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15 November, 2012


CIA to investigate Petraeus affair

­The CIA has launched an internal investigation into the conduct of its former director David Petraeus, who resigned after confessing to an extramarital affair. The inquiry is exploratory and does not presuppose any particular outcome, a spokesman for the intelligence agency said. The scandal broke last week after Petraeus admitted to having an affair with his biographer Paula Broadwell. The FBI is also investigating the case amid allegations that Petraeus may have disclosed classified information to Broadwell.


Spain passes decree to curb evictions after protests

Spain passed a decree on Thursday to curb evictions of lower income homeowners unable to pay their mortgages. The legislation stops evictions for two years of people who are unemployed or who earn less than US$1,527 a month after tax. It also suspends evictions of the elderly or disabled residents, the AP said. More than 371,000 eviction orders have been issued for people holding mortgages for residences and land since 2008, when the crisis began. Clashes between protesters and police raged in to the night in Spain and Portugal on Wednesday after a day of anti-austerity protests in Europe.


Uganda isolates scores over new Ebola outbreak fears

Authorities quarantined scores of Ugandans on Thursday to prevent the spread of a new outbreak of Ebola in the country. The new Ebola outbreak was confirmed in a district 60km from the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on Wednesday, the AP said. A month ago, Uganda declared itself Ebola-free after an earlier outbreak in a remote western district. The latest outbreak is of the Sudan strain of Ebola and not linked to the previous one, the Congo variety, officials claim. At least 16 villagers were killed in the western district of Kibaale in July and August.


Turkey recognizes new Syria opposition - FM

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said that Ankara “recognizes the Syrian National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the people of Syria,” AFP reported. Anatolia news agency said the minister made the comments on Thursday during a ministerial meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The gathering is being held in Djibouti.


Fighting resumes between Congolese army, M23 rebels

Fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels started again Thursday, the Congolese army spokesperson said. The hostilities are putting an end to a two-month de facto ceasefire. “The M23 attacked us around 5am this morning and fighting is still going on,” the AP quoted Col. Olivier Hamuli as saying. The M23 political branch spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa on Saturday accused the Congolese army of attacking the rebels in Kitagoma, near the Ugandan border.


EU says number of synthetic drugs on rise

The EU drug agency says record number of new synthetic substances known as “legal highs,” most of them manufactured in China, was identified last year. The agency detected 49 new psychoactive substances on the market in 2011. “Legal highs,” reproducing the effects of illegal drugs are sold as “research chemicals,” “bath salts” and “plant food,” the agency said in its annual report on Thursday. The number of online stores selling Europe's 10 most popular such drugs rose to 759 last year, the AP said. The speed with which the new substances are launched challenges the procedure of adding individual substances to the list of those controlled by drug laws.


UK blames Hamas for Gaza crisis

British Foreign Secretary William Hague has said that Hamas “bears principal responsibility” for the current crisis in Gaza. Hamas and other armed groups “should cease attacks against Israel immediately,” Hague said. He condemned the rocket attacks by Hamas militants on southern Israel. Nearly 200 of them were fired at civilian areas in less than 24 hours. Civilians in southern Israel “have the right to live without fear of attack from Gaza,” the foreign secretary said. He also called on the Israeli leadership to do its utmost to reduce tensions and “avoid the risk of a spiral of violence.”


Russia to issue tough response to US Magnitsky act – Foreign Ministry

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Thursday warned it would give a “tough response” to the possible adoption of the so-called Magnitsky Act in the US. “We will certainly not leave without consequences an anti-Russian, in fact, initiative on imposing visa and financial sanctions against our country,” Interfax quoted the ministry’s spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich as saying. The act could be adopted by the US lawmakers simultaneously with the cancellation of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. “We will have to respond, and our response will be tough,” Lukashevich stressed. He added that Moscow’s reaction would depend on how “this unfriendly and provocative act” would look in the end.


Anglo American says S. Africa workers return to mine

Anglo American Platinum Ltd. said Thursday that miners at its operations in South Africa have returned to work. The miners arrived at the operations in Rustenburg, about 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, and began attending safety seminars that morning, the AP quoted company spokeswoman Mpumi Sithole as saying. The training will take about a week to complete. The company earlier fired 12,000 workers and then reinstated them, but the miners did not return to work. Workers had demanded pay increases to give them about $1,800 in monthly pay. Amplats offered workers a one-time $500 payment, as well as either a monthly pretax allowance of $70 or a monthly pretax salary increase $45.


450 potential victims in BBC anchor sex abuse case

The number of potential victims identified by UK police in Jimmy Savile sex abuse probe has risen to 450. Most are believed to have suffered at the hands of the late BBC anchor Jimmy Savile. A fourth suspect in the case has been arrested in Bedfordshire.


Magnitude 6.0 earthquake hits Mexico

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake hit Mexico on Thursday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. The earthquake was centered 9km east of Tlalchapa and 173km southwest of Mexico City at a depth of 60.9km.


BBC settlement with UK politician McAlpine likely – lawyer

A settlement between Alistair McAlpine and the BBC is likely, a lawyer for the Conservative Party politician said on Thursday. Lawyer Andrew Reid said McAlpine would also seek legal action against people who linked him to abuse claims via Twitter, AP said. The BBC has apologized for wrongly implicating McAlpine, a member of the House of Lords, to child sex abuse that happened decades ago in Wales. The mistaken report led to the resignation of the BBC director general. McAlpine told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday that BBC never contacted him to try to verify the reports, otherwise “they could have saved themselves a lot of agonizing, and money.”


France to ask EU to exclude defensive arms from Syrian embargo

France will ask the EU to exclude defensive weapons from the current arms embargo on Syria, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Thursday. “For the moment, there is an embargo, so there are no arms being delivered from the European side,” Fabius told RTL radio. “The issue will be raised because the [opposition] coalition has asked us to do so,” he was quoted by AFP as saying. France is against militarizing the conflict, the minister said. But he argued that it was unacceptable that “there are liberated zones and that they be bombarded” by government forces. French President Francois Hollande will meet the opposition coalition's leaders in Paris on Saturday, including chief Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib and Georges Sabra, the president of the Syrian National Council.


Eight villagers arrested in Cambodia over ‘SOS’ messages for Obama

Authorities in Cambodia on Thursday arrested eight villagers for plastering the US president's picture on their rooftops beside spray-painted “SOS” messages near the capital’s airport. About 400 families living in rickety homes were ordered in July to vacate their land so the airport could enlarge its runway and build a security buffer zone. Villagers say they are being forcibly evicted from their land “without proper compensation,” the AP said. Dozens of police early Thursday morning ordered villagers to remove the rooftop artwork, which was deemed illegal.


France narrowly avoids recession, shows small growth in 3rd quarter

France’s economy narrowly avoided a recession and grew slightly in the third quarter, the national statistics agency Insee announced Thursday. The French economy has not recorded growth since the third quarter of last year. It was expected to start its slide into recession in the third quarter, but Insee said GDP rose 0.2 per cent on an annualized basis in the July-to-September period, the AP reported. At the same time, the revised figures show that the economy shrank 0.1 per cent in the second quarter.


Russian president appoints new deputy defense ministers

President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Deputy Defense Ministers Elena Kozlova and Dmitry Chuchkin and appointed Yury Borisov and Ruslan Tsalikov to their positions, the Kremlin’s press service said on Thursday. Kozlova oversaw the Defense Ministry's financial audit department, medical department and health resort services department, Interfax said. Chushkin was responsible for coordinating the ministry's policy in information and telecommunication technology and promoting and improving the control system. The new appointments are part of a major reshuffle in the ministry. It began after Sergey Shoigu replaced Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister on November 6.


Myanmar to free 450 prisoners ahead of Obama visit

Myanmar’s government ordered more than 450 prisoners freed Thursday in an amnesty. The move is apparently intended as a goodwill gesture ahead of a historic visit by US President Barack Obama next week. Past amnesties have included both prisoners of conscience and common criminals, AP reported. Earlier amnesties helped Myanmar convince the West to ease sanctions they had imposed against the previous military regime.


Japan, N. Korea start talks in Mongolia on abductions

Japan and North Korea have begun bilateral talks in Mongolia over a series of decades-old abductions. The talks in Ulan Bator are scheduled to last through Friday, the AP said. The two states held their first bilateral talks in four years in August, without much progress. Tokyo demands that Pyongyang disclose information on the abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and '80s. Japan and North Korea have no formal diplomatic relations.


Petraeus to testify over Benghazi attack before lawmakers

­Former CIA chief General David Petraeus will testify before the House and Senate Intelligence Committees about the September 11 attack on US consulate in Benghazi that killed the US Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. The hearing will take place on Friday and be closed to the public. Petraeus stepped down last week over an extramarital affair. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said it was “absolutely imperative'' that Petraeus testify, since he was CIA director during the attack and visited Libya afterward. President Barack Obama agreed with Petraeus' decision to resign, but praised his service to the country stressing that he has seen no evidence that national security was damaged by the scandal.