December 25, 2009

AP, CBS: Al Qaida Linked to Attempt to Blow Up Plane Landing in Detroit (Scroll for Updates; WH Calls ‘Attempted Act of Terrorism’)

Filed under: News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:53 pm

The Associated Press and CBS News (with AP contributing) are reported that the passenger on a flight into Detroit who allegedly attempted to detonate explosives shortly before it landed said he was acting on behalf of Al-Qaida (AP’s spelling)/Al Qaeda (CBS’s).

Here are the first few paragraphs of the AP’s story by Larry Margasak and Lara Jakes as of 7:28 p.m. (saved here at web host):

AP sources: Al-Qaida link in failed plane attack

A Northwest Airlines passenger from Nigeria, who said he was acting on al-Qaida’s instructions, tried to blow up the plane Friday as it was landing in Detroit, law enforcement and national security officials said.

Passengers subdued the man and may have prevented him from detonating the explosives, the officials said.

“We believe this was an attempted act of terrorism,” a White House official said.

Federal officials imposed stricter screening measures after the incident.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., ranking GOP member of the House Homeland Security Committee, identified the suspect as Abdul Mudallad, a Nigerian. King said the flight began in Nigeria and went through Amsterdam en route to Detroit. There were 278 passengers aboard the Airbus 330.

There was nothing out of the ordinary until the flight was on final approach to Detroit, said Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory. That is when the pilot declared an emergency and landed without incident shortly thereafter, Cory said in an e-mail message. The plane landed at 11:51 a.m. EST (later corrected to 12:51 EST).

One of the U.S. intelligence officials said the explosive device was a mix of powder and liquid. It failed when the passenger tried to detonate it.

The passenger was being questioned Friday evening. An intelligence source said the Nigerian passenger was being held and treated in an Ann Arbor, Mich., hospital.

…. One law enforcement source said the man claimed to have been instructed by al-Qaida to detonate the plane over U.S. soil.

The official said an official determination of a terrorist act would have to come from the attorney general.

…. Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane’s descent. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow, and noticed a smoke smell. Then, he said, “a young man behind me jumped on him.”

“Next thing you know, there was a lot of panic,” he said.

It’s more than a little odd that Congressman King is the one being quoted about who the alleged terrorist is.

It will be interesting to see how this news develops. I have saved the AP report to see what the wire service does to update it in the coming hours.

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UPDATE: From ABC (bold is mine) –

Federal officials and police are interviewing a Nigerian man, who allegedly tried to “explode” a powdery substance aboard a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, injuring himself and two other passengers, law enforcement officials said.

The man said he was directed by al Qaeda to explode a small device in flight, over U.S. soil, ABC News has learned. Authorities have no corroboration of that information, and the credibility of the suspect’s statements are being questioned, officials said.

The suspect was identified as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, who according to federal documents is an engineering student at University College of London.

…. “The subject is claiming to have extremist affiliation and that the device was acquired in Yemen along with instructions as to when it should be used,” a federal situational awareness bulletin stated.

…. An in-flight emergency was declared when a fire indicator light when on in the cockpit, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. The pilot asked for airport rescue and firefighting services, and for law enforcement to meet the flight at gate, the TSA said.

It is unclear how powerful the explosive could have been and what the man’s intentions were. Initial reports were that fireworks or firecrackers had gone off on the plane.

The man suffered second-degree burns, which is consistent with a small fireworks device, police sources said.

UPDATE 2: Via Bloomberg

President Barack Obama ordered heightened security after authorities detained a passenger who may have tried to blow up a flight bound for Detroit from Amsterdam with 278 passengers.

The passenger was trying to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253, and an explosive device failed, the Associated Press reported, citing U.S. intelligence officials it didn’t name.

UPDATE 3: NBC with AP help — “Two people noticed the attempted attack, and a third person jumped on the man and subdued him, an airline official told NBC News. The man was being treated at the burn unit of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, officials said.”

The MSNBC.com headline is “Officials: Possible terror attack on Northwest jet.” The first sentence of the report says “A Nigerian man claiming ties to al-Qaida tried to light a powder aboard a commercial jetliner before it landed Friday in Detroit in what senior U.S. officials called an attempted act of terrorism.”

UPDATE 4: The earliest FreeRepublic entry at about 3 p.m. linked to a CNN report (long since updated) called “Fireworks set off aboard airliner.” In CNN’s defense, that’s apparently how Delta Airlines was characterizing it.

UPDATE 5: From CBS’s 8:27 p.m. update

Mudallad reportedly ignited powder attached to his leg and was severely burned in the incident.

Rather than having its intended effect on other passengers, however, the small fire only caused a commotion and some minor injuries.

Mudallad was on a terror watchlist, King said. The White House is calling the incident an attempted terrorist attack. The FBI is investigating, and stricter security measures were being implemented.

A U.S. security official says the explosive device was a mixture of powder and liquid.

Given that he was apparently trying to take down the plane, I don’t think he was really worrying about “the intended effect on passengers.”

UPDATE 6: Related? –

(Dec. 24) Yemen warplanes may have killed two al-Qaeda leaders and a Muslim extremist religious leader connected with the U.S. Army major accused of killing Army personnel in Fort Hood, Texas last month, a Yemeni government spokeswoman said today.

U.S. government officials said they were aware of the report of today’s raid, while declining to confirm any details.

“The president supports the government of Yemen and their efforts to take out terrorist elements in their country, and we’ll continue to support those efforts,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told reporters traveling with President Barack Obama and his family to a Christmas vacation in Hawaii.

The attacks in question actually occurred on December 17.

UPDATE 6A: A tidbit from Examiner.com — “Mudallad reportedly told investigators he is a member of al-Qaeda and received support from terrorists in Yemen.

UPDATE 7: At the Washington Post

White House: Failed plane attack an attempted act of terrorism

A White House official said the incident was an attempted act of terrorism. The FBI is investigating and President Obama, celebrating Christmas in Hawaii, was told of the incident about three hours after the plane landed, officials said.

Obama has told White House officials that all appropriate measures be taken to increase security for air travel, a spokesman said.

UPDATE 8: From AP’s 8:55 p.m. revision

Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab. Others had slightly different spellings.

I’ll say. It’s “Mutallab” here, “Mudallad” in Update 5, and “Abdulmutallab” in the first update.

UPDATE 9: AP”s 9:54 p.m. revision, with the beginnings of a walkback —

Flight 253 with 278 passengers aboard was 20 minutes from the airport when it sounded like a firecracker had exploded, witnesses said. One passenger jumped over others and tried to subdue the man. Shortly afterward, the suspect was taken to a front row seat with his pants cut off and his legs burned.

The White House said it believed it was an attempted act of terrorism and stricter security measures were quickly imposed on airline travel, but were not specified.

UPDATE 9A: AP at 11:04 p.m., with a whiff of an indication that we shouldn’t take the AQ link seriously –

In 2003, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden purportedly marked Nigeria for liberation in a recording posted on the Internet, calling on Muslims in the oil-rich country to rise up against one of the “regimes who are slaves of America.” But links to al-Qaida remained rare, though security forces claimed to break up such a linked terror cell in November 2007.

UPDATE 9B: It took all of two minutes to call BS on the AP’s “links to Al-Qaida remained rare” claim —

Islamic “Education Is Sin” group returns, declares total jihad

“We support Osama bin Laden, we shall carry out his command in Nigeria until the country is totally Islamised which is according to the wish of Allah.”

…. That the Boko Haram is an Islamic Revolution which impact is not limited to Northern Nigeria, in fact, we are spread across all the 36 states in Nigeria, and Boko Haram is just a version of the Al Qaeda which we align with and respect.

And there’s this from Reuters in mid-August (HT Jihad Watch):

Police in the western Nigerian state of Niger have raided an Islamic community and detained hundreds of its members, weeks after an uprising by a radical sect killed almost 800 in the remote northeast.

…. Police and immigration officers were screening about 600 members of the sect who had been detained and taken to a nearby school for questioning, police spokesman Richard Oguche said.

Some of them were believed to have crossed into Nigeria to join Darul Islam from Chad, Cameroon and the country of Niger.

Local journalists said as many as 3,000 people were believed to live in the community.

…. Clashes three weeks ago between the security forces and members of a radical Islamic sect called Boko Haram killed close to 800 people in the northeastern city of Maiduguri, more than 800 km (500 miles) away from Niger state.

While the two groups are not known to be directly linked, the authorities suspect they share similar beliefs.

UPDATE 9C, Dec. 26: Well, an early morning AP revision on the Nigerian relevance is an improvement, and a backslide —

If the Nigerian arrested Friday attempted a terrorist bombing, the FBI would be focused on trying to determine if he acted alone or had training from Al Qaeda or another network. There will be great interest also in the nature and destructive capacity of the explosive device involved and how it got past airport security screeners.

Nigerians have not figured in many cases involving Al Qaeda, but the rise of violent Islamic extremism in that country, and in sub-Saharan Africa overall, concerns Western antiterror officials.

The backslide is that the word “Muslim” no longer appears.

UPDATE 10: From the Wall Street Journal, not time-stamped —

Stephanie van Herk, a passenger from the Netherlands who was in seat 18B, said the plane had lowered its landing gear when she heard a loud bang. At first she thought the plane might have blown a tire, she said, but then she saw flame leap from the lap of a man in the row behind her in the window seat 19A. “It was higher than the seat,” said Ms. van Herk, 22 years old.

“Then everyone started screaming,” she said. “It was panic.” Flight attendants shouted “What are you doing? What are you doing?” They called for water, and the man began pulling down his burning pants, said Ms. van Herk. She and other passengers got water from the galley and the man was doused. Then a Dutch man jumped him.

…. A few passengers applauded the man who was identified as having helped subdue the alleged attacker, Michelle said.

I’m not seeing any record of the name of that man, which for his safety is probably a good thing.

UPDATE 11: This is it for the night — A dot-com web site called the Nigerian News Service reports that “He traveled from Lagos to Amsterdam to Detroit. He was traveling one way — no return ticket.” That would be consistent with ABC’s report that his entry visa was good until June 12, 2010. But it’s not consistent with his claim on that entry visa “that he was flying from Nigeria to the United States for a religious seminar.” A “seminar” is usually considered to be or short duration. Why were his plans of such an indefinite length that he didn’t book a return flight?

Positivity: Washington’s Gift

Filed under: Positivity,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 6:01 pm

This post, published in the Wall Street Journal on Christmas Eve in 2007, is a new Christmas evening BizzyBlog tradition. It will be truncated as long as the Journal keeps it available.

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Washington’s Gift

There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington — his refusal to take absolute power — that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today’s world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America’s eight-year struggle for independence.

The story begins with Gen. Washington’s arrival in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace — just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for Gen. Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress — without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.

Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers — especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. Washington had done his utmost to persuade Congress to pay them, yet failed, in this failure losing the admiration of many of the younger officers. Some sneeringly called him “The Great Illustrissimo” — a mocking reference to his world-wide fame. When he said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York early in December, he had wept at the sight of anger and resentment on many faces.

Congressman Alexander Hamilton, once Washington’s most gifted aide, had told him in a morose letter that there was a “principle of hostility to an army” loose in the country and too many congressmen shared it. Bitterly, Hamilton added that he had “an indifferent opinion of the honesty” of the United States of America.

Soon Hamilton was spreading an even lower opinion of Congress. Its members had fled Philadelphia when a few hundred unpaid soldiers in the city’s garrison surrounded the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), demanding back pay. Congressman Hamilton called the affair “weak and disgusting to the last degree” and soon resigned his seat.

The rest of the country agreed. There were hoots of derision and contempt for Congress in newspapers from Boston to Savannah. The politicians took refuge in the village of Princeton, N.J., where they rejected Washington’s advice to fund a small postwar regular army, then wandered to Annapolis.

In Amsterdam, where brokers were trying to sell shares in an American loan negotiated by John Adams, sales plummeted. Even America’s best friend in Europe, the Marquis de Lafayette, wondered aloud if the United States was about to collapse. A deeply discouraged Washington admitted he saw “one head turning into thirteen.”

Was there anyone who could rescue the situation? Many people thought only George Washington could work this miracle.
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Positivity: What If Christmas Never Happened? D. James Kennedy’s Classic Essay

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 9:00 am

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

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This post is a BizzyBlog Christmas tradition.

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What If Christmas Never Happened?
by D. James Kennedy (1930-2007)

“I want to live again! I want to live again!” George Bailey cried as he stood on a snow-covered iron bridge, the dark swirling river below. With help from Angel Second Class Clarence Oddbody, George had just discovered, to his horror, what life would be like had he never been born.

Anyone who has watched the Christmas film classic It’s a Wonderful Life knows Bedford Falls had become Pottersville. Its main street a red-light district with loud music and garish, flesh-peddling neon signs — a transformation from Currier and Ives to Sodom and Gomorrah. All because George had never been born.

One person can make an enormous difference in the lives of others — in a community or an entire culture. But what if Jesus had never been born? What difference would it have made in history or in our daily lives if a Bethlehem stable had not served as a makeshift delivery room (over 2,000) years ago?

A great deal.

Jesus, the greatest man who ever lived, has changed virtually every aspect of human life — and most people don’t know it. The greatest tragedy of the Christmas holiday each year is not so much its commercialization, but its trivialization. People have forgotten Him to whom they owe so very much.

Much of what we take for granted finds its roots in Christ and His teachings. And yet Christianity is ridiculed as an impediment to progress, a bane, and remains today the one safe target of contempt and prejudice.

And while the church has strayed badly at times from Christ’s teaching — for example, during the Crusades, the Inquisition and the blight of anti-Semitism — the overwhelming impact of Christ on earth has been for good. Consider Christ’s profound influence in five areas: respect for life, the status of women, the family, science and education.

Women and children

In classical Rome or Greece, it was dangerous to conceive a baby. Abortion was rampant and abandonment of infants commonplace. Infirm or unwanted babies were often taken out into the forest or the mountainside and left to be consumed by wild animals or to starve or for others to pick them up for their own perverted ends.

Then Jesus came. He did not disdain His conception in a virgin’s womb but humbled himself to be found in fashion as a baby. Since that time, and because of Jesus’ care for the poor and the infirm, Christians have cherished life as sacred, even the life of the unborn. In ancient Rome, Christians saved many abandoned babies and brought them up in the faith. Other believers started foundling homes, orphanages and nurseries. These new practices, based on this higher view of life, created a foundation for Western civilization’s ethic of human life — although it is under severe attack.

Women, too, have immensely benefited from Christ’s influence. In ancient cultures, the wife was the property of her husband. In India, China, Rome and Greece, men believed that women were not able or competent to be independent.

Prior to Christian influences in India, widows were voluntarily or involuntarily burned on their husbands’ funeral pyres. And female infanticide was common. These centuries-old practices ended in the early 19th century through missionary intervention with the British authorities.

Charles Spurgeon told of a Hindu woman who said to a missionary: “Surely your Bible was written by a woman.”

“Why?”

“Because it says so many kind things for women. Our pundits never refer to us but in reproach.”

Family and science

…. As Christians grew in number, they introduced family values to a world riddled with sexual immorality. In A.D. 125, Aristides, an Athenian philosopher, wrote a defense of the Christian faith to Emperor Hadrian. Regarding sexual matters he said:

They do not commit adultery or immorality. . . . Their wives, O king, are as pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest. Their men abstain from all unlawful sexual contact and from impurity, in the hopes of recompense that is to come in another world.

Christianity has helped preserve the family as the basic unit of society. It has protected millions of people from sexually transmitted diseases.

Science, too, is a consequence of Christianity. Our gadget-filled, comfortable existence would not be possible except for Christ. The late Francis Schaeffer points out in his book How Then Should We Live? that both Alfred North Whitehead and American physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer stressed that modern science was born out of the Christian worldview. Whitehead, a mathematician and philosopher, said that Christianity gave birth to science because of “the medieval insistence on the rationality of God.”

Some of the greatest pioneers of science were Christians. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) coined the phrase “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” for his study of nature. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) not only made innovations in mathematics and probability science and helped pave the way for the computer, but was also a devout Christian. And Isaac Newton (1642-1727), though sometimes classified as a Unitarian, professed to believe in Christ and in the message of salvation. “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets,” he wrote, “could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

Education, the root

Finally, education for the masses has its origin in Christianity. The roots of education for the masses go back to the Reformation — especially to John Calvin. The Reformers believed that the only way the Protestant Reformation would hold would be if lay people could read the Bible for themselves. Christ himself encouraged learning. He was an avid student as a young boy and teacher as an adult.

The greatest universities were started by Christians for Christian purposes. Indeed, most of the first 123 colleges and universities in the United States have Christian origins. Engraved in stone by the entrance of Harvard are these words:

After God had carried us safe to New England and wee had builded our houses, provided necessaries for our livelihood, rear’d convenient places for God’s worship, and settled the civill government: One of the next things we longed for and looked after was to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity; dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.

Had Jesus never been born, man would yet remain in the darkness of sin and ignorance. The message of Jesus brought transformation and incalculable benefits to our temporal existence. He is, indeed, the Light of the World.

But as wonderful as Christ’s profound impact on this world is, it is His transforming power in the lives of countless individuals down through time that is far greater still. The benefits of the Christian faith are far outweighed by the wonder of what He has done in providing eternal salvation to all who, by grace, place their faith in Him. Truly, Jesus Christ is a Savior to be celebrated in both time and eternity.