War-scarred Ukraine votes for pro-Western future By Dmitry Zaks3 hours ago Kiev (AFP) – War-weary Ukrainians vote Sunday for a powerful new parliament in which a likely alliance of pro-Western and nationalist forces will confirm the ex-Soviet country’s historic but bloody break from Russia’s domain.Related Stories
The snap general election is also expected to reveal the level of trust in President Petro Poroshenko’s bid to hold on to the separatist east through talks with pro-Russian rebels and their alleged puppet masters in the Kremlin.But the trauma of the nearly bankrupt state’s loss to Russia of Crimea and the subsequent deaths of 3,700 people in six months of warfare in the east has set a grim backdrop to a vote meant to celebrate last winter’s pro-democracy street revolt.Three days of carnage in Kiev that claimed the lives of more than 100 demonstrators in February were followed by the flight to Russia of Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych and the start of the most intense East-West standoff since the Cold War.May presidential election victor Poroshenko — an affable chocolate baron who sees Ukraine’s European future guaranteed by a US security pledge — then called an early parliamentary vote to sweep out the last remnants of the old regime.Voters will primarily be passing judgement on a hotly disputed truce deal Poroshenko struck with Russian President Vladimir Putin in September after a string of battlefield defeats.Pedestrians walk past posters on Independence Square in Kiev showing Ukrainian soldiers taking part …”No criticism, no matter how acute and painful, will stop me from finding a peaceful way out of the current situation,” Poroshenko stressed on the eve of the vote.But fears that Poroshenko is effectively caving into the Kremlin by offering rebels limited self-rule in return for peace have spurred the hopes of nationalist parties that reject talks with Russia.- Nationalist resurgence-The new parliament will have broad new powers that include the right to name the prime minister and most of his cabinet.Poroshenko’s party is expected to come in first but fall short of a majority and be forced into a coalition with nationalists. That may mean having to adopt a much tougher approach to Russia.A woman walks past posters on Independance Square in Kiev featuring shields in the colors of the Ukr …Three or four groups that view Russia as either an existential threat or a foe to be treated with more caution than that shown by Poroshenko are each expected to pick up around 10 percent of the vote.The more militant and unpredictable ones include the Radical Party of the populist Oleg Lyashko and former defence minister Anatoliy Grytsenko’s Civil Opposition group.Poroshenko would instead much prefer to strike an alliance with the People’s Front of current Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk — an ally instrumental in securing a $27 billion rescue package designed to cut Kiev’s economic dependence on Moscow.The vote also marks the first time that Ukraine’s Russian speakers — nearly five million of whom live in occupied Crimea or rebel-held eastern regions that will boycott the polls — will have no separate representation in parliament.Yanukovych’s old ruling party has re-branded itself as the moderate Opposition Bloc focused on social issues. Some of his associates have also joined the small Strong Ukraine group of Sergiy Tigipko — a one-time Russian ally who now backs closer EU ties.The veteran Communist Party may fail to clear the five percent threshold for winning seats under proportional representation, which fills half the chamber, for the first time since the Soviet era.A handful could still win individual seats in the first-past-the-post constituency races that fill the other half of the chamber.Sunday’s election will be followed a week later by a rival leadership vote in rebel-held regions that Poroshenko has unsuccessfully urged Putin to denounce.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Voters in Ukraine are heading to the polls to elect a new parliament, overhauling a legislature tainted by its association with ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.While around 36 million people have been registered to vote Sunday, the election will not be held in areas controlled by pro-Russian separatist rebels in the east.President Petro Poroshenko’s party is expected to get the largest share of the vote, but it is not certain whether the party will be able to form a government unaided.Other parties expected to win seats in parliament include Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front and the Fatherland party of Yulia Tymoshenko.Yanukovych was deposed in February after months of sometimes violent protests sparked by his decision to put ties with the European Union on hold.
Ukraine votes in poll likely to strengthen president’s hand By Richard Balmforth21 minutes agoA combination photo shows pre-election posters as they are seen on the streets of Kiev October 22, 2014. …By Richard BalmforthRelated Stories
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukrainians voted on Sunday in an election that is likely to install a pro-Western parliament and strengthen President Petro Poroshenko’s mandate to end separatist conflict in the east, but may fuel tension with Russia.Voting started on a cold but sunny morning in Kiev in the first parliamentary election since street protests n the capital last winter forced Moscow-backed leader Viktor Yanukovich to flee and ushered in a pro-Europe leadership under Poroshenko.A loose political grouping that backs Poroshenko is expected to become the leading force in the 450-seat assembly, giving him a mandate to pursue a peace plan for the east and carry out deep reforms sought by Ukraine’s European Union partners.Poroshenko said in a televised address on Saturday he wanted a majority to emerge that would see through laws to support a pro-Europe agenda and break with the Soviet past.”Without such a majority in parliament, the President’s program … will simply remain on paper,” he said.A worker checks ballots at a printing plant in Kiev October 17, 2014. Ukrainians will take part in a …With diminished pro-Russian influence and following a strong European integration agenda, it will be one of the most radical parliaments since Ukraine gained independence in 1991.The emergence of a strong force committed to a united Ukraine could place new strains on ties with Russia which the Kiev leadership blames for backing rebels in a conflict that has killed more than 3,700 people and destroyed the economy.There were no immediate reports of heavy clashes during the night in the east, where a fragile ceasefire has been in force since Sept. 5.A gas pricing row with Russia which has the potential to disrupt supplies to European Union countries via Ukraine also rumbles on unresolved despite a meeting between Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin.Poroshenko called the snap election with the aim of clearing out Yanukovich loyalists and securing further legitimacy for Kiev’s pro-Western direction after the „Euromaidan” protests.A worker checks ballots at a printing plant in Kiev October 17, 2014. Ukrainians will take part in a …The protests were broadly supported by the West but denounced by Russia as a coup after Yanukovich’s fall. A month later, Russia annexed Crimea and separatist rebellions, supported by Russia, erupted in the industrialised east.The ensuing crisis, in which the United States and its Western allies have imposed sanctions, is the worst between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.COALITION BUILDING Virtually all the leading parties have been campaigning on the need to fight corruption and ending the conflict in the east while keeping the eastern territories within a united Ukraine.After a warning by Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk of possible „terrorist” attacks, more than 60,000 police were drafted in to guard polling stations, candidates and party headquarters across the country of 46 million before the conflict, in which Russia has annexed the Crimea peninsula.Election commission members prepare candidate information sheets at a polling station in the town of …In all, 29 parties are running, though only a handful are expected to reach the 5 percent barrier required to secure representation in parliament.Many parties have enlisted war veterans and „Euromaidan” activists as candidates – which will add to the strong patriotic and nationalist tone of the new parliament.Polling stations will open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. with exit polls available almost immediately.About 2,000 international observers, including a team of about 800 from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, are in place to monitor polling procedures.Many voters will not be able to vote in Crimea and parts of the east where separatists are in control. Election authorities said voting would not take place in 27 constituencies, including 12 in Crimea, meaning that only 423 deputies will be elected. .The separatists themselves, entrenched in the big industrial cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, are ignoring the election and say they will hold a rival poll on Nov. 2. Poroshenko and Western governments have denounced the planned poll as illegitimate.Though opinion polls have put Poroshenko’s bloc – comprising his Solidarity party and the Udar party of former boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko – well out in front, he may not win an outright majority.But he should have no difficulty in putting together a coalition with other partners, such as Yatseniuk’s People’s Front, since virtually all the leading parties are pro-European, anti-Russian and favor a united Ukraine.(Editing by Timothy Heritage)
Allies of deposed leader struggling in Ukraine vote By Yulia Silina with Oleksandr Savochenko in KievOctober 24, 2014 11:49 PMKramatorsk (Ukraine) (AFP) – As he campaigned for Ukraine’s parliamentary polls, to be held Sunday, Nestor Shufrych was pelted with eggs and injured in a scuffle with nationalists.It’s not easy for one-time allies of ousted leader Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine these days.Shufrych, a former minister and ruling party MP, trod a fine line when he spoke to 300 voters at a recent rally in the eastern town of Kramatorsk, taken back by government forces from pro-Russian rebels in July.On the one hand he made sure to attack the pro-Western „morons” now running the country in Kiev but on the other he went out of his way to dump all over his former boss too.”We could have snuffed out this crisis on the Maidan,” Shufrych said, referring to the protests in Kiev that toppled Kremlin-backed Yanukovych in February. „But he sodded off instead– a hero of our time.”Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday acknowledged for the first time on Friday that Moscow had helped Yanukovych flee his country.”I’m telling you frankly, Yanukovych asked to be brought to Russia and we did that,” Putin said.At the dark heart of Ukrainian politics for over 15 years, Yanukovych’s Regions Party is conspicuously absent from the ballot this time round.Since its one-time chief was turfed out of power and fled to Russia the party has not fared well.Ukrainian pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk (C), lawmaker Nestor Shufrych (L) and former pres …The ex-leader’s key cronies vanished abroad too and the party has haemorrhaged members.Now — with much of its stronghold in the Russian-speaking east controlled by pro-Moscow rebels — what’s left of the party has officially decided to boycott Sunday’s vote.But in the smoke-and-mirrors world of politics in this ex-Soviet state that does not quite mean that it has totally left the scene.Like Shufrych, some of Yanukovych’s erstwhile ruling party allies have switched to a new party called Opposition Bloc, set up by former energy minister Yuriy Boiko.This formation — accused by some of representing the deposed leader’s interests — appears to be just a pale imitation of the once-dominant Regions Party.As pro-Western politicians and strident nationalists ride high in the polls it is languishing close to 5 percent of the vote , the minimum threshold for entering parliament.Another party, Strong Ukraine, headed by former deputy PM Sergiy Tygypko, who turned his back on his former master, is also hovering around the same low figure.- Into the dumpster of history? -If the remnants of the former ruling elite are to make any headway then that will come in the Russian-speaking regions that Yanukovych once presided over as his own political fiefdom.Their campaigns have focused very closely on „precise groups of voters,” said Kiev-based political analyst Volodymyr Fesenko.”Their main bet is on Russia-speaking regions, with Russian-speaking voters who are unhappy with the current authorities,” he said.Hampering that drive though is the fact that swathes of that territory are now in rebel hands where no vote will be held.And when they have hit the campaign trail the results have usually been pretty poor.In the Russian-speaking port city of Odessa, Shufrych was grabbed by ultra-nationalists who tried to throw him into a dumpster. The attempt turned into a fistfight that ended up with the candidate in hospital.Mykhailo Dobkin, the former pro-Russian governor of eastern Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, has only dared make one campaign appearance around his old stomping ground.But with tensions simmering away just below the surface and many in the Russian-speaking east blaming Kiev for the fighting that has torn apart the region, some warn that the former elite poses a real threat and should be barred outright from competing.”A creeping counterrevolution is starting in Ukraine,” said lawmaker Andriy Pavlovsky from the pro-Western Batkyvschina (Fatherland) party.
Number of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar tops 100,000 By ROBIN McDOWELL15 hours ago YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A growing sense of desperation is fueling a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar, with the number who have fled by boat since communal violence broke out two years ago now topping 100,000, a leading expert said Saturday.Chris Lewa, director of the nonprofit advocacy group Arakan Project, said there has been a huge surge since Oct. 15, with an average of 900 people per day piling into cargo ships parked off Rakhine state.That’s nearly 10,000 in less than two weeks, she noted, one of the biggest spikes yet.Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 50 million that only recently emerged from half a century of military rule, has an estimated 1.3 million Rohingya. Though many of their families arrived from neighboring Bangladesh generations ago, almost all have been denied citizenship. In the last two years, attacks by Buddhist mobs have left hundreds dead and 140,000 trapped in camps, where they live without access to adequate health care, education or jobs.Lewa, who has teams monitoring embarkation points, is considered the leading authority on the number of fleeing Rohingya. But boats are now shoving off from more and more places, she said, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of how many are leaving.”The real number may be higher,” Lewa said.In this June 26 2014 photo, a Rohingya boy who recovers sellable items from garbage dumps, takes she …She said some Rohingya families have received phone calls notifying them that ships from the latest exodus have started arriving in neighboring Thailand, where passengers often are brought to jungle camps, facing extortion and beatings until relatives come up with enough money to win their release.From there they usually travel to Malaysia or other countries, but, still stateless, their futures remain bleak.In Myanmar, the vast majority live in the northern tip of Rakhine state, where an aggressive campaign by authorities in recent months to register family members and officially categorize them as „Bengalis” — implying they are illegal migrants from neighboring Bangladesh — has aggravated their situation.According to villagers contacted by The Associated Press, some were confined to their villages for weeks at a time for refusing to take part in the „verification” process, while others were beaten or arrested.More recently, dozens of men were detained for having alleged ties to the militant Rohingya Solidarity Organization, or RSO, said Khin Maung Win, a resident from Maungdaw township, adding that several reportedly were beaten or tortured during their arrests or while in detention.In this June 26, 2014 photo, Rohingya man carries vegetables in the rain at The Chaung village, nort …Lewa said three of the men died.”Our team is becoming more and more convinced that this campaign of arbitrary arrests is aimed at triggering departures,” she said.Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing denied any knowledge of arrests or abuse.”There’s nothing happening up there,” he said. „There are no arrests of suspects of RSO. I haven’t heard anything like that.”Every year, the festival of Eid al-Adha, which was celebrated by Muslims worldwide early this month, marks the beginning of a large exodus of Rohingya, in part due to calmer seas but also because it is a chance to spend time with family and friends.In this June 26 2014 photo, Rohingya children walk to school at The Chaung village school, north of …But there seems to be a growing sense of desperation this year, with numbers nearly double from the same period in 2013.Lewa said a number of Rohingya also were moving overland to Bangladesh and on to India and Nepal.The United Nations, which has labeled the Rohingya one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the world, earlier this year confirmed figures provided by Lewa about a massive exodus that began after communal violence broke out in June 2012, targeting mainly Rohingya.With the latest departures, Lewa estimates the total number of fleeing Rohingya to be more than 100,000.It was not immediately clear where the newest arrivals were landing._Associated Press writer Esther Htusan contributed to this report.
Emirates Airlines’ Very Strict Beauty Rules for Male & Female Flight Attendants Photo: Emirates arlines This morning, the Huffington Post published an interview with two of Emirates airlines female flight attendants. The famously fancy airline might be the last bastion of glamorous travel: they’ll send a chauffeur to pick you up, there are on-board spas, and world famous chefs prepare the menus. But Maria Pederson and Laura Kellam revealed just how much work goes into presenting such a polished image.“We do have one full day of training on grooming that focuses on image and uniform,” Pederson tells the Post. Her colleague Kellam ads, “There is a list of things we have to wear (like foundation), but we actually get a little manual with all the rules in it.” Those rules range from head to toe—literally. Nails must be painted clear, in a French manicure, or the same shade as their lipstick. It’s Clarins, by the way, their lipstick. Though it should match their signature pillbox hat, it should also flatter their specific skin tone. (And given that the crew hails from over 130 nations, you can bet every shade of red’s clocked a lot of miles.) But what about the men? We called Emirates to find out what kind of grooming routine their male employees have to follow. While they don’t have to wear makeup, men must keep their hair short and well-groomed. They must be clean-shaven upon boarding, with nails cut short (they can’t be over the skin), and no one, male or female, may have visible tattoos.It turns out both men and women sit through serious skincare training, learning how to wash, tone, and moisturize. Emirates told us that crew members frequently use eye cream and Evian’s facial spray to keep their skin fresh. A radiant complexion is the airline’s number one requirement. The tip sheet Kellam mentions even says, “If you decide to sleep on one of Emirates lie-flat Business Class seats, use a makeup wipe to remove your makeup and keep your skin fresh. This will also avoid your makeup looking noticeably smudged or worn.” And when we asked Emirates why women have to wear foundation, the airline’s spokesperson said, “Foundation is just part of achieving the natural look of the cabin crew, to keep their look polished and uniform and keep them looking refreshed throughout the flight.”Kellam says the whole routine takes her about an hour and 15 minutes, and that hydration is her key focus, from drinking a liter of water pre-flight to smothering her face in argan oil. “I use wet towels a lot and a spray that hydrates,” she says. When she’s not drinking water, Pederson says she and her fellow flight attendants gulp chamomile tea to help them sleep in whatever time zone they’re in. (The rules apply to the inside of the body too: “We’re not supposed to use sleeping pills or anything to help us sleep,” Pederson says.)Such strict rules might sound outdated, but it’s a remarkable way to brand an incredibly diverse crew, not to mention great motivation to step up your own grooming game next time you’re airport-bound.
US strikes pound jihadists as Iraqi Kurds prepare to join fight By Fulya Ozerkan with W.G. Dunlop in Baghdad46 minutes ago Mursitpinar (Turkey) (AFP) – US-led warplanes have bombarded the Islamic State group with new air strikes as heavily armed Iraqi Kurdish fighters were on Sunday readying to reinforce the besieged Syrian border town of Kobane.Related Stories
Kurdish forces, backed by US air power, have been holding out for weeks against an IS offensive around Kobane, which has become a high-profile symbol of efforts to stop the advance of the jihadists.The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq unveiled plans on Friday for up to 200 well-trained peshmerga to join Syrian Kurdish forces defending Kobane in the coming week.Kurdish news agency Rudaw said the first contingent could head to the town as early as Sunday, but there was no immediate confirmation of that timetable.Since Turkey conceded to US pressure to allow vetted reinforcements into Kobane to prevent IS winning the prominent battle for the town, the jihadists have made repeated attempts to cut the border before any help can arrive.Before dawn on Saturday, IS fighters hit Kurdish forces defending the Syrian side of the border crossing with mortar and heavy machinegun fire, an AFP correspondent on the Turkish side reported.The heavy mortar fire around the Mursitpinar crossing prompted the Turkish army to order the evacuation of nearby hilltops from where the world’s press has been watching the battle for the town.The US-led military coalition fighting IS launched 22 air strikes in Iraq and one in Syria on Friday and Saturday, the Pentagon said.Smoke rises on October 24, 2014 from the Syrian town of Kobane, as seen from the Turkish border near …Eleven of the bombings in the heavy barrage targeted IS units, buildings, positions and vehicles near Iraq’s strategic Mosul Dam.- Advance guard ready -Kurdish forces backed by US air strikes on Saturday retook the town of Zumar northwest of Mosul from IS after weeks of fighting, a senior officer said.IS still holds significant areas in northern Iraq and elsewhere in the country, as well as swathes of neighbouring Syria.The Kurdish news agency said an initial peshmerga contingent of 150 was ready to leave for Kobane and would be headed by Sihad Barzani, brother of Iraqi Kurdish regional president Massoud Barzani and head of its artillery brigade.It cited peshmerga officials as saying that an additional 1,000 Iraqi Kurdish fighters would follow.Rudaw quoted a senior peshmerga officer as saying that the Iraqi Kurdish forces would deploy with heavy weapons, but that undertakings had been given to both Ankara and Washington that they would not be handed over to Syrian Kurdish forces.An Iraqi Peshmerga fighter scans the area at a post near the city of Zumar in Mosul province, Septem …”Our enemies in Kobane are using heavy weapons and we should have heavy weapons too,” he said.The main Syrian Kurdish fighting force in Kobane has close links with the outlawed rebel Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in southeastern Turkey.Ankara has been adamant that no heavy weaponry should fall into its hands.Turkey has tightly controlled the flow of both fighters and weapons to Kobane, and has accepted only Iraqi Kurdish or Syrian rebel reinforcements for the town.Washington delivered light weapons to the town’s Kurdish defenders last weekend, but was forced to do so by air after Ankara refused deliveries by land.The Turkish government has been one of the leading supporters of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in its more than three-year civil war with the Damascus regime, and has proposed allowing in 1,000 of its fighters into Kobane.But Syrian Kurdish officials inside the town have expressed reservations about the Turkish plan, saying that any deployment must have their approval and that FSA forces would be better used opening new fronts against IS elsewhere.- Pilgrimage threat -Washington has expressed new confidence that Kobane’s fall to IS can be averted, but has cautioned that in neighbouring Iraq a major fightback against the jihadists is still months off.Iraqi government forces have come under renewed attack by IS south of Baghdad, with troops battling on Saturday to secure the route used by hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims headed for the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala.Eight soldiers were killed in the assault by IS militants which began in the Jurf al-Sakhr area on Friday, officers said.Senior US administration officials and military commanders acknowledged in recent days the Iraqi army is months away from any sustained counter-offensive that could roll back the IS from its strongholds in Iraq’s western and northern provinces.Pilgrims taking part in Ashura commemorations, which mark the death of Imam Hussein, one of the most revered figures in Shiite Islam, are often targeted with bombings during the annual rituals, which take place this month.But this year’s march to Karbala is set to be more dangerous than most, with militants from IS holding territory along the way.
Three Turkish soldiers shot dead in ‘terrorist’ attack By Stuart Williams9 hours agoIstanbul (AFP) – Masked gunmen on Saturday shot dead three Turkish soldiers in the restive Kurdish-majority southeast of the country, the army said, blaming separatist „terrorists” for an attack that threatens to undermine a fragile peace process.Related Stories
The three soldiers were shot dead while off duty and walking on the street in the town of Yuksekova in Hakkari province of Turkey’s extreme southeast bordering Iraq and Iran.The attackers escaped but a security operation was underway to apprehend them, the official Anatolia agency said.Reports said that the victims had been shot in the head, from behind, while walking in the centre of the town to collect electrical equipment from a police station.There was no claim of responsibility for the attack.But in a statement the army blamed „three terrorists from the separatist terrorist organisation”, in a clear reference to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which the military never mentions by name.Some 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the three-decade-long insurgency waged by the outlawed PKK for Kurdish self-rule and greater rights in Turkey’s southeast.The PKK has largely observed a ceasefire since March 2013 as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) seeks to thrash out a historic peace agreement with the rebels.Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu delivers a speech at the headquarters of the Justice and …But there has been an upsurge in tensions in recent weeks over the government’s cautious policy on helping the mainly Kurdish Syrian border town of Kobane, which has been besieged by jihadists of the Islamic State.- ‘No concessions to terror’ -Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu blamed the attack on those who wanted to use the Kobane situation to „plunge Turkey into chaos and turmoil”.”These days are a test for everyone,” the official Anatolia news agency quoted him as saying in the central city of Kayseri.”We will take whatever measures are necessary to ensure our national unity and peace in our country,” he added.But he insisted the government’s drive to make peace in the southeast would continue, saying the „peace process is not a process that will make concessions to terrorism.”Tensions have been building for several days. Late on Thursday night, the security forces shot dead three suspected PKK militants after they launched an attack on a power station in the Kagizman district of the eastern Kars region, Anatolia reported.The armed wing of the PKK, the HPG, confirmed in a statement Saturday that three of its „guerrillas” had been killed in the clash.The Turkish army also sealed off the eastern city of Tunceli on Saturday following reports that a cemetery for slain PKK fighters was to be opened there.Earlier this month, Turkish jets bombed Kurdish rebel targets in the southeast of the country for the first time since the ceasefire, in response to attacks on a military post.Over 30 people were killed in deadly pro-Kurdish protests in Turkish cities this month against the government’s stance on the Kobane standoff.However the jailed leader of the PKK, Abdullah Ocalan, said in a statement this week that he remained hopeful that the peace process would be concluded successfully.But Davutoglu condemned the PKK as a threat not just for Turkey but the whole region and said the government’s main interlocutor in the peace talks was not „the terror organisation” but the people.Ankara has been wary of backing the Kurdish fighters battling the jihadists for Kobane, fearing this will strengthen the PKK.Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish Party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), said in a statement that the killings were a matter of „great sorrow and concern” and said the peace must process to continue.
Egypt leader: ‘Foreign hands’ behind Sinai attack By MAGGIE MICHAEL and MAAMOUN YOUSSEF12 hours ago Wochit Egypt Leader: Foreign Hands Behind Sinai AttackWochitEgypt Leader: Foreign Hands Behind Sinai Attack CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi said Saturday that an assault on an army checkpoint in the Sinai Peninsula that killed 31 troops was a „foreign-funded operation” and vowed to take drastic action against militants.Related Stories
In thundering remarks delivered before cameras ahead of a military funeral for the slain troops, el-Sissi said there are foreign powers that want to „break the back of Egypt,” without elaborating. He vowed to take drastic measures to uproot the militants and said Egypt is engaged in an „extensive war” that will last a long time.”There is a big conspiracy against us,” he said while standing with army commanders ahead of the funeral.Militants launched a complex assault on the checkpoint Friday that involved a car bomb possibly detonated by a suicide attacker, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs placed to target rescuers.Egypt declared a state of emergency and imposed a 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew in the restive northern part of the peninsula after Friday’s assault, the deadliest against the army in decades.No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of the extremist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, which has carried out several attacks on security forces since the military overthrew Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last year amid massive protests against him.In this photo provided by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sis …El-Sissi said the aim of the attack was to „break the will of Egypt and the Egyptians as well as the will of the Egyptian army, which is considered a pillar of Egypt.”He called on Egyptians „to be aware of what is being hatched against us” and to be „vigilant and steadfast with the army and the police.””All that is happening to us is known to us and we expected it and talked about it before July 3,” he said, referring to the day last year when he overthrew Morsi. At the time el-Sissi was defense minister and army chief.He claimed some success in the fight against militants, saying „dozens of terrorists have been killed in the past weeks and months… hundreds of terrorists have been liquidated.”Islamic militants have been battling security forces in Sinai for a decade, but the violence spiked after Morsi’s overthrow. The attacks have also spread to other parts of Egypt, with militants targeting police in Cairo and the Nile Delta.In this photo provided by Egypt’s state news agency MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sis …The militants have portrayed the attacks as retaliation for a sweeping crackdown by security forces in which hundreds of Morsi supporters have been killed in street clashes and some 20,000 people have been arrested.The government has blamed much of the violence on Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which it blacklisted as a terrorist group last year. The Brotherhood, which renounced violence decades ago, has condemned the attacks and denied any involvement.A Muslim Brotherhood alliance issued a statement on Friday offering sincere condolences to the „families of the martyrs and victims of the treacherous coup.”It said the soldiers were killed in a „new massacre added to the black record of the military junta that has thrown the army into the political arena and put the Sinai under siege, isolation and schemes of displacement.”El-Sissi, earlier in the day, presided over an extraordinary meeting of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to discuss the recent developments in Sinai.The Council issued a statement reaffirming the armed forces’ „determination to eradicate terrorism from this precious part of Egypt.””The Council agreed on a plan formulated by the armed forces to combat terrorism in Sinai and other strategic areas,” the statement said without elaboration.
Russia turns back clocks to permanent Winter Time 10 hours agoView photoThe clock on the Spasskaya Tower in Moscow, seen on May 7, 2004 (AFP Photo/Sergei Chirikov) Moscow (AFP) – Russia on Sunday is set to turn back its clocks to winter time permanently in a move backed by President Vladimir Putin, reversing a three-year experiment with non-stop summer time that proved highly unpopular.Russia will also tinker with its time zones in order to revert to the full 11 zones from Kamchatka in the Pacific to Kaliningrad on the borders of the European Union — reduced to nine by previous president Dmitry Medvedev.In one of his highest-profile reforms, Medvedev had backed Russia’s move to permanent Summer Time (Greenwich Mean Time plus four hours) in 2011 on the basis that changing clocks upset people’s biorhythms and made for „unhappy cows”.But the change provoked a rumble of protest, with many Russians unhappy at getting up an hour earlier on pitch-dark winter mornings.In July, Putin — known for rarely making public appearances in the morning — signed a law bringing back winter time (GMT plus three hours). He ruled that the clocks henceforth would never change to summer time.The seemingly random reforms have riled Russians.Moskovsky Komsomolets daily ran a cartoon of man hanging himself on the hands of a clock, saying: „I’m so sick of you changing all the time.”But health officials reassured citizens that the move back to winter time was harmless.”Dark mornings have a worse effect on people’s state of health than dark evenings,” the head of sleep medicine at the Federal Medical and Biological Agency, Alexander Kalinkin, told TASS state news agency.A poll by VTsIOM state agency this month found 17 percent of Russians opposed a move to winter time, while 40 percent said they did not care and 39 percent backed the move.Russia’s full 11 time zones will also be restored after Medvedev had cut down the number of time zones to nine by merging several zones, prompting street protests in the far eastern city of Kamchatka.The Soviet Union introduced a switch to summer time in 1981.Time remains a highly political issue in Russia and the ex-Soviet region.Ukraine’s Crimea region switched two hours forward to Moscow time in March, shortly after being annexed by Russia.Neighbouring Belarus followed Russia into eternal summer time in 2011 but President Alexander Lukashenko has now defiantly refused to return to winter time.Ukraine meanwhile has opted to keep both winter and summer time.
Japanese PM Abe’s public support slumps in wake of resignations: Yomiuri poll 2 hours agoJapan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reacts as he speaks to the media at his official residence in Tokyo …TOKYO (Reuters) – Public approval of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government slumped after the resignation of two high-profile cabinet ministers last week, according to a poll published on Sunday, adding more pressure on Abe as he struggles to turn around the Japanese economy.Japan’s biggest daily the Yomiuri surveyed 1,059 people by telephone on Friday and Saturday and found support for Abe’s government had fallen to 53 percent from 62 percent in less than a month.Of those surveyed, 37 percent said they disapproved of the government, up from a 30 percent disapproval rating in a previous poll on Oct 10.In the biggest setback since he took office in December 2012, Abe lost two cabinet ministers on one day last week, complicating tough decisions on key policies, including whether to proceed with an unpopular sales tax hike and restarts of nuclear reactors shut down after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.Japan’s economy is floundering and analysts polled by Reuters have cut their annual growth forecast for a fifth straight month.Yuko Obuchi, the daughter of a former prime minister, quit as trade and industry minister on Monday after acknowledging doubts over whether her support groups misused political funds.The Yomiuri survey found 73 percent agreed that it was right for Obuchi to quit.Midori Matsushima also stepped down as justice minister on the same day over allegations she violated election laws by handing out paper „uchiwa” fans to voters.Obuchi and Matsushima were two of five women that Abe appointed in September in a move to win the backing of female voters by challenging the male domination of politics in Japan.Abe hopes to contain the damage through swift replacements of the two, but other cabinet members including Defense Minister Akinori Eto, Agriculture Minister Koya Nishikawa and Health Minister Yasuhisa Shiozaki, also face questions over finances.And Obuchi’s replacement at the economy and trade ministry, Yoichi Miyazawa, has also come under fire. A support group for the veteran politician spent money at the sadomasochism-themed bar in his political district of Hiroshima, which it recorded as an entertainment expense, according to local press reports.Abe’s first stint as prime minister in 2006-2007 was marred by scandals among his ministers – several quit and one committed suicide. Abe himself resigned after just one year in the face of parliamentary deadlock, sliding support rates and ill health.The recent scandals has fired up the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan, which Abe routed in elections almost two years ago, but Abe’s ruling coalition has a hefty parliamentary majority and no general election need be held until 2016.(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry)
Iraqi security forces and Kurds gain ground against Islamic State By Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel Coles7 hours ago Wochit Iraqi Security Forces, Kurds, Gain Ground Against Islamic StateWochit Iraqi Security Forces, Kurds, Gain Ground Against Islamic StateBy Ahmed Rasheed and Isabel ColesRelated Stories
BAGHDAD/ARBIL Iraq (Reuters) – Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militias seized control of the strategic town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad from Islamic State on Saturday and Kurdish fighters made gains in the north after heavy coalition air strikes against the Sunni militants.Iraqi troops and their Shi’ite allies broke the grip of Islamic State in Jurf al-Sakhar after months of fighting against insurgents determined to march on the capital.”Our forces with the support of the volunteers are in total control over Jurf al-Sakhar now and the terrorists fled to the southwest areas of the town,” a spokesman for security forces there said.A victory could allow Iraqi forces to prevent the Sunni insurgents – positioned in several locations around Baghdad – from edging closer to the capital, sever connections to their strongholds in western Anbar province and stop them infiltrating the mainly Shi’ite south.The security officials said the Sunni insurgents fled to the two nearby villages of al-Farisiya and Hay al-Askari and were still attacking with sniper fire and mortars. Government forces were preparing for a major overnight operation against them.eryShi’ite fighters and Iraqi army members ride in vehicles during a patrol in Jurf al-Sakhar Octob …In the latest fighting, 67 members of the Iraqi security forces and Shi’ite militias as well as 300 Islamic State fighters were killed, the officials said.It was not possible to get independent verification of the casualty tolls in the town 60 km (40 miles) south of Baghdad.Speaking to state television in the town, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Iraqis forced out by fighting would soon return to their homes.Islamic State swept through northern Iraq in the summer, facing little resistance from U.S.-trained government troops.The al Qaeda offshoot then declared a caliphate and threatened to reach Baghdad, rattling the Shi’ite-led government and intensifying sectarian bloodshed.A Shi’ite fighter aims using a sniper rifle during a patrol in Jurf al-Sakhar October 25, 2014. …On Saturday, a suicide bomber killed seven Shi’ite militiamen in a town just north of Baghdad, police and medical sources said.Islamic State controls large parts of the Sunni heartland in Iraq’s western Anbar province, as well as swathes of Syria and wants to redraw the map of the Middle East.STRATEGIC ISLAMIC STATE NETWORK AT STAKESunni insurgents have been moving fighters, weapons and supplies from western Iraq through secret desert tunnels to Jurf al-Sakhar, Iraqi officials have said. Now it appears government forces may be able to disrupt that network.While Iraq’s army and Shi’ite militias have resisted Islamic State efforts to move closer to Baghdad, Kurdish forces have also gained ground, recapturing territory in the north.A Shi’ite fighter carries his weapon during a patrol in Jurf al-Sakhar October 25, 2014. REUTER …The Kurds retook the town of Zumar and several nearby villages from early on Saturday after heavy coalition air strikes against the insurgents, security sources said.If the Kurds manage to hold Zumar, that could enable them to disrupt Islamic State supply lines to nearby towns and cities.A Kurdish intelligence officer in Zumar said Kurdish peshmerga forces had advanced from five directions in the early morning and encountered fierce resistance. A spokesman for the peshmerga also said Zumar was now in Kurdish hands.Zumar was one of the first Kurdish-controlled towns to be overrun in August by Islamic State who went on to threaten the autonomous region’s capital, Arbil, prompting air strikes by the United States – a campaign since joined by Britain and France.If the Kurds are able to keep Zumar, it would also make it easier for them to advance on Sinjar, where Islamic State are besieging members of Iraq’s Yazidi minority on a mountain.An armoured vehicle belonging to the Iraqi army patrols in Jurf al-Sakhar October 25, 2014. REUTERS/ …Helped by the air strikes, Kurds have regained ground but progress has been hampered by a lack of heavy weaponry and by homemade bombs and booby-traps laid by the militants.Gains have been easily lost in the war against Islamic State.The Kurds claimed victory in Zumar in September, only to withdraw from the town again after suffering heavy losses.One peshmerga fighter deployed in the area on Saturday said a sniper was still at large in a village adjacent to Zumar, and a car bomb had exploded when they approached a vehicle, killing seven peshmerga.In another village, Ayn al-Helwa, the peshmerga said 17 militants had been taken captive, all of them Sunni Turkmen.Iraqi military vehicles are being transported into Jurf al-Sakhar, as part of reinforcements after I …While U.S. air strikes have had some impact on the insurgents, it is not clear whether they will be enough to secure a defeat in the long term in the major oil producer and in Syria.The United States and its allies conducted 22 air strikes against Islamic State forces in Iraq on Friday and Saturday, the U.S. Central Command said.U.S. warplanes also destroyed an Islamic State artillery piece near Kobani in Syria, officials said Saturday. The town near Turkey’s border appears in less danger of falling, but the threat remains, U.S. officials said on Thursday.The 22 strikes in Iraq included attacks on frequently targeted areas near the vital Mosul dam, the city of Fallujah and the northern city of Baiji, home of an oil refinery.(Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Louise Ireland)