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13 November, 2012


Jordanians protest fuel subsidy cuts

­Demonstrations have taken place across Jordan after the government announced Tuesday it will raise fuel prices, including a 53 per cent hike on cooking gas, AFP reports. The decision to lift fuel subsidies is intended to help reduce a massive government deficit, which reach 3.5 billion dinars (around US$5 billion) this year, according to Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur. "The financial situation in the country has been greatly affected by the Arab Spring... The economic situation is very precarious," he said on national television. "The decision to re-examine fuel subsidies should have been taken two years ago," he added. At least 2,000 people protested in the capital Amman and some 1,000 rallied in the northern city of Irbid where two policemen were injured.  Smaller protests took place in other Jordanian cities, such as Karak, Tafileh and Maan.


UN condemns Cuba embargo for the 21st time

The UN General Assembly has adopted an annual resolution condemning the US embargo against Cuba. 188 UN members voted the US embargo illegal, while the United States, Israel and Palau voted against the resolution. The symbolic vote has been carried out each year for the last 21 years.  Washington has rejected UN demands to lift the embargo every time. The US enacted the economic embargo against Cuba in 1960 and has reinforced it with several Acts of Congress in the 1960s and 1990s.


$2 million art stolen in South Africa found hidden in cemetery

Four of the paintings stolen from the Pretoria Art Museum in South Africa were recovered by the police after an anonymous tip. The paintings were found hidden in a private cemetery 1100 km from the museum. The armed robbers posing as an art lecturer and two students stole the paintings on Sunday. One artwork still remains missing, and the recovered ones are being checked by experts, the South African press reports.


Saudi man who planned to bomb George W Bush gets life sentence

A former chemical engineering student convicted in a failed jihad bombing attempt against the US was sentenced on Tuesday to life imprisonment. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari, 22, had collected enough chemicals to make a 7 kg bomb, FBI experts say. He had a list of targets including nuclear power plants and the residence of former US President George W Bush. Explosive recipes and pledges to start jihad war on America were found in Aldawsari’s journal.


Death toll in Myanmar quake rises to 26 - Red Cross

The Red Cross said on Tuesday the death toll has risen to 26 from an earthquake in northern Myanmar. Another 231 people were hurt in Sunday's magnitude-6.8 quake that damaged homes and ancient Buddhist pagodas, the AP said. The Red Cross provided aid to some families and is still assessing needs. No external assistance will likely be needed. Myanmar’s second-biggest city of Mandalay, the nearest population center to the quake, reported no casualties or major damage.


Man jailed in Bahrain for defaming king on Twitter

A Bahraini man was jailed yesterday for four months for defaming His Majesty King Hamad on Twitter. Authorities also confiscated his mobile phone and laptop, which they say he used in the offence. He denied the charges, pleading not guilty. Three other Bahrainis were also jailed by the same court for the same offence earlier this month. Two men were given six months and a third one month. The tiny island nation is ramping up its crackdown on dissent amid increasingly violent protests against the Sunni elite who have banned all form of protest.


UK to probe energy companies over gas price ‘manipulations’

The UK government warned on Tuesday that there would be uproar if it emerges that energy giants have rigged gas prices. Energy Secretary Ed Davey said such cases were being “seriously investigated.” The Financial Services Authority and energy regulator Ofgem said they are looking into the claims of manipulation of Britain’s wholesale gas market. City Minister Greg Clark said that while the average bill “is about 1,300 pounds (almost US$2,000), the idea that the bill they are struggling to pay, people may be profiting from manipulating is totally unacceptable.” All big energy companies deny rigging the gas market.


European train services disrupted due to anti-austerity strikes

All high-speed Thalys rail services between Belgium and Germany will be canceled Wednesday due to anti-austerity protests in Europe. Other connections to France and the Netherlands will also be disrupted, media reports say. Thalys said on Tuesday that travelers could exchange their tickets or ask for full reimbursement. Trade unions across Europe have called Wednesday a day of action against austerity. In Belgium, rail traffic is likely to be hardest hit. In Spain and Portugal, the main unions have called general strikes. Protests are also expected in Greece and Italy.


ISAF commander Allen’s Europe nomination suspended over Petraeus scandal

The nomination of US General John Allen, commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe was suspended over the probe into CIA Director David Petraeus. Allen was also to take over as head of US forces in Europe, and was in Washington, DC, on Monday, preparing for his Senate confirmation hearings. But the nomination has been put on hold at the request of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, supported by President Barack Obama. Allen is under investigation over allegations of “inappropriate” emails between him and the woman who sparked the probe into Petraeus, officials say.


Radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada freed in Britain

Radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada described by prosecutors as a key Al-Qaeda operative in Europe was freed from prison in the UK on Tuesday. The previous day, he won an appeal against deportation to Jordan at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission. The preacher Islamist must observe a 16-hour curfew, wear an electronic anklet, cannot use the internet, under the terms of his bail. Britain's government has said it will appeal against the ruling blocking his deportation to Jordan, where he is wanted on terrorism charges.


EU suspends carbon tax on air travel

The EU has suspended a controversial carbon tax on air travel for flights to and from non-European nations, freezing the measure for a year. The EU's climate commissioner Connie Hedegaard recommended that the tax be suspended in the interests of negotiating a global CO2 deal. She said “if this exercise does not deliver… then needless to say we are back to where we are today” with the EU ETS (Emissions Trading Scheme). European airlines will continue to pay. The EU tax forces airlines operating in the bloc to buy 15 per cent of their carbon emissions, or 32 million tonnes, to help battle global warming. The scheme was imposed on January 1, but 26 states, including India, Russia, China and the US said the move violated international law.


Four killed as floods hit Italy

At least four people have reportedly died after parts of northern and central Italy were submerged by floodwaters. The worst affected areas were Tuscany, Umbria and Lazio after floods followed heavy rains. Nearly three-quarters of Venice has been flooded, and Tuscan regional president Enrico Rossi had asked authorities to deploy army troops after torrential rains caused rivers to burst their banks.


Royal Navy submariner Devenney admits to collecting secret programs

Royal Navy submariner Edward Devenney reportedly admitted on Tuesday to breaching the Official Secrets Act by collecting coding programs used to encrypt classified information. Devenney, 30, from Northern Ireland, was also charged with communicating information to another person on January 21 in breach of the Official Secrets Act. He was arrested in Plymouth in March, and investigators alleged the details of “crypto material” the petty officer had gathered “might be useful to an enemy.”


Turkey close to approving use of Kurdish language in courts

­Turkey’s ruling party, the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP), has submitted a bill to parliament overnight to allow court testimonies to be given in Kurdish, one of the demands raised by hundreds of hunger strikers nationwide. The Turkish government is under growing pressure over how to tackle the hunger strike by around 700 Kurdish prisoners, which is now in its 63rd day.


Russian court paroles physicist Danilov, convicted of selling data to China

A district court in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk paroled on Tuesday Russian physicist Valentin Danilov, who was imprisoned in 2004 for selling classified research data to China. “The court has paroled Valentin Danilov for the duration of the remaining sentence – three years, two months and 11 days,” RIA Novosti quoted the court’s press secretary Maria Fomushina as saying. He will be freed from jail in 10 days if prosecutors don’t appeal the ruling. A criminal case against Daniliov was launched in 2000, and he was sentenced to 14 years in November 2004. The sentence was later cut by one year. The scientist, whose research dealt with the effect of solar activity on satellites, pleaded not guilty. He said the information was not classified.


UAE imposes new internet rules to curb political web activists

The United Arab Emirates is imposing new internet regulations to crack down on web activists who are criticizing the authorities or calling for demonstrations. The new UAE codes were posted Tuesday on the official news agency WAM. They cover various issues such as online fraud and prostitution rings, the AP said. Most of them, however, deal with outlawing web posts that “deride” the UAE authorities’ actions or seek to mobilize protests.


Palestinians start work to exhume Arafat body – reports

Palestinians on Tuesday began work to open the grave of the late Yasser Arafat to exhume his body as part of a murder probe, media reports say. Workers started removing concrete and stones from Arafat's mausoleum, AFP quoted sources as saying. Arafat's mausoleum at the Muqataa presidential headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah was screened from public view on Monday. The work is expected to last for almost 15 days. The French and Swiss delegations of experts will arrive on November 26.


Israeli air raids hit Gaza as militants fire rocket

Israel launched three air strikes on the Gaza Strip early Tuesday as militants fired a rocket into southern Israel. The Israeli army said the strikes targeted a weapons facility and two rocket launch sites in an uninhabited area to the west of Gaza City. No casualties were reported. The raids came after militants fired at least 15 missiles into Israel on Monday, the army said. An additional rocket was fired on Tuesday morning, AFP reported. The exchange of fire happened hours after Gaza groups said they were ready for a ceasefire with Israel. A Gaza health official said on Tuesday a Gaza militant has died of wounds sustained in an Israeli airstrike two days ago.


UK appeals ruling on Abu Qatada as terror suspect being released on bail

Terror suspect Abu Qatada is being released on bail on Tuesday, as the British authorities vowed to appeal ruling blocking his extradition. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission granted him bail, meaning the radical Islamist preacher will be released from maximum security prison Long Lartin and will be subject to a 16-hour curfew. The judges said there was a possibility that evidence obtained through torture could be used against him in Jordan. Home Secretary Theresa May has vowed to continue the fight to "get rid" of he man described as key Al-Qaeda operative. Jordan, where he was convicted of terrorist offenses related to two alleged bomb plots, will assist Britain in efforts to appeal the ruling against the deportation.


Dalai Lama demands probe into Tibet self-immolations

The Dalai Lama on Tuesday urged China to thoroughly investigate the causes of self-immolations by Tibetans. He also accused “narrow-minded Communist officials” of seeing Buddhist culture as a threat, the AP said. The Dalai Lama met with a group of Japanese lawmakers that included opposition party head Shinzo Abe. The Chinese Foreign Ministry criticized the Dalai Lama on Monday, claiming he was taking Japan's side in an ongoing territorial dispute and is aligned with Japanese right-wingers.


Greece gets 2 more years, bailout tranche delayed

European finance ministers have given Greece two more years until 2016 to reform its economy. But international creditors on Monday put off again the release of the next batch loans that Athens is using to pay its day-to-day bills, the AP said. The European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission, known as the Troika, have already twice agreed to bail out Greece, pledging a total of 240 billion euro in rescue loans. The country has received about 150 billion euro of those loans so far, in exchange for tough austerity measures.


Three rockets hit downtown Kabul; 1 dead, 2 injured

­A total of three rockets were fired from an undisclosed location on Tuesday morning, hitting the downtown of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, killing one person and injuring two. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks. The affected area is about 4km from the Afghan Presidential Palace and the main NATO headquarters


FBI searches home of Petraeus lover

­The FBI has confirmed it searched the home of Paula Broadwell, the woman who had an extramarital affair with former CIA director David Petraeus. The agency declined to divulge in the reason for the search.


Fitch Ratings keeps Portugal in junk territory

Fitch Ratings has affirmed Portugal's credit rating, noting progress in the country's deficit reduction policy despite rising unemployment. The rating stands at BB+, the highest rating to remain junk status. The outlook remains negative, however, in light of "rising political, implementation and macroeconomic risk," Fitch said, noting some Portuguese political parties' resistance to next year's budget plan.