Pakistani police officers look at a van destroyed by an explosion in Bannu, Pakistan. A suicide bomber blew himself up close to a police van in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing many people, one of them a police officer.
PARIS, French - The newspaper says in the cable traffic through Islamabad that President Barack Obama reportedly confided Pakistan was his "private nightmare." A February 2009 memo from then-US Ambassador Anne Patterson in Islamabad said "our main worry" wasn't that an entire bomb might be stolen, but that a worker at a Pakistani nuclear site "might bring out enough fissile material to build a bomb."
Le Monde also reported that in 2007 Pakistan had agreed "in principle" to an operation to remove highly enriched uranium from a Pakistani nuclear reactor, but it was never carried out.
Pakistan said on Monday it refused the operation because its own nuclear security would prevent the material from getting into the wrong hands.
If the Pakistani press were to find out about such a withdrawal of highly enriched uranium it would cast the operation as a US seizure of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, one Pakistani official told US embassy staff.
Once-secret US diplomatic cables have revealed concerns by US officials that militants might get access to Pakistani nuclear material, according to a French newspaper report.
KARACHI, Pakistan - A cargo plane crashed into a housing complex in Karachi soon after takeoff on Sunday, setting off a huge blaze and killing all eight Russian crew on board, Pakistan's civil aviation authority said. At least one person on the ground was injured, but the Russian-made plane missed several densely populated apartment blocks by a few hundred yards. About 20 houses were damaged or destroyed though most were under construction and believed to be unoccupied, locals said.
The Sudan-bound plane crashed around 1:50am, when many people in the upscale neighbourhood of Pakistan's largest city were asleep. One of the plane's engines was on fire when it flew overhead, several witnesses said.
"I saw one of its wings was burning and there was a blast and the fire engulfed the aircraft very quickly," said Riaz Ahmad.
The plane exploded into flames, sending fire and smoke into the night sky and setting off loud explosions. Fire trucks sprayed foam onto the crash site and after two hours the blaze was extinguished, allowing rescuers to search through the destroyed buildings for bodies or survivors.
Hundreds of people came to see the spectacle and film it with their cell phones, hampering access for emergency workers.
Aviation authority spokesman Pervais George said the plane came down two minutes after take off from the city's international airport. He said the eight crew, all Russians, were dead.
Many people initially thought the blast was from a bomb, a regular event in militant-torn Pakistan.
"I was sleeping and the huge blast awoke me. I thought some suicide attack might have occurred and I run outside," said Rehan Hashmi.
Local doctor Abdul Razak said one person was being treated at a hospital with severe burns.
Most of the buildings damaged and razed in the upscale neighborhood of Karachi were under construction and either empty or occupied by the laborers building them, they said. The housing complex was reserved mostly for Naval officers and their families.
It is really very sad to witness how almost on a daily dose the citizenry is fed with news of how Islam is made out to be a political pawn. Let us take a reflective audit of some of the visible symptoms of how Islam is being tarnished, disgraced and made into a political pawn for man’s greed:
•Despite the fact that Islam was shared with Malayans so long ago – long before independence, how far have we gone in sharing it with the 27 million population today?
• Why is Islam been strictly associated with ‘Malay’ and ‘Bumiputra’? Is Islam a race reader?
• Why do all those muslims leading a mixed congregation – be it in school assemblies, social gatherings, or conferences and what have you, always choose to acknowledge their fellow faithful first? Is Islam not known, since the times of the Prophet (Peace be upon Him), to be a religion that is inclusive? Is Islam not for the whole world?Is Islam not beyond race?
• Why is it that politicians never fail to use Islam to further their power-grabbing agenda? Is Islam a political weapon of sorts? Should Islam not be a gift to all mankind?
• We loudly proclaim to the world that Islam is our state religion. But why are we battling with so much of corruption even within the halllways of those whom we have chosen or resigned to accept as our masters? Surely it is not all that difficult to follow the teachings of Islam as enshrined in the Holy Book - at least when it comes to honesty, integrity, leaderhip by example, etc.?
In the final analysis, the muslims are not working in unison to propagate, share and grow the Islam here in this country. Leadership by example is a far cry. Divide, segregate and rule is the preferred mantra. Is this not against the very grain of Islam's call? But take a look at the few and rare leaders like the Malaysian Islamic Partiy (PAS) Spiritual Leader Tok Guru Nik Aziz (photo). He not only leads the muslims by example but continuously inspires the non muslims to respect Islam. Why are all other politicians unable to do likewise? Or if thy cannot, can they also not leave Islam alone and with the virtous to deal with? Well even if we are not privileged to have an oversupply of exemplary leaders, the least is we should immediately stop making Islam a pawn for personal greed; a slave of politics; a prison for citizenry for Islam is not any of these. Please do what ever needs to be done so that all Malaysians can stand up and respect and receive the goodness of Islam. Or at the least admire the greatness of God’s gift to mankind even if they choose to remain ardent followers of their respective faiths.
WASHINGTON DC, U.S - Politics can get quite rough in Washington, but it was a basketball game that gave US President Barack Obama a bloody lip on Friday morning requiring 12 stitches.Obama is a keen recreational basketball player – the other one is US Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke – and had a game with friends and relatives.
In the fifth game, the president was playing defense when a player from the rival team turned to shoot, elbowing the president in his mouth.“The President received 12 stitches today administered by the White House Medical Unit,” said a press secretary Robert Gibbs(photo) in a statement.
He was given local anesthesia and the team used a filament smaller than usual, which increases the number of stitches but leaves a smaller scar. The White House did not name the man responsible for the cut till later. He is Rey Decerega (photo), director of programs for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, who issued a statement but did not apologize.
“I learned today the president is both a tough competitor and a good sport,” Decerega said, adding, “I enjoyed playing basketball with him this morning. I’m sure he’ll be back out on the court again soon.”
Others on the court were Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan (photo), aide and basketball player Reggie Love, and the president’s nephew Avery Robinson.
Obama is an avid basketball player and played regularly during the presidential campaign and had a basketball court installed on the South Lawn of the White House.
The game was held at Fort Mcnair, a military base in DC. Jonathan Smith, a sports fitness instructor at Fort McNair, told he noticed a few “trickles of blood” on the president’s lip as he was leaving.They had been playing for about 90 minutes when the incident occurred, Smith said.
SEOUL, South Korea - A full-blown war on the Korean peninsula offers up a nightmare scenario that would cause appalling casualties and potentially trigger a nuclear exchange, experts and former officials say. The crisis provoked by North Korea's artillery attack on a South Korean island this week makes the prospect of an all-out conflict look less remote, and US officials - mindful of the high-stakes - have carefully avoided talk of military action.
With an array of artillery trained on Seoul, North Korea could easily blast the glass towers of the South's booming capital for days and kill huge numbers of civilians before US and South Korean forces prevailed, experts said.
Fears over the consequences of North Korea armed with working nuclear missiles have led some to call for preemptive strikes.
50,000 FILIPINOS IN KOREA TO BE MOVED TO JAPAN Meanwhile in Manila President Benigno Aquino said the Philippine government plans to move its nationals to Japan in case the tense situation in the Korean peninsula deteriorates. An estimated 50,000 Filipinos live and work in South Korea while nine were reportedly in North Korea.
Aquino has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to do test runs on the planned evacuation. The DFA was likewise directed to coordinate with the Japanese mission in Manila.
The armed forces was also ordered to place an air force C-130 cargo aircraft and a naval transport ship on standby in case there's an immediate need to ferry Filipinos out of Korea.
Officials were also coordinating with private commercial airlines. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Airways that operate flights to South Korea.
"The budget is being prepared in case it's needed but as of this time I just wanted them to make sure we are able to reach out to all of the people that we have there," Aquino said.
The United Nations also assured the safety of nine Filipinos in North Korea, said Aquino, adding that five of them are with the UN while the others work for a tobacco company.
Meanwhile, the Philippine government will temporarily halt sending workers to Korea amidst increasing tensions in the North Asian peninsula. Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, said the government would be observing a "deployment ban" to the Korean peninsula after a panel formed by the government recommended such action in light of increasing tensions between North and South Korea.
Teenage castaways, Filo Filo, Samuel Perez and Edward Nasau with the aluminium craft in which they spent 50 days adrif
WELLINGTON, New Zealand - Three teenage boys set adrift for 50 days in a small boat in the South Pacific survived on coconuts, a seagull they managed to catch and by drinking rain and then sea water, rescuers said on Friday. "It was a miracle we got to them," said Tai Fredricsen, first mate on the fishing boat that rescued the boys.
"They are in incredibly good shape for the time they have been at sea. Somehow they caught a bird, I don't know how, but they caught it. They ate it, that is what is recommended (in survival manuals)," Fredricsen told New Zealand media.
The boys, from the New Zealand territory of Tokelau, disappeared from its Atafu atoll on October 6.
After an extensive air and sea search failed to find the teenagers, their families became convinced they had died at sea, and two weeks ago held a memorial service for them on the tiny coral atoll, a Maritime New Zealand spokesman said on Friday.
Etueni Nasau, 14, Samu Pelesa, 15, and Filo Filo, 15, drifted 1,300 km (800 miles) across an empty, and little travelled, section of the Pacific Ocean.
On Thursday, a New Zealand fishing boat, the San Nikanau, sailing near the French territory of Wallis and Futuna spotted the boys' floundering boat off its bow.
"Yesterday we saw a small vessel, a little speed boat on our bows, and we knew it was a little weird," said Fredricsen.
"We had enough smarts to know there were people in it and those people were not supposed to be there."
About a mile out, the boys started waving to the tuna ship.
"I pulled the vessel up as close as I could to them and asked them if they needed any help. They said 'very much so', they were ecstatic to see us," said Fredricsen.
"They were very skinny, but physically in good health, compared to what they have been through."
The boys had a couple of coconuts on board but no water when rescued. They said they had left their island home to travel to a nearby island and had enough coconuts to last two days. It is not known why the boys failed to reach the island.
The Tokelau Islands consist of three small atolls in the Pacific Ocean, about midway between New Zealand and Hawaii.
The boys were lucky to be spotted as the San Nikunau would normally off-load its catch in American Samoa, but had opted to head towards New Zealand. "We generally don't take this route and we were following the fastest line to New Zealand," said Fredricsen. The San Nikunau was now sailing to Fiji so the boys can receive medial treatment.
CHICAGO, USA - Travellers dismayed by airport body scans headed to airports on Wednesday with the makings of any good protest: handmade fliers, eye-catching placards, slogan-bearing T-shirts and Scottish kilts. The loosely organised effort dubbed National Opt-Out Day hopes to highlight what some call unnecessarily intrusive security screenings. Others fear it will merely snarl pre-Thanksgiving airline operations on the busiest travel day of the year.
The 43-year-old Robert Shofkomfrom Georgetown, Texas, said he planned for weeks to wear a traditional kilt — without underwear — to display his outrage over body scanners and aggressive pat-downs while catching his flight out of Austin on Wednesday.
"If you give them an inch, they won't just take an inch. Pretty soon you're getting scanned to get into a football game," the IT specialist said.
Shofkom was momentarily disheartened when his wife informed him on Tuesday that the Austin airport doesn't yet have body scans. But he decided to wear the kilt anyway, a show of solidarity with fellow protesters who have taken to Facebook and other websites to tout plans for similarly revealing travel outfits.
One internet-based protest group called We Won't Fly said hundreds of activists planned to go to 27 US airports on Wednesday to pass out fliers with messages such as "You have the right to say, ‘No radiation strip search! No groping of genitals!' Say, ‘I opt out.'"
"If 99 per cent of people normally agree to go through scanners, we hope that falls to 95 per cent," said one organiser, George Donnelly, 39. "That would make it a success."
If enough people opt for a pat-down rather than a body scan, security-line delays could quickly cascade.
More than 40 million people plan to travel over the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA, with just more than 1.6 million flying — a 3.5 per cent increase in fliers from last year. Body scans for passengers chosen at random take as little as 10 seconds. New pat-down procedures, which involve a security worker touching travellers' crotch and chest areas, can take four minutes or longer.
LISBON, Pertugal - A 24-hour general strike protesting the government’s austerity policies largely paralysed Portugal on Wednesday, with planes grounded, trains cancelled and rubbish going uncollected. Unions hailed the action as a massive success.
The national strike is Portugal’s first since 2007, and the first called jointly by the two big trade union confederations, CGTP and UGT, in 22 years.
Incoming and outgoing flights were cancelled in Lisbon, Porto, Faro and the Azores islands, the airport authority ANA said. In neighbouring Spain, the airport authority AENA said 41 of the 53 flights between Spain and Portugal were cancelled. Most counters were closed at Lisbon airport.
More than 70 per cent of scheduled train connections were cancelled in the morning, the rail operating company CP said. Most Lisbon buses did not circulate, and ferries did not operate on the River Tagus in the morning.
The Lisbon underground remained closed, and 90 per cent of Porto underground engine drivers had reportedly joined the strike.
Ports remained closed, rubbish collection and postal services came to an almost complete halt in many places, while many hospitals and health centres were only offering minimum services, according to union sources.
Several large factories in the car and shipbuilding sectors reportedly came to a standstill.
Meanwhile, the police denied union accusations that they had violently dispersed post office pickets in the capital.
Prime Minister Jose Socrates’ economic policies “demand too many sacrifices from workers, while leaving out many (wealthy citizens) who could pay much more,” UGT leader Joao Proenca said. Far-left leader Francisco Louca hailed the strike as an “enormous success” which would force the government to reconsider its policies. The government, however, sees its spending cuts and tax hikes as indispensable for Portugal to restore the confidence of financial markets and to put its finances in order.
Socrates’ budget was due to be given the definitive green light by parliament this week. The budget slashes public sector wages by five per cent, freezes pensions, and raises value added tax from 21 to 23 per cent.
The government wants to cut the budget deficit from an expected 7.3 per cent this year to 4.6 per cent in 2011. The deficit would then be trimmed below the EU limit of 3 per cent by 2013.
Lisbon is trying to reassure markets concerned that Portugal might need an international bailout similar to those requested by Greece and Ireland.
Portugal’s unemployment rate climbed to a record 10.9 per cent in the third quarter. Socrates has already faced a string of strikes and demonstrations against his liberalizing economic reforms.
GREYMOUTH, New Zealand - All 29 miners trapped underground in a New Zealand mine for five days are believed to be dead following a second explosion in the Pike River Coal mine, police said on Wednesday. "It is our belief that no one has survived and everyone will have perished. This is one of the most tragic things I have had to do as a police officer," police superintendent Gary Knowles told reporters.
The miners were trapped in the 2.3km main tunnel last Friday night when methane gas caused a massive explosion in the mountain on New Zealand's south island.
Deadly toxic gas and fears of further explosions stopped rescuers entering the mine, despite desperate pleas by the miners' relatives that rescue teams enter the mine to find their husbands and sons.
Rescuers used robots and electronic devices to explore for life in the mine, but there were no signs that any survived the initial blast.
On Wednesday morning rescuers said there was little chance any of the miners were still alive, but continued to monitor toxic gas levels hoping the air would clear enough for rescue teams to enter the mine. A few hours later a massive explosion occured.
Mine chief Peter Whittall said the second explosion was what rescuers had always feared.
"Its dangerous and its hazardous and the rescue teams would be putting their lives gravely at risk (to enter the mine). While we were there and making that assessment, exactly what we said could happen, happened," said Whittall.
"Realistically many would never have come out alive," said a tearful Whittall.
But relatives of the dead miners were angry that rescuers had not immediately entered the mine to save their loved ones. They said that straight after the first blast the deadly gases would have been consumed in the explosion.
"If they do find that people were alive after that first blast there is going to be a lot of problems," said Laurie Drew, father of 21-year-old trapped miner Zen.
"Now the truth can't come out because no one down there will come out alive," said Drew.
There have been previous examples of mine rescue attempts being called off because of the danger with the bodies left entombed at the site.
INCHEON, South Korea – North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire Tuesday along their disputed frontier, raising tensions between the rivals to their highest level in more than a decade. The communist nation warned of more military strikes if the South encroaches on the maritime border by "even 0.001 millimeter."
According to a report, North Korea shot dozens of rounds of artillery onto a populated South Korean island near their disputed western border Tuesday, prompting South Korea to return fire and scramble fighter jets, military officials said. At least one South Korean marine reportedly was killed.
The skirmish came amid high tension over North Korea’s claim that it has a new uranium enrichment facility and just over a month after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il unveiled his youngest son Kim Jong Un as his heir apparent.
South Korea’s YTN television said one South Korean marine was killed and that two people were injured. The report said several houses were on fire and shells were still falling on Yeonpyeong island, which is about 100 km west of the coast.
The station broadcast pictures of thick columns of black smoke rising from the island.
President Lee Myung-bak ordered officials to make sure that the firing wouldn’t escalate, according to Yonhap, quoting a presidential official. YTN said between 1,200 and 1,300 people live on the island, citing an island resident.
A South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff official said dozens of rounds of artillery landed on the island and in the sea. The official says South Korea fired back. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of JCS rules, said South Korea’s military is on alert. He had no other details, and could not confirm the reports of casualties.
Tensions between the two Koreas have remained high since the sinking in March of a South Korean warship in which 46 sailors died. Seoul blamed a North Korean torpedo, while Pyongyang has denied any responsibility.