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Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tunisia Government Dissolved After Assassination of Opposition Leader

Chokri Belaid, a leader of the secular opposition to Tunisia’s Islamic government, was shot and killed today as he was leaving his home in the nation’s capital, Tunis. As violent protests began, President Moncef Marzouki abruptly ended his visit to France, condemning the assassination. Tunisian Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali, who denied his party’s involvement in the killing, announced the dissolution of the government and the creation of a national unity cabinet without political affiliation in response to the crisis. Protesters broke into the ruling party’s offices and ransacked them, as the crowds called for a “second revolution” in Tunisia, where the Arab Spring began, and police threw tear gas to disperse them.

France to Pull Out of Mali in March

France, whose troops are still battling Islamic militants in northern Mali, will begin to pull out from the African nation next month, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The government has called for the operation to become a United Nations peacekeeping mission by April. “From the moment that security is assured, we can envisage without changing the structures that it can be placed under the framework of U.N. peacekeeping operations,” Fabius said. Meanwhile, French and Malian soldiers continued to fight rebels affiliated with Al Qaeda outside the northern cities of Gao and Timbuktu. “It’s a real war,” France Defense Minister Yves Le Drian told the radio station Europe 1. “Every night now, even last night, the French forces are targeting and hitting the training centres and truck depots of the jihadist groups.”

U.S. Built CIA Base in Saudi Arabia

The U.S. has been operating a secret drone based in Saudi Arabia for two years, the New York Times revealed last night. Remote-controlled Predator and Reaper drones, which have been used to kill Al Qaeda operatives while also causing civilian deaths, were stationed on that base. Its construction was negotiated by John Brennan, who will soon face confirmation hearings for a post as head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), to carry out strikes in Yemen, in the south of the Arabian Peninsula, including the one that killed American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. Brennan, who was a CIA station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, helps oversee all the strikes for the agency. Brennan will face questions by the Senate on Thursday. In an unexpected reversal, the White House announced this evening President Barack Obama agreed to release classified Justice Deparment legal advice authorizing the use of drones to kill U.S. citizens abroad, Politico reported.

RBS Fined $612 Million over Libor Fraud

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will pay £390 million ($612 million) to U.K. and U.S. authorities for “widespread misconduct” in the Libor-rigging scandal, as investigators found it continued to manipulate the rate until 2010, two years after it was bailed out by the government. The probe also uncovered written records of conversations between traders and submitters in which the fixing was openly discussed. “pls can we get super high 3m super low 6m PRETTY PLEASE,” a Swiss franc trader asked a primary submitter in an instant message. “if u did that i would come over there and make love to you.” Over £100,000 ($156,630) in bribes were distributed to people involved. “I am disgusted by this and hugely disappointed,” RBS Chief Executive Officer Stephen Hester told The Guardian. “The wrongdoing of 20 people in this institution is [...] unacceptable and has no place in our industry.” Libor is a benchmark for over $300 trillion in financial products worldwide.

First Saudi Feature Film Was Made by a Woman

“Wadjda” is the story of a 1o-year-old girl in Riyadh who enters a Koranic singing competition. What she really wants is to win the money so she can buy a bicycle. In Saudi Arabia, little girls aren’t allowed to ride bikes, much in the same way women aren’t allowed to drive cars. “Wadjda” is the first feature film from the conservative Muslim country, and what makes it even more exceptional is that it was written and directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, a Saudi woman. Saudi law doesn’t take kindly to women going about on their own, nor is there much benevolence towards artists. Making the movie wasn’t an easy task, Mansour explains, so she tried to stay out of view as she was shooting. “Wadjda” will not be shown in its country of origin, as there are very few movie theaters there, but it will appear on DVD and on television.

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