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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Israel Widens Offensive as Palestinians Retaliate

Residents in Tel Aviv heard air raid sirens as the conflict between Israel and Palestinians at the Gaza border widened today. Retaliating for the death of Hamas Military Chief Ahmed Jabari yesterday, militants in Gaza fired rockets at the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, killing three civilians in an apartment building. Two longer-range rockets fired at Tel Aviv, less than 70 km (43 miles) from the Gaza border, didn’t cause any casualties. It is the first time since 1991 Israel’s second-largest city finds itself under rockets. Besides Jabari, 15 Palestinians died, including four children. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), which received Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s permission to widen the operation know as Pillar of Cloud, hit over 200 targets in Gaza in aerial assaults by Thursday evening. “A very, very intensive night is expected in Gaza,” said Military Spokesman Yoav Mordechai. “It will not be a quiet night for the terrorists in Gaza.” Defense Minister Ehud Barack hinted at the fact that the army has started planning a ground invasion of Gaza. There were reports that Jabari was considering a draft for a truce when he was killed, prompting speculation he was lured out in the open. World leaders urged both sides to de-escalate the violence. The U.S. condemned the acts of Hamas while Egypt stood against Israel and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon said he will travel to the region on Tuesday to discuss a truce.

BP Pleads Guilty, Pays $4 Billion Fine in Oil Spill Settlement

BP, the British oil company, plead guilty to 14 criminal charges related to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and agreed to pay a $4 billion fine. Eleven of these charges, which include misconduct and neglect, are linked to the deaths of 11 employees on the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig that caused the largest accidental oil spill in the history of the oil industry. Three employees were also indicted today: two of them were accused of manslaughter for failing to properly supervise safety tests on the rig, and one of them, former Vice President for Exploration in the Gulf of Mexico David Rainey, for making false statements about the rate at which the oil was spilling after the explosion. BP also owes $525 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission as a civil penalty for filing misleading statements to investors about the spill rate. The company’s problems aren’t over, as it could still owe as much as $21 billion in fines under the Clean Water Act.

China’s President-in-Waiting Xi Jinping Appointed New Party Leader

Xi Jinping, China’s Vice President, was named leader of the Communist Party along with the country’s next Premier Li Keqiang. Xi, a “princeling,” as the sons of former top officials are now, is still fairly unknown abroad and domestically. In his first public speech today, he used clear and simple language as he promised to address China’s most pressing problems, such as corruption, health care, schools, and the environment. Xi even apologized for being late, in sharp contrast with his predecessor Hu Jintao’s style, who appeared more stiff and bookish, using slogans and jargon in his speeches. Despite showing more personality, Xi’s remarks offered no new direction for a country whose people have become wealthier and more assertive. Xi will become President by next spring, completing the transfer of powers.

‘Double Dip’ Recession in Euro Area

The economy of the 17 countries that share the euro shrunk 0.1 percent in the third quarter, sending the region into its second recession in  four years. The figure, published by Eurostat, comes after a 0.2 percent contraction in the months from April to June. Austerity cuts in the southern nations of the euro area caused economic woes that outweighed the relative economic strength of France and Germany, both of which grew 0.2 percent in the same period. In the larger, 27-nation European Union (EU), gross domestic product increased 0.1 percent. Last week, the EU cut its growth prospects for the Eurozone in 2013 to 0.1 percent from one percent. “The latest growth indicators around the world, as well as the high levels of unemployment in the EU, raise concerns about our economic prospects,” EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn said yesterday. This is cause for concern for the U.S., which has shown signs of economic improvement, as the EU is the U.S. principal trading partner.

Ancient Starlight Detected by Telescope

Light from the very first stars of the universe was detected by the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a report in the journal Science shows. Made of hydrogen, the massive stars formed 500 million years after the Big Bang, which occurred 13 billion years ago. “These were probably the very first objects to form in our universe,” said UC Berkeley Astrophysicist Marco Ajello, who wrote the paper. Because the light that surrounds Earth is so bright, the researchers had to look for gamma rays to identify those stars, which are thought to have burnt quickly. Ajello says he hopes to find points in the universe that were even closer in time to the Big Bang.

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