17 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective


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Survivors describe Tuesday’s Taliban attack on a school in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, which left 141 people dead and 133 injured. Witnesses tell how they heard shots after the heavily-armed militants entered the school, opening fire and hurling hand grenades at students and school staff members

Pakistan school attack: death penalty ban lifted as funerals take place – rolling report

WARNING: You may find some of the images above disturbing


Russian Ruble crashes past 100 against Euro

A digital information board showing currency exchange rates in a street in Moscow. Photograph: Pitalev Ilya/ITAR-TASS Photo/Corbis

Rouble crashes to dramatic low amid frantic central bank rate rise

Russians left wondering whether the good times under Vladimir Putin are over as 17% interest rates fail to save the day

Russians are wondering whether the relative economic stability of Vladimir Putin’s rule has come to an end, as the rouble continued its downward spiral on Tuesday, despite a dramatic overnight rise in interest rates.

“Even in our nightmares we couldn’t have imagined what is happening now a year ago,” said the deputy chairman of Russia’s central bank, Sergei Shvetsov, as the currency slid further against the dollar and euro.

Analysts suggest a combination of falling oil prices and western sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine initiated the rouble’s collapse, while further decline is taking place as investors panic and lose confidence in the currency.

On Tuesday the White House ratcheted up economic pressure against Russia, indicating it would sign into a law a bill passed by Congress to expand sanctions and provide further financial aid to Ukraine………………..



A White House spokesman says the US president will likely sign a bill implementing new sanctions on Russia by the end of the week. The Ukraine Freedom Support Act was passed by Congress on Saturday, and will see more pressure put on Vladimir Putin. Josh Earnest moved on to offer condolences to those affected by the Taliban attack at a school in Peshawar



Al-Jazeera journalist Peter Greste awaiting sentence in Cairo in June 2014. Photo: EPA/KHALED ELFIQI Photograph: KHALED ELFIQI/EPA

220 journalists are now in prison across the world

More journalists are in jail across the world at present than a year ago. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 220 journalists are in prison, an increase of nine from 2013.

It is the second-highest number of imprisoned journalists since CPJ started its annual census in 1990, and highlights a resurgence of authoritarian governments in countries such as China, Ethiopia, Burma and Egypt.

China’s use of anti-state charges and Iran’s revolving door policy in imprisoning reporters, bloggers, editors and photographers earned the two countries the dubious distinction of being the world’s worst and second worst jailers of journalists, respectively.

Together, China and Iran are holding a third of journalists jailed globally. The 44 journalists in Chinese jails, up from 32 the previous year, reflects the pressure that the country’s president, Xi Jinping, has exerted on media, lawyers, dissidents and academics to toe the government line. Twenty-nine of the journalists behind bars in China were held on anti-state charges.

Annual survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists shows China and Iran have most journalists in jail…………………


European parliament in Strasbourg

The European parliament in Strasbourg is due to vote on a motion on the conditional and symbolic recognition of a Palestinian state. Photograph: Patrick Seeger/EPA

Hamas taken off EU terror blacklist

Move comes as draft resolution on Palestinian statehood expected to be tabled at UN security council in New York

The European Union’s second highest court has ordered the removal of the Islamist group Hamas from a terrorist blacklist, citing procedural problems with the listing. It added, however, that the group’s assets should remain frozen for three months pending an almost certain appeal.

The decision came at the beginning of day of what promised to be intense diplomacy around the Israeli-Palestinian issue, with a draft resolution on Palestinian statehood expected to be tabled at the UN security council in New York later in the day.

In addition, the European parliament in Strasbourg was due to vote on a motion on the conditional and symbolic recognition of a Palestinian state, following similar votes in the UK, Sweden, France, Portugal and Ireland.

Wednesday will also see a rare meeting to discuss the Geneva conventions in Switzerland to discuss human rights in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. Although the meeting is being shunned by the US, Australia and Canada, Israeli efforts to persuade European states to stay away from the meeting were rebuffed.

Israel is also boycotting the one-day talks and has accused host Switzerland of contributing to the politicisation of the Geneva conventions on the laws of war……………………..



Los Angeles lawyers stage die-in protest against police – video

Lawyers and law students in Los Angeles stage a die-in demonstration on Tuesday in protest against recent grand jury decisions not to indict white officers who killed unarmed black men. Despite rain, over 250 people took part in the protest in front of the Stanley Mosk courthouse in LA on Tuesday



The freefalling rouble will cause Russians a bit of a headache.

The freefalling rouble will cause Russians a bit of a headache. Photograph: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Russia has just lost the economic war with the west

The interest rate hike’s failure to halt a freefalling rouble means Russia is facing a perfect storm, only part of which is a full-blown currency crisis

An emergency midnight meeting of the central bank. A 6.5 percentage point increase in interest rates. A rouble in free fall. Reports of Muscovites taking their money out of cash machines. This is what a currency crisis looks like.

Sergei Shvetsov, deputy governor of Russia’s central bank, summed it up. The bank, he intimated, would rather not have pushed the economy closer to a deep slump by hiking borrowing costs but could not sit back and do nothing as the rouble crashed. “Believe me, the choice that the central bank council made yesterday was a choice between the very bad and the very, very bad,” Shvetsov said. In the end, Moscow got lucky. It was just a very bad day.

Clearly, the attempt at “shock and awe” by pushing interest rates up from 10.5% to 17% in one go failed. The rouble ended another turbulent day’s trading below where it started and plumbed new record lows against the dollar. Russia has spent the past nine months fighting an economic war against the west – and Tuesday 16 December was the day that war was lost………………….



jeb bush hand

“I think the science has been politicized,” the other other Bush said in 2009. “It may be only partially man-made.” Photograph: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Jeb Bush may be ‘the smart brother’ – but he’s as much of a climate denier as any conservative

The first Republican presidential candidate for 2016 is ‘not a scientist’ – and you can bet Democrats won’t back off the environment

In Bush family lore, Jeb was always supposed to be the smarter, more level-headed one.

As with many media constructs, of course, that’s just not true. When it comes to climate change, Jeb Bush is a lot more radical than his brother.

Jeb doesn’t just want to keep burning fossil fuels while the planet burns. He’s an out-and-out flat-earther – just like the other Republicans seen as leading contenders in the 2016 presidential race – and he’s been on the record denying climate science for years.

“I think global warming may be real,” Jeb Bush said in 2011, in what seemed like a promising start to the subject in a Fox interview. But he followed it up with the false statement that there is some kind of dispute among scientists about the causes of climate change – which there is not:

It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view.

Those comments put Jeb Bush in lock-step with the other climate deniers in the Republican party – and now that he has become the party’s first (almost) declared candidate, they should help set early battle lines for climate change as a major campaign issue……………….


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