Having my two cents worth

Giving an opinion on world events and news…

Monthly Archives: November 2007

More than 200 Saudi alleged terrorists arrested

Saudi Arabia has announced that following an investigation lasting several months more than 200 Saudi and foreign nationals have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in terrorism.

The arrests took place over the past few months but were kept secret so as not to jeopardize ongoing investigations, a Ministry of the Interior official said Wednesday.

Eight of those being held are accused of involvement in a plot to attack an oil facility in the Eastern Province, where much of the nation’s oil industry is based, and had set a date for the attack.

Another militant cell is alleged to have planned to assassinate Saudi religious figures and security officials, while a separate cell allegedly planned to smuggle eight shoulder-fired rockets into the kingdom from Yemen for terrorist operations.

The official said 112 of those arrested were “linked in with elements stationed abroad who facilitate the exit and travel of those to conflict zones” such as Iraq.

U.S. military officials have said that Saudis make up the largest contingent of foreign fighters in Iraq, while a Saudi Counterterrorism official noted that fighters returning from Iraq to Saudi Arabia represent a “troubling” phenomenon.

Thirty-two individuals — Saudis and non-Saudis — were arrested for allegedly providing financial support to other militants; 16 others were arrested for alleged involvement in the publication of a militant newsletter called Sada Alrafidain.

According to the Saudi counter-terrorism official, the number of arrests is the largest ever announced by the ministry.

The Saudi official said the Saudi government released the information before the Hajj pilgrimage season, when 2 million pilgrims travel to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, in order “to alert the public of the ongoing threat to security in the kingdom.

It should be noted that Yemen has close links with Al Qaeda, therefore the arrests could represent a very big blow to the efforts of Al Qaeda to gain world domination via the setting up of a world wide caliphate which is one of the aims of Osama Bin Laden.


More on the Israeli strike on Syria

I have reported on this issue a few times and here is some further information from the Counterterrorism blog on why Israel felt that it was necessary to strike the nuclear facility inside the Syrian border:

Interestingly, while North Korea has been mentioned many times, the role of Iran has not been scrutinized.
I just wrote a piece for the Middle East Times on that topic.
Here is an excerpt:
Israel has been providing intelligence and satellite images to the U.S. about a secret Syrian nuclear program for several months, according to media reports. Discussions between Israel and the United States took place last summer regarding a possible strike. But when Israel found the matter so pressing that when they realized the U.S. was not ready to act, on September 6 they attacked a Syrian nuclear site. Hence the question: what is Syria really up to or more to the point what is Iran up to?

First, let’s start with an underreported explosion that occurred in a Syrian military base outside Aleppo on July 26. Jane’s Defense Weekly reported, citing Syrian defense sources, as saying the explosion took place during a test to fit a “Scud C” missile with a mustard-gas warhead. It quoted the sources as saying the explosion occurred when fuel caught fire in the missile production laboratory.

But there might be another explanation. Kuwait’s Al Seyassah newspaper recently reported that a Shiite Lebanese religious cleric claimed the Iranians were allegedly supervising a chemical weapons manufacturing program and that tens of Iranian experts and engineers died as a result of that explosion. He also said Israelis attacked the base. He added that Western officials told him they received proof from Israel on the Syrian chemical weapons program. Even if Israel’s involvement is not proven, what remains sure is that it must be very happy that a chemical weapons facility in Syria has been partly destroyed.

You can read the story here

Archaeologists claim that they have found the Lupercale in Rome

For those of us who are familiar with the story concerning the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, the announcement that the Lupercale has probably been found is most interesting. The site was revered by ancient Romans as being the site where a wolf suckled the twins Romulus and Remus after they were found abandoned in the river Tiber. The site itself was revered by Augustus Caesar who was the Roman Emperor at the time of the birth of Jesus Christ.


ROME, Italy (AP) — Archaeologists on Tuesday unveiled an underground grotto believed to have been revered by ancient Romans as the place where a wolf nursed the city’s legendary founder Romulus and his twin brother Remus.


The vaulted sanctuary is buried inside Palatine hill, the palatial center of power in imperial Rome.


A symbol of the Roman Empire was found atop the sanctuary’s vault.



Decorated with seashells and colored marble, the vaulted sanctuary is buried 52 feet inside the Palatine hill, the palatial center of power in imperial Rome, the archaeologists said at a news conference.

In the past two years, experts have been probing the space with endoscopes and laser scanners, fearing that the fragile grotto, already partially caved-in, would not survive a full-scale dig, said Giorgio Croci, an engineer who worked on the site.

The archaeologists are convinced that they have found the place of worship where Romans believed a she-wolf suckled Romulus and Remus, the twin sons of the god of war Mars who were abandoned in a basket and left adrift on the Tiber.

Thanks to the wolf, a symbol of Rome to this day, the twins survived, and Romulus founded the city, becoming its first king after killing Remus in a power struggle.

Ancient texts say the grotto known as the “Lupercale” — from “lupa,” Latin for she-wolf — was near the palace of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, who was said to have restored it, and was decorated with a white eagle.

That symbol of the Roman Empire was found atop the sanctuary’s vault, which lies just below the ruins of the palace built by Augustus, said Irene Iacopi, the archaeologist in charge of the Palatine and the nearby Roman Forum.

Augustus, who ruled from the late 1st century B.C. to his death in the year 14, was keen on being close to the places of Rome’s mythical foundation and used the city’s religious traditions to bolster his hold on power, Iacopi said.

“The Lupercale must have had an important role in Augustus’ policies,” she said. “He saw himself as a new Romulus.”

Andrea Carandini, a professor of archaeology at Rome’s La Sapienza University and an expert on the Palatine, said the grotto is almost certainly the “Lupercale.”

“The chances that it’s not are minimal,” said Carandini, who did not take part in the dig. “It’s one of the greatest discoveries ever made.”

Most of the sanctuary is filled with earth, but laser scans allowed experts to estimate that the circular structure has a height of 26 feet and a diameter of 24 feet, Croci said.

Archaeologists at the news conference were divided on how to gain access to the “Lupercale.”

Iacopi said a new dig would start soon to find the grotto’s original entrance at the bottom of the hill. Carandini suggested enlarging the hole at the top through which probes have been lowered so far, saying that burrowing at the base of the hill could disturb the foundations of other ruins.

The Palatine is honeycombed with palaces and other ancient monuments, from the 8th-century B.C. remains of Rome’s first fledgling huts to a medieval fortress and Renaissance villas. But the remains are fragile and plagued by collapses, leaving more than half of the hill, including Augustus’ palace, closed to the public.

Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli said the first area to benefit from an extensive, $17.5 million restoration of the hills’ ruins will be Augustus’ palace, scheduled to reopen in February after being closed for decades.



Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Paris Riots Redux – Sarkozy denounces those who shot at police


The French President has made it clear that the rioting that broke out after two minors who had stolen a motorcycle and drove it into the path of a police car died at the scene of the accident.

To date there has been three days of rioting in scenes that remind us of the previous riots caused by the minority rabble of Paris.

PARIS, France (AP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday that rioters who shot at police would be brought to justice and called the violence that rocked Paris suburbs “absolutely unacceptable.”


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It was the first time Sarkozy, who had just returned from China, entered the fray since the rioting broke out Sunday night.

The violence ebbed Tuesday night after police were deployed in force and quickly rounded up youths lobbing Molotov cocktails and setting cars ablaze.

The violence has drawn comparisons with riots that raged through suburbs nationwide in 2005, and has shown that anger still smolders in poor housing projects where many Arabs, blacks and other minorities live largely isolated from the rest of society.

“We will find the shooters,” and they will “be brought to account before justice,” Sarkozy said after meeting with a wounded police captain hospitalized in Eaubonne north of Paris.

The violence erupted Sunday after the deaths of two minority teens whose motorscooter collided with a police car in Villiers-le-Bel, a blue-collar town on Paris’ northern edge.

Residents claimed the officers left without helping the teens. Prosecutor Marie-Therese de Givry denied that, saying police stayed on the scene until firefighters arrived.

Sarkozy described the teens’ deaths as “distressing.” But he added: “Shooting at police has no link to this incident.”

The French president was meeting Wednesday morning with the families of the two teens who died, and with the mayor of Villiers-le-Bel before having a security meeting with his top ministers.

While cars were set ablaze for a third night Tuesday, officials said the violence was less intense than the two previous nights. Interior Minister Michele Alliot-Marie said the overall situation was “calm.” Still, she said on Europe-1 radio, police presence would remain reinforced “as long as necessary.”

She said 39 people were arrested in the Paris region Tuesday night.

Bands of young people set more cars on fire Tuesday in and around Villiers-le-Bel. In the southern city of Toulouse, 20 cars were set ablaze, and fires at two libraries were quickly brought under control, police said.

The previous night, 82 officers were injured, 10 of them by buckshot and pellets, the police force said. The use of firearms — rare in 2005 — added a dangerous dimension.

This is one very ugly bride and terror suspect

In Baghdad, soldiers at a checkpoint stopped what looked like a wedding convoy. The soldiers became suspicious because all of the convoy except the “bride” were male. The suspicions were confirmed when it was discovered that the bride was not a woman but a man dressed up as the bride.


You have to agree with me, but that is just one very ugly “bride”!!

Both “bride” and groom were wanted by the authorities in relation to terrorist activities.

Hamas will most likely not honour any peace settlement that is brokered by George Bush

The BBC reports that the Islamist movement HAMAS has reportedly stated that Palestinians will not be bound by any decisions taken at this weeks US-backed Middle East Peace talks. Ismail Haniya, the leader of HAMAS in Gaza, who is not attending the talks, has described the discussions as “fruitless”.


Several of the Hamas leaders met at the Palestinian Parliament in Gaza city to sign a document stating that Mr Abbas had no right to make concessions in any peace deal.

“The people believe that this conference is fruitless and that any recommendations or commitments made in the conference that harm our rights will not be binding for our people,” Mr Haniya said as he entered the building.

“It will be binding only for those who sign it.”

Mr Haniya was dismissed by Abbas from his position of prime minister of a national unity government in June, shortly after Hamas seized control of the Gaza strip from the president’s Fatah movement.

Hamas is designated a terrorist organization by the USA and Israel and is not represented at Annapolis.

It seems that Hamas is only interested in perpetuating the myth that Israel is occupying Palestinian land, but this is clearly not true. Historically, the Palestinians did not exist until around the 1920s. Gaza was won in the 6 day war, and Israel was entitled to occupy that territory. The same goes for East Jerusalem. It does not belong to the Palestinians. Therefore, we should take heed of the following (threatening) words of Mahmoud Zahhar:

Another senior Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahhar, told the BBC that even if the group had been invited, it would be pointless participating because Israel was not prepared to end the occupation of Palestinian land.

“We are very proud that we are not involved in this conference which will bring for us nothing,” he told the BBC World Service.

“We don’t believe that this is a real peace process, because without fulfilling our basic demand it will be just as previous agreements reached and unable to be practised practically on the ground,” he added.

“Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] is not representing the majority of the Palestinian people.”

Palestinian officials say, however, that as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), Mr Abbas is entitled to negotiate on behalf of Palestinians. Agreements are signed between Israel and the PLO.

Saudis claim "rape victim" was guilty of adultery

As a follow up to the story about the woman who has been sentenced to 200 lashes and 6 months in jail because she was raped, the Saudi authorities have now claimed that the young woman has confessed to having an affair with her male companion, even though she was recently married.

Considering the way in which women are treated in a country such as Saudi Arabia, I feel certain that torturing a person can get a confession even if the confession is not true. We have no reliable way of proving that the young woman did in fact confess to “adultery”, or whether she was tortured in order to obtain the confession. Such a confession, though has nothing at all to do with the fact that she and her companion were raped by 4 men.

It is a very barbaric society where women who have been raped end up being punished viz 200 lashes, or 6 months in jail. The message that is being sent to these young women is that they do not have the right to legally complain about rape because they will end up being punished, and probably tortured in order to extract a false confession.

Whilst I am against adultery, I do not believe in these barbaric punishments that are meted out under Sharia law. Everything is against the woman, and the perpetrators are allowed to get off with their crime. However, in this case the perpetrators had their sentences increased as well.

UK gives superbug alert outside of the hospital environment

The BBC reports that experts are warning that bugs such as MRSA have been spreading in the wider community environment. They want doctors to be alert to the most dangerous form of MRSA that can attack the lungs and may strike young people in particular.


Panton Valentine leukocidin (PVL) strains of community-acquired MRSA can cause a condition called necrotizing pneumonia, which destroys lung tissue.

This only affects a minority of those infected, but can be deadly.

“These new strains of bacteria appear to be able to stick to damaged skin and airways better than the hospital MRSA strains, and they can also multiply at a faster rate,” says Dr Marina Morgan, of the Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation NHS Trust.

So far these strains are mainly spreading in the US, where 12% of all MRSA cases are community-acquired, but the UK has seen an increasing number of cases.

It is unclear why children seem to be at particular risk, but the speculation is that older people in the community have fewer cuts and abrasions – a key transmission route – and have less contact with other people.


Nursing home threat

Meanwhile, Irish researchers are examining a new breed of bacteria which carry enzymes called extended spectrum beta lactamases (ESBLs), which are capable of destroying a many common antibiotics.

They include a strain of E. Coli, which is spreading into nursing homes and communities across Europe.

This was held responsible for a severe outbreak of cystitis, a bladder infection, in the UK between 2003 and 2004.

“Although cystitis is not life threatening, it is the most common form of urinary tract infection, and the economic consequences of failing to treat an outbreak quickly and properly are considerable,” said Dr Dearbhaile Morris, of the National University of Ireland.

“In severe infections, patients may suffer serious complications if the first antibiotic given to them does not work.”

Mark Enright, professor of molecular epidemiology at Imperial College, said he was “not surprised” by the findings.

“The emergence and spread of ESBL E. Coli does give physicians problems in providing proper initial care for some patients especially those with urinary tract infections.”

He added: “The control of infections in many nursing homes is inferior to hospitals despite the medication and specialist care required by some residents.”


Rape Victim receives sentence of 90 lashes

It seems that nothing is about to change in Saudi Arabia in a hurry when it comes to women’s rights. I am not a feminist, and it is probably the reason that I feel so angry about the way in which women are treated in Muslim Sharia dominated lands. The feminist movement on the whole has shown little in the way of outrage at the way that women are treated in such countries as Saudi Arabia. However, I do feel outrage, especially when the 19 year old and her boyfriend were both raped by a gang of 7 men, and yet both have been sentenced to 90 lashes because of the offense of “mingling”.


Authorities in Saudi Arabia have defended a judicial sentence of 200 lashes for a rape victim.

The justice ministry said in a statement that the sentence was justified because the woman was in a car with an unrelated man.

The case has aroused controversy at home and condemnation abroad.

US presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said the sentence was an outrage and urged President Bush to put pressure on Saudi King Abdullah.

The 19-year-old, who has not been named, was travelling in a car with a male friend last year, when the car was attacked by a gang of seven men who raped both of them.

She has become known as the “Qatif girl”, a reference to the largely Shia town which she comes from.

Four of the men were convicted of kidnapping – but the court also sentenced the woman and her friend to receive 90 lashes each for the crime of “illegal mingling”.

Last week the court increased the woman’s sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison.

It also banned her lawyer from the courtroom and took away his licence.


The Saudi justice ministry has defended the verdict and warned against “agitation through the media” – a sign of how sensitive the authorities are to the fact that the woman and her lawyer have sought to use the media to highlight the case, says BBC Middle East analyst Roger Hardy.

What is most alarming about this story is the fact that it is the Republicans who are remaining silent over the punishment given to the woman. It is almost breathtaking to think that the President of the USA is refusing to intervene on a matter that is against the human rights of the individual. It is in fact damning evidence that the White House seem to be in the “pay” of Saudi Arabia, which is an extremely unhealthy situation to contemplate. I hope that I am wrong on this issue, and that the silence is due to the fact that the Republicans know very little about the case. The verdict is totally disgraceful.

Coroner decrees that killing of Balibo 5 is a war crime

I should have been following this Inquest more closely because the deaths of the 5 newsmen in Balibo, East Timor has always been a sore point with me, especially when the details of how they died was hushed up by the Whitlam Government at the time. Yes, I remember hearing the news of how these five journalists were supposedly caught in crossfire. However, a more thorough investigation has shown that this was not the case, and that two former Indonesian soldiers committed war crimes against the Geneva Convention.


AFTER 32 years of secrecy, the killing of the Balibo Five newsmen has been branded a “war crime” and Australia could launch prosecutions against the Indonesian soldiers involved.

Yesterday’s finding by Deputy NSW Coroner Dorelle Pinch that the five were killed by Indonesian special force soldiers after surrendering will be referred to federal lawyers and police for war crime prosecutions. The Government could then be obliged to seek the extradition of at least two former soldiers — one likely to be a retired army general, Mohammad Yunus Yosfiah, for wilful killing of civilians against the Geneva Convention.

Seeking prosecutions under the convention would be a first for Australian authorities, which used separate war crimes legislation for the post-1945 trials of Japanese accused and more recent action against alleged Nazi fugitives. But Indonesia may fear any action could be a prelude to further international prosecutions over Jakarta’s 24-year occupation of East Timor, during which numerous massacres and atrocities were documented.

Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said yesterday he would refer the Balibo inquest finding to the Australian Federal Police and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.

Prime Minister John Howard said he would seek advice on the most appropriate response.

“It’s a long time ago but that doesn’t mean that the relatives of those people who died aren’t entitled to have a proper response to the coroner’s finding,” he said.

Then captain Yunus and another Indonesian special forces soldier, Christoforus da Silva, were the only two named participants in the killing of the five newsmen after they surrendered with their hands up in the village square of Balibo early on October 16, 1975.

Ms Pinch said Channel Nine cameraman Brian Peters was probably the first to fall, with colleague Malcolm Rennie and Channel Seven’s Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham and Tony Stewart killed soon after on the orders of Captain Yunus, to prevent news getting out of the Indonesian attack.

“There is strong circumstantial evidence that those orders emanated from the head of Indonesian Special Forces, Major-General Benny Murdani, to Colonel Dading Kalbuadi, Special Forces Group commander in Timor, and then to Captain Yunus,” Ms Pinch said. Murdani and Kalbuadi are now dead.

The bereaved families hailed the finding. Earlier official investigations found the newsmen were killed by crossfire in the “heat of battle”.

John Milkins, the son of Mr Cunningham, said the coroner’s findings were immensely important and courageous. Greg Cunningham, brother of Gary Cunningham, said: “We’ve always believed … we’ve been lied to about how they died and the manner of their death.” Paul Stewart, brother of Tony Stewart, called for the culprits to be treated the same way as the Bali bombers.

In Jakarta, the findings were dismissed as “Australia’s internal process” by military spokesman Air Vice-Marshall Sagom Tamboen. A spokesman for President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said “the book is closed on that”.