Julian Assange said he does not know whether his plea for political asylum in Ecuador will be granted. Australia’s refusal to intervene in his planned extradition from the UK to Sweden was an "effective declaration of abandonment," Assange told ABC radio. "We had heard that the Ecuadoreans were sympathetic in relation to my struggles and the struggles of the organization with the United States," he said. He added, though, that there is no guarantee that his bid will be a success. Assange also said he didn't know when to expect a decision on his case.
The Army Court of Criminal Appeals at Fort Belvoir has denied a request for public access to Bradley Manning’s case records. The ruling was issued on Thursday. The petition seeking access to court records was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of WikiLeaks. The group is planning to appeal the ruling to the military's highest court. Manning is facing 22 charges related to leaking classified US government documents to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq, where he was working as intelligence analyst for the US Army.
Prices for August Brent crude reached $89.23 a barrel, dropping 3.7 per cent, the lowest showing for front month Brent since December 2010. This came against a backdrop of global stock drops, and commodity price drops. The dollar, in the meantime, grew and posted its biggest gain against foreign currencies in over three months. The bearish activity came a day after the US Federal Reserve announced it was continuing Operation Twist, a program aimed at stimulating investment by lowering long-term interest rates. Analysts say investors were disappointed as they had hoped for a more aggressive policy.
Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded credit ratings of 15 large international banks, including Credit Suisse Group AG, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Barclays. “All of the banks affected by today’s actions have significant exposure to the volatility and risk of outsized losses inherent to capital-markets activities,” Moody’s Global Banking Managing Director Greg Bauer said in a statement. Moody’s said its review reflects the banks’ reliance on fragile confidence in funding markets and increased pressures from regulation and a difficult market environment. On February 15, the ratings company had said it was reviewing the grades of 17 banks.
Fernando Lugo, the President of Paraguay, has been impeached by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the National Congress. The opposition-controlled Chamber voted 76-1 to impeach Lugo for his role in a violent clash between landless farmers and police that left seventeen dead last week. The vote on whether to commence an impeachment trial is now headed for the country’s Senate. Both chambers are largely controlled by the opposition Colorado Party. Lugo, a former Roman Catholic bishop, became Paraguay’s first non-Colorado President in over half a century in 2008. Winning the election on a leftist platform, Lugo promised to redistribute land held by the rich few to landless farmers, a promise that critics say Lugo largely failed to implement.
The United States government is planning to give $52 million in aid to Yemen, which is engulfed in an internal conflict with al-Qaeda, Raj Shah, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development, said. The money will be directed towards the southern provinces of Lahj, Abyan and Aden, the areas most affected by the conflict. A local branch of al-Qaeda has been controlling parts of areas in the south of the country since last year, when the Yemen was immersed in a civil war between supporters and opponents of then-President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Since Saleh left power in February this year, the United States has been supporting Yemen in its fight against al-Qaeda with drone strikes and aid money.
Around 100 celebrities supported a Greenpeace campaign aimed against oil drilling and unsustainable fishing in the Arctic. The campaign is pushing for a UN resolution that would establish a global sanctuary in the Arctic region. Oil giant Shell is now preparing to start exploratory drilling in the region. Among the eco-friendly stars are Paul McCartney, director Pedro Almodovar, actor Robert Redford and British entrepreneur Richard Branson.
Iran claims to have detected a "massive cyber-attack" against its nuclear facilities, state television reported on Thursday. Iranian Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi said the attack had been plotted by the United States and Israel, along with Britain. He added that the alleged attackers still seek to carry out their plan, but Iranian authorities had taken preventive measures.
Some 90 people are still missing after two boats carrying at least 200 of asylum seekers capsized in the Indian Ocean north of Christmas Island. Australian Police are concerned that a large number of asylum seekers may have drowned, as there were not enough life vests. The capsized boats were spotted in the morning by an Australian customs plane. According to preliminary reports, the passengers were Sri Lanka nationals who had been trying to reach Christmas Island in hopes of gaining Australian citizenship. The rescue operation continues.
Germany’s governing coalition and main opposition parties have brokered an accord to ratify the EU fiscal pact and the EMS permanent bailout scheme. But now the country’s Constitutional Court says it will ask the executive branch to postpone signing off on the legislation after its expected parliamentary approval. The judges need to study whether the new law would infringe on German parliamentary budget sovereignty, as states that a notification submitted by a far-left party. The court’s move could delay the pact agreement from taking effect as planned on July 1.
Popular micro blogging service has shut down around 16:00 GMT Thursday. Its full version became unavailable for PC users. The mobile version of the site is still working, though. A Twitter spokesperson said the company is looking into it, but did not specify when the service may be back up. Currently, there are more than 200 million accounts registered on Twitter.
US Secretary of Commerce John Bryson has resigned for health reasons. Earlier in June, Bryson suffered a seizure. President Barack Obama has accepted the resignation and thanked Bryson for the "invaluable experience and expertise" he brought to the administration. Bryson served as a member of Obama's economic team, advising him on energy issues. While on a leave of absence, Bryson transferred his functions and duties as secretary to Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank.
An Indonesian militant has been convicted of helping to build the massive car bomb used in the deadly 2002 Bali nightclub attacks. Umar Patek, 45, was found guilty by the West Jakarta District Court of violating the country's anti-terror law and sentenced to 20 years in prison on Thursday. Patek was a member of the Al-Qaeda-linked network Jemaah Islamiyah and is known as the “Demolition Man.” The attacks on October 12, 2002 on Bali killed 202 people, including 88 Australians and seven Americans.
Posts within a new coalition government in Greece have finally been distributed, with most new ministers coming from the conservative New Democracy party. Vassilis Rapanos, a former chairman of the country’s largest private bank, the National Bank of Greece, has been appointed Finance Minister. The new technocrat government is set to ask lenders for two additional years to reach fiscal targets. The delay of the bailout deadline and an extension of unemployment benefits were key elements of a new government policy document, an official from the Democratic Left party said, as cited by Reuters.
Jordanian authorities say a Syrian pilot who landed his warplane in the country on Thursday sought asylum. “The pilot asked for political asylum in Jordan,” Information Minister and government spokesman Samih Maayatah said. A Jordanian security official says the pilot will be allowed to stay on "humanitarian grounds," AP reports. The MiG-21 landed at an air base in Mafraq in northern Jordan near the Syria border. The defecting pilot is identified as Col. Hassan Hammadeh. He had been reported missing by Syrian Air Force authorities during a training mission.
Workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant will begin removing fuel rods from damaged reactors a year ahead of schedule. “We would like to start taking out undamaged fuel this year,” Japan's nuclear crisis minister Goshi Hosono told Reuters on Thursday. The task is also to make sure the workers “will not be endangered by trying to move things fast,” the minister said. The fuel rods are now covered only by water and a white plastic tarp and could present a risk if the reactor building collapsed or the water supply were disrupted.
Prosecutors in Norway on Thursday asked a court to send confessed mass killer Anders Behring Breivik to a mental institution instead of prison. “We request that he is transferred to compulsory psychiatric care,” prosecutor Svein Holden told the court in closing arguments. The defense is likely to refute the insanity finding on Friday, AP reports. Breivik has said during the 10-week trial he was sane and his massacre of 77 people was politically motivated.
The voluntary resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not possible, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Thursday. The scheme whereby Assad steps down in order for something to happen in terms of cessation of violence has not worked from the outset, Lavrov said. Thus, calls by Western leaders for the Syrian leader to step down are pointless, the minister noted.
Ten people were injured in downtown Hanoi when homemade landmines exploded in one of the city’s busiest streets on Thursday. The blast followed a botched heist at a gold shop, AP reports. A man reportedly entered the Hoang Tin gold shop, carrying two black plastic bags. He demanded gold and threatened to detonate a landmine. One of the shop staff threw the bags into the street, causing the explosion. The suspect in the unsuccessful heist was arrested.
The Iranian navy has announced plans to build more warships and increase its presence in international waters. The deployments would protect Iranian cargo ships around the world, in particular in the Gulf of Aden and the northern part of the Indian Ocean, Navy commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari said, as cited by IRNA news agency. Tehran plans to build 10 more vessels, including destroyers and missile-launching frigates. The presence in international waters is aimed at “strengthening military power to defend Iran,” the commander stressed.
A Tunisian military plane has destroyed three cars loaded with weapons travelling north of the country's southern border with Algeria and Libya. The plane attacked the cars after their occupants opened fire on it 100 kilometers north of the triple border overnight Wednesday, TAP news agency said. The country’s defense ministry gave no details of the air strike.
A Syrian fighter jet made an emergency landing on Thursday at a northern Jordanian airbase, a Jordanian government official said. The Russian-made MiG-21 landed at the King Hussein Air Base in Mafraq, a northern Jordanian town near the Syrian border. A spokesman for the rebel Free Syrian Army, Ahmad Kassem, said the plane had defected to Jordan and that its pilot was seeking political asylum, AP reports. Syria's state-run TV reported earlier that authorities had lost contact with a MiG-21 that was on a training mission.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) will start loading crude for export bypassing the Strait of Hormuz for the first time on July 1. “From 09.30 today oil has been received at the main oil terminal in Fujairah,” an industry source said on Thursday. “The plan is to load the first oil tanker around July 1,” Reuters quoted him as saying. The bypass pipeline will allow the UAE to pump oil from fields in the west of the country to its eastern port of Fujairah as Iran threatens to block a narrow shipping route out of the Gulf. The new pipeline has an official capacity of around 1.5 million barrels per day.
Bahraini police on Thursday arrested five out of 20 people wanted over “terror attacks,” state media say. Security forces arrested five of those accused of terror crimes which included “making and detonating bombs, and carrying out criminal acts that resulted in wounding civilians and police,” said General Tareq Hasan, the head of General Security. Bahraini authorities earlier accused Shiite youth protesters of using petrol bombs against security forces during demonstrations outside the capital Manama.
Dozens of Ethiopians, believed to be illegal migrants, have died after their overcrowded boat capsized at Lake Malawi, police said Thursday. “As of today, 47 bodies have been recovered,” Malawi police spokesman Davie Chingwalu told AFP. The accident reportedly happened on Monday night. Search operations are still underway. The migrants attempted to cross the lake which straddles the border between Malawi and Tanzania.
Central Intelligence Agency operatives in Turkey are vetting the flow of weapons to Syrian rebels, the New York Times said on Thursday. Officers are trying to ensure the arms do not fall into the hands of Al Qaeda militants, the paper said, citing anonymous officials. The weapons reportedly include automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, ammunition and some anti-tank weapons. They are being paid for by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and funneled across the border by a shadowy opposition network, the report said.
Insurgent attacks on Afghan security forces have increased in recent months, President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday. He was speaking at a special session of parliament a day after a Taliban suicide bomber struck a convoy, killing 21 people. Every day “20 to 25 of our youths are making the sacrifice for this country and being killed,” he said. Karzai also urged the country’s officials to end bribery and kickbacks. The president said the US needs to stop giving contracts to firms operated by Afghan government officials.
An asylum-seeker boat believed to have been carrying 200 people capsized on Thursday off Christmas Island, Australian authorities have said. The number of survivors is unknown, AFP reports. The ship issued a distress call mid-afternoon. It capsized some 2,600 kilometers off the Australian mainland.
Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza into Israel for a fourth consecutive day on Thursday, the Israeli army said. Seven rockets hit southern Israel after midnight, causing no casualties, AFP said. Another rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-rocket defense system. The attacks followed Israeli air strikes in which eight Palestinians were reportedly killed. Israel says that 129 projectiles have been fired from Gaza this week, wounding four outpost guards and causing property damage.
Iran's influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has criticized world powers for their “dishonesty” in recent nuclear talks in Moscow. Rafsanjani is associated with a centrist branch of the clerical establishment which is more open to compromise with the West than hardliners. The independent Iranian Shargh daily, however, on Thursday quoted Rafsanjani as saying that the West is pursuing a “bullying policy” against Iran. After two days of talks in Moscow this week, the two sides agreed to continue negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program in early July.
Israel's government has said 30 Jewish families will leave an unauthorized West Bank settler outpost, allowing a court-ordered evacuation to proceed peacefully. The Israeli Supreme Court gave the government until July 1 to dismantle the Ulpana enclave. It was built on privately held Palestinian land, and Israel considers such construction illegal. The five apartment buildings where the settlers live are to be moved to a site nearby, AP said. The Israeli government plans to build 300 more homes in a nearby settlement.
A Scandinavian Airlines Airbus en route from Newark, New Jersey to Copenhagen, Denmark was forced to make an emergency landing at Maine’s Bangor airport after its cockpit filled with smoke. The 230 passengers and 12 crew members aboard were then checked for smoke inhalation, but no injuries have so far been reported, airport director Tony Caruso said. The flight has been cancelled and airport officials are helping the stranded passengers find provisional accommodations.
The US, Japanese and South Korean navies are conducting their first-ever joint naval exercises south of the Korean peninsula. The two-day training will see the three nations hone their cooperative capabilities both in military and rescue operations. The US is deploying the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, while Japan sent three ships, including aircraft carrier Kurama and destroyer Kirisima. South Korea did not disclose the scale of its participation due to its tense situation with North Korea. Experts believe the training exercises are to demonstrate the three nations’ ability to cooperate and keep a check on Chinese and North Korean naval aspirations.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that Julian Assange’s request for political asylum "requires profound analysis," and that the country is now studying the “charge that he risks being tried for political reasons and could be sentenced to death.” Ecuador is committed to protecting “the human right to life and to freedom of expression,” the FM wrote on his Twitter account. Earlier, Ecuadorian Deputy Foreign Minister Marco Albuja said that President Rafael Correa is expected to give his instructions on whether to proceed with granting Assange asylum or not on Thursday.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has nominated the country’s textile industry minister, Makhdoom Shahabuddin, for the post of prime minister, state television reported. This comes after the Supreme Court ruled that Yousaf Raza Gilani, the country’s Prime Minister since 2008, was to be removed from office because of an earlier conviction of contempt of court. Gilani, Zardari and Shahabuddin are all members of the center-left Pakistan Peoples Party.