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24 December, 2012


Results of Egypt’s constitutional referendum delayed until Tuesday

­The results of Egypt’s controversial constitutional election have been delayed while officials check for allegations of fraud; the results are now expected on Tuesday. Unofficial figures point to more than 60% of voters saying “yes” to the document, although turnout was low at around 30%.  There was violent unrest in the run-up to the vote and if the constitution passes elections must take place within 2 months. In the meantime, power will pass to the Islamist-controlled Shura Council, parliament’s upper chamber.


Mandela to spend Christmas in hospital as rumors of his health fly

­South Africa’s former President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela will spend Christmas Day in hospital, an official government statement said. Mandela, 94, who is regarded by many as the “grandfather of the nation”, has been in hospital for the past two weeks, where he’s being treated for lung infection and gallstones. Scarce and conflicting reports about his health have raised public concerns and provoked various rumors in the media, which have been repeatedly dismissed by officials.


Pakistan officially recognizes Kosovo

Pakistan has recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed Republic of Kosovo, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry says. The Office noted the decision was taken in line with the aspirations of the people of Kosovo. Formerly an autonomous province in Yugoslavia, Kosovo became independent on February 17, 2008. Pakistan is the 98th UN state to recognize Kosovo as an independent country.


Car bomb defused outside Spanish megabrothel

­A car bomb has been successfully defused in the car park of a megabrothel in La Jonquera, north-east Spain, after 300 people were evacuated from the site, the Interior Ministry told AP. Paradise, which is one of Spain’s largest legal brothels, employs about 200 sex workers, and was finally opened in October after years of disputes and stoppages in construction.  Many of the town’s residents believe the bomb was to do with gangs involved in a turf war, local media reported.


2 firefighters shot dead while battling New York blaze

­Two firemen were shot and killed and another two were injured as firefighters arrived to combat a blaze in upstate New York on Monday. Authorities believe the firemen were targeted shortly after exiting their vehicles. The gunfire stopped the firemen from tackling the blaze for hours, as police evacuated homes in the area. Rob Boutillier, fire marshal for the town of Webster, New York, told reporters that “our main concern now is to have law enforcement evacuate the people in harm’s way [and] make the scene safe for the fire department to do its job.” Both wounded firemen are reportedly in stable condition.


Ukrainian President Yanukovich appoints new Cabinet led by PM Azarov

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich signed a decree on Monday establishing the country’s new Cabinet of ministers, which will be headed by Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov. Sergey Arbuzov, the former National Bank chief, was appointed the first vice-premier, while Yury Boiko and Aleksandr Vilkul were also appointed to the vice-premiership. Leonid Kozhara became the new Ukrainian foreign minister, and Pavel Lebedev is now the minister of defense. Several former ministers have retained their posts.


EU lifting visa rules for Turkish service workers in 3 nations

The European Union Commission is lifting visa requirements for Turkish service workers in Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark. The new rules allows for Turkish citizens providing services to stay for two months in Germany, and three months in Netherlands and Denmark, without holding a visa, Anatolia news agency said. Turkish citizens whose jobs are considered to provide services will be obliged to prove their status at the nations’ borders with written statements.


US drone airstrike kills 2 Al-Qaeda militants

A US drone airstrike in a southern Yemeni town has killed two Al-Qaeda militants, Yemeni officials said. One of those killed was a midlevel Yemeni Al-Qaeda operative, Abdel-Raouf Naseeb, who allegedly escaped death in the first recorded drone attack in Yemen on November 3, 2002, the AP said. The other man killed was reportedly Jordanian. Three militants were also critically injured in Monday's airstrike on Radda in Bayda province.


Gaza militants ‘violated laws of war’ – report

Gaza militants violated laws of war by launching rockets at Israeli civilians during last month's fighting, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday. “Palestinian armed groups made clear in their statements that harming civilians was their aim,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at the New York-based group. The rocket attacks killed three Israeli civilians and wounded dozens; Israeli assaults killed 169 Palestinians. HRW said in a similar report last week that Israel had violated the laws of war in the conflict by attacking journalists and media facilities in Gaza. Two Palestinian cameramen were killed and at least 10 media personnel were wounded by Israeli strikes.


Brahimi indicates no progress in Syria after talks with Assad

Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria, indicated that little progress had been made towards resolving the Syria crisis following his talks with President Bashar Assad in Damascus. “The situation in Syria is still worrying and we hope that all the parties will go toward the solution that the Syrian people are hoping for,” Brahimi said. Assad stressed that his administration supports “any effort in the interest of the Syrian people which preserves the homeland's sovereignty and independence,” Syrian state media reported. Brahimi's third visit to Damascus as a peace envoy will end on Monday.


11 children killed as van crashes into pond in China

A van carrying 15 children to kindergarten plunged into a roadside pond in a rural area of eastern China on Monday, killing 11, officials said. Three children died at the scene of the accident in Guixi city in Jiangxi province, and another eight died later in hospital, local authorities said.  Police detained the driver for questioning, Xinhua news agency reported. The minivan belonged to Chunlei kindergarten, which does not have a government license to operate. The van was allegedly driving over the speed limit.


Pirates kidnap 4 foreign sailors off Nigerian coast

Four sailors have been kidnapped off the coast of Nigeria's oil-rich southern delta, an anti-pirate watchdog said. The kidnapping took place Sunday night on an offshore tugboat near Nigeria's Bayelsa state, according to the International Maritime Bureau. The gunmen reportedly seized four crewmembers before fleeing. The ship has since safely made it to harbor. A separate initial report by private security officials in Nigeria claimed that the four sailors were foreign nationals.


1 killed, 3 injured in shooting at Munch Bar in Bellevue, Washington

At least one person was killed and three others injured in a shooting during a party at Munch Bar in Bellevue, Washington, police said. Munch Bar was reportedly hosting football team the Seattle Seahawks when the shooting occurred, witnesses said Monday. “We hit the ground, never been in a situation like this. Seattle, what’s going on?!” reality TV star Aubrey O’Day wrote on Twitter.


Syria peace envoy Brahimi meets Assad in Damascus

UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi met with President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Monday as part of a renewed effort to resolve the country's ongoing conflict. Brahimi told reporters he had discussed the overall situation in Syria and gave his opinion on how to end the violence. The envoy traveled from Lebanon to Syria by road, as Damascus Airport was closed due to fighting.


Pyongyang blasts S. Korean Xmas tower on border as ‘psychological warfare’

North Korea has criticized Seoul for an illuminated Christmas tree-shaped tower erected on the border between the two nations. For the first time in two years, South Korea allowed Christians to light the tower on Saturday, which is expected to go dark on January 2, 2013. North Korean state media said Monday that the tower was constructed because Seoul had been humiliated after Pyongyang successfully launched a satellite into orbit on December 12. The North called the tower ‘psychological warfare,’ and also warned of unspecified consequences that would follow the holiday display.


US man rescued by Vietnamese fishermen after being adrift 8 days

Vietnamese fishermen have rescued an American man who was adrift at sea for eight days on a disabled yacht, a coastguard official said. Vo Hoang Liet from southern Soc Trang province said Monday that Kenneth Putney of Melbourne, Florida, was rescued Thursday 25 kilometers off the coast, and is in good condition. Putney, 54, said that he and three others were towing a yacht from the Philippines to Thailand when the towing rope broke on December 15. He then jumped onto the yacht because he feared it would be lost. It was not clear what happened to the other vessel.


Russian-US adoptions to continue through 2013 – MP

An agreement between Russia and the US on the adoption of children will stay in effect through 2013, even if Moscow repeals the accord, a member of the Russian parliament’s upper house said on Monday. Mikhail Margelov, chair of the Federation Council’s international affairs committee, also said that Russian children will still be adopted by prospective US parents if the adoption process has already begun. The State Duma recently voted to ban US citizens from adopting Russian children in response to the US passage of the ‘Magnitsky Act.’


Ukrainian president dismisses key ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has dismissed key government ministers as part of a Cabinet reshuffle, though some are expected to be reappointed. Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko, Defense Minister Dmitry Salamatin and Foreign Minister Kostantin Grishchenko were relieved from duty following the dissolution of the current Cabinet, the president’s website said. The president has appointed former National Bank chairman Sergey Arbuzov as the first deputy prime minister.


Israeli forces wound 2 Palestinians - Gaza official

Two Palestinian men have been wounded by Israeli gunfire in the center of the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian health official said. Israeli forces fired at the men east of Deir al-Balah late Sunday, Ashraf al-Kidra said. Earlier reports claim that the two were killed, and the identities of the men were not immediately clear. Such incidents have been rare in the wake of a ceasefire that ended last month’s eight-day conflict in Gaza.


Bushehr nuclear power plant to be commissioned by mid-2013

Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) is expected to be commissioned by mid-2013, said Sergey Kiriyenko, the general director of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom on Monday. “Everything there has been launched,” he told Interfax. Kiriyenko did not specify whether the NPP has reached full capacity following the reloading of the station's reactor fuel.


Seoul collects debris from N. Korea’s Unha-3 rocket

Seoul claimed on Monday that it had collected most of the first-stage debris from North Korea’s long-rage Unha-3 rocket, which was launched on December 12. “All of the parts from the first-stage long-range rocket launch by North Korea have fallen in the West Sea, South Korea, and we collected some of them,” South Korean Defense Ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok said on Monday. The fuel tank, an oxidizing agent and an engine connecting ring have been recovered so far. “The only thing left is the engine,” the spokesperson added.


Yemen targets militants after oil pipeline blasts

The Yemeni military has launched a new round of assaults against armed tribes suspected of supporting attacks on oil pipelines and electricity stations. Army tanks and rockets on Sunday fired on tribesmen in Marib province, east of the capital Sanaa, security officials said. No casualties were immediately reported. Earlier this month, the Yemeni military killed two tribesmen in a similar offensive in Marib after repairing the damage from an attack on an oil pipeline.


Iran welcomes results of Egypt constitution vote

­Tehran welcomed the referendum on Egypt’s Islamist-backed constitution late Sunday, calling it "a decisive step towards democracy" in Egypt. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ramin Mehmanparast congratulated Egyptians on their constitution, saying that the government and the people together will achieve great Islamic and revolutionary goals, the Iranian Students' News Agency reported. The new Sharia-based constitution was approved in a national referendum, authorities announced on Sunday. Egyptian opposition activists leveled numerous allegations of fraud during the vote, and vowed to appeal the referendum’s results.


Prince Harry shoots first Taliban fighters in Afghan mission

­UK’s Prince Harry is believed to have killed his first Taliban fighters as he flew a rescue mission to save a patrol that had come under hostile fire. The kill, the British media said, occurred shortly after the Prince arrived in Afghanistan in September. His Royal Highness is serving as the gunner and navigator in an Apache attack helicopter for the Army Air Corps.


MP accuses Facebook of not paying UK taxes

­Facebook has been accused of channeling its assets through a number of tax havens to pay a taxes of just £2.9m on more than £800m of overseas profits in 2011. Labor MP John Mann has called such action “disingenuous and immoral”. The social media giant uses Ireland to headquarter its European operation to avoid tax liabilities in the UK before channeling it profits to a subsidiary in the Cayman Islands. British firms that purchase advertising on Facebook thus sidestep HM Revenue and Customs, resulting in less than £240,000 paid to the UK taxman.


US Senator arrested for DUI

A Senator has been arrested and charged with drunk driving in a suburb of Washington. Idaho’s Michael Crapo was apprehended by a police as he ran a red light on Sunday morning. He was transported to the Alexandria jail and released on an unsecured $1,000 bond. A Mormon from Idaho Falls, Idaho, Crapo has five children with his wife, Susan, and three grandchildren.


Doomsday fans damage Mayan temple

­The largest Mayan temple at Tikal, Guatemala has been damaged by tourists at the "end of the world" parties that rocked the archeological site on December 21. Authorities site did not specify the nature of the damage that has been inflicted to the UNESCO world heritage site as more than 7,000 people gathered in Tikal on Friday to see native Mayan priests hold a colorful ceremony and light fires as the sun emerged to mark the new era.