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27 August, 2014


Islamist militants seize Syria crossing near Israel – report

Al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, the Al-Nusra Front, and other Islamist fighters have taken control of a border crossing between Syria and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Reuters reported, citing a monitoring group. The fighters captured the Quneitra post on the Syrian side from forces loyal to President Bashar Assad after fierce clashes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Wednesday. The crossing is monitored by the UN, which oversees traffic between the two states.


McDonald’s to appeal over court ruling to close restaurant in Moscow

McDonald’s will appeal against a Moscow court ruling to temporarily close one of its restaurants, Itar-Tass reported. On Wednesday, Moscow courts ordered the temporary closure of three McDonald’s restaurants in the Russian capital over breaches of food sanitation laws. The company will decide later if it will appeal over the two other restaurants. The courts announced the rulings after complaints by Russia’s consumer watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor.


Iran modifies Arak reactor amid nuclear concerns

Tehran said Wednesday it has started to modify its Arak heavy water reactor and limit plutonium output, AFP said. The modification is in the process “to ease the worries of certain countries,” ISNA quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, who heads Iran’s nuclear program, as saying. The reactor in Arak, 240km southwest of Tehran, could potentially provide Iran with weapons-grade plutonium. Iran says the 40-megawatt reactor, whose construction is being supervised by the UN nuclear watchdog, is solely for research purposes, notably medical. Officials have said its design will be modified to produce 1kg of plutonium a year instead of 8kg as originally planned.


Israeli troops fire at Syria army position after officer wounded by errant fire

Israel Defense Forces gunners launched artillery at a Syrian army position in response to fire from the other side, Haaretz daily said. An IDF officer was reportedly lightly-to-moderately wounded along the border.


No ‘secret talks’ between Russia, US on Ukraine – Moscow

The Russian Foreign Ministry denied media reports that Moscow and Washington were allegedly holding ‘secret talks’ on a solution to the Ukrainian crisis, ITAR-TASS said. “In connection with reports on some kind of ‘secret talks’ between Russia and the US… held on the Finnish island of Boisto, we would like to state that an expert meeting did take place there,” the ministry said. However, the meeting “was not of the nature of consultations between official representatives of the two states, but one of multiple contacts on the level of Russian and American non-governmental organizations and academic societies,” the ministry added. The participants drafted a public document containing ideas “concerning the ways to overcome the crisis in Ukraine.”


ISIS, Syrian govt committing war crimes – UN

The Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) insurgents and Syrian government are both committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, UN investigators said on Wednesday. Islamic State forces in northern Syria are waging a campaign to instill fear, they said. A 45-page report issued in Geneva also accused government forces of dropping barrel bombs on civilian areas and other war crimes, Reuters reported. This is the commission of inquiry’s eighth report since being set up three years ago. It is based on 480 interviews and documentary evidence gathered by its team, which is trying to build a case for future criminal prosecution.


IMF’s Lagarde under investigation in French fraud case – reports

IMF chief Christine Lagarde has been placed under formal investigation by French magistrates on Wednesday for her alleged role in a long-running political fraud case, Reuters reported. A source close to the former French finance minister said Lagarde, who earlier was questioned by magistrates in Paris under her existing status as a witness, considered the decision to investigate her for alleged “negligence” as unfounded and would appeal it. A French judicial source also confirmed the step.


Colombian drug hit man who killed 300 freed after deal

The head of Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar's hit men, nicknamed ‘Popeye’, was released from prison, AFP said. John Jairo Velasquez Vasquez, who has confessed to killing 300 people and organizing the killings of 3,000 others, reportedly helped prosecutors convict a former justice minister. The hit man walked free from the Combita high-security prison in central Colombia after completing 22 years of his 30-year sentence for murder, according to police and judicial sources.


Malaysia may seek to regain access to MH17 crash site in E. Ukraine

Malaysia may seek to regain access to the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, the New Straits Times newspaper quoted Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as saying. The measure could expedite the identification process of the remaining victims of the tragedy. The victims that have yet to be identified included his step-grandmother, Puan Sri Siti Amirah Kusuma, 83, who was also step-grandmother to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, according to Hishammuddin. “It is a complicated process but we are trying our best to give the families the closure they need,” he said. There were 43 Malaysians on board the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, and 23 victims’ remains had been flown home. Flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, carrying 298 passengers, was shot down in eastern Ukraine on July 17.


Poland govt plans to raise defense spending to 2% of GDP in 2016

Poland’s government aims to increase defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product in 2016, Prime Minister Donald Tusk told parliament on Wednesday. The country currently spends 1.95 percent of its GDP on its armed forces. This is one of the highest rates of military spending in Europe.


UN panel warns increasingly likely that global warming could be irreversible

It’s increasingly likely that the heating trend could be irreversible and global warming is human-caused, a draft of a new international science report says. The UN’s intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has sent governments a final draft of its synthesis report, which combines three earlier documents, but the new 127-page draft’s language is starker than previous reports. It says that continued emission of greenhouse gases “will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system.” Without changes in greenhouse gas emissions, “climate change risks are likely to be high or very high by the end of the 21st century,” according to the report.


China denies claims it breached Taiwan’s airspace

China has rejected Taiwan’s claim that two Chinese military aircraft had breached Taiwan’s airspace four times, Reuters reported. Taiwan said it scrambled its jets to intercept two Chinese military aircraft, identified as Yun-8 transport aircraft, on Monday. “Our military aircraft carried out a routine flight on the 25th in the relevant airspace, there was no occurrence of any abnormality,” China’s Defense Ministry said late on Tuesday.


UN civil aviation agency prepares plan for warning airlines of risks in conflict zones

The UN’s civil aviation body will launch two pilot projects to help airlines and states better share information about risks in conflict zones. The move came nearly six weeks after a Malaysian airliner was shot down over Ukraine. The first project will look at how the existing Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) system can be used to better share urgent and critical risk information, Reuters said. The second project will establish a new centralized system for the “prompt sharing of conflict zone information.”


At least 2,202 members of US military died in Afghanistan – report

At least 2,202 members of the US military have died in Afghanistan as of August 26, as a result of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, AP said. However, the military’s numbers show that at least 1,822 military service members have died in Afghanistan and at least 134 more members of the US military died in support of Operation Enduring Freedom outside of Afghanistan. The AP count of total OEF casualties outside of Afghanistan is five more than the Defense Department’s tally. Since the start of US military operations in the country, 19,952 US service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the military.


Dozens of demonstrators march in St. Louis over shooting death of black teen

Demonstrations have resumed in St. Louis as more than 100 protesters demanded the arrest of a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri. On Tuesday, a small group also marched in Ferguson along the street that has been the center of protests since the death of Michael Brown, 18, almost three weeks ago. The atmosphere was subdued and police presence was limited, Reuters said. The protesters, who called for the removal of Ferguson police leaders, were blocked from walking up the courthouse steps by a group of police officers.

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