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In Afghanistan, 5,000 Attend Funeral of Prisoner Who Died in Guantánamo, as Afghan Peace Council Calls for Release of Former Taliban Official

Following the death at Guantánamo last week of Awal Gul, an Afghan held for nine years without charge or trial, his body was returned to his home country, where 5,000 people attended his funeral on Monday in the Najmul Jihad area of Jalalabad. With typical insensitivity, the US authorities responded to Gul's death - apparently as the result of a heart attack after taking exercise - by claiming that he was "an admitted Taliban recruiter and commander of a military base in Jalalabad," who "at one point allegedly operated an al-Qaeda guesthouse" and also admitted meeting with Osama bin Laden "and providing him with operational assistance on several occasions."

These allegations were greeted by one of Gul's lawyers, W. Matthew Dodge, as "outrageous" and "slander," and the New York Times, which picked up on Dodge's complaints, along with Reuters, noted that Dodge "said that his client had resigned from the Taliban, and that in three years of litigation, the government never claimed or pointed to any evidence that his client had run any Qaeda house or admitted providing support to Mr. bin Laden."

Che Guevara

Saudis bid to form 1st political party

© Unknown
Activists from the first political party in Saudi Arabia
Nine activists in Saudi Arabia have announced the formation of the first political party in the country, amid ongoing revolutions and pro-democracy protests in other Arab countries.

The move comes despite the kingdom's ban on forming political parties.

The founders of the "Islamic Umma Party" have conveyed a statement to King Abdullah asking him to recognize the group, AFP reported on Thursday.

"It is not hidden from you that the Islamic world has seen great political developments and the strengthening of freedoms and human rights, which Islam already approves ... It is now time for the kingdom to keep pace with this development and contribute to it," a copy of the letter published on the their website reads.

"We have established the Islamic Umma Party to contribute to forwarding the peaceful political reform movement, to which all the people look forward," the statement adds.

The nine founders, who are lawyers, businessmen, professors and political activists, believe in "freedom," "political pluralism, and the peaceful transfer of power, and the right of the (Islamic) nation to choose its governments," it says.


Sarkozy condemns multiculturalism


Sarko: strictly monoculturiste
French President Nicolas Sarkozy has censured multiculturalism a failure, joining other western leaders that have already rejected the notion despite boasting freedom as a founding principle.

Sarkozy declared in a televised interview on Thursday that "I don't want a society where communities coexist side by side" and that "France will not welcome people who don't agree to melt into a single community."

"We have been too busy with the identity of those who arrived and not enough with the identity of the country that accepted them," he added.

The comments have brought the French President in line with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the UK Prime Minister David Cameron, a former Australian premiere John Howard and Spanish former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar who have previously expressed their opposition against multiculturalism.

Comment: Just a few days ago, the British conservative PM said the same thing: UK: State Multiculturalism Has Failed, Says David Cameron


Millions to march to Mubarak's palace

Millions of anti-government protesters are expected to march on the presidential palace in Cairo after Hosni Mubarak refused to step down amid massive protests.

Meanwhile, thousands of anti-government protesters have already gathered outside the presidential palace in the suburban neighborhood of Heliopolis in the capital's northeast.

Egypt's state television building in Cairo has also been surrounded by outraged demonstrators demanding Mubarak's immediate resignation.

Egypt's main opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood has said that Mubarak's ouster is not the demand of a particular group but the national demand of all Egyptian people.

Tensions are expected to escalate further on the eighteenth day of pro-democracy protests as millions are to come together at mosques for Muslim communal prayers on Friday.

Meanwhile, media reports said The Egyptian military's Supreme Command Council is to make an important statement to the people.

Bizarro Earth

Hamza Namira - Al Shaheed - Dabahona: Remembering those who have died during Egypt's struggle for freedom

بعد تظاهرات 25 يناير السلمية في مصر لتقديم مطالب الشعب للإصلاح وإسقاط النظام الذي أفسد البلاد ل 30 سنة، ردت الحكومة المصرية برئاسة الرئيس حسني مبارك والجهات الامنية بفيادة وزير الداخلية حبيب العادلي
بإطلاق النار والقنابل المسيلة للدموع على المتظاهرين العزل السلميين. كما قاموا باعتفال وتعذيب المئات والتحريض على تخريب البلد ونشر الذعر والإرهاب. بعد أن باءت كل محاولاتهم بالفشل لفض المظاهرات، أبدت الحكومة استعدادها للتفاوض الذي رفضه الطرف الأقوى الشعب بعدما سفكت دماء المصريين بصورة وحشية. وأكد الشعب أن لا بديل إلا لتنحي مبارك من الحكم وأن دماء الشهداء الغالية لن تذهب سدى.

After 25 January peaceful demonstrations in Egypt to present the people's demands for reform and the overthrow of the regime which have ruined & corrupted the country for 30 years, the Egyptian government led by President Hosni Mubarak and the police forces lead by Interior Minister Habib el-Adli answered by shooting unarmed peaceful demonstrators & throwing gas tears bombs. They also apprehended and tortured hundreds, and were involved directly in sabotaging the country and terrorizing people. After all their attempts failed to resolve the demonstrations, the Government showed willingness to negotiate which was rejected by the stronger party, the people, after Egyptian innocent blood was shed brutally. The people made it clear that there is no alternative but the stepping down of Mubarak and that the deaths of innocent lives wont go for nothing.


Egyptian army refuses to oust Mubarak, agrees to lift 30-year martial law... if the protesters go home first

© Agence France-Presse
Defence Minister Tantawi visited Tahrir Square, the focal point for the protests, last week
Egyptian military leaders have pledged that the country's emergency law will be lifted, but only "as soon as current circumstances end".

The promise was made as part of the Armed Forces Supreme Council's response to the mass protests which are intensifying after President Hosni Mubarak's latest refusal to step down.

In a statement read out on national television, the army leaders also pledged to support work towards peaceful transition of power, in the light of Mubarak handing over some powers to Omar Suleiman, the vice-president.

The third point made was that "the honest men who called for an end to corruption and for reform" will not be prosecuted.

The army generals also called for a return to normal life in the country, as thousands of protesters streamed into Cairo's central Tahrir Square.


FOX News Insider: "Stuff Is Just Made Up"

FOX News TV screen
© Fox News
Asked what most viewers and observers of Fox News would be surprised to learn about the controversial cable channel, a former insider from the world of Rupert Murdoch was quick with a response: "I don't think people would believe it's as concocted as it is; that stuff is just made up."

Indeed, a former Fox News employee who recently agreed to talk with Media Matters confirmed what critics have been saying for years about Murdoch's cable channel. Namely, that Fox News is run as a purely partisan operation, virtually every news story is actively spun by the staff, its primary goal is to prop up Republicans and knock down Democrats, and that staffers at Fox News routinely operate without the slightest regard for fairness or fact checking.

"It is their M.O. to undermine the administration and to undermine Democrats," says the source. "They're a propaganda outfit but they call themselves news."

And that's the word from inside Fox News.

Eye 1

Unidentified Gunmen Attack Police near Egypt's Gaza border

Unidentified assailants attacked security force barracks in the Egyptian border town of Rafah, following president Hosni Mubarak's speech confirming he will cling to the presidency until elections in September.

The attackers opened fire with guns and used rocket-propelled grenades, sources and eyewitnesses said.

Rafah is near Egypt's border with the Gaza Strip.

The attack came after Mr Mubarak defied predictions that he would resign and instead pledged to stay on as president, in a televised speech to the nation.

Arrow Down

Nearly 30 percent of US homeowners now "underwater"

Total value of homes fell $2 trillion last year

Home prices in the US dropped 2.6 percent in the final quarter of 2010, the largest drop since the first three months of 2009, according to Zillow Inc's quarterly real estate survey. Year over year, home values were down 5.9 percent nationally, and have fallen 27 percent since their peak in June 2006.

The total value of US single-family homes fell a staggering $798 billion in 2010's fourth quarter, and for the entire year, more than $2 trillion.

The Obama administration has essentially washed its hands of the problems; its HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) has helped a fraction of those in need.

The number of US homeowners "underwater," i.e., owing more than their homes were worth, at the end of 2010, reports Zillow, jumped to 27 percent, up from 23.2 percent in the third quarter.

Furthermore, the report notes, "The rate of homes selling for a loss reached a new peak in December, with more than one-third (34.1 percent) selling for a loss. The rate of homes sold for a loss has increased steadily for the past six months."


Somali pirates capture supertanker, $150M of oil

© Punit Paranjpe/AFP
Suspected Somali pirates sit with their faces covered during a media interaction on board an Indian Coast Guard ship off the coast of Mumbai. India on Thursday warned of an increased threat to shipping off its southwest coast, as Somali pirates hunt targets beyond African waters to evade the clutches of an international naval force.
Nairobi, Kenya - Somali pirates captured a Greek-flagged supertanker carrying an estimated $150 million worth of oil to the Gulf of Mexico, the second successful attack against an oil tanker by sea bandits in two days, officials said.

Such vessels can command higher ransoms because of the value of the crude on board. Owners of the oil may want to resolve hostage situations quickly, particularly if oil prices are dropping, a situation that can cost owners millions of dollars more than the pirate ransom will.

Still, ransom prices are on the rise. One last year reached $9.5 million, and the increasing prizes have provided even more incentive for pirates to launch attacks despite stepped-up patrols by an international flotilla of warships.

Pirates hold 29 ships and roughly 660 hostages.

The Irene SL was sailing 200 nautical miles (360 kilometers) east of Oman with a cargo of 266,000 tons of crude oil and a crew of seven Greeks, 17 Filipinos and one Georgian when it was attacked on Wednesday, Greece's Merchant Marine Ministry said. The Associated Press estimated the value of the oil at more than $150 million, based on the amount being carried and a price of $87 a barrel.