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9 November, 2012


Google traffic drops in China

­Google and and most of its applications have been blocked in China, as the Communist Party gathers to elect new leaders. Google’s Transparency Report, which monitors traffic to its sites, showed a huge plunge in China traffic on Friday. Gmail, maps and document storage applications have been blocked, according to, an Internet activity monitoring site in China. The cause remains unclear, but it coincides with the Chinese Communist Party's 18th National Congress.


EU fails to agree on 2013 budget

­The first round of negations on the European Union's 2013 budget have collapsed as austerity-conscious states refused to resort to further cuts to plug 2012's €8.9-billion shortfall. After Friday's meeting, "the council were unable to negotiate, so the negotiations were suspended," MEP Alain Lamassoure told reporters. Approval of the bloc's budget must be agreed between the 27 member states and the European Parliament. Talks are to resume on Tuesday, but delegations will need to work hard to reach consensus before agreeing on a larger project – the 2014-2020 spending plans scheduled for discussion on November 22-23.


­Six missing after Algerian plane crashes in France

Six people are missing after an Algerian military cargo plane crashed in southern France. The accident occured in Trelans, a town 375 miles south of Paris. Witnesses report spotting a parachute at the time of the crash, the Sipa news agency reports. The plane, en route from Paris to Algeria, had five military personnel and one official of the Algerian National Bank, the Algerian Defense Ministry said.


Israel claims Iran slowing down enrichment push

­Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Iran is slowing down its timetable for enriching uranium to weapon-grade level, indicating that Israel has more time to decide whether to carry out a pre-emptive strike. This echoed a previous statement made by the country's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the UN General Assembly in September that te world has until next summer at the latest to stop Iran before it can build a nuclear bomb. Tehran vehemently denies claims it is aiming to obtain nuclear weapons.


UN calls on Myanmar to give citizenship to Muslim Rohingya people

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has asked that Myanmar give citizenship to the Muslim Rohingya people after months of deadly sectarian violence in the western state of Rakhine. The Rohingya’s statelessness is at the heart of two major outbreaks of fighting between the Buddhist and Muslim communities that has left 180 people dead and forced 110,000 Rohingya into makeshift camps.Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, told reporters, that a change in the law is required, "This should include a review of the citizenship law to ensure that Rohingya have equal access to citizenship," she said. The Rohingya have no legal status and are regarded by most Burmese as immigrants from neighbor Bangladesh. Bangladesh doesn’t recognize them either, leaving them effectively stateless.


US pilot who disrupted flight to be freed

A JetBlue Airways pilot who disrupted a flight in March by leaving the cockpit and storming though the plane ranting about religion and terrorists was set free by a Texas judge rather than committing him to a mental health facility. Clayton Osbon was found not guilty by reason of insanity in July but a forensic neuropsychologist testified in a short trial that he had only suffered a “brief psychotic disorder” brought on by lack of sleep. Osbon was freed with certain conditions including that he doesn’t fly or board a commercial or private plane and doesn’t communicate with any of the passengers from the flight he disrupted.


12 dead after prison riot in Sri Lanka

A doctor in Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, has said that 12 inmates have been killed and nine injured after a shootout between prison guards and prisoners on Friday. Dr. Kariyawasam did not know the condition of the wounded. In the skirmish, the prisoners momentarily took control of at least part of the prison.


At least 25 dead, dozens hurt in Myanmar train fire

At least 25 people were killed and dozens more injured Friday in a large fire sparked by a train accident in northwest Myanmar, officials said. The blaze began when two oil tanks on the commercial train overturned. Local villagers burned to death in the inferno while trying to collect the fuel, AFP said, citing the country’s information ministry. The incident occurred near Chekkyi station as the train traveled between Myikyina and Mandalay.


UN refugee agency says 11,000 Syrians fled in 24 hours

The UN said Friday that some 11,000 Syrians have fled the country in the past 24 hours, marking an unusual spike in the number of refugees. In one day, around 9,000 Syrians fled to Turkey, while another 1,000 went to Jordan and 1,000 to Lebanon, the AP quoted Panos Moumtzis, the UN refugee agency's coordinator for the region as saying. The estimated figures are “really the highest we have had in quite some time,” compared to an average 2,000 to 3,000 Syrians fleeing daily, he said. The number of Syrian refugees registered with the agency has risen to more than 408,000.


First US troops arrive in Poland for permanent deployment

A unit of ten US Air Force troops has arrived at an airbase in central Poland, marking the first permanent US military presence in the country. The troops arrived at the airbase in Lask with two Air Force F-16 fighter jets and a Hercules transport plane, the AP said. The ceremony – attended by US Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, US commander in Europe Admiral James Stavridis and Polish Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak – included a Polish military parade.


Hague says UK could support resumption of Taliban peace talks

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK could support the resumption of US-Taliban peace talks in Qatar, which broke down last year. The possibility of talks should not be excluded, he said during a visit to India. He did not elaborate on the statement. US officials and Taliban representatives began talks in Qatar in January.


Man killed at Swedish PM’s residence in Stockholm

A man was reportedly shot and killed at the Swedish prime minister's residence in downtown Stockholm, local media said. “There is nothing that indicates a crime,” police spokesperson Tove Hagg told the AP. The man had “full access” to the location, but was not a bodyguard or an employee of the government or Parliament, she said. The case is being investigated as a suicide or a work-related accident. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt was not in the building when the shooting took place.


Greece issues short-term debt to repay key bond

Greece will issue short-term debt on Tuesday in hopes of raising enough money to repay a key bond. The Greek Public Debt Management Agency said on Friday it will issue 2.1 billion euro ($2.7 billion) in four-week treasury bills and 1 billion euro in 13-week bills, the AP said. Athens hopes the bill auction will allow the government to raise enough money to cover 5 billion euro of expenses in three-month treasury bills by November 16. The next batch of international rescue loans is not expected to be issued by that date. The auction will be the shortest term loan since 2010.


Iran to meet IAEA next month as Israel says enrichment has slowed

Officials from Iran and the UN nuclear watchdog will meet in Tehran next month in an attempt to restart stalled nuclear talks, diplomats said. The talks have been halted since early summer over Iran's refusal to grant access to sites suspected of being used to secretly enrich uranium for nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, the Israeli defense minister said that Iran has slowed its enrichment, extending the timetable for acquiring enough uranium for a bomb. “They essentially delayed their arrival at the red line by eight months,” AP quoted Ehud Barak as saying. It was not unclear why Iran slowed its enrichment, the minister said.


Cracks found in South Korean nuclear reactor

A South Korean watchdog group said on Friday that minor cracks were discovered in one of the country’s nuclear reactors. The ruptures have not caused a leak, but a unit in the Yeonggwang nuclear complex will be kept offline. The cracks were found during maintenance work on the reactor’s control rod tubes, AFP said. Two other reactors at the complex were recently shut down for several months to replace some components. Half of Yeonggwang's six reactors will now be offline until January at the earliest. The news has prompted fears of power shortages in the coming winter.


Justin Welby to be UK’s next Archbishop of Canterbury

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday that Justin Welby, 56, had been picked to succeed Rowan Williams as the Archbishop of Canterbury. Welby, who has been a bishop for only one year, will lead the world's 77 million Anglicans after Williams retires from the post in December. Welby said he supported the ordination of women as bishops, and pledged to examine his own thinking on homosexuality despite reaffirming his opposition to same-sex marriage. Welby was appointed to be the Bishop of Durham last year. He had previously worked in the oil industry for 11 years, rising to become treasurer of Enterprise Oil, before becoming a priest.


Israel warns Syria as fighting spills into Golan Heights

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon has warned Damascus it would act to defend its sovereignty a day after three stray mortar rounds fired from Syria hit the occupied Golan Heights on Thursday. Citing the ongoing conflict in Syria, Yaalon warned that Israel will “defend the citizens and the sovereignty of the State of Israel.” However, the deputy PM also noted that Syria “has received a lot of messages recently and until now, has acted accordingly.” The IDF said the three mortar rounds were “apparently shells fired in error.” Israel seized the Golan Heights during the 1967 Middle East war and annexed it 1981, a move that was never recognized by the international community.


UK to end aid to India in 2015 – minister

Britain will stop all aid to India in 2015, the UK international development minister said on Friday. Justine Greening also said the aid budget will be reduced by around $320 million a year until then. The governments of the two states “agreed that now is the time to move to a relationship focusing on skills-sharing rather than aid,” AFP quoted Greening as saying. The minister added that it was time to recognize India’s changing place in the world.


Afghan victims to testify against US soldier in massacre hearing

Two victims and four of their relatives will testify from Afghanistan on Friday night against a US soldier accused of a nighttime massacre in their villages last March. The villagers will speak by video conference to a military courtroom at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, the AP reported. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, a 39-year-old father of two from Lake Tapps, Washington, could face the death penalty if convicted of 16 counts of premeditated murder and six counts of attempted murder for his rampage in southern Afghanistan.


Ireland to advance EU-wide ban of West Bank settlement products

Ireland plans to use its presidency in the EU Council, set to begin in January 2013, to convince all 27 member-states to implement a joint decision that would ban products from West Bank Settlements, Haaretz reported. The plan was revealed in a letter by Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore to the chair of the Irish parliament's Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pat Breen. According to the foreign minister, the plan may fail due to opposition from some EU members.


All nations should be permanent UNSC members – Turkish PM

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has suggested that all nations should be members of the UN Security Council. Speaking at the 5th Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia on Friday, he cited the UN charter which says that all member-states are equal. The premier also said the permanent membership of the Security Council could be restructured to a rotating membership. Erdogan argued that only some religious faiths and three continents – Europe, America and Asia – are represented as permanent members in the Security Council.


Prosecutors ask Moscow court to label Pussy Riot video ‘extremist’

Prosecutors applied to Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky Court on Friday to request that an infamous video by protest punk group Pussy Riot should be labeled extremist. The date of the hearing for the case will be scheduled later, the court said. In September, Moscow’s Kuntsevsky Court rejected a claim from a woman living the Siberian city of Novosibirsk to compensate her for moral damages over the video, which showed the group’s ‘punk prayer’ in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral. In October, the court rejected a similar claim by a man living in the same city.


Japan, N. Korea to hold talks next week over abductions

Tokyo and Pyongyang reportedly agreed to hold talks next week that could shed light on a series of abductions decades ago. The negotiations are scheduled to be held in Mongolia next Thursday and Friday, Japanese officials and North Korean media said. Tokyo wants Pyongyang to share information on the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s. Japan believes at least one its citizens may still be alive, the AP said. Pyongyang denies the allegations. The first bilateral talks in four years between the two states, which do not have formal diplomatic relations, were held in August.


8,000 Syrian refugees flee to Turkey overnight – reports

Some 8,000 Syrian refugees fled to Turkey overnight amid escalating clashes near the border between rebel forces and government troops, AFP quoted a foreign ministry official as saying on Friday. The unnamed official also said that the total number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has risen to more than 120,000.


Ghanaian authorities detain official over building collapse

­Authorities in Ghana have detained municipal works official Carl Henry Clerk on accusations he allowed a building to be constructed without the proper permit. The building in question, a six-story department store, completely collapsed into rubble in the Ghanaian capital of Accra on Wednesday. According to emergency response officials, the death toll from the collapse has risen to 18, and at least 78 survivors were pulled from the debris. The building’s owner, engineer and architect are all being pursued by local police.


Japan initiates defense talks with US, warns of Chinese naval power

Japanese Defense Minister Satoshi Morimoto said that Tokyo is set to hold talks with the US to update their mutual defense guidelines. The talks could begin next month, and would cover a number of issues, including a review of what measures the countries could take in emergencies, the AP said. The minister specified concerns over China's growing naval power, terrorism and cybercrime. Under a post-WWII security pact, the US is obliged to help defend Japan if it is attacked. About 52,000 US troops are stationed in Japan.


13 Kurdish rebels, one soldier killed in southeast Turkey

Thirteen Kurdish rebels were killed by Turkish air strikes on the town of Semdinli in the country’s Kurdish-dominated southeastern region, security sources said on Friday. The strike followed clashes between Turkish security forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), in which a Turkish soldier was killed, AFP reported. On Sunday, a car bomb targeting a police vehicle exploded in Semdinli, killing an 11-year-old child and wounding 18 other people. Turkish authorities blamed the attack on Kurdish rebels.


New Zealand refuses to sign 'Kyoto 2' climate treaty

New Zealand's government said on Friday that it would not sign on for a second stage of the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty. The country’s climate change minister, Tim Groser, said he remained committed to the emissions reductions agreed to under the first Kyoto Protocol. However, Groser said it would be better for the country to join the US, China and others in a nonbinding climate pledge under the UN Framework Convention, the AP said. Those states are working toward a new agreement that would take effect in 2020. New Zealand Labor Party legislator Moana Mackey called the move a "day of shame," and the decision was roundly criticized by environmentalists. On the same day, Australia said it would commit to the ‘Kyoto 2’ treaty, which will run from 2013 to 2020.


EU, Latin America states end 'banana dispute'

The so-called ‘banana dispute’ – an international trade battle that started over two decades ago – has finally ended, the World Trade Organization said. The EU and ten Latin American nations agreed to terminate a trade dispute dating to 1991 over tariffs on bananas, the AP said. The agreement was signed Thursday in the presence of World Trade Organization Director General Pascal Lamy. The EU tariffs had favored imports from former European colonies. The new agreement formally ends eight separate WTO cases involving Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Venezuela and Peru.


Palestine drafts resolution to become UN observer state

The Palestinian observer mission has circulated a draft resolution to UN member-states that calls for upgrading Palestine’s UN status from an observer to a nonmember observer state. The new status, if ratified by the UN, would give the Palestinian Authority statehood akin to the Vatican’s. No decision has been made on when the draft resolution will be submitted to the UN General Assembly for a vote, the AP said. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Thursday that the resolution was a unilateral step that had “broken the rules and crossed a red line.” He also summoned Israeli ambassadors for a meeting in Vienna, where they are expected to lobby European governments to oppose the resolution.


Sharp increase in number of Syrians needing humanitarian aid – UN

The UN and other aid organizations are only able to reach 1.5 million of the 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, operations director of the UN humanitarian office John Ging said. The number of Syrians who have fled to neighboring countries could increase from almost 400,000 to around 700,000 by early 2013. The UN has so far received $157 million out of its appeal for $348 million in aid to Syria, the AP reported. About half the aid is being delivered to conflict zones, and half to those who have fled to safer areas inside the country, Ging said.


Obama to become first US president to visit Burma

­Newly reelected US President Barack Obama is set to make a historic trip to Burma. There, he will meet Burmese President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Obama’s trip to southeast Asia will take three days, and includes visits to Thailand and Cambodia. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was previously the most senior American official to visit Burma after a December 2011 trip.


5.5 magnitude quake shakes Japan

­An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.5 hit northern Japan about 50 kilometers off the eastern coast of the country’s main island Honshu, near the cities of Iwaki, Kitaibaraki and Takahagi. No tsunami warning was issued, and there were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.


Two die, 19 injured in fire at plant in Quebec, Canada

­At least two people have died, and were 19 injured after the fire at an industrial plant in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Seventeen people have been hospitalized. It is reported that five of them sustained severe burns. Police set up a security perimeter and cleared the area around the industrial park. Residents were ordered to evacuate from the area nearby. It remains unclear what caused the explosion. The facility belonged to Neptune Technologies & Bioressources, which produces health products.


Australia to sign Kyoto 2 climate change treaty

­Australia has announced that it will sign a the next phase of the Kyoto climate change treaty. Canberra hopes to finalize its commitment at UN climate talks in Doha, Qatar in December. The curent agreement expires this year, and a new globally-binding deal is not expected until 2015. The next phase will effectively act as a bridge deal until the new long-term plan can be agreed to. The Kyoto Protocol was the first international treaty that set emissions reduction obligations on countries.