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Monitor The Strategic Trends

Global Government Introduction:


      The move toward a global government received a big boost this summer by the introduction of a proposal for an International Criminal Court. Over U.S. objections, the United Nations Diplomatic Conference voted 120 to 7 in favor of establishing an international criminal court to try individuals accused of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the crime of aggression.










PRICE R 299.00






With the wealth of information at our fingertips, it is sometimes hard to see the ‘’forest for the trees’’. In this Strategic Briefing, we will give you a current perspective on many of the trends that shape our world and their relevance to Biblical Prophecy. Now, more than ever, we need to stay informed about what is really going on.

What is REALLY going on in Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt?
Who is going to deal with the nuclear Iran?
Will Israel go it alone?
What about America’s political future and what is on its' 2013 horizon?

Most Americans are totally unaware that the sacred Bill of Rights has been essentially
eliminated; how, when and by whom?

Europe - The State of Dis-Union and its Islamization.

Join Dr. Chuck Missler and Ron Matsen in the Executive Brie fing Room of
The River Lodge, New Zealand, in an intensive summary of some of the
Strategic Trends that will impact all of us.

© 2012 Koinonia House Inc.

This briefing pack collection contains 4 hours of teaching


2 Disks
4 M4A Files
Color, 16:9, Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo, Region 0 encoding

 This DVD will be viewable in other countries WITH the proper DVD player and television set.)



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Partial lifting of U.S. arms sales to Vietnam condemned by China

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Washington (UPI) Oct 10, 2014 - China objected Friday to the U.S. decision to partially lift its ban on selling weapons to Vietnam, calling it an interfering and destabilizing action.

The objection came in a news story printed by People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Beijing government.

"This is not a sensible course of action," it said in a carefully worded presentation.

"Moreover, the policy is a clear extension of America's interference with the balance of power in the region."

The U.S. State Department announced earlier this month that it was partially lifting the decades-old ban on weapons sales to Vietnam as part of a broader U.S. strategy to help countries in the South China Sea region of Asia to strengthen their maritime security capabilities.

Sales of maritime weapons and weapon platforms to Vietnam would be entertained by Washington on a case-by-case basis, the State Department said.

The move, however, came amid rising tensions between Beijing and Hanoi over the Paracel Islands, which both countries claim sovereignty over.

In May, China's state-owned China National Offshore Oil Company moved an oil rig to an area Vietnam claims was within its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, while in August Chinese naval vessels stopped and searched Vietnamese fishing boats and seized equipment.

Sovereignty over the Paracels, as well as territorial claims over the Spratley Islands, have pitted China against not only Vietnam but also the Philippines, Taiwan, Indonesia and others.

The United States, which is turning its naval focus to the Asia-Pacific region, has officially stayed out of the disputes.

"China and Vietnam have signed an agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of maritime issues existing between the two countries," People's Daily said. "Furthermore, the two countries established a bilateral working group to discuss joint maritime development in 2013.

"However, the input of American weaponry will do nothing to help the consensus reached by the two countries. It will simply damage stability and add complexity to their disputes."

"Secondly, American's policy is not even-handed. While easing the embargo on Vietnam, America is maintaining its ban on arms sales to China, and limiting the export of other high-tech manufacturing," it said.

The People's Daily story called the partial rescinding of the U.S. ban on arms sales to Vietnam a "clear extension of America's interference with the balance of power in the region" and a method "to win back its influence" in Asia.

China's growing naval power is a major concern for the United States and countries in the region. The Philippines, a former U.S. commonwealth, is beefing up its naval assets and U.S. military ties amid its dispute with China over territory in the Spratly Islands and has so far procured two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters. Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China is looking to re-draft its Post-WW II pacifist constitution to allow direct military action to support allies.

Washington's decision on the weapons ban, the People's Daily said, "stands in direct contradiction to America's stated aim of maintaining peace and stability, and it will hinder the development of the Sino-U.S. relationship."

"America should take note that this short-sighted policy of arms sales to China's neighbors will be taken as an example of indirect conflict" with China.



Obama urged to press Xi on Hong Kong's democracy

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Oct 09, 2014 - Hong Kong protestors won powerful US backing Thursday as a high-level panel urged President Barack Obama to press concerns about democracy with Beijing and called for fresh monitoring of the city's progress.

The call came in a damning annual report that renewed criticism of China's human rights record, saying Chinese President Xi Jinping continues to "adhere to the authoritarian model of his predecessors."

"Hong Kong... has suffered a major setback to its democratic development after China all but ruled out a fair election for Hong Kong's chief executive in 2017," said Senator Sherrod Brown, chairman of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, as he unveiled the report.

Obama should press Xi directly on "issues like Hong Kong" when the leaders of the world's two major economies meet next month in Beijing, Brown, a Democrat, added.

Parts of the southern Chinese city have been paralyzed for more than a week by demonstrations calling on Beijing to grant the former British colony full democracy and for the city's Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign.

Talks between the protestors and the Hong Kong government collapsed Thursday, when the government pulled out plunging the city into a fresh crisis.

In a highly-critical and unusual rebuke over Hong Kong, the US government commission found Beijing's actions in recent months to restrict democracy there "raise concerns about the future of the fragile freedoms and rule of law that distinguish Hong Kong from mainland China."

The panel unveiled moves to revive a 1992 law -- drawn up five years before the financial hub was returned to Chinese rule by Britain -- under which the State Department had to furnish annual reports on the situation in Hong Kong.

US monitoring should "pay particular attention to the development of democratic institutions in Hong Kong and China's obligations under international treaties and agreements," the report recommended.

The report is likely to spur fresh fury in Beijing, which last week angrily warned Washington to stay out of its "internal affairs."

- High-level visits -

The panel also recommended that high-level US officials should visit the territory, as a pointed reminder that Washington is watching what happens there.

The last visit to the city by a US secretary of state was by Hillary Clinton in July 2011.

Beijing's stance over Hong Kong, as well as its crackdown on any opposition, suggested Xi "may exercise greater control and tolerate less dissent than previous administrations," the report concluded.

"It has been another horrific year for human rights in China, no one should still believe that President Xi Jinping will be a new type of Chinese leader, more open to reform and rights protections," said Republican Senator Chris Smith.

Xi "has turned out to be perhaps even worst than his predecessors in terms of human rights and respect for those fundamental obligations enshrined in the universal declaration of human rights."

The report also highlighted government restrictions on the Internet and attempts to "manipulate news coverage" as well as concerns over forced labor, making 13 recommendations to ensure China complies with international human rights.

It further called for US lawmakers to urge the Chinese government to "abolish all birth restrictions for families and instead employ a human rights-based approach to providing freedom to build their families."



Pentagon chief in trip to Colombia, Chile, Peru

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Oct 10, 2014 - Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel departed Thursday on a six-day tour of South America but the US-led war against the Islamic State group in the Middle East will be looming over his trip.

Hagel set off for Colombia, Chile and Peru with the world's attention focused on a dramatic battle in northern Syria, where Kurdish fighters have been holding out against IS jihadists with the help of air strikes from US and coalition aircraft.

Hagel has spent much of the past week in talks at the White House and conferring with top commanders, tracking the American-led air campaign in Syria and Iraq as well as an unfolding crisis over the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

The conflict in the Middle East will be competing for Hagel's attention during his second trip to Latin America as defense secretary.

After talks in Colombia and Chile, the Pentagon chief will head to Peru where he will attend a meeting of regional defense ministers, officials said.

In Colombia, Hagel will highlight Washington's continuing support for the government's counter-insurgency operations and its efforts to clinch a peace settlement with the Marxist FARC rebels, the Pentagon said.

Hagel was scheduled to visit a military base to see training for Colombian special forces and aviators, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Wednesday.

His visit comes after the head of the US military's Southern Command, General John Kelly, urged the FARC rebels to sign a peace accord to end the decades-long civil war, saying they should "take the deal."

"If they are listening, this one time in 50 years, be smart, take the deal," Kelly said at a Washington conference on Tuesday.

From Colombia, Hagel proceeds to Chile and then Peru, where he will attend a security conference with senior officials from across the region.

At the gathering, Hagel will call for cooperative action to tackle organized crime, narcotics trafficking and other problems facing the Americas, Kirby said.

With environmental security a major theme of the conference, Hagel will describe how the Pentagon has sought to plan for climate change and its effect on military installations, operations and training, according to Kirby.



Li visits Germany, China's 'anchor' in Europe

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Berlin (AFP) Oct 10, 2014 - China's Premier Li Keqiang met German Chancellor Angela Merkel Friday for the year's third top-level talks between the Asian and European export powers despite growing disquiet over human rights and business rules.

The visit comes at a sensitive time as China grapples with Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests while the host nation gears up to celebrate a quarter-century since the fall of the Berlin Wall ended communism in East Germany.

But Berlin and Beijing, in a year of high-frequency diplomacy, stress they want to boost their multi-billion-dollar trade and investment ties and deepen a new "innovation partnership".

Merkel and President Joachim Gauck rolled out the red carpet and received Li, joined by his entire cabinet and an entourage of 130 business chieftains, with full military honours.

Both sides then held a joint government meeting, a format that is rare for Germany and unique for China.

Li's 14 ministers met 12 German counterparts to discuss cooperation in fields ranging from climate change and agriculture to using German green-tech to manage China's breakneck economic growth.

Both sides planned to sign some 30 cooperation and investment deals worth over two billion euros ($2.5 billion) in sectors including health, education and the environment.

European aviation giant Airbus said it would ink an agreement, and Deutsche Telekom announced a joint venture with China Mobile to build a digital network for cars on Chinese roads.

- Hong Kong protests -

Li's second Europe trip this year, which will also take him to Russia and Italy, started on the day street protests looked likely to flare again in Hong Kong, the former British colony that was returned to the Chinese mainland in 1997.

Crunch negotiations slated for Friday were called off by the Beijing-backed city officials, leading students to ratchet up their protests.

Hong Kong's 17-year-old student leader Joshua Wong asked Merkel for support, telling Germany's Bild daily that "only when Germany, Europe and the whole world put pressure on China and show solidarity with us will our protests have a chance".

Merkel, who grew up under communism in East Germany, touched on the issue of democracy in July when she told Beijing students that the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall "enabled us to have a free dialogue".

In her latest weekly video message, Merkel stressed the importance of safeguarding civic freedoms in Hong Kong and criticised China's life jail term for a leading ethnic Uighur activist.

Chinese senior diplomats told a pre-trip briefing that Beijing is ready for human rights dialogue on the basis of mutual respect but stressed that "the question of Hong Kong is China's internal affair".

- 'Fair-weather phase ending' -

Of more immediate concern to corporate leaders at a separate Sino-German business summit were rules governing companies in China, the world's number two economy, with whom Germany had two-way trade worth 140 billion euros last year.

Investor concern has grown since Beijing has started cracking down on alleged malpractice by major firms. Last month it fined an affiliate of German carmaker Volkswagen more than $40.5 million for price-fixing.

Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel told the business forum that Germany wants to be "a fair partner for Chinese investors" but that "German companies expect the same in China".

The head of the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business, Hubert Lienhard, said "there is not yet equal treatment" for foreign companies in China, including the right to bid for public tenders and set up shop without a joint venture partner.

Sebastian Heilmann of Berlin's Mercator Institute for China Studies told AFP that for Germany remains China's "anchor country" in Europe, but that amid the disputes the "fair weather phase" is ending as China shifts from being a workshop for foreign companies to a competitor.

Li's Germany visit comes after Merkel in July travelled to China, her seventh official trip there, and after Chinese President Xi Jinping came to Berlin in March.

The Chinese premier will next travel on to Russia, which is engaged in a bitter standoff with the West over the Ukraine conflict, before meeting Western leaders at an Asia-Europe Meeting in Italy on October 16-17.




Ukraine lobbies NATO, IMF as deaths mount

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Donetsk, Ukraine (AFP) Oct 08, 2014 - Ukraine dispatched top envoys to Washington and Brussels on Wednesday to secure help in the face of a surge in clashes with pro-Russian insurgents that killed eight more civilians and troops.

A one-month truce in Ukraine is teetering on the verge of collapse just weeks before a general election meant to reunify the country after half a year of warfare in the east has killed nearly 3,400 people.

The number of civilians dead from shelling and mortar attacks grew to 19 since the weekend when Donetsk authorities reported three additional deaths in the main rebel-held city overnight.

An AFP team also saw two bodies of victims of rocket fire that hit a supermarket and some residential buildings in a northeastern section of the half-deserted city that was once home to nearly a million people.

National Security and Defence Council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said fighters killed three and wounded 12 Ukrainian soldiers in renewed attacks.

Ukrainian authorities have reported the death of more than 100 troops and civilians since separatist leaders and Kiev signed a September 5 truce that was backed by both Moscow and EU states.

But the UN human rights office said the post-ceasefire toll up to Monday may be as high as 331.

"Tragically, the political agreement is not being observed," Ukrainian Defence Minister Valeriy Geletey said.

The crisis has torn at East-West relations and seen Russian President Vladimir Putin thrown into diplomatic isolation for his alleged bid to break up his neighbour in retaliation for the ouster of a pro-Kremlin president in February.

Rebel leaders now intend to keep the October 26 parliamentary polls from being staged across swathes of the Russian-speaking rustbelt that are home to nearly five million people.

They instead plan their own votes in early November that would set up parliaments and administrations allied to Moscow and intended to ensure complete self-rule.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has urged Russia to convince the fighters to resume political negotiations that could grant them broader rights within a single state.

But the Kremlin denies having any hand in the conflict and accuses the West of trying to wrest the ex-Soviet country out of Russia's sphere of influence.

- IMF and NATO -

Ukraine's top policymakers travelled to NATO and EU headquarters in Brussels as well as the head International Monetary Fund office in Washington to win further diplomatic and economic backing from Kiev's new partners.

Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin shook hands for the first time with new NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg -- a liberal former Norwegian premier who last week said the bloc was ready to seek constructive ties with Moscow.

"The NATO secretary general has changed, but the priority importance of Ukraine remains the same," Klimkin tweeted after the meeting.

He said the country would seek European Commission funding to help eastern residents survive the winter with limited access to essential supplies.

Ukrainian Central Bank chief Valeria Gontareva was meanwhile meeting with IMF boss Christine Lagarde in the hope of speeding up the delivery of a $17.1-billion (13.5-billion-euro) loan and even expanding the amount.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told his cabinet that Gontareva would ask the IMF "to modify its programme taking current realities into account".

The two-year IMF arrangement is part of a global $27-billion package approved in April to help the new leaders avert a looming bankruptcy and pull Ukraine out of its third recession in six years.

But the economic slide has only accelerated and is now expected to see the economy shrink by up to nine percent this year.

The IMF itself warned last month that Ukraine may need an additional $19 billion in short-term assistance should the eastern campaign stretch through the end of next year.



China builds military airstrip on disputed island: Xinhua

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 08, 2014 - Beijing has completed a runway for military aircraft on a South China Sea island also claimed by Vietnam, state-run media reported, as it asserts its territorial claims in the area.

The newly built facility stretches across Woody Island, part of the Paracel chain, China's Xinhua news agency said late Tuesday.

The Paracels are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan, and tensions between Beijing and Hanoi rose this year over Chinese construction and oil exploration there.

The runway is Beijing's latest physical assertion of control in the area, two years after it declared a city named Sansha centred on Woody Island -- known as Yongxing in Chinese -- to administer vast swathes of the South China Sea.

Vital shipping routes run through the waters and they are believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits. Parts of the sea are also claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

Xinhua's report gave few details but said the runway was 2,000 metres long, and indicated it would have military uses.

"With the completion and continued improvements to the runway on Yongxing, military aircraft can be based in the Paracels, and greatly improve Chinese defence capabilities in the Xisha and Nansha islands," Xinhua said, using the Chinese names for the Paracels and Spratlys, a separate island chain.

Pictures posted with the report showed part of the airstrip surrounded by construction cranes and clear blue water.

China previously built a school on Woody Island for 40 children whose parents work there, state-run media said in June.

Beijing placed an oil rig in disputed waters near the Paracel islands in May, sparking deadly anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

Sansha hosts a military garrison and this year began setting up a patrol system intended in part to "safeguard national sovereign rights". Expanded infrastructure and tourism are in the works, domestic media have reported.



Hong Kong, the golden goose Beijing cannot sacrifice

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 08, 2014 - Hong Kong's democracy protests have stoked fears of retribution from China, but observers say the city is simply too valuable to punish and sideline, even as it faces a long-term challenge from mainland rival Shanghai.

Demonstrators, sometimes numbering in the tens of thousands, have taken to Hong Kong's streets over the past week to demand free elections for the city's leader in 2017, a display of civil disobedience initially met with tear gas from riot police and later attacks by unidentified men.

Large-scale disruption has triggered fears in the semi-autonomous city that Beijing -- which does not tolerate any challenge to its rule -- may seek to penalise it for the show of popular intransigence.

The greatest threat could be for the leadership to sideline the free-wheeling former British colony in favour of China's emerging financial centre Shanghai, where authorities established a much-vaunted free trade zone (FTZ) a year ago.

"Because Hong Kong is now standing up to China, it is seen as an unreliable partner," said Francis Lun, a financial analyst and CEO of Hong Kong-based Geo Securities.

"This will escalate (the trend) that Shanghai will one day replace Hong Kong as the financial capital of China.

"If the tide changes, there is no going back," Lun added. "It could happen. It could happen very fast."

But experts maintain that Hong Kong is not at risk of being marginalised in the short-term. That would be self-defeating for Beijing, which continually stresses that the city is part of China, and itself uses it as a key economic conduit.

Taking measures to economically punish Hong Kong would just "harden views" in the territory, noted Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

"Obviously, they're not happy about what's happening in the protests, but they're still trying to model a lot of the (financial) reforms on the mainland on Hong Kong," Evans-Pritchard said.

"So, I don't think they want to set Hong Kong back. It would be silly to have a tit-for-tat."

- 'I will use you' -

Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 and has its own government and legal system, with its residents enjoying rights and freedoms unknown on the Chinese mainland.

Nonetheless the protests are fuelled by soaring inequality and living costs as well as anger over the cosy relationship between the city government and its financial elite, contributing to a sense of disenchantment among the younger generation.

Hong Kong -- known for its open approach to business -- was ranked the world's freest economy this year for the 20th consecutive year, according to the Index of Economic Freedom, published annually by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal. Mainland China, by contrast, ranked 137th.

Analysts cite Hong Kong's "transparent and fair" legal system as a keystone of the bridge it forms between China and the global financial community.

The city is also a major destination for mainland Chinese investors, with nearly 60 percent of Chinese outbound investment either directed to or channelled through it by the end of 2012, according to China's Ministry of Commerce.

Beijing is moving slowly to open up its capital markets and promote the yuan as an international currency.

But at the same time it is looking to maintain its control over key economic levers -- and foreign firms have lamented the sluggish pace of promised reforms in the Shanghai FTZ.

"Obviously there's a clear preference for China to develop Shanghai," said ANZ senior economist Raymond Yeung. "But that doesn't mean they've already abandoned Hong Kong."

The pro-democracy Occupy Central campaign was first announced last year but officials still pushed ahead with plans for a cross-trading scheme between Hong Kong and Shanghai's stock markets, he pointed out.

"It's too simplistic to think that 'You're naughty, and I don't want to take care of you any more'. The leaders of China today are very pragmatic: 'So long as you can deliver, then I will use you.'"

- Narrowing gap -

Yet while Hong Kong need not worry about being eclipsed by its mainland rival in the short-term, the dynamic could shift as the territory's full return to Chinese control in 2047 nears.

At that point, Hong Kong will probably still retain some of its "inherent advantages" such as the widespread use of English, Evans-Pritchard said, but may stand to lose others, such as its independent legal system.

"I could see a scenario in the very long run -- after it returns to China in 2047, if basically it loses its special status -- then at that stage you wonder," he said.

"I do think Shanghai will become increasingly important and it could overtake Hong Kong, at least as a domestic financial centre."

For his part Yeung felt Shanghai was unlikely to displace Hong Kong, but added: "Obviously a convergence will be coming, because China is catching up, Shanghai is catching up.

"So the gap between Shanghai and Hong Kong will narrow; this is undoubtedly true."



Panetta tell-all in rich tradition of dirt dishing memoirs

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Oct 07, 2014 - It's as much a Washington tradition as fireworks on July 4.

The blockbuster memoir is a rite of passage for retired power brokers keen to settle scores, polish legacies and replenish bank accounts left barren by years of public service.

Leon Panetta, the former defense secretary and CIA chief is the newest member of the exclusive but expanding club of former Barack Obama confidants to take pot shots at the president from the pages of a fat new tome.

Panetta, renowned as a Washington wise man, spills an unflattering verdict on Obama's leadership in "Worthy Fights."

He sees a president whose weakness is a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents "and rally support for his cause."

Obama, Panetta writes, lacks fire, "relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader" and occasionally "avoids the battle, complains and misses opportunities."

Hawking his book on CNN, Panetta complained that White House aides, eager to be rid of the Iraq war, failed to use US leverage to convince Baghdad to accept a post-war US stabilization force.

He criticized Obama for dithering on whether to arm Syrian rebels, contributing to the rise of the Islamic State group.

Panetta's criticisms mirror those of his Pentagon predecessor Robert Gates -- another of Obama's "Team of Rivals" war cabinet who detonated his own memoir on the bestseller lists last year.

Gates complained Obama didn't even believe in his own strategy to surge troops into Afghanistan -- forcing the president to answer awkward questions in an Oval Office photo op.

- 'Cautious and indecisive' -

Both Gates and Panetta leavened their criticism of the president's political and strategic vision with praise for his intellect and gutsy call to take out Osama bin Laden.

But it is their criticism that makes headlines because the authors, with nearly a century in Washington between them, are seen by journalists as highly credible; and their complaints solidify existing perceptions of the president.

Many close observers of Obama see him as a professorial, overly cautious and even indecisive leader, who abhors the dirty business of politics which presidents like Lyndon Johnson and Bill Clinton adored.

So pervasive is this narrative that the president himself lampooned Washington's amateur political psychologists, when he was quoted as saying in a recent New York Times article "Oh, it's a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president."

The White House sees no point in getting into a shouting match with Panetta that would give his story legs.

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest pointed to Obama's leadership on issues like the Islamic State group and the Ebola crisis, and said Panetta should consider whether it was appropriate to write a tell-all with Obama still in office.

Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile grumpily rebuked former colleagues who "as soon as they leave, write books, which I think is inappropriate."

Privately, some White House officials expressed surprise at Panetta's apparent lack of loyalty.

But others were not shocked that such a savvy operator would not wait to put his mark in history and would move at his moment of maximum earning potential.

- Treachery -

This is not the first White House to fret at Washington's memoirists.

President George W. Bush's inner circle regarded a 2008 book by his former press secretary Scott McClellan, as open treachery, after he said the president was guilty of "self-deception."

Earlier, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill painted a deeply unflattering picture of a callow Bush for his biographer Ron Suskind.

Bill Clinton suffered when his young aide George Stephanopoulos, asked in his 1999 book how a president he saw as public spirited and conscious of his place in history, could behave in such a "stupid, selfish and destructive" way by having an affair with a White House intern.

Perhaps the classic of the genre came from former White House chief of staff Donald Regan who turned on Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, by revealing she used astrology to plot her husband's schedule.

In the end, many explosive memoirs have a limited shelf life because the juicy bits are surrounded by pages of turgid prose on the mechanics of governing.

Such may be the fate of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton's recent book, which although she uses it to distance herself from Obama's Syria policy, is hardly a tell-all. In fact, "Hard Choices" was panned by some critics as boring.

But Clinton, unlike Gates and Panetta, who are comfortably retired, has no incentive to dish the dirt on Obama -- because she needs him if she is to capture the White House herself.

The president meanwhile may have the last laugh.

The biggest literary sensation of the Obama years will surely be his own post-administration memoir.

And the list of scores he has to settle is getting longer by the month...



Philippines, US marines conduct exercises near China-held reef

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
San Antonio, Philippines (AFP) Oct 05, 2014 - Over 6,000 Philippine and US marines carried out a military exercise on a Philippine beach Sunday near a disputed reef occupied by Chinese ships which has become a potential regional flashpoint.

The American and Filipino troops, aboard five US amphibious, armoured assault vehicles landed on the deserted beach facing the South China Sea in the latest in a series of combat exercises that began on September 29.

With the USS Germantown amphibious dock landing ship overseeing events from the sea, the Filipino and American troops rushed from their vehicles and took up combat positions.

"The US has always been a good ally of the Filipinos and if they need our assistance, we will be here for them and we think this exercise really reinforces that," said Lieutenant Colonel Robert Rice, an officer of the US training staff.

However he declined to link the exercise to China's growing restiveness in the region, saying such talk was "speculation".

His Filipino counterpart, Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Hernandez said the exercises were intended to boost the capabilities of a marine amphibious brigade, based in the island of Palawan, the closest outpost to the South China Sea.

The exercise took place near a naval outpost on Zambales on Luzon island, 220 kilometres (137 miles) east of the disputed Scarborough Shoal on the South China Sea.

The shoal, a traditionally-rich fishing ground, has been effectively taken over by China following a tense year-long standoff with the Philippines in 2012.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, including waters near its smaller neighbours' shores.

It has been accused of becoming increasingly aggressive in staking its claims to the sea, a vital shipping lane also believed to contain vast oil and mineral deposits.

Parts are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The poorly-armed Philippines has increasingly looked at the United States to boost its military capabilities amid the Chinese threat.

In April, the allies signed a defence pact that would see thousands of US troops stationed in the country in the next decade.



Dalai Lama marks Nobel anniversary as Western support wanes

‎11 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:18:39 AMGo to full article
Dharamsala, India (AFP) Oct 05, 2014 - As the Dalai Lama marked his 25th year as a Nobel laureate this week, a row over South Africa's failure to grant him a visa underscored the huge challenge facing the movement he launched more than half a century ago.

The Tibetan spiritual leader was awarded the Nobel peace prize in 1989, amid international condemnation of Beijing following a deadly crackdown on peaceful protesters in Tiananmen Square earlier that year.

The award catapulted the charismatic Buddhist monk into the global spotlight, and in the decade that followed he was courted by US presidents and Hollywood stars alike as he criss-crossed the world campaigning for greater autonomy in his homeland.

But, a quarter of a century later, some Western leaders are turning their backs on the Tibetan spiritual leader -- albeit often reluctantly -- under pressure from rising power China.

On Thursday, a summit of Nobel peace laureates due to be held in Cape Town later this month was cancelled after several pulled out in protest at the South African government's failure to give the Dalai Lama a visa.

The decision provoked an outburst of fury from fellow laureates including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who said he was "ashamed to call this lickspittle bunch my government".

The Dalai Lama himself accused South Africa of "bullying a simple person", using uncharacteristically undiplomatic language.

But South Africa is by no means alone in its reluctance to antagonise China, its largest trading partner.

Even Norway, one of the world's wealthiest countries and the home of the Nobel peace prize, snubbed the Dalai Lama when he visited earlier this year in what it called a "necessary sacrifice" to normalise its relations with China.

"Given the economic growth of China... you can clearly see some countries, even European countries, have some hesitation in dealing with sensitive issues like Tibet," said Lobsang Sangay, who took over as head of the exiled Tibetan government in the Indian hill town of Dharamsala after the Dalai Lama retired from politics in 2011.

"Nonetheless, at the people's level, I think the interest for Tibet still remains."

Sangay called for more international help in June, when he renewed a push for the Dalai Lama's "Middle Way" path of peacefully advocating greater autonomy for Tibet.

- Praise for Xi -

Since then, the Dalai Lama has said he is "optimistic" about the current administration in Beijing, in what some see as a possible sign of a thaw in relations.

In an interview with AFP this week, he praised China's President Xi Jinping for cracking down on official corruption and seeking to introduce "proper rule of law".

"These things show he (Xi) is approaching these problems more realistically" than his predecessors, the Dalai Lama said.

He also welcomed Xi's recent comments about the importance of Buddhism in Chinese society, and said he was in informal talks about making a historic pilgrimage to a sacred mountain in China.

Barry Sautman, a Tibet expert at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said the Dalai Lama's praise for Xi was likely tactical.

"He said some nice things about Hu Jintao and he said some nice things about Jiang Zemin," said Sautman, referring to Xi's predecessors.

"If you want to have a political dialogue with somebody, it is better to use the honey."

Formal negotiations with China broke down in 2010 after making no headway, and many exiled Tibetans remain deeply sceptical about renewing them.

In Dharamsala though, expressing even mild disagreement with the Dalai Lama is controversial.

"For the Tibetan people, His Holiness the Dalai Lama is the Buddha... and nobody would place their personal opinion in front of the Buddha's wisdom," said Dharamsala-based activist Tenzin Tsundue, who believes in pushing for independence rather than autonomy.

"Deep down in the heart of every Tibetan there is still a desire for independence. It is the independence of Tibet that can guarantee the survival of the Tibetan people and the Tibetan culture," he told AFP.

The Dalai Lama, who appeared in good health as he celebrated his 25th anniversary with fellow laureates in Dharamsala this week, remains the universally recognised face of the movement.

But his retirement from politics was a reminder to exiled Tibetans that he will not be around forever.

For Sangay and other moderates, the over-arching goal is to secure political and cultural freedoms and autonomy in Tibetan areas of China.

He believes the new generation of Tibetans inside Tibet will be the "most important factor" in deciding its future.

Young Tibetans "have not seen the Dalai Lama, nor they have met with the exile administration," he said. "But their sense of belonging to Tibetan identity... is very strong."



White House rejects Panetta critique of Obama

‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:46 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Oct 06, 2014 - The White House on Monday rejected claims by ex-Pentagon chief Leon Panetta that President Barack Obama is too reticent to take on opponents and lacks the passion to lead.

Obama's spokesman Josh Earnest also pointedly questioned the etiquette of former senior US officials dishing the details of their relationship with the president while he is still in office.

Earnest said Obama had displayed his leadership skills as recently as over the last few weeks in taking on the Islamic State and the Ebola crisis.

The spokesman said this was very much in line with Obama's statesmanship when Panetta led the CIA between 2009 and 2011 and the Defense Department between 2011 and 2014.

"The leadership that the president demonstrated over the last several weeks is entirely consistent with the leadership that the president has shown over the last six years," Earnest said.

Earnest also hinted at some White House frustration at criticism of the president's decisions contained in Panetta's book, which follows tomes by ex-secretary of defense Robert Gates and former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, which also spilled administration secrets.

"Anybody in any administration who has served in prominent positions like that has to make a decision about how and when and whether to talk about their experience serving the president of the United States," he said.

USA Today reported that in his book's final chapter, Panetta writes that the president's "most conspicuous weakness" is "a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause."

Obama too often "relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader," Panetta wrote and "avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities."

The paper also wrote how Panetta, a Washington veteran, praised Obama's intelligence and convictions. But the critique of Obama will draw the most attention -- especially as it plays into existing criticisms of the president's behavior and political liabilities.

Panetta's "Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace," is set for release Tuesday by Penguin Press.

White House defends Biden after Middle East gaffes
Washington (AFP) Oct 06, 2014 - The White House Monday praised Vice President Joe Biden for being big enough to admit his mistakes, after he apologized to two key allies over an embarrassing diplomatic gaffe on the Middle East.

Biden called leaders in the two states, key members of the US coalition taking on the Islamic State group, after he was quoted as saying that they had financed and armed the Sunni jihadists.

Biden's comments caused consternation in the Middle East and questions in Washington as to whether they would dampen the resolve of US allies who have signed up to fight IS.

Biden's office released a statement following his call to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Saturday and he also apologized in person to Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi and deputy head of the armed forces.

"What the vice president conveyed was an apology for, as it relates to President Erdogan, mischaracterizing the president's views in a private conversation," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

Regarding the Emiratis, Earnest said Biden "was not attempting to imply that the UAE has facilitated or supported ISIL, Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups in Syria.

Earnest said that despite his comments, the latest in a string of verbal gaffes, at Harvard University on Thursday, the vice president remained a core member of President Barack Obama's national security team.

"I think the vice president is somebody who has enough character to admit when he's made a mistake," Earnest said.

Erdogan said that if Biden had used such language "that would make him a man of the past for me."

The UAE had described Biden's remarks as "amazing" and said they ignored the role of the Emirates in the fight against extremism and terrorism.

In his comments, Biden referred to Turkey, Erdogan, Saudi Arabia and the Emiratis as friends.

But he said they been so determined to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that they had "poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tonnes of weapons into anyone who would fight against" him.

"Except the people being supplied were Al-Nusra and Al-Qaeda and extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world," Biden said.



HK protesters refuse to budge as deadline to clear streets arrives

‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:46 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 05, 2014 - Hong Kong's pro-democracy protesters remained stubbornly encamped on the streets as dawn broke on Monday, just hours before a government deadline to clear key thoroughfares they have blockaded for more than a week.

The city's embattled leader Leung Chun-ying has warned he will "take all necessary actions to restore social order" after a mass campaign for free elections that has seen tens of thousands of people pour onto the streets.

Leung was forced to shut government headquarters on Friday -- leaving 3,000 civil servants at home -- because of the massed ranks of protesters blocking its access roads. He has insisted they must reopen on Monday.

But while the crowds outside had dwindled to less than a thousand by dawn on Monday -- making the complex accessible to workers by both road and foot -- some protesters made it clear they had no intention of going home.

"We're going to be here until we get a response from the government," said 20-year-old student Jurkin Wong as he chatted with friends who had just woken up.

"We have to stay here. It's for our future."

The protesters are demanding the right to nominate who can run for election as the former British colony's next leader in 2017. China's Communist authorities insist that only pre-approved candidates will be able to run, which activists dismiss as "fake democracy".

Handed back to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong is governed under a "one countries, two systems" deal that guarantees civil liberties not seen on the mainland, including freedom of speech and the right to protest.

But tensions have been rising over fears that these freedoms are being eroded, as well as rocketing inequality in the key financial hub.

- Protesters divided -

There was a relaxed atmosphere amongst the largely youthful crowds outside government headquarters early Monday, with many expressing doubt that the police would use force to clear them from the massive highway they have brought to a standstill.

A striking statue of a man defiantly wielding an umbrella -- which has become a symbol of the democracy movement -- was put up at the site in Hong Kong's Admiralty district to loud cheers.

But the protesters were divided over whether they would stay and resist any attempt to remove them on Monday, with concerns growing that their campaign could be losing direction after a week-long standoff that has at times erupted into violence.

"If there is any violence or any (use of) weapons, I think I will probably go home," admitted 27-year-old lawyer Chan Wang-Ingai.

But at a second protest site across the harbour in the packed shopping district of Mong Kok, some demonstrators were in fighting mood.

"We are not going to leave before we get what we want -- even if they shoot us with rubber bullets," said Oscar Ng, who wore a bicycle helmet on his head and a mask to protect his face.

The Mong Kok protest has been the scene of ugly clashes in recent days, with demonstrators angrily accusing police of bringing in hired thugs from triad criminal gangs to stir up trouble -- a claim authorities have strongly denied.

- Ominous warning -

In a minor breakthrough, student leader Lester Shum met Sunday with mid-ranking officials with the aim of setting conditions for a meeting with Leung's deputy Carrie Lam.

Students have been at the vanguard of the so-called "umbrella revolution", and the government offered the talks last week in a bid to end an impasse that has wreaked havoc with the city's transport system and taken a heavy toll on businesses.

University staff made an impassioned plea Sunday for students to head home after Leung issued an ominous warning that the situation could "evolve into a state beyond control" if the protests do not end soon.

"The most pressing task for the government is to reopen access to the CGO (Central Government Offices) on Monday so that some 3,000 CGO staff can return to their workplace and continue to provide services to the public," Leung said at the weekend.

Secondary schools in the affected areas would also reopen, officials said, as the city administration pushed for Hong Kong to get back to normal.

Student leaders and the government have both said they are willing to enter talks aimed at ending the deadlock, but only under certain conditions.

The government said "the door to dialogue is always open, if the (main student union) HKFS is willing", calling on them to help clear protesters from areas around Admiralty.

HKFS, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, said allegations that police had failed to protect them from attacks by aggressive counter-demonstrators must be investigated before agreeing to talks.

"Stop threatening and suppressing all the occupiers -- then there is possibility to talk," said HKFS leader Alex Chow.



US lifts 40-year arms ban to boost Vietnam sea defense

‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:46 AMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Oct 03, 2014 - In a decision likely to anger China, the US is partly lifting a 40-year ban on arms sales to former foe Vietnam to help boost defenses in the tense South China Sea.

The historic easing of the ban in place since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 will only apply to maritime equipment, State Department officials stressed, and comes amid warming ties and as Hanoi makes "modest" improvements to human rights.

"What's driving this is not a sudden desire to transfer military equipment to Vietnam writ large, but a specific need in the region," said one official, highlighting what he called Vietnam's lack of capacity in the disputed waters and America's own national security interests.

"It's useful in trying to deal with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea to bolster the capacity of our friends in the region to maintain a maritime presence in some capacity."

Some 40 percent of the world's seaborne trade passes through the sea which is claimed in part by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as China and the Philippines.

Although the United States has not taken sides in the territorial disputes, it has warned Beijing against "destabilizing actions" amid a series of tense maritime incidents.

Earlier this year, Beijing placed an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam, sparking deadly riots in the Southeast Asian nation.

Secretary of State John Kerry informed his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Min during talks Thursday of Washington's move to adjust the current policy "to allow the transfer of defense equipment, including lethal defense equipment, for maritime security purposes only," a senior State Department official said.

Kerry later praised "the transformation" in Vietnam since the US normalized diplomatic relations two decades ago, calling it "nothing short of amazing."

"Vietnam has become a modern nation and an important partner of the United States. And (when) we talk to the young people in Vietnam you can feel the enthusiasm for the potential of the future," he told a US-ASEAN business council dinner.

- Not 'anti-China' -

A prohibition on sales of other kinds of lethal weapons, such as tanks, will stay in place as Washington pushes Hanoi to improve its human rights record.

"Vietnam will need to make additional progress on human rights for the United States to consider a full lift of the ban on lethal defense articles in the future," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

US officials denied the policy change was "anti-China" and insisted they had no specific sales to outline so far, but would consider each request from Hanoi on a case-by-case basis.

And they sought to allay any concerns from Beijing, saying it was purely a defensive measure.

"We're not talking about destabilizing systems, we're talking about defensive capabilities... These are not things that are going to tip the regional balance," a second State Department official said, also asking not to be named.

Any sales would be done in close consultation with the US Congress, and would be heavily focused on equipping the Vietnamese coast guard, the State Department officials said.

So far, Washington has only been allowed to sell unarmed patrol boats to the Vietnamese coastguard since a total ban on military sales was lifted in 2006. That could now change, for example, the officials said.

And they acknowledged that airborne defense systems would also be considered for sale if they included a maritime capacity.

"This policy supports Vietnam's efforts to improve its maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities," Psaki told reporters.

Officials said, however, that the easing of the ban did not mean all arms sales were now on the table to the communist-run authorities amid continuing concerns about rights such as freedom of expression and religion.

"It's not an indication that we are going to provide all lethal assistance now. It just simply says we can remove what has been a hinderance to our ability to provide legitimate maritime capacity," the second unnamed State Department official said.



Hong Kong protests 'doomed to fail': China party paper

‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:46 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 03, 2014 - The official mouthpiece of China's ruling Communist party said Friday that authorities will not make concessions to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong and that their cause is "doomed to fail".

Students whose peaceful protests have paralysed parts of the global financial hub have agreed to hold talks with the government while vowing to continue their occupation, as the city's under-fire leader refused to stand down.

But the protesters' demands for unfettered elections are "neither legal nor reasonable", said the People's Daily newspaper, in a defiant front page editorial.

China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress ruled in August that candidates for Hong Kong elections would be selected by a committee, a move slammed by protesters as "fake democracy".

The People's Daily said that: "Upholding the decision of the standing committee of the National People's Congress is the necessary decision, and the only decision."

The protests are "against legal principles, and doomed to fail", it said, adding: "There is no room to make concessions on important principles."

Analysts say that Beijing is wary of granting protesters' demands, as it fears that backing down in the face of demonstrations could create a precedent for public protest which would be unacceptable to the Communist leadership.

China's official military newspaper, the People's Liberation Army Daily, reported on its front page that more than 1000 troops in Hong Kong had received "political training," stressing loyalty to the Communist party.

The training aimed to "make the voice of the party the strongest voice in the barracks, and ensure absolute loyalty from the troops," it said.

Beijing stations soldiers in Hong Kong but local politicians have so far ruled out military intervention.

Huge crowds have shut down central areas of the Chinese city with mass sit-ins all week and had set a midnight Thursday deadline for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to quit and for Beijing to guarantee the former British colony full democracy.

With his office besieged by thousands of protesters and tensions with police high, a defiant Leung appeared minutes before midnight rejecting calls to go, but offered talks to one prominent student group in a bid to break the impasse.

The chief executive said he would appoint Chief Administration Secretary Carrie Lam to lead talks with the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS), one of several groups behind the demonstrations in the financial hub.

In a statement released early Friday, HKFS said they would meet Lam but renewed calls for Leung's resignation, vowing to continue their occupation if their demands were not met.

Singapore questions foreigners over Hong Kong vigil
Singapore (AFP) Oct 02, 2014 - Singapore police have questioned several foreign nationals over their participation in a candlelit vigil held in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

"Police confirm that several foreigners are currently assisting with investigations into offences under the Public Order Act," the Singapore Police Force said in an email response to an AFP query Thursday.

"No arrests have been made," the statement said, without giving further details on the number being investigated or their nationalities.

The candlelit vigil drew more than 100 people Wednesday night at the downtown Speakers' Corner, Singapore's sole free-speech zone where protests are allowed.

Only Singapore citizens and permanent residents are allowed to take part in protests in the area without police permits.

"While foreigners are allowed to work or live here, they have to abide by our laws," police said.

"They should not import their domestic issues from their countries into Singapore and conduct activities which can disturb public order."

The hour-long vigil saw participants set up a mini-shrine for a poster of the "Goddess of Democracy" once displayed in Tiananmen Square.

Some in the crowd chanted Cantonese slogans in support of the Hong Kong demonstrators, and organisers gave short speeches voicing solidarity with the protesters who are demanding free elections in the semi-autonomous city.

Singapore, ruled by the same party for more than five decades and famous for strict social controls, in May last year issued a stern warning to foreigners on its shores to abide by its laws and avoid participating in illegal protests.



Defiant H.K. protesters clash with police despite talks offer

‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:46 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 03, 2014 - Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong scuffled with police outside government headquarters as tensions ran high Friday, despite an eleventh-hour agreement for talks, as China said the demonstrators were "doomed to fail".

Foreign attention is fixed on the crisis unfolding in one of the world's financial capitals, with the United States, Europe and Japan all expressing their concern, while Hong Kong's last British governor said Beijing was "foolish" for not investing more trust in the city's seven million people.

China, however, reiterated its denunciations of the protest movement, saying there was "no room to make concessions on important principles".

Although most overnight demonstrators had gone home by Friday morning, around 100 remained outside the government complex, which is now the focal point of protests that have brought parts of the city to a standstill for five days.

Demonstrators had set a midnight Thursday ultimatum for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to resign and for Beijing to guarantee full democracy to the former British colony, instead of vetting candidates who want to stand for the chief executive's job in 2017 elections.

Leung refused to quit but in a dramatic televised appearance shortly before the midnight deadline, he appointed his deputy to sit down with a prominent students' group that has been at the vanguard of the protests.

There was no sign of the talks starting by Friday afternoon, however. And mistrust was rife that Leung was merely trying to buy time in the hope that the Hong Kong public will tire of the disruption caused by the mass sit-ins, with businesses losing money, schools shut and bus routes severed.

"I think he is avoiding people who are voicing their views," Abigail Hon, 19, told AFP.

"From now on I am going to stay overnight. We hope that Leung can face the problem and respond to what we demand right now," she said, adding that she wants Leung to speak directly with the students.

But the Occupy Central protest group said it welcomed the talks, and hoped they would "provide a turning point in the current political stalemate".

Police pushed through around 100 demonstrators who were blocking an exit at the government offices Friday morning, saying that a seriously ill officer needed to be let out in an ambulance. In chaotic scenes, protesters refused to move and shouted "liar, liar!"

Relations between protesters and police have deteriorated since tear-gas was fired to disperse crowds last Sunday and boxes carrying rubber bullets were seen being carried by officers Thursday.

Police finally barged their way through to make a path for the ambulance.

- Foreign leaders are watching -

On August 31, China said Hong Kongers would be able to vote for their next chief executive in 2017 but that only candidates vetted by a loyalist committee would be allowed to stand, a decision dismissed as "fake democracy" by campaigners.

In an editorial on Friday, the People's Daily, the Communist Party mouthpiece, repeated Beijing's unbending response.

"Upholding the (August 31) decision of the standing committee of the National People's Congress is the necessary decision, and the only decision," it said, adding that the protests are "against legal principles, and doomed to fail".

And analysts say it is very unlikely that Leung will step down, in what would be a massive loss of face for Beijing and the Hong Kong establishment, at a time when the Communist Party is already working hard to suppress internal dissent on the mainland.

But international concern continues to grow, despite China's angry statements that the Hong Kong crisis is nobody else's business.

The European Union and Japan underlined Hong Kong's importance to the international community.

In light of comments by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, US consul-general Clifford Hart stressed that "America's leaders are focused on developments here".

"As each of you thinks about the future, I just want to repeat my government's strong support for dialogue as the best means to get beyond the current impasse," he said in a Facebook message.

Ex-governor Chris Patten, who brought the curtain down on British rule of Hong Kong in 1997, welcomed the government's offer to talk with the students.

But in comments to the BBC, he also said: "I think it betrays a rather foolish sense on the side of Beijing that they can't trust the people of Hong Kong to behave responsibly and sensibly. They can."



Hungary hosts NATO exercise in 'show of strength'

‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:46 AMGo to full article
Veszprem, Hungary (AFP) Oct 02, 2014 - Hungarian and US soldiers took part in a joint military exercise Thursday, simulating "everyday" battle situations in Ukraine, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.

Around 350 Hungarian and 60 US soldiers took part in the exercise near Veszprem 110 kilometres west of Budapest, during which troops, tanks and planes used live ammunition.

The drill reinforced the US message of military readiness in NATO countries amid the West-East standoff with Russia over Ukraine.

NATO's Deputy Supreme Allied Commander for Europe, General Adrian Bradshaw, attended the exercise along with observers from several NATO countries.

"Our soldiers simulated situations which happen everyday (on the Ukraine-Russia border)," Orban said during a speech.

"We have to continuously show strength," he added.

After a NATO summit in Britain last month, Hungary, which joined the military alliance in 1999, said it would hike defence spending and hold a series of military exercises in September and October.

"The Hungarian army is at the beginning of a process of technological modernisation," Orban said.

The government would complete a military procurement schedule by November, he added.



Hong Kong protest leader threatens to step up mass action

‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:08:46 AMGo to full article
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 01, 2014 - A student leader threatened Wednesday to step up Hong Kong's huge pro-democracy protests -- including a possible occupation of government offices -- unless the city's leader steps down within a day, as support for the movement grew around the world.

The announcement came as tens of thousands of people poured onto the streets for a fourth straight night in protest against Beijing's refusal to grant full democracy to the semi-autonomous city, filling long stretches of major highways that normally teem with traffic.

Agnes Chow of the Scholarism student movement called on Hong Kong's embattled leader Leung Chun-ying to quit or face an escalation of the protests, which have sparked one of the biggest challenges to China's rule of the city since former colonial power Britain handed it back in 1997.

"If our Chief Executive and the central government (China) do not respect and listen to our people's opinion, we will consider having different operating actions in future days, including occupying other places like important government offices," said Chow, adding that the deadline was "today or tomorrow".

Wednesday marked China's National Day, with Leung clinking glasses of champagne at a reception with Chinese military and civilian officials as protesters booed outside.

Students have been at the forefront of the demonstrations in Hong Kong but others have swelled their ranks since riot police tear-gassed protesters on Sunday night in chaotic scenes that triggered an outpouring of support.

- We need to escalate the movement -

Chan Kin-man, co-founder of the pro-democracy Occupy Central group which co-organised the demonstrations, said any escalation would be "an action initiative by the students" and called for it to be peaceful.

There was a mixed response to the proposal from the protesters packed into the streets on Wednesday night despite the sweltering heat, spraying their faces with water to keep cool.

"We need to escalate the movement," said 23-year-old student Jason Chan. "So many people have come out every day and the government hasn't responded to us. If we don't take things to the next level, this movement is pointless."

But many others were reluctant to take any action that could prompt further clashes with the police. Sunday night's violence has given way to peaceful mass demonstrations, with a carnival atmosphere prevailing after police retreated.

"I think we should keep this a peaceful revolution and shouldn't be more intense," said costume designer Janice Pang as she helped collect plastic bottles in the protest zone to be recycled.

"Hong Kong people may not support us if we do something more extreme."

The protesters are furious at the central government's refusal to allow free elections for the city's next leader in 2017, insisting that only two or three candidates vetted by a pro-Beijing committee will be permitted to stand.

They call this "fake democracy" and have two demands -- that Leung steps down and that Beijing reverses its decision.

"Hong Kong and the mainland are closely linked in their development," Leung told attending dignitaries on Wednesday.

"We must work hand in hand to make the Chinese dream come true."

In a movement being dubbed the 'umbrella revolution' -- a nod to the umbrellas they have used to protect themselves against tear gas, the sun and torrential downpours alike -- the protesters have brought key parts of the city to a standstill, heavily disrupting the transport network and shutting down businesses.

Wednesday and Thursday are both public holidays in Hong Kong, leaving many workers free to swell the masses in the streets.

- Supporters around the globe -

Huge crowds cheered on Wednesday night as messages of support from around the world were projected onto the city's main government building -- including words of encouragement from supporters in mainland China.

Support for the protesters has been growing worldwide, with a Facebook group calling itself "United for Democracy: Global Solidarity with Hong Kong" planning events from Australia to the United States.

More than 1,000 sympathisers gathered in the Taiwanese capital Wednesday night, while 80 attended a candlelight vigil in Singapore.

About 15 demonstrators, bearing umbrellas, gathered outside the Chinese embassy in Washington DC, which was closed for a holiday.

"We have to do everything to head off a Tiananmen in Hong Kong," said organiser Yang Jianli of the Initiatives for China NGO, referring to the crackdown on student-led protests in Beijing in 1989 during which hundreds -- by some estimates, more than a thousand -- people died.

But Hong Kong's protests pose a huge political challenge for Beijing at a time when the Communist Party is cracking down hard on dissent on the mainland.

In comments to mark National Day, Chinese President Xi Jinping said "all tumours grown on the healthy organism" of the Communist Party must be removed.

"We must never waver in our faith and must never separate ourselves from the people," Xi added at a ceremony Tuesday.

Rights groups say Chinese authorities have detained more than a dozen activists and questioned as many as 60 others who expressed support for the Hong Kong crowds.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Leung's administration is planning to sit out the protests -- hoping they fizzle out rather than trying to clear them by force -- on Beijing's orders.

"Beijing has set a line to C.Y. (Leung). You cannot open fire," the newspaper quoted a source familiar with the matter as saying. "You must halt it in a peaceful way."



Dalai Lama in 'informal' talks to return to Tibet

‎06 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:45:48 AMGo to full article
Dharamsala, India (AFP) Oct 02, 2014 - The Dalai Lama indicated Thursday he was in informal talks with China to make a historic pilgrimage to his Tibetan homeland after more than half a century in exile.

In an interview with AFP at his base in northern India, the Tibetan spiritual leader also spoke of his optimism about the new leadership in Beijing and of his hopes for a peaceful end to the stand-off in Hong Kong.

But he also criticised China over its treatment of dissidents, particularly for its recent jailing for life of a prominent Uighur poet.

Now aged 79, the Dalai Lama has been exiled from Tibet since he fled a failed uprising in 1959.

But he revealed that he had "made clear" his desire to undertake a pilgrimage to a sacred mountain in Tibet to contacts in China, including "retired officials".

"It's not finalised, not yet, but the idea is there," he said during celebrations to mark 25 years since he won the Nobel peace prize.

"Not formally or seriously, but informally... I express, this is my desire, and some of my friends, they are also showing their genuine interest or concern," he added.

"Recently, some Chinese officials, for example the deputy party secretary in the autonomous region of Tibet, he also mentioned the possibility of my visit as a pilgrimage to that sacred place."

The Dalai Lama has long expressed a desire to visit the Wutai Shan mountain, considered sacred by Tibetans.

His comments Thursday come amid speculation of an easing of tensions with China, which in the past has decried the spiritual leader as a "splittist" and accused him of seeking secession.

The exiled monk, who retired from politics in 2011 but who Tibetans the world over still regard as their leader, says he wants greater autonomy for Tibetan areas.

Last month, an anonymous blog post appeared briefly on a Chinese-run website describing the Dalai Lama's return in positive terms, before it was taken down.

It was seen by some experts as an indication that China's tone may be softening on Tibet -- a view shared by the Dalai Lama.

- 'Optimistic' about Xi -

On Thursday, he welcomed recent comments by President Xi Jinping on the importance of Buddhism in Chinese society.

"This is something very new, a Communist Party leader saying something about spirituality," said the exiled leader, who recently described Xi as "more open-minded" than his predecessors.

The Dalai Lama, who enjoyed a close relationship with Xi's father before he fled Tibet, also praised the Chinese leader for a crackdown on official corruption that has taken down senior Communist Party leaders.

"These things show he (Xi) is approaching these problems more realistically," said the Dalai Lama.

"So we'll see. I have some optimistic view, but still too early to say."

He criticised China's treatment of dissidents, and said he hoped the current stand-off between authorities and pro-democracy campaigners in the Chinese territory of Hong Kong could be "resolved peacefully, with mutual benefit".

Beijing has been widely condemned over its treatment of the Uighur poet Ilham Tohti, who was recently sentenced to life in prison for separatism.

"These people firstly are not anti-government, not anti-people," the Dalai Lama said of Tohti and other jailed dissidents.

"So I think not necessary... I think actually long run, harmful."

- Nobel controversy -

The celebrations to mark his Nobel award anniversary have been marred by South Africa's failure to grant him a visa to attend a summit of laureates in Cape Town next week.

At a ceremony in Dharamshala Thursday, he said the summit had been cancelled, accusing the authorities of "bullying a simple person".

In 2011 the Dalai Lama delegated his political responsibilities to a prime minister elected by Tibetan exiles around the world, as part of an attempt to begin planning his succession.

But he remains the most powerful rallying point for Tibetans, both in exile and in their homeland, and remains the universally recognised face of the movement.

Last month he told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that doctors had told him he could live to 100, adding, "in my dreams I will die at the age of 113 years".

His advancing years have raised questions over his succession as Dalai Lama, and he has stated previously that he will not be reincarnated in China if Tibet is not free.

On Thursday he was in jovial mood, chuckling throughout the interview and telling AFP he was "always quite okay", even if he felt more tired as he got older, and had to consider his health as he planned his still-hectic schedule.

On the prospect of a trip to Tibet, he remained sanguine.

"If things go that way, a more sort of happy way, very good. If not - okay," he said, smiling.

"Now 55 years I spend (in the) outside world. Okay, I feel very happy, and more important, I think I made some contribution for individual level or family level, or society level, some peace of mind."



HK demos throw Beijing propaganda machine into overdrive

‎06 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:45:48 AMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Oct 01, 2014 - Fearful of comparisons to the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, Beijing has launched a dual effort to suppress news of swelling pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong while giving a heavy spin to what information it allows to get through, analysts say.

Scenes of the massive, yet peaceful, protests that have taken over the streets of the former British colony are being flashed around the world, where the reaction has been mostly supportive.

On the Chinese mainland, however, the story is being spun to match a different narrative -- one in which the demonstrators are "violent", "extreme" and being manipulated by foreign forces.

A front-page story on the protests in Monday's Chinese-language edition of the Global Times tabloid showed not scenes of demonstrators being tear-gassed at close range, but rather rows of police officers trying to keep a surging crowd of protesters at bay.

And in what experts say is a record clampdown on social media, news has adhered strictly to the party line, with the ruling Communist Party's censors working to erase social media postings from protesters in Hong Kong or any criticism -- at home and abroad -- directed at Beijing.

Viewers watching international broadcasters CNN and BBC in Beijing have seen their screens go dark as soon as the Hong Kong protests are mentioned, for as long as five minutes at a time.

"There's very little information aside from the official point of view that you can find that lasts very long," said Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of Danwei, a Beijing-based firm that tracks Chinese media and Internet.

"That doesn't mean that people don't know what's going on, but the messaging is being controlled quite strictly," he added.

The photo-sharing app Instagram has been blocked in mainland China since Sunday night when the protests escalated.

That put the popular platform in the company of other foreign social media including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube already banned in the country's tightly controlled cyber space.

- Spectre of 1989 -

Fu King-wa, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre and founder of the censorship-tracking website Weiboscope, said that the number of posts deleted from the popular microblogging site Weibo by mainland censors since Saturday has hit a record high.

Fu's website -- which tracks a daily sample of 50,000 to 60,000 postings from popular microbloggers -- found that 98 posts per 10,000 were blocked on Saturday, 152 on Sunday at the height of the Hong Kong clashes, and 136 on Monday.

"This is the highest in 2014 -- even higher than June 4 (the Tiananmen Square anniversary), even higher than some of the trials of the human rights lawyers, and also higher than some of the other social movements in China," Fu said, referring to the past year's civil society clampdown under President Xi Jinping.

The main driver behind Beijing's concern, Fu said, is likely the flurry of comparisons between the current Hong Kong demonstrations and the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, during which hundreds -- by some estimates, more than a thousand -- people died after authorities sent tanks to crush demonstrations in the heart of Beijing.

"That triggers the nerves of the censors, of the government."

In an editorial this week, the Global Times blasted such comparisons as "groundless" and argued that China "now has more feasible approaches to deal with varied disturbances".

- Great Firewall of China -

In addition to targeting social media, Beijing also has recently added to a growing list of websites now blocked in the country, including the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, which has reported extensively on the protests.

Free speech advocates have voiced alarm over the recent clampdown, which the anti-censorship group GreatFire.org said represents possibly the highest-ever volume of new website blocks in China.

"I imagine not since the launch of the Great Firewall itself have so many sites been added to the blocked list over such a short period of time," said a GreatFire.org co-founder who goes by the pseudonym Charlie Smith, referring to China's Internet censorship regime.

Whether China is able to continue keeping a lid on the developments in Hong Kong largely depends on whether authorities use force to end the protests, analysts said.

"It would create a need to explain what happened -- they're very good at that -- but the international outrage and coverage if there were a violent end to these protests would be very difficult to contain," Goldkorn said.



Polish weekend warriors up in arms over Russian threat

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski, Poland (AFP) Sept 30, 2014 - Commandos sneak up on a fortress in southern Poland. Camouflaged behind sandbags, they fire their Kalashnikov rifles to free the hostages.

But the fortress is really a school and the machine guns are fake. The bullets are blanks and the hostages are there of their own accord.

The participants are all volunteers taking part in a military manoeuvre motivated by security concerns over the crisis in neighbouring Ukraine.

"I shot three," cries one of the weekend warriors at the elementary school in the southern town of Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski, where the training scenario says "little green men" are pretending to hold Polish officials hostage.

The little green men are the enemy -- stand-ins for the real-life fighters with the same nickname who have been helping pro-Kremlin separatists battle government forces in Ukraine.

The West and Ukraine suspect them of being elite Russian special forces. Russia says this is absolutely not true.

The 200 men and handful of women taking part in the school yard smilitary manoeuvres are members of the Strzelec paramilitary organisation and have descended on Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski from across Poland to take part in their annual exercise.

The event has been organised annually since 2010 but this year there is added urgency from the Ukraine crisis.

"The geopolitical situation is what it is. There's an armed conflict is eastern Ukraine," says Adam Dluzniak, a 25-year-old who plays one of the bad guys.

"It's no surprise that large numbers of youths are joining our group to serve as back-up for our regular armed forces," the history professor by day tells AFP.

- Army not enough -

The Strzelec paramilitary was founded by Poland's interwar independence hero Jozef Pilsudski in 1918.

By the outbreak of World War II -- when both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded within two weeks -- the organisation had 500,000 members.

"The professional army is not enough," says Dluzniak, who lives in the southern city of Czestochowa and has been campaigning in favour of local defence units.

"Poland's regular forces number around 100,000 men today. That is not enough to protect our territory," he tells AFP.

More and more cities across Poland, but especially in the east that borders Ukraine, are showing interest in setting up their own paramilitary groups.

"The events in Ukraine have stirred certain fears among Poles," says Michal Swiostek.

"Everyone knows Poland's history and everyone knows that the aggressor is closer than you may think," adds the 22-year-old Warsaw student.

The same fervour for local defence is sweeping across the region's Baltic states. Last month, Latvia's home guard had already recorded more new members than it had in all of 2013.

Meanwhile the Vilnius unit of the Lithuania Riflemen's Union has tripled in size since the start of the crisis in Ukraine.

- Not paranoia -

"It's not paranoia, nor is it fanaticism. It's patriotism," says Dariusz Kanabaj, a 25-year-old human resources manager from the central town of Plonsk.

"Personally, I don't fear (a Russian attack). No need to be afraid yet, but we can still prepare ourselves for that kind of scenario.

"It's like that Latin proverb: 'Si vis pacem, para bellum'. If you want peace, prepare for war," he adds.

The would-be hostages are freed after half an hour of mock battle and the enemy is taken prisoner.

Then comes the fanfare. The warriors parade around the town's large square, cheered on by local officials and the Polish president's defence advisor, General Stanislaw Koziej.

Koziej is also head of the BBN office of national security, which sponsored the manoeuvre for the first time this year.

"The task at hand for the country's institutions is to think about how we can incorporate these men into the national defence forces," he says.



Modi makes White House debut

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Washington (AFP) Sept 30, 2014 - India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the White House Tuesday, on the latest stop in his headline-grabbing debut tour of the world stage after his Hindu nationalist party's crushing election win.

President Barack Obama welcomed Modi to Oval Office talks which both sides hope will overcome niggling differences and revive a partnership which both see as vital, but that has been under strain in recent years.

The US leader was expected to press Modi on the implementation of a stalled World Trade Organization commerce pact and to consult with him on the campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq and on other key issues, including global warming and geopolitics in Asia.

Modi actually made his debut at the White House on Monday night, when he attended a private dinner hosted by Obama at the ornate Blue Room of the presidential residence.

White House chefs served up crisp halibut in ginger carrot sauce, though Modi had given advance notice he would not eat as he is in the middle of an annual religious fast.

- Color Guard -

On Tuesday, Modi re-staged his arrival for the cameras, driving in a black sports utility vehicle with US and Indian flags flying from the fenders, up to the West Wing of the White House through a US military color guard.

Obama and Modi were expected to give statements to the press after an hour-and-a-half of talks.

In an op-ed article in the Washington Post, Modi and Obama lauded the partnership between the world's oldest democracy and its largest one, but said there was much more to come.

"The true potential of our relationship has yet to be fully realized," they wrote.

"The advent of a new government in India is a natural opportunity to broaden and deepen our relationship."

Modi warmed up for the White House visit by basking in a rock star welcome in New York, speaking to thousands of members of the Indian diaspora at the Madison Square Garden sports arena and addressing the United Nations.

Indian American activists have pressed for years to rehabilitate the image of Modi, who was denied a visa to the United States in 2005 on human rights grounds over anti-Muslim riots in his home state of Gujarat.

Modi denies wrongdoing and was never charged over the violence that killed more than 1,000 people.

Since he took office, Washington has made strenuous efforts to court the new Indian leader -- sending several cabinet level delegations to New Delhi and pushing for an early visit to the United States by the new premier.

US officials see India as a fulcrum of Obama's policy of rebalancing US foreign policy towards Asia, and a potential counter to the other rising regional giant, China.

Modi has already visited Japan since taking office after his Bharatiya Janata Party's landslide election win in May and has welcomed Chinese President Xi Jinping to New Delhi.

US officials have welcomed Modi's vows to slash red tape confining India's economy and his overtures to business leaders who have long chafed at restrictions on foreign investment in the country.

But Washington is concerned about New Delhi's recent move to block a key WTO pact that would streamline customs procedures and boost global commerce.

Modi said Monday he was in favor of unfettered trade -- but said commerce must enhance India's capacity to feed its most impoverished citizens and to protect its emerging middle class.

He said that despite some differences with Washington, the wider relationship could still improve.

"It is not necessary we should have comfort in everything, even between a husband and wife, there is never 100 percent comfort," Modi joked at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said the two sides would also discuss the future of Afghanistan and the global fight against militant groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

Modi issued a public warning to the United States Monday not to repeat its "mistake" in Iraq by pulling out of Afghanistan too soon.

"Because after such a rapid withdrawal in Iraq, (and) what happened there, the withdrawal process in Afghanistan should be very slow," he said.

Both sides are eager to repair the damage inflicted by a recent series of spats, including a crisis last December when US authorities arrested and then strip-searched an Indian diplomat in New York for allegedly mistreating her housekeeper.

US officials have insisted that a lawsuit leveled against Modi by a human rights group in New York over the Gujarat massacre will not detract from the visit. As a foreign head of government, Modi enjoys diplomatic immunity.



'CY' Leung: Hong Kong's embattled leader

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Hong Kong (AFP) Sept 30, 2014 - Facing calls for his resignation, embattled Hong Kong chief executive Leung Chun-ying has become a lightning rod for public anger as the city of seven million faces its worst political crisis since the 1997 handover.

Born in 1954, Leung -- the 60-year-old son of a policeman -- has remained defiant despite pressure to step down, two years from taking office, with normally bustling city streets paralysed by tens of thousands of protesters calling for his resignation and for Beijing to grant genuine democracy in the financial hub.

A soft spoken, self-made property consultant and former convener of the city's Executive Council policy-making body, Leung's leadership has been troubled from the start, viewed by many as symbolic of Beijing's tightening grip on the city and a conduit for their frustrations.

He has never been a popular leader and has long been nicknamed "the wolf" by his opponents, partly because his name resembles the Chinese word for wolf. The latest poll carried out in mid-September showed he had a support rating of 43.2 percent, according to a Hong Kong University survey, broadly in line with ratings throughout his tenure.

Supporters say Leung is a capable technocrat committed to the city's reputation for being open to business. He has also instigated a number of populist policies in a city with stretched resources including bringing in a property tax for foreign buyers and stopping pregnant mothers from the mainland giving birth in the city's strained hospitals.

However, his many critics contend that his administration favours a tiny elite of tycoons over the masses and that he is a stooge for Beijing.

Leung's family hails from China's eastern Shandong province but he proudly asserts that he was born and bred in Hong Kong, the Cantonese-speaking former British colony reunited with China 17 years ago.

"I will try my best to safeguard the civil liberties of every resident, protect press freedom and defend the impartiality of the media," Leung said in his inauguration speech in 2012.

But he is seen by many as having achieved the opposite in a divided city where public discontent is at its highest in years.

Rising inequality, competition for resources with mainlanders, the cost of living -- especially housing -- and the perceived erosion of Hong Kong's freedoms under its special "One Country, Two Systems" arrangement with Beijing are partly to blame.

- Close to Beijing -

Better known by the initials CY, Leung has consistently attracted protests by thousands of people since he was elected in 2012 by a 1,200-strong committee packed with members of pro-Beijing elites, rather than by universal suffrage.

While every Hong Kong chief executive to date has been elected by a committee, the current crisis revolves around what is seen as political interference by Beijing and a debate over how the city's next leader will be chosen under planned reforms.

China has promised to let all Hong Kong citizens elect their next leader in 2017. But only two or three candidates who have been vetted by a nominating committee will be allowed to stand.

Pro-democracy activists call the arrangement "fake democracy", and Beijing's ruling triggered demonstrations led by student groups and the Occupy Central movement that echo the democracy protests that hit mainland China in 1989.

Leung, a father-of-three, studied surveying in Hong Kong and real estate management in Britain before returning to his hometown in 1977 and joining the local office of global property firm Jones Lang Wootton.

He rose to become one of the best known figures in the city's property sector, as Asia-Pacific chairman of real estate advisory firm DTZ Holdings.

At just 34, Leung was named secretary general of the high-powered Basic Law Consultative Committee, tasked with drafting the city's constitution after its return to Chinese rule.

More than 20 years later, his main rival for the chief executive post was business and government insider Henry Tang, the son of a Shanghai textile baron, whom most observers saw as a shoo-in for the job.

But Leung's more confident style and populist proposals -- including promises to address corruption, the wealth gap and soaring housing prices -- put him well ahead of Tang in terms of popular approval ratings at the time.

Just a week before his inauguration, though, Leung was forced to apologise over illegal home improvements and faced criticism from an inquiry into a conflict-of-interest row in a government project a decade ago.

When the electoral committee voted, Leung had a clear majority over Tang: 689 to 285.

In their calls for him to step down, Hong Kong's pro-democracy activists mockingly refer to Leung as "689" in reference to his backing by Beijing.




Philippines, US launch joint exercises near China-claimed waters

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Puerto Princesa, Philippines (AFP) Sept 29, 2014 - Thousands of Philippine and US marines on Monday began military exercises close to flashpoints in the South China Sea, where Beijing is involved in bitter territorial disputes with its neighbours.

The 12-day amphibious landing exercises -- involving about 3,500 US marines and sailors and 1,200 Filipino counterparts -- were officially launched from the Philippines' western island of Palawan facing the South China Sea.

China claims the sea almost in its entirety. Its increasingly assertive efforts to stake its claims have heightened tensions with neighbours including the Philippines, which has conflicting claims to parts of the waters.

US and Philippine military officials said the launching ceremony and the exercises were not related to the dispute with China.

"Our primary reason is to establish interoperability and to build capacity in case a (natural) disaster occurs," US Marine Brigadier-General Paul Kennedy answered, when asked if the exercises were tied to a potential conflict.

Regional Philippine military chief Admiral Alexander Soria said the two sides were "trying to develop a bilateral force that can respond immediately to disaster situations and that we speak the same language once we do".

Philippine marine spokesman Lieutenant Jerber Anthony Belonio stressed in Manila that the location of the opening ceremony was not linked to the territorial dispute.

"This has no relation whatsoever. This is just to show the capabilities of our new marine landing brigade which coincidentally is based in Palawan," he said.

The Philippines has recently been strengthening its military assets in Palawan.

The poorly-equipped military has also been strengthening its ties with defence allies -- particularly the United States, the former colonial power -- in the face of Chinese sabre-rattling.

The US Marine Corps said the exercises would "enhance the interoperability between US Navy and Marine Corps forces and their Philippine counterparts with a focus on improving our bilateral response to regional issues and maritime security crises".

This year's exercises will include small arms and artillery live-fire training, a mechanised assault, paratroop operations and a simulated boat raid.

- US assault ship arrives -

The amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu, along with two support ships, arrived at the former US Subic naval base at the weekend to take part in the exercises.

In April the allies signed a defence accord giving US forces greater access to Filipino bases as part of a US rebalancing of military power towards Asia.

Although the United States has not taken sides in the territorial disputes, it has warned China against "destabilising actions" in the South China Sea.

The sea is claimed in part by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia as well as China and the Philippines.

China has been involved in a string of tense maritime incidents with rival claimants in the sea. Earlier this year it placed an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam, sparking deadly riots in the Southeast Asian nation.



Japan PM Abe presses campaign for meeting with China's Xi

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 29, 2014 - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday pressed on with a diplomatic offensive aimed at securing his first-ever summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

A recent flurry of activity has thawed relations that had been in deep freeze for two years, and Abe has embarked on a concerted effort to get face time with the Chinese leader on the sidelines of a regional summit in November.

"I wish to realise summit talks (with Xi) at an early time... in order to build stable and friendly relations between Japan and China, both of which share responsibility for the region's peace and prosperity," he said in a policy speech to parliament.

"Japan and China are an inseparable pair. China's peaceful development means a big opportunity for our nation," Abe said.

The remark came as Beijing prepares to host a gathering of leaders of countries that are part of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Abe and Xi have not held a summit since the Japanese leader came to power in December 2012, followed by the Chinese leader's appointment as president in March 2013.

Efforts to improve soured ties have accelerated in recent months, with tentative public high-level contacts.

Japanese foreign minister Fumio Kishida has met his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi, a veteran Japan-handler who speaks fluent Japanese and had served as an ambassador to Tokyo.

A former Japanese prime minister and a major business delegation also visited China recently to meet senior officials, a move seen as helping Tokyo's efforts.

The Japanese business community is watching with keen interest whether Beijing and Tokyo can use APEC as an opportunity to ease tensions, if not to reset relations.

Japan and China have a tumultuous relationship that is particularly bitter on the subject of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea, which Tokyo controls as the Senkakus but which Beijing claims as the Diaoyus.

China has also voiced its distrust of Abe. It portrays him as a historical revisionist whose conservative beliefs are seen as symbolised by his visit to a controversial Tokyo war shrine.



Stoltenberg takes helm at pumped-up NATO but challenges loom

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Brussels (AFP) Sept 28, 2014 - Former Norwegian premier Jens Stoltenberg will on Wednesday take charge of a revitalised NATO which less than a year ago looked like a Cold War dinosaur in a fast-changing world.

The alliance has a newfound sense of purpose thanks to the Ukraine crisis but Stoltenberg will be aware that it must also face up to many other and longer-term challenges, analysts said.

It is simplistic to focus just on Russia, they caution, when what is needed is a "21st century threat response" which requires money and a sustained political commitment from all 28 member states.

Declining defence budgets have left "NATO forces severely over-stretched to implement deterrence against Russia in eastern Europe while confronting growing disorder in North Africa and the Middle East," said Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer of the German Marshall Fund.

As the United States turns towards Asia, Washington will expect more from its allies who will "need to define how they are willing to establish security and stability ... from Eastern Europe to Central Asia and from the Middle East to North Africa," de Hoop Scheffer told AFP.

For outgoing NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Russia's intervention in its Soviet-era satellite Ukraine was as an act of "aggression" which took the West by surprise and showed that Moscow was ready and able to use force to change international borders.

NATO accordingly could not afford not to respond to what he described as the most serious security threat since the end of the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

- New extremist threats -

At the same time, upheaval in the Middle East and Africa is spawning complex dangers which also demand an answer.

In Afghanistan meanwhile, NATO is winding up its longest-ever combat operation while remaining committed to a post-2014 training and advisory mission which it hopes will safeguard the fragile and costly gains made on the ground.

US President Barack Obama brought the strands together at a NATO summit in Newport, Wales, in early September.

He first called on the allies to back a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State extremists in Iraq and Syria.

The summit then agreed to boost NATO readiness, setting up a fast reaction force to respond to future crises, and crucially, to increase defence spending after years of decline.

"We have reaffirmed the central mission of the alliance," Obama told his peers.

"An armed attack against one shall be considered an attack against them all. This is a binding treaty obligation. It is non-negotiable."

- Implementation difficult, costly -

Now comes the hard part -- putting those words into action.

Stoltenberg "will have to focus on implementation (of what) the alliance decided at the summit," said Jan Techau, director of the Carnegie Europe think-tank in Brussels.

The commitment to increase annual defence spending to 2.0 percent of national economic output within 10 years -- a target most members fall well short of now -- "will be very difficult: some will not abide by it, others will then be tempted to follow their example," Techau said.

"There is a political game that needs to be played very skillfully, he added.

At the same time, NATO will have to forge a working relationship with Russia given the wider dangers -- nuclear proliferation, terrorism, turmoil in the Middle East -- which both face.

NATO "should preserve the means for cooperation with Russia in the long term," which may mean "taking a pragmatic and cautious approach" over Ukraine, de Hoop Scheffer said.

But one NATO diplomat, who asked not to be named, said a tough response now over Ukraine may not necessarily be counter-productive.

"To deal with Russia successfully, you have to do so from a position of firmness, standing your ground," the diplomat said.



New NATO chief Stoltenberg brings Russia ties to job

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Oslo (AFP) Sept 28, 2014 - Norway's Jens Stoltenberg brings close Russia ties to his new job as NATO chief, equipping him with a potentially key asset as tensions with the Kremlin hover at post-Soviet highs.

The former Norwegian prime minister -- the first NATO secretary general from a country bordering Russia -- is known for his good relations with President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

During his decade in power, the two countries signed milestone agreements on the delineation of their frontier in the Barents Sea and on visa exemptions for their border populations.

An economist by training, the former Labour Party head has never shown any particular fondness for defence or security matters.

But his experience has left him with a strong international network and honed his skills as a cross-border negotiator, both of which could prove essential.

The 55-year-old will take office on Wednesday, at a moment in history when NATO's face-off with Russia over Ukraine has sparked tensions not seen since the collapse of the Soviet bloc.

"It's very hard to anticipate how he will behave in this position regarding his rather positive past with Moscow," said Vivien Pertusot at the French Institute of International Relations in Brussels.

"He's been extremely silent these last months, since his appointment became public. Will he follow the firm steps of (his Danish predecessor Anders Fogh) Rasmussen or will he try to become a soothing mediator?"

Despite unrest in several countries of interest to NATO, including Ukraine, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan, Stoltenberg has remained tight-lipped.

The only hint he has given as to his stance was when he told Norwegian news agency NTB on September 23 that "continuing as before (with Russia) is not an option".

"It is Russia that has chosen a more aggressive approach. The result is that we have not been able to follow up on our initial hope of a close and tight partnership," he said.

- Merkel's protege -

Paradoxically, NATO's new secretary general was once a staunch opponent of both the Western military alliance and the European Union, two organisations with which he has eventually come to terms.

As a long-haired teenager in the 1970s, he threw stones at the US embassy in Oslo in reaction to the Vietnam War.

But under his leadership in the 1980s, Norway's Labour Youth went from advocating the country's exit of NATO to rallying to the cause of the Atlantic alliance.

Already a minister, he took part in an Oslo-Paris bicycle relay in 1995 to protest French nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll.

Born into a political family -- his father was minister of defence and then of foreign affairs, his mother a deputy minister -- the married father of two also devoted the majority of his career to politics.

After entering parliament in 1991, the tall, blue-eyed career politician rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming minister of energy and then of finance, before being named the country's youngest prime minister in 2000, the day after his 41st birthday.

He only kept that position briefly, but returned to power in 2005 and stayed on at the head of government until October last year.

Under his leadership, the Scandinavian country participated in the war in Afghanistan and contributed to the air strikes against Libya's Moamer Kadhafi.

Oil-rich Norway, traditionally pacifist but with strong Atlantic ties, is one of the few NATO countries that has increased its defence budget in recent years, when most nations had to cut down due to the financial crisis.

Enjoying a high level of popularity as prime minister in his own country, Stoltenberg also received international praise when he called for "more democracy" and "more humanity" after extremist Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people on July 22, 2011.

His mediating skills have led some to accuse him of being adverse to conflict.

According to Norwegian media, it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel who backed his candidacy, quickly followed by US President Barack Obama.

Many have high hopes for the new NATO leader. Stoltenberg is "calm, a good listener," a Brussels diplomat said.

"He does not share the messianic idea of his post with Rasmussen, who was over the top and could say the word 'freedom' a dozen times in his speeches."



China, US stepping up pace of military confidence-building

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Beijing (AFP) Sept 25, 2014 - China's defence ministry said Thursday that Chinese and US officials agreed earlier this month to quicken the pace of efforts to build mutual confidence between their militaries, just weeks after an air confrontation had raised tensions.

US National Security Advisor Susan Rice and General Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Chinese Communist Party's Central Military Commission, met in early September when Rice visited Beijing for three days of talks with officials including President Xi Jinping.

Chinese defence ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng said that at the meeting Fan and Rice agreed on the importance of a pair of confidence-building measures that the two sides were working towards.

"The two sides agreed that the two confidence building mechanisms were very important for enhancing strategic and mutual trust of the two countries and that relevant work should be conducted at a faster pace so that substantial progress can be made," Geng told a monthly ministry press conference.

"Currently both sides are making joint efforts toward this goal," he added.

The measures have their roots in a summit meeting between Xi and US President Barack Obama in June of 2013 where they agreed to establish a mutual mechanism for identifying major military activities as well as rules of behaviour in the air and at sea, Geng said.

Rice's September visit came three weeks after the Pentagon said in August that an armed Chinese warplane came within 30 feet (nine metres) of a US surveillance aircraft flying over international waters about 135 miles (220 kilometres) east of China's Hainan island.

Beijing, which says that the waters are part of its exclusive economic zone, dismissed the accusation as "groundless" and called on the US to end air and naval surveillance near its borders.

The encounter led to comparisons with an incident in April 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 spy plane around 110 kilometres off Hainan.

One Chinese pilot died and the US plane had to make an emergency landing on Hainan where China detained the 24-member crew for more than a week until Beijing and Washington cut a deal for their release.

Geng made no mention of the incident at the press conference.

The United States is focusing greater attention on Asia and has boosted its military presence in the region, a move that has alarmed China and emboldened its rivals.

China, meanwhile, has been rapidly modernising its military amid maritime territorial disputes with regional neighbours such as Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Separately, Geng announced that the two sides will hold their 15th round of defence consultative talks in the middle of October in Washington.

During those talks the strategic planning departments of the respective militaries will hold their first ever dialogue, he added.



India-China border stand-off resolved: minister

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
New Delhi (AFP) Sept 26, 2014 - A military stand-off between Indian and Chinese troops that lasted nearly two weeks and overshadowed a key summit in New Delhi has ended, India's foreign minister said.

Troops will start pulling back from the disputed border area on Friday, Sushma Swaraj said, after meeting her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in New York.

"I am very pleased to tell you that both the countries have sat down and resolved this issue," she said, in comments broadcast on Indian television.

"Timelines have been drawn... by September 30, it (withdrawal) will be completed. Whichever positions were occupied by the armies on September 1, they will go back to those positions."

Hundreds of Chinese troops had moved into a territory claimed by India ahead of a visit by China's President Xi Jinping last week, sparking the stand-off on the remote mountainous frontier of Ladakh.

The two countries have long been embroiled in a bitter territorial dispute and small incursions occur frequently across the Line of Actual Control, the de-facto border that runs 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles) across Ladakh.

But the number of troops involved and the timing of last week's incident raised alarm bells, and led India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise the issue with the visiting Chinese president.

Indian defence sources said construction by both sides had triggered the stand-off in the Chumar area of the far-flung region.

Military officers from India and China on Thursday held talks near the border, triggering hopes of a resolution.



Russia behaving like Islamic State group: Lithuania

‎01 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:15:58 PMGo to full article
Vilnius (AFP) Sept 25, 2014 - Russia is acting like a "terrorist" in Ukraine and in its intimidation of other neighbours, Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite said in an interview released Thursday.

"I think that Russia is terrorising its neighbours and using terrorist methods," she told the Washington Post newspaper, replying "Yes" when asked whether she thought both Russia and the Islamic State (IS) group, which is sweeping across Syria and Iraq, were terrorists.

"The danger of Russia's behaviour today is not smaller than what we have with ISIS in Iraq and Syria," she added.

Grybauskaite, an outspoken former EU budget chief, also slammed the West for a lack of leadership in standing up both to the IS in the Middle East and Russia in Ukraine.

"Lack of leadership has allowed terrorist groups such as ISIS (Islamic State group) to grow, and on the question of Ukraine, it has allowed Russia to become a state with terrorist elements," she said.

The 58-year-old karate black-belt dubbed Lithuania's Iron Lady for her hardline on Russia also warned that if its President Vladimir Putin "will not be stopped in Ukraine, he will go further", possibly attacking formerly Soviet-ruled Baltic states now members of the EU and NATO.

Nor does she believe Putin would be deterred by NATO's Article 5 "one for all and all for one" mutual defence guarantee.

"Everybody declares that NATO's Article 5 will take place. But it will not stop Putin from his plans if he does not see real actions from the European and world leaders. They are only talking.

"We need to stop him in Ukraine. And until now, that is not understood. That is why I am saying that in Europe today, leadership is taken by Putin, not by the West," she told the Washington Post.

Grybauskaite decried the West for being "so busy not to offend Putin who is today sending his troops to kill and occupy Ukrainian territory.

"Sooner or later we will call him a terrorist and a criminal," said told the Washington Post.

Russia's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula in March rattled nerves in Lithuania and fellow Baltic states Latvia and Estonia, which were ruled by the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War.

They won independence in 1991 and joined NATO and the European Union in 2004 in a bid to secure their independence.



Abe makes fresh call for Japan-China summit

‎28 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎07:14:00 PMGo to full article
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 26, 2014 - Long-frosty ties between Tokyo and Beijing were showing signs of a slight thaw Friday after a meeting between their two foreign ministers and as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe renewed his call for a summit.

Speaking to a news conference in New York, Abe said he hoped to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November on the sidelines of this year's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing.

"Because we have issues, we have to have dialogue without any precondition," said Abe, who visited New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.

"I thinks it's good to hold a Japan-China summit when I visit Beijing for APEC," he said. "For the goal, the two countries need to continue making quiet efforts."

Abe has regularly called for talks with Xi -- most recently in July -- but has been rebuffed by Beijing.

Relations have been dire in recent years, with the two huge trade partners rowing over the ownership of an East China Sea island chain and over Abe's visit to a Tokyo war shrine.

There has been no Japan-China summit since Abe came to power in December 2012.

Tensions rose further late last year after Abe visited the Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals.

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida held an "informal meeting" on the sidelines of the UN assembly, the two countries said.

"We hope the Japanese side will take concrete actions to improve bilateral ties," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in Beijing.

Beijing claims relations were damaged by Japan's nationalisation of the disputed islands, conflicts over interpretations of World War II history and Abe's visit to the shrine.

Following the meeting, Kishida said the two ministers "exchanged views in a frank and sincere manner" but had yet to decide on any schedule for a Japan-China summit, according to Jiji Press.

Meanwhile, Abe told the news conference that air strikes by the United States and its Arab allies against jihadists in Syria were "unavoidable measures".

But he stressed Tokyo's contribution should be limited to "humanitarian support that excludes military contribution".

During the UN assembly, Abe pointed to Japan's foreign assistance, including $50 million it has committed to support relief efforts in the Middle East, where the recent rampage by Islamic State jihadists through parts of Iraq and Syria has worsened an already dire refugee crisis.



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Oklahoma newspaper publisher, wife, daughter found dead in family home

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:52:04 PMGo to full article
By Heide Brandes OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The publisher of a newspaper in a small Oklahoma city, his wife and their 17-year-old daughter were found dead inside their home on Monday and the local prosecutor is treating their deaths as homicides, according to police and newspapers. The bodies of John Hruby; his wife, Katherine "Tinker" Hruby; and their daughter, Katherine, were found by a housekeeper around 9 a.m. on Monday, police in the southern Oklahoma city of Duncan said. ...

For sublet, urgently: House where Adolf Hitler was born

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:23:31 PMGo to full article
The Austrian interior ministry has rented the house where Adolf Hitler was born in Branau, since 1972Vienna (AFP) - Austria's interior ministry is appealing to other government departments to take over the house where Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau, amid a long-running debate over what should become of the building.

Ebola epidemic still spreading in W. Africa

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:17:37 PMGo to full article
WHO says virus still active in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia; total death toll 4,447 from a total of 8,914 cases.

Family that lived with Texas Ebola victim showing no symptoms: mayor

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:15:32 PMGo to full article
A Red Cross worker delivers bedding materials to an apartment unit at The Ivy Apartments, where a man diagnosed with the Ebola virus was staying in Dallas, TexasBy Doina Chiacu WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The family who shared an apartment with a Liberian man who died of Ebola in Texas is showing no signs of illness, while the dog of a nurse who contracted the deadly virus is healthy and being cared for, Dallas's mayor said on Tuesday. Thomas Eric Duncan's girlfriend, her 13-year-old son and two nephews in their 20s had been living with Duncan before he was admitted to a Dallas hospital on Sept. 28. "So far no signs of the virus in any of them," Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said on CNN. "We check them twice a day, and everybody's healthy. ...

Protesters, Hong Kong police in standoff near government HQ

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:08:40 PMGo to full article
A protester cries after police removed barricades that protesters have set up to block off main roads in Central district in Hong Kong Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. Hong Kong police removed some barricades on Tuesday from the edge of pro-democracy protest zones that have choked off roads for weeks, the second straight day they have taken such action and signaling their growing impatience with the student-led demonstrators. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)HONG KONG (AP) — Dozens of pro-democracy protesters were in a tense standoff Tuesday night with a large number of riot police near Hong Kong's government headquarters.

Dallas nurse with Ebola gets blood from survivor

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:56:34 PMGo to full article
This 2010 photo provided by tcu360.com, the yearbook of Texas Christian University, shows Nina Pham, 26, who became the first person to contract the disease within the United States. Records show that Pham and other health care workers wore protective gear, including gowns, gloves, masks and face shields and sometimes full-body suits when caring for Thomas Eric Duncan. (AP Photo/Courtesy of tcu360.com)DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas nurse infected with Ebola while treating the first patient diagnosed in the U.S. has received a plasma transfusion from a doctor who beat the virus.

Gunman kills American in Saudi capital Riyadh

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:50:36 PMGo to full article
The Riyadh shooting is the first deadly attack on Westerners in Saudi Arabia since several were killed in a wave of Al-Qaeda violence between 2003 and 2006Riyadh (AFP) - A gunman shot dead an American and wounded another at a petrol station in the Saudi capital on Tuesday, in a rare attack on Westerners in the kingdom, police said.

Trial of accused Boston bomber's friend turns to text messages

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:48:19 PMGo to full article
Robel Phillipos, a friend of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is charged with lying to investigators, leaves the federal courthouse after a hearing in his case in BostonBy Scott Malone BOSTON (Reuters) - A friend of a man accused of lying to investigators probing the Boston Marathon bombing urged him to tell the police "everything" he knew about the suspected bomber, a federal agent testified on Tuesday. U.S. prosecutors contend that Robel Phillipos, 21, lied to authorities about a visit that he and two other friends made to accused bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the April 2013 attack that killed three people and injured more than 260. ...

Ebola death rate increases to 70 percent

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:27:30 PMGo to full article
EBOLA VACCINE TESTED ON HUMANSWorld Health Organization also warned of potential for 10,000 new cases per week in 2 months.

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes hit IS positions near Turkey

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:15:37 PMGo to full article
Residents of Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, watch as thick smoke rises following an airstrike by the US-led coalition in Kobani, Syria while fighting continued between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)MURSITPINAR, Turkey (AP) — The U.S.-led coalition has launched several airstrikes on Islamic State group positions in Syria, mainly in and around the town of Kobani near Turkey, where Kurdish fighters captured a strategic hill and brought down the jihadists' black flag, activists and a Kurdish official said Tuesday.

Supreme Court leaves California foie gras ban intact

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:11:16 PMGo to full article
Duck liver is displayed at French Restaurant Jean Ramet in BordeauxBy Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In a victory for animal rights activists, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed California to continue to ban foie gras, a delicacy produced from the enlarged livers of ducks and geese that have been force-fed corn. Rejecting a legal challenge to the law, the court declined to hear an appeal filed by restaurants and producers of foie gras. In doing so, the high court left intact an August 2013 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the law. California enacted the law in 2004 but it did not go into effect until 2012. ...

Prosecutor: Pistorius offered 'blood money'

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎03:33:42 PMGo to full article
Oscar Pistorius rubs his eyes as he sits in court as the sentencing process entered a second day, Pretoria, South Africa, Tuesday Oct. 14, 2014. Pistorius was being portrayed as a "poor victim" ahead of his sentencing for killing girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the chief prosecutor said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe, Pool)PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius offered $34,000 to the family of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after he killed her, but the family rejected the funds because they did not want "blood money," a prosecutor said Tuesday at the sentencing hearing for the double-amputee athlete.

Pistorius defense says disability would make him vulnerable in jail

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎03:12:00 PMGo to full article
South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius (front) is seen with his brother Carl (background) during his sentencing hearing at the High Court in Pretoria on October 14, 2014Pretoria (AFP) - Double amputee Oscar Pistorius would be highly vulnerable in South Africa's brutal jails, his disability elevating the risk of poor hygiene and even gang rape, a defence witness claimed Tuesday.

Chris Christie says he would 'rather die than be in the United States Senate'

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎02:42:43 PMGo to full article
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, campaigns with Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein, right, at a VFW hall in Lancaster, N.H., Friday, Oct. 10, 2014. Christie, visiting New Hampshire for the fourth time, said the race is winnable for Havenstein, despite a recent University of New Hampshire poll that shows him trailing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan by 10 points. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter)The New Jersey governor says he may run for office again once his time as governor is up — just not in the state of New Jersey.

3-state storm leaves one dead, four hurt; tornadoes expected

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎02:28:33 PMGo to full article
Arkansas Tornado Victims Busy Clearing DebrisATLANTA (AP) — A severe storm system roughed up much of the South for a second day Tuesday, knocking out power to tens of thousands as it snarled morning commutes and kept many under a tornado watch.

Newly-found ancient cult complex may have been for storm god worship

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎02:01:50 PMGo to full article
Storm God Worship: Ancient Cult Complex Discovered in IsraelA massive cult complex, dating back about 3,300 years, has been discovered at the site of Tel Burna in Israel. Inside the complex, researchers discovered three connected cups, fragments of facemasks, massive jars that are almost as big as a person and burnt animal bones that may indicate sacrificial rituals. The archaeologists said they aren't sure who was worshipped at the complex, though Baal, the Canaanite storm god, is a possibility. "The letters of Ugarit [an ancient site in modern-day Syria] suggest that of the Canaanite pantheon, Baal, the Canaanite storm god, would have been the most likely candidate," Itzhaq Shai, a professor at Ariel University who is directing a research project at Tel Burna, told Live Science in an email.

Despite recent headlines, 'official' Palestine still a long way off

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎01:25:44 PMGo to full article
Palestinian children in Khan YunisParis (AFP) - Despite a highly-symbolic British vote to recognise Palestine as a state, the road to official recognition is still fraught with obstacles, experts say, with the hoped-for two-state solution a long way off.

Former Charlotte, N.C., mayor faces sentencing for corruption

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎01:10:34 PMGo to full article
Former Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Patrick Cannon makes a statement to the media after pleading guilty to corruption charges in federal court in Charlotte North CarolinaCHARLOTTE N.C. (Reuters) - Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon is due to be sentenced on Tuesday after admitting to using his public positions in North Carolina's largest city for personal financial gain, including taking at least $50,000 in bribes. Cannon, a Democrat who served on the Charlotte City Council before being elected mayor last November, pleaded guilty in June to a public corruption charge. A nearly four-year investigation resulted in his arrest and resignation in March. U.S. ...

Kim Jong Un's accessory raises eyebrows

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:55:30 PMGo to full article
NORTH KOREA MEDIA: KIM JONG UN IS ALIVE AND WELLSEOUL, South Korea (AP) — After vanishing from the public eye for nearly six weeks, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is back, ending rumors that he was gravely ill, deposed or worse.

Another Ebola death rocks Europe

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:02:16 PMGo to full article
First Ebola Death in GermanyThe United Nations medical official was infected with Ebola while working in Liberia.

State media: N. Korea leader Kim appears in public with walking stick

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:38:11 AMGo to full article
File photo shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un holding up his ballot during the fifth session of the 12th Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea in PyongyangBy Tony Munroe and Jack Kim SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, shown using a cane for support, re-appeared in state media on Tuesday after a lengthy public absence that had fueled speculation over his health and grip on power in the secretive, nuclear-capable country. Several pictures on the front page of the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim smiling and gesturing on a visit to a housing development, although there was no indication which day the event took place. ...

Powerful earthquake strikes off El Salvador, one dead

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:45:36 AMGo to full article
By Nelson Renteria SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck late on Monday off the coast of El Salvador and Nicaragua and was felt across Central America, killing at least one person, but there were no immediate reports of major damage. El Salvador's emergency services said a dozen homes in the department of Usulutan had been slightly damaged but that coastal areas appeared calm and the country's international airport was unaffected. ...

Two killed as storms move across southern United States

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:41:26 AMGo to full article
BIRMINGHAM Al (Reuters) - Two people were killed and at least four were injured on Monday as a strong storm swept across several southern U.S. states, officials said. A 75-year-old woman was killed about 45 miles (72 km) outside Birmingham, Alabama, when high wind brought a tree down on her trailer, said Walker County coroner J.C. Poe. Her husband, who was also in the trailer, was taken to hospital with injuries, Poe said. ...

Storms Vongfong, Hudhud hammer Japan, India; mass evacuations

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:25:05 AMGo to full article
An Indian fisherman walks near the anchored fishing boats as strong winds blow a day after a powerful cyclone pounded the Bay of Bengal coast in Gopalpur, Orissa, about 285 kilometers (178 miles) north east of Visakhapatnam, India, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Cyclone Hudhud that slammed into India's eastern seaboard weakened as it moved inland Monday. (AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout)HYDERABAD, India (AP) — Rescue workers and soldiers cleared uprooted trees and electrical poles blocking roads in eastern India after a tropical cyclone killed at least 24 people and demolished tens of thousands of mud huts. In Japan, a tropical storm killed at least one person and injured 75 before heading out to sea Tuesday morning.

Police: More than 50 arrested in Ferguson protests

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:58:12 AMGo to full article
Pastor Charles Burton lies on the driveway at the Ferguson, Mo., police station as a chalk drawing is made as a memorial to Michael Brown, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Activists planned a day of civil disobedience to protest Brown's shooting in August and a second police shooting in St. Louis last week. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — Pounding rain and tornado watches didn't deter hundreds of protesters Monday outside Ferguson police headquarters, where they stayed for almost four hours to mark how long 18-year-old Michael Brown's body was left in a street after he was fatally shot by police.

Turkey: No airbase deal reached with U.S.

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:22:09 AMGo to full article
Syrian Kurd Kiymet Ergun, 56, gestures, in Mursitpinar on the outskirts of Suruc, at the Turkey-Syria border, as thick smoke rises following an airstrike by the US-led coalition in Kobani, Syria as fighting continued between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. Kobani, also known as Ayn Arab, and its surrounding areas, has been under assault by extremists of the Islamic State group since mid-September and is being defended by Kurdish fighters. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)U.S. defense officials said Sunday Incirlik base could be used for airstrikes on ISIS.

Police arrest at least 50 protesting shootings of blacks in St. Louis area

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:16:37 AMGo to full article
Protesters take part in a demonstration in front of police officers at a Walmart store in St. LouisBy Fiona Ortiz FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - More than 50 people were arrested in a series of peaceful rolling protests in the St. Louis area on Monday, staged to draw attention to police violence more than two months after a white officer killed an unarmed black teenager in a local suburb. Several dozen protesters - many of them ministers and activists from out of town - were arrested in the pouring rain in civil disobedience acts in Ferguson, the suburb where Michael Brown, 18, was shot dead. Throughout the day, other groups occupied St. ...

Rick Perry's ironic court date

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:00:47 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Aug. 19, 2014 file photo, Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks to the media and supporters after he was booked at the Blackwell Thurman Criminal Justice Center, in Austin, Texas. Perry will make his first court appearance on Halloween as his defense team tries to quash the two felony counts of abuse of power against him on both constitutional and technical grounds. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Indicted Texas Gov. Rick Perry will make his first court appearance on Halloween as his defense team tries to quash the two felony counts of abuse of power against him on both constitutional and technical grounds.

Alaska gay couples apply for marriage licenses after judge drops ban

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎03:46:23 AMGo to full article
Jim Derrick and Alfie Travassos exchange rings as they get married at the Salt Lake County Government Complex in Salt Lake City, UtahBy Steve Quinn JUNEAU Alaska (Reuters) - Alaska officials began accepting marriage license applications from gay couples on Monday, even as the state sought to appeal a weekend ruling by a federal judge that struck down the state ban's on same-sex nuptials. In the latest victory for U.S. supporters of same-sex matrimony, U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess on Sunday struck down a ban on gay marriage approved by Alaska voters in 1998, saying it violated U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection under the law. ...

Watching U.S. health care workers for Ebola

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎03:29:04 AMGo to full article
A hazmat worker points to the entrance of an apartment building of a hospital worker, Sunday, Oct. 12, 2014, in Dallas. The Texas health care worker, who was in full protective gear when they provided hospital care for Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan, who later died, has tested positive for the virus and is in stable condition, health officials said Sunday. (AP Photo/LM Otero)After one infected caring for patient in U.S. hospital despite protective gear, monitoring intensifies.

About 70 hospital staffers cared for Ebola patient

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎03:24:45 AMGo to full article
DALLAS (AP) — They drew his blood, put tubes down his throat and wiped up his diarrhea. They analyzed his urine and wiped saliva from his lips, even after he had lost consciousness.

Landmark Catholic clergy sex abuse case said settled in Minnesota

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎03:22:36 AMGo to full article
This May 16, 2014 photo from a video deposition provided by Jeff Anderson & Associates, shows former priest Thomas Adamson, who is at the center of a lawsuit against the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese. In the deposition made public Wednesday, June 11, 2014, Adamson said under oath that he sexually abused 12 teens as he was moved from one parish to another from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Jeff Anderson & Associates)ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Victims of clergy sex abuse stood next to Catholic church leaders in Minnesota on Monday to announce a settlement to a novel lawsuit that includes new measures to keep children safe.

U.S. needs to rethink Ebola infection controls, says CDC chief

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎02:55:33 AMGo to full article
A member of the CG Environmental HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the residence of a health worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who has contracted Ebola in DallasBy Lisa Maria Garza and Terry Wade DALLAS (Reuters) - Medical experts need to rethink how highly infectious diseases are handled in the United States, a U.S. health official said on Monday, after a Dallas nurse contracted Ebola despite wearing protective gear while caring for a dying Liberian patient. As an outbreak of the deadly virus spread beyond West Africa, hospitals and nursing associations across the United States were taking a closer look at how prepared they were to handle such infections. "We have to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control. ...

Ebola survivor donates plasma to sick Dallas nurse

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎02:47:54 AMGo to full article
DALLAS (AP) — A Dallas nurse who has Ebola has been given plasma to fight the virus taken from the blood of a doctor who beat the disease.

Inside Syrian dictator's torture chambers (Warning: 'Horrific' images)

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎02:00:02 AMGo to full article
FILE - In this Wednesday, July 16, 2014 file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, Syria's President Bashar Assad is sworn for his third, seven-year term, in Damascus, Syria. The Syrian government has said it welcomes U.S. airstrikes against the Islamic State group in Syria. But it had been gambling that Washington would partner with it against the extremists, hoping for a dramatic reversal in the U.S. policy calling for Assad’s removal. (AP Photo/SANA, File)The State Department has obtained 27,000 photographs showing the bodies of Syrian torture victims.

Investigators rush to find out how Ebola struck Dallas nurse

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:27:56 AMGo to full article
A member of the CG Environmental HazMat team disinfects the entrance to the residence of a health worker at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who has contracted Ebola in DallasBy Lisa Maria Garza and Terry Wade DALLAS (Reuters) - Health investigators were racing on Monday to figure out how a nurse in Texas contracted Ebola even though she used protective equipment when treating a Liberian who died of the disease in Dallas last week. The inquiry, reported by the Dallas Morning News, underscores the increased scrutiny hospital officials face over whether safety precautions taken by medical staff are sufficient and as nurses groups demand better training to avoid becoming infected with the deadly virus. ...

N. Korea's Kim reappears after extended absence

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:14:46 AMGo to full article
This picture taken by KCNA on October 10, 2013 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C), accompanied by senior army officials, visiting the Kumsusan Palace in PyongyangNorth Korea's leader Kim Jong-Un has made his first public appearance in more than a month, with state media on Tuesday reporting a visit to a new housing complex in Pyongyang.

Iran's president says nuclear deal with West 'certain'

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:12:49 AMGo to full article
Iran's President Hassan Rouhani smiles while replying to a question during a news conference on the sidelines of the 69th United Nations General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New YorkHassan Rouhani says he believes it could be achieved by a November 24 deadline.

Protesters demonstrate in St. Louis area over police shootings of blacks

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎11:44:50 PMGo to full article
By Fiona Ortiz FERGUSON Mo. (Reuters) - Hundreds of people demonstrated in the pouring rain in the St. Louis area on Monday, staging a series of rolling protests in the latest show of anger over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager in August. Several demonstrators were arrested in protests at the Ferguson Police Department where protesters sang "We Shall Overcome," an anthem of the civil rights movement of half a century ago, and others chanted: "No justice, no peace." Protesters also attempted to shut down a street in front of Emerson Electric in St. ...

Sick passengers removed from flight at Boston's Logan Airport: official

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎11:24:57 PMGo to full article
BOSTON (Reuters) - Emergency crews in protective gear removed five passengers with flu-like symptoms from an airplane at Boston's Logan Airport on Monday, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Port Authority said. The Emirates flight 237 was from Dubai, and none of the ill passengers had recently been to West Africa, said spokesman Matthew Brelis. The region is in the midst of a deadly Ebola outbreak. "Out of an abundance of caution, the people were wearing protective gear when they went on board the plane and removed the passengers," Brelis said. ...

Pistorius should get community service, says prison official

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:45:45 PMGo to full article
South African Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius arrives at the High Court in Pretoria on October 13, 2014Pretoria (AFP) - A South African prison official on Monday recommended Oscar Pistorius clean a museum as punishment for shooting dead his girlfriend, sparking prosecution anger in a court weighing what sentence to give the Paralympian.

Masked men rush protest barricades in Hong Kong

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:45:01 PMGo to full article
A police officer tries to stop a man who removing the metal barricades that protesters have set up to block off main roads near the heart of the city's financial district. Hong Kong Monday, Oct. 13, 2014. An angry crowd tried to charge barricades used by pro-democracy protesters to occupy part of downtown Hong Kong as a standoff with authorities dragged into a third week. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)Dozens of masked men rushed barricades at Hong Kong's main pro-democracy site on Monday, sparking renewed accusations that authorities are using hired thugs to disperse demonstrators.

Push for legal pot reaches new terrain

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:33:41 PMGo to full article
chairman of the DC Cannabis Campaign works on postersWASHINGTON (AP) — A debate over legalizing marijuana in the nation's capital is focusing on the outsized number of arrests of African Americans on minor drug charges.

Alaska gay couples seek marriage licenses after judge dumps ban

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:26:07 PMGo to full article
Jim Derrick and Alfie Travassos exchange rings as they get married at the Salt Lake County Government Complex in Salt Lake City, UtahBy Steve Quinn JUNEAU Alaska (Reuters) - Alaska officials began accepting marriage license applications from gay couples on Monday, a day after a federal judge ruled the state ban's on such nuptials was unconstitutional in the latest victory for U.S. supporters of same-sex matrimony. U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess ruled on Sunday that a ban on gay marriage approved by the state's voters in 1998 violated the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law. ...

Frenchman Jean Tirole wins Nobel economics prize

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:56:55 PMGo to full article
Frenchman Tirole wins Nobel economics prizeU.S. consumers might be paying less than they are for cable and Internet access if regulators had followed the guidance of Jean Tirole in promoting industry competition.

U.S. Army says it faces huge equipment, training risks with budget cuts

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:28:05 PMGo to full article
U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Odierno and Fang, Chief of General Staff of the People's Liberation Army, pose for photographers in BeijingBy Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army warned on Monday that mandatory budget cuts due to resume in fiscal 2016 would be devastating to a service that is already facing huge risks as it tries to keep forces ready for battle, replace aging equipment and respond to crises around the world. "We have to have a national security debate ... because there is too much going on," U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno told reporters at the annual Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) conference. ...

Islamic State defends heinous practice

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:27:12 PMGo to full article
An image grab taken from a propaganda video released on March 17, 2014 by the Islamic State (IS) group's al-Furqan Media allegedly shows IS fighters on a vehicle raising their weapons at an undisclosed location in Iraq's Anbar provinceGroup says ancient Islamic custom justifies treatment of Yazidi women.

CDC head criticized for blaming 'protocol breach' as nurse gets Ebola

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:46:40 PMGo to full article
CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, speaks at the CDC headquarters in AtlantaBy Julie Steenhuysen CHICAGO (Reuters) - Some healthcare experts are bristling at the assertion by a top U.S. health official that a “protocol breach” caused a Dallas nurse to be infected with Ebola while caring for a dying patient, saying the case instead shows how far the nation’s hospitals are from adequately training staff to deal with the deadly virus. Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. ...

Vatican document has radical take on gays, divorce, marriage

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:16:18 PMGo to full article
Pope Francis at the Vatican, FridayBy Philip Pullella VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - In a dramatic shift in tone, a Vatican document said on Monday that homosexuals had "gifts and qualities to offer" and asked if Catholicism could accept gays and recognize positive aspects of same-sex couples. Roman Catholic gay rights groups around the world hailed the paper as a breakthrough, but Church conservatives called it a betrayal of traditional family values. ...

Three believed dead in small plane crash in Chicago suburb

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:01:57 PMGo to full article
(Reuters) - All three people believed to be aboard a small plane died when it crashed into the only vacant lot on a block of residential homes in a Chicago suburb, authorities said on Monday. The plane, a twin-engine Beechcraft Baron, crashed into a section of single-family homes in Palos Hills at around 10:40 p.m. on Sunday, landing in a field, police said. No one on the ground was injured. "It came through the trees and missed all the houses," said Palos Hills Deputy Police Chief James Boie. ...





UN News Centre - Top Stories

As Gaza reconstruction push ramps up, UN urges donors to make good on pledges

‎19 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
A week after a major conference in Cairo on the reconstruction of war-ravaged Gaza, and in the wake of recent visits to Gaza by the Palestinian Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah and United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, the key UN agency on the ground there has begun scaling up its response to meet critical needs of people in the Strip.

DR Congo: UN rights chief condemns government&#39s decision to expel envoy

‎19 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said today that he “regrets and condemns” the decision of the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to order his top official in the country to leave within 48 hours, and the serious intimidation aimed at other human rights staff in there.

New UN report reveals alarming rise in use of death penalty in Iraq

‎19 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
Top United Nations officials are today calling on Government of Iraq to impose a moratorium on the use of the death penalty after a new UN report found an alarming rise in executions carried out by the country since capital punishment was restored in 2005.

Ebola: UN to consult West African governments on coordinating global crisis response

‎18 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
The United Nations and Governments of countries at the forefront of efforts to turn back the unfolding Ebola outbreak in West Africa have agreed to ensure that the UN system adopts a coordinated approach to global support being mobilized for national-level crisis response plans.

DR Congo: UN envoy calls for decisive joint military action to neutralize rebels

‎18 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
In the wake of an overnight attack by suspected Ugandan-based rebels near the eastern Democratic Repulic of the Congo town Beni – the second deadly assault in 48 hours – the United Nations envoy in the country is calling for 'decisive joint military actions' by the Congolese army and UN peacekeeping troops to end the group's reign of terror.

Welcoming &#39calm atmosphere&#39 of Mozambique polls, Ban urges cooperation ahead of final results

‎18 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended the people of Mozambique for the “calm atmosphere” which prevailed during the presidential, legislative and provincial elections held in the souther Afircan country on 15 October 2014.

&#39ISIL must be defeated&#39, declares Security Council, urging &#39common effort&#39 to halt militants&#39 offensive

‎18 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
The Security Council has urged the world to step up measures to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after the terrorist group carried out a spate of brutal attacks in Baghdad and Anbar over the past few days, calling for “a common effort” among governments and institutions to “stamp out” the violence and intolerance ISIL espouses.

With Mali peace talks set to resume, Security Council urges &#39spirit of compromise&#39

‎18 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎01:42:47 AMGo to full article
Welcoming the scheduled resumption on 19 October of the inter-Malian negotiation process in Algiers, the United Nations Security Council today called on all parties in Mali “to engage in good faith and in the spirit of compromise” in the talks towards the ultimate end of agreeing a “comprehensive and inclusive” peace deal.

Erasing infrastructure deficit key to Africa’s growth, development – UN official

‎18 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:26:38 AMGo to full article
Africa’s continued progress on growth and development targets will hinge on concerted efforts – from partnerships inside and outside the continent – to enhance infrastructure, a vital area that will facilitate diversification of African economies and unleash their full productive capacity, the President of the United Nations General Assembly said today.

Ebola: back from outbreak epicentre, UN official says survivors now helping with care

‎18 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:02:56 AMGo to full article
Survivors of Ebola who have developed immunity to the virus are being trained to care for children in Liberia and Sierra Leone, a United Nations official today announced.

UN agency reports growing number of refugees as Nigeria insurgency continues

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:59:39 PMGo to full article
Amid an intensifying campaign of violence committed by insurgent groups in north-eastern Nigeria, the number of refugees fleeing the conflict into the West African country’s neighbouring States has steadily increased significantly, the UN refugee agency warned today.

Global media giants, UN agency team up in ongoing fight against hunger

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:55:26 PMGo to full article
Two new partnerships between the United Nations food agency and independent media outlets will help promote greater awareness about food and nutrition-related issues while providing greater ammunition in the global fight against hunger, the Organization has announced.

Central African Republic: UN officials deplore militia’s targeting of hospitals, patients

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:51:34 PMGo to full article
Armed groups must respect medical facilities and allow patients and medical staff unhindered and safe access to hospitals, two United Nations officials in the Central African Republic (CAR) urged as fighting continued in the embattled nation.

UN convention agrees to double biodiversity funding, accelerate preservation measures

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:12:00 PMGo to full article
A United Nations conference in Republic of Korea wrapped up today with governments agreeing to double biodiversity-related international financial aid to developing countries, including small islands and transition economics, by 2015 and through the next five years.

UN demands safe release of abducted personnel in South Sudan

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:25:52 PMGo to full article
The United Nations Mission in South Sudan today strongly condemned the recent abductions of the world body’s personnel at the airfield in Malakal and demanded the safe release of those still being detained.

More asylum-seekers died trying to reach Yemen in 2014, than 3 past years combined – UN

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:18:01 PMGo to full article
More migrants and asylum-seekers are dying in attempts to get to Yemen, mainly from the Horn of Africa, this year than in the last three years combined, the UN refugee agency reported today.

UNESCO chief denounces killing of Cambodian journalist, urges investigation

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:51:40 PMGo to full article
The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today denounced the killing of a Cambodian reporter shot while investigating illegal logging in the eastern part of the country.

Maldives: UN ‘deeply concerned’ as Supreme Court prosecutes rights advocates

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:47:40 PMGo to full article
The United Nations human rights office has voiced deep concern about a criminal case initiated by the Supreme Court of the Maldives against members of the country’s Human Rights Commission.

On international Day, Ban declares eradication of poverty a &#39most fundamental obligation&#39

‎17 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
Amid pronounced increases in global inequality, the United Nations marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty today with calls to accelerate efforts in eliminating poverty in all its forms.

DR Congo: head of UN mission condemns deadly rebel attacks in eastern territory

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎11:45:16 PMGo to full article
The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today condemned a recent upsurge in deadly attacks in the eastern territories linked to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group.

Madagascar: Ban urges respect of democratic institutions as former president returns

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎11:42:56 PMGo to full article
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today rejected remarks made by former President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, challenging the legitimacy of his country's democratic institutions.

UN envoy calls for funding backed by government action, peace successes in troubled Sahel

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎10:34:32 PMGo to full article
The African Sahel region needs more resources, more joint action and faster ways to deal with the structural challenges, like climate change, and successes on peace processes in Darfur, northern Mali and Libya, a senior United Nations humanitarian today said.

On regional tour, UN envoy for Syria calls for political stability in Lebanon

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:32:38 PMGo to full article
Lebanon’s political environment should stabilize to face the threat from the terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and ahead of what will be a “very crucial period” in the political process in Syria, a senior United Nations official today said during a visit to the region.

UN chief stresses need for urgent global action as Ebola continues deadly rampage

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:52:23 PMGo to full article
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on the international community to step up its efforts to respond to the Ebola crisis and turn pledges into action, while the United Nations health agency warned of continuously deteriorating situation in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Funding gap looms amid efforts to tackle ‘twin plagues’ Ebola, ISIL, warns UN rights chief

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:39:27 PMGo to full article
Combating the “twin plagues” of Ebola and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), while addressing the largest number of forcibly displaced people since World War II amid budget cuts is like “being asked to use a boat and bucket to cope with a flood”, the United Nations’ new human rights chief told journalists in Geneva today.

Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela elected to serve on UN Security Council

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎05:01:02 PMGo to full article
In three rounds of voting the United Nations General Assembly today elected Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela to serve as non-permanent members on the Security Council for two-year terms beginning on 1 January 2015.

On World Food Day, UN lauds role of family farmers in ending global hunger

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎04:21:05 PMGo to full article
With over 800 million people worldwide still lacking access to healthy, nutritious food, family farmers must play an increasingly vital role in the global war on hunger, United Nations officials affirmed today, adding that the strong participation of the world’s family farmers can help “turn the tide” in shaping a new agenda for a sustainable future.

Ban deplores attacks on UN peacekeepers amid simmering tensions in Darfur region

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has strongly condemned today's deadly attack against the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur, known by the acronym UNAMID, which claimed the lives of three peacekeepers.

Somalia: UN condemns second deadly terrorist attack in less than a week

‎16 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:00:00 AMGo to full article
The top United Nations official in Somalia today condemned the latest terrorist attack to hit the African country's capital city of Mogadishu leaving a number of people dead and many more injured.

UN envoy condemns killing of Iraqi politician as violence in country spikes

‎15 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎11:47:32 PMGo to full article
The United Nations envoy for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, today voiced condemnation for the killing of an Iraqi politician amid an increase of violence in the Middle Eastern country.


ISIL advance on Iraqi town unleashes new flood of displacement, warns UN agency

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:55:37 PMGo to full article
A new offensive launched by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) against the Iraqi city of Hit has triggered yet another wave of internal displacement in the war torn country, the UN refugee agency announced today, warning that those displaced were facing increased hardships amid advancing cold weather and overcrowded refugee camps.

In war-ravaged Gaza, Ban urges ministers of new government to unite on “building one Palestine”

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:38:29 PMGo to full article
Two days after donors pledged $5.4 billion in aid for Gaza reconstruction, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the war-ravaged enclave, where he viewed destruction wrought by the most recent conflict that was “beyond description”, and also met with the ministers of the National Consensus Government calling on them to focus all efforts on “building one Palestine.”

DR Congo: UN envoy urges increased efforts to protect biodiversity of Garamba Park

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎01:07:23 AMGo to full article
During a visit to the Garamba National Park, the top UN official in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) urged national and international actors to step up efforts in preserving the natural resources and rich biodiversity of the Park located in the north-eastern part of the country.

Senior UN economic, social official celebrates awarding of Nobel Prize in Economics

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎01:01:34 AMGo to full article
Ambassador Martin Sajdik, President of the United Nations, Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) congratulated French economist Jean Tirole today for winning the 2014 edition of the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, citing his contributions on global regulatory behaviour as being of “particular relevance.”

Somalia: amid unstable security, UN warns of growing humanitarian crisis

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:32:14 AMGo to full article
The top United Nations official in Somalia today condemned the car bombing which left an estimated 13 people dead and many more injured in Mogadishu, the capital, amid a precarious humanitarian situation in the rest of the country.

Strong community engagement, activism key to defeating Ebola in West Africa – UN official

‎14 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:27:41 AMGo to full article
Community engagement and activism are critical in Sierra Leone’s ongoing battle against the spread of Ebola, a United Nations official declared today, adding that only with the support of the local population could the country and the wider region of West Africa defeat the economic and health crises caused by the deadly virus.

South Sudan: UN envoy, Government agree on steps to tackle widespread sexual violence

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎11:24:25 PMGo to full article
Back from her first visit to South Sudan, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Mrs. Zainab Hawa Bangura warned today that sexual violence is a consistent characteristic of the conflict there, and is being perpetrated by all the parties.

Kicking off ‘Africa Week’ at Headquarters, UN officials call for integrated, peaceful continent

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎09:33:51 PMGo to full article
While many African countries and communities have made great progress in peace and security, human rights, good governance and the rule of law, more remains to be done, several senior United Nations said during a high-level panel discussion assessing the continent’s development.

UN calls for increased food security measures to offset threat of ‘shocks’

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎08:30:52 PMGo to full article
With some 805 million people still chronically undernourished in the world, a United Nations committee focusing on food security opened its current session in Rome today with the stated goal of adopting a set of principles for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.

In Middle East, Ban urges Gaza rebuilding amid efforts to resolve &#39root causes&#39 of conflict

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎07:14:23 PMGo to full article
The rebuilding of Gaza remains an important undertaking, but tackling the root causes of instability in the territory is equally critical, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon affirmed today as he began a visit to the long-troubled region, urging both Israeli and Palestinian stakeholders to come to an agreement and “avoid yet another tragic conflict in the future.”

FEATURE: UN biodiversity pact seeks to ensure fair, transparent use of world’s genetic resources

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:46:16 PMGo to full article
After decades of negotiations, the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing entered into force on Sunday, enhancing opportunities for the equitable sharing of benefits of the world’s biodiversity.

On World Disaster Reduction Day, UN spotlights unique needs, vulnerabilities of older persons

‎13 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎06:38:24 PMGo to full article
Marking International Day for Disaster Reduction, the United Nations is spotlighting the need to address the vulnerabilities facing older persons, who suffer disproportionately high levels of death and injuries in different types of emergencies and disasters, ranging from weather events and epidemics to armed conflict.


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News & Features


United Nations Web TV - Other Features

DESA News - Behind the scenes at the UN General Assembly

‎10 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎11:19:11 PMGo to full article
In the last week of September 2014, high-level government representatives descended on New York to attend the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to address a number of issues vital for the wellbeing of our planet.


‎08 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎03:34:16 AMGo to full article
This past July 2014, the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s MDG Advocacy Group visited Africa to celebrate its successes and to push to accelerate efforts prioritizing women and girls.

International Day of Non-Violence 2014 (Portuguese subtitles)

‎02 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:45:13 AMGo to full article
Violence is the extinction of ideals. It’s the expression of inability. Ideals are like a young and fragile love. Who would want to see their love bloodied? Let’s not bath our ideals in blood. Let us not tarnish them with violence.

Día Internacional de la No violencia 2014

‎02 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:42:49 AMGo to full article
Violence is the extinction of ideals. It’s the expression of inability. Ideals are like a young and fragile love. Who would want to see their love bloodied? Let’s not bath our ideals in blood. Let us not tarnish them with violence.

International Day of Non-Violence 2014 (Arabic subtitles)

‎02 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:40:30 AMGo to full article
Violence is the extinction of ideals. It’s the expression of inability. Ideals are like a young and fragile love. Who would want to see their love bloodied? Let’s not bath our ideals in blood. Let us not tarnish them with violence.

Journée internationale de la non-violence 2014

‎02 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:35:13 AMGo to full article
"La violence est l'extinction des idéaux. C'est l'expression de l'incapacité. Les idéaux sont comme un amour jeune et fragile. Qui veut voir son amoureux ensanglanté ? Ne baignons pas de sang nos idéaux. Ne les salissons pas avec la violence."

International Day of Non-Violence 2014

‎02 ‎October ‎2014, ‏‎12:27:53 AMGo to full article
Violence is the extinction of ideals. It’s the expression of inability. Ideals are like a young and fragile love. Who would want to see their love bloodied? Let’s not bath our ideals in blood. Let us not tarnish them with violence.

Un ”nouvel État” pour sensibiliser au problème du plastique

‎29 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎11:49:10 PMGo to full article
Un ”nouvel État” pour sensibiliser au problème du plastique: L’oeuvre de l’État Garbage Patch a été imaginée et créée par Maria Cristina Finucci comme moyen d’exprimer une réalité complexe à l’aide d’un concept unique et simple.

#GlobalCitizenFestival 2014 - Be a Global Citizen. End Global Poverty

‎27 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎01:40:55 AMGo to full article
Watch United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking at the 2014 Global Citizen Festival held on the Great Lawn of Central Park in New York City, on Saturday September 27, 2014.

走近吴红波 - 联合国气候峰会

‎25 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎03:56:48 AMGo to full article

illUmiNations: Protecting our Planet

‎24 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎07:30:27 PMGo to full article
September 20, 2014, United Nations General Assembly and Secretariat buildings lit up on Saturday night in a revolutionary call for climate action in connection with the Secretary-General's climate Summit. #climate2014.


‎23 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎11:18:12 PMGo to full article


‎23 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎11:18:10 PMGo to full article

Camera operators - UN News Centre's original series, A Day in the Life

‎23 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎12:43:24 AMGo to full article
The UN News Centre's original series A Day in the Life profiles how an array of UN staff positions contribute to the greater goals of the Organization as a whole.

Interpreters - UN News Centre's original series, A Day in the Life

‎23 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎12:30:41 AMGo to full article
The UN News Centre's original series A Day in the Life profiles how an array of UN staff positions contribute to the greater goals of the Organization as a whole. UN interpreters Laurence Viguie and Anthony Mango demystify their magical role.

Interpreters - UN News Centre's original series, A Day in the Life (long version)

‎23 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎12:30:05 AMGo to full article
The UN News Centre's original series A Day in the Life profiles how an array of UN staff positions contribute to the greater goals of the Organization as a whole. UN interpreters Laurence Viguie and Anthony Mango demystify their magical role.

Security - UN News Centre's original series, A Day in the Life

‎23 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎12:23:14 AMGo to full article
The UN News Centre's original series A Day in the Life profiles how an array of UN staff positions contribute to the greater goals of the Organization as a whole.


‎22 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎07:55:47 PMGo to full article
今天上午在联合国气候变化峰会即将举行之际,以习近平主席特使身份率团与会的中国国务院副总理张高丽9月22日在纽约联合国总部举行的一个仪式上签署了中国政府向联合国捐赠全球30米地表覆盖数据集(GlobeLand30 Datasets)的协议,潘基文秘书长对此表示欢迎。


‎21 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎11:20:24 PMGo to full article


‎19 ‎September ‎2014, ‏‎05:12:44 PMGo to full article

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Prophets To The Gentiles: Jonah, Nahum, Obadiah - DVD 
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which includes
Multi media Slide Show & PDF Notes

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The History of the House of Rothschild

by Andrew Hitchcock



  • Hitchcock also wrote a history for the bankers:



  • One of our listeners added images and photos and turned this Rothschild document

into a PowerPoint presentation. It is very large; 67 megabytes:









The Rothschilds have been in control of the world for a very long time, their tentacles reaching into many aspects of our daily lives, as is documented in the following timeline.  However, before you jump to the timeline, please read this invaluable introduction which will tell you who the Rothschilds are as oppose to who they claim to be.

The Rothschilds claim that they are Jewish, when in fact they are Khazars.  They are from a country called Khazaria, which occupied the land locked between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea which is now predominantly occupied by Georgia.  The reason the Rothschilds claim to be Jewish is that the Khazars under the instruction of the King, converted to the Jewish faith in 740 A.D., but of course that did not include converting their Asiatic Mongolian genes to the genes of the Jewish people.

You will find that approximately 90% of people in the world today who call themselves Jews are actually Khazars, or as they like to be known, Ashkenazi Jews.  These people knowingly lie to the world with their claims that the land of Israel is theirs by birthright, when in actual fact their real homeland is over 800 miles away in Georgia.

So, next time you hear an Israeli Prime Minister bleating about the so-called persecution of the Jews, consider this, every Prime Minister of Israel has been an Ashkenazi Jew.  Therefore when all these Prime Ministers have curried favour with the West for their re-establishment of a Jewish homeland, they have knowingly and deliberately lied to you, as they were never from that region, and they well know it, because it is they who call themselves Ashkenazi Jews.

The Book of Revelation, Chapter 2, Verse 9, states the following which would appear to be about these Ashkenazi Jews:

"I know thy works, and tribulation and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."
The most wealthy bloodline in the world bar none and the leader of the Ashkenazi Jews in the world today is the Rothschild family.  As you will see in the timeline, the Rothschilds have obtained this position through lies, manipulation and murder.  Their bloodline also extends into the Royal Families of Europe, and the following family names:  Astor; Bundy; Collins; duPont; Freeman; Kennedy; Morgan; Oppenheimer; Rockefeller; Sassoon; Schiff; Taft; and Van Duyn.

However, these are not the only bloodlines to worry about.  You are probably aware of the centuries old pratice undertaken by many Ashkenazi Jews whereby they would change their name, in order for them to appear part of the dominant race of the country in which they lived, so as they could obtain influential positions in that country, which they would then exploit to serve their real masters elsewhere.  There is plenty of evidence to prove the Rothschilds continue that deceptive tradition.

Furthermore the Rothschilds are known to sire many children secretly that they can put into positions of power when required.  This started with the very first man who took the name Rothschild, who had a secret sixth son.  Finally, remember the world is a diverse place, I could if I wanted change my name to Rothschild, or any of the names listed above, and that would not make me part of this family anymore than converting to Judaism in 740 A.D. will make these Ashkenazis Jewish.

Please, therefore, do not automatically assume someone you see with the name Rothschild or any of the names listed above are part of the Rothschild criminal network.  Furthermore and most importantly, the majority of Ashkenazi Jews are innocent and not part of this network.  Check the facts out for yourself first, this article is designed to inform people who the enemy is, not single out people of a particular race or people with a particular surname, who may have nothing to do with this Rothschild criminal network.

1743: Mayer Amschel Bauer, an Ashkenazi Jew, is born in Frankfurt, Germany, the son of Moses Amschel Bauer, a money lender and the proprietor of a counting house.


Moses Amschel Bauer places a red sign above the entrance door to his counting house. This sign is a red hexagram (which geometrically and numerically translates into the number 666) which under Rothschild instruction will end up on the Israeli flag some two centuries later.


1753: Gutle Schnaper, an Ashkenazi Jew (future wife of Mayer Amschel Bauer), born to respected merchant, Wolf Salomon Schnaper.

1760: During this decade Mayer Amschel Bauer works for a bank owned by the Oppenheimers' in Hanover, Germany.  He is highly successful and becomes a junior partner. Whilst working at the bank he becomes acquainted with General von Estorff.

Following his father's death, Bauer returns to Frankfurt to take over his father's business. Bauer recognises the significance of the red hexagram and changes his name from Bauer to Rothschild, after the red hexagram or sign signifying 666 hanging over the entrance door ("Rot," is German for, "Red," "Schild," is German for, "Sign").


Now Mayer Amschel Rothschild, he discovers that General von Estorff is now attached to the court of Prince William IX of Hesse-Hanau, one of the richest royal houses in Europe, which gained its' wealth by the hiring out of Hessian soldiers to foreign countries for vast profits (a practice that continues today in the form of exporting, "peacekeeping," troops throughout the world).
















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The European Union (flag pictured) is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for "the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe".

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End the Shame. End the Isolation. End Fistula.

South Sudan must sustain efforts to protect human rights, says UN official

Conflict in Darfur
Date 2003–2009 /2010


Location Darfur, Sudan
Sudan JEM factions
Bandera Darfur.svg SLM (Minnawi faction)
Sudan LJM
Allegedly supported by:
Sudan Janjaweed
Sudan Sudanese Armed Forces
Sudan Sudanese Police
Foreign Mercenaries
African Union
United Nations
Commanders and leaders
Sudan Khalil Ibrahim
Sudan Ahmed Diraige
Bandera Darfur.svg Minni Minnawi
Sudan Abdul Wahid al Nur
Sudan Omar al-Bashir
Sudan Musa Hilal
Sudan Hamid Dawai
Sudan Ali Kushayb
Sudan Ahmed Haroun
Rodolphe Adada
United Nations
Martin Luther Agwai
NRF/JEM: Unknown N/A 9,065
Casualties and losses
  • 178,258-461,520 excess deaths
  • 2,850,000 Displaced (UN estimate)
  • 450,000 Displaced (Sudanese estimate)
unknown 51 peacekeepers killed

















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