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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pakistani Taliban Elects New Leader

The transitional leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Asmatullah Shaheen, announced the results of a recent Shura election today, saying, “I congratulate all the Muslim brothers that Maulana Fazlullah has been elected as the new chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.” Fazlullah is a noted hard-liner, even within the TTP, and is perhaps most well know as being the commander who’s men attempted to assassinate Malala Yousafzai.

The previous Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed last week by a U.S. drone strike. Mehsud was known for a number of cross border attacks on U.S. positions in Afghanistan, as well as significant strikes on Pakistani politicians during the election season. Days before he was killed, Mehsud initiated peace talks with Pakistan. The timing of the strike led a number of Pakistani politicians to voice outrage, while the Taliban’s shura leader Asmatullah Shaheen Bhitani suggested Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sold the peace process out when he met with U.S. President Barack Obama late last month.

Fazlullah’s election will likely stall the nascent peace talks between the TTP and Pakistan. TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid told al-Jazeera “There will be no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations with the Pakistan government.”

Russia Rebuffs Dutch Legal Challenges over Arctic 30

The Netherlands has asked the U.N. backed International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea to order the release of 30 Greenpeace activists arrested by Russian authorities earlier this year. “As things stand, the Russian authorities propose to jail 30 men and women for two decades because a couple of peaceful protesters tried to hang a small yellow banner from the side of a 5,000-ton oil platform,” said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo. “In our view, there’s every prospect the tribunal will order the release of the Arctic 30, pending the arbitration case that the Netherlands has filed against Russia.”

The Russian Federation has however refused to recognize the jurisdiction of the court, despite being a signatory to the U.N. convention which created it. There is no penalty if Russia does not comply with the court’s order. In fact, even before the tribunal was opened, Moscow announced it had no intention of complying with the tribunal’s decision, because when it originally signed the treaty, Russia had declared itself exempt from any Law of the Sea rulings that impinge on its national sovereignty. Such exemptions, known as “reservations,” are a common feature of international law.

Haiyan Imperils the Philippines

Thousands of people left their homes in the Philippines in anticipation of Typhoon Haiyan. With its sustained winds of 225 kilometers (140 miles) per hour and gusts of 260 kph (162 mph), Haiyan is already one of the strongest typhoons this year. According to government forecaster Buddy Javier, it could further strengthen and pick up speed as it moves over the Pacific Ocean before slamming into the eastern province of Samar early tomorrow morning. The actual storm is expected to miss the capital of Manila, but a warning was issued in the flood-prone capital area anyway, suggesting denizens there might experience winds of up to 60 kph (37 mph) accompanying heavy rain.

Facing another disaster on the heels of the Bohol earthquake, President Benigno Aquino III begged people to leave high-risk areas, specifically the 100 coastal communities where forecasters believe the storm surge could reach up to 23 feet. He urged seafarers to stay away from choppy seas. Promising rapid relief to any stricken area, Aquino told his nation, “No typhoon can bring Filipinos to their knees if we’ll be united.”

Taurid Flashes Through the California Sky

The bright streak that flashed across the sky last night in California was, according to officials, an especially bright meteor from the ongoing South Taurid meteor shower. According to the International Meteor Organization, a nonprofit agency tracking meteor showers worldwide, the South Taurids are expected to remain active through November 20. Under clear, dark skies, roughly 10 to 15 Taurids appear per hour. They are often yellowish-orange and, as meteors go, appear to move rather slowly. Their name comes from the way they seem to radiate from the constellation Taurus, the Bull, which sits low in the east after sundown and shifts overhead after midnight.

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