Miss World 2013: The Philippines Wins Amid Muslim Protests in Indonesia

Miss world 2013The event was originally scheduled to take place in Bali before moving to Jakarta. However, this plan was derailed by protests staged by hardline Muslims. The entire contest was held in Bali instead, following protesters who decried the pageant as a “whore contest” and “pornography.” Alongside forcing the cancellation of the Jakarta portion of the event, the protests also pressured event organizers to scrap the bikini contest in favor of a more straight-laced “beach fashion” segment that included the donning of Indonesia’s native beach garment, the sarong. The venue where the competition was staged was guarded by heavily armed police and water cannons. Similar protests forced pop icon Lady Gaga to cancel the Indonesian leg of her 2012 tour.

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Pakistan explosion: Peshawar market blast toll rises to 42

The death toll from Sunday’s bomb blast that ripped through a historic market in the Pakistani city of Peshawar has risen to 42, hospital officials say.  Dozens were also wounded when a bomb exploded in the Kissa Khwani bazaar, setting shops and vehicles alight.  It was the third deadly blast to hit the city in a week.  Last weekend suicide blasts killed at least 81 at a church in Peshawar and on Friday, 19 people died when a bus carrying civil servants was attacked.  Peshawar, the main city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, has been hit by numerous bomb and gun attacks blamed on Taliban insurgents but it has rarely come under such sustained attack in recent years .

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Netanyahu expected to press Obama to keep Iran sanctions in place

WASHINGTON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Sanctions against Iran must remain unless it ends its nuclear program, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to tell President Obama Monday.  The two leaders are to meet in the White House Oval Office at 11:15 a.m. EDT and then have a working lunch about an hour later, the administration said Sunday evening.  Their meeting and lunch are to take place three days after Obama held a 15-minute phone conversation with new Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — the first conversation between U.S. and Iranian leaders since 1979.

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If Republicans Want To Shut Down Washington, They’ll Have To Ask China’s Permission First

In their never-say-die efforts to defeat Obamacare, Tea Party Republicans brought the federal government a giant step closer to shutdown last night. What they seem not to have considered is how America’s foreign creditors will react.  Although China, Japan, and other major creditor nations have no dog in the Obamacare fight, they have a strong interest in preserving America’s basic financial, economic, and social stability. From their point of view, the Tea Party contingent is not following the script and a corrective may prove necessary.  If the creditor nations were to sell just a small proportion of their American assets, they could send Wall Street into a tailspin, with unpleasant implications for many Republicans.

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Entire Christian community fleeing Syrian crisis

Christian leaders in Syria are expressing dismay at the large number of members of their faith who are simply fleeing the region, which now is battered by violence as Muslim jihadists likely linked to al-Qaida try to overthrow the regime of Muslim President Bashar al-Assad.  The bishops say that the emigration stories are a rerun of the situation in Iraq a decade ago when a coalition of forces invaded to remove Saddam Hussein from power and will change the character of the region, just as it did in Iraq.  Father Nicola Antiba and his Chaldean Catholic counterpart Pope Raphael Sako both issued statements decrying conditions forcing Syria’s Christians to leave their native country.

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SAS set to strike Somali al-Shabaab mall terror group

Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud has asked for help to “disrupt” the Islamist extremists.  A sixth Brit was last night confirmed among at least 67 feared killed in the Nairobi mall massacre.  Inside Somalia, al-Shabaab has gained support and while politicians claim the government controls the capital Mogadishu, attacks remain a daily threat.  Much of the country remains under extremist control.  The north-east is dominated by al-Shabaab and sources claim ­operations by the African Union are simply holding the militant offensive.  Just four months ago al-Shabaab shot down a top-secret experimental US drone, the Schiebel S-100.  Now Prime Minister David Cameron, France’s Francois Hollande and ­President Obama have agreed to ­support the Somali president with ­limited military assistance and a Joint Coalition Special Forces Task Force will target the group.

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‘Eyes gouged out, bodies hanging from hooks, and fingers removed with pliers’: Horrific claims of torture emerge as soldiers reveal gory Kenyan mall massacre details

mall massacre

Soldiers told of the horrific torture meted out by terrorists in the Nairobi mall massacre yesterday with claims hostages were dismembered, had their eyes gouged out and were left hanging from hooks in the ceiling.  Men were said to have been castrated and had fingers removed with pliers before being blinded and hanged.  Children were found dead in the food court fridges with knives still embedded in their bodies, it was claimed.  Most of the defeated terrorists, meanwhile, were reportedly discovered ‘burnt to ashes’, set alight by the last extremist standing to try to protect their identities.  The horrifying details came yesterday as the first pictures emerged from within the wreckage of the building, showing piles of bodies left strewn across the floor.   A third of the mall was destroyed in the battle between terrorists and Kenyan troops. 

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Al Qaeda Opens First Official Twitter Account

An official al Qaeda website that is restricted to members of the terrorist group opened its first Twitter account this week in what U.S. officials say is an effort to resolve a major split over Syria’s Islamist rebels.  The Shamukh al-Islam website, used as an official clearing house for al Qaeda members to communicate and issue propaganda statements, started its first Twitter account on Tuesday.  The first posts on the account focused on divisions between two al Qaeda rebel groups in Syria, al Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).  The account, @shomokhalislam, issued 29 tweets, followed one account, and attracted 1,532 followers as of Friday afternoon. U.S. officials said among its followers are several high-profile digital jihadists.

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House Republicans Want To Kill Net Neutrality As Part Of Their Debt Ceiling Bill

Not sure what to make of this episode, but it matters and so here we are: A draft of provisions that Republican leaders in the House are attempting to demand in return for allowing the debt ceiling to be raised includes the elimination of net neutrality.  The language of the legislative outline that the National Review obtained calls for the “blocking” of net neutrality.  Net neutrality, if you didn’t know, is the set of rules forcing ISPs treat traffic on their networks equally, not speeding or slowing any one piece of content more than any other. This matters as many companies that provide Internet access are also part of larger conglomerates that produce media. Those companies have an inherent incentive to speed their content and slow that of their rivals.

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Hacking firm hints at cybercrime’s professional elite

LAST June, one of the world’s most advanced hacker groups hit a problem. The US defence contractor whose systems it wanted to access only allowed a small set of trusted IP addresses to connect to their network. In an unusual move – hackers typically go for the low-hanging fruit – the group hacked the company that provided the IP whitelisting service, enabling it to forge access certificates.  This group, which calls itself Hidden Lynx, was given a vague face last week when antivirus software-maker Symantec released a report profiling it. Believed to be based in China, the group is known only through traces of malicious software bearing its mark found in the compromised computers of some of the world’s largest companies.

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Swift Movement Is Seen on Syria After U.N. Action

The diplomatic drive to purge Syria of its chemical weapons accelerated Friday, as the full 15-member United Nations Security Council approved a breakthrough resolution to ensure Syrian compliance, and the organization responsible for carrying out the destruction of those munitions announced a timetable that starts Tuesday, sooner than some had expected. The Security Council resolution is aimed at coercing the government of President Bashar al-Assad to honor a pledge to give up its chemical weapons, which have been used at least once in Syria’s civil war with horrific effects. The measure was a compromise completed Thursday night by the Council’s five permanent members: Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States.

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Shutdown Looms as Senate Passes Budget Bill

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Friday approved stopgap spending legislation to keep the federal government open without gutting President Obama’s health care law, putting new pressure on Speaker John A. Boehner to find a way out of an impasse that had the government on a steady course to a shutdown at midnight Monday. The 54-to-44 vote to send the measure back to the House came after the Senate, in a bipartisan rebuke to Republican hard-liners, cut off debate on House legislation that would fund the government only if money for the new health law was eliminated. That 79-to-19 vote included the top Republican leadership and easily exceeded the 60-vote threshold to break a filibuster. It was followed by a 54-44 vote to take out the health law provision before passage.

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Americans’ Belief That Gov’t Is Too Powerful at Record Level

Opinion graph

PRINCETON, NJ — Six in 10 Americans (60%) believe the federal government has too much power, one percentage point above the previous high recorded in September 2010. At least half of Americans since 2005 have said the government has too much power. Thirty-two percent now say the government has the right amount of power. Few say it has too little power.  These most recent data come from Gallup’s Governance survey, conducted Sept. 5-8. The 7% who feel the government has too little power has been mostly steady since Gallup started tracking the measure regularly in 2002.

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Saudi Arabia’s proxy wars

Saudi Arabia appears resolute: It wants Bashar Al-Assad out of Damascus. The Saudis view the fighting in Syria with the same intensity that they did the civil war in Yemen that raged in the 1960s—as a conflict with wide and serious repercussions that will shape the political trajectory of the Middle East for years to come.  The Syrian war presents the Saudis with a chance to hit three birds with one stone: Iran, its rival for regional dominance, Tehran’s ally Assad and his Hezbollah supporters. But Riyadh’s policy makers are wary. They know that once fully committed, it will be difficult to disengage. And so they are taking to heart the lessons of another regional war that flared on their border 50 years ago.

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15% in US shun Internet; most intend to stay offline

AFP – Despite a seemingly unstoppable move to digital lifestyles, some 15 percent of Americans don’t use the Internet, and most are quite content to remain offline, a survey shows.  The survey released Wednesday found that in addition to the 15 percent of adults who don’t use the Internet on any device, another nine percent say they only go online at their workplace.  The report by the Pew Research Center found a whopping 92 percent of these “offline adults” with no interest in using the Internet or email in the near future.  “A lot of people are surprised to discover that not everyone is online,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, a Pew researcher and author of the report.

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A community bound by faith or jihadists?

RED HOUSE, Va. — Only on 9, a thought-provoking story about a Virginia community accused of being a terrorist training ground. The group is called The Muslims of America and some of its residents have been under suspicion by federal law enforcement and others for allegedly being “homegrown terrorists.”  Reporter Andrea McCarren and photographer Joe Martin were granted rare access to one Muslim village to uncover the story behind so many inflammatory headlines.  “Oh my God, we’re Americans. We were born here. Give me a break,” said Matthew Gardner, the Mayor of Red House and the spokesman of The Muslims of America.  “Yes, America should be worried,” said Frank Spano of The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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Afghans prepare to run their own war

In a room with a great big map is one of Afghanistan’s lesser known success stories.  This is the Operations Coordination Centre – Provincial, or OCCP, where representatives of the Afghan army, police and security service mentored by Australian soldiers coordinate security activities for the entire province.  Each morning starts with a roundup of the night’s activities.  It hosts regular meetings of the provincial governor, chief of police, provincial army commander, head of intelligence and the commander of Combined Team Oruzgan, Australian Colonel Wade Stothart, to coordinate plans for upcoming events.  The big one on the horizon is the presidential election set for April 5, 2014.  Lieutenant Colonel Paul Duncan, who heads the Australian OCCP mentoring team, says this is working exceptionally well.  “The co-ordination of the various pillars of the Afghan National Security Forces that occurs here at the OCCP is great,” he told AAP.

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Suicide bomb attack kills 75 at Pakistan church

Pak Church Bombed

 

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Two explosions outside a crowded church in northwest Pakistan just as Sunday services ended killed at least 60 people and wounded more than 100, authorities said, one of Pakistan’s worst attacks against Christians in years.  While officials placed the death toll at more than 60, humanitarian organizations reported handling at least 75 corpses. [Updated, 7:35 a.m. PDT Sept. 22: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Provincial Home Secretary Akhtar Ali Shah now said in his latest statement that the official death toll had reached 75.The dead and injured, including women, children and police officers, overwhelmed the emergency ward of Peshawar’s Lady Reading Hospital, the city’s largest hospital, where television footage showed hallways filled with corpses, badly wounded patients and women and children crying over the charred bodies of relatives. Many bodies were in such bad shape they could not be easily identified, doctors said.

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Too Big To Fail Is Now Bigger Than Ever Before

The too big to fail banks are now much, much larger than they were the last time they caused so much trouble.  The six largest banks in the United States have gotten 37 percent larger over the past five years.  Meanwhile, 1,400 smaller banks have disappeared from the banking industry during that time.  What this means is that the health of JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley is more critical to the U.S. economy than ever before.  If they were “too big to fail” back in 2008, then now they must be “too colossal to collapse”.  Without these banks, we do not have an economy.  The six largest banks control 67 percent of all U.S. banking assets, and Bank of America accounted for about a third of all business loans by itself last year.

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Saudi Arabia Defends Barbaric Sentence Given to Rape Victim

Saudi Arabia defended a controversial verdict sentencing a 19-year-old gang rape victim to 200 lashes and six months in jail. The Shi’ite Muslim woman had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicted of violating Saudi Arabia’s rigid Islamic Sharia law on segregation of the sexes.  The decision handed down by the Saudi General Court more than doubled her sentence last week. The court also roughly doubled the prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping her, Saudi media said.  The upholding of a decision to punish the victim triggered international outcry.

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