Google Refuses Obama’s Request to Take Down Anti-Muslim Video but Restricts Access in Muslim Countries

Google is refusing a White House request to take down an anti-Muslim clip on YouTube, but is restricting access to it in certain countries.

The White House said Friday that it had asked YouTube to review whether the video violated its terms of use. Google owns YouTube, the online video sharing site.

YouTube said in a statement Friday that the video is widely available on the Web and is “clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.”

The short film “Innocence of Muslims” denigrates Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. It played a role in igniting mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Middle East. And it has been blamed for playing a role in violence in Libya, where the U.S. ambassador and three others were killed though the exact cause of the attacks is under investigation.

U.S. and Libyan officials are investigating whether the protests in Libya were a cover for militants, possibly al-Qaida sympathizers, to carry out a coordinated attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and kill Americans. Washington has deployed FBI investigators to try and track down militants behind the attack.

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Armada of International Naval Power Massing in the Gulf as Israel Prepares an Iran Strike

Cruisers, aircraft carriers and minesweepers from 25 nations are converging on the strategically important Strait of Hormuz in an unprecedented show of force as Israel and Iran move towards the brink of war.

Western leaders are convinced that Iran will retaliate to any attack by attempting to mine or blockade the shipping lane through which passes around 18 million barrels of oil every day, approximately 35 per cent of the world’s oil traded by sea.

A blockade would have a catastrophic effect on the fragile economies of Britain, Europe the United States and Japan, all of which rely heavily on oil and gas supplies from the Gulf.

The Strait of Hormuz is one of the world’s most congested international waterways. It is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point and is bordered by the Iranian coast to the north and the Oman to the south.

In preparation for any pre-emptive or retaliatory action by Iran, warships from more than 25 countries, including the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, will today begin an annual 12-day exercise.

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Confirmed: Director of “Innocence of Muslims” Is a Porn Producer

The anti-Islam film that’s set off a firestorm in the Middle East was directed by a 65-year-old schlock director named Alan Roberts, we’ve confirmed. He’s the creative vision behind softcore porn classics like The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood.

An Alan Roberts is listed as director on the film’s casting calls and call sheets from the summer of 2011, back when it was innocuously called Desert Warriors.. Castmembers and crew told us yesterday that Roberts was brought on by producer “Sam Bacile” aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and he muddled his way through a disorganized three-month shoot.

This is the same Alan Roberts listed in IMDB as the director of a handful of softcore porn movies and other low-budget films, according to acquaintances we spoke to today.

“I am sure it was the same Alan Roberts, as I remember him speaking about this project,” said filmmaker David A. Prior, a longtime acquaintance of Roberts, in an email. Roberts is listed as a producer on two of Prior’s films, 2008’s Zombie Wars and 2007’s Lost at War.

“He did work on [Innocence of Muslims],” confirmed a man who was Roberts’ business partner in a post-production facility he ran, who asked not to be named.

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Anti-American Protests Spreading Beyond Middle East

Anti-American rage that began this week over a video insult to Islam spread to nearly 20 countries across the Middle East and beyond on Friday, with violent and sometimes deadly protests that convulsed the birthplaces of the Arab Spring revolutions, breached two more United States Embassies and targeted diplomatic properties of Germany and Britain.

The broadening of the protests appeared to reflect a pent-up resentment of Western powers in general, and defied pleas for restraint from world leaders, including the new Islamist president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, whose country was the instigator of the demonstrations that erupted three days earlier on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The anger stretched from North Africa to South Asia and Indonesia and in some cases was surprisingly destructive. In Tunis, an American-run school that was untouched during the revolution nearly two years ago was completely ransacked. In eastern Afghanistan, protesters burned an effigy of President Obama, who had made an outreach to Muslims a thematic pillar of his first year in office.

The State Department confirmed that protesters had penetrated the perimeters of the American Embassies in the Tunisian and Sudanese capitals, and said that 65 embassies or consulates around the world had issued emergency messages about threats of violence, and that those facilities in Islamic countries were curtailing diplomatic activity. The Pentagon said it sent Marines to protect embassies in Yemen and Sudan.

The wave of unrest not only increased concern in the West but raised new questions about political instability in Egypt, Tunisia and other Middle East countries where newfound freedoms, once suppressed by autocratic leaders, have given way to an absence of authority. The protests also seemed to highlight the unintended consequences of America’s support of movements to overthrow those autocrats, which have empowered Islamist groups that remain implacably hostile to the West.

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China Deploys Warships After Japan Announces Disputed Island Purchase

China deployed two navy vessels and launched a verbal assault on Japan after Tokyo announced it had ‘bought’ a group of islands disputed by the two countries in the East China Sea.

Osamu Fujimura, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, yesterday confirmed that his country had agreed to purchase the islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from a Japanese family it claims owns them.

The government will reportedly pay a total of 2.05 billion yen (£16.4 million) for the islands and the transfer of their ownership will be completed by the end of this month.

However as Mr Fujimura spoke, China’s state-controlled news agency Xinhua reported that two Chinese surveillance vessels had arrived in the region to “assert the country’s sovereignty”. Japanese media said the Japanese Coast Guard was monitoring the vessels.

Japan’s move to “nationalise” the disputed islands escalated a simmering and long-standing feud between the two nations over the territory, which is administered by Japan but also claimed by China and Taiwan.

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Muslim Brotherhood at Work: US Ambassador to Libya Killed Over Movie

The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other American staff members were killed Tuesday in an attack on the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi, the White House confirmed. President Obama, in a written statement issued Wednesday morning, called the attack “outrageous” and “senseless.”

Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens was killed Tuesday night when he and a group of embassy employees went to the consulate to try to evacuate staff. The protesters, angry over a film that ridiculed Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, were firing gunshots and rocket-propelled grenades.

“I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens,” President Obama said in a statement Wednesday morning. “Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.”

Obama said he’s directed the administration to provide “all necessary resources” to support security for U.S. personnel in Libya and to increase security at diplomatic offices around the world.

“While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants,” he said.

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US Embassy in Cairo Makes Outrageous Statement Against First Amendment

Yesterday, the US Embassy in Cairo put out a shameful statement in response to anger over an anti-Muslim film:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others

A stand against those who “abuse” their right to free speech is best suited to authoritarianism, and it’s absolutely grotesque to see American diplomats embracing it. The effort at appeasement was as inefficacious as it was depraved: The protests against the film in question turned more violent after the statement was issued, when the embassy wall was scaled and the American flag was torn down and burned.

By late this evening this was obvious at the White House: “The statement by Embassy Cairo was not cleared by Washington and does not reflect the views of the United States government,” a source characterized as a “senior administration official” tells Politico’s Byron Tau.

That’s all well and good; the statement does indeed look like it wasn’t carefully vetted (the missing period after “others” above isn’t my error — that’s how it is on the embassy website). But a not-for-attribution walk-back is hardly sufficient here. Somebody needs to be fired. Given that the embassy’s Twitter account spent the day defending the statement, it’s likely to be more than one somebody that needs to go, perhaps including Ambassador Anne Patterson herself.

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Communist Leader’s Absence Sets Off Rumor Mills in China

The strange disappearance from public view of China’s presumptive new leader is turning a year that was supposed to showcase the Communist Party’s stability into something of an annus horribilis.

Over the past week, the new leader, Xi Jinping, has missed at least three scheduled meetings with foreign dignitaries, including Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton last Wednesday and the prime minister of Denmark on Monday. So far officials have declined to provide an explanation for his absences.

That set off furious speculation on the Internet that the 59-year-old Mr. Xi’s health, either physical or political, has taken a turn for the worse. Some diplomats say they have heard that Mr. Xi suffered a pulled muscle while swimming or playing soccer. One media report, since retracted, had it that Mr. Xi was hurt in an auto accident when a military official tried to injure or kill him in a revenge plot. A well-connected political analyst in Beijing said in an interview that Mr. Xi might have had a mild heart attack.

Whatever the actual reason, Mr. Xi’s unexplained absences are conspicuous on the eve of what is supposed to be China’s once-in-a-decade transfer of power. It also adds to a litany of woes that have disrupted the Communist Party’s hopes that a seamless political transition would send a signal of stability to the Chinese people and the world at large.

Two unusual political scandals have sidelined people considered contenders for seats on the all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee, most recently including a close ally of President Hu Jintao’s. China’s economy has fallen into an unexpectedly deep slump, confounding government forecasts for a measured slowdown. Party leaders have also yet to announce a date for the 18th Party Congress, the event to mark the retirement of this generation of leaders and the accession of the next, though it is supposed to take place as soon as next month.

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Jim Rogers: Eurozone Certain to “Pay Terrible Price”

A “terrible price” will be paid for the euro zone crisis eventually, whether the European Central Bank (ECB) embarks on mass bond purchases or not, Jim Rogers, investor and co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros, told CNBC Monday.

Rogers said: “These guys have been saying the same old garbage for a long time. It’s not a game-changer – it’s good for the market for maybe a month. The debt keeps going higher and higher and eventually we’ll all going to pay a terrible price.”

He warned that the market rally, which many have seen as an opportunity to get back into riskier assets, would only be a short-term rebound.

“It’s not an opportunity to make money for me. This is not good for the market and it’s not going to last. Every three or four months they have a summit and they say: Ok guys, everything is ok now. The market goes up. But we’re getting a little tired of this and the market is getting a little tired of this,” Rogers argued.

There should be some opportunity to make money in the short term, Peter Toogood, director of investment, Old Broad Street Research, said. “There is a little window for risk trade – not a sustainable one, but there’s some stability to the short-term outlook,” he argued. He pointed out that ECB President Mario Draghi “has already been expanding the balance sheet through disguises.”

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European Union Abandoning Crop-Based Biofuels Due to Food Crisis, Environmental Concerns

Photo credit: Sweeter Alternative

The European Union will impose a limit on the use of crop-based biofuels over fears they are less climate-friendly than initially thought and compete with food production, draft EU legislation seen by Reuters showed.

The draft rules, which will need the approval of EU governments and lawmakers, represent a major shift in Europe’s much-criticized biofuel policy and a tacit admission by policymakers that the EU’s 2020 biofuel target was flawed from the outset.

The plans also include a promise to end all public subsidies for crop-based biofuels after the current legislation expires in 2020, effectively ensuring the decline of a European sector now estimated to be worth 17 billion euros ($21.7 billion) a year.

“The (European) Commission is of the view that in the period after 2020, biofuels should only be subsidized if they lead to substantial greenhouse gas savings… and are not produced from crops used for food and feed,” the draft said.

A Commission spokeswoman said the EU executive would not comment on the details of leaked proposals.

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