Friday, January 4, 2013
TEL AVIV - A "lost tribe" has come home to Israel and the return could be part of biblical prophecy.
CBN News was at Ben Gurion Airport when more than 50 members of the Bnei Menashe tribe made history.
The group was just the first of a long-awaited migration. Nearly 2,000 tribe members live in Israel, but five years ago the government stopped their return.
"I feel like I'm home," one tribe member said.
Another told CBN New they were, "excited, overwhelmed. And unexplainably, you know, feeling in my heart. I feel like crying. I'm emotional, total loss for words."
A recent decision now permits all the Bnei Menashe, about 7,000, to return.
"The ten tribes may have been lost to us for many centuries, but they were never lost in terms of their identity," Michael Freund, with Shavai Israel, told CBN News.
Freund worked for years to help bring about this moment. He said he believes the Bnei Menashe return fulfills of biblical prophecy.
"The prophet Isaiah says 'al tera qui ka ani,' which means 'fear not for I am with you, God says," Freund explained. "'Me israch avi zerecha,'" which translates 'from the east I will bring your descendants.'"
"These are the descendants of Israel and they are coming back from the east," he said. "It is as if the headline of today was written by Isaiah the prophet 25 or 2,600 years ago. It's a phenomenal thing."
The Assyrian Empire exiled the tribe of Manassah almost 3,000 years ago. Although they settled in northeast India, tribe members kept their Jewish roots for more than 2,000 years.
Several Christian organizations helped bring them home.
"In fact, the Hebrew prophets said when God gathered His Jewish people back from all the ends of the earth in the last days that there would be Gentiles helping and bringing them back," David Parsons, with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, told CBN News.
"He said, 'I'll beckon to the Gentiles.' And so we have this invitation from God Himself to be involved in this Aliya," he said.
Another 300 tribe members are scheduled to arrive in January, with thousands more yet to come.
The Department of Homeland Security warned Internet Explorer users this week about a new software flaw used in remote cyber attacks as Microsoft issued an advisory on the embattled browser’s software hole.
The response followed reports in the Free Beacon revealing that hackers linked to China attacked the Council on Foreign Relations website and used it as a watering hole for a sophisticated cyberespionage attack.
Meanwhile, a company that builds microturbine electrical generators was attacked by the same hackers, according to two online security specialists.
The software traced to the CFR web attack also was present in the website of Capstone Turbine Co., a California manufacturer of high-tech turbine engine generators.
A lawyer for Capstone had no immediate comment on reports of the hack and officials at Capstone did not return telephone calls and emails seeking comment.
The DHS National Vulnerability Database issued a national cyber alert on Monday warning that the vulnerability in Explorer versions 6 through 8 “allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted web site that triggers access to an object.”
The warning said the hack “allows unauthorized disclosure of information; allows unauthorized modification; [and] allows disruption of service.”
The FireEye cyber intelligence web site confirmed reports that the CFR website was compromised on or around 2:00 p.m. Dec. 26 and said further investigation revealed that the malicious software was planted on the CFR web site as early as Dec. 21.
“We can also confirm that the malicious content hosted on the website does appear to use Adobe Flash to generate a heap spray attack against Internet Explorer version 8.0 (fully patched), which was the source of the zero-day vulnerability,” FireEye reported.
“We have chosen not to release the technical details of this exploit, as Microsoft is still investigating the vulnerability at this time.”
The malicious software targeted users who logged in to the elite foreign policy organization’s website while using operating system language that included English, Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.
The Council is one of the most prestigious foreign policy groups in the United States and its members include current and former high-ranking officials, including Sec. of State Hillary Clinton and former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
Eric Romang, a Luxembourg-based security researcher, reported that he traced the same software used in the CFR watering hole attack to capstoneturbine.com. He concluded on his website that the malicious software that attacked CFR “was also used to target visitors of another company named Capstone Turbine Corporation.” The software was present on the Capstone website since at least Dec. 18, he said.
“Capstone Turbine Corporation was also used to spread [the malicious code called] CVE-2012-4969 and this since mid-September,” Romang reported.
A second computer security specialist, Jindrich Kubec, confirmed that the waterhole cyber attack software had also infected Capstone’s website. “I wrote to Capstone Turbine on 19th Sep about the Flash exploit stuff they were hosting,” Kubec, director of threat intelligence at avast!, stated in a Tweet. “They never replied. And also not fixed.”
Capstone’s annual report states that the company’s gas microturbines are a low-emission, high-efficiency solution to energy production.
John Tkacik, a former State Department China specialist, said China likely would target a company like Capstone for its technology and other economic data.
“It seems that the Chinese technicians who hacked the Council on Foreign Relations have also been hacking other U.S. targets,” Tkacik said in an email. “Capstone Turbines certainly would be a target of any Chinese firm that wanted to compete with Capstone, download Capstone’s proprietary software and blueprints, or obtain Capstone’s pricing and marketing information.”
Tkacik, director of the Future Asia Project at the International Assessment and Strategy Center (IASC), said the company probably was among hundreds of U.S. companies targeted for technology acquisition.
“The whole episode is yet another chapter in the ongoing morality play of America’s inability, unwillingness, or both, to confront the Chinese cyberthreat,” Tkacik said. “Alas, U.S. law prevents American intelligence and military cyberwarriors from conducting the same sweeping attacks against Chinese networks, but perhaps the time has come for Congress to fund a major expansion of [the National Security Agency's] and Defense Department’s network warfare capabilities and mandate them to go after Chinese financial, social, media, energy, and industrial networks in a big way. Otherwise we’re fighting the last war.”
Richard Fisher, a China affairs specialist with IASC, said the government should require publicizing information on Chinese-origin cyber attacks. “The time has come for Congress to demand annual reporting from the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security highlighting China’s global cyber war and its security and economic impact on Americans,” Fisher said. “Such a report required in order to galvanize both defensive and retaliatory policies.”
“Chinese actors are the world’s most active and persistent perpetrators of economic espionage,” according to a report by the office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, a U.S. government counterspy office.
“U.S. private sector firms and cybersecurity specialists have reported an onslaught of computer network intrusions that have originated in China but the IC cannot confirm who was responsible.”
The report stated, “We judge that the governments of China and Russia will remain aggressive and capable collectors of sensitive U.S. economic information and technologies, particularly in cyberspace.”
Microsoft, the maker of Internet Explorer, issued a security advisory on Saturday designed to patch what is called a “zero-day” security flaw.
“We are only aware of a very small number of targeted attacks at this time,” said Dustin Childs, a leader of a Microsoft Security Response Center teamstated in releasing the advisory.
Childs said the company is working on a “one-click Fix It solution” to the browser flaw in coming days.
The advisory was updated Monday and stated that “Microsoft is investigating public reports of a vulnerability in Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, and Internet Explorer 8.”
“Microsoft is aware of targeted attacks that attempt to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer 8,” the company said, noting that a patch prevents the exploitation of the flaw.
It is not the first time Internet Explorer has been the basis for a major cyber attack.
Google and several other major U.S. corporations were attacked in late 2009 by suspected Chinese government hackers who used both human intelligence-gathering techniques as well as high-technology research to steal corporate secrets.
The Google attack was code-named Operation Aurora after one of the files in the malicious software was found to contain the name Aurora. Its origins were traced by investigators to a zero-day flaw in Internet Explorer 6 that allowed the hackers to gather vital details on company executives with high-level access to corporate secrets who were then targeted in a cyber espionage operation.
The hackers were able to use the Explorer flaw and an email scam to implant code that allowed the takeover of the network and the stealing of valuable trade secrets.
Investigators who uncovered the CFR hack said it was a sophisticated cyber espionage operation that targeted key officials and former officials.
The CFR web site was taken over by hackers during the watering hole attack and members who logged in to the site had their computers infected and information remotely stolen, in some cases using encryption to protect the stolen data that was sent remotely to the hackers.
“The vulnerability is a remote code execution vulnerability that exists in the way that Internet Explorer accesses an object in memory that has been deleted or has not been properly allocated,” said Microsoft in its advisory on the CFR hack.
“The vulnerability may corrupt memory in a way that could allow an attacker to execute arbitrary code in the context of the current user within Internet Explorer. An attacker could host a specially crafted website that is designed to exploit this vulnerability through Internet Explorer and then convince a user to view the website.”
The company said after its investigation is completed it will take appropriate steps “to protect our customers.”
Microsoft also said “we are actively working with partners to monitor the threat landscape and take action against malicious sites that attempt to exploit this vulnerability.”
According to Microsoft, hackers “could host a website that contains a webpage that is used to exploit this vulnerability” in a web-based cyber attack scenario.
The compromised websites that accept or host user-provided content or advertisements then could be infected with software that could allow data exploitation.
“In all cases, however, an attacker would have no way to force users to visit these websites,” the company said. “Instead, an attacker would have to convince users to visit the website, typically by getting them to click a link in an email message or Instant Messenger message that takes users to the attacker’s website.”
Washington Free Beacon
KATHMANDU, Nepal - Nepal is known for being on top of the world. It's also a country where Hinduism and Maoism struggle for dominance.
Christians face widespread persecution but God is on the move. Their numbers have grown from 29 people when the first church was planted in Nepal 60 years ago, to nearly 1 million today. Most of those coming to Christ in Nepal today are former Hindus.
One young woman named Sharada said she grew up in a Hindu family.
"Before I came to Christ my life was in darkness and I didn't know God," she said.
Sharada, however, faced persecution from her own family when she left Hinduism for Christianity.
"When I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior the persecution started to come into my life," she explained. "My mother asked me, 'Do you love your religion more than your parents?' I told her, I love both. She hated me for following Christ and she used to say bad words to me."
Physical attacks soon followed. Sharada said her mother threatened to kill her with a sickle and blind her with a nail.
"My mother told me, 'If you are blind you'll stop going to church.' She took the nail, pushed me to the ground and tried to stick the nail into my eyes. I moved and the nail hit my ear," she said.
Sharada escaped to the jungle where she now lives with a friend.
Churches under Fire
Christians in Nepal not only come under attack from co-workers and family members, but churches are also under fire from Maoists and Hindu militants.
One case in point is a church CBN News visited in a remote region of southwestern Nepal. Pastor Damboo Bishoo Karma explained what happened when militant Hindus attacked members of his church.
"Non-believers came to our church and demanded that we join their festivals and worship idols," Pastor Karma recalled. "We told them that we don't worship like this."
The Christians refused to help fund the Hindu festivals.
"When we didn't pay the money they came and attacked us and took our livestock," Karma said.
One church member named Mr. Choudary (NAME?) faced a raging mob outside his home.
"Two-hundred thirty villagers with sticks came here and took the two oxen that I kept," he said.
Pastor Karma said the suffering of village Christians comes of no surprise to them.
"Matthew 5:12 says in my name you will be persecuted and you will be hated," he said.
Nepali Christians are also disrespected in death. Hindus usually cremate a deceased loved one, but what happens to Christians when they die?
CBN News visited a cemetary in Kathmandu, the only one where Christians could bury their dead.
But no longer. Rarely are Christians given a place for burial. Religious extremists believe non-Hindu bodies desecrate the land.
Christians report militants often force them to dig up the buried remains of loved ones. One Christian woman reportedly kept her deceased husband's decaying body in her home because she was prevented from burying him.
Another woman helped hide church members in her house. A rampaging mob attacked them for burying a deceased Christian on village property.
So what does the future hold for Nepali Christians? Pastor Karma said his church will stand firm.
"We want to keep the witness of God in this place and improve the church. Our main purpose is to influence all of the villagers," he said.
And God is working in Mr. Choudary's heart. He lost his oxen in attacks on his home.
"We are sons and daughters of God," he said. "Whatever the villagers took from us belonged to Him. We should be satisfied with His Word."
And what about Sharada? She and her aunt led Sharada's cousin, Huma, to Christ.
Sharada explained, "I told her if you find God then you will know how wonderful He is and you will know God's plan for your life."
Now, Huma said she wants to share the good news.
"After I finish my education, I want to share Jesus with those who do not know Him. I will walk with Him and share the Gospel," she said.
"Sharada says even though people offer many animals for sacrifice, they will not be forgiven," she continued. "Only Christ's blood can bring forgiveness of our sins. I now know death is not the end. God has brought me from darkness to light."
Sharada and Huma are two young, Nepali women who have found eternal hope and vision at the top of the world.
Researchers could be considering doing genetic manipulation in the U.S. to make super soldiers
According to a report by three researchers at the California State Polytechnic University, the agencies involved in these projects evaluated using drugs, prosthetics, gene manipulation and other techniques on their soldiers. This is not the first time that the U.S. would experiment with their soldiers.
The U.S. Army is evaluating in order to develop a project to equip its soldiers with new genes that would allow them to become super soldiers that do not suffer from fear, and have more endurance and strength.
A series of experiments in the 1970s aimed at developing hallucinogenic weapons, the Pentagon gave soldiers LSD - apparently without the subjects fully understanding the consequences of using the drug. During the Cold War U.S. troops were also exposed to nerve gas, psychochemicals and other toxic substances on an experimental basis and without their consent."
For those who conducted this most recent research, if carried out in a future existence with these mutant soldiers...there should be an international body that regulates howfar changes can be made in genes and also respond when these soldiers suffer or experience damage to their health.
Despite these warnings, the Armed Forces of the United States has used methods of drugs and stimulants to keep active component forces in the field.
It has been known that their pilots involved in long duration missions are prescribed Dexedrine, a drug that according to the chief military command, allows them to be vigilant and alert for an extended period of time.
U.S. medical organizations have said that Dexedrine can cause side effects such as depression, insomnia, hypertension and other health conditions.
The Food and Drug Administration warns that Dexedrine can cause "new or worse aggressive behavior or hostility," thus providing grounds for the soldier to absolve himself of blame in the incident.
Investigators have requested the government to establish programs aimed at improving the human quality of of life for the military.
An enhanced soldier could also become an enhanced criminal.
Translated from the Spanish version by:
While our previous visualization of the incredible impact of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) seemed to clarify to many people exactly what 'compromises' had been made, the following infographic perfectly relates the stunning difference such a 'fair and balanced' act will make to both revenues and spending... just remember $1 billion (of $100 bills) would weigh 10 tons.
With Spanish 10Y yields hovering at a 'relatively' healthy 5%, having been driven inexorably lower on the promise of ECB assistance at some time in the future, the market has become increasingly unsure of just who it is that keeps bidding for this stuff. Well, wonder no longer. As the WSJ notes, Spain has been quietly tapping the country's richest piggy bank, the Social Security Reserve Fund, as a buyer of last resort for Spanish government bonds - with at least 90% of the €65 billion ($85.7 billion) fund has been invested in increasingly risky Spanish debt. Of course, this is nothing new, the US (and the Irish) have been using quasi-government entities to fund themselves in a mutually-destructive circle-jerk for years - the only difference being there are other buyers in the Treasury market, whereas in Spain the marginal buyer is critical to support the sinking ship. The Spanish defend the use of pension funds to buy bonds as sustainable as long as it can issue bonds - and yet the only way it can actually get the bonds off in the public markets is through using the pension fund assets. The pensioners sum it up perfectly "We are very worried about this, we just don't know who's going to pay for the pensions of those who are younger now," or those who are older we would add.
Via Wall Street Journal: Spain Drains Pension Fund In Borrowing Spree
Spain has been quietly tapping the country's richest piggy bank, the Social Security Reserve Fund, as a buyer of last resort for Spanish government bonds, raising questions about the fund's role as guarantor of future pension payouts.Now the scarcely noticed borrowing spree, carried out amid a prolonged economic crisis, is about to end, because there is little left to take. At least 90% of the €65 billion ($85.7 billion) fund has been invested in increasingly risky Spanish debt, according to official figures, and the government has begun withdrawing cash for emergency payments.Although the trend has drawn little public attention or controversy, it has become a matter of concern for the relatively few independent financial analysts who study the fund, which is used to guarantee future payments of pensions.In addition, there are worries that Social Security reserves for paying future pensioners are running out much quicker than expected.In November, the government withdrew €4 billion from the reserve fund to pay pensions, the second time in history it had withdrawn cash. The first time was in September, when it took €3 billion to cover unspecified treasury needs.Together, the emergency withdrawals surpassed the legal annual limit, so the government temporarily raised the cap."We are very worried about this," says Dolores San Martín, president of the largest association of pensioners in Asturias, a small region that has one of the highest percentages of retirees in Spain. "We just don't know who's going to pay for the pensions of those who are younger now."...After the crisis began, some of those countries began using the pension reserves for other contingencies, such covering a drop in foreign demand for their government bonds. Since the collapse of Ireland's property boom, for example, most of its pension fund has been used to buy shares of nationalized banks and real estate for which no foreign buyers could be found."Most of the [Spanish] fund is an accounting trick," said Javier Díaz-Giménez, an economics professor in Spain's IESE business school. "The government is lending money to another branch of government."Spanish officials defend the heavy investment of the Social Security Reserve Fund in their government's high-risk bonds. They say the practice is sustainable as long as Spain can continue borrowing in financial markets, and they predict the economy will start to recover late in 2013, easing the debt crisis...."With foreign investors staying away from the Spanish debt market, you're going to need all the support you can get from domestic players," said Rubén Segura-Cayuela, an economist with Bank of America-Merrill Lynch....Spain's commercial banks already have increased their Spanish government-bond portfolio by a factor of six since the start of the crisis in 2008, and now own one-third of government bonds in circulation.The percentage of Spanish government debt held by the Social Security Reserve Fund stood at 55% in 2008, according to official figures; by the end of 2011 it had risen to 90%. Analysts say the percentage has continued to rise, even as international agencies have lowered Spain's credit ratings.Spain's continued use of those reserves to buy its own bonds appears to violate a rule set by government decree that mandates their investment only in securities "of high credit quality and a significant degree of liquidity."...But with unemployment now above 25% of the workforce and fewer wage earners paying in, the Social Security System is about €3 billion in deficit, according to government estimates.
And in other news, and completing the picture, if not the circle jerk, is news from Libremercado that according to the Spanish Confederantion of Employer Organizations, some 60% of the Spanish companies are now losing money. Via Google translate:
The President of the Spanish Confederation of Employer Organizations (CEOE) has estimated that "60 percent of the companies are in losses. Thing is that entrepreneurs are more thoughtful and went outside."
Joan Rosell responds well after being asked if he receives "Spanish citizens too negative" in an interview with the newspaper La Razon, who heads a special titled "2013, the recovery begins," and says that "social unrest is evident and business world is no exception. "
The president of the CEOE has considered that the private sector "has already made ??all the restructuring that had to do and the decline in employment in the private sector has virtually stopped. now is the restructuring of the public sector."
After defining the first year of Mariano Rajoy in government as a year of shock, Rosell has considered that the Spanish economy remains "superfluous fat by many sides.'s Central government, regional and local. Avoid duplication. We are a country Over regulated".
International Monetary Fund data show that emerging nations have cut the weighting of EMU bonds in their reserves to 24.7pc from a peak of 30pc at the onset of Europe’s crisis three years ago, with a record drop in the third quarter of 2012.
“They have lost their appetite for peripheral EMU bonds, and some have simply cut Italy and other countries from their benchmarks,” said Jens Nordvik, currency chief at Nomura.
The IMF data also show a record $19bn (£12bn) surge in holdings of sterling by advanced central banks to $98bn, the biggest three-month jump ever recorded. Analysts say this is almost certainly caused by the Swiss National Bank as it takes extreme measures to hold down the franc. The SNB has already bought an estimated $80bn-worth of euro bonds and is increasingly switching to other assets.
“There aren’t many places to go in this 'ugly contest’ if you don’t like the euro, dollar or yen,” said HSBC’s David Bloom.
The effect has been to thwart the Bank of England’s efforts to weaken the pound. The Swiss and UK central banks are effectively in a “low intensity” battle against each other. “This is what happens in currency wars. Desperate times lead to desperate acts,” said Mr Bloom.
A weaker euro may be a blessing in disguise for European industries struggling with an overvalued exchange rate. Former French leader Charles de Gaulle once called dollar hegemony America’s “exorbitant privilege”, but the eurozone has learnt that reserve status can also be an exorbitant burden.
Central banks increased their holdings of eurozone bonds by an estimated $1.5 trillion in the early EMU years as China, Russia and the Middle-Eastern petro powers invested fresh reserves in euros to diversify away from the dollar. This pushed the euro to an all-time high of $1.60 by 2008, a level that inflicted serious damage on the manufacturing bases of France, Italy and Spain. It also distorted the EMU credit structure, fuelling debt booms across Club Med.
“There was too much euro buying. It is probably a good thing if the central banks pull back, so long as it does not go too far and lead to a buyers’ strike,” said Mr Nordvig.
Asia’s trade tigers dominate global reserves, holding almost two-thirds of the $10.8 trillion total along with commodity exporters. China holds $3.3 trillion.
Advanced central banks have increased their euro holdings over the past year, but that is entirely due to Swiss intervention, a “one-off” anomaly, and may have stopped already.
The broader retreat from EMU bonds has not stopped the euro rising 8pc since July to $1.31 against the dollar. Hans Redeker, from Morgan Stanley, said this is largely due to deleveraging by European banks, which are cutting global exposure to meet tougher capital ratios. “It is a repatriation effect, but it won’t last. We think the euro will fall much closer to parity within two years,” he said.
In the unexpected role of social crusader, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in a speech at Kermanshah Wednesday, Jan. 2, “The country’s economy should not be controlled by 3,000 or 10,000 people.” Seventy-six million Iranians still don’t benefit from the country’s oil revenues – “only an elite minority,” he said.
Predictably, DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources report, the Iranian president’s relations and friends are rushing for the exits: they are selling property and packing their bags ready to quit the country, worried about his fate and their own, as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his powerful machine prepared to hit back.
Ahmadinejad is certainly in for serious persecution even before his six months as president are up in June. In his second four-year term as president, he made enemies of the most powerful parts of the ruling establishment: He attempted to overshadow the Supreme Leader, brushed aside the advice of his mentor, the influential religious figure Ayatollah Mesbah-Yazdi, and dared to poke a finger in the eye of the powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps, by asking why they controlled and profited from the largest slice of the nation’s assets instead of the people.
Now they are all gunning for him, using as their political bludgeon allegations of financial corruption.
But Ahmadinejad has not been put off. Although he sees his undoing written large on the wall, at every opportunity, before even small audiences of 300-400 people, he continues to maintain that the only way the country can save itself is by forcing the redistribution of national wealth.
His message goes down well in the Iranian street and he is beginning to build a grass-roots power base that may help protect him from retribution by Khamenei and his henchmen. The “elite minority,” which need to be relieved of their assets, was easily understood to impugn the super-rich, like Khamenei’s own son Mojtaba and some of the Revolutionary Guard commanders.
Our sources in Tehran say that many of his associates have already taken the precaution of removing themselves to safety in the United States or Europe; others are keeping their heads down or knocking on the president’s door to wangle foreign postings so long as he has the clout to disburse them. One such prominent figure is Hamid Baqa’I, the president’s deputy for executive affairs. In two months, he is due to take up the post of Iranian ambassador to UN institutions in Geneva and New York, in place of the incumbent Mohammad Khaza’i.
Ahmadinejad is going through the motions of promoting his close aide Esfandyar Rahim Masha’I, who is also the father of his daughter-in-law, as presidential contender in June. But he knows it is a lost case. Masha’i is also likely to end up at a foreign posting with his family, when his candidacy is disqualified by the Guardian Council of the Constitution which is under Khamenei’s thumb.
Foreign appointments also appear to be in the works for some other members of Ahmadinejad’s inner circle, such as Seyyed Hossein Moussavi, Malek-Zadeh and others.
But not all his hangers-on are getting a sympathetic hearing. Our sources in Tehran have learned that the president lost patience this week when a bunch of his cronies confronted him with demands for cushy overseas appointments. He threatened instead to fire some of them Under heavy criticism for mismanaging the Iranian economy, he may use the opportunity to assign the blame to his less favorite advisers, sweep them out and replace them with new faces. One of the most prominent heads on the block may be First Vice President and de facto prime minister Mohammad Reza Rahimi.
Rahimi stirred an international furor by his anti-Semitic remarks which accused Jews of “spreading narcotics around the world in accordance with the teachings of the Talmud … whose objective is the destruction of the world.” He almost outperformed his boss, now turned social crusader, who more than once attracted international condemnation for his inflammatory remarks about Israel and Jews.
Most recently, Ahmadinejad called his close cronies together for a pep talk. He told them he held an insurance policy for his and their survival: the secret dossiers of 300 top Iranian officials containing detailed records of their misdeeds. He obtained them by rifling the archives of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security during the brief period after he sacked the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, and before Khamenei forced him to reinstate the minister a week later.
He and his staff had meanwhile combed through the incriminating files and made copies of them which were now held safe in the presidential office.
Khamenei, who has the support of the bulk of Iran’s political and military leaders, knows all about Ahmadinejad’s plans and is determined to eliminate him one way or another and make sure that the 300 dossiers never leave the president’s office.
More than once, Ahmadinejad has implied recently that he would make their contents public if he or members of his clique were charged with corruption or the misappropriation of state funds. For now, he is weeding out of his administration the officials he regards as its Achilles heels – according to our sources, the first scheduled to go are Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi and Interior Minister Mohammad Mostafa Najjar.
The Iranian Oil Ministry is a notorious hotbed of financial embezzlement, whereas the Interior Ministry is responsible for organizing the upcoming presidential election and Ahmadinejad would prefer one of his confidantes to be sitting in that office.
Only last week, he sacked Health Minister Marzieh Wahid Dastjerdi for remarking that Ahmadinejad prefers to earmark foreign currency for importing dog food rather than medicines. Her dismissal put many backs up against the president in the top echelons of government.
President Ahmadinejad was publicly warned this week to shut his mouth and stop ruining his reputation by Esma’il Kovsari, Khamenist adherent and powerful parliamentary voice. Kovsari pointed out that the Revolutionary Guards helped Ahmadinejad come to power as president and supported him on many occasions and so he must not turn his back on them now.
Another supporter of Khamenei, Al Sa’idi, said that most regime heads are now sorry they brought Ahmadinejad to power because he has become a different person.
Does this royal battle within the Iranian establishment affect its nuclear plans? The answer is no. Will crucifying the president cause rioting over the summer election? Not likely. Politically, Ahmadinejad is on his way out and leaves the stage to the most radical elements of the regime. And physically? Well, car accidents are a common feature of the Iranian political scene.
Christians in Islamist-run Sudan have ushered in the New Year amid ongoing airstrikes by Sudanese government forces that killed at least 11 believers before and after Christmas, while two priests remained detained for converting a Muslim.
The rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) said four people, including two children, were killed when the Sudanese military dropped nine bombs in and around the Christian village of Adar, also spelled as Al Dar, in the war-torn Nuba Mountains on December 26.
Among the victims were at least two Christian women - identified as 70-year-old Kuku Tia and 45-year-old Aisha Tutu Tolodi, and children Rehab Adam Alful, 8, and her sister Najah Adam Alful, 4, local Christians and security sources said.
News website Nuba Reports, run by Christian aid worker Ryan Boyette, said Sudanese Russian-made Antonov aircraft also dropped 12 bombs on Kauda town, wounding pastor Ayube Ibrahim and killing three cows.
Kauda is the home to four different churches that all celebrated Christmas for three days starting December 25, Christians said. The bombings came just days after another attack on December 23 killed Shawli Jalbora, 45, when a bomb hit his house in the region, according to the SPLM-N.
CHRISTIAN FAMILY TARGETED
Earlier, on December 18, five people of a Christian family were reportedly killed when a Russian-made Antonov airplane bombed Eire village.
Those killed were identified as Fatuma Naway, 45, and 4-year-old girl Intazar Mubarak Sabil, 4-year-old boy Ramadan Mubarak, 6-year-old Nadia Ibrahim and 9-month-old infant Gamu Ibrahim.
Another family member, Regina Ibrahim, was reportedly injured in the airstrike.
It came after Christians were also shocked by a reported attack on December 6 when a 40-year-old woman, Habiba Tia, was reportedly killed when one of a dozen bombs landed on her home in the Fama and Shat-Safia area of the Nuba Mountains.
At least two other civilians and an 11-year old child were injured in the December 6 airstrikes in the area, said Nuba Reports.
MORE CHRISTIANS KILLED
Several Christians were also killed in November when armed forces of the Islamic government of Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir attacked at least 26 villages in the Nuba Mountains, according to well-informed Christian activists.
Satellite images showed burned out huts in South Kordofan, where the Nuba Mountains are located.
The government of Sudan has denied wrongdoing, saying it is fighting a rebellion led by the SPLM-N that engineered the secession of South Sudan.
However rights activists point out that the military campaign is part of efforts by President Omar al-Bashir to impose more strict Islamic rule in a nation where Christian conversions are not recognized and believers from a Muslim background are treated as Muslims.
"Following South Sudan's secession from the north in July 2011, the president asserted that Sudan's constitution would be based on Sharia (Islamic law). Many believers have since left the country [and] Christians are caught up in the attacks in Darfur and the Nuba Mountains," said Open Doors, a Christian advocacy and aid group.
News of the latest violence came as two priests from the Coptic Orthodox Church in Sudan remained behind bars after the religious conversion of a Muslim in the Islamist state. “I understand there was someone from the Arab origin that accepted Christ and was baptized by them,” leading to their detention last month, one religious leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
A little-known group calling itself Al-Qaeda in the Nilien States recently sent a statement to Sudanese journalists threatening violence against Copts unless the woman who converted and was “kidnapped” by the Christians is returned, French news agency AFP reported.
Amid the violence, Christians of the neighboring new-born South Sudan were urged this Christmas to pray for their leadership on Christmas Day.
The appeal came as over 10,000 Christians assembled at the Presbyterian Church of the Nuer speaking congregation in the capital Juba celebrated the birth of Jesus, local media reported.
In November, nearly 100,000 South Sudanese reportedly braved sweltering heat to hear American evangelist Franklin Graham deliver the Gospel message of faith in Jesus Christ.
"THOUSANDS ACCEPT CHRIST"
Some 6,000 attendees accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior at Graham's two-night "Hope for the New Nation" event, organizers said
Graham's aid group, Samaritan's Purse, has worked in South Sudan for more than 20 years, providing relief and other assistance from decades of war and famine. They claim to have helped rebuild over 500 churches destroyed during war with the North, now known as Sudan.
In a recent interview he said it was time for an internationally backed no-fly zone over the skies of Sudan to halt ethnic cleansing.
"The North is creating instability by sending tens of thousands of refugees into the South," he told the U.S.-based Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). "These are Muslims and Christians who don't want to live under Shariah law."
He said U.S. President Barack Obama has an "excellent opportunity" to bring the two sides together. "The two can not survive without each other, the oil is now in the South," Graham noted.