Tag Archives: North Africa

Can Algerian Energy Buck Downward Trend With EU Help?

By Christopher Coats, Contributor

Even before North Africa’s recent political earthquake, Algeria’s vital energy sector was on the rocks. Despite substantial hydrocarbon reserves, the country’s production had steadily declined in recent years due to dwindling interest from foreign firms. A mix of industry instability, unfavorable revenue agreements and institutional corruption had made it difficult to justify the risks of operating in the country. Making matters worse, European demand for natural gas was declining with the financial crisis and U.S. purchases were wavering amid the North American shale boom. By the time political movements ousted long-standing leaders in neighboring Libya and Tunisia, putting pressure on the country’s leadership, Algeria was already fighting a dangerous narrative of industry decline. For a country so completely dependent on energy revenue and exports for every level of government spending, this wasn’t just bad news – it was destabilizing. While Algeria largely avoided the kind of violence and instability that forced leadership changes in Tripoli, Tunis and Cairo, their post-Arab Spring experience has not been without challenges. In addition to domestic pressure for labor and political reforms, mostly in the form of targeted protests, the country’s energy industry has faced pressure from outside its own borders. In January, militants from Mali crossed the border and targeted a BP and Statoil gas facility near the Libyan border. Touted as a response to Algeria’s support for European action against a Mali-based separatist movement in the north of the county, the raid and ensuing government response left scores dead, including dozens of foreign workers. Coupled with concerns about the country’s energy industry, including wide-spread corruption allegations at state firm Sonatrach, the raid chipped away at the confidence in Algeria’s already beleaguered energy sector. So, it would seem that recent news of a fresh agreement with the EU that, “establishes a framework for co-operation, which covers… oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency, legal and regulatory reform, progressive energy markets, infrastructure development and technology transfer”, could not come at a better time. For Algeria, the new agreement means a vote of confidence from one of its largest customers, despite declining gas demand that is not expected to return for another two to three years. For Europe, it means a further step towards stabilizing a resource line from North Africa and meeting long-term goals of reducing dependence on less favorable resources, most notably Russia. Further, by casting Algerian reserves as “a priority area” for Europe’s strategic energy interests and security, it helps pave the way for EU infrastructure funding that has become increasingly elusive in recent months. Five years in the making, the new agreement is welcome news for both sides of the Mediterranean. Still, details of the new partnership remain vague and it is unclear whether EU support will mean more enthusiasm from European firms that have expressed concern about operating in Algerian in recent years. Six months on from the gas facility attack, both BP and Statoil have resisted sending foreign workers back to the project site. Earlier calls for policy reforms and …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Forbes Latest

Al-Qaida-linked leader charged in Algeria attack

Terrorism charges were unsealed Friday in New York against a purported al-Qaida-linked leader in Africa accused of leading a January attack at a gas plant in Algeria that killed more than 35 hostages, including three Americans.

The charges against Mokhtar Belmokhtar were announced by federal law enforcement officials in Manhattan. They include conspiring to support al-Qaida, use a weapon of mass destruction, discharge a firearm and use and carry an explosive. Additional charges of conspiring to take hostages and discharging a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence carry a maximum penalty of death.

Authorities also said a $5 million reward was being offered for information leading to the arrest of Belmokhtar, who’s also been known as “the one-eyed sheik” since he lost an eye in combat. Belmokhtar left al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, the North African offshoot of the terrorist group, then formed his own spinoff.

He is accused of participating in a Jan. 16 attack on a Western-owned gas processing facility in a remote part of eastern Algeria near the border with Libya.

After a four-day standoff, the Algerian army moved in and killed 29 attackers and captured three others. At least 37 hostages, including one Algerian worker, died in the battle. Three Americans and scores of Algerian and foreign nationals were killed.

Belmokhtar “unleashed a reign of terror years ago, in furtherance of his self-proclaimed goal of waging bloody jihad against the West,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a release. “His efforts culminated in a five-day siege that left dozens dead.”

The court papers said Belmokhtar appeared in an online video the day after the siege ended, claiming responsibility for the attack on behalf of al-Qaida.

The charges “describe a fanatical jihadist leading an extremist vanguard of an extremist ideology,” said George Venizelos, head of the FBI’s New York office.

He added: “As alleged, he kidnapped diplomats, formed his own terrorist organization that pledged fealty to al-Qaida, and masterminded the murderous siege of a civilian plant in Algeria that resulted in the deaths of dozens of hostages, including three Americans.”

Belmokhtar was designated a foreign terrorist by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2003. Prosecutors said he was a key leader of al-Qaida’s efforts in North Africa starting in 2008 as he led attacks that resulted in the kidnapping …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News

Suicide bombing in north Mali kills 3 Chadians

A local official says that a suicide bombing by members of an al-Qaida branch in North Africa has killed at least three Chadians in northern Mali.

Kidal’s deputy mayor, Abda Ag Kazina, said Friday that two suicide bombers were also killed in the operation.

Lalla Maiga, a humanitarian worker in Kidal, says that the Chad soldiers were targeted in a market where one suicide bomber exploded his belt. Maiga said that many civilians were also injured in the attack.

This is the third suicide bombing attack in Kidal since the French forces entered Mali to fight al-Qaida-linked militants. Chad soldiers are helping back French troops in the mountains of the north Kidal region where elements of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb are now hiding out.

From: http://feeds.foxnews.com/~r/foxnews/world/~3/Q80dNHlw0ew/

Research reveals lost lion populations going unnoticed

(Phys.org) —New research by conservationists from the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent has revealed that not only could the now-extinct Barbary Lion have persisted until the 1960s in North Africa, but also that this unique sub-species towards the end of its existence was left unnoticed for over a decade.

From: http://phys.org/news284882456.html

Morocco looks to diversify tourism arrivals

Morocco‘s tourism minister says the popular North African travel destination is looking to expand its markets for visitors.

More than half of Morocco‘s 9 million annual arrivals come from just two countries, Spain and France, but both have suffered economic crises and there have been drops in the number of people coming from those nations.

Lahcen Haddan told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday that Morocco is hoping to attract more visitors from Britain, Germany, and Saudi Arabia.

Tourism contributes 8 percent of Morocco‘s GDP and is a top earner of foreign currency.

After years of steady increases, economic troubles in Europe and political upheaval in North Africa have kept tourism growth flat in Morocco over the past two years.

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Ancient lantern, wine press unearthed in Israel

Israeli archaeologists say they have unearthed a 1,500-year-old lantern decorated with crosses and a wine press that shed light on life in the Byzantine period.

The Israel Antiquities Authority this week announced the discovery of the rare items, which were found in the ruins of a Byzantine settlement near the city of Ashkelon.

Archeologist Saar Ganor said the Christian lantern is significant because of the rarity of such items. It was carved in a way that when lit, glowing crosses were projected on walls of a room.

He said the wine press is of note because of its large size. The wine made in such a press was often exported to countries in the Mediterranean as well as Europe and North Africa.

…read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Successful once, protesters may hesitate to return to streets

As the long-term impact of the Arab Spring continues to take shape, research from political scientists at Princeton University and New York University warns that the protests that swept across the Middle East and North Africa could mark more of an isolated occurrence than a permanent rise of people power in the region. …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Phys.org

Algeria's southern unemployed demand oil jobs

Protests by the unemployed in southern Algeria are raising the specter of rising unrest in the country’s sensitive oil regions, and are increasingly attracting the attention of al-Qaida.

Algeria‘s vast, sparsely populated Sahara only holds 10 percent of the country’s population but it is home to this North African country’s enormous oil and gas reserves — the basis of the entire economy and the source of the government‘s power. Those who live there claim they aren’t benefiting from that wealth, and can’t get jobs with the oil companies.

Now al-Qaida has praised the protesters, raising the possibility that it is seeking support among the disaffected groups. The government is rushing to address the protesters’ demands, but hasn’t yet convinced them that it’s serious.

Some 10,000 people — an enormous number for the lightly populated region — demonstrated on March 14 in Algeria‘s southern oil city of Ouargla, and thousands more later protested in another southern oil town, Laghouat.

“We want access to jobs in the oil companies, and not just the low-value ones like drivers and security guards; we want to be in the administration,” Tahar Belabes, the head of the National Committee for Defense of the Rights of the Unemployed, which organized the demonstration, said by telephone from Ouargla.

“We just want the same employment possibilities. It’s not normal that we live in the region where the oil and gas is located but don’t benefit from it.”

While youth unemployment is widespread in Algeria, and the rest of North Africa, the southerners say they are particularly discriminated against. There is also a widespread distrust of government officials, who are believed corrupt and skimming off the country’s vast oil receipts.

Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal acknowledged on March 16 that the demonstrators’ demands are legitimate and the government hurriedly announced a string of measures to address the perceived geographical bias in oil jobs. Oil companies will be obliged to give priority to job candidates from the south and recruitment must occur through registered employment agencies. The government announced that job-training centers would be set up to ready candidates for jobs with oil companies and hotels.

The demonstrations, however, have not stopped, and on Monday hundreds protested in the desert towns of Ghardaia and Oued Souf.

“The demonstrations are continuing because …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Australian regulator approves Qantas-Emirates deal

Australia‘s competition regulator gave Qantas Airways Ltd. and Emirates final approval Wednesday to form a five-year global alliance, with special conditions for flights across the Tasman Sea.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the partnership will give the public better products and service offerings.

“The ACCC is satisfied that the alliance is likely to result in material, but not substantial, public benefits,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement.

The ACCC had already granted interim approval, allowing the Australian and Dubai-based carriers to sell codeshare flights between Australia and Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Wednesday’s final ruling, which lasts for five years, also allows Qantas and Emirates to pair up on flights across the Tasman Sea, subject to conditions.

They must maintain existing capacity on four overlapping routes to New Zealand: Sydney-Auckland, Melbourne-Auckland, Brisbane-Auckland and Sydney-Christchurch.

“On these routes, the ACCC is concerned that Qantas and Emirates will have the ability and incentive to reduce or limit growth in capacity in order to raise airfares,” Sims said.

The requirement to maintain capacity on these four routes — which account for about 65 percent of all seats between Australia and New Zealand — would be subject to a review to consider whether increases in the minimum capacity were warranted.

“With this condition, the ACCC is satisfied that the relevant net public benefit tests are met,” the ACCC said.

Qantas and Emirates also planned to cooperate on sales, marketing and pricing.

The alliance was a key plank in Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce‘s bid to return the Flying Kangaroo‘s international operations to profitability.

Under the partnership, Qantas will use Dubai, rather than Singapore, as the stopover point for its flights to London.

The first Qantas flight to London via Dubai departs on Sunday.

Qantas signed a 10-year partnership deal with Emirates in September last year, ending a 17-year relationship with British Airways.

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Today in History for 26th March 2013

Historical Events

1804 – Congress orders removal of Indians east of Mississippi to Louisiana
1824 – 1st performance of Beethoven’s “Missa Solemnis”
1916 – Birdman of Alcatraz receives solitary
1936 – 200″ telescope lens shipped, Corning Glass Works, NY-Cal Tech
1942 – German offensive in North-Africa under Col-general Rommel
1943 – Elsie S Ott becomes 1st woman awarded US Air Force Medal

More Historical Events »

Famous Birthdays

603 – Pacal II ruler of the Maya polity of Palenque
1889 – Vaclav Kapral, composer
1909 – Chips Rafferty, Broken Hill Australia, actor (Desert Rats)
1923 – Elizabeth Jane Howard, British novelist (After Julius)
1929 – Edwin Turney, American businessman
1966 – Wesley Walls, NFL tight end (NO Saints)

More Famous Birthdays »

Famous Deaths

1793 – John Mudge, English physician (b. 1721)
1814 – Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, namesake of the guillotine (b. 1738)
1940 – Spiridon Louis, Greek runner, winner of the first modern Olympics marathon (b. 1873)
1990 – International Chrysis, Transvestite actor (QandA), dies of cancer at 38
1993 – Luis Falco, US choreographer (Fame, Angel Heart), dies at 50
1994 – Constantine Koukouchkine, Russ diplomat. murdered in Algeria at 41

More Famous Deaths »

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at HistoryOrb.Com – This Day in History

Research ties megavolcanoes to pre-dinosaur mass extinction, says sudden climate shift could have analog today

Scientists examining evidence across the world from New Jersey to North Africa say they have linked the abrupt disappearance of half of earth’s species 200 million years ago to a precisely dated set of gigantic volcanic eruptions. The eruptions may have caused climate changes so sudden that many creatures were unable to adapt—possibly on a pace similar to that of human-influenced climate warming today. The extinction opened the way for dinosaurs to evolve and dominate the planet for the next 135 million years, before they, too, were wiped out in a later planetary cataclysm …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Phys.org

Bioject Enters into Three Distribution Agreements

By Business Wirevia The Motley Fool

Filed under:

Bioject Enters into Three Distribution Agreements

Two in the Pacific Rim and One in the Middle East

TIGARD, Ore.–(BUSINESS WIRE)– Bioject Medical Technologies Inc. (OTC Pink: BJCT), a developer and manufacturer of needle-free injection therapy systems, today announced that it has entered into three international distribution agreements, two in the Pacific Rim region and one in the Middle East. The agreements call for the sale of the Biojector®2000 gas-powered device, the Bioject® ZetaJet™ spring-powered device and accessories through qualified medical device groups located in Australia, the Republic of the Philippines, and North Africa. The agreements provide for distribution in multiple territories throughout the regions.

“We are pleased to have entered into these agreements, as it expands the use of our needle-free devices throughout the world,” said Mr. Mark Logomasini, Bioject’s President and CEO. “In partnership with our distributors, we are looking forward to developing relationships with new users of Bioject’s needle-free technology.”

Bioject Medical Technologies Inc., based in Tigard, Oregon, USA, is a developer and manufacturer of needle-free injection therapy systems (NFITS). NFITS works by forcing medication at high speed through a tiny orifice held against the skin. This creates a fine stream of high-pressure fluid penetrating the skin and depositing medication in the tissue beneath. Bioject is focused on developing mutually beneficial agreements with leading pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and veterinary companies, as well as research, global health and government organizations.

Readers and potential investors are cautioned that an investment in the Company’s securities involve an EXTREMELY high degree of risk. Such risks include, without limitation, the risk that these distribution agreements will not be successful due to the time required in obtaining government clearances and the risk that the Company may be unable to comply with the extensive government regulations applicable to the business.

Bioject (OTC Pink: BJCT) trades on the OTC Pink tier of the OTC market. Investors can find Real-Time quotes and market information for the Company onwww.otcmarkets.com.

For more information about Bioject, visitwww.bioject.com.

Bioject Medical Technologies Inc.
Mark Logomasini, 503-692-8001 ext. 4121
President and CEO
Christine Farrell, 503-692-8001 ext. 4132
Vice President of Finance

KEYWORDS:   Australia  United States  Asia Pacific  North America  Australia/Oceania  Philippines  Oregon  …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at DailyFinance

Obama: Evil Personified

By Allan Erickson

Obama Forward SC 690x1024 Obama: Evil Personified

Knowing most people would give him a wide berth because he is black and because of all the hysteria surrounding his runs for the White House, Barack Obama seized the opportunity to upend America. He knew he had four to eight years to achieve his goal: the radical transformation of the U.S. from a constitutional republic to a socialist oligarchy.

He is halfway there. In four years, he has managed to bring America to her knees.

Like him, we bow to the King of Saudi Arabia and to terrorists on both sides of the Sunni-Shi’ite divide. Jihadi terrorism has not been contained. Like a disease, it has spread throughout the Arab world and into North Africa and elsewhere, throughout Europe and the Americas. It reaps in the killing fields with growing efficiency. Attacks on the homeland have not been prevented. Containing the spread of WMD has been a failure. Our military is infiltrated by jihadist sympathizers. The Cabinet is populated by individuals willing to submit to Islam and settle for dhimmi status. Terror training camps and operational cells infest the U.S., poised to strike. Credible intelligence indicates the next strike will be much worse than 9/11. Incredibly, we send billions of dollars every year to countries actively sponsoring global terrorism, and we extend the rights of citizens to enemy combatants in our own courts.

There must be a special category of insanity to describe all this.

In the face of outright threats from North Korea and its nullification of the Korean War ceasefire (essentially a declaration of war against America and South Korea), this impotent president is silent.

In the face of massive slaughter in Syria, he stumbles into a plan in Libya to ship weaponry to ‘rebels’ who turn out to be Al Qaeda operatives in the main, resulting in what happened in Benghazi, which he covers up with criminal intent.

In four years, the Poser has managed to take a bad economic situation and make it much worse. Corrupt healthcare ‘reform’ has meant higher premiums, loss of coverage, limited access, and imminent bankruptcy. Violating religious liberty and personal conscience, the Poser pushes public funding of abortion and death panels, as if The People don’t even exist.

Corrupt and wasteful stimulus spending favoring political friends featuring crony capitalism saw hundreds of billions of borrowed dollars evaporate in ‘investments’ in green catastrophes and projects that weren’t shovel ready after all.

Serial efforts to stave off the inevitable involving quantitative easing and printing funny money only mean the money changers enrich themselves while the common folk watch their savings dissolve in a witch’s brew of government spending, debt, and looming hyper-inflation.

In the face of complete financial disaster driven by insane federal spending, what does the Poser suggest? Increase spending and taxes and debt, then demonize anyone with the gall to demand responsibility.

Meanwhile, the Poser and his henchmen work feverishly through the night to ban or confiscate guns of all kinds, essentially a complete assault on the 2nd Amendment. They work to infiltrate your private life, hoping to gain access to your private financial records, looking to see if you purchase ammunition. Without warrants, the Poser and his pals want to examine your private communications because after all, unlike the Fort Hood shooter, you might be a real terrorist.

And they want to watch you or zap you with drones, all in the name of forwarding the general welfare, of course.

They insist you pay your fair share according to their definition, just as they insist you make only the income they approve. We are taxed without true representation. Most of our ‘representatives’ are on the take, representing only themselves. The few who truly represent traditional Americanism are hounded and marginalized by the Obama media.

Our continuous downward slide into moral oblivion is accelerated by this Poser who pushes every heinous demoralization method known to man: sexual perversion, destruction of the family and traditional marriage, infanticide in the name of privacy and ‘women’s health,’ and generalized relativism allowing lawbreakers to roam free, as law-abiding citizens are condemned.

Obama hates traditional American values. He hates economic freedom. He hates the essential American ideas of God-given rights and limited government. He hates Judeo-Christian traditions: reverence, servanthood, and personal responsibility.

His vision, shared by every other Marxist failure that has stumbled down the pike, is a gigantic central government controlling life cradle to grave, driving a socialist economy, a secular society purged of the opiate of religion (all of it submitted to the U.N., the next stop of his gravy train.) The man who would be king of a one-world government is glad to throw America under the bus if that’s what it takes to assume the throne.

Knowing most people still give him a wide berth, just because he is Black, the Poser will press his agenda for radical change, continuing to infringe upon your God-given rights until his grisly gang completely dominates the culture (or until patriots step up and stop him, one way or the other.)

Don’t be fooled: the so-called Charm Offensive is just another smokescreen allowing him to continue the blitzkrieg.

And like complete idiots, we just gave our executioner four more years to line us up and shoot us down.

American sovereignty and preeminence have saved the world from the encroachments of evil for 100 years. Evil therefore attacks American sovereignty and preeminence, and, the main weapon at its disposal for the moment: the President of the United States.

God in His mercy has given us another opportunity to preserve liberty and honor His name as the Lord of love. Will we, like our forebearers, rise to the challenge once again, or forever submit and cower before the dragon?


Allan Erickson enjoyed an 11-year career in radio, television, and print journalism as a reporter, talk show host, and operations manager. He then turned to sales and marketing for a decade. Ten years ago, he started his own training and recruitment company in the Pacific Northwest. Allan and wife Jodi have four children and live in California. He is also the author of “The Cross & the Constitution in the Age of Incoherence,” Tate Publishing, 2012.

Photo credit: Dave Merrick

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at Western Journalism

Head of US Africa command warns of Islamic threat

The chief of the U.S. Africa Command warned on Friday that threats from Islamic extremists in Africa are increasing and if unchecked could pose a greater danger to American interests and allies.

Army Gen. Carter Ham faced some wary members of the House Armed Services Committee, who questioned a robust U.S. military involvement in Africa after more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ham said the threats in Africa do not match al-Qaida or the Taliban in Afghanistan, “but the trend is not good.”

“I think we have an opportunity now to work preventive effort in concert with African forces and with allies and friends globally to suppress the threat, to reverse the trend, which is increasingly worrisome to me,” Ham told the committee. “And that does not necessitate a large commitment of U.S. forces. And I do not believe that a large commitment of U.S. forces is either necessary nor appropriate under the current circumstance.”

Ham cited the growing collaboration between the Nigerian-based radical sect Boko Haram and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), which bases its operations in Mali. The general said AQIM is the wealthiest affiliate of al-Qaida, due in part to ransom from kidnappings and the drug trade, and the group has been financing Boko Haram.

The two groups also have shared training and fighters.

Boko Haram has targeted Nigeria‘s weak central government with guerrilla attacks. Pressed on whether it had any intent on striking in the United States, Ham said some elements of the group are looking to attack beyond Africa to Europe and the United States.

“I think that’s why it’s important for us in partnership with Nigeria and others … to help them counter this before their capability matches their intent,” Ham said.

The challenge facing the U.S. military is determining which groups have legitimate ties to a terrorist organization such as al-Qaida and which are organizations dissatisfied with their government.

Ham also complained about “significant shortfalls in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance” as he tries to carry out his mission.

Ham’s testimony came as the United States has increased training efforts in several African nations amid widespread insurgent violence across North Africa.

AQIM-linked terrorists are believed to have played a …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox US News

IMF to visit Egypt as nation seeks economic help

The International Monetary Fund is sending a senior official to Cairo this weekend to discuss issues that have delayed a $4.8 billion loan seen as a final lifeline to rescue Egypt, a political heavyweight in the region.

Egypt‘s multibillion dollar loan request is considered crucial to freeing up other loans and reassuring foreign investors who abruptly pulled their money out of the country when longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak was ousted from power in early 2011.

IMF spokesman William Murray said earlier this week that the global lender’s director for the Middle East and North Africa would arrive in Cairo Sunday.

Egypt said last month that it had invited the IMF, which reportedly is not happy with the nation’s proposed economic reform program, to resume negotiations that were suspended late last year amid violent clashes over the drafting of the country’s constitution. Talks with the IMF also stalled when President Mohammed Morsi quickly rescinded tax increases for fear of the public backlash.

“The idea is to discuss with the authorities their economic program and the next steps in the IMF‘s engagement with the country,” Murray said, adding that the IMF remains committed to supporting Egypt at this critical time in its history.

However, Murray declined to say whether the IMF official would be on a “negotiating” or “courtesy” visit.

“There’s an ongoing discussion with the authorities and I don’t want to characterize what form it takes,” Murray said. “We’ve had ongoing contacts with the Egyptian authorities and we’ve remained fully engaged with them.”

The IMF loan has been delayed, mostly because of political turmoil, which forced Egypt to change its economic forecast figures to more conservative estimates. Government officials were hoping the budget deficit would shrink from its current level of almost 11 percent to 8.5 percent in the next fiscal year, but now Cairo is suggesting it could be 9.5 percent.

Earlier this week, Egypt rejected a $750 million rescue loan from the IMF, deciding that it did not want to resort to taking emergency measures at this time. The stopgap loan, part of the IMF‘s Rapid Financing Instrument, would not have been a substitute for Egypt‘s multibillion dollar loan request.

Egypt had long been viewed as a stable corner of the Middle East. Reserves stood at around $36 billion just before …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

UN: Syria refugee numbers jump 10 percent in week

A U.N. official says the number of registered Syrian refugees has jumped by more than 10 percent in just one week as part of an escalating exodus.

Last week, the U.N. refugee agency said the number of Syrian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and North Africa had reached 1 million.

Agency spokeswoman Reem Alsalem said on Thursday that 121,000 have registered since then.

She says Syrians are fleeing their country “at a rate faster than anyone anticipated.” She says about 2,000 people fled each day in December, compared to 8,000 a day now.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says clashes erupted Thursday in the central city of Homs. Rebels last weekend retook parts of the city’s Baba Amr neighborhood, an early battleground in the 2-year-old conflict.

…read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Dutch government raises terror threat level

The Dutch government raised its terror threat level Wednesday from “limited” to “substantial,” saying Dutch citizens are traveling to Syria to fight in the civil war and could return battle-hardened, traumatized and further radicalized.

“The chance of an attack in the Netherlands or against Dutch interests abroad has risen,” the country’s National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism said in a statement.

The warning comes just two months before hundreds of thousands of people are expected to descend on Amsterdam for mass celebrations around the abdication of Queen Beatrix and investiture of her son, Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, as the country’s new king.

The government cited the threat posed by jihad fighters returning from Syria, where rebels are battling the government forces, and signs of increasing radicalization among Dutch youth at home as key reasons for lifting its threat level to substantial, the second-highest level on the four-step scale, just below “critical.”

Counter-terror chief Dick Schoof said that nearly 100 people had travelled from the Netherlands to Africa and the Middle East, mainly to Syria to fight in conflicts there, and he warned it is not just a Dutch problem.

“From Europe as a whole, hundreds have made the journey, many of whom are joining local armed groups,” the counter-terror watchdog said.

“These jihadist travelers can return to the Netherlands highly radicalized, traumatized and with a strong desire to commit violence, thus posing a significant threat to this country,” Schoof said in his statement.

He said that several fighters have already returned to the Netherlands.

“They are known and they are being monitored,” he told national broadcaster NOS.

Government terror experts also say that political upheavals in North Africa and the Mideast are giving terror networks room to grow.

Schoof said Dutch intelligence and law enforcement agencies are working with other European allies to contain the threat. More intelligence staff are monitoring “jihadist travelers” and police are stepping up efforts to tackle radicalization in Dutch towns and cities.

Last month, France also expressed concerns about its citizens heading to Mali to join radical Islamic fighters there, even as the French army was fighting the Muslim rebels in its former …read more
Source: FULL ARTICLE at Fox World News

Has there ever been a black or African pope?

By hnn

Amid all the fevered speculation about who might succeed Pope Benedict XVI, one possibility seems particularly tantalizing: that the conclave could elect an African to be the first black pontiff in the nearly 2,000-year history of the papacy.

But in all that time has there really never been a black pope? Or an African pope? It depends on what you mean by “black” and by “African,” and answering those questions requires a bit of ancient history and some modern context….

North Africa was the Bible belt of early Christianity,” said Christopher Bellitto, a church historian at Kean University in New Jersey. “Carthage was the buckle,” he added, referring to the city located in modern-day Tunisia….

Religion News Service

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Source: FULL ARTICLE at History News Network – George Mason University