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6 November, 2012


At least 11 dead in Damascus blast - state news agency

­At least 11 people have been killed, and over 60 injured, many children and women among them, as a car bomb hit the al-Worod neighborhood in Syria’s capital, reports state news agency Sana. The bomb went off Tuesday in an area mostly inhabited by the Alawite minority, to which President Bashar al-Assad belongs. The Islamist rebel unit Seif al-Sham claimed responsibility for the attack, saying they targeted a meeting point for the army and police. In an unrelated Tuesday incident, gunmen killed the brother of Syria’s parliament speaker. Mohammed Osama Laham, brother of Parliament Speaker Jihad Laham, was shot to death in the Damascus neighborhood of Midan as he was driving to work.


UAE and Qatar want $7.6 billion worth of American arms

­The United Arab Emirates and Qatar want to complete an arms sale with the US worth $7.6 billion, the Pentagon reports. Both states are particularly interested in Lockheed Martin missile-defense systems that would reduce their dependence on US forces and allow them to better battle perceived threats in the region. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which runs US arms sales, has formally notified lawmakers, who now have 30 days to approve the petition. The sale request comes at a time of increased tension with Iran and Syria.


UN sends food to Cuba in wake of Sandy

­The United Nations has announced a humanitarian aid mission to Cuba following the devastating consequences of Hurricane Sandy. The UN's World Food Program will supply one month's food rations for nearly a half million people. The eastern city of Santiago, where Sandy has inflicted the most damage, will receive the most aid. The hurricane left 11 people dead and caused massive damage to the Caribbean island.


Spain's biggest daily El Pais strikes against job losses

­Journalist from the Spanish newspaper El Pais have begun a three-day strike in protest of 149 job losses and forced retirements at the company. The cutbacks equate to the a third of the publication's entire labor force. Well know figures in the word of journalism have supported the strike, among them Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. The downsizing of El Pais is part of a managerial restructuring effort by parent company Prisa, which is trying to cut costs to stay afloat in a struggling Spanish economy.


Death toll in California shooting rises to three

­Three people have died as a result of a workplace shooting in Fresno, California. Earlier, news reports said two of the three victims had survived and were in critical condition at a local hospital, as was the gunman, who had attempted to commit suicide after his attack. Police are investigating the shooting at the family-owned business, which they believe wasn't random.


US Congress subpoenas pharmacy director accused of meningitis outbreak

­The US Congress has subpoenaed the co-owner and director of the company responsible for the meningitis outbreak in the United States, after he reportedly declined to appear before lawmakers, AP reports. Barry Cadden is due to appear in Washington next week, after more than 400 people were diagnosed with meningitis as a result of taking steroid shots distributed by his pharmacy. So far around thirty people have died.


Tories suspend MP over TV appearance

­The UK's Conservative party has suspended Nadine Dorries MP over her plans to take part in the TV show I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here, the BBC reports. The program is a reality game show in which several celebrities live together in a jungle environment in Australia. It has been reported that upon her return from Australia, Dorries will have to explain herself to the chief whip. The MP said she would use her appearance on the reality show to raise awareness of issues she strives for, like the time limit on abortions.


One dead in California shooting

­A gunman targeted a family business, shooting four people at an office and then gunning down another at a nearby family home. Two of the survivors, including a 13-year-old boy, remain in a critical condition. The gunmen then shot himself and is also in a critical condition. Police Lieutenant Dean Milligan told reporters that police do not think this was a random act of violence, and that they will be looking for a specific reason why the family was targeted.


UN urges $11 mln in aid for displaced in Myanmar

The UN food agency has issued an urgent appeal for $11 million in aid to feed more than 110,000 people displaced by conflict in western Myanmar. Many people who fled violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state for the last six months are now living in makeshift shelters under trees and in rice paddies, the UN World Food Program's Asia spokesperson Marcus Prior said on Tuesday. The majority of the displaced are Rohingya Muslims. The UN agency made its first emergency food deliveries to the latest wave of the 35,000 displaced, the AP said. UN workers are expected to reach more people within the next few days.


Moody's downgrades ArcelorMittal's ratings

Ratings agency Moody's downgraded ArcelorMittal's senior unsecured note ratings on Tuesday to Ba1 from Baa3 on Tuesday. The rating outlook remains negative for ArcelorMittal, ArcelorMittal Finance and ArcelorMittal USA. The downgrade was prompted by worsening conditions in the world steel market over the last six months. By the end of October, the world's largest steelmaker posted larger-than-expected third-quarter losses of $709 million. ArcelorMittal also said it would slash its dividend by nearly 75% over weaker demand worldwide.


South Africa launches Mandela banknotes

New banknotes featuring the face of former president Nelson Mandela are going into circulation in South Africa. Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus made the first purchase using the new rand notes in the country at a small shop in Pretoria on Tuesday. The new 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 rand notes feature the image of the anti-apartheid icon on one side, while the reverse side displays the ‘Big Five’ animals of previous bills, the AP said. Mandela was reportedly delighted after being shown the new banknotes, the AP quoted Marcus as saying. South Africa upgrades its notes every seven years for security reasons


France plans 20 billion euro in business tax breaks in bid to boost economy

The French government unveiled a plan on Tuesday for 20 billion euros in tax breaks for the country’s businesses. The move is aimed at boosting the country’s economy and making its exporters more competitive. Socialist Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault unveiled new incentives for investment in innovation, small businesses and training, as well as tax credits for companies hiring in France. He said the government plans to adopt nearly all the ‘shock’ measures recommended in a report drawn up by Louis Gallois, the former head of defense and aerospace giant EADS. Gallois claimed France needs to cut red tape for businesses, improve labor relations and raise the quality of its products to facilitate reforms.


UK PM Cameron urges ‘safe passage’ for Assad to end Syrian conflict

British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested Tuesday that Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad could be granted safe passage out of Syria if such a move would guarantee an end to the ongoing conflict in the country. The international community should consider every means “to get that man out of the country and to have a safe transition in Syria," Cameron told Al Arabiya television. He said, however, that his proposal was not an offer for “an exit plan to Britain,” but that if Assad "wants to leave, he could leave, that could be arranged.” He added that Britain is not providing weapons to Syria's rebels.


Canada, India sign nuclear cooperation pact

Canadian companies will begin shipping uranium and atomic technology to India, according to a new nuclear cooperation agreement between the two states. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on Tuesday to review progress on the deal signed in 2010, the AP said. Implementation of the pact was recently stalled during negotiations, after Canada requested greater oversight on the destinations of their nuclear exports. Harper’s office said on Tuesday the negotiations to export uranium and other nuclear supplies to India for civilian use were concluded.


At least 27 killed in car bomb attack near Baghdad military base

At least 27 people were killed and more than 40 wounded after a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives near an Iraqi military base north of Baghdad on Tuesday. Nineteen soldiers were among those reportedly killed. Some media reports put the number of total fatalities at 31. The high casualty figures stemmed from the attack taking place as large numbers of soldiers walked to and from a parking area for waiting minibuses, AP said, citing officials. The troops were leaving the base in Taji, 20 kilometers north of the capital, police said.


Iran plans to build oil pipeline to Afghanistan

Iran and Afghanistan have agreed to build a pipeline to boost exports of Iranian oil, the Iranian deputy oil minister announced. “With the construction of this pipeline, part of the energy needed by Afghanistan will be met with full guarantee and security,” Ali Reza Zeighami said on Tuesday. The details of the agreement will be discussed later when an Iranian delegation travels to Afghanistan, Press TV said. Iran is expected to export one million tons of Iranian oil, including jet fuel and gasoline, to Afghanistan annually under a December agreement signed with Kabul's Ministry of Commerce and Industry.


1 patient killed, 3 injured after blast at North Carolina's Durham Hospital

An explosion on the sixth floor of North Carolina’s Durham Regional Hospital on Tuesday morning killed one patient and injured three others, authorities said. The hospital was not evacuated after the explosion, media reports said. The cause of the explosion was not immediately clear. The blast reportedly occurred at the Select Specialty Hospital, a separate facility for long-term patients.


S. African lawyers accuse police of ‘planting weapons’ on massacred miners

Lawyers representing the miners wounded in shootings at the Marikana mine and the families of the 34 miners killed in the violence have presented evidence suggesting that police planted weapons on dead miners. Photographs and videos presented to the Marikana commission of inquiry on the killings showed that some of those shot and killed by police had their hands tied behind their back, media reports said. Some 44 people were killed in August during clashes between miners and police. The miners’ lawyers have accused the police of a widespread cover-up of the incident.


China discovers large uranium deposits

A large deposit of leaching sandstone-type uranium has been discovered in northern China, the Chinese Ministry of Land and Resources said. The discovery of one of the world's biggest uranium deposits was made in Inner Mongolia’s central Daying region, Xinhua reported. The mine was discovered along with “super-size” coal deposit, estimated at 51 billion tons in reserves, the ministry said. A 500-person team was deployed on a ten-month prospecting exploration after the site was tested for radioactivity.


Prosecution appeals Platon Levedev’s prison term reduction

­A court decision granting early release to the partner of embattled businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsk will be appealed, the prosecution said. Platon Lebedev’s 13-year prison sentence was cut to ten years by the Velsk District Court last week, granting him release next year. The prosecutor argued that the term reduction was “excessive,” a spokesperson for the Arkhangelsk Prosecutor’s Office said. The former head of MFO Menatep, Levedev was sentenced to jail for oil theft and money laundering.


At least 10 killed as suicide car bomber attacks military base near Baghdad

A car bomb exploded near a military base north of Baghdad on Tuesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding more than 20, media reports said. The blast struck around midday as Iraqi troops were leaving the base in Taji, 20 kilometers north of the capital, the AP said. Police sources said three soldiers were among those killed.


Sri Lankan parliament discusses impeachment of chief justice on 14 charges

Sri Lankan authorities have leveled 14 charges against Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake, including failure to disclose income and property. The parliament is expected to set up a committee on Tuesday to investigate the charges as part of impeachment proceedings against her. Authorities claimed her actions "plunged the Supreme Court and the office of chief justice into disrepute," AP reported. Opposition parties claimed the impeachment is politically motivated, and aimed at stifling the independence of judiciary.


Israel tests upgraded Iron Dome missile defense system

Israel has reportedly completed testing on an upgraded version of its Iron Dome missile defense system. The new system is capable of intercepting medium-range missiles fired by Hezbollah militants that threaten the central regions of the country. The system was previously successful in intercepting rockets fired from the Gaza Strip. Israel may also test the Iron Dome’s ability to intercept long-range missiles, which could be fired from Iran, the Israeli military said.


Russia allocates over $1 billion for Kyrgyz, Tajik armed forces

Russia will spend $1.1 billion in new weapons for the Kyrgyz armed forces, and will allocate another $200 million for Tajikistan’s army, according to media reports. Moscow could also grant Tajikistan $200 million in Russian petroleum privileges as part of an export deal, Kommersant daily newspaper wrote on Tuesday. The agreements were concluded during visits to Bishkek by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov in August and President Vladimir Putin in September, the paper reported. The issue will be also discussed during Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev's visit to Moscow on November 14 and 15.


China sentences 4 members of Myanmar drug gang for kidnapping, killing sailors

Four members of a Myanmar drug gang were sentenced to death by a court in southern China’s Yunnan province for kidnapping and killing 13 Chinese sailors on the Mekong River last year.  Naw Kham, the head of a gang that used the Mekong to traffic drugs, was among those convicted by the Kunming city court. Another gang member was given a suspended death sentence, and one was sentenced to eight years in prison, Xinhua said. The group reportedly hijacked two cargo ships in Thai territory in October 2011, killing 13 Chinese crewmembers.


Laos to proceed with Mekong dam despite US criticism

The US has criticized Laos’ decision to build the first dam across the mainstream of the Mekong River, as environmentalists warn the project could affect tens of millions of people. The US urged a moratorium on the project until impact studies are completed, but Laos announced it intends to begin construction immediately on the $3.5 billion Xayaburi dam, the AP reported. The US State Department warned that the extent and severity of the dam’s impact "on an ecosystem that provides food security and livelihoods for millions are still unknown."


Turkey tries Israeli military in absentia over Gaza flotilla raid

An Istanbul court has begun an in absentia trial of the Israeli military for its attack on a Turkish aid ship that tried to reach Gaza by breaking an Israeli blockade in 2010. Nine people aboard the ship were killed in the raid. The prosecution seeks life in prison for former IDF military chief Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi and several other top officers, AP reported. Israel called the trial a legal sham, and rebuffed demands to compensate the families of those killed as a precondition for normalizing relations between the two nations.


S. Korea shuts two nuclear reactors due to fake parts

­South Korea has halted the operation of two nuclear reactors to replace parts that were installed with fake quality certificates, the country’s economy minister announced Monday.  The fake "non-core" components do not pose any threat and were unrelated to a number of systems malfunctions at reactors this year, which triggered calls for a safety probe, Minister Hong Suk-Woo stressed. The two affected reactors at the Yeonggwang nuclear complex will go online in January, as scientists take their time to replace fuses, cooling fans and other parts provided by eight suppliers. The firms cited by the minister allegedly faked 60 warrantees covering nearly 7,700 items.  The unfit goods cost roughly US$750,000. Power shortages are expected in the country because of the repair work. South Korea currently has 23 nuclear power reactors, providing 35 per cent of the country's electricity.


UN nuclear watchdog: Iran is not cooperating

­The International Atomic Energy Agency has accused Iran of not cooperating with their investigation. In his annual report to the UN General Assembly, agency chief Yukio Amano said “Iran is not providing the necessary co-operation to enable us to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities. Therefore, we cannot conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” But Amano did not specify if the agency will pursue its dialogue with Tehran. Iran has repeatedly denied that it’s making a nuclear weapon, insisting their program aims to meet energy and medical needs.


American composer Elliott Carter dies age 103

­Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer, Elliott Carter has died at the age of 103. The cause of his death has not yet been announced. A native of New York City, Carter studies in Paris in the 1930s before returning to the United States and winning recognition for his rhythmically complex music. His world famous compositions include chamber and orchestral music, as well as solo instrumental and vocal works. Carter was noted to be highly productive in his later years, composing around 40 works between the ages of 90 and 100, and over 14 more after he turned 100 in 2008.