Category Archives: Political and International News

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Egypt Bombs ISIS In Libya After Execution of Egyptian Christians

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Summary: Egypt was incited by ISIS after the group’s affiliates in Libya posted a video showing the beheading on Egyptian Christians. The nation responded by carrying out airstrikes against ISIS targets.

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A video emerged on Sunday showing militants who claim to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State (ISIS), forcing a group of 21 Egyptian men to the ground and decapitating them. The men were Coptic Christians who were kidnapped in eastern Libya during December and January.

 

The action angered the nation who immediately responded with a military attack on ISIS. Egypt’s State TV said the nation carried out airstrikes at dawn that targeted camps, training sites and weapons storage areas belonging to ISIS. Later in the day, a second wave of strikes was reported by the AP news agency.

 

It was reported that eight strikes have been conducted with the plan being to target all IS locations in the country. Libyan military officials confirmed to the BBC that Egypt carried out coordinated airstrikes with planes under the direction of Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni.

 

Egypt declared seven days of national mourning after the release of the video, with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi described IS as “inhuman criminal killers”. In the televised public statement al-Sisi said: “Egypt and the whole world are in a fierce battle with extremist groups carrying extremist ideology and sharing the same goals.”

 

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Ceasefire In Ukraine Agreed In Belarus Talks

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Summary: The peace talks between Russia, Ukraine and the pro-Russian rebels et al in Belarus has finally yielded an agreement to a ceasefire beginning on February 15.

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Following the death of thousands in the region from endless fighting and after what BBC reported as “marathon talks” in Belarus, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France announced that a ceasefire would begin on 15 February.

While some key issues have yet to be settled, the deal does include weapon withdrawals and prisoner exchanges. It has even been signed by the pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

 

It has been noted by BBC’s Richard Galpin in Minsk that the deal is very similar to the ceasefire agreed last September which was violated by both parties with neither taking the blame, ultimately unraveling.

 

Key provisions of the latest agreement includes:

  • Ceasefire to begin at 00:01 local time on 15 February
  • Heavy weapons to be withdrawn, beginning on 16 February and completed in two weeks
  • All prisoners to be released; amnesty for those involved in fighting
  • Withdrawal of all foreign troops and weapons from Ukrainian territory. Disarmament of all illegal groups
  • Ukraine to allow resumption of normal life in rebel areas, by lifting restrictions
  • Constitutional reform to enable decentralisation for rebel regions by the end of 2015
  • Ukraine to control border with Russia if conditions met by the end of 2015

Debaltseve, a government-held town surrounded by rebels, has been the focus of fierce fighting with many casualties leading up to the peace talks and it’s status remains one of the unresolved issues. The question of self-rule in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk separatist regions also looms unresolved.

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Possible Religious Hate Crime Sees 3 Muslim Students Shot To Death

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Summary: 3 young muslims were slain in their Chapel Hill apartment by a neighbor in what many believe is a religious hate crime.

 

 

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Early Wednesday morning, a newlywed Muslim couple and the bride’s younger sister were shot in the head in their apartment near the University Of North Carolina, Chapel Hill according to reports by WRAL. Police reports are that “an ongoing neighbor dispute over parking” appears to have been a factor in the shootings Tuesday evening but said they weren’t dismissing the possibility of a hate crime which many believe it was.

 

While the wife of the suspect, 46 year old Craig Stephen Hicks says the crime was as a result of the dispute over a parking spot, the families of the victims say Hicks had threatened the victims before, and they believe the shootings were a hate crime.

 

All three of the victims, Deah Barakat, 23, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21, and Razan Abu-Salha, 19, were Muslim. In one post that has since been widely shared online, Hicks, who claimed he is an atheist, allegedly wrote: “When it comes to insults, your religion started this, not me. If your religion kept its big mouth shut, so would I.”

 

No news sources have yet independently confirmed the authenticity of the post or his Facebook page. The post however supports the testament made by the father of the female victims who told reporters: “My daughter, Yusor, honest to God, told us on more than two occasions that this man came knocking at the door and fighting about everything with a gun on his belt, more than twice. She told us, ‘Daddy, I think he hates us for who we are and how we look.’”

 

After learning from the police how his two daughters and son-in-law were killed is even  more convinced that the murders were a hate crime. He asserts that the style of shooting people in the head with only one bullet is an execution style killing and fits the hate crime bill.

 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has since called for police to “address speculation about a possible bias motive,” and the Muslim Public Affairs Council is requesting a federal investigation “if the motives of the shooter are confirmed based on his previous social media posts.”
In response, the police have told the press: “We understand the concerns about the possibility that this was hate-motivated, and we will exhaust every lead to determine if that is the case.”

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Gay Marriage Begins In Some Alabama Counties

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Summary: Judges in some counties in Alabama have begun issuing marriage licenses to gay couples, despite the state’s top judge ordering them not to.

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On Monday, the United States Supreme Court announced that it would not block the ruling by Judge Callie V. S. Granade of Federal District Court, who last month declared Alabama’s marriage restrictions to be unconstitutional. That made Alabama the 37th US state to legalise same-sex marriage, ahead of a nationwide ruling slated for later this year. According to local media reports citing data collected by the organization Human Rights Campaign however, at least 52 of Alabama’s 67 counties refused to process the necessary paperwork on Monday.

 

In spite of Chief Justice Roy Moore’s directive shortly after the Supreme Court’s announcement that probate judges should not to comply with Judge Granade’s rulings – which he said were incompatible with the scope of her authority – many counties began marrying same sex couples.

 

Judge Moore has been one of the state’s most outspoken critics of gay marriage. He has been quoted as describing homosexuality with the words “inherent evil”.

 

Due to the high court’s ruling however, there was nothing he could do on Monday morning when a lesbian couple got one of the first marriage licenses issued in the state. Dee and Laura Bush, a couple of 7 years, wed in a park outside the courthouse where a minister was performing ceremonies.

 

Dee Bush, who has 5 children together with her partner told reporters: “It is great that we were able to be part of history”.

TransAsia

Plane In Taiwan Crashes Into River Shortly After Take Off

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Summary: A TransAsia Airways flight containing 53 passengers and crew on board crashed into a river in shortly after takeoff while departing Taiwan due to an engine blow out. Leaves 23 dead and 20 missing.

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In the latest of a string of flight disasters for the region, Asian Airlines TransAsia Airways crashed killing 23 people on Wednesday. The plane crashed into a river shortly after taking off from a downtown Taipei airport. It had 58 passengers and crew on board, the crash killed 23 of those people and another 20 remain missing.

 

On the way down, the plane lurched between buildings, clipped a taxi and an overpass with its port-side wing and crashed upside down in the shallow water. Fifteen people survived the crash.

 

Pictures taken by the dashboard cam of a motorist (above)  and posted on Twitter showed the plane careening over the motorway soon after take off in  what appears to be clear weather. It was a domestic flight headed to the island of Kinmen.

 

Reuters reported that television footage showed emergency rescue officials crowded around the partially submerged fuselage of the plane while survivors wearing life jackets waded and swam clear of wreckage. Others, including a young child, were taken to shore in inflatable boats.

 

The crash was reportedly cause by an engine flameout according to a traffic control recording on liveatc.net. The last communication from one of the aircraft’s pilots was “Mayday Mayday engine flameout.” A flameout occurs when the fuel supply to the engine is interrupted or when there is faulty combustion, resulting in an engine failure. Twin-engined aircraft, however, are usually able to keep flying even when one engine has failed.

 

TransAsia CEO Peter Chen bowed deeply at a televised news conference while apologizing to the passengers and crew. The catastrophe resulted in TransAsia’s shares closing down 6.9 percent in heavy trade that day, its biggest percentage decline since late 2011.
Reuters also reported that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has said his government will offer Taiwan any help necessary following the crash.

Mitt_Romney

Mitt Romney Chooses To Forego 2016 Presidential Election

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Summary: Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate for Presidential election in 2012 – the year Obama won – has decided that he will not attempt to run for office again in 2016.

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Mere weeks after a surprise statement that he was considering running for the Presidential seat in the 2016 elections, Mitt Romney has released yet another statement to the contrary.

 

“After putting considerable thought into making another run for President, I decided it is best to give other leaders in the party the chance to become our next nominee,” Romney told supporters in a Friday morning call, “…I’m convinced that we could win the nomination, but I also realise that it would be a difficult test and a hard fight.”
It is to be noted that Romney’s 2012 campaign raised more than $1 Billion and resulted in his defeat by President Barack Obama. He also lost the chance to be the Republican nominee to John McCain in 2008. His decision not to run this time around opens the door for donors to fund the campaigns of other Republican presidential hopefuls such as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

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Case Of Missing Students In Mexico Ruled Homicide

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Summary: After months of investigation and protests over the disappearance of 43 students and teachers in Iguala, Mexico, law enforcement officials announced that they have enough evidence to rule it a homicide.


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While Mexican law enforcement officials have told the press that there are still suspects at large and detainees left to sentence, the Mexican Attorney General has said there is “legal certainty” of the murder of the 43 college students who went missing in Guerrero 4 months ago.

 

CNN reported that at a news conference in Mexico City on Tuesday, the Attorney General, Murillo Karam, said: “…Elements we found during the investigation allowed us to carry out an analysis about the logical causes and, without a doubt, we can conclude that the students at the teachers’ college were abducted, killed, burned and thrown into the San Juan River, in that order.”

 

Tomás Zerón de Lucio, the head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigations Agency, explained the why of it as a case of mistaken identity. Their investigations revealed that the criminal group accused of executing the students thought they belonged to a rival gang, also operating around the town of Iguala where the students were last seen.

 

The press conference also revealed that 99 suspects have been detained so far my Mexican authorities who have also obtained hundreds of testimonies, confessions and pieces of evidence. They have only positively identified the remains of 1 of the missing students however stating that the others were so badly burnt that extracting DNA samples for identification would be impossible. The ashes of the other 42 were reportedly thrown into the San Juan river.

 

In the months following the disappearances, angry parents, relatives and friends have protested, at times violently and publicly expressed their distrust of authorities. CNN reported that sme even suggested the military’s involvement in the disappearances which Karram has denied.
At a public event on Tuesday, the Mexican President – Peña Nieto said: “I’m convinced that we should not remain trapped in this instant, this moment in Mexico’s history, of sorrow, of tragedy and pain. We just can’t dwell here.”

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Accidental Drone Crash On White House Lawn Raises Security Concern

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Summary: A flying device triggered a security alert when it accidentally crashed on the lawns of the White House on Monday.

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A 2- foot wide drone landed on the White House grounds early Monday and had the White House security on high alert. After the Secret Service conducted an investigation at the site of the crash shortly after it occurred at around 3 am, it was determined that the commercially available “quad copter” did not pose a threat. Further investigation got underway however to determine the origins of the device as it was still operating against the law. An FAA regulation prohibits flying over much of Washington, D.C., without approval, with the exception of emergency flights and commercial jet travel.

After seeing news reports describing the incident that morning, the owner of the drone contacted the Secret Service around 9:30 a.m. and reported himself as the person operating the drone at the time of the incident. He told the authorities that he was testing how it would perform in bad weather but lost track of it. NBC reported that his currently cooperating with a Secret Service investigation into the incident and said that he did not realize it had landed in a tree on the lawn of the White House until he saw the reports on the news.

The incident was announced to the public by the White House spokesperson Josh Earnest in a press conference about the president’s trip to India. Although Mr and Mrs Obama were in New Delhi when the device was found, their children are believed to be in Washington DC, according to the New York Times. Earnest said however that the Secret Service did not “have any reason to think at this point that the first family is in any danger.”

The US Secret Service, which is tasked with the president’s security, has been coming under fire recently for gaping lapses in their vigilance which has lead to a leadership reorganisation.

Kobani Taken Back From ISIS By Kurdish Forces

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Summary: In the on-going war in the East due to the attempt by terror group ISIS to expand their territory, a small battle was won by the Kurdish forces fighting against them when the reclaimed the city of Kobani.

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CNN reported that Kurdish forces have regained control of the Syrian city of Kobani. After 112 days of fighting with the Sunni extremist group, they have finally freed the city from ISIS. This follows closely on the heels of Iraq’s Diyala Province similarly being freed from ISIS.

Idriss Nassan, the deputy foreign minister of Kobani, also communicated to CNN that an official announcement would be made of Tuesday if the situation remained under control. He also told the news source that the People’s Protection Units are clearing the streets and places of all remnants from ISIS to declare it a free city. He also called for a “humanitarian corridor” to be quickly implemented to in order for aid to reach the large numbers of refugees in the city who are in great need of many necessities.

YPG spokesman Polat Can confirmed the news in a tweet which when translated reads: “Congratulations for liberation of Kobani to all of humanity, Kurdistan and people of Kobani.”

CNN also reported that an anonymous Kobani official said the Kurds were going house to house in the newly liberated area to check for booby traps. Once the traps are removed or defused, the fighters will invite residents to return to their homes.

US Claims Coalition Has Killed 6,000 ISIS Fighters Via Airstrikes

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Summary: U.S. Ambassador to Iraq reveals to Al Arabiya television that according to CENTCOM estimate, the international coalition against ISIS has killed upwards of 6,000 of the terror group’s fighters in their airstrikes.

 

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While they have stressed that they cannot verify the exact number, the U.S. has revealed that based on pilot reports and other intelligence gathered about targets before and after strikes, the coalition against ISIS has depleted the ISIS ranks by upwards of 6,000 fighters. This number allegedly includes half of the ISIS top command.

The information was revealed in an interview on Al Arabiya television by the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq on Thursday. He was quoted as saying that the coalition’s airstrikes are having a “devastating” impact on the terror group.

The estimate was arrived at by U.S. Central Command which has apparently been keeping a running estimate of fighters killed based on pilot reports and special intelligence about airstrike targets before and after strikes were made. CENTCOM estimates that ISIS is between 9,000 to 18,000 fighters strong and could possibly reach up to 31,000 fighters or more if they manage to enlist people with shifting loyalties.

The Pentagon has skirted around discussing the details of the airstrikes and only revealed that thousands of fighters may be dead up to this point. Rear Admiral John Kirby insisted that it was a “tally” in an attempt to disassociate from the “body count” Vietnam era war statistics used in the past.
Up to this point Iraq has criticised America for not doing enough to aid them in their fight against ISIS. U.S. officials however have stressed that the airstrikes were meant to decrease the size of the threat the organization presents but cannot single handedly destroy it. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said to reporters that the airstrikes have “halted” ISIS reportedly claiming 700 square kilometers of Iraq back from ISIS’ control.