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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Israel Approves First New Settlements in East Jerusalem in 15 Years

Jerusalem’s Regional Planning Committee approved plans on Wednesday that would allow new settlements to be built in East Jerusalem for the first time in 15 years. City councilman Pepe Alalu told the Associated Press news agency that the committee had approved the construction of 2,610 new housing units in Givat Hamatos. The location is contentious because it would hinder access to East Jerusalem from the West Bank, a section that the Palestinians claim as the capital of their state. Terrestrial Jerusalem, an Israeli NGO dedicated to tracking building developments that could hinder the peace process, had first flagged up the process on Monday. Danny Seidemann, the NGO’s president, expects building to begin “within a matter of weeks or a few months”. Palestinian negotiator Mohammed Shtayyeh warned that any such moves would push the Palestinian Authority to take Israel to the International Criminal Court. “The intensification of settlement activity and all Israeli actions, from killings to arrests, are pushing us to accelerate our recourse to the International Criminal Court”, said Shtayyeh to the AFP news agency.

Reports Finds No Evidence of BBC Cover-Up of Savile Investigation

An independent inquiry published on Wednesday showed that the BBC did not pressure the staff on its flagship Newsnight programme to drop an investigation into allegation of sexual abuse by its former star Jimmy Savile, but e-mails uncovered by the inquest also showed that some of its staff knew about the allegations even as the corporation was preparing Christmas tribute programmes for him. The scandal over the BBC’s decision to not to air Newsnight’s original investigation let to the resignation of director-general George Entwistle after only 54 days on the job. British police has since linked Savile to 199 crimes involving children, including 31 rapes. The report’s main author, former Sky News head Nick Pollard, stated that “the decision to drop the original investigation was flawed and the way it was taken was wrong but I believe it was done in good faith. It was not done to protect the Savile tribute programmes or for any improper reason.” Steve Mitchell, the BBC’s deputy director of news, resigned after the report was published on Wednesday.

U.K. to Withdraw 3,800 Troops from Afghanistan Next Year

U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron told MPs at Prime Minister’s Questions that almost half of the current British forces serving in Afghanistan are to be withdrawn next year. Troop numbers were already reduced from 9,500 to 9,000 before Christmas, but Cameron said a further 3,800 would be brought home, leaving about 5,200 troops on the ground by the end of 2013. All NATO operations are due to end by December 2014, but a residual British contingent would remain to continue training Afghan troops and to deal with logistics. Speaking after the Prime Minister, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stated that the withdrawal at the end of 2013 meant that the people of Afghanistan would be able to “forward to a future of their choosing, rather than one forced upon them”. Opposition leader Ed Miliband countered that “greater diplomatic efforts” would “give us our best chance of leaving behind an inclusive and durable settlement in Afghanistan”. Since 2001, 438 British personnel have died in Afghanistan.

High Court Quashes Hillsborough Inquest Verdicts

The U.K.’s High Court has quashed the verdict of accidental death returned on 96 Liverpool football fans who died in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge ordered a fresh inquest into the matter, saying that new evidence made it inevitable. “However distressing or unpalatable, the truth will be brought to light. In this way, the families of those who died in the disaster will be properly respected. Our earnest wish is the new inquest will not be delayed for a moment longer than necessary”, said Lord Judge. Attorney General Dominic Grieve had asked for a new inquest after the Hillsborough Independent Panel (HIP) published its report in September. He commissioned new medical evidence that showed that at least 58 victims “definitely or probably” had the capacity to survive beyond the 3:15pm cutoff point suggested by the original coroner, Dr Steffan Popper, on the assumption that all of those killed would have been dead by then. This arbitrary cutoff point limited a deeper examination into the response carried out by police and emergency services on the day of the disaster, when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed to death at Hillsborough station in Sheffield. Trevor Hicks, a member of the Hillsborough Family Support Group who lost two daughters in the disaster, said that “it’s clear now justice is on its way – I think a lot of us are going to have a much happier Christmas“.

Daughter of Dictator Wins South Korean Elections

Park Geun-hye, the 60-year-old daughter of South Korea’s longest-ruling dictator, has been elected as the country’s first female president on Wednesday. She took 51.64 percent of the votes against the 47.93 percent for Moon Jae-in, a former human rights lawyer who had been imprisoned by her father’s regime. Pak Chung-hee ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979 and is largely credited with establishing the bases for the country’s rapid economic growth. “This is the victory of the people. This is a victory for the people’s wish to overcome crises and revive the economy”, said Ms Park to her supporters in Seoul after her rival conceded defeat on Wednesday night. “I have no family to take care of,” she said. “I have no child to inherit my properties. You, the people, are my only family, and to make you happy is the reason I do politics. And if elected, I would govern like a mother dedicated to her family.”

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