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27 December, 2012


Endangered whale washed up in NYC dies

Volunteers failed to save a 20-meter whale discovered on a New York City beach on Wednesday, despite hosing him with water for hours. The finback whale, which appeared to be underweight and covered in cuts, returned to the water as the tide rose, but then was washed up again lifeless. The finback is on the endangered animals list, and only several thousand survive in the North Atlantic.


Two Pakistan police killed, dozens missing as militants attack tribal posts

Scores of policemen remain missing, believed kidnapped after dozens of militants attacked two tribal police posts in northwest Pakistan. Armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, the attackers killed two officers. There remian conflicting reports on the number of missing, according to Skynews, around 30 people are unaccounted for, while AFP puts the figure at 22. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Pakistani Taliban is the main suspected.


Italy sells off 8.5bn euro of 6-month bills as Monti mulls comeback

The Italian Treasury sold the 8.5 billion euro (US$11.24 billion) in paper Thursday. The interest rate charged on the bond was 0.949 per cent, up from 0.919 per cent in November's auction. Italy's borrowing costs have fallen over the past year thanks to a combination of ex-premier Mario Monti’s reforms and the European Central Bank's polices. Italy’s media speculate on Monti’s political plans, with the former PM hinting at comeback if politicians who support his platform request it.


USS John C. Stennis enters Persian Gulf – reports

The USS John C. Stennis has reportedly passed the Strait of Hormuz and entered the Persian Gulf. The aircraft carrier called at the port of Jebel Ali, 35km southwest of the city of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, Interfax said, citing the US Navy information service. Stennis is accompanied by guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay and is expected to stay in the Fifth Fleet’s area of responsibility in December and January next year, with the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower departing early to its home port.


Death toll rises to 12 after US winter storm, no flights delayed

The death toll from a powerful winter storm that pushed through the middle of the US into the northeast has risen to 12. The storm was dumping snow on parts of the northeast, a day after it caused more than 1,600 flight cancellations. No flights were delayed Thursday morning despite the weather in New York, Philadelphia and Boston, the AP said. The coast was seeing mostly cold rain.


Man blows up explosive device in Ukraine’s Chernovtsy

A man blew up an explosive device at the medical university of Chernovtsy, western Ukraine, on Thursday. A student and a professor were injured, and the man himself died, Itar-Tass reported. People were evacuated from the university’s building. The assailant reportedly had a grudge against one of the lecturers.


EU ‘passes peak of crisis’ - German finance minister

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble believes the eurozone is already past the peak of its three-year debt crisis. He said in an interview with Bild newspaper to appear on Friday that “the worst is behind us.” The minister cited positive developments in Greece and France, saying that the government in Athens “knows that it must not overburden other eurozone member states.” Schaeuble also said the German economy will grow at a decent rate in 2013.


Fukushima operator seeks more money over compensation costs

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant on Thursday sought more funds to pay bills for compensating victims of last year's disaster. The company now estimates the compensation costs at 3.24 trillion yen (US$38 billion), up 697 billion yen from its last calculation in March, AFP said. The utility has increased the estimate three times since it originally put the sum at 1.1 trillion yen in October last year and has already received about 1.5 trillion yen in aid. Areas for mandatory evacuation were expanded and some voluntary evacuees were made eligible for compensation, which prompted the new increase.


Benazir Bhutto’s son Bilawal launches political career

Pakistan is observing on Thursday the fifth anniversary of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto’s death. The Muslim world’s first female PM was assassinated in a bombing on 27 December, 2007 at the end of a rally in Rawalpindi. Her son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, 24, is expected to launch his political career with a speech at a rally at Garhi Khuda Bukhsh. Bilawal, the chairman of the ruling Pakistan People's Party, could also take over the PPP's campaign for next year's general election. His father, Asif Zardari, the current president, was also attending the ceremony.


Antarctic lake-drilling project called off

A project to drill down to a lake under the ice has been abandoned for the current Antarctic season for technical reasons. Professor Martin Siegert, principal investigator of the Subglacial Lake Ellsworth experiment, confirmed that the mission to drill into the lake has been called off. The project is led by the British Antarctic Survey based in Cambridge. The scientists are trying to discover if life is present in the ancient lake more than 3,000 meters below the ice.


China Beidou satellite navigation starts services to Asia users

A Chinese satellite navigation network called Beidou started on Thursday offering services to Asian users outside the country. Beidou, seen as a possible competitor to US's Global Positioning System, is offering services including positioning, navigation, and text messaging to users in the Asia-Pacific region. China’s system is expected to generate a US$63 billion annual market for services to the transport, meteorology and telecommunications sectors. China has been wary of relying on the US’s dominant GPS network.


Khartoum says S. Sudan 'armed groups' attack border area

Armed groups from South Sudan clashed with Arab tribesmen in Samaha border region, the Sudanese military said on Thursday. The fighting occurred two days ago, AFP quoted army spokesman Sawarmi Khaled Saad as saying. The region is one of five areas disputed by Khartoum and the South's government in Juba. Sudan considers the area, around the Bahr al-Arab River, to be part of its East Darfur state.


Brahimi says Geneva agreements enough to end Syria conflict

The Geneva plan approved in June contains enough ideas to settle the crisis in Syria, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Thursday. Speaking in Damascus, he also denied that he brought with him to Syria a new Russian US plan to solve the conflict. Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Monday and will visit Moscow this weekend. Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad met with Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Thursday. Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich also denied the existence of a new US-Russian peace plan. He said Russia was pushing for fulfillment of a plan brokered by Brahimi's predecessor, Kofi Annan. Brahimi also called for the formation of a transitional government in Syria.


France won’t intervene in Central African Republic conflict - Hollande

President Francois Hollande has said that French troops would not interfere in the internal affairs of its former colony the Central African Republic. Rebels have seized a large chunk of territory there in recent weeks. “If we are present, it is not to protect a regime, it is to protect our nationals and our interests,” AFP quoted Hollande as saying on Thursday. France will not intervene “in the internal affairs of a country, in this case Central Africa,” he said, adding that “those days are gone.”


Thailand charges 'Yellow Shirt' leaders over 2008 rally

Prosecutors filed charges Thursday against Thai protest leaders for storming the prime minister's office compound and sealing off parliament during anti-government rallies in 2008. Sondhi Limthongkul, Chamlong Srimuang and other leaders of the People's Alliance for Democracy, known as the Yellow Shirts, face up to five years in prison for trespassing at Government House during an August 2008 rally. They also face seven years in prison for blockading the parliament in an October 2008 rally that left hundreds injured. The protests were staged against then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose sister, Yingluck, is now premier. Critics accuse her of accelerating stalled legal cases against Thaksin opponents.


Hundreds of flights canceled in US due to snowfalls and storms

About 1,500 flights have been canceled in the northeast of the USA due a powerful winter storm and wind. The most difficult situation is in the airports of Indiana, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The storm was accompanied by freezing rain and sleet. A storm warning has been declared in New York and New Jersey. Authorities strongly recommend citizens not to use personal vehicles and not to leave their houses unless absolutely necessary.


Japan's new govt could review zero-nuclear policy

The new Liberal Democratic Party-led government of Japan indicated plans to give the green light to any nuclear reactors deemed safe by regulators. Shuttered power stations could also start coming back online if the previous administration's policy is reconsidered. Toshimitsu Motegi, the economy, trade and industry minister, said he may give the go-ahead to resuming generation at nuclear power plants “if they are confirmed safe.” Tokyo said following the Fukushima disaster it would rid the country of nuclear power by 2040. However, parties opposing atomic energy made little impact at the latest parliamentary elections.


Deputy mufti shot dead in Russia’s N. Ossetia

Ibragim Dudarov, a deputy mufti of the Russian North Caucasus Republic of North Ossetia was shot and killed outside Vladikavkaz early on Thursday, law enforcement agencies said. Unidentified gunmen fired automatic weapons at Dudarov while he was driving his car. Dudarov, 34, was the only person from North Ossetia's Spiritual Board of Muslims to graduate from university, receiving a religious education, Itar-Tass reported.


Four killed in central Philippines after storm

The 17th storm to hit the Philippines this year has left at least four people dead. Three people died when a tree fell on their house in Eastern Samar province, where Tropical Storm Wukong made landfall on Christmas Day, the national disaster agency said in a report Thursday. Another person was killed in a landslide in Iloilo province. Heavy rain on mountains surrounding Kalibo, the capital of Aklan province on Panay Island, caused a river to overflow and triggered a flashflood late Wednesday.


Nelson Mandela discharged from hospital

After 19 days in hospital, former South African President Nelson Mandela has been discharged to continue treatment at home in Johannesburg. The 94-year-old Nobel Prize-winner was admitted on December 8 after contracting a lung infection.


Former US president George Bush Sr. in intensive care

­Former US President George H.W. Bush has been admitted to the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital as his condition has worsened. "He's had a series of setbacks now that have landed him in guarded condition in the intensive care unit," spokesman Jim McGrath told AFP Wednesday. Doctors are cautiously optimistic about his treatment, McGrath said adding that Bush “remains in guarded condition.” He was first admitted to the Methodist Hospital on November 7 with bronchitis but then readmitted on November 23 after his cough flared up again. Bush, a Republican, was in office from 1989 to 1993.