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Wednesday December 31, 2014 World News

India: cash-strapped government to scrap tax breaks on cars, bikes, and consumer goods.Australia to ban sun-tan beds, out of concern for skin cancer (highest rate in the world).Cyprus: to restart reunification talks, Turkey must respect ethnically divided island's right to exploit its offshore gas reserves. Turkey, which doesn't recognize Cyprus as state, announced gas exploration in areas Cyprus had already contracted companies to drill.Germany: with upcoming Greek elections and rise of the anti-EU, radical left, German lawmaker says that "Greece has lost power to blackmail" - no need to rescue it.Yemen: suicide bomber kills 33, including women and children, at student center celebrating Prophet Mohammad's birthday.Spain: 800 African migrants try for 2nd time to storm fence in Spain's North-African enclave of Melilla from Morocco.Russia: in New Year's speech, Putin calls Crimea annexation a "historic landmark".Syria: Kurdish fighters now control 70% of ISIS-held town of Kobani (Turkish border).Lithuania 19th country to join Eurozone; its economy is devastated by Russia's troubles; switching to euro currency could help.ISIS publishes "interview" of captured Jordanian pilot whose plane was shot during US-led bombings in eastern Syria.Italian coastguards took control of distressed ship containing hundreds of migrants before it crashed into shore; smugglers gone.El Salvador: murder rate increases by 56%, to about 12 per day, as street gangs' truce comes to an end (MS-13 and Barrio 18).China sacks 2 senior officials, will prosecute 18 more, for car parts factory explosion that killed 146, worst industrial accident in 2014.China: record environmental fine ($26m) in water pollution case; 6 companies dumped 25,000 tons of acid waste in rivers.South Korea: arrest warrant for airline exec's daughter who made a plane turn back after her dissatisfaction over snack nuts served.Russia: Putin has been in power (nominally or effectively) for 15 years now, since taking over from Yeltsin in 1999 - a journey.Indonesia: sea sonar imaging seems to show the missing AirAsia flight, which presumably crashed into Java Sea, with 162 on board.Iraq: increasing influence of ISIS and other Sunni jihadists reshapes the country's physical map and its influence.China: parents of wrongfully accused and executed 18-year-old boy in 1996 will receive $330,000 in compensation; this comes just 4 months after former death row prisoner was freed for lack of evidence; mounting local outcry over these and other cases, as gov's ongoing legal reforms now include banning torture to extract confessions.Quick news briefs:
Russia: Pussy Riot singers among arrested in protest supporting opposition leader Alexei Navalny.
Liberia suspends Ebola-related curfew for New Year celebrations.
Djibouti government deal: opposition will share parliament, and reforms to come.
Bosnia indicts imam for recruiting ISIS fighters; up to 10-year sentence, based on new law.
Philippines: flash floods and mudslides from tropical storm Jangmi kill over 50 people.
Tunisian President-elect Essebsi to take oath of office after country's first free presidential elections.
China: gas explosion at car parts factory in Foshan (south) kills 17, injures 20.
UN Sec. Council rejects Palestinian draft resolution to make Israel withdraw within 3 years.
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada: man shoots and kills 8 people, including 2 kids, then takes own life.

Tuesday December 30, 2014 World News

Insight: computing inside North Korea, as country blames 3rd internet shutdown on US.Germany: 4 dead, 40 injured in crash of rented holiday coach bus through barrier.Malaysia: 200k evacuated from worst floods in decade; gov under fire for slow reaction.Iran low-level nuclear talks to resume on Jan. 15 in Geneva, with 6 other countries.China - Xi Jinping's increased crackdown on dissidence: Gmail blocked, demands on academia to promote Marxism and official party lines, sacking independent profs, jailing film maker, Christian persecution.Russia avoids making a martyr of Alexei Navalny, major opposition leader (in house-arrest since February), with suspended sentence, but just jailed his brother.Libya: 2 oil tankers on fire, 2 destroyed in clashes between gov and opposition forces; contracts US private firm to estinguish.Nigeria: Boko Haram kill 15 near Cameroon border; 172 women and children kidnapped, 35 killed, in same area over the past month.Guinea: 4yo infected by Ebola when playing in tree housing bat colony - first such case.Greece sending rescue to distressed boat filled with 400-600 illegal migrants.Austria: former Kazakh ambassador charged in murder of two bank managers in 2007.Turkey: ex-TV anchor detained for tweet alleging cover-up of gov corruption scandal.Israel: 6 former execs of local Siemens subsidiary arrested for bribery of local electric company; Siemens already fined.Haiti avoids more protests over delayed elections with new deal, after former PM resigned under popular pressure.Indonesia: bodies found in Java Sea, where AirAsia flight disappeared (162 on board).Indonesia: 3 out of 6 bodies recovered off the coast of Borneo; none wore life jackets.Somalia: US drone airstrikes against Al-Shabaab, targeting a senior Islamist.Live updates: Ebola-infected Scottish nurse sent to hospital; fellow passengers tracked.Pakistan: police rearrests 2008-Mumbai-attacks mastermind, who was out on bail.China's most industrialized city, Shenzhen, caps new car sales with lottery or auction.Philippines: 31 killed in floods & landslides from tropical storm Jangmi; 7 missing.Tobruk, Libya: car bomb explodes outside hotel where parliament was in session.Gambia: gunfire around presidential palace in attempted coup, seemingly averted.Russia: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, top opposition leader, found guilty of embezzle-ement, gets suspended 3.5 years sentence.

Monday December 29, 2014 World News

Egypt: court bans annual Jewish festival for "moral offenses" in previous years (drinking alcohol, and men/women mingling).Liberia: recent progress erased by onset of dozens of new cases of Ebola along the border with Sierra Leone.Indonesia: final communication AirAsia flight revealed; pilot requested permission (denied) to veer left to avoid storm.Bahrain: two anti-gov activists sentenced to death for killing policeman with homemade bomb last February; life sentence for 3rd.Italy and Greece: all survivors now free from stranded ferry; 8 died in the fire.Pakistan: mastermind of 2008 Mumbai attacks wins appeal, granted bail.Philippines: 6.1 mag. earth quake shakes the country; too far out to cause damage.Lebanon: soldiers disperse group of protesting youths at border with Syria.Iran: 6 revolutionary guards killed in (Sunni, generally) attacks near Pakistan border.Iraq: suicide bomber near Baghdad kills 11 Shi'ite pilgrims walking to Samarra shrine.Russia: authorities shut down Siberian TV station, one of last independent channels.Greece goes into early elections; concerns as radical left, anti-EU, opposition party favorite to win; stock market falls 11.3%.South Korea tries to renew talks with North, following failed attempt earlier this year, amid diplomatic tensions (re: Sony hack).Indonesia: vanished AirAsia flight likely sunk to bottom of Java Sea; rescue operations in progress, but grim prospects.Palestinians push for UN vote on resolution ending Israeli occupation within 3 years.Croatia presidential election, evenly split, goes to a run-off in January.Bahrain: opposition leader arrested for inciting (Shia) hatred vs. Sunni monarchy; thousands arrested over the past 3 years.Austria has rented Hitler's birth home for years ($6,140/mo.), a 17th century former inn, to prevent misuse by neo-Nazis.Superstitious Chinese couples got moving to make sure that their baby is born before February 9th (to avoid the chance of an "unhappy life"); spike in births reported.India: woman killed by home-made bomb in Bangalore, already on alert since a man running a pro-Islamist Twitter account was arrested earlier this month.Italy and Greece: hundreds still stranded on ferry, awaiting airlift (bad weather delays).Cameroon: 1,000 Boko Haram fighters attack five northern towns; kicked out.India: Hindu activists hold "reconversion" camps for Christians and Muslims, since all in the peninsula were originally Hindu; politically testing for PM Modi, who participated in those, and stays mute on the topic despite calls for his denunciation.China wants treaty with US targeting illegally expatriated assets from gov officials and business execs. Western countries balk, given common use of torture and death penalty in such cases.

Sunday December 28, 2014 World News

Sri Lanka: 24 dead, 8 missing in floods and mudslides from last week's heavy rains.Italy: 6 feared dead after collision between merchant ships off Adriatic coast.Israel: American indicted for plotting to bomb Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.Iraq: Iranian military adviser killed by sniper (Iran now aligned with allies since ISIS).Libya: government launches airstrikes for first time, against opposition forces.Yemen: 12 killed in fights between Houti tribesmen and Shiite rebels north of Sanaa.Italy and Greece: search for survivors as Greek ferry carrying 500 catches fire.Indonesia coast: massive search operation for AirAsia flight carrying 162 people, which disappeared off radars during a storm.North Korea: another internet shutdown and day of instability; blamed this week's earlier one on the US (as Sony hack retaliation).France: heavy snowfalls leave ~15,000 drivers stranded on the Alps in their cars, forced to spend the night on the road.Malaysia: anger as PM plays golf with Obama as government deals inefficiently with worst flooding in decades.India: 2/3 freight travels by road, but only 40% of the time spent driving - rest is spent waiting at checkpoints. New national tax introduced, replacing 20 regional ones.Croatia presidential election today, under grim economy: 20% unemployment (~50% for youth), and debt worth 80% of GDP.Greece opposition claims it wouldn't run deficits, but pursue fiscal consolidation, focusing on those who can pay; early election and radical left inroads near certain.South Korea: nuclear reactors still under cyber-attack; critical, closed network safe.Pakistan: man who made false bomb threats last July gets 26 years in jail.

Saturday December 27, 2014 World News

Somalia: wanted Islamist with $3 million bounty on his head surrenders to police.Civil-warn torn Libya asks help from Italy to put out fire at its largest oil port.Iran army tests "suicide drone" in war drills held near Strait of Hormuz (Persian Gulf).Syria accepts invitation to Russian-hosted peace talks between gov and opposition.Myanmar (Burma) - hundreds march in front of Chinese embassy over violent crackdown on copper mine protesters.Germany (major lender) reminds Greece of its financial obligations as early election and rise of anti-EU radical left loom.India: timber shop fire outside Mumbai claims 8 lives, all workers asleep.Morocco claims "Exodus" movie represents God, and is therefore forbidden by Islam.Pakistan issues arrest warrant for Red Mosque cleric who refuses to condemn Peshawar school Massacre (Dec. 16).Egypt bans 20th Century Fox movie Exodus; films depicting biblical figures have been previously banned in the Muslim country.Ukraine: first-time prisoner swap between government and pro-Russia separatists.Pakistan: suspected mastermind behind Peshawar school massacre killed.Azerbaijan: offices of US-funded radio station raided, attempt to silence one of the last free and independent media outlet.China increases aid to Nepal fivefold, to compete with India for regional influence, and reward the country that helps control flow of Tibetan refugees fleeing to India.Afghanistan: after US troops departure, Kabul social scene, with its aid workers, security contractors, and diplomats, is but a distant memory; most areas now restricted.Australian entrepreneur Charlotte Chou released from China jail after 6.5 years; one of many Chinese-Australians jailed or in legal quagmire for dubious reasons.Russia: Putin cancels New Year vacation (first 12 days of January) for gov officials.Sweden: hundreds march, protesting arson attack on mosque (5 injured) on Xmas day.Ivory Coast: fmr. first lady Simone Gbagbo on trial for helping her husband steal election, causing civil war and 3,000 deaths.Nicaragua: increasing skepticism over China-backed canal project; secretive operation, unclear finances, delays, etc.Sudan asks UN to respect its sovereignty, after chasing UN officials a month after kicking out African-Union peacekeepers.Germany: finance minister negotiates with parliament on tax reforms; in some cases, a raise, once taxed, becomes a net pay cut.Belgium: former Christian Democrat PM Leo Tindemans, "Mr. Europe", dies at 92.Mexico: priest kidnapped Monday found shot dead, 3rd priest killed this year in state of Guerrero; killing motive currently unclear.Canada: one injured in mall shooting on Boxing Day, country's busiest shopping day; no weapon recovered, two suspects arrested.Brazil: body of Italian tourist, 29-year-old Gaia Molinari, found strangled and left on a beach in northeastern state of Ceara.Italian navy saves 1,300 illegal immigrants sailing to Europe over past few days; from start of 2014 til December 17th, over 167,000 migrants have arrived through Italy.

Friday December 26, 2014 World News

Christmas: from early ban in dark ages to the most recognized religious celebration.Malaysia: over 100,00 evacuated after worst monsoon floods since 1971.Turkey: 16-year-old boy who criticized ruling party released, still facing charges.Libya: hundreds of civilians killed in fighting between government forces and opposition.Thailand: testimonies from two Burmese migrants accused of killing two British tourists scheduled for July.Ukraine: government suspends train and bus services to Crimean Peninsula, annexed by Russia, for security reasons.Japan government plans ~$300 billion stimulus (subsidies + job-creation) to bring world's 3rd largest economy out of recession.South Korea: gas leak in nuclear power plant kills three workers, during routine safety checks; no radioactive contamination.Ireland: pregnant, brain-dead woman taken off life support because her 18-week-old living fetus could not survive to birth.US, Japan, and South Korea to sign first-ever trilateral intel-sharing pact on North Korea (which US already had with SK).Pakistan: US drone strikes kill 7 militants in northwest, where Pakistani army fights local, pro-sharia-state, Taliban insurgents.Sudan: UN officials expelled as situation seemingly worsens, and just a month after peacekeepers from U.N.-African Union Mission in Darfur were made to leave.Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand: memorials held, marking 10th anniversary of the December 2004 tsunami (9.1 magnitude quake) which killed over 228,000 people.Dubai: detained over a month for driving despite ban, two women sent to anti-terrorism court for unspecified charges, but relating to opinions expressed on social media.Sierra Leone: strike action by nurses since government non-payment of risk allowance.Somalia: Islamist militants al-Shabaab attack African Union force headquarters, 14 killed.Hong Kong: despite arrests, pro-democracy protesters back in the street for 2nd night.Father of downed Jordanian pilot pleads for his son's release by ISIS.Kosovo: car bombing averted as police arrest man driving towards area of capital Pristina hosting western embassies; suspected backlash from Islamic radicals, some of whom were apprehended earlier this year.Mauritania: man condemned to death for writing about the Prophet Mohammad and the sensitive topic of caste system.Cute, India: monkey seemingly brings friend back to life after electrocution on rail tracks.Australia: $11bn cuts in foreign aid since September 2013 threatens preparedness and aid in natural-disaster-prone Asia-Pacific.East Timor: US woman freed 4 months after drug-related arrest, thanks in part to behind-the-scenes work by US State Department.Israel: increasing inner pressures in haredi, ultra-orthodox Jewish community, for more women's rights, especially in politics.

Thursday December 25, 2014 World News

Hong Kong police arrests 12 pro-democracy protesters for blocking traffic.Sweden: mosque arson in Eskilstuna (~75 miles west of Stockholm), five injured.Libyan foreign minister: without help, country could become the next Syria.Japan: PM Abe's militarist defense minister pick, Gen Nakatani, sure to anger China.India deploys 5,000 additional paramilitary troops in north-east Assam state after civilian killings by Bodo Muslim separatists.Israel: father and daughter injured by fire bomb thrown on their car while driving in the West Bank, next to Palestinian villages.Chinese university bans Christmas, calls it "kitsch" foreign celebration; threatens sanctions for students not attending mandatory, three-hour propaganda film screening, with teachers standing guard to prevent early exits from the room.Russia: president Putin takes on increasing vodka prices that encourage consumption of illegal and potentially unsafe alternatives.

Wednesday December 24, 2014 World News

Turkey: Santa (aka 4th century bishop Saint Nicholas), praised as national hero. Journey from ancient Lycia to a Coke ad campaign.France hits highest unemployment rate ever, a 5.8% increase in 2014; socialist president Francois Hollande gets lowest ratings ever recorded in French history; GDP growth revised down, from 1% to 0.4%.Tanzania: $180 million corruption as senior officials diverted public funds to personal accounts; 12 international donors withhold $500m as a result; officials sacked.Zimbabwe: locals ignore country's new coin, fearing a repeat of the last local currency's collapse; country has been trading in US dollars and South African rands since 2009.Australia: barely a week after the Sidney siege, counter-terrorism operation yields arrests of two Muslim men.India, Assam state: despite curfew orders, Bodo militants (Muslim separatists from Bangladesh) shoot villagers point-blank.Israel: dozens of politicians investigated for corruption (nepotism and embezzlement), potentially affecting upcoming elections.Formerly energy-independent Ukraine forced to cut power; pro-Russian uprising disrupts coal supply to power plants (from which country gets 40% of its power).Syria and Iraq: US-led forces launch 17 new airstrikes against ISIS targets (including Syria-Turkey border town of Kobani).Somalia: new PM Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke vows to end infighting.China: demolition workers threaten residents with AIDS infection unless they move out.Baghdad: suicide bomber dressed as government soldier kills 33, wounds 55.Turkey keeps interest rates steady at 8.25% for 4th straight month, battling 9% inflation.ISIS shoots down Jordanian fighter jet over Syria, captures and parades pilot.China: third case of self-immolation this week, all Tibetans protesting Chinese rule.Pakistan: week after school massacre, government to raise 5,000 strong counter-terrorism force to fight Islamists.Ukraine parliament drops "nonaligned status", possibly paving the way for entry into NATO, and definitely angering Russia.China: plastic surgery is more expensive in South Korea, but viewed as safer than at home; increasing numbers of Chinese visit the country to get all kinds of operations.China and Thailand to cooperate in fighting illegal immigration and terrorism, specifically targeting Uighurs (Muslims) and the far-western Chinese region of Xinjiang.In cabinet reshuffle, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff surrounds herself with allies, and avoids anyone linked to Petrobas.China: regulators crackdown doubles the number of environmental crime cases referred to police - pressure from locals.Syrian president increasingly open to negotiated peace settlement as army faces multi-front pressures from ISIS forces .Iraq: Yazidi women and girls enslaved by ISIS last summer endured horrors, according to Amnesty International interviews.India imposes curfew on Assam region after tribal guerillas kill 48 people -civilians, including children- in retaliatory attacks.Russia: major pipeline oil spill near Tuapse, Black Sea; weather hampers intervention.

Tuesday December 23, 2014 World News

India: 27 killed by Bodo separatist rebels in northeast state of Assam; over 10,000 people killed in that region over past 30 years. Tunisia: post-presidential-election riots subside, new era of democracy since 2011 revolution and Ben Ali ousting. Qatar news network al-Jazeera suspends Egyptian TV channel, which angered government by seemingly backing opposition - Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. Imprisoned journalist's last plea to make Canadian PM pressure Egyptian government into releasing him, before his 7-year jail sentence runs out of appeals. India: time running out as developers convert Mumbai's red light district (a prime piece of real estate in space-starved city of 20 million) into offices, malls, and apartments. Sierra Leone: UK medical staff leaves as locals administer heart drug to Ebola patients, treatment untested in animals or humans. Amazonian tribe steps up protests against Brazilian government development projects on what they consider their land. China's ministry of health promises medical care and living allowance for HIV-infected boy, 8, shunned by his village. Cameroon: army dismantles Islamists Boko Haram's training camp, arresting or killing dozens, and taking kids trained to fight. India: protests fill the streets as Hindu hardliners, linked to PM Narendra Modi, want to convert Christians and Muslims. Libya: fighting goes on, and expands to third oil field (to get its revenues), between official government forces and opposition. Myanmar (Burma): 1 killed and 20 hurt during protests against mine expansion (land seizures) for China-linked company. Nigeria: 15 killed and 21 wounded after bus stop explosion in Gombe; no responsibility claimed, Boko Haram Islamists suspected. Dresden, Germany: over 17,000 march in protest against Islamization, an increasingly public and frequent demonstration. Hong Kong: a week after their encampments were dismantled by police, pro-democracy protesters now resort to Christmas carols. Iraq: trying to retake the town of Sinjar from ISIS, Kurdish fighters face fierce resistance. Chinese military plane crashes near Weinan, 600 miles north-west of Beijing; 2 dead. Cambodia: unlicensed medical practitioner charged with murder plus other charges for negligently infecting over 100 with HIV. Pakistan, after lifting ban on death penalty, plans on executing 500 militants in the coming weeks, following Peshawar school massacre (132 kids, 13 adults killed). In-depth look: a third of Botswana's GDP comes from diamond; the global recession translated into negative growth. The country works at diversifying its economy. India-administered Kashmir: election and vote-counting from over a 1m eligible voters. France on alert after three Islamist attacks against civilians in as many days.

Monday December 22, 2014 World News

Portrait: Xu Lin, head of China's unofficial propaganda tool, aka "Confucius Institutes". Fascinating, frightening, and creepy. Argentina: Chivilcoy town first in the world to ban beauty contests, viewing them as sexist and endangering women's welfare. Germany: meet Krampus, the anti-Santa who comes to punish and give nightmares to misbehaving kids around Christmas time. Princess Christina of Spain and her husband -former Olympic handball player Inaki Urdangarin- face trial for tax fraud. Belarus government blocks access to online stores and news sites to prevent panic from falling currency, and prevent people from dumping cash savings into purchases. China detains 30,000 people following two month long porn and gambling sting. Except for state lottery, gambling has been illegal since 1949 (Communist Revolution). In pictures: Business Insider's look at life in North Korea (Sam Gellman photographs). Israeli drone shot down while flying over Syria, near the Golan Heights. China: fueled in part by nationalism, Dalian Wanda takes on western Disney Worlds by creating Chinese-culture theme parks. Egypt: 26 men tried for debauchery; alleged homosexual activities in Cairo hammam (public bathhouse) exposed in police raid. Italy: as precaution, following quakes in Tuscany, Microangelo's David to get earthquake-proof pedestal. Pakistan: four more Islamists arrested and hanged in connection with the school massacre (145 dead, 132 of them kids). Near Tours, France: knife-wielding cop attacker shouting "Allahu Akbar", shot dead, was a recent convert to Islam. Dijon, France: 11 injured -2 seriously- when driver, recent Islam convert, slams his car onto passersby, shouting "Allahu Akbar". Argentina: court grants basic rights to Buenos Aires zoo orangutan, arguing she is "illegally detained" - will be released. Turkey: record fine (~$175,000) by RTUK to game show displaying men dancing with women other than their wife. Tunisia: former minister Beji Caid Essebsi, 88, becomes president in runoff election. After hack, South Korea holds cyberattack drills to test its nuclear power plants. After ending ISIS siege, Kurdish fighters about to completely retake town of Sinjar, in north western Iraq. Next step, Mosul. Mexico's Catholic Church calls out president Pena Nieto's inertia; it took the government 10 days to intervene after 43 students were kidnapped by police last September.

Sunday December 21, 2014 World News

Official Lybian government battles opposition forces trying to seize country's two largest oil ports. Lebanon antsy to get French weapons and helicopters ahead of time, a Saudi-funded deal to fight ISIS instabilities at its borders. South Korea gets nervous about data leaks at its nuclear power plants, especially after Sony's hack, perpetrated by North Korea. Jordan lifts execution ban and hangs 11 murderers. Return of death penalty requested by some to curb increasing crime. Afghanistan: exposure to western culture makes tattoos cool and ever more popular, though inking parlors are still illegal. Romania elects new president: pro-western, ex-mayor Klaus Iohannis, 55, who vows to fight corruption and propel the country. Uzbekistan: parliamentary elections sure to strengthen pres Islam Karimov's 23-year grip on power, since all parties support him. Spain: thousands protest new public security laws and their ruinous fines for subjectively enforceable rules, like photographing cops in some cases, or demonstrating in some areas. Syria: ISIS reportedly killed over 100 to-be-deserters among its foreign fighters. Iraqi Kurds greeted as liberators after ending ISIS siege of Sinjar, near Syria. Tunisia votes, nearly 4 years since Arab Spring and toppling of autocrat Ben Ali. Turkmenistan's gas helps keep western critics silent about this surveillance state. 13 US-led airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria (near Turkish border). Germany: growing anti-immigrant feelings, especially vs. Islamization; large protests.

Saturday December 20, 2014 World News

One century: remembering the Christmas Truce of WWI, on December 24th, 1914. China's regional influence grows as it extends $3bn aid and loans to Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. Sweden: 2 car bombs explode in Malmo, city now largely populated by immigrants from Iraq, Kosovo, Bosnia and Lebanon. Algeria: socio-economic repercussions of falling crude prices, whose revenues provide 60% of government funding. French police shoots Islamist attacking police station, shouting "Allahu Akbar!" US drone strike in Pakistan kills 6 pro-Talibans, first since school massacre. Israel: 10th century BC clay seals indicate government in area previously thought rural. US / Egypt relations improving; US delivers 10 helicopters for counter-terrorism support. Paris: divisions over construction of massive "Triangle Tower"; iconic -and lucrative- city skyline is protected by regulations. North Korea, arguing innocence in Sony hacking, threatens US to let them collaborate in investigation. China arrests US missionary near North Korea border; increasing crackdown. Cuban national assembly backs restoring relations with the US. Liberia holds senatorial elections, postponed by Ebola outbreak. Saudi forces kill 4 militants in increasingly restive, Shia-populated eastern province. UN asks Israel to pay Lebanon $850m compensation for 2006 oil spill. Pakistan hangs two, convicted in school shooting (145 dead, of which 132 kids). Israel bombs Hamas militant base in Gaza strip in response to rockets fired earlier. Australia: woman arrested for killing 8 children, seven of them her own.

Friday December 19, 2014 World News

Top Sierra Leone doctor Victor Willoughby dies from Ebola hours after experimental drug ZMab arrives in the country. Belarus, economically close to Russia, imposes 30% duty on foreign currency purchases to encourage using its own ruble. Turkish court pressured to issue arrest warrant for US-based opposition cleric who wants to overthrow current president. Tunisia: former official, 88 years old, runs for president, trying to distance himself from pre-Arab-Spring regime abuses. High tensions with North push South Korean Christian group to cancel illuminated, Christmas-tree shaped tower at border. Thousands evacuated in Germany after ~550lbs WWI bomb found (Age).
Update: hoax suspect arrested (TL).
One of Belgium's 7 nuclear reactors back online 4 months after unsolved sabotage. In depth look at Iraqi air base as ISIS forces close in, on increasingly winning streak. Kenya president signs controversial surveillance bill to fight islamists. Nigeria government "outraged" by Boko Haram islamists' kidnap of 200 civilians. Major western brands particularly hurt by Russian crisis, from Adidas to VW. Iraq: Mosul life deteriorates under ISIS; unpurified water, widespread poisonings. Benghazi: 25 killed, over 100 wounded in pro-government / islamists fighting. Backed by US airstrikes, Kurds push back ISIS siege against Syrian border town. Peru destroys 77k acres of coca crops (used for cocaine) in 2014, highest since 1983. In pictures: Bangladesh oil spill, threatening rare dolphin sanctuary, cleaned up by locals.

Thursday December 18, 2014 World News

England: homeless man gives woman his last pocket change so she can get home safe after losing her wallet. She raises money online to thank him: total now ~$42,000. Despite Russia / US row, astronauts happy to team up on 2015 year-long ISS stay. Odd and untimely: in Pakistan, Mumbai attacks mastermind out on bail. Ukrainians rally to support their troops fighting pro-Russia rebels in the east. Yemen: suicide bomb claims 7 lives; sectarian turmoil since PM ouster. Pakistan air strikes kill 57 terrorists, days after 145 die in army school massacre. For some Russians, Ukraine is a crusade of sorts, with Donetsk starring as Jerusalem. Nigeria: 33 killed and dozens kidnapped by islamist group Boko Haram. Netherlands: Geert Wilders to be prosecuted for remarks about Moroccans (Reuters). (Link to the video, translated in description.) Switzerland starts negative interest rate of -0.25% for deposits over 10m Swiss francs, to try devaluing its strong currency. India successfully launches largest rocket yet, which will enable carrying larger satellites into space. Russia: despite bad news all around, Putin approval ratings seemingly as high as 80%. UK oil industry close to collapse as gas prices gets ever closer to $50/barrel.

Wednesday December 17, 2014 World News

Russia Special
Rush to buy big-ticket items before expected price rises (interest rates from 10.5% to 17% in under a week); Apple stops online sales in the country; weekend-like crowd in mid-week after Ikea announces higher prices for next day; fear of 1998-like crisis sends people withdrawing their cash; Russian economy to shrink by up to 5% next year, based on oil prices; western sanctions from involvement in Ukraine play limited role. (AP)

Increasingly common past-due payments for variable-rate borrowers: interest rates go from 5.5% to 17% in single year. (IBT).

Unlike some OPEC members, Russia can't ride out the storm of low gas prices - so it keeps pumping. It needs $100/barrel oil to meet its current budget; oil is currently at $55, and downtrending. (Reuters).

Russians panic-buy dollars as ruble falls further 10% & food prices rise 25%. (BI).

Russia brain-drain keeps increasing, with serious spike after April 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula. (BI).
National Geographic Photo Contest: 2014 winners and awesome picture showcase. Syria: over 230 bodies, mostly civilians, found in an ISIS mass grave. Iraqi Kurdish major op to retake ISIS-held town of Sinjar, near Syrian border. Europe removes Hamas from terror blacklist, but maintains funding restrictions. Church of England appoints first female bishop, reverend and mom Libby Lane. France, largest European exporter of jihadis, thwarted 5 terror attacks and dismantled various networks; One third of would-be jihadis are recent Islam converts. Japan Potatogate: with potato shortage from dockworkers/ship-lines disputes on the US west coast, McDonald's Japan officially started rationing french-fries. China secures $3.1 billion deal to build high-speed railway between Belgrade and Budapest - travel time cut over half. Pakistan lifts ban on death penalty moratorium as nation morns Taliban attack on school; 132 kids and 13 adults killed.

Tuesday December 16, 2014 World News

Switzerland, while not part of the EU, extends sanctions against individuals and organizations trying to use the country to bypass Western sanctions against Russia. Yemen suicide bomb targeting militia leader kills 25, including 15 school children. Senegal's projected GDP growth down by 0.4% due to Ebola epidemic. German court orders autopsy for local politician, outspoken Putin critic. Pakistan: Taliban massacres 126 mostly kids at Peshawar military school. Spain: 7 Moroccans arrested from group recruiting female jihadis for ISIS. Russia's richest man buys Nobel medal at auction to return to its owner, DNA co-discoverer James D. Watson. Japan: no fries with that, due to docker / shipping-lines dispute on US west coast. Greek radical left rises, Athens Stock Exchange falls 9% in 2 weeks. Israel's US-supported Arrow anti-missile defense system fails during tests. Philippines want US Marine in their custody for murder of Filipino. Russia raises interest rates to 17%, just days
after having raised them to 10.5%.
Chinese manufacturing contracts to 7-month low; 5-year low GDP growth. Chinese businesswoman jailed 20 years, railway contracts corruption. Switzerland: Zurich airport briefly and partially closed after bomb threats. Two Syrian military bases fall to Islamists; 180 dead, 15 soldiers captured. 9,000 Russian soldiers conducted military drills in Kaliningrad exclave, bordering NATO members Lithuania and Poland.

Monday December 15, 2014 World News

"The unlikely love affair between two countries" - Mary Harper, BBC News Belgium brought to a halt from transport unions' strike: air, sea, rail (TG). Brazil fatalities over 30 from bus crash with tanker truck (NZH). German Amazon workers start three-day strike for higher pay (TL). Australia: Sidney cafe stormed, Iranian hostage taker dead, siege over; 2 hostages died, 15 survived (TG). India: despite deactivating a pro-ISIS Twitter account and bringing-in his creator, the account is back up (Reuters). Indonesia mud slide death toll rises to 51, with 55 still missing (NZH). France: 10 arrested in jihadi recruiting network (NZH). ISIS now demands guarantor to ensure that anyone leaving Mosul -Iraq- returns within 10 days (Age). South Korean plastic surgery craze, fueled by locals and fly-in tourists, under increasing scrutiny following botched operations (BBC). In Australia, Sidney cafe under siege by gunman forcing hostages to hold Islamic flags against windows (Age). Russia increases military and weapons purchases by 20%, despite gloomy domestic economy and global downtrend for such purchases (CNN) Denmark argues that connective sub-oceanic ridge between Greenland and Artic Ocean gives the country claims to North Pole's potential energy sources, following similar claims by Russia and Canada (CBC). Hong Kong police clears last pro-democracy protest encampment, unlikely to end the local youth's aspirations at a freer society (NZH). China claims that portions of the latest US spending bill represents unfair trade practices, like barring those funds from buying Chinese processed poultry for school lunches (Reuters).

Sunday December 14, 2014

In Sidney, Lindt cafe under siege by gunman who forced hostages to hold Islamic flags against the windows (The Age Live Updates). Newfound Israel Tamar natural gas field, supplying half the country's electricity needs, is both a target and diplomatic tool with energy-hungry Egypt and Jordan (NYT). 23 supporters of cleric Fethullah Gülen detained in Turkey, in crackdown against opposition (TG). Sterile peace talks in South Sudan as civil war marks first anniversary; 10,000 dead since, and 2 million displaced or refugees (Age). US citizen illegally in North Korea denounces US human rights record and "imperialist influence", seeks asylum in Venezuela (Reuters). Projected China growth to fall further 0.3%, to 7.1% (WSJ). Sweden confirms Russian spy plane incursion, near-miss collision with passenger plane (TOI). Israel PM rejects withdrawal timetable from occupied territories; upcoming meeting with Palestinian counterpart and US state sec. John Kerry; latest peace negotiations collapsed last April (TG). After violent protests over postponed elections, Haiti PM resigns (BBC). Despite economy, landslide victory for Japan's current PM Shinzo Abe's party with 306 projected seats won, strengthening existing majority (NYT). Indonesia landslide's death toll rises to 26, with dozens still missing (BBC). Greece stays EU's weakling, misses latest budget targets; 25.7% unemployment, 49.3% youth unemployment, 174.1% debt-to-GDP ratio. (Forbes). At least 129 dead from drowning after ferry capsizes in DR Congo (Yahoo).

Saturday December 13, 2014

Kurdish forces kill 16 ISIS fighters in Syria, near Turkish border. Leftist radical protesters in Zurich, Switerland, destroy private property and set fires across town. Americans and Belgians commemorate the 1944 Battle of the Bulge, during which 100,000 US soldiers died (TG). Hong Kong police: last pro-democracy encampments will have been cleared by Monday. In Poland, thousands march in support of an opposition conservative party candidate, alleging election fraud. India arrests man over his pro-ISIS Twitter feed (over 17,000 followers). In China, first official state commemoration of the Nanjing (Nanking) Massacre, during which Japanese troops killed thousands of Chinese civilians in 1937. 18 dead and over 90 missing after landslide on Java, Indonesia's main island. Gun and suicide attacks kill 19 in Afghanistan as NATO's combat missions are about to end. Despite 38 flights still canceled today, London's Heathrow airport, the busiest in Europe, has recovered from yesterday's air traffic computer glitch.

Friday December 12, 2014

Computer failure at regional air traffic control center causes shutdown of London airspace. Massive allied airstrikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq. French troops kill major jihadist leader in northern Mali in joint operation with Malian military. With the highest young adults suicide rate in the world, India decriminalize suicide attempts, focusing instead on prevention and counseling. 50 dead, nearly 200 hospitalized in Somalia after drinking contaminated water from recently built well - foul play not ruled out. Thousands of union members protests across Italy (third lowest GDP growth in the world) as prime minister eyes labor law reforms. Mazda joins other local Japanese car makers, recalling 52,000 cars locally due to faulty Takata airbags.

Thursday December 11, 2014

Islamic extremist bombs kill 31 in Jos, Nigeria; third bomb safely disarmed in Kano, second largest city. Sharp domestic criticism of USA's 2009 attempt at recruiting notorious Cuban rapper to unite youths against their communist government. Swiss Ebola vaccine trials suspended after 7% of volunteer patients complain of joint pains; grim discovery by WHO of numerous Ebola deaths in eastern Sierra Leone. Hong Kong police dismantles pro-democracy protesters' encampment and arrests 209.

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