Dollar remains broadly supported in quiet trade

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The dollar remained broadly supported against the other major currencies on in quiet trade Monday, still hovering near one year highs against the euro as concerns over the conflict in Ukraine and weak euro zone economic data continued to weigh on the single currency.

Trade volumes were likely to remain limited on Monday, with markets in the U.S. closed for the Labor Day holiday.

EUR/USD hit lows of 1.3119, the weakest level since September 6 2013 and was last trading at 1.3135.

Investors were continuing to monitor the situation in Ukraine ahead of negotiations due to take place later in the day between Ukrainian and Russian officials and pro-Russian separatists after talks last week resulted in no major breakthrough.

Concerns that sanctions against Russia would act as a drag on growth in the euro zone have weighed on the single currency in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, data on Monday confirmed that Germany’s economy contracted by 0.2% in the second quarter, in line with forecasts and unchanged from a preliminary estimate.

Separate reports showed that Germany’s manufacturing sector expanded at the slowest pace in 11 months in July, while factory activity in France contracted at the quickest pace in 13 months.

Slowing growth in the euro area looked likely to add to pressure on the European Central Bank to implement fresh measures to shore up the faltering recovery in the region, ahead of its upcoming monetary policy meeting on Thursday.

Elsewhere, GBP/USD was up 0.14% to 1.6619 after data showed that activity in the U.K. manufacturing sector expanded at the slowest pace in 14 months in August.

A separate report showed that U.K. mortgage lending rose unexpectedly in July, to hit £2.30 billion from an upwardly revised £2.20 billion the previous month.

The dollar remained near one week highs against the yen, with USD/JPY adding 0.19% to 104.28 and was close to 10-month peaks against the Swiss franc, with USD/CHF up 0.10% to at 0.9192.

AUD/USD was steady at 0.9338, while NZD/USD rose 0.29% to trade at 0.8384.

The commodity linked dollars showed a muted reaction after data earlier Monday showed that factory growth in China slowed last month. China’s official manufacturing index ticked down to 51.1 from 51.7 in July, while the HSBC manufacturing index slowed to 50.2 from 50.3 the previous month.

Elsewhere, USD/CAD slipped 0.12% to 1.0864.

The US Dollar Index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, was at 82.76, not far from Friday’s 11 month highs of 82.79.

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Ukrainian Woman Tells Of Public Abuse At Hands Of Pro-Moscow Separatists

Wrapped in a Ukrainian flag, Irina Dovgan is forced to stand at a Donetsk intersection with a sign identifying her as a spy and reading: “She kills our children.” 

A woman berates and then kicks Dovgan as a man holding a rifle looks on.

Images of the scene that unfolded in eastern Ukraine in August sparked outrage and concern for the initially unidentified woman. Dovgan’s name was eventually revealed and her story told, including to RFE/RL’s Russian Service in an exclusive interview

She was detained by pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk on August 24, accused of spying for Ukrainian forces. As Dovgan explains, “the photos were only a small part of that horrible day.”

In the interview, she says she prayed for death as passers-by slapped her, spat at her, and called her a “fascist.”

“Many young women would hit me in the face, on the head and ears. One photo cannot show all of that,” Dovgan told RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

Dovgan recalls a “woman who took her time to take tomatoes from the trunk of her car” in order to hurl them at her. The woman then squashed two tomatoes onto her face, causing tomato juice to run into her eyes. 

“But the most horrible part was when people would come to just watch. Nicely-dressed young men would stop their cars and pose for photos with me in the background.”

Dovgan’s public humiliation at a busy intersection in downtown Donetsk was orchestrated by pro-Russian separatists, who accused her of serving as a spotter for Ukrainian artillery. 

Dovgan, 52, who ran a beauty salon in Yasinovataya, a town outside Donetsk, insists she never acted as a spy.

But she freely admits to being a volunteer who collected donations — food, clothes, medications, and money — from locals and delivered them to Ukrainian soldiers stationed nearby.

Fateful Mistake

Dovgan says she wasn’t the only one in Donetsk who wanted to help Ukrainian soldiers. 

“There were many people who supported me. They would bring money, blankets, some people would bring sleeping bags, so we received supplies all the time.”

Dovgan says she was aware of the dangers involved when she — along with a female friend — drove to the area where the Ukrainian soldiers were stationed. 

“Sometime we would go in my car and the next time we would take her car so nobody would notice us.”

Dovgan says she made a fateful mistake when decided to take photos of soldiers receiving the collections to show them to people who donated the supplies.

“Those photos later become key evidence against me,” says Dovgan, after her tablet was “somehow discovered” by the rebels. 

She was taken from her house in Yasinovataya by separatists from the Vostok battalion.

Dovgan says she was interrogated at the battalion’s base and that she refused to give up the names of people who helped with donations.

Then Dovgan was handed over to a group of some 20 men she believes were from North Ossetia.

“They started to seriously torture me,” Dovgan recalls.”It was total abuse. One of them shot pistols next to my ears many times, so I nearly lost my hearing.”

Another called her a fascist and forced her to shout “Sieg Heil.”

Dovgan says she was terrified when the rebels threatened to gang-rape her.

“They said, ‘How many men do you want — 10, 20? We have enough people. We can find you 40 or 50.’”

Dovgan said she crawled on the floor and begged them to kill her. 

She recalls that, later that evening, they brought in a man accused of attempting to abuse a child. 

Dovgan says the man was tortured and possibly raped in the next room. She could hear him screaming.

“It all happened without any proof, any trial, just someone called and accused the man, and he was being punished,” she says. “I don’t know how that man could live after that experience. And I don’t know how I could live after what I went through.” 

Dovgan was freed on August 28 after two foreign journalists pleaded with Vostok battalion leader Aleksandr Khodakovsky to release her.

Khodakovsky ordered Dovgan freed, and vowed to discipline those responsible for her detention and public humiliation.

House Looted

Dovgan, however, believes they will never be punished.

She has since left Donetsk and joined her husband and two children in Mariupol, a town controlled by Ukrainian forces. 

Dovgan says the family will not be able to return in the foreseeable to their home in Yasinovataya which was looted while she was in detention.

She managed to retrieve some clothes, her car, and — most importantly, she says — her dog and two cats.

The family is now looking to rebuild their lives in Mariupol. But they are not expecting any financial assistance from the Ukrainian government.

“We have some money in a savings account, we have two cars, one very old but it still works,” Dovgan says. 

“We will work. Besides, what kind of help you expect from the government when the country is facing so many problems. We absolutely don’t need anything. We will manage.”

Written by Farangis Najibullah based on an interview conducted by RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Dmitry Volchek

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Anti-PM protesters storm Pakistan broadcaster

Islamabad, Pakistan -  The political crisis in Pakistan has taken another violent turn, as anti-government protesters stormed the state broadcaster’s building in the capital, forcing it go off-air for approximately 45 minutes, as police continue to fire tear gas at those gathered outside parliament.

On Monday morning, a group of several hundred demonstrators broke through a government-erected roadblock and picket, storming the Pakistan Television (PTV) building and forcing the broadcaster’s Urdu and English news channels off air.

The protesters also occupied advanced positions near the the prime minister’s official residence.

Paramilitary soldiers from the Pakistan Rangers force have since cleared the PTV building, and are keeping protesters from entering key government buildings, including the National Assembly and residences of the president and PM.

“We stormed the [state broadcaster] because it is supposed to be a people’s channel, but it has become a channel supporting the state’s oppressors,” said Abdul Rehman, 24, an anti-government protester.

Faisal Ali, 26, another baton-wielding protester, said it was “justified to attack PTV, because it is spreading lies against us”.

After a lull of several hours, police resumed firing tear gas shells at the protesters on Monday evening.

Protesters, led by anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri and opposition leader Imran Khan, have been attempting to storm Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s official residence since Saturday night, which prompted the outbreak of violence which has resulted in three deaths and more than 595 people injured, including 115 police officers.

The injured have been treated for tear gas inhalation, rubber bullet wounds and wounds from blunt objects, hospital officials told Al Jazeera. More than 89 policemen were among the wounded.

Following Monday’s attack, the government has filed paperwork asking for a legal case to be filed against Qadri, Khan and hundreds of their supporters under anti-terrorism laws for inciting their supporters to invade government buildings.

Khan and Qadri have since distanced themselves from the attack on PTV, calling on supporters not to enter government buildings.

Khan alleges Sharif’s party’s rigged the 2013 general election that swept Sharif to power and wants fresh elections, while Qadri has called for the overthrow of the government and its replacement by a “national government” that would rewrite the constitution.

PM meets army chief

The country’s powerful military has been taking a role in the crisis since last week, and on Monday morning, following the attack, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif met with PM Sharif (no relation) to discuss the situation.

Following the meeting, the military’s press depsrtment issued a statement denying rumours, reported on local media, that the army chief had asked PM Sharif to resign.

“News being run on private channels after COAS (Chief of Army Staff) and PM meeting regarding PM resignation or his going on leave is totally baseless,” the statement read.

The statement came after the military warned against the use of further force after a meeting of top army commanders on Sunday night.

The country’s top army commanders viewed “with serious concern the existing political crisis and the violent turn it has taken, resulting in large scale injuries and loss of lives.

“Further use of force will only aggravate the problem,” the statement said.

‘We could die here’

Earlier, baton-wielding protesters were seen roaming the corridors of the PTV building, and television footage showed signs of damage to cabinets, furniture and some equipment.

Hundreds of protesters have now moved forward towards the prime minister’s official residence.

More than 1,000 of the protesters have erected a tent city on the grounds of the National Assembly, vowing not to leave until PM Sharif resigns.

“We could die here, but we will give our lives gladly for the ‘revolution’,” said Kishwar Sultana, 53, a Qadri supporter and schoolteacher. “We won’t leave this place until the government falls.”

On the road outside parliament, Khan and Qadri’s mobile containers, which have been serving as both temporary homes and stages for them, stand side by side, as both periodically appear to speak to their supporters.

“This is the collapse of the Nawaz government. Now a national government will be formed under the supervision of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri,” Shahid Mursaleen, Qadri’s spokesperson, told Al Jazeera on Monday.

Several rounds of government negotiations with Qadri and Khan have broken down, as both have remained adamant that Sharif must resign as prime minister. They differ, however, on what happens next.

Follow Asad Hashim on Twitter: @AsadHashim

824

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Aftermath Of Air Strike In Iraq’s Anbar Province

Published 1 September 2014

The town of Al-Garma in Iraq’s Anbar Province on August 30 grappled with the aftermath of an air strike by government forces targeting Islamist militants in the area. Video shot by an RFE/RL Radio Free Iraq contributor shows the ruins of residential buildings said to have been destroyed by barrel bombs used by the Iraqi air force. Iraq’s military has been battling Islamic State militants in Anbar Province since January. (RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq)

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Iraq Claims Further Advances Against IS Fighters

Officials say Iraqi troops and Kurdish forces on September 1 retook two more towns from Islamic State (IS) fighters.

Officials said government troops backed by Shi’ite militias and Kurdish Peshmerga forces recaptured the northern town of Suleiman Bek.

The Peshmerga also said they regained control of the town of Zumar.

The reported advances came after Iraqi government and  Peshmerga forces, backed by U.S. air strikes, regained control of Amirli on August 31.

The mainly Turkoman Shi’ite town had been besieged for some two months by the extremist Sunni group.

IS and its allies control large parts of northern and western Iraq as well as northeastern Syria.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, defending her government’s decision to send weapons to the Peshmerga, said on September 1 that Islamic State is a major security threat to both Germany and Europe.

Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Case filed against Pakistan protest leaders

The Pakistani government has brought a case against two opposition leaders at the centre of the anti-government protests that has seen the state television headquarters in the capital stormed earlier in the day.

Police station secretariat in Islamabad has registered a case under an anti-terrorism act against politician Imran Khan, religious leader Tahir-ul-Qadri and hundreds of their supporters for organising riots, damaging state buildings and attacking security forces.

Anti-government protesters briefly occupied the building of state television, PTV, and cut transmissions of the broadcaster’s news services in Urdu and English for 45 minutes. Transmission was resumed after paramilitary soldiers arrived at the building and cleared it.

Amid the political chaos, the country’s powerful army chief Raheel Sharif met the beleaguered Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. No statement was issued after their meeting in the capital.

But on Sunday the army had said that further use of force to resolve the escalating political crisis would only worsen the situation.

The opposition leaders have been calling for the resignation of Sharif over allegations of corruption and vote rigging in the last year’s general elections won by Sharif’s party.

Protesters have been trying to reach government buildings for the last three days, and have been staging sit-in for the past three weeks.

The case against Khan – a former cricketer – and Qadri – a Canada-based religious leader – has been opened in the framework of First Information Report (FIR).

Meanwhile, Khan demanded the Islamabad police chief to immediately release all the arrested supporters of his party Tehreek-e-Insaf as well as supporters of Pakistan Awami Tehrik, the political movement of Qadri.

The cricketer-turned politician also said that they were going to lodge a FIR against the government for murdering peaceful protesters. Earlier, condemned the storming of the state television building.

296

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Slovyansk Children Return To School Amid Ongoing Conflict

Published 1 September 2014

Children in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk attended their first day of school on September 1. Students recited Ukrainian poetry and sang the national anthem at a back-to-school ceremony in the former separatist stronghold, recaptured by the Ukrainian military in early July. (Reuters)

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Amid Escalating ISIS Threat In Syria, President Assad Swears In New Government

Amid Escalating ISIS Threat In Syria, President Assad Swears In New Government

By Erin Banco

Posted 2014-09-01 07:06 GMT

Syria’s president Bashar Assad gestures during an interview with French daily Le Figaro in Damascus in this handout distributed by Syria’s national news agency SANA on September 2, 2013 (Reuters).Syrian President Bashsar Assad swore in his new government in Damascus Sunday amid an increasingly violent uprising from the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS, in the areas north of Aleppo. The new government will take office as the death toll of the 3-year-old war death toll surpasses 190,000.

Assad asked the new government to “provide a new vision,” according to the state news agency SANA, and to avoid the “negatives of the previous stage.” He said acceptance of the new government would come from “earning the trust of citizens through transparency and credibility.”

Assad won a third term at the beginning of June in an election that was widely condemned by the international community and called a “sham.” Assad won the vote with 88.7 percent, which gave him a third seven-year term in office.

The election was the first in the country’s history to have more than one candidate on the ballot. Hassan Al-Nouri and Maher Hajjar won 4.3 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively. The Supreme Constitutional Court said voter turnout was 73.42 percent.

Assad Sunday vowed to focus on reconstruction in secure areas. But reconstruction is most likely not set to begin in the weeks ahead as the regime is devising a plan to fight Islamic State militants. Syria’s Foriegn Minister Walid Muallem said last week Syria was ready to work with the international community to find a solution to the ISIS problem, but said all plans should flow through Damascus first. President Obama said in a statement last week, however, the U.S. would not work with the Assad government to fight the Sunni militant group.

The U.S. has already begun targeting ISIS in Iraq with airstrikes, but White House officials said they are working on building an international coalition to confront the ISIS problem in Syria. In a speech last week Obama said the U.S. will rely on its Sunni partners in the region for help.

Assyrian International News Agency

Turkey Summons U.S. Diplomat Over Spying Report

Turkey is demanding an explanation from the United States over a media report that said Washington spied on Turkish leaders.

Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said on September 1 that the Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires, currently the senior American diplomat in Ankara, “to demand an explanation.”

The German magazine “Der Spiegel” reported on August 31 that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had been conducting extensive electronic surveillance of Turkish leaders since 2006.

It said its report was based on documents released by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Turkey had reacted angrily to a previous report by “Der Spiegel” that said Germany had been spying on NATO ally Turkey for years.

“Der Spiegel” said the United States and Turkey had cooperated closely on intelligence gathering, particularly on Kurdish militants in Turkey’s southeast.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Captured IS Suicide Bomber Reveals Threat

The 23-year-old militant killed four people in his bomb attack.A wing of Sulaymaniah’s military hospital has been sealed off and 24-hour security has been posted at the door of a ward.

Inside lies an injured young man; a very special patient and prisoner.

He is 23-year-old Horr Jaffer, from Chechnya, and he is an Islamic State (IS) suicide bomber.

His capture has been a secret until now.

Sky News is the first to get access to this man who was caught in the southern Kurdish town of Jalula after his bomb part exploded.

He had been attempting to destroy a Kurd checkpoint by driving a bomb-laden car into their midst.

Four people died and many others were injured, but he was captured attempting to escape.

Under questioning he admits that he joined IS in Syria after his father, mother and six family members were killed there.

He says they had moved from Chechnya to Pakistan before going to Syria.

The Kurds believe his father and brothers were to all intents and purposes professional jihadists; moving to countries where they could ply their trade. That trade is killing people.

“I want to be a martyr. I decided after they killed my family,” he says in barely audible Russian.

“They didn’t tell me anything about what I was doing or where I was. I just had to press the button.”

The killer claims that Syria is filling with foreign fighters; a constant stream from all over the world.

“There are nations from all over the world there. There is British amongst them. They are from Asian countries, Europe and America. From everywhere,” he told me.

He says that they used to talk together and mix together but didn’t understand a lot of what was said.

Spending an hour with him it was striking how little he knew about what IS is doing across swathes of Syria. He denied any knowledge of the creation of a caliphate by IS for example.

He struck me as a rather stupid boy, upset by the loss of his family and totally open to indoctrination by his IS handlers.

He was just the guy prepared to die and kill others with him and it seems there are lots like him.

When asked if he regretted what had happened he broke down.

Arching his back in pain and misery, saying he just wanted to live a normal life that he did not mean to do what he did.

It is hard not to be moved by his anguish. Hard but not impossible. He is a killer.

Like many western governments and security services, Britain is growing increasingly concerned about both IS and the numbers of young men being radicalised and coming to Syria and Iraq.

Out here the Kurds say they are right to be concerned.

“It is almost like super-terrorism and this is the frontline,” Bafle Talabani, the British-born founder of the Kurds elite Counter Terrorism Group, told me in the grounds of his father’s house, which happens to be the Presidential Palace.

“It is more aggressive, more merciless more brutal. This is the front of the war on terror,” he says.

“If we don’t stop this here they will come for the West, for England for Europe of the United States. They need to be stopped.”

IS, he believes, is the most dangerous single entity in the world today.

He is urging western governments to allow the Kurds to buy their own weapons or supply them.

“The special forces have good equipment. The peshmergas’ weapons go back to the Iran-Iraq war. They are fighting against good weapons and a well-organised outfit with lots of money,” he says.

With so many willing jihadists available IS is unlikely to miss this single bomber.

When he is treated and well, he will go to prison and rot there for the rest of his life.

He will be denied martyrdom. The Kurds want the foreign fighters to know that.

Assyrian International News Agency

Kazakhstan Hopes Legalizing ‘Shadow Capital’ Will Bring In $10 Billion

Kazakhstan is legalizing “shadow capital” in an effort to pump more money into the economy.

Under a decree signed by President Nursultan Nazarbaev in June, the legalization of illegally obtained money, securities, and shares in companies or property can be carried out between September 1 and the end of 2015.

Capital or property declared during this period will not be taxed.

The Kazakh government hopes that the move will bring up to $ 10 billion to Kazakh banks.

Property or capital obtained through crimes against individuals, corruption, or actions against Kazakhstan’s constitution cannot be legalized.

It is the third campaign to legalize shadow capital in Kazakhstan since the country gained independence in the Soviet collapse of 1991.

With reporting by Kazinform and Tengrinews

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Forex

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The pound eased back from session highs against the U.S. dollar on Monday, following the release of data showing that activity in the U.K. manufacturing sector expanded at the slowest pace in 14 months in August.

Trade volumes were likely to remain light on Monday, with markets in the U.S. closed for the Labor Day holiday.

GBP/USD hit 1.6644 during European morning trade, the pair’s highest since August 20; the pair subsequently consolidated at 1.6624, up 0.17%.

Cable was likely to find support at 1.6561, the low of August 29 and resistance at 1.6678, the high of August 20.

Markit research group said the U.K. manufacturing purchasing managers’ index ticked down to a 14-month low of 52.5 in August, from a downwardly revised 54.8 in July.

Analysts had expected the index to rise to 55.0 last month.

The report said growth in output and new orders continued to slow as market uncertainty and increasing geopolitical tensions weighed, while the pace of jobs growth in the sector also eased.

A separate report showed that U.K. mortgage lending rose to 2.30 billion in July, from an upwardly revised 2.20 billion in June. Analysts had expected mortgage lending to decline to 2.00 billion in July.

Meanwhile, investors continued to monitor the situation in Ukraine ahead of negotiations due to take place later in the day between Ukrainian and Russian officials and pro-Russian separatists after talks last week resulted in no major breakthrough.

Sterling also pared gains against the euro, with EUR/GBP edging down 0.12% to 0.7902, off lows of 0.7890.

Sentiment on the euro remained vulnerable after data on Monday confirmed that Germany’s economy contracted by 0.2% in the second quarter, in line with forecasts and unchanged from a preliminary estimate.

Separate reports showed that Germany’s manufacturing sector expanded at the slowest pace in 11 months in July, while factory activity in France contracted at the quickest pace in 13 months.

Slowing growth in the euro area looked likely to add to pressure on the European Central Bank to implement fresh measures to shore up the faltering recovery in the region, ahead of its upcoming monetary policy meeting on Thursday.

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Pakistani protesters briefly occupy state TV

Islamabad, PAKISTAN - Anti-government protesters have broken into the building of state television, PTV, in central Islamabad and cut transmissions of the broadcaster’s news services in Urdu and English for 45 minutes.

Protesters, led by religious leader Tahir-ul-Qadri and politician Imran Khan, have been trying to reach government buildings for the last three days. They have been calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The South Asian nation’s powerful military said on Sunday that further use of force to resolve an escalating political crisis would only worsen the situation.

Paramilitary soldiers of Pakistan Rangers have arrived at the building briefly after the occupation and cleared it without any clashes taking place at the scene.

There were no clashes with the Rangers as protesters appeared to listen to them and back down. Rangers are now protecting the building and PTV News is back on air, after being off-air for about 45 minutes.

Before the arrival of the soldiers, local media showed live footage of a crowd of men streaming into the building after breaking through its gate.

In the footage, protesters were inside the building, with broken glass and other damage visible. Baton-wielding protesters were seen walking through the corridors.

Both channels went dark during that time, before having their transmission replaced by another non-news state-run channel called PTV Home.

Khan condemns incident

The opposition leaders, Qadri and Khan, seem to be distancing themselves from the invasion of the building.

Khan, addressing his supporters right after the incident said: “None of our activists will be inside PTV. None of our activists should enter the buildings of the PM house and others.”

We will expel whoever has entered these buildings. You should be protecting these buildings.

Imran Khan, opposition leader,

“No one, for God’s sake, should enter any building… We are being damaged by this. These are not our people. We will expel whoever has entered these buildings. You should be protecting these buildings,” he added

Shahid Mursaleen, Tahir-ul-Qadri’s spokesman, told Al Jazeera that some people were angry at the pro-government news reporting by the state television.

“They think that they were not reporting the oppression and how people had been oppressed by the government… Qadri said not to enter any buildings, but some protesters just got out of control. We do not approve of entering the buildings,” he said.

Thousands of opposition activists have been camped outside parliament since August 15 demanding removal of Sharif, alleging poll rigging and corruption.

Several rounds of talks between the government and the opposition have failed to avert the crisis that escalated violence over the weekend.

447

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Islamic State Group Becomes Target of Arab Satire

In this image made from an undated cartoon broadcast on state-run al-Iraqiya TV in Iraq, a cartoon character portrayed as a member or a supporter of the Islamic State group sings a song. Television networks across the Middle East have begun airing cartoons and comedy programs using satire to criticize the group and its claim of representing Islam. And while not directly confronting their battlefield gains, the shows challenge the legitimacy of the Islamic group and chips away at the fear some have that they are unstoppable. The Arabic writing on the flag reads, “One Arab nation,” top, and “Having an eternal message.” “ISIS” on the cartoon character’s head cover is the outdated acronym of the group (AP Photo/al-Iraqiya).BAGHDAD (AP) — The bumbling young militant first drops the rocket launcher on the toes of his boss before taking aim and firing toward a military checkpoint outside of an Iraqi town — not realizing he’s fired it backward at his leader.

The “Looney Tunes”-style cartoon targeting the Islamic State group comes after its militants have swept across large swaths of Syria and Iraq, declaring their own self-styled caliphate while conducting mass shootings of their prisoners. The group cheers its advances and beheadings in slickly produced Internet videos.

In response, television networks across the Middle East have begun airing cartoons and comedy programs using satire to criticize the group and its claims of representing Islam. And while not directly confronting the group’s battlefield gains, the shows challenge the legitimacy of its claims and chip away at the fear some have that the Islamic militants are unstoppable.

“These people are not a true representation of Islam and so by mocking them, it is a way to show that we are against them,” said Nabil Assaf, one of the producers and writers of Lebanon’s “Ktir Salbe Show,” which has challenged the group. “Of course it’s a sensitive issue, but this is one way to reject extremism and make it so the people are not afraid.”

Satire has long been a force in Arab culture, beginning first with its ancient poetry. Indirect criticism once cloaked in self-censorship exploded out into the open during Arab Spring revolts. Even in the midst of Syria’s bloody civil war, the country’s renowned black, satirical humor has continued.

The Islamic State group, born out the Syrian war, now finds itself challenged in a cultural war after its gains. The top Islamic authority in Egypt recently began an online campaign asking journalists not to call the group an “Islamic State.” Comedians have followed suit.

In one skit produced by the “Ktir Salbe Show,” a taxi driver picks up a jihadi who rejects listening to radio because it didn’t exist in the earliest days of Islam, a knock on the Islamic State group’s literal take on the Quran. The driver offers to turn on the air conditioning, but that too is rejected. The jihadi finally criticizes him for answering a mobile phone.

Fed up, the driver asks: “Were there taxi cabs in the earliest days?”

“No, 1,000 times no!” the passenger answers. The driver responds by kicking out the jihadi and telling him to wait for a camel instead.

In Syria, comedic news programs also target the Islamic State group, with its presenters disguising themselves out of fears of retaliation. In Iraq, an animated program on state television depicted a slew of characters on the run from the Iraqi military, including young Islamic State militants and old Saddam Hussein-era officials.

“We are all against these terrorist organizations,” said Alaa al-Majedi of the state-run al-Iraqiya channel. “Comedy is one way to raise awareness.”

But among those depicted in the cartoon is Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, an accusation that the Sunni kingdom supports the Sunni Islamic State militants, something Saudi officials have denied. Saudi Arabia backs the rebels fighting to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.

Even the dark videos of mass shootings conducted by the Islamic State group have become comedic fodder. Palestinian television channel al-Falastiniya aired a skit showing two militants shoot Muslim civilians for their lack of knowledge on the number of times to kneel during prayers, all the while reminiscing over the beautiful women and best party neighborhoods they’d visited in Beirut.

When a Jordanian Christian approaches, the two militants begin fighting each other over who gets to shoot him — each wanting the “blessing” for himself. Terrified, the man suffers a fatal heart attack, leaving the militants devastated.

Assyrian International News Agency

Nazarbaev: Astana Could Quit EES If Independence Threatened

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has said his country could quit an economic alliance with Russia and Belarus if membership ever threatens its independence.

Nazarbaev told the Khabar television channel on August 30 that Kazakhstan “has a full right to revoke its membership” in the Eurasian Economic Union (EES) if “regulations agreed upon earlier are not fulfilled.”

He said that “Astana will never be a member of an organization that imposes threat to Kazakhstan’s independence.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on August 29 that Nazarbaev “managed to create a state on a territory that never had statehood.”

Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and the conflict in eastern Ukraine have raised concerns in the West and among Russia’s neighbors that the Kremlin may seek control over other parts of the former Soviet Union.

The EES is based on an existing Customs Union and is to start functioning on January 1, 2015.

Based on reporting by Khabar.kz and tengrinews.kz

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Assyrian Patriarch Calls for 3 Day Fast for Iraq’s Christians

Assyrian refugees in Ankawa, Iraq.(AINA) — The head of the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East, Patriarch Khaninia Dinkha IV, has called for a three day fast for the Assyrians of Iraq and Syria, who have become refugees in their own lands. 200,000 Assyrians have fled their homes because of ISIS and are now living in church courtyards, refugees camps, abandoned and unfinished buildings, open fields and sidewalks — in Ankawa, Arbel and Dohuk and its surrounding areas.

The Patriarch called for a special observance of the Rogation of the Ninevites. The Patriarch’s statement reads:

To all the people of our sacred church and our Assyrian nation
Please accept our prayers and blessings

As you always hear us say, “We do not have the power and we have no helper only God the Father, who every time we call on him and ask him in our prayers, he responds to us with His mercy and intercession and saves us from all difficulties and tragedies.

Today, as you can see and hear about the Middle East, all the people in that region have fallen under abnormal conditions, including our Assyrian people in Iraq and Syria.

Here we ask all of you, just as your fathers did in Nineveh, to fast the Baautha (Rogation of the Ninevites), starting next Monday, September 01, 2014, for a period of three days, and in the evening of the last day of the Baautha, corresponding to Wednesday, all the priests in all our churches will perform sanctification of Eucharist to God the Father. We ask you all to attend this Mass to pray to God the Father, and to bless and send his paternal mercy, and bestow peace and security in the whole region, so all the people can live together in love and peace.

The grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all forever and ever.

Khaninia Dinkha IV
With Grace Catholicos Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East

On Wednesday, August 20 five Patriarchs from the Middle East visited Arbel in north Iraq to show support for the beleaguered Assyrian Christian community (AINA 2014-08-26) and to call attention to the cultural genocide that is being committed against it by ISIS. Patriarch Dinkha was not able to join this delegation because of very poor health.

Here is the Patriarch’s statement in Assyrian:

Assyrian International News Agency

Thousands of Refugees Apply for New Passports in North Iraq

Thousands of Refugees Apply for New Passports in North Iraq

Posted 2014-09-01 07:34 GMT

Refugees stand in line in Arbel to apply for a new passport (photo: ankawa.com).(AINA) — On Saturday, August 30 the Iraqi passport office in Arbel announced it would start accepting applications to issue new passports for refugees from the Nineveh Plain and other areas who fled from ISIS. Within an hour thousands of people came to the office, which was overwhelmed and could not process most of the requests.

The new passports to be issued will be class (A) category, applicable in all parts of Iraq.

The office issued instructions and a list of documents to be submitted by the refugees wishing to obtain a passport. The documents included a letter from the Department of Immigration and Migration, official documents consisting of civil status ID card, Iraqi nationality (citizenship) certificate, financial statements, 3 personal photos with a white background, housing ID card, as well as a passport application form.

200,000 Assyrians fled their homes in the Nineveh Plain when ISIS moved to north of Mosul, as well as from Baghdede, Bartella and Karamles. 150,000 Yazidis fled from Sinjar and Zumar. ISIS stole all money and personal belongings from residents as they fled, including government identification papers.

Many refugees complained that they could not provide the documents required to obtain a new passport, as they had been confiscated by ISIS or left behind in their homes.

See Timeline of ISIS in North Iraq.

Assyrian International News Agency

Hong Kong police disperse pro-democracy group

Hong Kong police have used pepper spray to disperse pro-democracy activists who stormed a security check-point at a venue where a senior Chinese official was explaining Beijing’s decision not to grant the former British colony full democracy.

Footage broadcast on cable television on Monday showed police spraying protesters with what appeared to be pepper spray, outside the hall where Li Fei, deputy secretary general of the Chinese assembly, was speaking.

Then as Li started to speak, a separate group of pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers and protesters heckled him, briefly suspending his speech and the meeting.

Veteran dissident lawmaker Leung Kwok-hung started shouting him down, his fist raised in the air.

Leung was then joined by a dozen pro-democracy lawmakers and some younger demonstrators who unfurled a banner in front of the lectern where Li was speaking from and chanted: “The central government broke its promise, shameless.”

On Sunday, Beijing ignited anger in the special administrative region after it rejected demands by pro-democracy activists for Hong Kong’s right to freely choose the city’s next leader in two years.

China’s National People’s Congress said the city’s next chief executive will be elected by popular vote in 2017, but insisted on its right to pick the candidates.

After the decision was announced, activists vowed an “era of civil disobedience” including mass sit-ins of the international trading hub’s financial district.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Hong Kong, said that competing demonstrations are being staged in city, with pro-China group outnumbering the pro-democracy group.

Our correspondent said that demonstrators sympathetic to China insisted that Hong Kong remains under the control of Chinese government and that “nothing will come out from angering Beijing”.

Under socialist system

Delivering his speech in Mandarin in the largely Cantonese speaking city, Li repeated Beijing’s insistence that China will not tolerate a leader who is disloyal to the mainland.

“Anyone who does not love the country, love Hong Kong or is confrontational towards the central government shall not be the chief executive,” he said.

“(Those who) wish Hong Kong will become an independent political entity or will change the country’s socialist system will not have a political future.”

Li flew into Hong Kong from Beijing late on Sunday and was forced to drive past a crowd of largely student protesters who had gathered outside his hotel, in the kind of scenes that would be unthinkable on the Chinese mainland.

China took reins of Hong Kong from Britian in 1997. It allows some degree of civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including free speech and the right to protest.

Chinese state media on Monday said those embarking on a civil disobedience campaign were destined to fail.

The government-published China Daily said: “The people of Hong Kong have a critical decision to make: to embrace a hitherto unprecedented level of democracy, or the disruptive, reckless political gamble to be staged by the radicals.”

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AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Protesters, Police Resume Clashes In Islamabad

Antigovernment protesters and police have clashed again in the Pakistani capital Islamabad after weeks of demonstrations calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign.

Reports on September 1 said protesters armed with stones and sticks tried to break through police lines and reach the prime minister’s residence.

Three people were killed and hundreds injured in violence that started on August 30 when demonstrators tried to storm Sharif’s residence.

Pakistan’s military on August 31 warned protesters and authorities to resolve the stand-off that started on August 15 when thousands of supporters of opposition leader Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir ul-Qadri started their demonstration in Islamabad.

The military said it has an obligation to ensure the security of the state.

Protesters accuse Sharif of rigging the 2013 elections that brought him to power.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP  

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Forex

Investing.com –

Investing.com – The Austrlian dollar recovered Monday, but the Japanese yen held weaker in Asia with the Ukraine in focus and data from Australia, Japan and China trickling in on a busy day and with markets in the U.S. and Canada closed for the Labor Day holiday.

USD/JPY traded at 104.18, up 0.10%, while AUD/USD retraced early weakness and changed hands at 0.9336, down 0.02%.

U.S. officials are working closely with the European Union to keep their Russia sanctions programs aligned in timing and severity.

On Saturday, European Union leaders agreed to draw up options within a week for possible new sanctions against Russia, with action to follow quickly unless Moscow takes clear steps to scale back its intervention in Ukraine. Reports have emerged that hundreds of Russian soldiers have entered Ukraine.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said the bloc wouldn’t set out specific criteria for triggering fresh sanctions but said there was “determination” to ensure Russia paid an appropriate price for heightening tensions.

“I can assure you that everyone is fully aware that we have to act quickly given the escalation on the ground,” he said at the end of a summit of European leaders.

In Australia, the AIGroup manufacturing index fell 3.4 points to 47.3, slipping into contraction just a month after it moved into expansion at 50.7 after eight months.

The TD-MI inflation gauge was flat in August, after the gauge rose 0.2% month-on-month.

Second quarter business inventories in Australia rose 0.8%, well above the 0.2% gain expected and then the Reserve Bank of Australia commodity index is due at 1630 (0630 GMT).

In Japan, capital spending rose 3.0%, below and expected 3.8% gain and then the manufacturing index seen at 52.4.

In China, the August CFLP manufacturing PMI came in at 51.1, just a nick below the 51.2 exepected.

The HSBC final manufacturing PMI came in at 50.2, just below the 50.3 expected.

Last week, the dollar ended the week close to one year highs against the euro as largely upbeat U.S. data indicated that the economic recovery is on track, while soft euro zone inflation data and concerns over the Ukraine crisis pressured the single currency lower.

The dollar was boosted after data showed that U.S. consumer sentiment rebounded in August, with the final reading of the University of Michigan’s consumer confidence index rising to 82.5 from 81.8 in June.

The data offset another report showing that U.S. consumer spending unexpectedly fell 0.1% in July.
The single currency remained under pressure after official data earlier on Friday showed that the annual rate of inflation in the euro area slowed to a five year low of 0.3% in August from 0.4% in July.

The US Dollar Index traded at 82.83, up 0.10%.

In the week ahead, trading volumes are likely to remain light on Monday, with U.S. markets closed for the Labor Day holiday. Investors will be focusing on Thursday’s outcome of the ECB’s monthly monetary policy meeting, as well as Friday’s closely watched U.S. nonfarm payrolls report.

Monetary policy announcements by central banks in Australia, Japan, Canada and the U.K. will also be awaited.

On Monday, the U.K. is to publish data on manufacturing activity, as well as a report on net lending.

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The Rundown — September 1

RFE/RL in the Media

# “Washington Post” editorial says Ukraine crisis shows importance of RFE/RL 
# “Atlantic” uses visualization on world’s displaced people created by Li Luo
CNN uses video of fighting in Donetsk shot by RFE/RL Moldovan Service’s Andrei Babitsky 
VOA quotes RFE/RL’s Fred Petrossian on surveillance in Iran 
# “National Review” cites Carl Schreck and Luke Johnson story on muted Crimea speech

Russia

# Putin urges talks on “statehood” for southeastern Ukraine

Ukraine

# Separatists taunt dying Ukrainian soldier 

Iraq

Iran

Afghanistan/Pakistan

# Armed men reportedly gang rape women in suburban Kabul

Central Asia

Of Interest

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Kurdistan underlines the lack of objection of the National Alliance

Kurdistan Alliance confirmed that the National Alliance has no objection to the application of Article 140 during the current parliamentary session.

The MP said the coalition Ribawar Taha in a press statement that Article 140 of Kirkuk and disputed areas of the first demands of the Kurds, which has provided the core of the National Alliance, Taha said the ongoing consultations between the National Alliance and Alcardsana to form a government characterized as positive.

It is noteworthy that Article 140 of the Constitution provides for the normalization of the situation in the province of Kirkuk and disputed areas in other provinces such as Nineveh and Diyala

LINK

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US decries Israel’s West Bank land grab

The United States has described Israel’s announcement of a land appropriation for possible settlement construction in the occupied West Bank as “counterproductive” to peace efforts and urged the Israeli government to reverse the decision.

Israel on Sunday laid claim to nearly a thousand acres (400 hectares) in the Etzion settlement bloc near Bethlehem, a move which an anti-settlement group termed the biggest appropriation in 30 years and a Palestinian official said would cause only more friction after the Gaza war.

“We have long made clear our opposition to continued settlement activity,” a US State Department official said. ” This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve and construction tender they issue is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians.”

“We urge the government of Israel to reverse this decision,” the official said in Washington.

Peace Now group, which opposes Israeli settlement activities in the West Bank, territory the Palestinians seek for a state, said the appropriation was meant to turn a site where 10 families now live adjacent to a Jewish seminary into a permanent settlement.

Construction of a major settlement at the location, known as “Gevaot”, has been mooted by Israel since 2000. Last year, the government invited bids for the building of 1,000 housing units at the site.

Peace Now said the land seizure was the largest announced by Israel in the West Bank since the 1980s and that anyone with ownership claims had 45 days to appeal. A local Palestinian mayor said Palestinians owned the tracts and harvested olive trees on them.

Israel has come under intense international criticism over its settlement activities, which most countries regard as illegal under international law and a major obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state in any future peace deal.

Israel has said construction at Gevaot would not constitute the establishment of a new settlement because the site is officially designated a neighbourhood of an existing one, Alon Shvut, several kilometres down the road.

About 500,000 Israelis live among 2.4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, territory that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

362

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Putin In Yakutsk As Work Starts On Russian-Chinese Gas Pipeline

Russian President Vladimir was in the Siberian city of Yakutsk on September 1, where he will take part in a ceremony starting construction of a gas pipeline to China.

Putin was scheduled to attend the ceremony beginning construction of the first stage of the “Sila Sibiri” (Siberia Power) pipeline.

Chinese Deputy Premier Zhang Gaoli has also arrived in Yakutsk to participate in the ceremony where the first sections of the pipeline will be welded together.

The pipeline will eventually carry some 38 billion cubic meters of gas to China annually. 

The first stage of the pipeline is expected to be completed by 2017.

Aleksei Miller, the head of Russian company Gazprom, has said the pipeline would also bring additional supplies of gas to areas in southern Siberia and Russia’s Far East.

Based on reporting by ITAR-TASS and Xinhua

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Barzani, Chalabi confirm the need to form a government of a true partnership

BAGHDAD / NINA / The head of the Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani and the head of National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi, confirmed the need to form a new government in according to the foundations of a true partnership.

Barzani and Chalabi, in their meeting in the resort of Salahuddin in Arbil, according to a statement of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, discussed the military and political situation in Kurdistan, and the political and security situation in Iraq, and the formation of a new government. ”

The two sides stressed during the meeting that: “The terrorists are a threat to all mankind and they do not recognize borders or values, so everyone must cooperate to root out terrorism from its roots.”

They agreed on the need to form a new government in accordance with the foundations of a true partnership, and respect the wishes and the demands of all the Iraqi components , and to evaluate and correct the political process in accordance with the country’s permanent constitution,” ./ end

LINK

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Russian Duma Deputy Calls For Checks On Ronald McDonald House

A deputy in the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, has called for an inspection of the activities of the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) organization.

The Russian daily “Izvestia” reported on September 1 that Andrei Krutov from the A Just Russia party sent a request to prosecutor general Yury Chaika to investigate how funds being contributed to the RMHC fund in Russia were being used.

“Where is the money going? How reliable are accounting figures?” Krutov was quoted as asking.

Krutov also claimed RMHC is not registered as a foreign agent with Russia’s Justice Ministry even though it is a foreign-owned organization.

Ronald McDonald House Charities was started 40 years ago to help children with medical problems.

The “Izvestia” article noted that RMHC has denied any wrongdoing and said its activities in Russia are fully in accordance with Russian laws.

McDonald’s restaurants in Russia have become targets in the growing sanctions war between Russia and the West.

More than 10 McDonald’s restaurants have now been shut in Russia, including one in central Moscow whose opening in 1990 was a sign of the Soviet Union opening up to the West.  

Regulator Rospotrebnadzor said it ordered the closures for sanitary reasons.

Based on reporting by “Izvestia”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Turkey’s trade balance -6.46B vs. -7.41B forecast

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Turkey’s trade balance fell less-than-expected in the last quarter, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, TURKSTAT-Turkish Statistical Institute said that Turkish Trade Balance fell to a seasonally adjusted -6.46B, from -7.85B in the preceding quarter.

Analysts had expected Turkish Trade Balance to fall -7.41B in the last quarter.

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Iraq Breaks Islamic State Siege of Amerli

Government forces mainly composed of Kurdish peshmerga fighters and armed volunteers have broken through the Islamic State group siege on the town of Amerli located between Baghdad, and the northern city of Kirkuk, sources have told Al Jazeera.

Iraqi forces and the armed volunteers entered the city on Sunday, where at leat 12,000 people have been trapped for over two months with dwindling food and water.

“Our forces entered Amerli and broke the siege,” security spokesman Lieutenant General Qassem Atta told the AFP news agency.

Adel al-Bayati, mayor of Amerli, also confirmed the report to Reuters news agency saying that government forces are now “inside” the town, adding that it “will definitely relieve the suffering of residents.”

Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton, reporting from Tuz Kharmatu near Amerli, said that fighting continues in the south and north of the town as government forces try to drive out the armed Sunni fighters.

Our correspondent also said that there have been unconfirmed reports that Iranian jets were also involved in bombing the Islamic State group.

Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from the capital Baghdad, said that the government forces were also backed by “Shia militia”.

On Saturday, the US military attacked Islamic State positions and airdropped humanitarian aid to the trapped civilians, mostly Shia Turkmen minority.

Reports on Sunday said more aid was dropped from British, French and Australian planes.

“I can see the tanks of the Iraqi army patrolling Amerli’s street now. I’m very happy we got rid of the Islamic State terrorists who were threatening to slaughter us,” Amir Ismael, an Amerli resident, to Reuters by phone.

Armed residents had managed to fend off attacks by the Islamic State, who encircled the town and regarded its majority population as apostates.

US jets and drones have also attacked the Islamic State group’s positions near Iraq’s Mosul Dam.

In the previous weeks, the US forces have conducted airstrikes in support of Iraqi and Kurdish forces on the ground, fighting against the Islamic State, which controls large areas in Syria and Iraq.

Since June, the Islamic State group has captured large swaths of northern Iraq.

Assyrian International News Agency

Obama under fire over foreign policy

President Barack Obama has come under renewed criticism over his foreign policy from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers as he wrestled with crises in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Ukraine.

Republican lawmakers on Sunday seized on Obama’s comment earlier this week when he said, “We don’t have a strategy yet” for confronting the Islamic State group, saying it suggested indecisiveness.

Also on Sunday, influential Democrats chimed in with their own critiques of Obama’s foreign policy, chiding him for being “too cautious” on Syria, and urging him to do more to help Ukraine resist Russian advances.

“I’ve learned one thing about this president, and that is he’s very cautious. Maybe, in this instance, too cautious,” Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told US TV network NBC when asked about Obama’s comments about dealing with Islamic State fighters.

‘Be more forceful’

Representative Adam Smith, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, cautioned that any US action in Syria had to be carefully calibrated to avoid inadvertently supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

But he joined Republicans in urging Obama to provide more than just “non-lethal” aid to the Ukrainian government as it resisted Russian forces.

“We should be more forceful when supporting the Ukrainian government,” Smith told CBS TV network. “I think it’s appropriate to up that aid to make them a more capable fighting force, to resist this incursion.”

The critical comments came as the Obama administration faced myriad crises around the world, including a reported attack on an annex to the US embassy in Tripoli, Libya.

In response to the criticism of Obama’s comment on the lack of a strategy, White House officials said it reflected the fact that the Pentagon was still developing options for possible military action in Syria.

US officials emphasised that the administration does have a broader strategy, and the military plan is only one element.

The lawmakers statements reflect growing concern about potential homeland security threats posed by hundreds of US, British and Canadian citizens who have trained to fight in Syria.

‘Freefall policy’

But Obama may still have trouble winning support from a deeply divided Congress for expanded military action against the Islamic State.

“His foreign policy is in absolute freefall,” said Representative Mike Rogers, who heads the House Intelligence Committee.

“This ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ policy isn’t working,”

Republican Senator John McCain said US action against Islamic State would require more US special operations forces, more air controllers; more advisers to train the Iraqi military, which was near collapse; and other countries to partner with.

But McCain said Obama was having trouble building a coalition to take action against Islamic State fighters after backing away from strikes against Syria last year.

“These people … are very cynical, particularly the Saudis and others, because we said we were going to strike Syria, and then the president reversed himself without even telling them.”

482

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Italian Monthly Unemployment Rate 12.6% vs. 12.3% forecast

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Italy’s monthly unemployment rate rose unexpectedly in the last quarter, official data showed on Friday.

In a report, Istat said that Italian Monthly Unemployment Rate rose to 12.6%, from 12.3% in the preceding quarter.

Analysts had expected Italian Monthly Unemployment Rate to remain unchanged at 12.3% in the last quarter.

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12,000 Militants From 81 Nationalities Fighting in Syria: Report

12,000 Militants From 81 Nationalities Fighting in Syria: Report

Posted 2014-08-31 18:13 GMT

A recent US Intelligence report says 12,000 militants from 81 nationalities, including Americans and Europeans, have joined terrorist groups fighting against the Syrian government.

The Soufan Group, a New York-based intelligence firm, estimated in June that at least 3,000 militants of European origin had been active in several militancy-riddled regions across the Arab country, Washington Post reported.

US media reports say more than 100 US citizens have also traveled to Syria to fight President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

The latest figures come as American and European opponents of the Syrian government voice concern given that militants appear to be biting the hand that feeds them.

The brutal beheading of American journalist James Foley by a Briton fighting in the ranks of ISIL is the latest and most shocking example of foreign militants threatening western interests.

This is while the United States has been actively funding and training the militants to fight the Syrian government.

Syria has been gripped by deadly violence since March 2011. Over 190,000 people have reportedly been killed and millions displaced due to the violence fueled by the foreign-backed Takfiri terrorists.

Since November 2012, CIA operatives and US Special Operations forces have been secretly providing the militants with training on the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons in a secret base in Jordan, according to several reports.

The West and its regional allies including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey are giving financial and military support to the militants.

Analysts believe the Syria crisis will backfire on the West as militants are now returning to the countries they came from, including those in Europe.

Assyrian International News Agency

Kyrgyz President Promises Gas Problems Coming To An End

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has outlined plans to improve gas supplies around the country.

Speaking on August 31, Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day, Atambaev said Russian company Gazprom would start selling gas to Kyrgyzstan on October 1 at a price of $ 165 per 1,000 cubic meters, far cheaper than the $ 224 per 1,000 cubic meters Kyrgyzstan has been paying its neighbors.

Gazprom completed a deal to purchase Kyrgyzstan’s state gas company Kyrgyzgaz in April this year for a symbolic $ 1 and a pledge to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into Kyrgyzstan’s aging and inefficient gas infrastructure.

Atambaev noted he met with Gazprom chief Aleksei Miller recently.

“We discussed the situation with supplying the [Kyrgyz] republic with gas for almost 2.5 hours and reached a series of agreements that are vital from a strategic point of view,” Atambaev said

Atambaev said Gazprom would build a pipeline connecting north and south Kyrgyzstan starting next spring and would start carrying out exploration for gas deposits at the Mayli-Suu-4 and Kokart sites in Kyrgyzstan’s southern Jalal-Abat Province.

He said Gazprom had also agreed to provide a $ 20-million credit to Kyrgyzstan to improve the energy situation in Osh and other southern areas pf the country that have been hard hit since the contract for gas with neighboring Uzbekistan expired in April and supplies were halted.

Residents of southern Kyrgyzstan have been complaining about the situation since the cut-off happened and increasingly questioning the benefits of selling the country’s gas company to Gazprom.

Kyrgyzstan has been buying gas from Uzbekistan, and recently from Kazakhstan also.

In an ironic twist, Gazprom and Russian government officials have said the gas sold to Kyrgyzstan would be sourced from fields Gazprom is developing in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has been the chief supplier of gas to Kyrgyzstan since Soviet times but strained relations between Tashkent and Bishkek have led to frequent suspensions in supplies.

Kyrgyz officials have warned people to stock coal for the coming winter and Atambaev cautioned in his address Gazprom’s projects would not be completed until 2016.

“Before 2016, we have two more winters we must live through without shaking up the social situation [in Kyrgyzstan],” Atambaev said.

With additional reporting by ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and fergananews.com

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

In Beslan, Struggle For A ‘New Life’ Decade After Tragedy

BESLAN, Russia — Nadezhda Guriyeva huddled with her children on the floor of the sweltering school gymnasium. An explosive device rested ominously just a few feet away. The two older children, Boris and Vera, were dressed for a folk dance performance to celebrate the first day of school. The festivities never began. 

Boris and Vera were among the 334 people, including 186 children, killed amid explosions and a hail of bullets after being held captive for two days in a terrorist attack on School No. 1 in Beslan. Guriyeva’s youngest daughter, Irina, survived. The girl’s escape allowed Guriyeva to survive the aftermath of the horror.

“I had no choice,” Guriyeva says. “I had my little daughter. She was always watching me to see if I cried. I couldn’t even cry.”

Ten years have passed since armed militants stormed the school on September 1, 2004, and took 1,100 children, mothers and teachers hostage in the gymnasium. The ordeal came to an end 52 hours later. But for the survivors and their loved ones, it changed everything forever.

“Some left for good and completely altered their lives,” says Guriyeva, who has taught at School No. 1 for 36 years. “Some dedicated their lives to investigating what happened. Some lend me a helping hand, for instance, with the museum [commemorating the tragedy]. Some still cry and live at the cemetery, trying to raise their children there.”

Guriyeva, 54, coped with witnessing the deaths of her own son and daughter in part by internalizing her sorrow. “I decided that, however terrible the grief, you must not transfer it to other people,” she says. “It feels like it happened yesterday.”

After seizing the school that morning, dozens of Ingush and Chechen gunmen herded the hostages from the courtyard into the small gymnasium and rigged it with homemade bombs. They issued their demands: the withdrawal of Russian troops from the war-torn North Caucasus republic of Chechnya.

Guriyeva, who had already taught at the school for 26 years, was one of the last to be moved inside. Only then did she realize her three children were there. “Ten years have gone by,” she says. “I just don’t understand how we survived it. Not dying from the explosions, but from those 52 hours we spent there. It was real horror.”

  • At School No. 1, portraits of more than 300 victims hang in the gymnasium where 1,100 children, parents, and teachers were held hostage for 52 hours. The school stands in ruins, and the room itself has been largely untouched since 2004. Bullet holes and haunting inscriptions of “we remember” adorn the walls; there is a charred gym ladder to one side and blackened basketball hoops at either end. An Orthodox cross has been placed in the middle of the gym floor, surrounded by freshly opened bottles of water left to commemorate the captives, who endured over two days in fierce summer heat with almost no water. Residents continue to bring teddy bears, model cars, and other toys in memory of the 186 children who were killed here.
     

  • Amina Kachmazova stands in the cafeteria of School No. 1. She was just shy of her 8th birthday when she went to school on September 1, 2004. She walked there with two teenage neighbors, Lyalya and Alina. When the hostages were forced into the gymnasium, she had no relatives with her. She remembers the militants executing a man at the front of the hall to warn everyone to be quiet. Before those days, Amina had never heard of an “explosion.” But by the end, she had lost an eye in the blasts that rocked through the room on the third day. Lyalya and Alina were killed. Ten years later, Amina is studying international relations at a university in Vladikavkaz. She laughs easily; she says she loves life. 

  • Time has stood still in Oksana Kokova’s bedroom. Her father, Ruslan, likes to keep her door open. Oksana managed to escape after the explosions on the third day, but she returned to the school to help the younger children flee. She was killed in the process. Oksana was talented at sports, and loved karate and knitting. Living alone with her father and older brother, she had become accustomed to taking care of the house. She was friendly and talkative; she liked to take charge. Oksana was 15 years old. 

  • “I feel like she is still with us,” says Ruslan Kokov, 63. Ruslan was at the market when Oksana walked across the road to school, never to return. On her birthday, Ruslan and his son, Uruzmag, 27, always lay a place for her at dinner. They eat the foods she liked: melon, persimmons, blood oranges. Ruslan is pictured here standing in front of his house on Komintern Street. School No. 1 is clearly visible from his front room. Russian special forces were staked out there during the siege; during the final gun battle, bullets shattered his two front window panes. Ten years later, Ruslan hasn’t gotten around to fixing them. “When I come across something that reminds me of the tragedy, it just upsets me unnecessarily,” he says.
  • Nadezhda Guriyeva, 54, a history teacher, stands in the classroom at School No. 1 where she taught for more than 20 years. The curtains she put up with her son, Boris, still hang in the windows. Nadezhda — or Nadya, as she prefers — was taken hostage with her three children. Boris and her older daughter, Vera, died and their bodies burned in a fire sparked by explosives on the last day of the siege. They were 14 and 11. Boris and Vera had been scheduled to perform a dance at the school to mark the first day back. Vera’s body was identified by the dress she had worn specially for the dance. Nadya and her youngest daughter escaped. Nadya now teaches in a new school built across from School No. 1. 

  • Azamat Dzebisov’s cousin, Zaur, was like a brother — the “closest person” in the world to him. They were raised together in the same house, separated by only a year. On the first day of school, they were taken hostage together, along with Azamat’s mother, Svetlana. During the course of the three-day siege, the cousins were split up. Zaur’s burned body was later found in the school gymnasium. Azamat, 20, now studies in Moscow, but still spends his vacations in Beslan. Standing in his old classroom, he remembers a series of dreams he had about Zaur in the weeks after his death. “In the very last dream, he was parting with me and calling for me to come with him. I told him no, I have things left to do here. He smiled and told me good-bye.”
  • Lena Gaitova and sisters Rozita and Zarina Tsirikhova were 12, 10, and 14 on September 1, 2004. The girls escaped at the end of the siege, but when Lena got home, she found her parents dressed in black and her 16-year-old brother, Alan, missing. First her parents said he was in the hospital. But soon they admitted he had died at the school. Today, the three girls remain best friends. All three study at the same institute in Moscow; Zarina has already graduated. They are pictured in the former library of School No. 1, where the militants stored their weapons. “It was easier before, when we were little and we didn’t understand everything,” says Lena. “We didn’t understand what it meant when suddenly there were seven fewer of our friends in class. Now we’re grown up. As time goes by, the pain doesn’t go away. Quite the opposite, it gets harder. We are more aware.” 

  • Kristina Dzgoyeva was 11 when she went to the first day of school with her 10-year-old sister, Dzera, and their mother. They stayed close together in the gymnasium after they were taken hostage, but got separated from each other after the explosions on the third day. Kristina and her mother survived, but Dzera died at the school. The family had always lived next to the school, but after the attack, they moved several blocks away. Kristina, pictured here in her old classroom, keeps all of her memories about the siege written down in a diary. Ten years later, she is studying in Moscow and prefers to be far from Beslan. “I don’t want anything back here,” she says. 
  • The grave of Kristina’s sister, Dzera, stands with those of other Beslan victims in the cemetery that locals now call the “Little Town of Angels.” The cemetery is almost never empty. For many survivors, it’s become a place to seek calm and carry out symbolic rites of passage for the children who never lived to adulthood. This year, many parents adorned gravestones with graduation ribbons for children who would have finished high school in 2014. Kristina says she still goes to the cemetery during trips home to talk to Dzera; it makes her feel happy. Kristina’s mother remains deeply scarred by the loss of her younger daughter. The inscription on Dzera’s gravestone reads, “Forgive us that you’re not here with us, and forgive me that I’m not there with you — Mama.”

  • In recent days, locals have cleared away a year’s worth of toys from the gym in School No. 1 to make way for a wave of new offerings that people will bring to mark the 10-year anniversary of the siege. The three-day commemoration will begin September 1 with a now-traditional funeral service at the old school, followed by a procession to the cemetery. The gym itself is encased in a golden sarcophagus that, with its floral pattern, signifies a huge wreath. On the second day, there will be a requiem concert in Vladikavkaz, the regional capital of North Ossetia. On Wednesday, September 3, mourners will hold two final funeral services, and release white balloons to represent each of the lives lost. 

PHOTOS: Ten Years After Beslan, Memories Still Fresh

When the hostages failed to remain quiet, the gunmen executed a man at the front of the gymnasium to make their point.

At first children were allowed to use the bathroom, where they tried to drink water to bring short relief from the stifling hall at the end of a fiercely hot summer. To this day, mourners bring open bottles of water to the gymnasium as offerings to the dead. Boris, 14, was running a temperature that day and was too weak to go.

“The militants broke the sinks and smashed the pipes so that we couldn’t drink water,” Guriyeva says. “The [children] tried to soak it up in their shirts where it dripped in order to bring it back. Some children brought their moms water in their mouths.”

Negotiations made no progress, and by the second day almost no children were allowed out.

‘Tears Of Blood’

After midday on September 3, Guriyeva remembers an almost delirious longing for the standoff to end — whatever the consequences. It soon did. A deadly silence had often reigned in the hall. The militants had fired shots into the ceiling to keep them still. But already the hundreds of captives were becoming unruly.

Shortly after 1 p.m., a powerful explosion shook the gymnasium.

Those who could summon the strength stood up and ran, though many were promptly gunned down as they fled, Guriyeva says. “From the second floor attic, the militants began firing at the backs of the children running away,” she says.

One little girl who managed to escape ran straight to a drinking fountain, Guriyeva recalls. “She couldn’t stay away from the fountain — to the water,” she says. “A sniper killed her on the spot.”

  • Russian soldiers take up positions in front of School No. 1 in Beslan after militants stormed the building on September 1, 2004.

  • Women stand outside the school on the first day of the hostage crisis.

  • A screen grab from Russian NTV shows special forces soldiers outside the school.

  • A soldier carries a baby after the militants released 26 women and children on the second day of the crisis.

  • Volunteers carry an injured civilian to safety while soldiers storm the school on September 3, the third day of the hostage crisis. A number of witnesses said they saw tanks fire on the school. Russian authorities’ handing of the crisis would come under heavy scrutiny in the wake of the tragedy.

  • A man assists two young hostages who managed to escape from the school after special forces stormed the building.

  • Recently freed hostages comfort each other outside the school.

  • Boys take shelter in a vehicle after their escape from the school.

  • A man carries an injured boy to safety.

  • A view of the damaged school building the day after special forces ended the siege.

  • A mother touches her injured daughter’s hair as she recovers at a hospital in Vladikavkaz, the regional capital of North Ossetia.

  • Relatives try to identify the bodies of victims outside a morgue in Vladikavkaz.

  • Relatives mourn at a cemetery in Beslan.

  • Two girls touch pictures of hostages who remained missing three days after the end of the hostage crisis.

  • A bailiff tries to silence women speaking out during the trial of Nurpashi Kulayev, the only militant arrested during the Beslan hostage crisis, at a court in Vladikavkaz on May 19, 2005.

  • Nurpashi Kulayev, the only surviving militant of the Beslan siege, was sentenced to life in prison on May 26, 2006.

  • Family members expressed their anger in court in 2007 after three policemen implicated in the event were given amnesty. The police officers had been charged with negligence in the handling of the crisis.

PHOTOS: Beslan — Three Days Of Terror

A second explosion followed quickly, bringing the roof down and igniting a fire. “When I came to, my little Verochka was no longer alive,” Guriyeva says.

She points to a photograph of Vera, who was 11 years old at the time of the attack.

“She had the same expression as she has there. She had exactly that smile, only her eyes were closed and there were tears of blood on her cheeks,” Guriyeva says.

In her hand, Guriyeva recalls, Vera clasped a cross that she had found, and her arms were crossed over her chest. She had a shrapnel wound in the back of her head.

Both Boris’ and Vera’s remains would be scorched in the blaze that tore through the gym. Vera’s body was identified from the traditional dress she had worn for the planned folk dance.

Boris was covered in blood, much of it Guriyeva’s. But shrapnel had penetrated his stomach and exited through his back.

Irina suffered only minor injuries, and Guriyeva told her to make a dash for it. Boris was still breathing, and Guriyeva stayed with him. With her arm badly injured, however, he was too heavy to carry. She dragged him to a group of hostages who were also unable to move due to their injuries. Fragments of body parts lay nearby.

The militants ordered Guriyeva out of the gymnasium toward the cafeteria. Grabbing a small girl by the hand, she ended up in the adjacent kitchen where, parched, they drank filthy water that their captors had used to defrost chicken legs. She told the little girl to wait for her there and returned to get Boris. The militants stopped her and turned her away. One of them smashed out her teeth with a rifle.

As Russian special forces moved in, Guriyeva escaped out of a window. Irina had made it too.

“After such a cruel situation, every person has to find meaning in life again, to find something to live for — or to just fade away and end up in the cemetery, too. We had suicides among adult men. A fair number of our men ended their own lives.

Questions still persist about culpability in the bloody conclusion of the crisis, including whether the militants or Russian security forces initiated the final firefight. Some were unable to forget these questions.

Guriyeva’s husband, Stanislav, was tormented by thoughts of revenge and the conflicting belief that finding those responsible was impossible, and that mindless violence leads to more violence, she explains.

A year and a half ago, at age 46, Stanislav passed away. He had turned to alcohol. “He couldn’t sort himself out. He turned to alcohol to forget, and alcohol finished him off,” Guriyeva says.

‘A New Life’

Two months after the tragedy, Guriyeva was teaching again.

“My first lesson was with my son’s old class,” she says. “I was walking down the hallway and a little girl came up to me and said: ‘Great, Nadezhda, you’ve come! Where’s Borya?’ People didn’t know at that point who had died and who hadn’t. Our first class, we simply cried together.”

But for Guriyeva, her teaching was also a source of strength: It’s like acting, she says.

“Whether you like it or not, whether it hurts or not, whether your heart is breaking into pieces, you have to go out and teach children,” she says. “I had 10 children outside the school classes whose homes I worked at. Before going in, it was: deep breath, put a smile on and go in, finish teaching, go out and cry all the way to the next home. Some of the children were so difficult.”

A new school was built opposite School No. 1, across the railway tracks where cows and goats graze. Multicolored lettering above the entrance proclaims “The start of a new life.”

But for Guriyeva, it’s not about escaping the past.

“The story of School No. 1 is our story,” she says. “The terrorist attack is our story. It’s hard. It’s terrifying. It’s bloody. But it is our story. We remember it. We didn’t move to a new school and begin a new life. We didn’t start afresh. We continue to live our life.”

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Has Turkey Helped ISIL?

Turkish authorities and pro-government academics have been busy in recent days, visiting world capitals in an effort to convince them that Turkey has not provided assistance to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces. This has been a nice effort, but it is far from convincing major foreign powers. Such efforts are nothing but a reflection of a state that was caught helping a brutal terror organization.

Visiting Washington, London and Brussels to protest that Turkey has never helped ISIL is a lie that even Turks are not buying. Beyond the evidence collected by foreign intelligence agencies, there is ample proof that has been published by international media outlets.

While the dirty relationship between Turkey and ISIL is clear, Turkish authorities think that Western observers might be stupid enough to believe their tall tales.

If there was no hard evidence concerning Turkey’s dark relations with ISIL-like terrorist organizations, the court testimony of the drivers who were carrying ammunition to Syria is convincing enough to make a case that Turkey is helping al-Qaeda-affiliated extremists in Syria.

For example, truck driver L.K., who was arrested carrying 9,000 mortar rounds, testified in Adana in 2013 saying, “I carried similar loads more than once, unloading them at a gendarmerie station on the border. The load did not belong to the Turkish Armed Forces.” The court in Adana determined that the direction which the truck drivers reported that their loads were being taken to was that of an al-Qaeda camp.

When the police and gendarmerie stopped the trucks full of ammunition at the Reyhanl? border, Turkish authorities claimed that the trucks were carrying aid to Turkmens in Syria. It is ridiculous for any reasonable person to believe that these trucks were carrying aid to Turkmens.

This was an obvious lie for two simple reasons: Turkmens in Syria live right across the border from the Turkish town of Yaylada??, which is located at the very southern corner of Hatay province. However, the trucks were stopped at the Cilvegozu Gate, which is at the top of Hatay province. The distance between Cilvegozu and Yayladag? is 100 miles.

More importantly, extremist al-Qaeda-affiliated groups were controlling the Syrian side of the Cilvegozu gate, Bab-Al-Hawa at that time. ISIL forces were controlling the highways on the Syrian side in 2013, when the trucks were stopped.

Pro-government academics and analysts who want us — and the world community — to believe that Turkey has not helped al-Qaeda affiliated groups want us to believe that those trucks full of ammunition were carrying aid — even military aid — to Turkmens, not through Turkish territory, but through Syrian territory controlled by al-Qaeda and ISIL forces.

Dealing with terrorists and helping terrorism is like a boomerang; sooner or later it will come back on those who engage in it. This was Turkey’s argument back in 1990, telling the countries of Europe that helping the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would hurt them in the long run, which was true.

Yet, the “new Turkey,” as pro-government analysts love to say, has forgotten its own argument in helping al-Qaeda-affiliated terror groups to topple the Assad regime. Not surprisingly, the boomerang has come back to strike Turkey quite severely. Now 49 Turkish diplomatic staff and dependents are being held captive by ISIL and Turkey has not even lifted a finger to rescue them thus far.

There is little doubt that government authorities violated international law pursuing aggressive policies to topple the Assad regime. If there is a price to be paid, it should not be Turkey; rather, it should be those who made such decisions and played such dangerous games.

Unfortunately, Turkey’s contribution is one of the reasons ISIL wields so much power today. This is not only limited to Turkey’s passive support by turning a blind eye to ISIL fighters using Turkish territory to cross into Syria, but it is also due to these shadowy arms transfers from Turkey to Syria. ISIL officials are not even shy about confessing that they carried their weapons through Turkey on their way to jihad.

Assyrian International News Agency

Libyan militia storm US embassy in Tripoli

The United States embassy compound in the Libyan capital Tripoli has been raided by militiamen, but no Americans were present as the embassy was evacuated more than a month ago. 

The attack on Sunday comes as fighting between rival militias rages in Tripoli and Benghazi, the scond city in the east.

Even though the US suspended its mission in Tripoli for the second time in three years in July, the US Secretary of State John Kerry had said that the embassy was not closed, and its staff had been evacuated to neighbouring Tunisia. 

The US ambassador to Libya said the embassy was being safeguarded and had not been ransacked.

Deborah Jones said on Twitter that there was no indication the complex, which has been mothballed since staff were evacuated, had been damaged.

“To my knowledge & per recent photos the US Embassy Tripoli chancery & compound is now being safeguarded and has not been ransacked,” she said.

A video that emerged on YouTube showed a crowd of cheering men standing on buildings near a swimming pool.
Several men are seen diving into the pool off a nearby rooftop, to a chorus of cheers.

Jones, who is in Malta, stressed however that the area depicted in the video “appears to be a residential annex” of the US mission, adding that she “cannot say definitively since [I am] not there.”

“Those who have actually visited the embassy know the truth,” she posted.

An AFP photographer who was at the embassy compound on Sunday said Islamist militiamen had moved in to buildings in the complex.

Members of the Fajr Libya (Libya Dawn) group said they had gone in to secure the complex of several villas in southern Tripoli to prevent it from being looted. 

In February 2011, the embassy suspended operations amid the uprising that eventually toppled longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi. After the formation of a transitional government in July 2011, the embassy reopened in September. 

The Obama administration has been particularly sensitive about security of US government employees in Libya since the September 11, 2012, attack on the US mission in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. 

Tripoli has been embroiled for weeks in inter-militia violence that has killed and wounded dozens on all sides.

376

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

Rosneft To Invest $400 Billion In Arctic By 2030

Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft will invest some $ 400 billion into projects in the Arctic by 2030, according to the company’s head.

In an interview published in Germany’s “Der Spiegel” magazine on August 31, Rosneft chief Igor Sechin spoke highly of the potential for drilling sites in the Kara Sea.

“We expect to open a new oil province there, with reserves comparable to proven reserves of Saudi Arabia,” Sechin said.

Sechin noted Rosneft was working with U.S. company ExxonMobil in the Kara Sea project and added the American company had been a reliable partner in projects with Rosneft for some 20 years already.

Drilling at the site started on August 9 after a ceremony on a drilling rig in the Kara Sea in which Russian President Vladimir Putin participated via video link.

Based on reporting by “Kommersant.ru” and ITAR-TASS

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Rosneft To Invest $400 Billion In Arctic By 2030

Russia’s largest oil company Rosneft will invest some $ 400 billion into projects in the Arctic by 2030, according to the company’s head.

In an interview published in Germany’s “Der Spiegel” magazine on August 31, Rosneft chief Igor Sechin spoke highly of the potential for drilling sites in the Kara Sea.

“We expect to open a new oil province there, with reserves comparable to proven reserves of Saudi Arabia,” Sechin said.

Sechin noted Rosneft was working with U.S. company ExxonMobil in the Kara Sea project and added the American company had been a reliable partner in projects with Rosneft for some 20 years already.

Drilling at the site started on August 9 after a ceremony on a drilling rig in the Kara Sea in which Russian President Vladimir Putin participated via video link.

Based on reporting by “Kommersant.ru” and ITAR-TASS

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Tlar says the house cleaning is almost done.

Tlar Article: “Law: The next meeting will witness the end the dilemma of the general budget” [imo budget comes after the new goi is sworn in....I sure as heck can't see them voting it off before and having those monies go to M's corrupt cronies he has in all the current positions.] they dismissed Maliki’s ministers two weeks ago and these ministries are without certain Maliki Ministers, but are being run by their second or third in command until the new ministers come in. The house cleaning has mostly been done.

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U.S. Senators Call For Washington To Arm Ukraine

Two top U.S. lawmakers have called for the United States to arm Ukraine in its battle against pro-Russian separatists and Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Senator Robert Menendez (Democrat-New Jersey), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Ukraine needed arms to fight off what he called a Russian “invasion.”

Menendez, speaking on CNN from Kyiv, said Washington should provide Ukraine “with the types of defensive weapons that will impose a cost upon [Russian President Vladimir] Putin.”

Senator John McCain (Republican-Arizona), asked rhetorically on CBS television: “Can’t we help these people defend themselves? This is not an incursion. This is an invasion.”

The Obama administration refuses to call Russian activity in Ukraine an invasion.

Moscow denies claims by Western countries and NATO that there are at least 1,000 Russian forces in Ukraine.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AFP

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Kaperoni shares great news.

Kaperoni Article: “Calls for the central ministries to work the new system of payments” Great news for sure as the CBI activates the electronic banking system throughout Iraq. When you look at the bigger picture, this is sooo important. The CBI wants to get the country banking system up to par with the world. Electronic banking/settlements etc is significant to investor confidence and will go a long way towards inviting investment capital into Iraq. As soon as they decide to go to Article VIII and a new Exchange Regime Iraq should really take off. No doubt in my mind and as a result the currency should as well.

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US Gives New Priority to Foreign Fighters in Syria

US Gives New Priority to Foreign Fighters in Syria

Posted 2014-08-31 19:10 GMT

Residents of Tabaqa city and Islamic State militants tour the streets in celebration after militants took over Tabaqa air base in northeast Syria, Aug. 24, 2014 (photo: REUTERS/Stringer).US President Barack Obama will convene a heads of state meeting at the UN Security Council in September to address the threat of foreign fighters in Syria, according to US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

Speaking at a press briefing on Aug. 22, Rhodes said the United States considers foreign fighters returning from Syria a threat to US “homeland security” and the Obama administration expects “to enlist the support of partners in the region and the international community” to contain and defeat the Islamic State (IS).

The shift to a more aggressive US strategy to combat foreign fighters puts pressure on Washington’s regional allies to show a new accountability in their actions against IS.

On Aug. 24, foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt met in Jeddah to discuss the Syria war and the threat from extremists. The next day, Iran’s undersecretary for Arab and African affairs, Hossein-Amir Abdollahian arrived in Saudi Arabia to discuss regional matters, including Syria, with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Ali Hashem reports that these states “have all arrived at this conclusion: Any tactical advantage they might have in a particular area does not stand up to the strategic threat of IS. Moreover, the status quo and ongoing side battles are only providing IS with opportunities to expand and become a power in the region, especially given the situation on the ground, including IS control over water and energy resources, which contributes to making it an even bigger threat to neighboring states.”

Read the full story here.

Assyrian International News Agency

US Gives New Priority to Foreign Fighters in Syria

US Gives New Priority to Foreign Fighters in Syria

Posted 2014-08-31 19:10 GMT

Residents of Tabaqa city and Islamic State militants tour the streets in celebration after militants took over Tabaqa air base in northeast Syria, Aug. 24, 2014 (photo: REUTERS/Stringer).US President Barack Obama will convene a heads of state meeting at the UN Security Council in September to address the threat of foreign fighters in Syria, according to US deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes.

Speaking at a press briefing on Aug. 22, Rhodes said the United States considers foreign fighters returning from Syria a threat to US “homeland security” and the Obama administration expects “to enlist the support of partners in the region and the international community” to contain and defeat the Islamic State (IS).

The shift to a more aggressive US strategy to combat foreign fighters puts pressure on Washington’s regional allies to show a new accountability in their actions against IS.

On Aug. 24, foreign ministers from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Egypt met in Jeddah to discuss the Syria war and the threat from extremists. The next day, Iran’s undersecretary for Arab and African affairs, Hossein-Amir Abdollahian arrived in Saudi Arabia to discuss regional matters, including Syria, with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

Ali Hashem reports that these states “have all arrived at this conclusion: Any tactical advantage they might have in a particular area does not stand up to the strategic threat of IS. Moreover, the status quo and ongoing side battles are only providing IS with opportunities to expand and become a power in the region, especially given the situation on the ground, including IS control over water and energy resources, which contributes to making it an even bigger threat to neighboring states.”

Read the full story here.

Assyrian International News Agency

Ukraine Says Naval Ship In Flames After Attack By Rebels

A Ukrainian naval vessel was in flames in the Azov Sea after being attacked by artillery from pro-Russian separatists along the shore.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said an emergency operation is under way to help rescue crew members.

Lysenko said the vessel is a naval cutter but it is not known how many people were onboard.

Pro-Russian insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack on social media websites.

Igor Strelkov, a former separatist military commander, said on VKontakte that the separatists have “dealt the enemy their first naval defeat.”

Rebels backed by Russian forces seized the Ukrainian town of Novoazovsk and nearby territory last week in a major assault that led to gains in many parts of eastern Ukraine.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AP 

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty

Gold/Silver/Copper futures – weekly outlook: September 1

Investing.com –

Investing.com – Gold prices dipped on Friday, easing back from one-week highs as broadly upbeat U.S. economic data dampened safe haven demand for the precious metal, but prices remained supported as tensions between Russia and Ukraine remained high.

Gold for December delivery dipped 0.17% to $ 1,288.20 a troy ounce on the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange late Friday. Gold futures rose 0.62% last week, but ended the month down 0.51%.

Gold prices hit $ 1,297.60 an ounce, their highest level since August 20 on Thursday after Ukraine’s president said Russian troops had entered the conflict in eastern Ukraine to support pro-Russian separatists there.

However, gold retreated from the day’s highs after data showed that U.S. gross domestic product expanded at an annual rate of 4.2% in the second quarter, up from a preliminary estimate of 4% and rebounding from a first quarter contraction.

Reports on Friday showed that U.S. consumer sentiment rebounded to a seven year high in August, with the final reading of the University of Michigan’s consumer confidence index rising to 82.5 from 81.8 in June.

Another report indicated that manufacturing activity in the Chicago region continued to expand in August, pointing to underlying strength in the sector.

The reports offset separate data showing that U.S. consumer spending unexpectedly fell 0.1% in July.

The US Dollar Index, which tracks the performance of the greenback versus a basket of six other major currencies, rose to almost one year highs of 82.78 late Friday, as the data pointed to mostly stronger growth. A stronger dollar makes gold more expensive for buyers who use other currencies as the metal is traded in dollars.

The upbeat U.S. data also fuelled concerns that the deepening recovery could prompt the Federal Reserve to raise rates sooner. Higher interest rates would make gold a less attractive investment than interest-bearing assets such as Treasury bonds.

Elsewhere in metals trading, palladium prices rallied to thirteen-and-a-half year highs on Friday, amid concerns that more far reaching sanctions against Russia, the world’s largest palladium producer, could hit supplies.

Nymex Palladium for December delivery hit highs of $ 910.40 a troy ounce, and was last up 0.91%, at $ 906.30 an ounce.

Meanwhile, silver for September delivery slid 0.61% to $ 19.49 a troy ounce late Friday. Comex silver edged up 0.16% last week, but ended the month with losses of 4.32%.

Copper for September delivery climbed 0.39% to $ 3.163 a pound by close of trade. Comex copper futures lost 1.86% for the week, extending the month’s losses to 1.37%.

In the week ahead, the Comex trading floor will be closed on Monday for the Labor Day holiday. Investors will be looking ahead to Tuesday’s Institute of Supply Management report on U.S. manufacturing activity and to Friday’s August nonfarm payrolls report for further indications on the strength of the U.S. economic recovery.

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Pakistan anti-government protests turn deadly

Islamabad, PAKISTAN - Clashes between police and anti-government protesters have continued outside Pakistan’s parliament, resulting in the deaths of at least three people, and injuries to 494 more, witnesses and hospital officials have told Al Jazeera.

Police continued to fire tear gas and rubber bullets at hundreds of stone-throwing protesters, while thousands more remained behind the front lines outside the country’s parliament building in the capital Islamabad.

The protesters, supporters of opposition politician Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, have been camped out outside the country’s parliament since August 15, calling for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government to resign.

Late on Saturday night, Khan and Qadri ordered their followers to move towards the prime minister’s official residence, prompting hours of intense clashes with hundreds of riot police. Sharif was not present at the residence, remaining at his personal residence in the city of Lahore, where he normally resides.

The clashes in Islamabad continued sporadically into Sunday, with protesters and police hurling stones and expletives at each other from across the roadblocks that divide them. Police also fired occasional volleys of rubber bullets and tear gas.

Khan called on his supporters late in the day to prepare themselves to face the violence again as night fell.

Scores injured

One of the men who died drowned in a ditch adjacent to the protest site, while the other suffered a fatal penetrative wound, Dr Aisha Isani, a hospital spokesperson, told Al Jazeera.

A third man suffered serious penetrative wounds to his head late on Saturday, Dr Isani said, and succumbed to his wounds on Sunday afternoon.

At least 89 policemen were among those injured in the clashes as protesters, mainly Qadri’s supporters, attacked them with sticks, stones and slingshots.

“They grabbed a hold of me when we charged at them, and then hit me with sticks” said Zeeshan Ali, 24, a police officer who suffered wounds on his head, shoulders and hands. “They beat me for 20 minutes, and then I fell unconscious.”

Protesters, meanwhile, said that police had fired rubber bullets directly at the crowd.

“Our objective was to remove the roadblock [leading to the PM’s residence],” said Muhammad Yousuf, 27, a Qadri supporter from the town of Bahawalnagar. “We were moving the container when the police started firing [rubber] bullets and tear gas at us.”

Yousuf suffered five rubber bullet wounds, in his hands, back and left leg.

Negotiations break down

The government has maintained its overnight stance that it was the protesters who started the violence.

“This clash can only be stopped by those who started it. We have not started this [violence],” Pervez Rashid, the information minister, told local media on Sunday.

Following the outbreak of violence on Saturday night, protesters used their vehicles and other implements to break down the boundary fence around the parliament building, occupying the compounds large gardens.

Rashid went on to say that the government’s doors were still open for negotiations with both Qadri and Khan.

Our objective was to remove the roadblock [leading to the PM’s residence]. We were moving the container when the police started firing [rubber] bullets and tear gas at us.

- Muhammad Yousuf, 27, supporter of cleric Qadri

Previous rounds of negotiation have broken down over the refusal of both Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) to back down from their demand that Sharif quit office.

In a statement released on Saturday, the PM’s office reiterated that there was “no question” of Sharif resigning.

Khan’s PTI alleges massive vote rigging in the 2013 general elections which saw Sharif’s PML-N sweep to power and wants fresh elections. Qadri has called for the government to be overthrown and for a “national government” of technocrats to be appointed to rewrite the constitution.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s powerful military intervened in the crisis, saying it would play the role of mediator between the apparently intransigent positions of the PML-N and the opposing PTI and PAT.

Army Chief General Raheel Sharif’s intervention, however, appears to have little effect on ending the deadlock. General Sharif, no relation to Nawaz, led a snap meeting of the country’s military leadership on Sunday evening to discuss the current crisis.

PM Sharif himself remained silent on Sunday, but did meet with senior party leaders to discuss the situation.

Differences have also emerged within Khan’s own party, as Javed Hashmi, a senior PTI leader, said on Sunday afternoon that he did not support Khan’s call for protesters to face off against police, warning that the country was “close to martial law”.

Meanwhile, limited protests were also held by PTI and PAT supporters in Karachi, Lahore and other cities in Pakistan.

Follow Asad Hashim on Twitter: @AsadHashim

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AL JAZEERA ENGLISH (AJE)

National Alliance agrees to equal share of the ministries

A political source from the National Alliance revealed that the National Alliance agreed, late yesterday evening, to equal its share of the ministries with the Sunni lists. ”

He said in a statement to the National Iraqi News Agency / NINA / “The Union of Iraqi forces demanded yesterday to make its share 40% of the ministries and insisted on this request, but was rejected by the National Alliance, which led to the withdrawal from the negotiations that took place yesterday afternoon.”

He explained that” the intervention of the assigned Prime Minister Haider Abadi and Khalid al-Attiyah and Faleh al-Fayad, and their meeting at a late hour yesterday evening with the leaders of the Union of Iraqi forces, led to bend the Iraqi forces from their position on the withdrawal, and gave them assurances that the share of the National Alliance and Iraqi forces will be equal, and an expanded meeting will be held on Monday for the negotiating delegations to complete the talks between the two sides”./ end

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