Hardline Arab-Israeli imam held in Britain: spokesman

Controversial Arab-Israeli Islamist leader Sheikh Raed Saleh has been arrested in London while on a speaking tour in Britain, a spokesman for the Islamic Movement told AFP on Wednesday.

“He was arrested on Tuesday night in London and is still in custody. We don’t know yet if he will be deported but we are expecting to hear from his lawyer today,” Sheikh Kamal Khatib told AFP.

Khatib said it was not clear exactly why Saleh had been detained, but he blamed “the Zionist lobby in Britain” for pushing police to hold the leader.

France air drops arms to Libya rebels: report

France has begun parachuting arms shipments to Berber rebels fighting Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s forces in the highlands south of Tripoli, the French daily Le Figaro reported on Wednesday.

According to the paper, which said it had seen a secret intelligence memo and talked to well-placed officials, the air drops are designed to help rebel fighters encircle Tripoli and encourage a popular revolt in the city itself.

“If the rebels can get to the outskirts of Tripoli, the capital will take the chance to rise against Kadhafi,” said an official quoted in the report.

South Korea to open cyber warfare school

South Korea’s military will create a cyber warfare school to help combat growing Internet attacks from North Korea, an official said Wednesday.

The army has teamed up with Korea University to open in 2012 the new cyber-defence school, which will admit 30 students a year for a four-year course.

Courses include how to break malicious Internet codes, ways to psychologically prepare for cyber warfare and other IT technologies to guard against potential attacks, an army spokesman told AFP.

Myanmar deports 'blacklisted' Michelle Yeoh

Hollywood star Michelle Yeoh, who plays pro-democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi in an upcoming film, has been deported by army-dominated Myanmar and blacklisted, an official said Tuesday.

“She did not have the chance to enter Myanmar again. She was deported straight away on the first flight after arriving at Yangon International Airport,” a Myanmar official, who did not want to be named, told AFP.

“She’s on the blacklist now,” a second official said, declining to say why.

Ten killed as Taliban attack Kabul hotel

Taliban suicide bombers and gunmen attacked a top Kabul hotel, sparking a five-hour battle with Afghan commandos backed by a NATO helicopter in an assault that left at least 10 people dead Wednesday.

Red tracer bullets arced through the night sky around the hilltop Intercontinental Hotel, whose faded grandeur frequently pays host to Afghan officials and foreigners. Part of the building was in flames.

Defecting Russian spymaster tells wife to be calm

Colonel Alexander Poteyev was fleeing his homeland, fearing arrest for the biggest betrayal suffered by Russia’s spy service since the Cold War. “Mary, try to take this calmly,” he typed into his mobile telephone. “I am leaving not for a short time but forever.”

Poteyev’s farewell message to his wife was read out on Monday to a Moscow military court that convicted him in absentia for betraying ten agents in the United States. The affair was splashed across world media last June, a colourful reminder the realm of suburban ’sleeper agents’, dead letter drops and secret ink had not died with the end of communism.

Afghan central bank chief flees to US

Afghanistan’s central bank governor has resigned and fled to the United States, saying his life is in danger over a corruption probe targeting influential figures connected to the government.

President Hamid Karzai’s government on Tuesday dismissed the claims of Abdul Qadir Fitrat, chairman of Da Afghanistan Bank, insisting his life was not under threat and calling him a “runaway governor”.

“I announce my resignation from the position of governor of the central bank of Afghanistan immediately,” Fitrat said in a statement issued as he visited the United States, where he reportedly has permanent residency.

[Click to read Afghan Central bank]

Evacuations as fire threatens top US military nuclear lab

The top US military nuclear research lab was ordered to stay closed Tuesday after flames reached it and the local town began evacuating, though all high-risk materials were safe, officials said Monday.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) said there had been “no off-site releases of contamination” after a one-acre (.40 ha) blaze on the southwestern edge of the research complex northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

An emergency operations unit remains working at the high-security site, founded during World War II when it began developing nuclear weapons technology, and which nowadays employs some 11,800 people.

Israel backs away from threat to flotilla reporters

Israel backtracked on Monday on a threat to bar foreign journalists from entering the country for 10 years if they board a new international aid flotilla that plans to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an official statement said, instructed authorities to exempt foreign reporters from “the usual policy applied to infiltrators and those who enter illegally”.

In an email to foreign news organisations on Sunday, the Government Press Office (GPO) said journalists’ participation in the flotilla would be “an intentional violation” of Israeli law that could result in a 10-year entry ban to Israel and confiscation of their equipment. 

ICC judges issue arrest warrants for Muammar Gaddafi

Judges at the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi for war crimes and crimes against humanity on Monday, the 100th day of a NATO bombing campaign.

Britain, which has led the UN-mandated international effort to protect civilians from Gaddafi ’s forces, hailed the court’s decision and said members of the Libyan regime should now abandon him.

Welcome to The Columbia Paper

CHATHAM--Welcome to The Columbia Paper, the website for a new, weekly newspaper of the same name covering Columbia County.

Many of the folks who will write for this publication previously worked on The Independent, which was shut down by its corporate owner, the Journal Register Co., February 6. All of us hope to serve the community with accurate, fair and timely stories and features about this region.

Fugitive Thaksin vows not to seek revenge

Fugitive Thai ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra has vowed not to seek revenge over the coup which ousted him from power if his party wins the restive kingdom’s upcoming elections.

In a television interview from his self-imposed exile in Dubai, he told the Al-Jazeera news network his top priority was reconciliation and reuniting Thailand, which has been riven with deep divisions since the 2006 coup.

“Never — I never want revenge,” said Thaksin, who fled Thailand before being convicted in his absence for corruption.

Iraq court gives al Qaeda leader’s wife life sentence

An Iraqi court has sentenced the wife of a slain al-Qaeda leader to life in prison for her role in aiding insurgents’ activities, a spokesman for the country’s judicial council said on Sunday.

Hasna Ali Yahya, the wife of former al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was given life imprisonment on Thursday, Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, spokesman for Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council said.

“She was convicted last Thursday according to article four of the anti-terrorism law for (providing) cover and shelter to the terrorist group of Abu Ayyub al-Masri,” Birqdar told Reuters. 

Japan PM may step down by mid-August: lawmakers

Japan’s unpopular Prime Minister Naoto Kan may step down by mid-August if parliament passes key bills for disaster reconstruction, senior lawmakers said Sunday.

Kan pledged earlier this month to resign soon, but he has also demanded that bills on reconstruction from the March 11 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster are passed first, along with legislation to promote renewable energy sources.

Afghan hospital suicide bomb toll rises to 38

The toll from a suicide car bombing at an Afghan hospital rose to 38 Sunday, a local official said, days after President Barack Obama said 10,000 US troops would leave the country this year.

Many of the victims in Logar province, about 75 kilometres (45 miles) south of the capital Kabul, were women and children who had been at the hospital’s maternity ward, and as many as 50 people were also wounded.

The devastating attack came just weeks before international forces are due to start handing over responsibility for security to their Afghan counterparts in seven areas of the country.

Iraq blasts kill at least 23, scores wounded

Three bombs exploded near a busy street market and a religious site in a mainly Shi’ite area of southwestern Baghdad on Thursday, killing at least 23 people and wounding scores of others, security sources said.

A parked car bomb exploded a short time later in the Iraqi’s capital’s southern Abu Dsheer district, killing two people and wounding 10.

Iraq’s police and army have ramped up security in the run-up to a major Shi’ite religious occasion that climaxes next week.

[Click to read Iraq]

Japan quake caused $210 bln in property damage

Japan’s March 11 quake and tsunami disaster destroyed buildings and infrastructure worth about $210 billion, excluding costs caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident, the government said Friday.

The 16.9 trillion yen bill estimate by the Cabinet office also excludes other costs such as compensation payments for disaster victims and evacuees.

The figure includes structural damage to the Fukushima Daiichi atomic plant and other nuclear facilities but not costs resulting from radiation leaks such as the impacts on sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

[Click to read Japan Quake]

U.S. and others plan biggest release of reserve oil

The United States and other nations that depend on oil imports will release and sell 60 million barrels of crude from emergency stocks in an effort to ease the strain of high oil prices on the global economy.

The release by the International Energy Agency, a group of more than two dozen countries, covers only what the world uses roughly every 16 hours. But it was enough to send oil prices lower, at least for the moment.

[Click to read U.S and and others plan]

Bin Laden widow to return to Yemen: brother

The youngest widow of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden will return home to Yemen from Pakistan in the coming days, her brother said Wednesday.

Amal Abdulfattah’s family was informed by “the foreign ministries of Yemen and Pakistan of plans concerning the return of Amal and her five children to Yemen in the coming days,” Zakariya Abdulfattah told AFP.

“There have been diplomatic arrangements between the Yemeni and the Pakistani parties to secure her return to her country and we have received promises that it will take place soon,” he said.

Dutch anti-Islam lawmaker Wilders acquitted

An Amsterdam court Thursday acquitted Dutch far-right lawmaker Geert Wilders on charges of hate speech and discrimination for statements he made attacking Islam.

“You are being acquitted on all the charges that were put against you,” Judge Marcel van Oosten told Wilders.

“The bench finds that your statements are acceptable within the context of the public debate,” Judge van Oosten told Wilders, 47, who has been on trial in the Amsterdam regional court since last October.

Singapore investment boss seeks state presidency

The deputy chairman of the Government of Singapore Investment Corp (GIC) said Thursday he had resigned to run for the state presidency, whose duties include safeguarding its vast foreign reserves.

Tony Tan, 71, a former deputy prime minister and government minister, said he would stand as an independent and was stepping down from the sovereign wealth fund in order to do so.

He has also resigned from the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) and as chairman of Asian media giant Singapore Press Holdings, publisher of the Straits Times and other newspapers and magazines, he said.

Australia may use fingerprints to ID burqa wearers

Australian police are considering using fingerprints to identify people wearing face-covering veils, after a judge said he could not be sure a burqa-clad woman was who she told police she was.

The judge said this week that a case against Carnita Matthews, who a magistrate earlier found had made a false complaint against police, could not be upheld partly because he could not be sure she had made the complaint.

The complaint was made by a burqa-wearing woman to a Sydney police station but officers never saw the woman’s face.

Photographer shot in Belfast sectarian clashes

A photographer was shot in the leg and police were pelted with petrol bombs in a second night of sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast overnight Tuesday to Wednesday.

Police used water cannon as about 700 people gathered in the Lower Newtownards Road area of the mainly Protestant east Belfast late Tuesday, and two men suffered burn injuries in the worst such violence for years.

USGS reports 6.8 magnitude earthquake east of Japan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Geological Survey on Wednesday reported at 6.8 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Honshu, Japan, 85 miles (136 kilometers) southeast of Hachinohe at 21:50 GMT.

The quake was followed by a 6.7 magnitude quake a few seconds later in the same region of the Pacific Ocean.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no warning or watch currently in effect for the area.

[Click to read USGS]

China urges U.S. to stay out of sea dispute

BEIJING June 23 - China urged the United States on Wednesday to leave the South China Sea dispute to the claimant states, saying that U.S. involvement may make the situation worse, its most direct warning to Washington in recent weeks.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai’s comments to reporters come amid the biggest flare-up in regional tensions in years over competing maritime sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, where tensions have risen in the past month on concerns that China is becoming more assertive in its claim to waters believed to be rich in oil and gas. 

INSTANT VIEW - Obama plan for withdrawing troops for Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama announced a plan on Wednesday to begin withdrawing 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by year's end, followed by about 23,000 more by the end of next summer.

The following is reaction to Obama's plan:
US Army soldiers from Charlie company 4th platoon,1st brigade 3-21 infantry, patrol in the village of Chariagen in the Panjwai district of Kandahar province southern Afghanistan, June 22 , 2011. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner)


I am pleased the president recognizes that success in Afghanistan is paramount. Continuing to degrade al Qaeda's capabilities in Afghanistan and the surrounding region must take priority over any calendar dates. It's important that we retain the flexibility necessary to reconsider troop levels and respond to changes in the security environment should circumstances on the ground warrant. It is my hope that the President will continue to listen to our commanders on the ground as we move forward.

Obama sets plan to start U.S. exit from Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama announced on Wednesday a plan to start bringing U.S. troops home from Afghanistan in a significant first step toward ending the long, costly Afghan war.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the war in Afghanistan during a televised address from the East Room of the White House in Washington June 22, 2011. (REUTERS/Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Pool)

In a televised address, Obama said he would pull 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by year's end, followed by about 23,000 more by the end of next summer.

Poland preparing illegal immigrant amnesty

Poland's government on Wednesday announced it have given a green light to plans for a limited amnesty for illegal immigrants living in the country.

In a statement, the government said it had approved a draft law covering individuals who have lived in Poland illegally since December 2007.

An estimated 5,500 people are expected to benefit from the amnesty law, which must still win the backing of parliament.

Under the planned legislation, they would be granted a two-year residence and work permit.Poland, a European Union nation of 38 million, is traditionally a source of emigrants rather than a destination.

Modest house price rise seen in England, Wales

LONDON: Asking prices for houses in England and Wales are likely to rise overall this year, British property website Rightmove forecast on Monday, scaling back earlier predictions for a steep fall in prices for the second half of the year.

Rightmove, which says its website is used to market almost 90% of homes for sale, predicted that house prices would finish the year with an annual gain of 2%, in contrast to its December forecast for a 2%-5% fall.

Rightmove said asking prices rose 0.6% in June after a 1.3% rise in May, reaching an average of 240,394, their highest level since an all-time peak of 242,500 struck in May 2008.

[Clicl to read Modest House]

Mrs. Obama to youth: History to be made in Africa

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - Michelle Obama on Wednesday told young African leaders, including members of South Africa's post-apartheid generation, that there are more causes worth fighting for and more history to be made. She urged them to be the ones who end hunger, wipe out HIV/AIDS and protect women's rights.

In an emotionally stirring speech at a church that became a popular refuge during the fight against government-imposed segregation in South Africa, America's first lady drew on the struggle for racial equality in the U.S. and in this country as she sought to inspire young people to become the next generation of problem-solvers.

Israel okays materials to build Gaza homes, schools

Israel has approved the delivery to the Gaza Strip of materials to build 1,200 homes and 18 schools in UN-run projects, a defence official told AFP on Tuesday.

The decision came shortly before the scheduled departure of an international convoy seeking to breach Israel's naval blockade of Gaza and as Israeli officials argued that there is no humanitarian crisis there.

Major Guy Inbar, spokesman for the defense ministry department responsible for liaison with the Palestinian territories, said the materials would be consigned to the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency, which cares for Palestinian refugees and is managing construction.

"What we approved for UNRWA was more big projects, the construction of 18 schools," Inbar told AFP.

"Also two big projects were approved for the building of about 1,200 housing units." The decision was greeted by UNRWA.

Obama says pulling 33,000 troops out of Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Wednesday he will withdraw 10,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by year's end and a total of 33,000 by the summer of 2012.

In a nationally televised speech outlining a shift in U.S. policy after a decade of war, Obama said that after the initial reduction, more troops will be pulled out of Afghanistan at a steady pace as Afghans take over their own security by 2014.


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