Islam Update: Iranian Protests Linked to Terrorist Activities
Associated Press January 10, 2018
TEHRAN, Iran – Iran says it has arrested dozens on suspicion of “terrorist activities” during a recent wave of protests. The official IRNA news agency on Wednesday carried a statement from the Intelligence Ministry saying security forces confiscated arms and explosives from “safe houses” kept by the detainees. It says some detainees had filmed the protests.
Demonstrations broke out across Iran last month fueled by anger at the lackluster economy and official corruption. The protests spread to several towns and cities, with some demonstrators calling for the overthrow of the government. Clashes broke out at some of the protests, and at least 21 people were killed.
Iran has accused the U.S., Israel and other foreign powers of inciting violence to try and overthrow the Islamic Republic.
Thomas L. Friedman New York Times Jan. 9, 2018
The biggest question about the recent protests in Iran — combined with the recent lifting of religious restrictions in Saudi Arabia — is whether together they mark the beginning of the end of the hard-right puritanical turn that the Muslim world took in 1979, when, as Middle East expert Mamoun Fandy once observed, “Islam lost its brakes” and the whole world felt it.
The events of 1979 diminished the status of women, pluralism and modern education across the Arab-Muslim region, and they fueled religious extremist groups like Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and ISIS, whose activities have brought ruin to so many innocent Muslims and non-Muslims alike — and so many metal detectors to airports across the globe.
I know a bit about 1979. I began my career then as a cub reporter in Beirut, where I promptly found myself writing about the following events: the ayatollahs’ takeover in Iran, creating a hard-right Shiite clerical regime bent on spreading its Islamic revolution and veiling of women across the Muslim world; and the takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by puritanical Sunni extremists, which freaked out the Saudi ruling family. The family reacted by purging music, fun and entertainment from their desert kingdom, strengthening the hold of the religious police over their society and redoubling the export of the most misogynist, antipluralistic interpretation of Islam to mosques and madrasas from London to Jakarta.
In addition, 1979 saw the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. encouragement of Islamist mujahedeen fighters, funded by Saudi Arabia, to defeat the Russians there. It also saw the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, which sharply curbed the growth of nuclear power in America. That nuclear freeze, the turmoil in the Middle East and Deng Xiaoping’s 1978 move to unleash capitalism in China helped to increase demand for fossil fuels. So Iran and Saudi Arabia had more money than ever to compete over who could spread their respective version of fundamentalist Islam farther.
But today Iran and Saudi Arabia have something new in common: A majority of their populations are under age 30, young people connected through social networks and smartphones. And a growing number of them are fed up with being told how to live their lives by old, corrupt or suffocating clerics — and they want to bury 1979 and everything it brought.
The spontaneous demonstrations that just erupted across Iran were triggered by the release, through social networks, of the latest national budget. Unemployed Iranian youth saw just how much money was being poured into the Islamic Revolutionary Guards — and their adventures in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen — and into Islamic institutions, and even, as The Times’s Thomas Erdbrink put it, into “someone who was upkeeping the library of his deceased ayatollah father.” This at a time when the government was canceling subsidies to 30 million low-income Iranians.
Iran has an educated population and a rich cultural heritage. It’s a nation capable of breakthroughs in science, medicine, computing and the arts. However, its regime has been focused not on empowering Iranian youth but on extending Tehran’s influence over failing Arab states, costing billions of dollars. That’s why protesters were chanting: “Death to Hezbollah” (Iran’s Lebanese Shiite mercenary army), “Death to the dictator,” (Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei) and “Let go of Syria, think about us.”
On recent trips to Saudi Arabia I heard youth express their own version of this: I want the clerics out of my face. I want to live my life without interference and realize my full potential — a sentiment particularly voiced by Saudi women. Youth also said: I want to be able to go to concerts, drive my car, start a business, mix with the other sex or see a movie. And I want to celebrate my national Saudi culture, cuisine and art — not just Islam…
Coal can play a big role in achieving American energy independence…
…as well as advancing America as an energy exporter…
…that liberates the world from its dependence on the Middle East…
Coal can do this both directly, by shipping coal overseas…
…and indirectly, via electric vehicles that get their electricity from coal power plants…
…thus freeing up domestic oil for exportation…
Rare metals are also an important issue… Electric Vehicle batteries depend on them…
…and we should not let ourselves be dependent on China…
…which could abuse this power over us as easily as the Middle East has… Dave
John Moody Fox News January 10, 2018
“There’s coal in them thar hills.” If that sounds like a confused reference to the 1849 California gold rush, think again. Long-ignored coal deposits in eastern Pennsylvania have become a key part of President Trump’s pledge to revitalize American mining and to once again produce critical materials needed for our national defense.
Trump’s Department of Energy is working with Rep. Lou Barletta, a Republican representing the district where coal was once king. Barletta, who’s running for the U.S. Senate this year, is leading a new push to extract and process so-called rare earth elements (REEs), a collection of 17 metals and minerals essential to building jet engines, rocket launchers, GPS systems, high-power magnets, I-phones, and just about any other device that’s smarter than its user.
America was once the undisputed leader in supplying REEs to the world. During the past 30 years, that role was intentionally ceded to China, which now produces more than 90 percent of the worldwide supply of critical materials – and can cut off that supply at will.
While past U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democrat, passively allowed China to dominate REE production, President Trump last month signed an executive order to ensure reliable supplies of materials critical to national defense projects. The only way to do that is to make them ourselves.
“This is something I’ve had my eye on for the past two years, especially with President Trump highlighting his goal to bring coal production back to the United States,” Barletta told me. “It’s in complete contrast to President Obama.”
That’s because Obama and Hillary Clinton viewed coal, and its by-products, as dangerous to the environment. But with vastly more modern technology, Barletta says, the black rock that, literally, supports his congressional district can be both clean and very profitable.
High concentrations of rare earths have been found in the anthracite coal deposits of Pennsylvania. If those can be extracted, separated – the 17 REEs are often found fused together – and processed, America will be poised to compete with China, while strengthening our own national security…
The St. Cloud Hospital also recorded a recent record number of babies born there in 2017.
The people of St. Cloud have no idea of what is about to hit them… Dave
Kelly Smith Star Tribune January 9, 2018
The most popular name for newborn boys in St. Cloud is now Henry. But closing fast is a name that reflects the central Minnesota city’s growing diversity — Mohamed.
For the first time, Mohamed cracked the most popular boys’ names in 2017 at the St. Cloud Hospital, which delivers nearly 3,000 babies a year. Sixteen newborn boys went home from the hospital last year with the name Mohamed, which tied with Liam for second place. Eighteen baby boys delivered at the hospital were named Henry.
And for the first time, Salma, an Arabic name, cracked the top 10 list of popular names for newborn girls, hitting No. 9…
Elizabeth Zwirz Fox News January 10, 2018
A New York City terror suspect was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on terrorism and explosives charges connected to an alleged bombing at a transit terminal in December, the U.S. Attorney office announced.
Akayed Ullah was indicted by a jury in the Southern District of New York on six counts, including attempting to provide support to the Islamic State and attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, the office said…
“Less than one month ago, during the holiday rush hour, Akayed Ullah allegedly detonated a bomb in a major transit hub of New York City,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a press release. “In selecting this time and place, Ullah’s alleged purpose in the Port Authority bombing was painfully clear: to inflict as much damage as possible, and to strike fear into the hearts of New Yorkers in the name of ISIS. Ullah’s alleged plot failed, and he is now charged with federal terrorism offenses and facing life behind bars.”…
Katherine Lam Fox News January 10, 2018
A couple that met on a dating website was found guilty on Tuesday of conspiring to build explosives and attempting to carry out an ISIS-inspire attack during Christmastime in Britain, authorities said. Munir Mohammed, 36, met Rowaida El-Hassan, 33, on the dating site SingleMuslim.com and enlisted her help to carry out a “lone wolf” mission. He had volunteered to plot the “devastating” terror attack after talking to an alleged ISIS commander, who gave him instructions and information to build a bomb.
El-Hassan, a pharmacist, “rapidly formed an emotional attachment” to Mohammed and they bonded through their support for “ISIS violent ideology and its intolerance of those who do not subscribed to its views,” Sky News reported.
“I am looking for a man I can vibe with on a spiritual and intellectual level. Someone who can teach me new things and inspire me,” She had initially wrote on her dating profile, Reuters reported. El-Hassan would ask Mohammed, a Sudanese asylum seeker, to send video of gruesome ISIS executions and guided him to chemicals he needed for the attack.
“Rowaida El-Hassan was the educated assistant with a rallying cry when he needed it and the pharmaceutical knowledge to help,” prosecutor Anne Whyte QC told the jury. “Munir Mohammed was the active heavy lifter. They were both assets to ISIS in their different ways.”
Mohammed was attempting to build a pressure cooker bomb when authorities arrested him in December 2016. Two ingredients used for a TATP bomb — used during the Manchester Arena bombing last May that killed 22 people — and manuals on building explosives, mobile detonators and ricin, a deadly poison were found at his home. Mohammed and El-Hassan previously denied plotting an attack between November 2015 and December 2016.
“Had he not been arrested when he was — which was on December 12, 2016, at a time when he’d already started to acquire chemicals, already started to look at pressure cookers, on the delivery mechanism for an attack and was already in conversation with Islamic States operatives — I think he was very close to mounting some sort of attack,” Detective Chief Inspector Paul Greenwood said…
Elliot Spagat Associated Press Jan 10 2018
Immigration agents descended on dozens of 7-Eleven convenience stores before dawn Wednesday, including six in North Texas, to begin checking on employees’ immigration status in what officials described as the largest operation against an employer under Donald Trump’s presidency.
Agents targeted about 100 stores nationwide, broadening an investigation that began four years ago with a case against a franchisee on New York’s Long Island. The audits could lead to criminal charges or fines over the stores’ hiring practices. Twenty-one people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally were arrested. No arrests were made in North Texas. The action appears to open a new front in Trump’s expansion of immigration enforcement, which has already brought a 40 percent increase in deportation arrests.
Derek Benner, a top official at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said Wednesday’s operation was “the first of many” and “a harbinger of what’s to come” for employers.
“This is what we’re gearing up for this year and what you’re going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters,” said Benner, acting head of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, which oversees cases against employers.
In Los Angeles’ Koreatown, seven agents who arrived in unmarked cars closed a store for 20 minutes to explain the audit to the only employee there, a clerk with a valid green card. Agents told arriving customers that the store was closed briefly for a federal inspection. A driver delivering cases of beer was told to wait in the parking lot.
The manager was in Bangladesh and the owner, reached by phone, told the clerk to accept whatever documents were served. Agents said they would return Tuesday for employment records they requested.
After the inspections, officials planned to look at whether the cases warrant administrative action or criminal investigations, Benner said. “It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small…
Paulina Dedaj Fox News January 10, 2018
Federal documents revealed that President Barack Obama, his family and a top official received gifts from the Cuban government and other foreign friends during his final two years in office. Cuban cigars and rum, sculptures decorated in gold, precious gems and even jewelry adorned in diamonds and rubies — all of them among the many lavish gifts the Obama family and administration officials received from foreign governments while President Barack Obama was in office. In most cases, the Obamas and other officials handed over the gifts to the National Archives.
Federal documents released on Wednesday revealed the gifts during Obama’s final two years in office included more than $2,000 worth of cigars, rum and other famous consumer products from the Cuban government. Cuba gave the gifts after Obama attempted to ease tensions with the communist regime, a measure that included the easing of the U.S. ban on imported Cuban liquor and tobacco. The documents released by the State Department’s Protocol Office revealed that Castro gave Obama 205 cigars of an unnamed brand, a humidor and cigar cutter along with the bottle of rum in 2015. The tobacco and liquor were accompanied by a carved wooden bust of Abraham Lincoln.
Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, meanwhile, received cigars, jewelry and a music CD — a gift package worth $670… In 2016, Castro gave First Lady Michelle Obama a white linen dress and a large decorated ceramic plate worth an estimated $1,190. The Obamas’ two daughters also received linen dresses from Castro, two prints and a Cuban music collection on CD valued at $1,164.
Among other unusual gifts given to Obama by foreign leaders during his final year in office were a gold and silver sculpture of a Bedouin group decorated with precious gems, and a silver tone letter opener and pen worth $56,720 from Saudi King Salman…
The most expensive single gift reported in 2016, however, came from the king of Morocco. He presented the first family with an ornate gold-plated brooch adorned with diamonds and rubies, a gold clutch with an emerald and diamond clasp, diamond earrings and gold teardrop earrings with diamonds and emeralds. Those were estimated to be worth $101,200, and were turned over to the National Archives, according to the documents…
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