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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
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Iran Cleric Pummeled by ‘Badly Covered’ Woman After Warning

By Ladane Nasseri - Sep 19, 2012 10:23 AM ET

An Iranian cleric said he was beaten by a woman in the northern province of Semnan after giving her a warning for being “badly covered,” the state-run Mehr news agency reported.

Hojatoleslam Ali Beheshti said he encountered the woman in the street while on his way to the mosque in the town of Shahmirzad, and asked her to cover herself up, to which she replied “you, cover your eyes,” according to Mehr. The cleric repeated his warning, which he said prompted her to insult and push him.

“I fell on my back on the floor,” Beheshti said in the report. “I don’t know what happened after that, all I could feel was the kicks of this woman who was insulting me and attacking me.”

Since the 1979 revolution that brought Shiite Muslim religious leaders to power, women in Iran have been required to cover their hair and body curves in public with head-scarves and loose-fitting coats, to protect religious values and “preserve society’s morals and security.”



Housing Starts in U.S. Climbed 2.3% in August

Source: Bloomberg

New housing construction rose in August, boosted by the strongest pace of single-family home starts in more than two years that shows an improving U.S. real estate market.

Beginning construction climbed 2.3 percent to a 750,000 annual rate, less than forecast and restrained by a drop in the building of apartments, from a revised 733,000 annual pace in July, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. The median estimate of 85 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 767,000. Building permits cooled.

Mortgage rates near all-time lows and cheaper properties are driving sales at companies like Toll Brothers Inc. (TOL) and propelling construction, one of the economy’s few sources of strength. Tighter credit standards and unemployment above 8 percent for the last three years are hurdles for the industry.

“The residential construction industry continues to improve through year-end on low housing inventories and rising demand,” said Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC in Philadelphia. “Home sales are improving slightly and low mortgage rates certainly make housing far more affordable.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-19/housing-starts-in-u-s-climbed-2-3-in-august.html

Sales of U.S. Existing Homes Climb to a Two-Year High

Source: Bloomberg

Sales of existing homes rose more than forecast in August to a two-year high, an additional sign the U.S. housing market is gaining traction in the second half of the year.

Purchases of previously owned houses increased 7.8 percent to a 4.82 million annual rate, the most since May 2010, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for sales to increase to a 4.56 million pace. Another report showed construction began on more single-family homes last month than at any time in the past two years.

Benefitting from record-low mortgage rates, more affordable properties and a growing population, the U.S. housing market is starting to climb out of a multiyear slump. Nonetheless, unemployment and tight lending conditions may impede a quicker return to the 5 million to 5.5 million sales pace that the real- estate agents group says constitutes a “normal” market.

“Without a doubt, almost every housing metric is doing better than a year ago,” Guy Berger, a U.S. economist at RBS Securities Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut, said before the report. “The fundamentals in housing look good. Inventories are pretty low.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-19/sales-of-u-s-existing-homes-climb-to-a-two-year-high.html

Putin Watches War Games, Tells Soldiers To Boost Russian Defence

By Thomas Grove

MOSCOW, Sept 17 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin oversaw Russian military exercises on Monday and warned soldiers that more conflicts around the world meant they had to "keep their powder dry" and improve Russia's defences.

Speaking to soldiers at manoeuvres in the Caucasus Mountain region on the country's southern border, near where Russian troops invaded neighbouring Georgia in a five-day 2008 war, Putin said the use of military force was rising worldwide.

"You are all educated people, you see what is happening in the world. You see unfortunately that the use of force is increasing in international affairs," said Putin, wearing a beige jacket, flanked by Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the Chief of General Staff Nikolai Makarov.

"That all speaks to the fact that we should keep our powder dry and that Russia's defences must improve," he said from a wooden podium, his eyes fixed on soldiers in uniform.



Russia Terminates USAID Activities Amid Kremlin Crackdown On Foreign Groups

Source: The Hill

The Kremlin is ending the U.S. Agency for International Development's activities in Russia, the State Department announced Tuesday.

The decision follows longtime criticism by President Vladimir Putin of U.S. efforts to foster democracy and human rights in Russia.

Putin blamed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for inciting protests against flawed parliamentary elections last December.

This summer he signed into law legislation requiring foreign-funded nonprofit organizations engaged in election monitoring and other political activities to register as “foreign agents.”

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/global-affairs/foreign-aid/250101-russia-terminates-usaid-activities-amid-crackdown-on-foreign-groups

Egyptian Warrants Issued For Terry Jones, Coptic Filmmaker

Source: Associated Press

Published: September 18, 2012

Egypt's general prosecutor has issued arrest warrants for Gainesville pastor Terry Jones, seven Egyptian Coptic Christians and referred them to trial on charges linked to an anti-Islam film that has sparked riots across the Muslim world.

One of the accused is Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian Copt living in southern California and believed to be behind the film.

Jones, who has said he was contacted by the filmmaker to promote the video, as well as Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who pushed the video on his website, are also among those charged.

The connection of the other five to the film was not immediately clear.

Read more: http://www2.tbo.com/lifestyles/breaking-news/2012/sep/18/egyptian-warrants-issued-for-terry-jones-filmmaker-ar-504556/

US Homebuilder Confidence Surges To 6-Year High

Source: Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Confidence among U.S. homebuilders rose this month to its highest level in six years and many expect the housing recovery will strengthen in the next six months.

The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index increased to 40, up from 37 in August. That's the highest reading since June 2006, just before the housing bubble burst.

Any reading below 50 indicates negative sentiment about the housing market. The index hasn't reached that level since April 2006, the peak of the housing boom.

But a measure of builders' outlook for sales in the next six months rose to 51. That's up from 43 in August and also the highest level since June 2006.

Read more: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_BUILDER_SENTIMENT?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2012-09-18-10-01-15

Sabra-Shatila 1982; Iran 2012? The Same Volatile Dynamics


The outburst of anti-Americanism sweeping much of the Arab world was ignited by an off-the-wall film insulting Mohammed, but the underlying outrage is fed by decades of resentment against the U.S. and its ally, Israel.

Nothing fueled that anger more than the massacre of at least 800 Palestinian refugees in Beirut on September 16, 1982 in the camps of Sabra and Shatila,

An Op Ed piece in today’s New York Times detailing U.S. complicity with that slaughter is a must-read for anyone trying to fathom the dynamics between Israeli and American leaders. It is, eerily relevant to the current virulent demands of Israeli Premier Nethanyahu that the U.S. support a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Recently declassified Israeli files, analyzed by Seth Anziska, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, reveal the bare-knuckle discussions between U.S. and Israeli leaders thirty years ago, as American officials were essentially bullied and brow beaten to do nothing to prevent the slaughter of the Palestinians, nearly all of them elderly men women and children, murdered, raped dismembered. The slaughter went on between September 16th and September 18th while Israeli troops surrounded the camps, their flares lighting the cramped ramshackle streets and homes within.



Germany Bars US Pastor Terry Jones, Concerns over 'Public Order'

US hate preacher Terry Jones, one of the supporters of the anti-Islam video "Innocence of Muslims," is to be banned from travelling to Germany. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL ONLINE, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has asked the Interior Ministry to prevent Jones from entering the country.

A spokesman for the Interior Ministry said Sunday that a visit by Jones would "run counter to the interest of maintaining public order."

The ban came in response to information that German far-right groups such as Pro Deutschland and Pro NRW plan to invite the preacher to Germany in the coming days.

Sources close to the German Foreign Ministry said Westerwelle believes "hate preachers have no business being in Germany."



U.S. Launches Auto Case Against China, Beijing Fires Back

By Doug Palmer and Tom Miles

WASHINGTON/GENEVA | Mon Sep 17, 2012 11:51am EDT

(Reuters) - The United States on Monday launched a new trade case against Chinese auto and auto-parts subsidies as President Barack Obama stumped for votes in Ohio, an auto manufacturing state that could be decisive in the November presidential election.

Beijing fired back with a complaint against U.S. duties on many Chinese exports, in the latest sign of trade tension between the world's two largest economies.

The new U.S. case filed at the World Trade Organization targets what Washington said were "extensive subsidies" to Chinese auto and auto-parts producers located in designated regions, known as export bases.

"Those subsidies directly harm working men and women on the assembly line in Ohio and Michigan and across the Midwest. It's not right; it's against the rules; and we will not let it stand," Obama said in the advance text of a speech he was to deliver in Ohio.

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