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26 November, 2012


Sarkozy calls for vote to end French right-opposition row

French ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy has called for a vote to resolve a contentious battle for the leadership of the UMP, France's main right-wing opposition party, which faces a breakdown following accusations of vote-rigging in a party leadership vote. The scandal has locked ex-prime minister Francois Fillon and hardliner Jean-Francois Cope in a bitter showdown, AFP reports. If neither party figure backs down, insiders say, the party could dissolve.


Superstorm Sandy cost reaches $42 billion

­New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has said that Superstorm Sandy tab with New York City and New York State has reached $42 billion. New York City congressional leaders, Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg are preparing big requests for federal disaster aid. The cost includes $32 billion for repairs and restoration, but also some $9 billion for mitigation of damage and for preventative measures for the next natural disaster. "Why don't you spend some money now to save money in the future? And that's what prevention and mitigation is," Cuomo said. Superstorm Sandy caused more costly damage than Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast in 2005, according to the governor.


5.0 magnitude earthquake off Greek coast

­A 5.0 magnitude earthquake has hit the shores of Greece, with the epicenter just nine kilometers from the island of Symi, some 41 km north-northwest of Rhodes. The earthquake happened at a depth of 10 kilometers. There are no reports of casualties or damages so far.


EU lifts freeze on Egyptian and Tunisian assets

The European Union says it will unfreeze bank accounts belonging to members of the toppled Egyptian and Tunisian regimes, returning the funds to governments established since the Arab Spring. The bank holdings of 48 Tunisian officials and 19 Egyptian ones – which the EU says contained money misappropriated from the state – were frozen in January last year. The EU did not specify how much money the accounts hold, but they include those controlled by former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Zine El Abidin Ben Ali.


UK chooses Canadian to lead Bank of England

The British government has chosen the head of Canada’s central bank to become the new governor of the Bank of England. Mark Carney, whose role will begin on July 1, says he will serve just five of the usual eight year term. His duties will include chairing the committee which sets the UK’s main interest rate and supervising the country’s banking industry. This is the first time since the bank’s founding in 1694 that a person who isn’t British has been selected to lead the Bank of England.


Hamas backs Palestinian bid for UN observer status

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal told Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas on Monday that his movement backs the Palestinian bid for observer status in the United Nations. Meshaal said that the group welcomes “the step of going to the United Nations for state observer status,” a Hamas statement said. Meshaal’s fellow political bureau member Izzat al-Rishq said in a separate statement that he “welcomed” the UN bid, but warned it should not “sacrifice or compromise any inch of Palestinian land from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river.” In three days, Abbas is expected to ask the UN General Assembly for the status upgrade. Hamas members in Gaza last week denied backing President Abbas.


EU to allocate 37 bln euro to recapitalize Spain’s banks

The first injection of loans to recapitalize Spain's banking system will total 37 billion euro (about $50 billion), Spainish Finance Minister Luis De Guindos said on Monday. The injection will principally concern Bankia, AFP reported. Eurogroup chair Jean-Claude Juncker said earlier that the eurozone would decide on the release of the money through the newly established European Stability Mechanism rescue fund. In June, Spain requested a eurozone bailout loan for its banks of up to 100 billion euro ($129 billion).


Gunmen attack police station in Nigeria, free several inmates

­A Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) police station was attacked by armed gunmen in the Nigerian capital Abuja. The attackers reportedly freed a number of the prison’s inmates. The attack was repelled, and 25 of the freed prisoners were later recaptured. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamist sect known as Boko Haram is the suspected culprit. The incident comes the day after a double suicide bombing that killed 11 people in a church inside a military barracks in Kaduna state, north of the capital.


Egyptian interior minister says protesters ‘shot by their comrades’

Egyptian Interior Minister Ahmed Gamal Eddin has denied police were involved in a shooting incident near the ministry where protesters were hit with birdshot. Police only used tear gas to disperse demonstrators, Eddin said. Many of the dozens of injuries reported near the Interior Ministry last Monday in clashes between security forces and protesters were supposedly caused by birdshot. The shooting took place as demonstrators commemorated the 40 who died last November in clashes near Mohamed Mahmoud Street. Eddin told Al-Ahram newspaper that unlike the wounds other protesters sustained from police fire, the birdshot injuries revealed they had been shot from close range.


Suspected Politkovskaya killer to remain in custody until March

The Moscow City Court has ordered that the man suspected of killing of journalist Anna Politkovskaya will remain under arrest until March 7, 2013, the court press service told Interfax. Rustam Makhmudov has been in custody for 1.5 years, the longest possible period for a preliminary imprisonment during an investigation. The court decided to extend his arrest after an investigation into the case was completed. The Novaya Gazeta reporter was murdered in her apartment building in central Moscow on October 7, 2006.


Russia to create up to 6 holdings in rocket and space industry

Russia plans to create five or six large holding companies in the rocket and space industry, Roscosmos Director Vladimir Popovkin said on Monday. “A decision has been made to make the holdings larger and create five to six integrated structures,” Interfax quoted Popovkin as saying. He met with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev to discuss the reform of the rocket and space industry’s system management.


RedHack members on trial in Turkey

An Ankara court has begun hearings in the trial of 10 alleged members of socialist hacker group RedHack, Turkish media said. The group is accused of “committing a crime in the name of an armed terror organization despite not being a member of a terror organization.” The probe was launched after the group staged a cyber attack on the Ankara Police Department’s website in February. Prosecutors are demanding up to 24 years in prison for the suspects in what is seen as the first case against hackers in Turkey. The group denied the accusations, with high school student Ugur Cihan Okutulmuş claiming he did not have the computer skills to hack the police website.


Death toll from China mine blast rises to 23

The death toll from a blast at a mine in southwestern China’s Guizhou Province rose to 23 on Monday. Rescue workers have found the body of the last missing miner, two days after a gas explosion ripped through the Xiangshui coal mine in Liupanshui, Xinhua news agency said. Investigators blamed Saturday’s accident on inadequate safety measures.


Russian, American to fly to ISS on yearlong mission in 2015

Two astronauts will fly on the first one-year-long mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015. Russian Mikhail Korniyenko and American Scott Kelly have been selected for the mission, space agencies Roscosmos and NASA said. The astronauts will collect scientific data for future research on the solar system.


Iranian doctors say Western sanctions endangers patients

Western sanctions against Iran’s banking sector are hindering the importing of medicine, jeopardizing the lives of millions of patients, Iran’s Academy of Medical Sciences said. Academy President Seyed Alireza Marandi called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to force an exemption from sanctions for medicine, medical supplies and foodstuffs, Press TV said. The sanctions have damaged the overall welfare of the nation’s population, and have also led to a “significant rise in suffering as well as increased mortality rates as a result of the unavailability of essential drugs and shortages of medical supplies and equipment,” the letter said.


Norwegian police apologize for deporting Jews during WWII

Norwegian police have apologized for their role in the arrest and deportation of hundreds of Jews during World War II. Newly appointed police director Odd Reidar Humlegaard apologized “on behalf of the Norwegian police and those who were responsible for carrying out the deportation of Norwegian Jews to concentration camps,” AFP said. The statement, which coincided with the 70th anniversary of the 1942 deportation of 532 Norwegian Jews and Jewish refugees on the SS Donau, was welcomed by representatives of the Jewish community.


Congo’s M23 rebels to continue peace talks with govt

The leader of Democratic Republic of Congo rebel group M23, Colonel Sultani Makenga, will reportedly take part in peace talks in the Ugandan capital Kampala. Congolese officials previously held talks with M23 representatives in neighboring Uganda on Sunday. Ugandan Defense Minister Crispus Kiyonga said he was acting as mediator to broker a settlement, the AP reported. A UN report released on Friday, however, revealed that both Rwanda and Uganda back the rebels. The Congolese government warned earlier that the rebels must pull out of Goma, a city they captured last week. Meanwhile, media reports said that Congolese army soldiers looted Minova, a town in the path of the rebels’ advance.


Serbia asks UN to hand over evidence against freed Croat generals

Serbia has asked UN prosecutors to hand over evidence against two Croatian generals acquitted of war crimes. A UN war crimes court released Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac earlier this month after the appeals judges reversed their convictions for atrocities, including the murder and illegal deportation of Serbs during the 1995 Croatian military offensive. Officials in Belgrade have asked UN prosecutors to turn over evidence used in the trial of the two generals, the AP quoted Serbia's war crimes prosecutor as saying on Monday. Serbia has opened its own investigation into war crimes committed during the offensive.


Turkey, NATO to survey possible Patriot missile sites

Turkey, joined by a NATO delegation, will begin examining sites on which to deploy Patriot missile batteries near Turkey’s border with Syria, AP reported. The Patriot system can intercept ballistic missiles, which Turkey fears may strike its territory as violence spills over from the conflict in neighboring Syria. Previously, NATO installed Patriot missiles in Turkey at the country’s request during the 1991 and 2003 Iraq wars, but they were never used. The number of systems to be installed and the number of personnel needed will be estimated after the sites are surveyed.


Serbia’s Democrats elect Belgrade mayor new party leader

Serbia’s Democratic Party, the country’s largest opposition party, has elected popular Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas as their new leader. Djilas won overwhelming support in the party’s vote on Sunday, the AP said. He succeeded Boris Tadic, Serbia’s former president, who remains the party’s ‘honorary president.’ Tadic stepped down after he and the party lost in general elections earlier this year. Djilas, 45, has promised to reform the party and draft a plan for economic recovery.


UN talks on new climate pact resume in Qatar

UN talks on a new climate pact resumed on Monday in Qatar, with negotiators from nearly 200 countries discussing the fight against climate change. The two-decades-old talks have yet to settle on a scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A new climate treaty was not adopted in Copenhagen three years ago, but a new deadline of 2015 was set last year. Many issues, including how to spread the burden of emissions cuts between rich and poor countries, are unlikely to be decided in Doha, the AP said. Some climate activists have criticized the talks as too slow. Other critics challenge the near-universal view in the scientific community that the rise in global temperature is caused by human activity.


UK fines UBS for failings in rogue trader case

Britain’s financial regulator has fined Swiss bank UBS AG for lapses which allowed a rogue trader to lose $2.3 billion to fraud. The Financial Services Authority fined the bank 29.7 million pounds ($47.6 million) on Monday, the AP said. Former UBS trader Kweku Adoboli was convicted of two counts of fraud and sentenced last week to seven years in prison. The case exposed weaknesses in the company’s procedures, management and internal controls, the UK regulator said.


Australian defense minister apologizes to military victims of abuse

Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith apologized on Monday to military personnel who were sexually abused or mistreated during their service. An inquiry into hundreds of allegations of abuse spanning six decades will be initiated, Smith told parliament on behalf of the government. “Young men and women have endured sexual, physical or mental abuse from their colleagues, which are not acceptable,” the AP quoted Smith as saying. Retired judge Len Roberts-Smith will examine allegations of abuse from more than 1,000 people dating back to the 1950s.


Syrian rebels claim 10 children killed in cluster bomb attack

Syrian opposition activists have posted a video on the Internet showing children’s bodies on the ground, and claimed that a government MiG fighter dropped a cluster bomb on a playground in the village of Deir al-Asafir, east of Damascus. The activists alleged that 10 children were killed in the attack. The report, which was not independently verified, also showed what appeared to be cluster bomblets on the ground.


UN says Japan 'hasn't fully served' needs of Fukushima victims

UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health Anand Grover has criticized the Japanese government for failing to fully address the health needs of residents and workers affected by the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Japan had also over-emphasized optimistic views of radiation risks, the AP quoted Grover as saying on Monday. Tokyo conducted inadequate health checks in areas affected by the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011, Grover said, adding that many plant workers on short-term contracts have no access to regular checkups. Residents have also complained about being unable to access their checkup results, he said.


Congo rebels demand direct talks with President Kabila

Congolese rebel group M23 has called for direct talks with President Joseph Kabila on ending hostilities. The group captured the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) town of Goma last week. M23 spokesperson Vianney Kazarama told Bloomberg that the DRC must not strengthen its army, after a November 24 summit of regional leaders agreed to deploy a ‘composite’ force. Congolese government officials met with members of M23 in the Ugandan capital of Kampala on Sunday, and the rebels will now decide on their next move. The African Union is planning to deploy a neutral military force in the eastern part of the country.


Mass graves unearthed in Mexican border state

­Mexican authorities have found 19 corpses at two different locations in Chihuahua state. The deceased were the apparent victims of drug-related violence. A grave with 11 male bodies in Ejido Jesus Carranza, near the US border, is believed to be at least two years old. Eight more bodies were discovered along a road near Rosales, and appear to have been buried several days ago. The latter victims had been tortured before being shot and killed, the state prosecutor’s office said.


Dubai announces plans for world’s largest mall

­Dubai has unveiled a new development project for what will be the world's largest mall, along with a park larger than London's Hyde Park. No price estimate was given. The plan also features new residential areas. The Mall of the World's designers hope to attract 80 million visitors a year to become the "largest in the world,” a statement reads, while its park will be “30 percent bigger than Hyde Park of London.” The center will also feature the region’s largest Universal Studios International family entertainment center, aiming to attract six million visitors a year. Dubai's tourism grows by 13 per cent on average annually.


­Canada's naional debt tops $600 billion

Canada's national has hit $600 billion mark this weekend, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation reported.That is $17,143 for every man, woman and child in the country. By comparison, the United States, has over  $16 trillion  debt or over $51,000 per person, making it 27 times larger than Canadian. There are nine times as many Americans as Canadians.


US surveillance plane to fly over Russian territory

­The US Air Force will conduct a surveillance mission over Russia under the Open Skies Treaty starting on Monday, a Russian Defense Ministry spokesman said. The 2002 treaty allows unarmed aerial surveillance flights over the entire territory of its 34 participants. It functions as a transparency mechanism by allowing the gathering of information about military forces and activities. Monday’s flight will follow a trajectory previously agreed with Russian specialists, who will also be present on board.


‘Thousands of rockets’ will hit Israel if it dares attack Lebanon – Nasrallah

­Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has promised that “thousands of rockets” will hit Israel if it attacks Lebanon. Nasrallah reiterated his support to the Palestinian resistance, calling the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip "a great victory.”“Israel was shaken by a handful of Fajr 5 missiles. How would it bear the thousands of rockets that would hit Tel Aviv and beyond if it attacked Lebanon,” Nasrallah said, addressing tens of thousands of supporters who gathered to mark the Shiite commemoration of Ashura.”The time when Israel could terrorize us has expired,” he added.


California car accident leaves four dead, including two children

A car accident on a Northern Californian highway near Placerville has left four dead, including two children. Five people were also injured in the crash. The collision happened as a sedan crossed the center line on Highway 50, broadsiding a minivan, California's Highway Patrol said. Investigators are now examining the computers from both vehicles to determine their speeds at the time of the crash. The cause of the accident remains unknown.