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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

French Say Arafat Not Poisoned

French forensic scientists announced today that despite what Swiss scientists declared last month, Yasser Arafat was not the victim of Polonium poisoning. The French investigation is ongoing; Swiss and French investigators intend to collaborate to resolve their distinct conclusions, but the announcement caused turmoil in Palestine. The late Palestinian leader’s wife Suha Arafat issued a statement saying, “You can imagine how much I am shaken by the contradictions between the findings of the best experts in Europe in this domain.”

While the French report will not be released to the public, it has been made available to investigators and Arafat’s survivors. Suha Arafat’s expert examined the contradictory reports and said both studies had found similar levels of Polonium 210 in Arafat’s body, but posed opposite theories as to how it got there. The French report concluded that some of the radioactivity could be explained by the presence of radon gas in the tomb where Arafat was buried. The Swiss experts said, on the contrary, that the level of radon gas was due to the radioactivity in his body.

NATO Officials Press Karzai on Security Deal

NATO and U.S. officials echoed U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s warning that international forces will be forced to decamp from Afghanistan if President Hamid Karzai does not sign a security deal with the U.S. in short order. “This is not fooling around. This is serious business. There are over 50 nations who are engaged here through NATO in trying to help Afghanistan,” Kerry told reporters. “Those nations have budget cycles; those nations have planning requirements. Those nations have equipment requirements; they have deployment requirements. All of those things are best managed through planning.”

Signing the deal would mean the United States and NATO could keep 8,000 to 12,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014, to assist and train local security forces. Despite overwhelming pressure from Afghan leaders to sign the agreement, Karzai has been reluctant to do so without a number of assurances from the United States, namely that the U.S. won’t meddle in the coming Afghan elections, will end raids on homes, will reduce drone attacks, and will allow peace talks with Taliban insurgents. Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser Benjamin Rhodes has suggested Karzai will go wanting, telling CNN, “That’s not what’s in the offing.”

Nigerian Air Field Attacked

Embattled Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declared a curfew over Maiduguri and summoned his country’s top military officials for an emergency security meeting following a narrowly repulsed Boko Haram attack on Maiduguri International Airport, a nearby air force base, and a number of army barracks throughout the city. Ministry of Defense spokesperson Chris Olukolade said at least five aircraft were destroyed and scores of civilians were killed during the five hour pre-dawn firefight. Olukolade indicated 24 Boko Haram fighters were killed and dozens more were wounded.

According to one military officer, more than 500 Boko Haram fighters moved through town in seized armored personal carriers and military vehicles, allowing them to move undetected in areas under nominal lockdown. After today’s meeting, Admiral Ola Ibrahim, Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), said the situation “is being managed.”

Corn Smothers Washingtonian

At least one worker is missing and presumed to have succumb to a smothering tide of corn, after a 50 ton silo collapsed at the Wilcox Family Farms facility in Roy, Washington. Officials were unable to undertake a rescue or recovery, as two neighboring silos were also damaged in the collapse. “Our fear is that when we eradicate the corn and grain away from the silo, it will compromise the damaged silos and create another issue,” said South Pierce Fire & Rescue Chief Bob Vellias. “It’s going to collapse on the area we’re trying to work on.”

The same facility was recently assessed a $10,000 penalty by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries over six “serious” safety violations. Elaine Fischer, Spokesperson for the Department of Labor and Industries, cautioned that it was not yet clear if any of the cited violations played a part in the collapse.

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