NATO talks tough on Russia in Syria, with scant action By JOHN-THOR DAHLBURG9 hours ago BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO talked tough Thursday about Moscow’s expanding military activity in Syria, but the U.S.-led alliance’s chief response to the Russian airstrikes and cruise missile attacks was a public pledge to help reinforce the defenses of member nation Turkey if necessary.Related Stories
„NATO is able and ready to defend all allies, including Turkey, against any threat,” alliance secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg declared at the onset of a meeting of NATO defense ministers.The meeting attended by U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter and counterparts from NATO’s other 27 countries was overshadowed by concerns about Russia’s recent military actions in Syria. On Wednesday, Russian warships fired a volley of cruise missiles in the first combined air-and-ground assault with Syrian government troops since Moscow began its military campaign in the country last week.U.S. officials said Thursday that some of those missiles missed their targets and landed in Iran.Over the weekend, Turkey reported back-to-back violations of its airspace by Russian warplanes.Stoltenberg said NATO had already increased „our capacity, our ability, our preparedness to deploy forces, including to the south, including in Turkey, if needed.”U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, front left, looks toward Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Vecdi …However, pressed about what NATO precisely intended to do to aid Turkey, which shares a border with Syria, Stoltenberg told a news conference the mere existence of a beefed-up alliance response force, as well as a new and highly nimble brigade-sized unit able to deploy within 48 hours, may suffice.”We don’t have to deploy the NATO Response Force or the spearhead force to deliver deterrence,” Stoltenberg said. „The important thing is that any adversary of NATO will know that we are able to deploy.”Carter predicted Russia’s support for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, including the new joint offensive, „will have consequences for Russia itself,” adding: „I also expect that in coming days the Russians will begin to suffer casualties in Syria.”Echoing Winston Churchill’s celebrated pronouncement in 1946 that an „iron curtain” had fallen across Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe, Carter told a news conference that modern-day Russia continues to „wrap itself in a shroud of isolation,” and only the Kremlin can decide to alter that course.Russia called its penetration of Turkey and NATO airspace a minor incident that was unintentional, but NATO issued a strongly worded statement insisting such violations must cease.Spanish Defense Minister Pedro Morenes Eulate, second right, speaks with Turkish Defense Minister Me …”We see an escalation of Russian military activity in Syria,” Stoltenberg said. „And the ministers agreed that Russia’s military escalation in Syria raises serious concerns.”He said NATO was „constantly assessing” the situation with Turkey’s leaders, and that he would meet Thursday with Turkish Defense Minister Mehmet Vecdi Gonul.Carter essentially accused the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin of lying about its actions and intentions in Syria, saying „what is clear is that Russia said one thing and did another.”As an example, the Obama administration official said, Moscow has insisted it is striking facilities of the Islamic State militant group, but that so far this hasn’t matched up with the targets Russia is blasting from the air.”They have initiated a joint ground offensive with the Syrian regime, shattering the facade that they’re there to fight ISIL,” Carter said, using an acronym for Islamic State.British Secretary of State for Defense Michael Fallon, second left, speaks with from left, German De …German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Russia must recognize that if it targets opposition groups in Syria that are fighting Islamic State, „Russia will strengthen IS, and this can be neither in the Russian interest, nor in our interest.”British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon accused Russia of making a serious situation „much more dangerous.” Many NATO officials, including Stoltenberg, have expressed fears there could be an encounter, accidental or otherwise, between Russian planes and the air forces of the U.S.-led coalition attacking Islamic State in Syria.Carter said the Russians „shot cruise missiles from ships in the Caspian Sea without warning. They’ve come within just a few miles of one of our unmanned aerial vehicles.”Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said that in Syria, „Russia is not constructive, not reliable and not cooperative — so it is of great concern.”Thursday’s meeting, the ministers’ first since June, implemented further changes in the alliance, in line with a blueprint ordered by President Obama and other NATO leaders at the 2014 Wales summit, a reform process expected to last until the next summit in July 2016 in Warsaw.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a media conference at NATO headquarters in Bru …A retooled NATO is supposed to be able to deal faster and more potently with an array of new security challenges, Putin’s Russia and armed Islamic extremism in the Middle East and North Africa chief among them.The new measures agreed upon Thursday include finalized plans, including command and control arrangements, for a NATO Response Force of up to 40,000 — twice the current size — and creation of new NATO headquarters offices in Hungary and Slovakia to enhance those Eastern European nations’ defenses and speed reinforcement by their allies in the event of a real or perceived threat from Russia.”All of this sends a clear message to all NATO citizens. NATO will defend you, NATO is on the ground, NATO is ready,” Stoltenberg said._Lolita Baldor in Brussels contributed.
EU agrees to speed migrant deportation, buttress borders By RAF CASERT and LORNE COOK5 hours agoe LUXEMBOURG (AP) — The European Union on Thursday took measures to buttress its porous external borders and toughen up its migrant return program in an attempt to build a credible refugee policy that would continue to embrace those fleeing for their lives yet punish those seeking economic gain.Related Stories
Facing their toughest refugee emergency since World War II, the 28 EU nations committed to speed up and intensify the deportation of people who do not qualify for asylum, including more special flights out and detention for those who might slip into illegal residence.It all was to underscore one key message: Europe feels overwhelmed and needs to be far more rigorous in sending economic migrants back if it wants to find enough goodwill among its population to continue harboring true refugees.”Increased return rates should act as a deterrent to irregular migration,” the conclusions of the meeting said.More than 500,000 people have arrived this year seeking sanctuary or jobs. But of the people who fail to obtain asylum or residency in the 28-nation EU, less than 40 percent actually go back, and all agree that should change quickly.”We need to see Europe upping its game,” Britain’s interior minister, Theresa May, said.Migrants climb out of the windows of a train after they arrived at the railway station in Hegyeshalo …”If there is no return policy there is no basis for the refugee policy,” said French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, adding agreements should be quickly made with many of the developing nations from where tens of thousands of economic migrants leave in desperation for a better life in Europe.At the same time, he put to the EU nations a far-reaching plan to beef up the external borders by committing member states to contribute more personnel to the EU’s border agency and eventually set up a largely autonomous international „corps” that could intervene wherever a crisis appears.French officials said that in the short term, member states would be obliged to contribute more personnel to the Frontex border agency based on their population, wealth and other criteria.Last week, Frontex appealed for 775 additional staff to deal with the migrant crisis in Greece and Italy. It would roughly double the staff the agency has there now, mainly on some 30 vessels in the Mediterranean.In the long term, France proposes a multinational European border guard corps which would have much more autonomy to act and contain crises.Migrants wait to be registered at the registration camp in Presevo, Southern Serbia, Wednesday, Oct. …To further deal with the mass movement of migrants through the Balkans, EU ministers discussed better cooperation with their counterparts from the region and the nations bordering Syria, from where many refugees have fled the war.Several ministers lauded a better understanding at the meeting between Balkan nations, which have often fought over who should take charge of the refugees transiting through their countries.”That is much more efficient than throwing the problems at one another,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders. „It is a complex humanitarian crisis demanding concrete cooperation.”On Thursday, the EU also earmarked more than 400 million euros ($451 million) in additional funding to tackle the refugee emergency.Most of the money — 300 million euros — will be used to help Syrian refugees in countries outside the EU, including Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.It will also fund the creation of 120 jobs in the three key European agencies working on the migration frontline; Frontex, the EASO asylum support office and the policy agency Europol.Some 56 million euros will be devoted to humanitarian aid._Lorne Cook wrote from Brussels.
Australia in talks to send refugees to the Philippines By KRISTEN GELINEAU1 hour agoFILE – In this May 12, 2013 file photo, Iranian asylum seekers who were caught in Indonesian waters while sailing to Australia, sit on a boat, at Benoa port in Bali, Indonesia. Australia is in talks to send refugees who try to reach its shores illegally to the Philippines, the immigration minister said in Canberra Australia, Friday, Oct. 9, 2015. Australia refuses to accept any refugees who attempt to reach its shores by boat, and pays Nauru and Papua New Guinea, which has a detention center on Manus Island, to hold them instead. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)SYDNEY (AP) — Australia is in talks to send refugees who try to reach its shores illegally to the Philippines, the immigration minister said Friday.Australia already has a multi-million dollar deal to resettle refugees from an Australia-run detention camp on the Pacific nation of Nauru to Cambodia. But so far, only four refugees have taken up the offer of cash, free health insurance and accommodation to move from Nauru to the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh. That has prompted critics to dub the deal an expensive flop and sent the government looking for another solution.Australia refuses to accept any refugees who attempt to reach its shores by boat. It pays Nauru and Papua New Guinea, which has a detention center on Manus Island, to hold them instead.On Friday, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton confirmed that the government has been in talks with several countries, including the Philippines, about possibly resettling its refugees in those nations.”We have been very open to discussions for a long period of time with those partners because we have been very clear about the fact that people on Nauru and people on Manus who have sought to come to our country illegally by boat won’t be settling in Australia,” Dutton told reporters in Canberra, the nation’s capital. „We have a bilateral arrangement with Cambodia. If we can strike other arrangements with other countries, we will do that.”The Cambodia deal has been widely condemned by human rights groups, who say the southeast Asian nation is hardly an ideal home for refugees given its long history of poverty, corruption and human rights abuses.The potential for a deal with the Philippines prompted similar concerns. Dutton was asked what guarantees of safety Australia could give refugees who resettle in a nation that is grappling with violent kidnappings and terrorism.”We can provide the same guarantees that we can to Australians that travel to the Philippines each year, the expats that live in the Philippines and across southeast Asia or other parts of the world,” Dutton replied, adding that refugees would be resettled there only on a voluntary basis.Dutton declined to release further details, including a timeframe for the deal or how many refugees could be resettled.In Manila, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said without elaborating on Friday that Australia’s proposal was „under consultation,” adding that Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and his Australian counterpart, Julie Bishop, discussed the matter among other things on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York.Ian Rintoul, Sydney-based director of the Australian advocacy group Refugee Action Coalition, said the potential deal demonstrates how desperate the government has become to find an alternative to its Cambodia program. He doubts many refugees would be eager to relocate to the Philippines.”The issues that are very real in Cambodia are just as real in the Philippines,” Rintoul said. „The possibility of education, secure jobs … They’re unlikely to get that kind of secure future in the Philippines.”Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator with the minor Greens party, said Australia was once again passing its responsibility to care for refugees onto another poor country.”It’s a trade of human lives and it’s time the minister was up front about it,” she said.A critic of the Philippines’ government slammed the potential deal and called on President Benigno Aquino III to release details on how it would work.”It is just shameful that a developed nation like Australia would refuse these refugees and instead move to have them relocated to a struggling, developing country like the Philippines,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of the left-wing Filipino group Bayan, said in a statement._Associated Press writers Oliver Teves and Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, contributed to this report.
Syria army in ‘vast offensive’ backed by Russian strikes By Maya Gebeily with Bryan McManus in Brussels8 hours ago Beirut (AFP) – Regime troops backed by Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Russian air strikes advanced Thursday in western Syria in a „vast offensive” against rebels, as NATO voiced alarm at Moscow’s escalating military activity in the country.Related Stories
Russia has dramatically stepped up its nine-day-old air war against foes of President Bashar al-Assad, with heavy bombing by warplanes and cruise missile strikes from the Caspian Sea.A US official said four Russian missiles launched at Syria from warships Wednesday had crashed in Iran, but that was denied by Moscow.A Syrian military source told AFP that regime forces had advanced in a key mountain range.”They have seized most of the hilly region of Jeb al-Ahmar,” which overlooks the strategic Sahl al-Ghab plain to the east and Assad’s coastal stronghold of Latakia to the west, the source said.The plain has been the focus of a months-long offensive by a rebel alliance including Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, Al-Nusra Front.The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, confirmed that regime forces had advanced in the area.An image grab from a video released by the Russian Defence Ministry on October 7, 2015 reportedly sh …Moscow says it is striking the Islamic State (IS) jihadist organisation and „other terrorists”.But Washington has accused Russia of targeting groups other than IS or Al-Nusra in more than 90 percent of its raids.In Moscow, the defence ministry said Russia’s air force hit 27 „terrorist” targets in central and northern Syria Wednesday night.The ministry said it had destroyed eight IS strongholds near populated areas in Homs province, and hit 11 training camps linked to the group in Hama and Raqa provinces.An anonymous US official said four of the missiles Russia launched on Syria from warships Wednesday instead crashed into in Iran, but did not provide an exact location.But defence ministry spokesman General Igor Konashenkov said in Moscow that „any professional knows that during these operations we always fix the target before and after impact. All our cruise missiles hit their target.”US defense minister Ashton Carter speaks at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on October 8, 2015 (AFP Ph …There was no immediate reaction from Tehran.- ‘Consequences for Russia’ -Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter forecast Thursday Russia would soon begin to suffer casualties of its own.”This will have consequences for Russia itself which is rightly fearful of attacks… In coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer from casualties,” Carter said at a NATO defence ministers meeting in Brussels.NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said there had been a „troubling escalation” in Moscow’s air campaign.”We will assess the latest developments and their implications for the security of the alliance,” he added.A handout picture released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), shows Syrian army units a …”This is particularly relevant in view of the recent violations of NATO’s airspace by Russian aircraft,” Stoltenberg said.Tensions between Russia and NATO member Turkey shot up this week after Russian aircraft infringed on Turkish airspace at least twice.The Russian air war has provided cover for Assad’s ground troops, who have lost swathes of the north, east and south of the country to jihadists and rebel groups since the conflict erupted in 2011.The army appeared to regain ground Thursday, after chief of staff General Ali Abdullah Ayoub announced „a vast offensive to defeat the terrorist groups” and restore control over opposition-held areas.Although Ayoub did not specify where the operation would take place, state TV said the army had targeted „terrorist positions” in the central province of Hama, killing 32 militants and destroying four armoured vehicles.Russian and Syrian warplanes also conducted „precise strikes” on Al-Nusra positions in Latakia province, it said.Damaged buildings in Darat Azzah, west of Aleppo, following reported bombings by government forces o …A military source in the Sahl al-Ghab plain told AFP Russian air strikes had targeted at least three villages there Thursday morning.- Helicopter downed -Backed by allied militia and Russian air cover, regime troops have retaken around a dozen villages in Hama, according to Syrian daily Al-Watan, which is close to the government.At least 13 regime fighters and 11 rebels were killed, the Observatory said.Rebel forces shot down a low-flying military helicopter, but it was unclear if it was Syrian or Russian, Observatory chief Rami Abdel Rahman said.In Aleppo province, the monitor said a car bombing in the town of Hreitan killed 12 people and wounded a similar number.Hreitan is controlled by a group of Islamist rebel factions including Al-Nusra.Abdel Rahman said IS had been blamed for the bombing.Since September 30, Russia has targeted areas it claims are controlled by IS and „other terrorists”.But non-jihadist rebels and their international backers insist that most of the areas targeted are not held by IS.”Greater than 90 percent of the strikes that we’ve seen them take to date have not been against ISIL or Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists,” said US State Department spokesman John Kirby, using an alternative acronym for IS.One US-backed rebel faction has even accused Russian warplanes of destroying its arms depots and wounding several of its fighters.
4 Russian Cruise Missiles Crash in Iran En Route to Syria By LUIS MARTINEZ4 hours ago4 Russian Cruise Missiles Crash in Iran En Route to Syria (ABC News)At least four cruise missiles fired from Russian navy ships in the Caspian Sea towards Syria Wednesday crashed in northwestern parts of Iranaccording to U.S. officials.Regional press reports in northwestern Iran referred to the crash of “unidentified flying objects.”On Wednesday, Russia fired 26 cruise missiles at what it said were ISIS targets in Syria, assisting a ground offensive launched by the Syrian military in central western Syria.U.S. officials said that it was unclear if the Russian missiles caused any damage or casualties as they crashed in Iranian territory.A video released by the Russian Defense Ministry of the missile launches also included an animation detailing the trajectory the missiles took flying over northwestern Iran and northern Iraqen route to their targets in Syria.Little noticed regional press reports on Wednesday mentioned an “unidentified flying object” that had crashed near the town of Takab close to the border with Iraq. A report in Oyan News cited the governor of Takab describing the crash of a “drone” near the village of Qiz Qapan in the early morning hours.Images posted by Oyan News on Thursday in several structures in the village which matched initial descriptions provided by witnesses.Wednesday’s launch marked the first use of Russian cruise missiles in combat.A U.S. official told ABC News that their use in Syria was probably intended to demonstrate Russia’s military capabilities. The official noted that other weapons available to the Russian military already in Syria carried more firepower than that aboard the cruise missiles.
Belarus’ veteran leader poised for re-election, eyes better ties with West By Andrei Makhovsky11 hours agoBelarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko addresses attendees during the 70th session of the United …By Andrei MakhovskyMINSK (Reuters) – Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko, in power for 21 years, is virtually certain to win a fifth term in office on Sunday in an election observers say is unlikely to see the kind of violent mass protests that marred the 2010 poll.The West has long ostracized Lukashenko, a feisty, heavily built former state farm manager, over his human rights record and his clampdown on political dissent and has imposed economic sanctions on some Belarussian officials and companies.But Lukashenko’s criticism of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last year, his hosting of Ukraine peace talks and his pardoning of six opposition leaders in August have led to a cautious rapprochement with the European Union and the United States.”The West is interested in Belarus’s stability. It wants peaceful elections that can be seen as bringing progress in terms of democracy and human rights,” said Yury Tsarik of the Belarussian Center for Strategic and Political Research.Echoing that comment, the head of Belarus’s Centre for European Transformation, Andrei Yegorov, said: „The Belarussian authorities don’t have to do much (for Sunday’s elections) … They need to keep up appearances.”A sense of apathy among ordinary Belarussians, combined with a strong desire for stability in the face of a more assertive Russia and a crisis-plagued Ukraine, mean few observers expect large-scale protests as in 2010, when Lukashenko had his main opponents jailed.Belarussian author Svetlana Alexievich, who on Thursday won this year’s Nobel Prize for literature, summed up the mood of resignation among opponents of a man who came to power in 1994 and shows no sign of wanting to retire.”I will not vote in these elections because we know who will win,” said Alexievich, who now lives in Minsk after spending many years in western Europe.A former opposition presidential candidate, Nikolai Statkevich, has called for pre-election protests, but turnout at similar events in recent months has been in the low hundreds.ECONOMIC CRISIS While Russia retains significant influence in Belarus, not least as one its main lenders, Lukashenko has on occasion been at pains to show his independence. Most recently he denounced Russian plans to build a military base in Belarus, appearing to make a rare concession to public opposition.The European Union is an important trade partner for Belarus and the release of the six prisoners in August prompted some in Brussels to argue for the future lifting of trade barriers.A larger export market would be welcome to Belarus, whose economy has been battered this year by the slump in Russia’s rouble currency.Belarus’ gross domestic product shrank by 3.5 percent in the January-August period and the average monthly wage has fallen by about a third in dollar terms since the start of the year to $420.Nevertheless, support for Lukashenko, who described himself in an interview with Reuters three years ago as the „last and only dictator in Europe”, has risen to 47 percent, according to a September survey by the independent Institute for Socio-economic and Political Studies.Lukashenko, 61, keeps tight control of his country’s mass media and none of the three candidates running against him in Sunday’s poll represent a serious challenge to his rule.”The economic crisis should logically have led to a fall in trust, but this was neutralized by the Ukraine crisis, which seriously scared Belarussian society,” said Valery Karbalevich, who has written a biography of the president.”Lukashenko cast himself as the guarantor of peace and security … and this image worked.”(Writing by Alessandra Prentice in Kiev; Editing by Gareth Jones)
France train attack hero stabbed in California By Jocelyne Zablit4 hours ago Los Angeles (AFP) – One of three Americans who helped thwart a terror attack on a Paris-bound train was stabbed in his home state of California — apparently after coming to a woman’s rescue, authorities said.Related Stories
Airman Spencer Stone, 23, was stabbed in Sacramento after he got into a fight with a group of men as he was leaving a bar with friends, Ken Bernard, the city’s deputy chief of police, told reporters.He said police received a call at 12:46 am from a passerby who witnessed the incident.Bernard said officers who arrived at the scene found Stone with multiple stab wounds to his upper torso.He was rushed to a nearby hospital where he was listed in serious condition after undergoing two hours of surgery.”He is currently being treated for what appears to be non-life threatening but very significant injuries,” Bernard said, adding that two male Asian suspects were being sought in connection with the attack.A source close to the investigation told AFP that Stone was apparently trying to defend a woman being harassed by a group of men outside the bar when an argument escalated and he got stabbed.It was unclear if the woman was with Stone.L-R: Army Specialist Alek Skarlatos, Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone and Anthony Sadler stand after r …”A woman was being harassed and he got involved,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.The source said several of those in Stone’s group — three women and another man — were drunk but it was unclear if Stone himself was inebriated.Video footage of the incident caught by a nearby surveillance camera and released by US media shows Stone fighting off a group of men who scatter when what appears to be a police car arrives at the scene.A red stain can be seen spreading on Stone’s white shirt.Another surveillance video released by police shows the two alleged suspects involved in the altercation running and getting into a car that quickly drives off.- Heroes parade – Bernard said the assault was in no way related to a terrorist act or to the train attack that Stone and two of his friends helped foil while vacationing in France.Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter presents the Airman’s Medal to Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone …Just weeks ago, the town of Sacramento staged a „Heroes Parade” in honor of the trio.Stone suffered deep slash wounds as he helped to overpower a heavily-armed gunman, 25-year-old Moroccan Ayoub El Khazzani, on August 21.Armed with a pistol, an assault rifle and 270 rounds of ammunition, Khazzani is accused of seeking to massacre passengers on the Amsterdam-Paris train.Stone was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration, along with Army National Guard Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, a civilian.The trio was also invited to the White House by President Barack Obama and Stone received a Purple Heart and an Airman’s Medal from the Pentagon.Stone had only just returned to work at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento.Skarlatos also had a near miss last week.The 22-year-old had been due to attend the college in Oregon where a gunman went on a rampage, killing nine people.The only reason he was not at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, he says, was the attention he has been getting since the train attack.Instead, he was in Los Angeles rehearsing for this season’s „Dancing With the Stars,” in which he has been invited to compete, when he heard of the shooting and rushed back to Roseburg where he is assigned to an infantry unit.”If I didn’t get called for ‘Dancing’ I would have been on campus,” Skarlatos said.”I mean, it’s just absolutely insane to be in a situation like this, especially in my town, Roseburg.”Skarlatos issued a message of support on Thursday, tweeting: „Everybody send prayers out to the Stone family today.”
Pope Francis, anti-nuclear activists among Nobel Peace Prize contenders By Gwladys Fouche and Alister Doyle40 minutes agoView photPope Francis kisses a baby as he arrives to lead the weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square at the …By Gwladys Fouche and Alister Doyle OSLO (Reuters) – Pope Francis and a line-up of anti-nuclear campaigners headed lists of favorites to win the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize on the eve of Friday’s announcement.The Geneva-based International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) was named as a leading contender for the $972,000 prize by Norway’s state broadcaster NRK and by Nobeliana, a website run by historians who specialize in tracking the award.NRK said Pope Francis’ opposition to nuclear weapons boosted his chances, alongside his help in brokering a deal between the United States and Cuba, and his encyclical on climate change. Nobeliana mentioned his calls for social justice.Both organizations also highlighted Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, while Nobeliana picked out Sumiteru Taniguchi, a survivor of the atomic attack on Nagasaki.NRK, which has correctly predicted a number of winners, mentioned Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry as contenders for concluding a deal over Tehran’s nuclear program.Private broadcaster TV2 reported that they, and probably an EU representative, were considered in the final round of deliberations by the committee which is due to announce the winner at 0900 GMT (5 a.m. EDT).Pundits also named a list of other contenders, including Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Marxist rebel leader Rodrigo Londono, for their efforts to put an end to the war that has blighted Colombia for five decades.German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, Eritrean priest Mussie Zerai and the mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, have also been named widely because of their work dealing with the refugee crisis.Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and its editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov, known for their investigations into corruption, and Congolese gynecologist Denis Mukwege, who helps victims of sexual violence, have also been mentioned by commentators.Around 273 individuals and organizations have been nominated by past winners, political leaders and other dignitaries.(This version corrects trash line to say Sumiteru Taniguchi is a survivor of the nuclear bombing on Nagasaki, not Hiroshima)
Romania captain banned for 2 weeks for dangerous tackle 8 hours agoLONDON (AP) — Romania captain Mihai Macovei was suspended for two weeks on Thursday for a dangerous tackle in the 17-15 win against Canada in the Rugby World Cup.The ruling means Macovei will miss the Oaks’ last Pool D match on Sunday against Italy in Exeter.His absence is a blow to Romania, which has a chance to finish third in the pool and qualify directly for the 2019 World Cup, if it beats Italy.Macovei’s two tries and driving runs from the back of the scrum helped Romania overturn a 15-0 deficit against Canada on Tuesday.But he was cited by independent citing commissioner Yves Thieffine of France for a dangerous tackle, grasping a player not in possession of the ball in the neck or head area.Macovei denied an act of foul play at his hearing on Thursday, but judicial officer Simon Thomas of Wales upheld it.The Italy match counts as one week of the suspension, and Macovei has to miss one game for his French club. He can play again from Oct. 19.
Merkel, Zerai, Pope Francis all in Nobel Peace Prize buzz By MARK LEWIS7 hours ago OSLO, Norway (AP) — Europe’s record-breaking refugee crisis was a hot topic ahead of the Nobel Peace Prize announcement on Friday, but a Saudi blogger, a pope who reveres the Earth and its poorest people and the key players in the Iranian nuclear deal were also generating buzz.Related Stories
The Norwegian Nobel Committee has given no clues but those bringing relief to the hundreds of thousands of desperate people arriving in Europe have attracted interest from gamblers and pundits. Here are some names being mentioned in the annual Peace Prize guessing game:___ANGELA MERKEL The German chancellor became the face of European inclusiveness in September when she pledged to open the country’s borders to refugees fleeing Syria and other war-torn areas.She was nominated before the Feb. 1 deadline for her role in trying to broker peace between Russia and Ukraine, but the committee could still consider her for subsequent actions.Kristian Berg Harpviken, head of the Peace Research Institute Oslo, says Merkel’s „humane response” to the immigration crisis has shamed other European leaders, helping to avert an even worse humanitarian crisis. However, she has angered politicians at home and in transit countries like Hungary, who accuse her of creating an irresistible lure for millions who are unhappy in their homelands.Merkel leads the peace prize odds at the British betting house William Hill.A faithful touches Pope Francis’ hand as he is driven through the crowd during his weekly genera …___THE REV. MUSSIE ZERAIThe U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has twice picked up the Nobel Peace Prize, but after awards to the European Union in 2012 and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 2014, the panel might prefer a human face.The Rev. Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean Catholic priest who helps coordinate rescue missions with the Italian and Maltese coast guards, has been nominated for his role in saving distressed people en route from Africa to Europe.__POPE FRANCIS A book by Geir Lundestad, the former secretary of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, suggests the group has had a historic antipathy to awarding the prize to pontiffs. But Pope Francis is the rumor that won’t go away.Pope Francis is driven through the crowd as he arrives for his weekly general audience in St. Peter& …He is a notable champion of the poor, opening the Vatican up to the homeless and demanding greater distribution of the world’s wealth to the neediest. His involvement in the historic U.S.-Cuba rapprochement has only burnished his peace-making credentials. And his recent encyclical on the environment, which demands nothing less than a new world order to protect the Earth and its most vulnerable people, has reinvigorated efforts to fight global warming.But the committee should be warned: Francis has either returned or regifted most honors, medals and awards given to him, although he probably would accept the cash and give it immediately to charity.___RAIF BADAWI The Saudi blogger who criticized the kingdom’s powerful clerics on a liberal blog was sentenced last year to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam. Rights groups say the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech.After the deadly Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January, the Nobel committee might see Badawi as a relatively uncontroversial way of recognizing the issue. Earlier this week, Badawi also jointly won the PEN Pinter Prize, a major free-speech award.Other free speech advocates are nominated: a Danish newspaper editor involved in the publication 10 years ago of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad and the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has criticized the Kremlin and run investigations into official Russian corruption.___JOHN KERRY AND JAVAD ZARIF The U.S. secretary of state and his Iranian counterpart did the face-to-face negotiating that experts say was the critical final component of July’s deal on Iran’s nuclear program.Tariq Rauf, director of the Swedish peace institute SIPRI and a former nuclear inspector, says the agreement to end sanctions against Iran in return for strict controls on Iranian nuclear development was the most important multilateral agreement in decades.”But it took the diplomacy of these two men to break the more than a decade long deadlock, end the suffering of ordinary Iranians and strengthen the moderates against the mullahs,” he said.He wondered, however, whether the Nobel committee might wait until 2016 to see if the nuclear agreement sticks.
Kosovo opposition disrupts parliament with tear gas By SYLEJMAN KLLOKOQI14 hours agoOpposition lawmakers in Kosovo disrupt Parliament’s session using tear gas and whistles, in capital Pristina on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015. The opposition protested over the government’s recent EU-sponsored deal with Serbia giving the country’s Serb-majority areas greater powers. (AP Photo)PRISTINA, Kosovo (AP) — Opposition lawmakers in Kosovo disrupted parliament’s session on Thursday, using tear gas and whistles to protest the government’s recent EU-sponsored deal with Serbia giving the country’s Serb-majority areas greater powers.The opposition wants the government to backtrack from the deal, saying it endangers Kosovo’s territorial integrity. The governing coalition says the opposition wants to come to power through unconstitutional means.”The agreements reached in Brussels and the border demarcation with Montenegro will not pass,” said a joint statement of the opposition bloc of the Vetevendosje (Self-Determination) Movement, Alliance for the Future of Kosovo (AAK) and Initiative for Kosovo (NISMA).”We will not allow Serbia’s return to Kosovo. Kosovo’s land will not be given away to Montenegro. The government must withdraw from these agreements.”Serbia rejects Kosovo’s 2008 secession, already recognized by more than 100 countries.Three to four tear gas canisters were opened during the parliamentary session, causing several of those present to seek medical treatment. One of the canisters was opened by Vetevendosje leader Albin Kurti, who later threw a glass of water at governing lawmakers. No arrests were made at the session.A statement from the government deplored „the violence of a group of the opposition … from which some lawmakers were injured and asked for medical assistance.” There were no reports of serious injuries.Kosovo President Atifete Jahjaga denounced the „nasty actions of the opposition’s lawmakers.”Parliamentary Speaker Kadri Veseli continued the session, inviting the opposition to take part in the debate on the deals with Serbia to „together express our reservations, or displeasure, or support for the Brussels agreement.””What is happening is not patriotism and it is not helping Kosovo,” he said.Opposition lawmaker Glauk Konjufca of the Vetevendosje party said the protests at the weekly sessions on Thursdays would continue. This was the third straight disturbance.The U.S. Embassy said some of its staff members in Pristina were among those injured in the disturbance, which it said made „a mockery of one of Kosovo’s most important democratic institutions.”The head of the Organization for Security and Development in Europe’s Kosovo mission, Ambassador Jean-Claude Schlumberger, also condemned the acts, calling them „unacceptable and detrimental for democracy.”Prime Minister Isa Mustafa escaped unharmed when eggs were thrown on a street earlier this week. He was the target of more eggs hurled by opposition lawmakers last month when he was escorted out of parliament, assisted by bodyguards protecting him with an umbrella.___Llazar Semini in Tirana, Albania, contributed to this report.