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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Deal with Russia Averted ‘Bankruptcy and Social Collapse’, says Ukraine

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Wednesday on his return to the country after signing a controversial economic deal with Russia that the terms helped the Ukraine stave off potential disaster. “What would have awaited Ukraine? The answer is clear – bankruptcy and social collapse”, said the prime minister. Russia agreed to cut the price of gas sold to the Ukraine from US$400 per 1,000 cubic metres to US$268.5, as well as accepting to buy more than US$15 billion of the country’s debt in eurobonds. The move was seen by analysts as the nail in the coffin of an association agreement with the European Union and should spark more street protests across the country from sections of the population that favoured closer ties with Europe.

‘There Was No Attempted Coup’, Says Former S.Sudanese Vice-President

Former South Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar, fired in July by President Salva Kiir for “inciting ethnic violence” and accused by the government of being the leading figure in an attempted military coup, has told BBC News that “there was no attempted coup”, that “someone wanted to frame” and that he had to flee because he was being “hunted down”. Meanwhile, the President of UN Security Council, French Ambassador Gérard Araud, said there were unconfirmed reports of “hundreds of casualties” in the battles in the capital Juba. “For the moment we can’t confirm this, but in any case it is a heavy toll”, he said, adding that the conflict had “the potential of a civil war” precisely because of the ethnic nature of the struggle between the two main groups in the country, the Dinka and the Nuer.

New Bird Flu Virus Linked to Death in China

Authorities in China have confirmed the death of a 78-year-old woman in Jiangxi province in early December after being infected with a bird flu strain that had not previously been detected in humans. “It’s worrisome any time a disease jumps the species barrier from animals to humans. That said, the case is under investigation and there’s no evidence of human-to-human transmission yet”, said Timothy O’Leary, spokesman for the World Health Organisation. The authorities in Jiangxi said the woman had been suffering from underlying health problems that lowered her immunity, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and this could have worsened her chances once she became infected. She was also reported to be in regular contact with live poultry. Not “abnormalities” have been detected in people that had close contact with her, but Chinese authorities did not say if they had been placed in quarantine.

Tech Executives Ask Obama to Reform NSA

Executives from Apple, Comcast, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter and Yahoo met with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday to demand that his administration “move aggressively” to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) and curtail its widespread surveillance operations. They reportedly told the president that the NSA’s programmes had severely undermined the trust their users had placed in them for the care of their personal information, messages and details. “The President made clear his belief in an open, free, and innovative internet and listened to the group’s concerns and recommendations, and made clear that we will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalise our review of signals intelligence programs”, replied the White House in a statement.

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