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16 November, 2012


UN concerned about child casualties in Gaza conflict

The United Nations has voiced concern about the number of child casualties resulting from Israel’s bombing of Gaza. At least four Palestinian children have been killed and over 60 injured in Israeli airstrikes since Wednesday, according to the UN. An 11-month-old boy and a pregnant woman are among the dead. The organization also believes that 50 Israeli civilians including children have been injured by Hamas rockets fired into Israel. The UN special body for the protection of children has called for an immediate end to the bloodshed. “I call on all parties to immediately stop the violence and to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect girls and boys from the fighting,” said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Leila Zerrougui.


JP Morgan and Credit Suisse pay $417 million to settle mortgage charges

­JP Morgan Chase and Credit Suisse have agreed to pay over 400 million US dollars in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over the banks' handling of subprime mortgages. JPMorgan agreed to pay $296.9 million to settle the charges and Credit Suisse agreed to pay $120 million. Neither of the banks admitted or denied guilt.


6.8 magnitude quake hits 167km off Kuril Islands – USGS

­The earthquake occurred 167km (104 miles) to the south of the city of Severo-Kurilsk, the region’s administrative center. It was located at a depth of 60.0km (37.3 miles), according to the US Geological Survey. However, the local Russian Emergencies Ministry department said the quake measured a 6.2 magnitude and occurred in the Pacific Ocean at a depth of 70 km - 130km to the south-west of Severo-Kurilsk. The quake happened at 18:12 GMT. No tsunami warning was issued.


Shell reopens damaged pipeline in Nigeria delta

Royal Dutch Shell PLC has reopened a pipeline in Nigeria's southern delta. The company also lifted a month-old production warning on its supplies to liquefied natural gas plant issued on October 3, the AP reported. Shell's Nigerian subsidiary lifted a “force majeure” on supply, Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo said. The Trans Niger pipeline, which was hit by “crude theft and flooding,” was repaired, the spokesman said. The pipeline is a major conduit for Shell through Nigeria's oil-rich region.


Land mine kills 17 civilians in Afghanistan

Afghan officials say 17 civilians have been killed by a roadside bomb in western Afghanistan. The civilians were on a bus traveling on Friday to a wedding in Pusht Rod district, the AP quoted Abdul Rahman Zhuwandai, a spokesman for Farah province, as saying. Most of the victims were women and children. At least 10 others were wounded in the afternoon explosion.


Interpol to restart search for Bulgaria bomber

Interpol Secretary-General Ronald Noble said Friday his office will restart the search for a bomber who killed five Israeli tourists and a Bulgarian bus driver in July. The efforts will be focused on finding possible accomplices. The new search will involve sifting through Interpol's database and publishing the attacker's picture, Noble said, as cited by the AP. He exclaimed sometimes the search does not give results at first try. Computer-generated images of the suspect and an accomplice publicized in August have not been identified so far.


Pakistan blocks mobile service over terror threats

Pakistan shut down mobile phone networks on Friday in major cities over fears of terror attacks at the start of the Muslim holy month of Muharram, officials said. The networks were closed from 05:00 GMT in Karachi and Quetta, and security was beefed up across the country. There had been intelligence reports about the possibility of a “big terrorist attack in Karachi,” senior police official Javed Odho told AFP. Shutting down mobile phone signals “was the only effective way to block conversations of terrorists, who use mobile phones to plan attacks,” he said.


Afghan Taliban leader released in Pakistan

Pakistani authorities have released Anwar-ul Haq Mujahid, a Taliban leader, his family said on Friday. He was released late Thursday, following negotiations with an Afghan peace delegation earlier in the week, AFP reported. Security officials in Islamabad earlier said at least seven Afghan Taliban leaders held in Pakistan would be freed. It was not clear if Mujahid was among that group. Afghanistan hopes the move may help restart stalled peace negotiations with the Taliban.


Greece repays 5bn-euro treasury bill, avoids payment default

Greece on Friday repaid a 5-billion-euro treasury bill with money raised from another debt issue this week. The move helped Athens to avoid a payment default by raising the necessary money with a sale of three-month and one-month treasury bills. Meanwhile, the head of Germany's central bank said on Friday Greece would eventually need another debt write-off, adding it can not be offered one now, the AP said. Jens Weidmann said in Berlin that Greece's finances are an exception within the eurozone because its “debt is not sustainable.”


Jordanians protest against fuel and gas price hikes

Thousands of Jordanian protesters rallied against the government's hiking of fuel and gas prices in the capital Amman on Friday. The protests are the largest since the beginning of uprisings in the region nearly two years ago. Since Tuesday, 157 protesters have been arrested for street violence, the AP said, citing police. The hikes are part of Jordan's efforts to secure a US$2 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.


Belarus says Russia ‘not demanding’ compensation for Minsk solvent exports

Russia did not make any demands for extra export duty payments for hydrocarbons exported from Belarus in the form of solvents during the latest talks on the oil issue with Minsk, Belarusian First Deputy Economy Minister Anatoly Filonov said on Friday. “It was voiced in the first days of negotiations, but nobody elaborated on it,” Interfax quoted him as saying. Russian Energy Minister Aleksandr Novak earlier said that Belarus had not paid US$1.5-$2.5 billion to the Russian budget for exports of solvents. Belarus does not pay customs duties on oil supplies from Russia, and reports said Moscow expected it to pay the duty for solvents.


Ukraine plans to cut Russian gas imports

Ukraine may cut gas imports from Russia to about 20 billion cubic meters in 2013, the deputy CEO of Ukraine's national oil and gas company Naftogaz Ukrainy, Vadim Chuprun, said on Friday. Kiev will also import about 5 billion cubic meters in reverse mode from Europe in 2013, he said. Ukraine is currently buying gas from Germany in reverse mode for US$100 less than it purchases gas from Russia’s Gazprom, Interfax reported. Ukraine may get reverse supplies through Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria. “We have very closely studied the technical possibilities for reverse gas supplies through these countries,” Chuprun said. This year Ukraine plans to import 27.5 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia.


Tunisia’s FM to visit Gaza

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem will visit Gaza on Saturday, the country’s presidential office said. A high-level delegation headed by the foreign minister will include the Tunisian president’s chief of staff. The presidency’s statement also denounced “a barbaric aggression by Israeli aviation,” AFP said.


European states to debate Syria arms embargo – UK

Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague has said the UK government has discussed whether an EU arms embargo on Syria could be lifted to allow supplies of weapons to the country's opposition. Hague told BBC radio on Friday that the UK may debate the issue at a meeting of European foreign ministers on Monday. “We have made no decision to change that so far,” he said. Britain is likely to soon formally recognize the new Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces.


Iran arrests suspects in bombings

Iran has reportedly arrested suspects on charges of planting bombs and sabotaging energy facilities. The IRNA news agency described on Friday those arrested as “terrorists connected to foreign intelligence services” who planted bombs in Iran's southwestern Khuzestan Province, the heart of the oil industry. Bombs and other weapons sent from a “neighboring Arab country” were also reportedly confiscated by Iranian security forces. It was not clear how many people were detained.


Yugoslav tribunal acquits Croatian commanders Gotovina, Markac

Appeals judges at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on Friday overturned the convictions of two Croat generals for crimes against humanity and war crimes against Serb civilians in 1995. Presiding Judge Theodor Meron ordered Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac freed immediately, the AP said. Gotovina and Markac were sentenced to 24 and 18 years respectively in 2011 for crimes that included murder and deportation. Judges then ruled both men were part of a criminal conspiracy led by former Croat President Franjo Tudjman to expel Serbs. The appeals judges said no such conspiracy existed. Gotovina, the former commander in the Split district of the Croatian army, and Markac, a Croatian police commander, are considered heroes by Croatian nationalists.


Tamil party urges UN to open Sri Lanka probe

Sri Lanka’s main ethnic Tamil party has urged the UN to open an international investigation into tens of thousands of deaths during the country’s civil war. A UN report on Wednesday said the organization failed to protect civilians, calling it a “grave failure.” Up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the final months of the conflict that ended in May 2009, the UN said earlier. M.A. Sumanthiran, a lawmaker for the Tamil National Alliance, said on Friday that the UN must investigate the civilian deaths to make amends for its failures, the AP reported. Sri Lanka’s government has resisted an international inquiry, insisting on its own investigation.


Israel starts drafting 16,000 reservists

The Israeli army started calling up 16,000 reservists on Friday as a sign of preparations for a possible ground offensive into the Gaza Strip. Emergency call-up notices are being distributed, and “the process has started,” an army spokeswoman told AFP. The military also said on its official Twitter feed, “as part of Operation Pillar of Defense, the IDF will begin recruiting 16,000 reservists.”


Japan PM Noda dissolves parliament ahead of December vote

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda dissolved the lower house of Japan’s parliament on Friday. He pledged earlier to call elections after the opposition Liberal Democratic Party agreed to back several key pieces of legislation. They include a deficit financing bill and electoral reforms. The cabinet was expected quickly to announce elections for December 16, AP said. A weak coalition government is expected in the wake of the poll, as the LDP is likely to fall short of a majority in the 480-seat lower house.


Two Tibetans self-immolate in western China

Two young Tibetans reportedly died after setting themselves ablaze in far-western China. A 23-year-old woman and a male teenager set themselves on fire separately Thursday in Tongren county in Qinghai province, and both died, Radio Free Asia said. There have been at least 10 self-immolations in the region in the last week.


Congo troops kill 113 rebels – official

Some 113 fighters of the M23 rebel group have been killed in clashes with troops from the Democratic Republic of Congo, a regional governor said. Julien Paluku, governor of North Kivu province said several members of the DR Congo government forces (FARDC) were wounded in the clashes on Thursday, AFP reported. The fighting near the eastern city of Goma came a day after the UN said armed groups in the region slaughtered over 200 people between April and September.


F-22 crashes in Florida

A US F-22 Raptor jet has crashed in Florida, the military has said. No one was injured on the ground. Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze on the ground. The cause of the crash is under investigation. A nearby freeway was closed for two hours as emergency services dealt with the incident. The US Air Force halted using the $190 million aircraft in 2011 after some pilots grew dizzy mid-air. Oxygen delivery was blamed for the malfunctioning. Short-distance flights resumed in July.


Man arrested over Tunis US embassy attack dies in prison - lawyer

A Tunisian man arrested and detained for his alleged involvement in an attack on the US embassy in Tunis has died from heart failure after a two month hunger strike protesting his innocence. Bachir al-Gholi died en route to hospital, his lawyer told the press. The twenty three year old, father of three survived the first two heart attacks but the third one proved fatal. Over 120 people were arrested in September following widespread anger over an anti-Muslim film made in the US. Some 2,000 militants attacked the U.S. embassy in Tunis voicing their anger at the perceived insult to the Prophet Muhammad.


Japan dissolves parliament ahead of elections

­Japan is to dissolve its parliament ahead of December 16 elections.  Recent country polls suggest that almost half of the population is undecided of which party to vote for, but local media reports that the ruling Democrats are  unlikely to get reelected and are likely to lose. The opposition, the Liberal Democratic Party, is likely to come up victorious in the 480 seat chamber but will unlikely gain a complete majority that suggest creation of a coalition government. Such outcome, local media reports, would influence the decision-making process as Japan battles a two-decade economic slump, Fukushima nuclear disaster and an increasing national debt.


Train hits parade in Texas killing 4

­Four have been killed and at least 17 hospitalized after a train rammed into a street parade dedicated to the US military in West Texas, US. The incident happened during the "Hunt for Heroes" event in Midland, Texas. A flatbread truck carrying people taking part in the parade was hit as it on the rails at a level-crossing. Some of the people on the truck reportedly managed to leap to safety. It is not yet known what went wrong with the safety measures at the crossing, authorities say the gates and lights at the intersection were previously working properly.