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Friday, November 16, 2012

Jerusalem Targeted as Gaza Conflict Escalates

Hamas militants launched rockets at Jerusalem on Friday, the first time the holy city was targeted since 1970. The missile was reported to have landed just to the south of the city, in Gush Etzion. Israel Radio reported that checks were being carried out by police to confirm if a second rocket had fallen in the area. Hamas claimed its original target was the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. An earlier rocket targeted Tel Aviv, but overshot the city and fell into the sea. The rockets used by the militants are said to be Iranian-built Fajr-5 missiles, with an estimated range of 75 kilometers. That range puts Israel’s most populated areas within the range of Hamas militants in Gaza. The Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) carried out more than 600 strikes in Gaza since the start of its Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak approved the drafting of more than 30,000 reservists on Friday in what could be a prelude to a land invasion of Gaza.

U.K. Wants Assurances Before Recognising Syrian Opposition

U.K. Foreign Secretary William Hague said the country would like to recognise the Syrian opposition coalition formed in Qatar last weekend, but would like more details of their plans. “We would like to be able at an early stage to recognise them as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people”, said Hague. “We need their assurances about being inclusive of all communities”. The leader of the coalition, Mouaz Alkathib, a Sunni Muslim cleric, met Hague and other Western officials on Friday before heading to Paris. The French government became the first Western power to recognise the group on Tuesday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told RTL Radio yesterday that he would be open to discussing an end to the European Union’s embargo against arming opposition forces. “France’s position for the moment is to say that we must not militarise the conflict, but it is evidently unacceptable that there are liberated zones and that they be bombarded by Bashar’s planes”, said Fabius, referring to forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Spain Records Third Eviction-Linked Suicide in a Month

A desperate 50-year-old man facing eviction threw himself from a window in Cordoba, southern Spain, on Friday. He is the third such death in a month, coming a day after the Spanish government announced a halt on mortgage-related evictions. The apartment he was to be evicted from was owned by his own family, an official from the Andalucia provincial government said. It was not clear whether his eviction was related to delays in paying rents or whether he had other problems. On Thursday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy had announced a two-year halt on evictions for “humanitarian reasons”. “These are urgent measures for the most vulnerable groups in difficult circumstances, who have been hit hard by the crisis”, said the Minister of Finance, Luis de Guindos. The government acted after the first two eviction-related suicides, that of 53-year-old former Socialist politician Amaia Egana, who jumped to her death in the Basque city of Barakaldo as bailiffs arrived to evict her, and of 53-year-old Jose Luis Domingo, who hanged himself in the southern city of Granada.

Record Fine Slapped on BP for Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Oil company BP was ordered by the U.S. Department of Justice to pay the biggest criminal fine in the country’s history as part of a US$4.5 billion settlement related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010. Of that amount, US$1.3 billion will be destined to wildlife and science organisations. The company will also plead guilty to 14 criminal charges. Attorney-General Eric Holder said the outcome was “testament to the hard work of countless investigators, attorneys, support staff members, and other personnel”. The two highest-ranking BP supervisors present at the time of the explosion were charged with 23 criminal counts, including 11 counts of seaman’s manslaughter, 11 counts of involuntary manslaughter and violations of the Clean Water Act. A BP executive, David Rainey, was charged to have misled officials about the amount of oil spilling from the well. BP’s CEO Bob Dudley said the company apologised “for our role in the accident, and as today’s resolution with the U.S. government further reflects, we have accepted responsibility for our actions”.

Lowest Ever Turnout for Police Commissioner Elections in England and Wales

The first elections for police and crime commissioners recorded the lowest turnout for a nationwide vote in British electoral history, leading some analysts to question the legitimacy of the newly-created police supervisory posts. Turnout based on returns averaged just below 15%, under the most dire predictions. Humberside and Avon had 19% of registered voters turn up at stations, the highest figure, with the West Midlands reporting a 12% turnout. One Newport, Gwent polling station had no voters. The Electoral Commission said it would investigate the low turnout figures across England and Wales. Prime Minister David Cameron said the low figures were due to the novelty of the posts. “Look, turnout was always going to be low when you are electing a new post for the first time”, said Cameron. Downing Street also blamed a lack of coverage in the “London-based media” for the low figures.

Weekend Read: I Lived a CIA Conspiracy Theory

In July, the author published a letter from a distraught husband describing the exact circumstances of the Petraeus affair. Then people started believing he had forced the resignation of the head of the CIA. In Grantland.

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