around three simple words, ‘made in America.'”

But Republicans are waging their own campaign and blaming Obama for wasting a large part of the big 787 billion dollars in stimulus funding approved a year ago. It remains unclear whether the opposition party will be able to block any new stimulus efforts sought by the White House.

With the recovery appearing to falter, two key members of the Obama economic team are on their way out. Budget director Peter Orszag announced his departure in June and top economic aide Christina Romer said on Thursday she would return to teaching.

Obama continues to press his case, hitting the road to tout the rebound in the US auto sector, the finance reform and the huge health care reform measures approved this year.

Source: SGGP

Whaling could blow a hole in Iceland’s EU talks

In Uncategorized on June 20, 2010 at 8:30 am

BRUSSELS, June 20, 2010 (AFP) – Iceland’s whale hunting tradition despite a ban, which it wants lifted, looms as a major hurdle in its upcoming membership talks with the European Union where all cetaceans are legally protected.

The EU membership talks haven’t started yet, but a European diplomat stressed that “if Iceland continues to practise commercial whale hunting for scientific purposes, that’s going to create a political problem.”

In nearly all areas Iceland has been seen as a perfect EU candidate, and could have started talks earlier had it wanted to.

In a picture taken on June 16, 2010 in Japan, sushi shop owner Katsuji Furuuchi makes up whale sushi from sliced minke meats and pieces of blubber in Japanese whaling town Ayukawahama, Miyagi prefecture. Ayukawahama was once a major whaling port. AFP

Its European credentials are impressive already; a member of the unfettered travel Schengen area and the European Economic Area as well as a fully fledged NATO nation, Iceland ticks most of the boxes.

In trade terms the ties are equally strong, more than half of Iceland’s imports come from the EU and three-quarters of its exports go there.

All those factors are reasons why European heads of state and government gave the candidacy the go-ahead at an EU summit in Brussels last Thursday.

However a February report by the EU Commission on Iceland’s application for membership was clear: “Necessary steps will need to be undertaken as regards the protection of cetaceans”.

Britain and Germany have urged their EU partners to resist a call, expected at an International Whaling Commission meeting in Morocco this week, to lift the moratorium on whale hunting which has Iceland’s support and that of fellow whaling nations Japan and Norway.

The German parliament in a resolution has urged the government to ensure that a whale hunting ban remains a sine qua non for Iceland’s EU hopes.

An Icelandic diplomat said his country had applied to join the club, after the global downturn battered its economy, knowing a solution will have to be found, but not thinking that solution must necessarily be an end to whale hunting.

“Iceland would as a starting negotiating position seek a way to maintain this exception in order to preserve this centuries old, sustainable tradition,” he said.

“We are aware that this is a very sensitive topic,” an EU Commission spokeswoman said, citing the EU accession rule of “possible transitional periods or even derogation from some pieces of the (EU) legislation.”

Icelandic hunters specialise in taking the fin whale, with a quota of 150 this year.

The country resumed commercial whaling in 2006, and in 2009 set a quota for 150 fin whales, the second largest animals, over five years, despite their “endangered” status, according to WWF.

Not only is that against EU rules but it is “also unnecessary,” argues Saskia Richartz, marine specialist for Greenpeace in Brussels.

“Most of the 1,500 tonnes of meat produced last year continue to sit in freezers,” she adds.

Icelandic political scientist Eirikur Bergmann agrees that whaling is not important for its economic contribution.

“It‘s more a matter of independence and emotions, nationalism.”

And in Iceland opinions are divided, according to Arni Thor Sigurdsson, chair of the Icelandic parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee.

“I personally don‘t think we should do it because it doesn‘t help our economy in any way,” he said.

What is sure is that the matter will have to be addressed as Iceland attempts to negotiate the 30-plus accession chapters, including one on the environment, which all candidate nations must do to the satisfaction of the current EU members.

Nor is whaling the only potential pitfall.

Indeed fisheries in general were already being seen as a major sticking point after EU leaders on Thursday agreed to grant Iceland candidate nation status.

The part-Arctic nation is fiercely protective of the abundant fishing waters around its shores and has shown no sign that it is prepared to freely open up these seas to European partners.

Britain and the Netherlands also want Reykjavik to negotiate a compensation deal for their citizens hit by the fall of the online Icesave bank in October 2008.

“If whaling becomes the main obstacle, then we‘ll just have to reconsider the whole process,” said Sigurdsson.

The European Union expects Iceland to reconsider the whaling, rather than the membership.

Source: SGGP

Death of Yazid ‘major blow to Al-Qaeda:’ US official

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2010 at 7:46 am

WASHINGTON, May 31, 2010 (AFP) – The death of Mustafa Abu al-Yazid would be “a big victory… a major blow to Al-Qaeda,” because as the group’s number-three figure “he had a hand in everything,” a US official said Monday.

Al-Qaeda announced the death of its top leader in Afghanistan and trusted aid to Osama bin Laden, as reported by the US-based SITE group, which monitors Islamist websites.

US crewmen guide an F-18 jet fighter before take off on the deck of the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier in the Arabian sea on May 24, 2010. The USS Eisenhower is on a mission to support US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. AFP PHOTO

“We have strong reason to believe that’s true, and that (Yazid) was killed recently in Pakistan’s tribal areas,” said the US official, who asked to remain anonymous.

“In terms of counterterrorism, this would be a big victory.”

The SITE statement did not say how Yazid died, but Al-Qaeda sent a message to jihadist forums saying his wife, three of his daughters, his granddaughter, and other men, women, and children, were killed.

Yazid, an Egyptian national also known as Sheikh Said, was said to be a founder member of Al-Qaeda and a former treasurer to bin Laden.

The US official said Yazid was “widely viewed” as Al-Qaeda’s number three leader.

Yazid “was the group’s chief operating officer, with a hand in everything from finances to operational planning. He was also the organization’s prime conduit to Bin Laden and (second-in-command, Ayman) Zawahiri.

“He was key to al-Qaeda’s command and control.

“His death would be a major blow to al-Qaeda, which in December lost both its internal and external operations chiefs,” the official added.

He took Yazid’s demise as “further proof that the tribal areas (in Pakistan) are not quite the safe haven al-Qaeda and its allies thought them to be.

An expert with intelligence analysis firm IntelCenter said Yazid ran Al-Qaeda’s operation in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

His death, the analyst added, “is one of the most significant blows against al-Qaeda in recent years and its impact will be felt by the group.”

Yazid, said to be a former member of the Egyptian Jihad, has appeared in a number of videos released by Al-Qaeda since he first appeared as head of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in May 2007.

His last public statement was in a message released on May 4, SITE said.

Source: SGGP

Nigerian charged with trying to blow up US airliner

In World on December 27, 2009 at 12:26 pm

US investigators on Sunday tried to piece together terrorism connections of a Nigerian man who has been charged with attempting to blow up a US jetliner after reportedly confessing that he had been trained by Al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Airport security was stepped up worldwide after the botched Christmas Day terror attack as British police raided premises where the suspect, the son of a wealthy Nigerian businessman, was thought to have lived while studying at a London university.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was arraigned Saturday at the US hospital where he was being treated for burns sustained while trying to bring down a Northwest Airlines plane with 290 people on board.

Judge Paul Borman read the charges against him during a 20-minute hearing. Reporters allowed to witness the event said Abdulmutallab was handcuffed to a wheelchair and sported bandages on both wrists and parts of his hands.

An Airport policeman and his bomb-sniffing dog Spencer patrol at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A preliminary FBI analysis found that the device Abdulmutallab used “contained PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, a high explosive,” the charge sheet said.

The explosive material was allegedly sewn into Abdulmutallab’s underwear, and was not detected by airport security, ABC News reported.

Abdulmutallab confessed that he had mixed a syringe full of chemicals with powder taped to his leg to try to blow up the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight, according to senior officials quoted by US media.

Officials now believe tragedy was averted only because the makeshift detonator failed to work properly, ABC News said.

Other law enforcement officials quoted by ABC News and NBC said the suspect also said that Al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen trained him, and told him on how to carry out the attack. Related article: Bomb suspect’s link to Yemen

The failed attack “shows that we must remain vigilant in the fight against terrorism at all times,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.

However, questions mounted whether security at major airports inside and outside the United States was adequate, despite all the recent upgrades. Related article: Airports step up security

The attack, which sparked alarm and fear among the 279 passengers and 11 crew aboard the Airbus A330, had echoes of British-born Richard Reid‘s botched “shoe-bomb” attempt almost eight years ago to the day.

British police searched addresses in London, including an upscale mansion flat where the suspect is believed to have lived while studying mechanical engineering at University College London (UCL) between 2005 and 2008. Related article: Suspect is linked to Britain

Abdulmutallab’s father, Umaru Mutallab, was so worried about his son’s religious extremism that he contacted the US embassy in Abuja to express his concern in November, a US official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The official said Abdulmutallab had been added to a broad terrorism watchlist, but was not flagged for mandatory secondary screening or put on a no-fly list. Profile: Flight terror suspect the scion of wealthy Nigerian

US Senator Joseph Lieberman questioned how Abdulmutallab could have still avoided US attention.

Meanwhile the hero of Northwest Airlines Flight 253, Dutch video producer and director Jasper Schuringa, was achieving cult status on the Internet for tackling the would-be bomber and helping the crew to restrain him. Profile: Dutch hero

Schuringa told CNN he had jumped over the passenger next to him and lunged onto Abdulmutallab’s seat as the suspect held a burning object between his legs.

“I pulled the object from him and tried to extinguish the fire with my hands and threw it away,” said Schuringa, adding that he stripped off the suspect’s clothes to check for explosives before a crew member helped handcuff him.

“My hands are pretty burned. I am fine,” said Schuringa, who within a day of the attack already had four Facebook sites dedicated in his honor with new members signing up in droves.

The White House and US lawmakers called the incident a terror attack. President Barack Obama, vacationing in Hawaii with his family, ordered security measures to be increased at airports and held a conference call with his security team.

The Department of Homeland Security said it implemented additional flight screening measures, and urged holiday travelers to remain vigilant.

Dutch anti-terrorism officials stressed that proper procedures had been followed on their end of the Northwest Airlines flight, and that US authorities had cleared the flight for departure.

Checks were tightened Saturday at major world airports, including in Paris, Rome and London, but US officials said there were no immediate plans to elevate the nation’s aviation threat level from orange to red, its most severe status.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Strong winds blow in, heavy rains forecast

In Vietnam Weather on September 9, 2009 at 2:56 am

An inter-tropical convergence zone from the west moving through central provinces to the East Sea bringing poor weather and thunderstorms, the National Hydro Meteorological Forecast Center said.

A street in HCMC after heavy rains in August (Photo: Lao Dong)

The weather has been created by a storm forming in the northwest of the Pacific, it said.

Accordingly, southwest winds have become stronger causing heavy rains in southern, south-central and Central Highland provinces.

The weather conditions are forecast to continue over the next three to four days.

The center also said that a low tropical pressure zone may form west of the Philippines on September 3 and 4, which will affect some coastal regions. 

Meanwhile, meteorologists said that the recent occurrence of the El Nino phenomenon has affected weather globally, including Vietnam.

Air temperatures around the world will become hotter, with a warmer fall and winter expected, they said.

It is usual for this period of the year that Vietnam experiences heavy rains though some places have suffered drought for some months now.

Average temperatures in some places have risen to 33 to 34 degrees Celsius, in cases they have surged to 35 to 37 degrees.

Source: SGGP