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Friday, August 9, 2013

Pakistan Suffers Second Attack, US Orders Diplomats to Leave

Quetta was hit by the second terrorist attack in as many days on Friday when four gunmen opened fire outside a mosque, killing at least nine people who had just left the temple after sunrise prayers for the Eid al-Fitr festival. The car of Ali Madad Jatak, a former provincial minister, was also hit, but he was unhurt. “They fled after killing innocent people. I was the target. They could have fired at me. They killed innocent worshippers belonging to different communities. This is against humanity. It is brutality on the level of animals”, he said. Meanwhile, the US has ordered staff working at its consulate in Lahore, Pakistan’s second largest city, to leave because of specific terrorist threats against it.

Mid East Peace Talks Rocked by New Israeli Settlement Plans

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, meant to begin on Wednesday, could be scuppered by a decision by Israel’s Defence Ministry to build 800 new homes on West Bank settlements. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, sent a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to intercede with Israeli officials and ask them to halt any new constructions. Erekat wrote that the settlements showed “Israel’s bad faith and lack of seriousness”. Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s executive committee, echoed his warning. “With their policies, Israel is effectively annexing the occupied West Bank”, she said. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the US “does not accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity” and would approach Israeli officials about the plans.

Britain ‘Missing Out’ on Fracking, Says PM

British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Friday that the UK would “making a big mistake” if it ruled out fracking over environmental concerns. “I think we would be making a big mistake as a nation if we did not think hard about how to encourage fracking and cheaper prices right here in the UK. If you look at what’s happening in America with the advent of shale gas and fracking, their energy costs in business and their gas prices are half the level of ours”, he said. He added that “the EU has about three-quarters as much shale gas as the US, so we are missing out big time at the moment and I want to make sure that Britain does not miss out”. He said communities that allowed fracking in their areas would get £1m compensation “immediately”, but advisers later clarified he actually meant £100,000.

Turkish Pilots Kidnapped in Lebanon

Two Turkish Airlines pilots were abducted on Friday near Beirut’s international airport, metres away from a heavily fortified checkpoint. Four gunmen from a group called Zuwwar al-Imam Rida seized the men from a bus that had been carrying crew members from a hotel to the airport terminal, saying that they would be exchanged for Lebanese hostages in Syria. The families of these hostages had been pressuring the Turkish government, perceived to have considerable influence over Syrian rebels, for its help in securing their release. Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Levent Gumrucku said he had been in contact with Lebanese authorities over the abduction and said local authorities were conducting “a very comprehensive investigation”. “As yet, we do not know who did it or for what purpose”, he said.

Camels Charged with Passing MERS Virus to Humans

Researchers from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands have found that dromedary camels from the Arabian peninsula may be the source of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus that killed dozens of people over the past year. The researchers tested sheep, cattle, goats and camels in Oman, Spain, the Netherlands and Chile for antibodies against virus, and all 50 Omani camels tested had them, suggesting that they had been exposed to the virus and had developed an immunity as a consequence. “While there is a limited amount that you can tell about a virus from the antibody – essentially they are tracks in the sand – for the first time, it offers a clear direction in which to work. Even if you find the virus in camels, it still doesn’t tell you how people get infected. In most cases of MERS, people had no direct contact with camels”, said Anthony Mounts, of the MERS response team at the World Health Organisation in Geneva.

Weekend Read: How Much Is a Life Worth?

Ken Feinberg is an expert frequently called upon to determine how much should be paid to the dead and injured by tragedies. And the amount is rarely the same. In the National Journal.

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