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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Russia Says Rebel Win in Syria Is Possible

Russia, which has been one of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad regime staunchest supporters, is showing signs of wavering. A day after it was confirmed that the Syrian army used Soviet-era Scud missiles against its opponents, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov said a rebel win could no longer be ruled out. “An opposition victory can’t be excluded, unfortunately,” Bogdanov said. “It’s necessary to look at the facts: There is a trend for the government to progressively lose control over an increasing part of the territory.” Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters the Syrian government is nearing “collapse.” “I think now it is only a question of time,” Rasmussen added.

Japan Sends Jets Over Disputed Islands Response to Chinese Flyover

The Japanese government said it sent eight F-15 fighter jets over islands that are under its control, but also claimed by China, after coast guards spotted a small Chinese propeller plane 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) south of the archipelago’s largest island. This comes after months of tensions in the region between China and its neighbors, and represents an escalation in this conflict with Japan. Meanwhile, Japan is preparing for a general election in which Shinzo Abe, the opposition leader who is known for his confrontational stance with China, is being favored. While the islands are uninhabited, China has put a claim on them since it was found they may contain great reserves of gas and oil.

UBS Set to Be Fined $1 Billion in LIBOR Probe

The Swiss bank UBS is said to be in the final stages of negotiating a settlement with the U.S. and U.K. regulators in which it will pay over $1 billion in fines over its role in the rigging of the London Interbank Offered Rate, or Libor. The bank, which was the first to announce last year it was under investigation, is also being probed by the Swiss authorities, and the inquiry also covers potential rigging of Euribor, Libor’s equivalent in Brussels. The numbers aren’t finalized and the deal could be announced next week, but if confirmed, the amount is more than double what Barclays paid for similar charges. Bloomberg reports that secret transcripts from the Royal Bank of Scotland show the conspiracy to manipulate the rate went as high as senior managers. Libor, a benchmark rate, underpins $350 trillion in financial products globally, including mortgages and student loans.

European Court of Human Rights Rules in Favor of CIA Rendition Victim

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled today in favor of a German citizen who, because he shared a name with an Al Qaeda operative, was arrested in 2003, handed to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and imprisoned in Afghanistan. Khaled al-Masri, a German man of Lebanese decent, was stopped as he arrived in Macedonia for a vacation, held in a hotel room, interrogated and beaten, then delivered to CIA agents who moved him to a detention center in Afghanistan where he was physically and sexually abused for four months. When the CIA acknowledged the mistake, Masri was dropped on a road in Albania in the middle of the night. Once free, he attempted to sue the CIA, but an American court threw out the case to protect state secrets. A German court then refused to make a demand for the extradition of the agents responsible. Confidential documents revealed by WikiLeaks show the American embassy in Germany tried to protect the agents. The ECHR ordered Macedonia to pay Masri $78,000 in reparations.

Indianapolis to Replace Entire Fleet with Electric, Hybrid Vehicles

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard signed an executive order yesterday to replace the city’s entire fleet with hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles by 2025. The change will also apply to the private companies that run garbage collection and snow removal, for trucks and plows to run on natural gas. The city will also ask automakers to develop plug-in hybrid police cars. Ballard’s goal is to contribute to reducing dependence on foreign oil. “The U.S.’ current transportation energy model, driven by oil, exacts an enormous cost financially and in terms of strategic leverage,” Ballard said in a statement. “Our oil dependence in some cases places the fruits of our labor into the hands of dictators united against the people of the U.S.” Indianapolis already has 200 charging stations.

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