Latest BBC News Update Latest Immigration News | Latest News Gossip Sun, 19 Jun 2011 03:48:37 +0000 en hourly 1 Swift Beef Co. to Pay 1.3 Million for Environmental Violations Sat, 18 Jun 2011 23:17:57 +0000 BBC News Swift Beef Co., a subsidiary of Brazilian meat giant JBS S.A. and Greeley-based JBS USA, has agreed to pay $1.3 million to the U.S. and the state of Nebraska to settle alleged violations of the federal Clean Water Act and Nebraska state law at its beef processing plant in Grand Island, Neb., according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Swift has now spent more than $1 million in the Grand Island facility to reduce pollutants in its wastewater as necessary for discharge permits issued to the company from the state of Nebraska under the Clean Water Act.

“Swift will spend a significant penalty for its illegal discharges of wastewater that triggered interferences with the local water treatment system and damage to the aquatic ecosystem of the Wood and Platte rivers,” said Ignacia Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Justice Department. “The exact same industry that puts food on American dinner tables must also conform to the Clean Water Act that keeps our country’s waterways healthy, safe and clean.”

“Protection of our waterways is one of our highest priorities,” added Deborah Gilg, U.S. attorney for the District of Nebraska, in a Justice Department release. “Fouling our Nebraska water demands a harsh penalty to deter others from accomplishing this.”

According to the complaint against Swift, Swift dishonored its discharge permit on numerous instances between 2006 and 2011. The alleged illegal discharges caused disturbance with Grand Island’s water treatment works and resulted in a 2008 fish kill in both Wood and Platte rivers that killed an approximated 10,000 fish.

After the 2008 fish kill, Swift started voluntary improvements to its treatment system, the Justice Department explained.

The consent decree requires Swift to pay more than $1.3 million in civil penalty charges and damages, including a $1.2 million civil punishment that will be split between the U.S. and Nebraska. In addition, Swift will pay Nebraska $100,000 for infractions of a state 2008 administrative order and will pay the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission $4,705 to restock waters with fish and clams.

Swift’s Grand Island plant slaughters and processes about 5,800 cattle per day and employs about 2,700 personnel.

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Risperdal Recalled For Noxious Odor Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:45:55 +0000 BBC News Somewhere around 16,000 bottles of schizophrenia pharmaceutical – Risperdal – are already recalled by Johnson & Johnson company, Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. on account of an “uncharacteristic odor”.

The smell is assumed to be caused by traces of a byproduct of a chemical preservative which is placed on wooden pallets – 2, 4, 6 tribromoanisole (TBA). This company says TBA is not poisonous, but can give off an upsetting smell. A very small amount of patients may experience temporary gastrointestinal symptoms.

The company is recalling:
One lot of Risperdal (risperidone) 3 mg tablets advertised by Janssen Division of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
One lot of risperidone 2 mg tablets marketed by Patriot Pharmaceuticals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
Johnson & Johnson says it instituted several actions to minimize TBA contamination possibility.

The recalled Risperdal lot was delivered between 27th August 2010 and 15th February 2011. The corporation believes there are about 1,600 bottles of Risperdal from this lot still in the marketplace.

The recalled respiredone lot involves about 24,000 bottles and was shipped between 10th November, 2010 and 1st January, 2011. Fewer than 1,200 bottles are thought to still be in the marketplace.

Description of recalled merchandise:
RISPERDAL® (risperidone) Tablets 3mg Bottles of 60 Tablets
NDC Code – 50458-330-06. Lot Number – 0GG904. Expiry – May 2012
Risperidone Tablets 2mg Bottles of 60 Tablets
NDC Code – 50458-593-60. Lot Number – OlG175. Expiry – August 2012
Johnson & Johnson has had to announce several product recalls during the last couple of years of OTC and prescription drugs, as well as some medical devices. Experts repeat the company’s once pristine reputation has been severely affected.

Some product recalls over the final couple of years include: (Source: FDA)
1/14/11 – Tylenol® 8 Hour, Tylenol ® Arthritis Pain, and Tylenol ® upper respiratory products, and certain lots of Benadryl®, Sudafed PE®, and Sinutab® products.
12/9/10 – Rolaids Extra Strength Softchews, Rolaids Extra Strength plus Gas Softchews, and Rolaids Multi-Symptom plus Anti-Gas Softchews.
11/29/10 – Mylanta and Alternagel Liquid Products.
11/27/2010 – Tylenol Cold Multi Symptom Daytime Liquid 8 oz Citrus Burst. Rolaids Extra Strength Softchews, Cherry Flavor, 36 count container. Jr Strength Motrin Caplets in 24 count packages. Children’s Benadryl Allergy FastMelt Tablets Cherry Flavor in 18 count containers.
10/18/2010 – Tylenol 8 hour Caplets in 50 count bottles.
5/28/10 – PediaCare Children’s Multi-Symptom Cold, Grape Flavor Liquid, 4 fl oz (118 mL). PediaCare Children’s Long-Acting Cough, Grape Flavor Liquid, 4 fl oz (118 mL). PediaCare Children’s Decongestant, Raspberry Flavor Liquid, 4 fl oz (118 mL). PediaCare Children’s Allergy & Cold, Grape Flavor Liquid, 4 fl oz (118 mL)

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Sega Alerts Users to Hacking Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:27:03 +0000 BBC News Sega claimed a warning to users on Friday that personal information may be at danger after being infiltrated, joining the growing numbers of high profile hacking targets.

In a span of just a few weeks, several multinational companies and even government agencies have fell victim to cyber crime.

Joining those ranks, Sega said that it has launch an investigation and took steps to secure data.

“Over the last 24 hours we have identified that unauthorized entry was obtained to our Sega Pass database,” the company said.

“We immediately took the appropriate action to protect our consumers’ data and separate the location of the infringement. We have unveiled an investigation into the extent of the breach of our public systems.”

Passwords were encrypted and no financial data was accessed, it said.

Several other companies have fallen victim lately as well.

On Wednesday the public website of the CIA went down, with the hacker group Lulz Security announcing it had released the attack.

Although the group fashions itself more as pranksters and activists than people with sinister intent, its members have been charged with breaking the law and are wanted by the FBI and various other law enforcement organizations.

Lulz broke into a Senate website over the past weekend and released data stolen from the legislative body’s computer servers.

In May, the group posted a fake story on the PBS website proclaiming that rapper Tupac Shakur was still alive and living in New Zealand.

The group denied any involvement in the Sega case, however, asking Sega to instead contact them to help “destroy the hackers that attacked you.”

But it does mark an uptick in crime over the internet

The last high-profile victim was the International Monetary Fund earlier this week, who’s computer network was breached with what was considered to be a government backed effort.

Just last week banking giant Citibank confirmed that credit card data of about 200,000 of its North American shoppers have been hacked. The event marked the most significant attack on a bank in the US to date.

The week before US military contractor Lockheed Martin was compromised as hackers used Lockheed’s own “secure id” technology to access its networks.

Google has accused Chinese hackers of targeting the Gmail accounts of U.S. government officials.

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]]> 0 United Airlines Flights Depart Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:20:53 +0000 BBC News All flights are at this moment ready for takeoff. No more waiting on the gate. United Airlines has repaired the computer problems that grounded planes across the country.

That incorporated a dozen red-eye aircraft that were scheduled to go out of Hawaii Friday night. Travelers did actually have packed plenty of persistence.

The five-hour computer blackout turned Honolulu’s United counter at Honolulu International Airport into a sprawling waiting room. Hundreds of passengers sat on their gear, played games on their phones, and found ways to entertain themselves.

One passenger reported, “I’ve already done four crosswords, since 1:00 p.m.” and we interviewed her at 8:00 p.m. Another, Carly Bergerhouse, expressed, “It was long and tough to wait, and yeah, it was irritating.”

United Airlines’ computer system went down soon there after 2:15 p.m. nationwide, bringing the aircarrier to a halt. All aircraft were grounded as the company worked to restore its computers. It was a malfunction that interrupted check-in kiosks, flight departures, reservations, and processing, creating gridlock at airports around the country.

“When we got here there were just people everywhere and they were trying to organize us into lines,” saidPam Peterson, who had been on vacation in Hawaii from San Francisco. “It was a long time for people to endure in line. They came through with water and pretzels for everybody and I think they handled it pretty well considering.”

At 6:50 p.m., the airline gave people signs of hope. One representative announced, “Bear with us. We need to process all of you. The computers are up, the bag tags will work, we’ll try to work as fast as we can.” Racing the clock to avoid more delays, airline crews managed to get all customers from earlier flights checked in within an hour.

Peterson was satisfied. “As long as we get back in a reasonable amount of time, we’re gonna be good. I think they’re holding the plane for us so it should be fine.”

Those passengers just returning for their flights got through check-in with plenty of time for it to spare. Gregory Clayton, who lives on Oahu joked, “I point out that if we hadn’t attended in flying, then the computers would still be down. Everything showed up.”

He added, “It was great. It’s been a good day.”

“Hawaii was excellent, but we’re always anticipating going home,” Peterson said.

United broke the news on Twitter. And then, with thousands stuck at airports tweeting, it started trending. Even world-famous surfer, Kelly Slater, got in on the conversation. Slater was stuck in New York on his way to San Diego, and tweeted, “@UnitedAirlines is killing me on this hour on the runway after a three and a half hour delay.”

Hawaii passengers fared much better for.

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]]> 0 Green Lantern Disappoints Even Fans Sat, 18 Jun 2011 22:10:51 +0000 BBC News Green Lantern is all setup and no execution. As as much as I wanted it to be excellent, as a Green Lantern enthusiast and a Comic Book Movie Fan, Martian Campbell’s Green Lantern just didn’t deliver.

Martin Campbell’s Green lantern was fun for me to see on some small level merely because Green Lantern / Hal Jordan, is one of the most popular characters in the DC Universe. Whilst I enjoyed seeing Green Lantern, sort of come alive on the big screen with eye catching visual effects I wish that there was more to it then just that. The only other good quality this movie had deciding on it was that it stuck near Green lanterns Origin story. My first response to to the first photo release of Ryan Reynolds in the CGI enhanced costume was that it was terrible looking. I had exactly the same reaction to the very first movie trailer which seemed to focus way too much on comedy relief. Based on these two early campaigns I didn’t think I wanted to see this movie in the theater and would look ahead to DVD. Later on trailers and Wonder Con footage changed my mind on the subject as the focus did actually shift more to Hal’s origin in becoming a Green Lantern. At the same time, when I went to see Mathew Vaughn’s X-Men : First Class,( Which was very good ) I got to see the Green Lantern movie trailer on the big screen it made a huge difference visually and was the deciding factor in changing my mind in wanting to see this in a movie theater.

The comic fan in me liked seeing other members of the Green Lantern Corps like Tomar-Re, Kilowog and Sinistro who was played wonderfully by Mark Strong. However, these characters weren’t given enough screen time. The Guardians who devised the Emerald Energy Source of Will and forged the Green Lanterns Power Rings didn’t have a strong enough presence in the film. Parallax, who’s a previous Guardian who tried to harness the alternative Yellow Energy Source of Fear that had been deemed to unpredictable by his fellow Guardians and is turned into a life sucking Entity who feeds on fear. Is suppose to be this universal threat that programs to destroy Earth and Oa, the home world of the Guardians and base of operations for the Green Lanterns but I didn’t get a real sense of that risk other than it being explained in the dialog or showing him poses a scientist named Hector Hammond performed by well by Peter Sarsgaard, and killing a hand full of Green Lanterns. Not too impressive for such a universal danger. The final show down between Green Lantern / Hal Jordan and Parallax seemed in a hurry and pointless.

But no more pointless then having a love between Hal Jordan( Ryan Reynolds) and Carol Ferris ( Blake Lively ). I say pointless because that’s exactly what it was. I’m sure why “Hollywood” wants every movie to have romance in it. It’s a theme that everyonecan associate to and it can bring heart and soul to a movie but why bother if it’s not accomplished well. In the case of Green Lantern, I didn’t care about the love story. I didn’t think Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively had any real chemistry. Maybe they could have if the script offered them more to work with. There just isn’t any endearing scenes between the two of them. Even though it seems like the script needs it or tries to appeal to it, it’s old hat. While Green Lantern remains true to the source material’s origin of the popular DC comic book the movie lacks the same heart and fails at giving the film a soul because it doesn’t take the time to flesh out the core of main characters and make the audience care about them. With the exception of Mark Strong as Sinistro, I felt like the other actors were just providing dialog and lacked conviction or believability.

Which Brings me to the star of the film, Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern was below average at best. In my opinion he’s wrong for the part of Green Lantern / Hal Jordan. I think a lot of the script was written to cater to Ryan Reynolds rather than Hal Jordan. But that is how movie scripts tend to suffer when a big star is included in a big summer movie. Reynolds is exactly the same in all of his motion pictures and while he has a very amiable and appealing personality to a lot of movie goers I feel he has not got the range to play duel identities or a character experiencing real inner turmoil like Hal in the movie. I do think Nathan Fillon ( Serenity ) would have been a much better casting choice for Hal Jordan / Green Lantern.

Overall I’d have to give Martin Campbell’s Green Lantern, 2 out of 5 stars. It has very cool visual effects and a few very good action scenes by having an Origin story that stays true to the source material but lacks the focus to flesh out the main characters in the film and tale delelopment is over shadowed by CGI, fast paced action and some times bad punch lines. Green Lantern is perhaps all set up and no execution. As as much as I wanted it to be great, as a Green Lantern fan and a Comic Book Movie Fan, Martian Campbell’s Green Lantern just didn’t deliver.

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]]> 0 Gaddafi Foes Prepare for Next Wave of Revolt Sat, 18 Jun 2011 21:50:18 +0000 BBC News Adversaries of Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli are getting ready to launch a new uprising, as they lose their fear of the embattled regime’s weakened security forces.

Col Gaddafi still has some supporters, but in Tripoli self-assurance is growing among his foes

The first sign that the street was anti-Gaddafi was a surprising whisper from the males in T-shirts and jeans who were loitering in shop doorways.

“David Cameron, very good,” they said with a wink – coded approval for Nato’s bombing campaign against Gaddafi.

Soon a young man called Abdul approached, desirous to tell the outside world that Tripoli’s youths haven’t much lost their zeal for fighting the regime.

“We’re expecting the moment,” he said. “Bit by bit the government is shedding its control. There are no security forces in Tripoli anymore – they are all at the front.

“Whenever we tried to provide an uprising in February there initially were tanks everywhere in the capital also it was crushed. But they are not here at this point. We are ready again and as soon as the opportunity comes it’ll be quick and we will force Gaddafi out and about.”

He said thousands like him were waiting for rebel forces to approach nearer the capital, when they would take to the roadways again. A few weeks ago most people in Tripoli were too terrified to speak to a foreign journalist; the readiness of young men like him to talk marks a growing self-assurance among Gaddafi opponents.

The changing mood comes despite repeated claims by the Libyan government – including, on Friday night, by the prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi – that it is in clandestine talks with the rebels. “Ask the Egyptians, French, Norwegians and Tunisians for information. They will tell you the truth,” he said. “We are absolutely clear on our meetings and everything has been recorded.” Which claim was denied from the rebels’ leader, Mahmud Jibril, and also by French officials.

The regime hopes that it can tough it out for long enough for Nato to lose heart and energy; the alliance desires that the regime will give in to the gradual stranglehold in which it continues to be caught. Yesterday Nato hailed what it called “positive signs” that civilians were rallying against the regime.

Abdul guided The Sunday Telegraph across the old city’s maze of alleys and souks for almost two hours, greeting friends who denounced the person officially known as the Brother Leader. These folks were working-class men in their twenties, aggravated by the regime’s stifling rule and eager for revenge after their friends were murdered and they were beaten during February’s uprising.

Most of them lived in squalid, ramshackle slums which overlooked the oil wealth Gaddafi lavished on Libya’s elite; but even in residential areas in southern Tripoli, places regarded solidly Gaddafi-supporting, young men with middle-class parents were effortlessly found who would speak out against the Libyan leader.

“I hate him now, after the killing in February. He needs to go,” one man in a confectionary shop reported in fluent English, within hearing of bystanders.

They appeared to have little formal organisation without clear leadership, but are in contact with each other on the web and by word of mouth. The lack of organisation will make it harder for a crackdown by security forces, who’re keenly informed that Gaddafi’s rule in Benghazi and also the east was overthrown by similar informal networks of friends angry with the regime.

Discontent continues to be fuelled by crippling economic problems. Prices have increased sharply in recent weeks, petrol, some kinds of food and cigarettes are no longer affordable for regular Libyans, and personnel have gone without payment for weeks or simply lost their jobs.

Teams of protesters have meanwhile embarked on a low-level urban guerrilla warfare against security forces, establishing hit-and-run attacks in areas a few miles east of the city centre which are hotbeds of opposition to Gaddafi. Some working-class districts of Tripoli are becoming virtual no-go areas for Gaddafi’s forces, which set up random checkpoints on Thursday to search vehicles for weapons.

The previous day, shoppers sprinted for cover when gunfire erupted in a street just south of Green Square, the spiritual home of Gaddafi’s revolution in the centre of the city, and in the evening unexplained fire fights now are commonplace across Tripoli. Competitors of the regime are also being smuggled east to join rebel forces in the embattled city of Zlintan.

However it is the return of street protests that the overstretched regime worries most. On Thursday there had been reports of leaflets being distributed in Tajoura, eight miles east of Tripoli, urging young men to begin demonstrations again. The suburb was the site of pitched battles between protesters and security forces earlier in the rebellion.

Abdul mentioned that the prospect of the battle ahead was frightening for the city’s populace. Gaddafi has distributed weapons to thousands of his supporters, who can be seen traveling around with Kalashnikovs in their cars or shooting them wildly in the air at official presentations.

“Everybody is worried about just what exactly will happen,” Abdul said. “We want to be rid of him but we don’t know what the cost will be in blood.” There was clearly also evidence of torn loyalties and the stress that the civil war is putting on Libyan society. Abdul said four of his friends, all aged 26 who had matured together, had ended up recruited to fight for Gaddafi’s army but did not return.

“I begged them not to go,” he said. “They didn’t even have faith in Gaddafi, they just needed the money and thought they would be performing safe things like dealing with ammunition and baking. There are so many young men who are unemployed in Libya. Now for the sake of 200 dinars (£102) they are expended.” Friction is growing between Arabs and black Libyans, a lot of whom have stayed loyal to Gaddafi, he included.

One reason behind the growing boldness of opponents is that Gaddafi’s security forces are simply not very visible any more, although some men said there were still secret police and informers around. “You don’t discover any police. But that is the point,” said a man wearing wraparound sunglasses, standing outside a gold dealer’s shop. “You’re not supposed to see them.”

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]]> 0 Obama, Boehner Tee Off Sat, 18 Jun 2011 21:34:19 +0000 BBC News President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner may be at odds over taxes, the debt ceiling and the turmoil in Libya, but for today at least, they are putting away their differences for a golf performance.

The game, at Joint Base Andrews’ golf course in Maryland, will give both the men four hours to socialize — with or without conversation of the last week’s tense negotiations. Both men play regularly, but Boehner is known as one of Capital Hill’s best golfers. Boehner was ranked 43rd among 150 prominent Washington players, while Obama is 108th.

But golf isn’t only a competition, it’s also an opportunity to socialize.

“Four hours is a lot to know a lot in relation to somebody. It builds companionship, you build a connection,” golf pro Ed Collins said.

The two men definitely have a lot to express. In the last week, the White House and Boehner have questioned budget cuts and the conflict in Libya, which the U.S. military is included in without congressional permission.

They have got a difference of views in regards to the game itself.

“The president sees golf as a way to escape Washington, and Speaker Boehner sees golf within the politics of Washington. It’s how you would raise money, it’s how you get business done. And the president doesn’t see golf that way,” ABC News political director Amy Walter said.

“At best, it’s a great photo op,” Walter said. “I doubt anything really substantive is developed of it. … It can be an opportunity for two people from Washington to prove that Washington can actually get along.”

Boehner invited a fellow Ohio Republican, Gov. John Kasich, to play, and Obama brought Vice President Biden. Obama and Boehner are riding in a cart together, and Biden and Kasich in another.

In another sign of bipartisanship, the White House trip director Marvin Nicholson is riding in a cart with the Boehner’s spokesman Brendan Buck.

In a recent interview with ABC New’s George Stephanopoulos, Boehner did not sound convinced that he and the president would be able to settle any kind of an agreement in 18 holes.

“We’ve always had — an excellent relationship,” Boehner said. “We get along — get along fine. But we have very different ideas for what America should look like and what the role of the federal government needs to be.”

When asked if he thought they would come to an understanding any time soon, he said, “Well, no — if the president invites me to play golf, it’s the president. You don’t say no to the president.”

The White House described the event as a social outing, but it did not deny that it could have political implications.

“I think I can say with great confidence that they will not wrap up the 18th hole and come out and say that we have a deal,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told journalists this week.

“I think that for the broader function of the work that needs to be carried out in a bipartisan way in Washington, this social occasion is a good thing, because … spending several hours together in that kind of atmosphere, I think, can only help improve the chances of bipartisan cooperation,” Carney said. “It certainly can’t hurt it, unless someone wins really big.”

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]]> 0 United States Negotiating with Taliban, says Karzai Sat, 18 Jun 2011 21:27:11 +0000 BBC News In a speech to Afghan students Saturday, President Hamid Karzai said approvingly that the United States had opened up talks with the Taliban on ending its 10-year war against his government and international forces. “Peace talks have already started with them and it is running smoothly,” he stated.

Mr. Karzai’s statement goes far beyond what is usually said by western diplomats acquainted with the episodic, and occasionally embarrassing, efforts to open negotiations with the Taliban. They have said talks are in their beginnings, with little suggestions from the side of the actual insurgents to indicate that leaders of the group are interested.

The Obama administration neither immediately confirmed nor denied Mr. Karzai’s declaration.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said the U.S. has “consistently supported an Afghan-led” peace process.

“Over the past two years, we have laid out our red lines for the Taliban: They must renounce violence; they have to abandon their alliance with al-Qaeda; and these people must abide by the constitution of Afghanistan,” Mr. Toner said. “This is the price for reaching a political resolution and getting an end to the military actions that are targeting their leadership and decimating their ranks.”

At the same time, a suicide attack on a police station in the crowded centre of the Afghan capital killed nine people Saturday and set off a gun fight near several ministries and not far from the presidential palace.

The explosions and firefight erupted just hours after Mr. Karzai’s statement.

The Taliban maintained credit for the Kabul attack, as it has for assassinations over the past two months of Afghan officials, soldiers and police officers across the nation.

The Afghan Interior Ministry said five of the deceased in the capital shoot-out and bombing were ordinary people, three were cops and one was an intelligence agent.

Afghan security forces, together with Afghan government authorities and ordinary workers utilized by the NATO-led coalition right here, are increasingly the targets of attacks by the Taliban and associated insurgent groups.

In public claims taking credit for assassinations and bombings, the Taliban dismiss the Afghan government as a “puppet” and demand the drawback of all foreign soldiers.

The government’s peace authorities, which includes former Taliban officials, has argued that talks will go nowhere fast until the spiritual movement’s leaders can travel openly outside their sanctuaries in Pakistan.

A first action to meeting their demands came on Friday, when the United Nations Security Council decided to set up separate sanctions lists for the Taliban and al-Qaeda, whose members have long been connected on the same blacklist.

The Afghan government proposed that the names of some 18 of the 135 Taliban on the list be removed altogether. But former Taliban officials say that those men have long broken with the group and have no particular access to the deceptive leadership. Five of them are on Mr. Karzai’s peace council.

One of the more notorious is Mohammed Qalamuddin, who headed the feared religious police during the Taliban’s five-year reign when men were beaten if they did not go to prayers and women were regularly beaten for any infraction of the regime’s archaic restrictions.

Mr. Qalamuddin, who said he has been experiencing “a simple life” in Kabul as a religion teacher in the public schools, said moving away from the blacklist will mean nothing for him. “I don’t have to travel the world,” he said in an interview, adding that he also has nothing in foreign banks that has been blocked.

“But the government should try to speak to the leadership of the Taliban,” he said. “I’m hopeful there could be dialogue, god willing.”

The most recent attack in Kabul, on the first day of the work week, broke a month long period of comparable calm in the city. The capital last experienced a large-scale attack since May when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-filled vest up at a army hospital. Six medical students died in that attack.

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]]> 0 United States Investigating Syrian War Crimes Sat, 18 Jun 2011 01:07:28 +0000 BBC News The United States is collecting information on possible war crimes by Syrian security forces amid a violent crackdown on opposition demonstrators, a senior Obama administration official claimed Friday.

In a telephone briefing with reporters, the official said the United States is “searching into … whether there are reasons here for charges related to war crimes,” and whether or not referrals to the International Criminal Court are appropriate.

The comments arrive as the White House faces stress from critics who say the Obama administration has been slow to respond to the Syrian government’s assault against pro-democracy demonstrators.

The official also asserted that the United States is thinking about further economic pressure on the Syrian government, including sanctions on the country’s oil and gas sector.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is lobbying members of the U.N. Security Council to support a resolution on Syria that, as another administration official placed it, “would send a strong message to President Assad.”

“One desires to be able to make sure you have all of the five permanent members of the Security Council on board for a resolution,” the official said, “and you want to make sure that you have got at least the largest number of yes votes that one could. And so there’s just continuous consultations in New York to make certain we can have the broadest-based support for the Security Council.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday, but State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland gave no details, saying only “it was a good conversation.”

Clinton, so far, has not spoken with China which, like Russia, is assumed to be reluctant to help any U.N. resolution.

Critics have asserted that the administration is pulling its punches on Syria, in distinction to its quick action at the U.N. Security Council to complete a resolution authorizing the use of force to safeguard Libyans from violence by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

“I agree that in a perfect world we should be moving faster, that this is going slowly,” one administration official explained.

But, the official included, “what we’re performing is, again, we’re actively building a broad-based strategy with our partners bilaterally, multilaterally, regionally, internationally in order to make sure that we’re all shifting ahead in a sensible way that backs the Syrian people themselves.”

U.S. officials say the situation in Syria differs greatly from the problem in Libya.

“There hasn’t been a galvanizing effect, such as Gadhafi’s threat … to literally raze Benghazi to the ground,” the official told reporters. “But there, nevertheless, is an appalling, appalling amount of physical violence and death that you see us, the international community, responding to and … we’re operating with our partners to make sure that the response is as effective as feasible.”

The Syrian government, this official added, “seems to be beginning to reach out” to some members of the opposition. The opposition, however, still fears arrest and other people are in hiding.

“You cannot do sort of conversation negotiation while you try to reach out on the one hand but you still are injecting worry — fear of arrest, fear of hatred — on the other hand,” the official said.

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]]> 0 Arlington Cemetary Visitor Detained as Terror Suspect Sat, 18 Jun 2011 00:58:03 +0000 BBC News A Marine reservist taken into custody under suspicious circumstances at Arlington National Cemetery early Friday sparked a hostile police response that resulted in road closures near the Pentagon and massive traffic tie-ups throughout morning rush hour.

Although authorities eventually determined there was no immediate threat to the community, they said they could not manage to take a chance. They observed that the suspect, Yonathan Melaku, 22, originally fled from police, had dubious items in his backpack and even told officers that the bag contained bomb-making materials.

Soon after Melaku’s apprehension, agents on the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force descended on the scene. Authorities closed ramps to Interstate 395 and roads throughout the Pentagon in order to avoid bystanders from getting too close to Melaku’s car, a red Nissan identified in a wooded area nearby the Pentagon.

At some part, the Arlington County bomb squad used a device to smash out the Nissan’s window to access the car. Police reported they found no explosives in the backpack or the vehicle.

“We need to regularly be vigilant in the D.C. area,” said Sgt. David Schlosser, a U.S. Park Police spokesperson.

By late morning hours, officers and agents were searching Melaku’s home in the Alexandria part of Fairfax County. It wasn’t clear what they might have found in the red-brick townhouse.

Authorities said the occurrence began about 1:30 a.m. when police spotted Melaku in the cemetery, which is closed to visitors overnight, and he ran from them. Melaku was then simply detained by U.S. Park Police, regulators said, and told officers that his backpack contained bomb-making materials, including ammonium nitrate, a compound used as a fertilizer and as a component of explosives, according to a law enforcement source, who requested anonymity since the investigation is ongoing.

First tests on several baggies in the backpack did not apparently reveal traces of the compound, the source said. Authorities explained the backpack and its contents were currently being sent to the FBI’s laboratory for further testing.

Police also identified a notebook, apparently related to a class Melaku was taking, in the backpack that had the words “Al Qaeda” and “Taliban” written on its pages, the source said.

Schlosser said authorities learned about the Nissan linked to Melaku and closed off roads while experts were introduced to examine the car. The closures snarled morning rush-hour all through the Arlington area and caused a significant back-up on I-395 North from the 14th Street bridge to the Springfield interchange.

U.S. Park Police failed to say whether charges would be registered. This is not Melaku’s first brush with law enforcement. Last month, he was charged in connection with the vandalism of 25 cars within the Leesburg area. His legal professional in that case, Robert May, did not react to phone messages seeking opinion.

The FBI reported that Melaku joined the Marine Corps Reserve on Sept. 4, 2007, and has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal plus the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He has not deployed overseas, the FBI said.

Johnny Briley, 54, who lives in Melaku’s townhouse development, said an older man who is a cab driver lives in the home authorities explored. Briley said he has seen Melaku coming and going at the townhouse. Another neighbor mentioned he has seen Melaku riding a bicycle in the community.

Briley asserted the residents of the townhouse are quiet and that they frequently have visitors. “A lot of commotion, people going in and out, but they kept to themselves,” he said.

“I hope this is just an great overreaction erring on the side of caution,” said a neighbor who declined to provide her name. “All the commotion is a touch unnerving, but I’m comfortable that we’re dependable.”

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