In his latest address, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden spoke to U.S. Barack Obama directly, saying there will be more attacks unless the U.S. works to resolve the conflict between Palestine and Israel, Al Jazeera. Analysis of the importance of bin Laden’s emphasis on Palestine, Reuters.
Afghanistan has postponed parliamentary elections for 4 additionally months, moving the elections to September, New York Times.
Thousands of Yemeni troops are battling Al Qaeda strongholds in Yemen, Al Jazeera. A number of recent incidents, including the recent Christmas Day attempted bombing in Detroit by a man who said he was trained in Yemen, have increased concern about the presence of Al Qaeda in Yemen. Yemen was the site of the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, PBS Newshour. The U.S. embassy in Yemen has reopened, Los Angeles Times. Profile of Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, New York Times.
Burj Khalifa Tower in Dubai has taken over the title of world’s tallest building. The tower was recently renamed after Abu Dhabi’s ruler, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, gave Dubai $25 billion when Dubai announced that it would not have enough cash to repay debts on construction of the tower. Dubai is one of the 7 emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates. Its economy, which is largely based on real estate and tourism, suffered in the recent economic downturn, Voice of America.
The World Health Organization warns that the threat from the H1N1 virus is not over and is urging people to continue to get the vaccine. WHO’s director-general, who said she had been busy with travel commitments, was finally vaccinated this week, Reuters.
The U.N.’s World Food Programme has had to suspended distribution of aid in Somalia due to security concerns, Al Jazeera. Rebel groups, including the militant al-Shabab group, now control most of Somalia.
A leading dissident in China, Liu Xiaobo, a literary critic and former professor, has been sentenced to prison for 11 years for “inciting subversion of state power.” Liu is co-author of Charter 08 which calls for China to reform its human rights abuses and to introduce competing political parties to reform the current one-party Communist system, Al Jazeera. Liu profile, Times Online.
Yemen conducted airstrikes that led to the deaths of at least 30 suspected members of Al Qaeda who were meeting in a remote part of the country, New York Times. Factbox on suspected targets of the strike, Reuters India.
A new policy issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, a top commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, that would have court marshaled female soldiers who became pregnant as well as their male sexual partners has been rescinded, Washington Post.
At least 127 people are dead and more than 400 wounded after well-coordinated car bomb attacks on 5 targets in Baghdad. The targets include a police station, government ministries, and a market. 4 of explosions went off nearly simultaneously. The attack is assumed to be in response to the announcement that elections are now scheduled for March 2010. Militants in Iraq, many of whom are former supporters of Saddam Hussein and are connected to al Qaeda, aim to show that the government cannot protect the country and to disrupt upcoming elections, BBC News.
Militants attacked Pakistan’s security agency in Multan with grenades and a car bomb, Reuters. Dozens were also killed in blasts at a market in Lahore, Pakistan yesterday, CNN.
New information has come out that Obama administration officials warned Pakistani military officials last month that if Pakistan did not increase its fight against Taliban militants, the U.S. would move more military force into Pakistan, New York Times.
Analysts warn that al Qaeda may try to provoke a conflict between India and Pakistan, two countries that have historically had uneasy relations, Reuters.
The Palestinian political group Hamas has reached an agreement that other militant groups will stop firing rockets into Israel for a year. The agreement also suggests that Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who has been held in Palestine for over 3 years, may be released soon in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel, Guardian.
23 people are dead after a ferry sank in Indonesia. Over 200 people had to be rescued, BBC News.
The United States is one step closer to health care reform after the U.S. Senate voted last night 60-39 on a procedural motion to move debate further, Voice of America.
Fort Hood shooter Major Nidal Hasan had his first hearing for charges in the deaths of 13 people. Hasan, who is paralyzed from the chest down after being shot by a civilian police officer, had the hearing in his hospital room. New evidence has emerged that the Federal Bureau of Investigation that the FBI had intercepted emails from Hasan to people connected with al Qaeda but that information was not passed on to the military, BBC News.
A Canadian woman has lost her long-term disability benefits for depression after an insurance agent for her private supplemental insurance saw a picture of her on Facebook smiling and having a good time on vacation, Associated Press.
17 people were killed after a car bomb exploded in a suicide attack near the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Al Jazeera. India’s influence in Afghanistan, BBC News. A Pentagon military task force will look at reforming prisons in Afghanistan to end the influence of al Qaeda on inmates, New York Times.
In a video message, an al Qaeda official calls for ethnic Muslims in China, known as Uighurs, who live mostly in China’s western province of Xinjiang, to wage holy war against the Chinese government. Tensions have been rising in the region as more ethnic Han Chinese move to the area looking for work, CNN.
Typhoon Melor hit Japan yesterday, killing 3 and injuring at least 64, Japan Times.
Herta Mueller was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize for Literature. Mueller’s work depicts the harsh conditions of life under Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, BBC News.
Today marks the 8th anniversary of the U.S. and NATO- led mission in Afghanistan. The anniversary comes amid questions about the future of the mission. The top U.S. general in Afghanistan has requested an additional 40,000 troops. The U.S. led the invasion in 2001 after the country refused to turn over al Qaeda leaders suspected of plotting the September 11 attacks. Though much of the al Qaeda network was forced out of the country, violence has spread to areas that were once peaceful. The Taliban mainatins that there is no justification for the invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban said in a statement on the group’s website, “We had and have no plan of harming countries of the world, including those in Europe … our goal is the independence of the country and the building of an Islamic state,” Reuters.
After rescue effort failed, more villages on the Indonesian island of Sumatra have been declared mass graves. Last week a 7.6 magnitude earthquake triggered mudslides that buried entire villages. Over 1,000 have been declared dead, Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Images of the destruction, the Big Picture.
The 2009 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to three scientists, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan, Thomas Steitz and Ada Yonath, for their study of the ribosome which translates genetic code into proteins. Their research has been instrumental in creating new antibiotics by blocking new creation of proteins in ribosomes so that they cannot survive, BBC News.
Pirates off the coast of Somalia mistakenly fired on a French Navy vessel. After they realized the vessel was not a commercial ship, they tried to flee and 5 pirates were captured, CNN.
Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a top al Qaeda leader in Somlia, is believed to have been killed in a U.S. military operation. Six helicopters were involved in an attack on two vehicles and Nabhan’s body was said to have been taken into custody by U.S. military. Nabhan was affiliated with the Somali extremist group al-Shabab, BBC News.
Muntadhar al-Zeidi, the man who became famous for throwing his shoes at President George W. Bush, has been released from prison. He says he was tortured in prison with beatings and electric shocks, Al Jazeera. Shoe-throwing as an insult in Arab culture, BBC News.
A poll published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that 73% of physicians support a public option for health insurance, NPR.
In an escalation of the dispute between the U.S. and Chinna over tire tariffs, China will begin investigating auto and cchicken imports to China to see if unfair pricing practices are being used, Xinhua. Tire tariff dispute main page, Xinhua.