Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7131 on: Aug 5th, 2012, 09:07am »
Iranian pilgrims kidnapped in Syrian capital as fighting flares anew
By Babak Dehghanpisheh Published: August 4
BEIRUT — Renewed battles between Syrian government forces and rebel fighters rocked Damascus on Saturday, and clashes were reported in at least half a dozen other cities across the country.
The Syrian army hammered an area of the capital with artillery, mortar fire and helicopter rockets as rebels and soldiers battled near the presidential palace. Heavy fighting also continued unabated in the northern city of Aleppo, the country’s largest, which has become the scene of a raging urban war after remaining relatively quiet for much of Syria’s nearly 17-month-old uprising.
The violence Saturday left at least 145 people dead across the country, according to the Local Coordination Committees, an activist network. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, however, stayed out of public view, as he has done since a bombing in Damascus on July 18 that killed four top security officials.
Amid the turmoil, gunmen kidnapped 48 Iranian pilgrims from a tour group bus in Damascus. The group was on its way to a Muslim shrine popular with Shiites shortly before noon when the bus was attacked, according to an Iranian Embassy official in Damascus quoted by Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency.
A week ago, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem had proclaimed the defeat of rebel forces in Damascus and predicted they would soon be defeated in Aleppo, as well. But the renewed fighting in the capital, as well as the mass kidnapping, signaled the possibility that Syrian security forces are losing their grip on the city.
The Iranian Embassy official noted that Iran’s government has halted official tours to Syria, presumably because of the widespread violence, and that the pilgrims kidnapped Saturday had arranged a private tour.
A photo of the bus published by Fars News showed a cracked windshield with at least one bullet hole, suggesting that the gunmen had fired on the vehicle to force the driver to stop.
Iranians have been kidnapped before in Syria. Since the country’s uprising started in March 2011, 32 Iranians, including seven engineers, 22 pilgrims and three truck drivers, have been kidnapped there, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). Although 27 of them have been released, five — two engineers and the three drivers — are being held by armed groups.
None of the armed opposition groups in Syria had asserted responsibility for the kidnapping by late Saturday, but a Syrian government official quoted by Fars News blamed “terrorists linked to the Free Syrian Army.” Col. Malik Kurdi, the deputy commander of the Free Syrian Army, said when reached by phone that he had no information about the identity of the perpetrators.
An Iranian Embassy official quoted by IRNA said that the pilgrims had been located and that the embassy was following up with Syrian officials to secure their release.
The kidnapping could represent an attempt by opposition groups to pressure the Iranian government, which is Assad’s strongest regional ally, to withdraw its support for or denounce the Syrian government, analysts say.
A Syrian opposition group that kidnapped 11 Lebanese pilgrims in late May demanded that Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah, who is also one of Assad’s staunchest supporters, apologize for comments in support of the Syrian leader as a precondition for releasing the captives.
Meanwhile, a relatively unknown Islamist opposition group called the al-Nusra Front asserted in a statement posted online Friday that it had kidnapped Mohammed al-Saeed, a Syrian TV presenter, on July 19 and subsequently killed him, according to the SITE Intelligence Group. “Perhaps this operation and others will serve as an example to all who support this tyrannical regime, so that they may repent to Allah,” the statement said, according to the SITE translation.
The Islamist group also said it had raided a police station in the Jdeidat Artouz suburb of Damascus, and it posted pictures of assault rifles, pistols and ammunition that it said had been taken from the station.
The Syrian army deployed artillery, mortar fire and helicopter rockets against the Tadamon neighborhood in Damascus, as rebels and soldiers fought fiercely in Muhajereen, near the presidential palace, Saturday evening, according to the Local Coordination Committees. The eastern city of Deir al-Zour was also heavily shelled, the group said.
In Aleppo, the army battered the neighborhoods of Salahuddin and Hanano with artillery fire Saturday as jets attacked the nearby village of Marasta, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition group. Clashes also erupted between rebel fighters and government troops around the ancient citadel in the center of Aleppo, the observatory group said.
The dead Saturday included 21 people in Deir al-Zour, 53 in Damascus and its suburbs and 21 in Aleppo, according to the Local Coordination Committees.
The escalation in fighting comes as the beleaguered Syrian government shows signs that international sanctions may be starting to hit hard. On Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Qadri Jamil said the government had requested a loan from Russia.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7132 on: Aug 5th, 2012, 09:10am »
Pakistan accuses Afghanistan of backing Taliban enemy
By Michael Georgy and Matthew Green Sun Aug 5, 2012 6:10am EDT
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's interior minister has said elements of the Afghan government are likely supporting a senior Pakistani Taliban leader who is fighting to topple the Islamabad government, accusations which could further raise tensions over cross-border raids by militants.
Pakistani officials say the Taliban commander known as Fazlullah has been orchestrating raids on Pakistani security forces from Afghanistan, where he fled several years ago after a Pakistani army offensive against his stronghold in the Swat Valley.
Pakistan has repeatedly called on Afghanistan to hunt down Fazlullah, whose fighters cross the border in their hundreds, set up ambushes and attack army checkpoints.
"If somebody is living in somebody's house and you ask him 'who is giving you food, who is giving you all this shelter?' You know he is in Afghanistan," Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Reuters in a weekend interview.
"I think some of the elements (of the Afghan government) there are supporters. Maybe state actors, maybe non-state actors."
Afghan officials see Pakistan's suggestion that Afghans are supporting cross-border attacks as an attempt to distract attention from what they say is Pakistan's long history of supporting Afghanistan's Taliban movement and other insurgent factions.
U.S. and Afghan officials say there is no comparison between the relatively small and recent presence of Fazlullah's men in eastern Afghanistan and what they describe as long-standing ties between elements of Pakistani intelligence and the Afghan Taliban.
Pakistan's intelligence agencies backed the emergence of Afghanistan's Taliban movement in the mid-1990s and Western officials believe that parts of the security establishment continue to tolerate or actively abet Afghan insurgents.
Malik provided no evidence to support his assertion that elements within Afghanistan were supporting Fazlullah, nor did he give further details.
"These comments made by the Pakistani Interior Minister are irresponsible and a baseless allegation," said Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.
"Afghanistan has been under attacks from safe havens of insurgents inside Pakistan, and we are quite sure that Mullah Fazlullah is somewhere in Pakistan."
Fazlullah and other militant leaders based along the frontier complicate U.S. efforts to stabilize the region before most NATO combat troops withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
The issue has strained ties between Islamabad and Kabul.
Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of backing militants said to be based on its soil who cross the border to attack Afghan and NATO forces, including the Haqqani network, blamed for a series of high-profile attacks on Kabul.
Islamabad denies the allegations.
Pakistan's reluctance to bow to U.S. pressure to take tougher action against sanctuaries used by Haqqani insurgents and other Afghan fighters has been one of the major reasons for a sharp deterioration in relations with Washington.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday he accepted parliament's decision to dismiss the country's two top security ministers for failing to stop cross-border shelling blamed on Pakistan, in what could be a blow to NATO plans to hand over security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
The fractious parliament voted on Saturday to remove Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi over a series of recent insurgent assassinations of top officials, as well as the cross-border fire incidents that infuriate many Afghan voters as well as politicians.
Afghanistan has rushed additional troops and artillery to the mountainous border with Pakistan as tensions continue to rise over cross-border shelling which Afghan officials blame on Pakistan's powerful military.
Pakistan's military has said it only responds to attacks by militants, including Pakistan Taliban operating from what it says are havens in Afghan territory.
In his heyday, Fazlullah was known as "FM Mullah", for his fiery radio speeches broadcast in Swat, which was a tourist resort before he and his men imposed a reign of terror there.
A burly man in his thirties with a heavy black beard, Fazlullah dispatched his men to publicly flog and behead opponents, or anyone they deemed immoral.
Fazlullah has re-emerged as a major security headache for the Pakistani military, which is already stretched fighting other Taliban insurgent leaders.
"He is as dangerous (for Pakistan) as the Haqqanis are dangerous for Afghanistan. He is energizing terrorism now. He is recruiting people, he is planning," said Malik.
In June, about 100 militants loyal to Fazlullah sneaked across the border and ambushed Pakistani troops. The fighters later released a video of what they said were the heads of 17 ambushed soldiers.
It was a reminder that despite army offensives, militant leaders can simply melt away and reappear to take on Pakistan's army, one of the biggest in the world.
"Unfortunately he is enjoying his life in Afghanistan," said Malik. "I appeal to Afghanistan to look into it and make sure (his) people don't come to us."
Greater cooperation on border security could be hard to achieve. There are no signs that either side will back down.
Asked if Pakistan would be willing to go after the Haqqanis, Malik said: "They are not our babies, they are no longer anyone's babies. They have become independent."
(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in KABUL; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7133 on: Aug 5th, 2012, 09:16am »
North Korea Invades America in Dumbest Movie Ever By David Axe August 4, 2012 | 9:00 am Categories: Bizarro
North Korean paratroopers descend on an American small town. U.S. military resistance collapses. Korean armored vehicles roll down the streets unopposed except for a band of heavily armed bros in hoodies.
No, these are not images from some teenage gamer’s fever dream. They’re scenes from the movie Red Dawn, a remake of the 1984 cult classic about a joint Cuban-Soviet invasion of the U.S. and the attractive young American insurgents — the Wolverines — who help defeat it. The revamped Red Dawn, starring Chris Hemsworth, a.k.a. Thor, blasts into theaters in November.
But don’t expect it to linger very long. Where the 1984 original successfully played upon widespread public fears over a supposedly rising and belligerent Soviet Union, the remake expects viewers to take North Korea seriously as an existential threat. We’re guessing the flick is going to get a lot of unintended laughs.
You see, the actual North Korea is a country of 24 million people with a GDP roughly equal to North Dakota’s. It’s an impoverished, even starving, prison state that lacks modern weaponry and any ability to deploy forces globally. If preview clips posted this weekend are any indication, the movie magically gifts North Korea with a huge fleet of long-range transport planes … because it has to. Of course, how these planes get past the U.S. military’s 3,000 jet fighters is anyone’s guess.
The new Red Dawn has been sitting on the shelf for a couple years owing to financing troubles and at least one major revamp by screenwriters Carl Elsworth and Jeremy Passmore. As originally written, the relaunched Red Dawn was only slightly less silly. The bad guys were Chinese. And while China has no discernible intention of invading anyone, much less the U.S., Beijing at least commands a $7.3-trillion economy and an increasingly modern, two-million-man army. But it’s bad business to portray one of the world’s fastest growing film markets as brutal world conquerors, so the producers swapped in North Korea, a country no one counts on for ticket sales.
In any event, John Milius, the writer of the original Red Dawn, called the remake “a stupid thing to do.” Although not formally associated with the new production, Milius was offered a chance to read the screenplay. “It’s all about neat action scenes and has nothing to do with story,” Milius griped. Coincidentally, Milius is credited (though not without controversy) with penning the backstory for the video game Homefront, a military adventure about — you guessed it — a North Korean invasion of the U.S.
So if you want to watch good-looking young men gun down hapless North Korean soldiers against the backdrop of your local schools, churches and shopping malls, the Milius-free Red Dawn could be just the thing. But act fast. This is one cinematic invasion almost certain to collapse quickly.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7134 on: Aug 5th, 2012, 09:20am »
New York Times
Suicide Bomber Kills Dozens in Yemen By REUTERS Published: August 4, 2012
ADEN, Yemen (Reuters) — A suicide bomber struck at a funeral in a village in Yemen’s southern province of Abyan on Saturday, killing at least 25 tribal fighters and wounding dozens more, officials and medics said Sunday.
The bomber targeted tribesmen who fought alongside the Yemeni Army during an offensive against militants in Abyan linked to Al Qaeda, which the government hailed as a major victory in June.
“We have many people with critical injuries and we don’t have the means to treat them,” said a doctor at al-Razi Hospital, which was filling up with the wounded.
The attack highlighted the enduring threat of Islamist militancy in Yemen and may alarm the United States and Saudi Arabia, which increasingly view the impoverished state as a front line in their war on Al Qaeda and its affiliates.
East of Abyan, an American drone fired on a vehicle carrying people suspected of being militants in the province of Hadramout, killing its three passengers, a local official said.
The United States supported the military campaign that drove the Islamist fighters from their strongholds in June, but residents and analysts say the militants are simply lying low and waiting for a chance to regroup.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7135 on: Aug 5th, 2012, 09:22am »
Published on Aug 4, 2012 by JDQuantum
JACKSON, MO (KFVS) - Some are saying there are unexplained lights around the Jackson area.
So far people can't point to something like a weather balloon or falling star or even a plane to explain it.
Now they wonder could it be related to incredible tales from Cape Girardeau dating back decades.
Some say a bar of red and white lights was hovering recently above homes in Jackson. People tell us they were mesmerized by beams and light shooting from either end.
Chris Clifton and others say the lighted craft showed up for at least five minutes twice over the last week around the Bent Creek area of Jackson.
Recent sightings prompted Clifton and others to do some research and they learned our area is no stranger to the unexplained. Now they wonder if all these close encounters of the Heartland kind could be the product of something out of this world.
First let's go all the way back to April 1941 in Cape Girardeau Missouri. Rev. William Huffman of Red Star Baptist Church gets a call about a plane crash and is asked to help.
His granddaughter recalled the so called family secret in this interview.
"You couldn't see those eyes and not be affected," she said.
A recreated picture is the most compelling part of her grandfather's story. There was no plane and instead a saucer with three alien bodies. Mann says her grandfather was sworn to secrecy.
Through her own research, Mann discovered top secret declassified documents from archives in Washington, D.C. also detail her grandfather's story.
Others in the Piedmont also recall hundreds of sightings of lights in the sky from the early 70s detailed in an old newspaper.
Sightings past and now present that give people like Clifton reasons to look for answers.
We're told local law enforcement also report sightings over the past five years.
Meanwhile, in that crash of 1941, I'm told it continues to be researched today and is the subject of books and documents.
All around the world many UFO enthusiasts feel sightings of picking up rapidly and becoming even more out of this world.
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7137 on: Aug 6th, 2012, 08:42am »
Egypt vows crackdown on "infidels" after border massacre
By Shaimaa Fayed and Yasmine Saleh Mon Aug 6, 2012 9:31am EDT
CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt branded Islamist gunmen who killed 16 police near the Israeli border as "infidels" and promised on Monday to launch a crackdown following the massacre that strained Cairo's ties with both Israel and Palestinians.
An Egyptian official has said "Jihadist elements" crossed from the Gaza Strip into Egypt before leading the assault on a border station. They then stole two armored vehicles and headed to nearby Israel, where they were killed by Israeli fire.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Monday that eight assailants died in the attack, adding that he hoped the incident would serve as a "wake-up call" to Egypt, long accused of losing its grip in the desert Sinai peninsula.
The bloodshed represented an early diplomatic test for Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, an Islamist who took office at the end of June after staunch U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year in a popular uprising.
Mubarak cooperated closely with Israel on security and suppressed Islamist movements such as Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood whose leaders often voiced hostility towards the Jewish state.
Egypt's military, which still holds many levers of power in the most populous Arab nation, called the attackers "infidels" and said it had been patient until now in the face of the instability in Sinai.
"But there is a red line and passing it is not acceptable. Egyptians will not wait for long to see a reaction to this event," it said in a statement on its Facebook page.
A demilitarized Sinai is the keystone of the historic 1979 peace deal between the two countries.
But for the past year there has been growing lawlessness in the vast desert expanse, as Bedouin bandits, jihadists and Palestinian militants from next-door Gaza fill the vacuum, tearing at already frayed relations between Egypt and Israel.
Addressing a parliamentary committee in Jerusalem, Barak praised the work of Israeli forces in blunting Sunday's attack, with the Israeli airforce swiftly swinging into action and destroying one of the vehicles after it breached the border.
"Perhaps it will also be a proper wake-up call to the Egyptians to take matters in hand on their side in a firmer way," he said.
SEALING THE BORDER
Mursi has promised to honor Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel and has done little to suggest a major shift in ties. He has also reached out to Hamas, the Islamist rulers of the Gaza Strip that borders Egypt and Israel, and Sunday's killings put an instant strain on those closer ties.
Egypt announced it was closing its border crossing into Gaza "indefinitely", cutting off the sole exit route for most Palestinians at the height of the Muslim-fast month of Ramadan.
Hamas, which condemned the killings of the Egyptians, immediately sealed the warren of smuggling tunnels that connect Gaza with Egypt after Cairo said the gunmen had used these links to reach their territory.
Many key goods, including oil, pass through the tunnels, and a prolonged closure could stymie life in the coastal enclave.
Hamas said it was working with Egypt to try to identify those behind the bloody operation.
"No Palestinian could take part in such an ugly crime and in the killing of our beloved Egyptian army men in such a horrible manner," said Taher Al-Nono, spokesman of the Hamas Gaza government.
Relentlessly hostile to Israel, Hamas is nonetheless considered overly moderate by many Salafi Islamists, who condemn Egypt's 1979 peace accord and demand a constant state of war with the Jewish state.
Last August, eight Israelis died in a cross-border Sinai attack blamed on Palestinian militants from Gaza. In June, an Israeli worker died in another incident on the desert frontier.
A Jihadist group called the "Magles Shoura al-Mujahddin" took responsibility for the June incident, saying it did so "without considering any claimed or imagined borders between Muslim countries. The Mujahddin has no word in their dictionary called borders except the boundaries of God."
No one claimed immediate responsibility for Sunday's attack.
"I think it is clear that Israel and Egypt have a common interest in keeping their border quiet," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, sending his condolences to Egypt for their loss of life.
Israel urged it citizens last week to leave the Sinai, citing the threat of a possible assault. On Sunday morning, an Israeli air strike killed a Palestinian gunman from a radical Islamist group and wounded another as they rode a motorbike in southern Gaza near the Egyptian border.
Hours later, the group of unidentified gunmen ambushed the Egyptian border police - who had gathered to break the Ramadan fast after sunset - and opened fire, killing 16 security forces personnel and wounding at least seven.
They then drove off in two vehicles. One of them exploded near the frontier while the second was hit by the air force after crossing the border and travelling some 2.5-km (2 miles) into the country, the army said.
Israeli media said the military had been on a high state of alert and had reacted rapidly to the attempted incursion.
"A very great disaster was prevented here," said the chief of the Israeli armed forces, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, adding that it was "a very complicated attack by terrorists linked between the Sinai and Gaza".
(Additional reporting by Yusri Mohamed in Sinai, Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Tamim Elyan and Ahmed Tolba in Cairo; Writing by Tom Pfeiffer; editing by Crispian Balmer and David Stamp)
Re: Stuff & Nonsense
« Reply #7138 on: Aug 6th, 2012, 08:47am »
This Is What the Olympics Looks Like From Space By Betsy Mason August 6, 2012 | 6:30 am Categories: Earth Science
Image: Olympic Park, London taken May 24, 2012 by the GeoEye-1 satellite (GeoEye).
From a castle built in the 16th century to a beach volleyball arena erected in 36 days, the London Olympics has some beautiful, historic, unusual and interesting venues.
Watching the Games on television from afar, you can get a feel for what it is like to be there, and appreciate the views spectators have of the sports and the surrounding iconic London scenery. But from further afar, much further afar, you gain a whole new perspective.
Viewed from space or an airplane, the range and breadth of the different arenas, structures, parks and courses comes into focus. Here we bring you most of the sites of the 2012 Olympic Games, stretching from Scotland to the southern edge of England.