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December 8, 2007

Iran challenges U.S. report

Iran sent a letter to the United States, protesting the U.S.’s spying on Iran’s nuclear program, and saying the U.S.’s contention that Iran had a nuclear program until 2003, according to the BBC.
Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said a U.S. intelligence report released Monday which said Iran discontinued its nuclear program in 2003 was false. Mottaki denied that Iran has ever had a nuclear program.
“Seventy percent of the US intelligence report is true and positive and the remaining 30 percent, in which they claim that Iran had a nuclear weapon programme before 2003, is wrong,? he said, according to the BBC. “They refused to confess about this 30 percent because they did not want to lose all their reputation or for similar reasons.?

December 1, 2007

Briton jailed in Sudan for naming teddy bear Mohammed

A British elementary school teacher in Sudan was sentenced to 15 days in jail and then deportation Friday after allowing her class to name a teddy bear Mohammed, the name of the Muslim prophet, according to the BBC.
Large demonstrations took place in Sudan against the teacher, calling for her execution.
Gillian Gibbons, 54, from Liverpool, was found guilty of insulting religion. She said she is being treated well and fed even better, according to the BBC.
Foreign Minister David Miliband said he has continually expressed deep concern to the Sudanese government over Gibbons’ imprisonment, and two Muslim peers of the U.K. House of Lords have met Sudanese officials and ministers and expect to meet the president Sunday to negotiate Gibbons’ early release and safe return to the U.K.

November 18, 2007

Saudi Arabian rape victim sentenced to lashes and jail time

A 21-year-old Saudi Arabian gang rape victim was sentenced to 200 lashes and a 6-month sentence in jail Saturday, double her original sentence for being in a car with a male unrelated to her, after she appealed her first punishment, according to the BBC and the Guardian. Al-Jazeera did not report on the case.
The woman, who was 19 at the time of the attack, was raped 14 times by seven men. Her attackers’ sentences were also doubled to 2-10 years in jail, what the BBC called a light sentence considering they could’ve received the death penalty.
The judges decided to further punish the woman for “trying to aggravate the court through the media? and her lawyer was “suspended from the case, has had his license to work confiscated, and faces a disciplinary session,? according to the BBC.

November 11, 2007

U.S. Commander says violence in Baghdad almost gone

The commander of the US forces in Baghdad, Major-General Joseph Fil, said Thursday that the U.S. troops have forced most Al-Qaeda out of every Baghdad neighborhood and decreased violence in Baghdad by 80 percent, according to the Guardian.
“The Iraqi people have decided that they've had it up to here with violence,? Fil said, according to the Guardian. He said the reduction in extremists would make it easier to reduce military presence in Baghdad.
European defense analysts took a more cautionary position. “One, speaking on condition of anonymity, described Gen. Fil's assessment as ‘wildly optimistic’ and warned that there was a danger of his words ‘coming back to bite him,’? the Guardian said.

November 4, 2007

London police force found guilty

The English Metropolitan Police Force, known in London as the Met, which is responsible for the security of all London, was found guilty Thursday of failings that led to the death of an innocent civilian, according to the Guardian and the BBC.
Jean Charles de Menezes was shot to death in July, 2005 after police mistakenly identified him as a suicide bomber and followed him to a tube stop, where they shot him several times.
The Met was fined £175,000 ($350,000) and ordered to pay £385,000 ($770,000) in damages.
Leaders of the opposing political parties to the U.K.’s ruling Labour Party, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats, are demanding the resignation of Sir Ian Blair, Labour’s commissioner of the Met. Blair says he will not leave, and was publicly backed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

October 27, 2007

U.S. imposes new sanctions, calls Iranian army terrorists

The U.S. has leveled new sanctions on Iran with measures that the Iranian foreign ministry says are doomed to fail, the BBC, the Guardian and Al-Jazeera reported Friday.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Treasury Secretary Ron Paulson said the sanctions were meant to punish Iran for supporting terrorists at a news conference Thursday, according to Al-Jazeera. The BBC reported that the sanctions were a measure to “confront the threatening behavior of the Iranians,? and the Guardian said they were meant to deter Iran from endorsing its Revolutionary Guard, which the U.S. says is a terrorist organization involved with Lebanon’s Hezbollah. The U.S.’s classification of the Guard as a terrorist organization is the first time a country’s military has been put on the terrorist list.
Whatever the reason, Iran did not receive the sanctions kindly.
The commander of the Guard warned that any military action by the U.S. would be met with an even more decisive strike from Tehran, according to the Guardian.
“The sanctions will cut off more than 20 Iranian entities, including individuals and companies owned or controlled by the Revolutionary Guards from the American financial system and is likely to effect the international banking community,? according to Al-Jazeera.

October 20, 2007

Bhutto says she knows who tried to kill her

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto blamed the assassination attempt on her convoy by way of two suicide bombers, which killed 130 people, on former army officials Friday, according to the BBC and the Guardian.
Bhutto told the French magazine Paris-Match she knew who wanted to kill her. “They are dignitaries of General Zia's former regime who are behind extremism and fanaticism,? she said, according to the Guardian.
Bhutto, who is a strong defender of democracy, said she had been warned of four possible attacks and demanded an inquiry into the bombings, according to the BBC. Bhutto said she wanted to know why streetlights on her route were turned off.

October 12, 2007

U.K. Plans Massive Withdrawl from Iraq

U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown said British troops in Iraq would be decreased to 2,500 by next spring in an address to the House of Commons on Monday, according to The Guardian.
Brown began his address by acknowledging that three of the four Iraqi provinces in the U.K’s area of control had been returned to Iraqi control. He said the next step for the U.K. was to move from a combat role to an overwatch role.
"In 2004 it was agreed with the Iraqi government that in each of the country's 18 provinces security responsibility would progressively be returned to the Iraqi authorities as and when the conditions were right. Now we are in a position to announce further progress,? Brown said, according to The Guardian.
Brown outlined two stages to his strategy to hand over control of the Basra province to Iraqi authority. “In the first stage, UK forces would train and mentor Iraqi security forces, secure supply routes to the Iranian border and be able to provide back-up to local security forces.
“Troop numbers would be reduced from 5,500 to 4,500 and then to 4,000.
“A second stage will follow this, whereby, subject to conditions on the ground, force numbers in southern Iraq will be reduced to just 2,500,? according to The Guardian.
Some media, such as the BBC, have called attention to the timing of the statement, which occurred right after Brown came under fire for announcing there would not be a November election following extensive speculation that he would.

October 6, 2007

UN Envoy Fails in Burma

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said Wednesday night that UN attempts to end the political crisis in Burma and put a stop to the persecution of protestors has failed, according to The Guardian.
Ban sent a special envoy, who gave the “strongest possible message? to the military junta on Tuesday, in a meeting Ban does not describe as successful. A UN employee was arrested during a raid on pro-democracy homes Wednesday night. Three other UN officials have been detained and released, according to The Guardian.
The military crackdown in Burma has not gotten any better, according to the BBC, which reported Thursday that as many as 10,000 people, mostly monks, have been taken for interrogation in Burma.
Burmese residents in Rangoon, the country’s capital, said the streets are quiet during the day, but during the overnight curfew the military conducts raids, according to the BBC.
The Burmese junta closed down the entire country’s internet, The Guardian reported on Monday. The shutdown has made news and images from the country difficult to obtain.

September 30, 2007

Monks' Protest Causes Tension

Up to 10,000 Buddhist monks and nuns took to the streets of Rangoon, Burma Monday in a protest against the country’s military rulers that blossomed to include tens of thousands, according to The Guardian.
Burma’s military junta threatened that it was “ready to take action? against the monks, according to the BBC. “Brig Gen Thura Myint Maung, minister for religion, warned them not to break Buddhist ‘rules and regulations’ as Rangoon saw the largest march yet. He blamed the protests on ‘destructive elements opposed to peace in Burma,’? the BBC said.
The protest, which monks are proclaiming to be peaceful, are aimed to establish a democracy and peace in Burma.
The White House has declared President Bush will announce new US sanctions against Burmese leaders, according to the BBC. These sanctions would include a ban on US visas.
The last protest in Burma against a military government in 1988 resulted in 3,000 killed by the junta. So far, the military has shown restraint.

September 23, 2007

Lebanese MP Assassinated

An anti-Syrian Lebanese MP was assassinated in Beirut on Wednesday in a car bomb so strong it killed six others, injured at least 30 more, set four cars on fire and damaged buildings nearby, according to the BBC.
Antoing Ghenim, the assassinated MP, was a member of Parliament for the Maronite Phalange party since 2000. Ghenim was the sixth pro-west public figure to be killed since the murder of Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, according to The Guardian. His assassination took place a week before Lebanese MPs are scheduled to elect a new president, according to the BBC.
The Syrian government denied all involvement in the assassination.

September 13, 2007

U.K. Okays Human-Animal Embryos

British regulators decided to allow the practice of combining human and animal cells to create hybrid embryos September 5. British scientists say that the embryos are needed due to a shortage in healthy human eggs and that they will greatly aid stem cell research, according to Reuters. The scientists hope to use the embryos to create the stem cells, which they say will further research in treating degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Each case of combining cells will have to be considered and approved by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, Reuters reported. One group from King’s College London and one group from Newcastle University have applied in the U.K. and are awaiting the HFEA’s decision, according to the BBC.
The process of combining cells consists of removing the DNA from a cow egg’s nucleus then injecting a human nucleus into the egg, creating an egg that is 99.9% human and 0.1% cow, the BBC reported. Although most U.K. news sites report a general comfort among the British people with the process, there is opposition. According to EuroNews, Anthony Ozimic, a member of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said, “The hype surrounding hybrids is being promoted by those with a vested interest in the government's stem cell research fund, and yet again patients with degenerative conditions are being given false hope by the profit-hungry biotech industry.?
Chief Executive of the HFEA Angela McNab dismissed similar arguments. “Many people initially have a disquiet about this type of research, but once people understand much more about what's involved, they're able to focus more on what the potential benefits of the science are, and they feel much more comfortable about it,? she said, according to EuroNews.