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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Breaking: Gaza Ceasefire to Come Into Effect Tonight

A ceasefire in the attacks between Israel and Gaza is to be announced in Cairo on Tuesday night, according to Hamas official Ayman Taha. He told the Reuters news agency that the ceasefire would come into effect at 22:00 GMT and that most conditions had been agreed to, but would only become official once announced by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi. Among the terms agreed by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad were a cessation of assassinations, a stop of rocket firings from Gaza and an easing of border crossings. The guarantor of the ceasefire would be the Egyptian government. Earlier, Israeli airplanes had dropped leaflets over parts of Gaza urging residents to leave their homes and move towards the centre of Gaza City, prompting fears of an imminent Israeli ground offensive. Many Palestinians told the BBC that it was impractical and also too late to leave their homes. “I will not leave my home, we made this mistake in 1948″, said one resident to the BBC’s Paul Danahar.

Iranian Nuclear Programme Not Affected by Sanctions, Says IAEA Chief

The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, said on Tuesday that Iran’s nuclear programme has not been affected by the multiple international sanctions imposed on the country. “We are verifying the activities at the nuclear sites in Iran and we do not see any effect”, said Amano in Paris. “They are, for example, producing enriched uranium up to five percent and 20 percent with quite a constant pace.” The enrichment of uranium is a central concern of the IAEA’s efforts as it can be used for energy generation, but also for nuclear weapons. Five percent purity uranium is used for power generation, 20 percent purity uranium is used for medical purposes, but further enrichment can prime it for use in an atomic warhead. The U.N. has called on Iran to suspend all forms of uranium enrichment, but the country has continued its enrichment programme unabated.

France Sees Rise in Number of Islamophobic Acts

France’s National Observatory of Islamophobia has published a report stating that French Muslims have been the target of an increasing number of racist acts. The organisation’s president, Adballah Zerki, told news channel France 24 that the rise in the number of anti-Muslim acts in the country could be partially explained by the “tense socio-political atmosphere in France being driven by a resurgence of the far-right”. Numbers published by the Observatory reveal that the number of attacks on Muslims increased 34 percent in 2011 and 42 percent in 2012, with 175 incidents reported by the end of October. The numbers include actions or threats made against French Muslims directly because of their faith or against their property. Zerki also blamed the debate on “national identity launched by former president Nicolas Sarkozy and the law banning the wearing of face-covering Islamic veils” as another factor in the rise of attacks.

Incoming Archbishop of Canterbury Urges Church to Back Women Bishops

The incoming Archbishop of Canterbury has backed the ordination of women bishops in the Church of England, saying that it was “time to finish the job” that began with the ordainment of women priests in 1994. He was speaking at the General Synod, which considers and approves legislation affecting the church. He said the compromise before the Synod, which would allow women to become bishops, but would also allow their parishes to delegate their authority to male bishops if they chose to do so, was “as good as we can get”. The current Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said that a ‘no’ vote would not do anything positive for the church, but that a yes vote would “liberate” the congregation from this issue and allow the next Archbishop to focus on other issues. Rosie Harper, vicar of Oxford, said that a ‘no’ vote would be one of the last acts of a dying church.

Significant Drop in New HIV Infections Among Children

A report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has shown that there has been a significant drop in new infections among children, with 330,000 new infections last year. That figure is 24 percent lower than the one registered in 2009. The number of new infections among adults has stabilised during the last four years, with approximately 2.5 million new cases a year. Part of the stabilisation in numbers occurred because the number of people with access to antiretroviral therapy has increased by 64% in the last two years. “The pace of progress is quickening. What used to take a decade is now being achieved in 24 months”, said Michel Sidibé, the Executive Director of UNAIDS. “We are scaling up faster and smarter than ever before.” The report also estimates that seven million people who need treatment still do not get access to it, with Sub-Sarahan Africa still the most severely affected part of the world.

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