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Thursday, October 11, 2012

U.S Embassy Security Official Killed in Yemen

Gunmen killed Qassem Aqlan, the head of a security team at the U.S. Embassy, as he left his home in Yemen this morning. According to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, Aqlan, a Yemeni national, was responsible for conducting personnel checks as head of the “foreign service national investigative unit” and serving as a liaison with Yemeni security services. This is one of a number of killings targeting Yemeni security officials and politicians since the national army ejected Islamist forces from towns in southern Yemen earlier this year.

Chinese Author wins Nobel Literature Prize

Guan Moye has won the 2012 Nobel prize in Literature. Better known by his pen name Mo Yan—which means Don’t Speak in Chinese— the author of many novels, including Red Sorghum, is the first Chinese national to win the prize. Mo Yan was one of 100 artists and writers who hand copied paragraphs of Mao Zedong’s Yan’an Talks on Literature and Art for the 70th anniversary of the talks. Those talks dictated the style in art and literature in China from 1949 until after the death of Mao in 1976. Mo Yan’s participation in this government-sanctioned memorial drew criticism from many, including Chinese artist and civil rights activist, Ai Weiwei who pointed to the contrasting situation of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who is still in jail two years after winning the Nobel Peace Prize.

Syria Halts Energy Imports from Turkey

Citing the need to repair the national power grid, Syrian Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced today that Syria had stopped buying electricity from Turkey last week. He noted that no political reasons factored into this decision and speculated that power would flow from Turkey back into Syria soon. While Syrian officials did not comment on what precisely was wrong with the power grid, infrastructure of all kinds has been devastated by the civil war that has gone on since March of last year. Turkish energy exports to Syria accounted for around 20 percent of Syrian needs last year.

MS-13 First Gang Classified as International Crime Organization

The U.S. administration has listed MS-13, a Central American street gang, as an international criminal organization, which makes it subject to U.S. economic sanctions. MS-13, which stands for Mara Salvatrucha, originated in Los Angeles during the 1980s to protect Salvadoran immigrants from established street gangs like the Crips and Sureños, but spread throughout the U.S. and Central America quickly. The gang has more than 10,000 members and is implicated in kidnapping, human trafficking, drug smuggling, murder, and a number of violent assaults on MS-13 members accused of betraying the group. The U.S. designation is the first for a street gang; other organizations on the list are Mexican narco group Los Zetas and the Japanese Yakuza. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) director John Morton said, “this designation allows us to strike at the financial heart of MS-13.” Indeed, according to U.S. Treasury Department spokesperson Hagar Chemali, “financial institutions across the U.S. and foreign branches of U.S. financial institutions are obligated to immediately identify and freeze property or property interests of MS-13 and to report any such blocked assets to the Treasury Department.”

Hezbollah Sent Drone into Israeli Airspace

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the militant islamic party Hezbollah, said on Manar television that his group launched an Iranian-built spy drone over “sensitive and important” locations before it was shot down by the Israeli Defense Force. “We are revealing here just a part of our capabilities and we’re hiding lots of other parts,” Nasrallah said. “We have the full right to launch as many reconnaissance flights as we like.” In the same appearance, Nasrallah denied sending fighters to help combat the uprising in Syria, though he did not rule out doing so in the future. Syrian opposition groups have said Hezbollah members are fighting alongside Assad’s army.

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