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Wed, 29 Mar 2023
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"Suicide bombing" in Nigeria kills two at church

A suicide car bomber attacked a Catholic church conducting Mass in northern Nigeria on Sunday, killing two people and wounding another 45 in a region under assault by a radical Islamist sect, officials said.

Victims of a suicide bomb attack at St.Johns Catholic church sit in the back of an ambulance in Bauchi
The attack took place in the city of Bauchi, which has seen a number of bombings and shootings blamed on the sect known as Boko Haram. The blast appeared to hit a parking lot alongside the St. John's Catholic Church in the city.

Police and military surrounded the church and did not allow journalists inside the cordon. Later at a nearby hospital, Bauchi deputy police commissioner T. Stevens told journalists told that the bomber had been stopped at the church's gate, where he detonated the explosives packed inside his car.

Doctors cautioned more could die from their injuries.

"The situation has been brought under control," Stevens said. "We have our men minding all areas."

Stevens said no group or individual had claimed responsibility for the attack, though suspicion immediately fell on Boko Haram. The sect, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, has been waging an increasingly bloody fight against nation's weak central government. More than 680 people have died in drive-by killings and bombings blamed on Boko Haram this year alone, according to an AP count. The sect has demanded the release of all its captive members and has called for strict Shariah law to be implemented across the entire country.


Pakistan Minister Places $100,000 Bounty for 'Anti-Islam' Film-Maker

© Agence France-Presse
Demonstrators attack a cinema during a protest against an anti-Islam film in Karachi.
Islamabad - A Pakistani official on Saturday placed a $100,000 bounty on the head of the maker of an anti-Islam film that has sparked a wave of violence and anger, as Muslims mounted fresh protests worlwide. Railways minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour also called on the Taliban and al-Qaeda to join the hunt and help accomplish the "noble deed."

Bilour spoke to reporters in the northwestern city of Peshawar a day after violent nationwide demonstrations against the Innocence of Muslims film left 21 people dead and more than 200 injured.

"I announce today that this blasphemer who has abused the holy prophet, if somebody will kill him, I will give that person a prize of $100,000," Bilour said, urging others to shower the killer with cash and gold.

"I also invite Taliban and al-Qaeda brothers to be partners in this noble deed," he added. "I also announce that if the government hands this person over to me, my heart says I will finish him with my own hands and then they can hang me."

Protests against the low-budget film have erupted across the Muslim world, leading to more than 50 deaths since the first demonstrations on September 11.

A French satirical magazine's publication this week of cartoons mocking the Prophet has further stoked anger.

Comment: Order Through Chaos: Who Wants to Set the World on Fire?


US takes MEK off list of terror groups, set to recognise cult as legitimate Iranian government?

© Jose Luis Magana/AP
The MEK, which was banned in 1997, supported the Islamic revolution in Iran and later allied itself with Saddam Hussein and then Israel.
Revealed: the steady flow of funds to members of Congress, lobbying firms and former officials in support of Iranian group

Supporters of a designated Iranian terrorist organisation have won a long struggle to see it unbanned in the US after pouring millions of dollars into an unprecedented campaign of political donations, hiring Washington lobby groups and payments to former top administration officials.

A Guardian investigation, drawing partly on data researched by the Centre for Responsive Politics, a group tracking the impact of money in US politics, has identified a steady flow of funds from key Iranian American organisations and their leaders into the campaign to have the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran removed from the list of terrorist organisations.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, is expected to notify Congress that the MEK will be removed from the terrorism list in the coming days.

Comment: For the full scoop on this insane organisation, read

Target Iran: America and Israel to Officially Unleash MEK Terrorist Cult


Hundreds Convicted in Turkish Coup Trial

© Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Relatives of Turkish officers in Silivri, left, react to a court decision in the coup trial.
Istanbul - A Turkish court found more than 300 active and retired military officers guilty of plotting to overthrow the government, in a sign that the judiciary is joining a government-led effort to strip the armed forces of political influence.

The decision Friday comes after more than two years of raids, detentions and hearings, with 365 people - including some civilians - put on trial for participating in an alleged plot called Sledgehammer. Retired and active officers received as much as 20 years in prison for seeking to destabilize Turkey through clandestine agitation and prepare the grounds for a coup. Of the total, 36 were acquitted.

The defendants deny the charges leveled by the state and upheld by the court.

Celal Urgen, an attorney for retired Gen. Çetin Dogan, said the defendants planned to appeal the decision, but that there was little hope for success.

"There is no free judiciary here, on the contrary, there is a judicial system that is the backyard of the government," he said in a televised speech after the verdict was announced.

Some commentators said that while the outcome was expected, the sentences seemed heavy-handed. Most people in Turkey see the verdict as a blow to the military, once the country's leading political player and self-appointed defender of the secular republic since it was established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, a general who became the first president.


Last Remaining US Surge Troops Leave Afghanistan

© Agence France-Presse/Vyacheslav Oseledko
US Soldiers from the 234th Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kansas board a plane from Afghanistan
The last of the 33,000 troops sent to Afghanistan by President Obama in 2009 have now left the country, the Pentagon has announced.

The forces were initially sent to Afghanistan on a mission to help reduce the increasing number of attacks by Taliban insurgents. The Obama administration developed a withdrawal plan where 10,000 troops would leave Afghanistan by July 2011 and the remaining 23,000 would leave by the end of this month.

With the departure of the surge troops, there are now 68,000 US forces left in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has told reporters. The president plans to pull out all conventional combat forces by the end of 2014, leaving just a few special operations forces and trainers.

Last year, US forces in Afghanistan peaked at about 101,000.

"As we reflect on this moment, it is an opportunity to recognize that the surge accomplished its objectives of reversing Taliban momentum on the battlefield, and dramatically increased the size and capability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)," Panetta said in a statement announcing the end of the surge.

The defense secretary said the mission accomplished its objectives by reducing the influence of terrorists in a country plagued with insurgents.


New Cameras in Britain Identify You By Your Walk

© Agence France-Presse/Leon Neal
A new biometric "gait recognition" system has been developed by Britain's National Physical Laboratory, meaning that individuals can now be recognized and located by their "signature" walk.

­Serious privacy concerns have been aired about the system and its potential surveillance applications.

New Scientist reports that NPL, which collaborated with the Center for Advanced Software Technology (CAST), the BBC and BAE Systems, developed a new system through which a person's walk could be identified. The tracking system combines a computer model of the NPL building with feeds from each on-site CCTV camera.

In each video frame, the system separates an individual's silhouette from its background. The rise and fall of head height is recorded, and the pattern it forms can be represented by a set of numbers. This is linked to the person's identity. A computer can then produce a list of all the other places that the person has visited, and the occasions they have been there.

Iris scans and facial recognition systems are seen as insufficient when it comes to identifying individuals from a longer distance. These methods require a "cooperative subject" and high-quality imaging. Standard CCTV is too low-resolution to pick out distinctive features, but the gait-identifying development could give it much more advanced surveillance capabilities.

Bizarro Earth

In Pakistan, at Least 20 Killed on Day of Protest Against Anti-Islam Film

Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistan's officially declared "Day of Love for the Prophet Muhammad" devolved into deadly violence in major cities Friday as tens of thousands of Pakistanis angrily demonstrated against an Islam-mocking YouTube video, although calm generally prevailed in other predominantly Muslim countries.

At least 20 people died and more than 150 were injured in the protests in Pakistan, authorities said - the highest one-day death toll since protests began over the video on Sept. 11. The demonstrations have spread to about 20 nations.

The government's announced effort to tamp down anger by providing a national holiday for peaceful protest clearly backfired, offering instead what seemed like an official sanction to violence.

Critics called the holiday a pandering attempt to please hard-line Islamist parties, whose influence has been on the rise here in recent years.

"This was a terrible idea," said Mehreen Zahra-Malik, a columnist with the News, a national English-language daily. "It was time to calm people down and not give a stamp of approval to protesters, many of whom would just use it as an excuse for violence. . . . There was clearly going to be violence."

Another commentator, Marvi Sirmed, said on Twitter: "It is sad, so very sad that we could never make a government realize that they don't have to kneel before mullah," a reference to Muslim clerics.

Bad Guys

With Friends Like Israel, Who Needs Enemies?

An edited version of this article by Jonathan Cook, with pictures, captions and comments by Lasha Darkmoon.

© Darkmoon.me
"Once we squeeze all we can out of the United States, it can dry up and blow away." - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 2002. (Widely reported, see here)
It is possibly the greatest of American political myths.

President Barack Obama has claimed that the United States enjoys a special bond with Israel unlike its relations with any other country. He has called the friendship "unshakeable". His Republican rival, Mitt Romney, has gone further, arguing that there is not "an inch of difference between ourselves and our ally Israel".

While such pronouncements form the basis of an apparent Washington consensus, the reality is that the cherished friendship is no more than a fairy tale.

Politicians may prefer to express undying love for Israel, and hand over billions of dollars annually in aid, but the US security establishment has - at least, in private - always regarded Israel as an unfaithful partner.

The distrust has been particularly hard to hide in relation to Iran. Israel has been putting relentless pressure on Washington, apparently in the hope of manoeuvring it into supporting or joining an attack on Tehran to stop what Israel claims is an Iranian effort to build a nuclear bomb concealed beneath its civilian energy programme.

While coverage has focused on the personal animosity between Obama and the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the truth is that US officials generally are deeply at odds with Israel on this issue.

The conflict burst into the open this month with reports that the Pentagon had scaled back next month's joint military exercise, Austere Challenge, with the Israeli military that had been billed as the largest and most significant in the two countries' history.

Heart - Black

How the Mitt Romney video killed the American Dream

Mitt Romney described 47% of Americans as government-dependent 'victims' in a covertly recorded video released by Mother Jones magazine this week.
Once, everyone believed they could succeed by hard work and gumption. Republicans no longer pretend to believe the myth

Mitt Romney's historic gaffe caught on video - published, with great timing, by the left-leaning Mother Jones magazine - in which he said that his campaign was writing off 47% of American voters since they "depended on government" handouts, was committed in an equally significant manner, as he delivered the remarks to a closed group of potential major donors in Florida. GOP stalwart and Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan is calling for an intervention in the campaign, and even some fellow Republicans are scampering to distance themselves from the inflammatory remarks.

But I find the remarks fascinating and important to deconstruct because they affirm - as insider discourse captured for the public often can - the fact that a new kind of narrative for America has taken over from one of our oldest and most cherished national myths. What Romney's comments reveal is that the American Dream is dead, killed off by skepticism from the bottom up - by the 99% of lower-income and middle-class people who no longer believe in it - and by cynicism from the top down - by the 1%, top-earning people who don't believe in it.

What, after all, is the narrative of "the American Dream"? It was a discourse formulated between the 1880s and the 1920s in the United States during the great waves of migration and expansion and reforms of the Progressive Era. Slogans, often used by political leaders who wished to court the aspirational, immigrant vote, invoked a promise that America was "the land of opportunity", where hard work, gumption and a bit of luck could make any poor kid a millionaire.


Why Don't People Care about Their Freedoms? David Seaman Discusses the Corporate Security Industry

Abby Interviews outspoken journalist, and US Congressional Candidate, David Seaman, about the slow erosion of civil liberties in America.