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NEWS Distillation – Week of 23-27 July 2012 – (TCP)CHICAGO

Today's Headlines - (TCP)CHICAGO

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23 July 2012

Syria – The New York Times reported: Syrian officials warned Monday that they would deploy chemical weapons against any foreign intervention, a threat that appeared intended to ward off an attack by Western nations while also offering what officials in Washington called the most “direct confirmation” ever that Syria possesses a stockpile of unconventional armaments. The warning came out of Damascus, veiled behind an assurance that the Syrian leadership would never use such weapons against its own citizens, describing chemical arms as outside the bounds of the kind of guerrilla warfare being fought internally. “Any stock of W.M.D. or unconventional weapons that the Syrian Army possesses will never, never be used against the Syrian people or civilians during this crisis, under any circumstances,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdissi, said at a news conference shown live on Syrian state television, using the initials for weapons of mass destruction. “These weapons are made to be used strictly and only in the event of external aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Iraq – The New York Times reported: A wave of violence swept across Iraq, with 111 killed on the country’s deadliest day in two-and-a-half years, after al-Qaeda warned it would seek to retake territory and mount new attacks. Officials said at least 235 people were also wounded in 28 different attacks launched on Monday in 19 cities, shattering the relative calm that had held in the lead-up to the start of the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. The violence drew condemnation from the United Nations special envoy to Iraq, the country’s parliament speaker and neighbouring Iran, while Washington slammed the attacks as “cowardly”. In the deadliest incident – a string of roadside bombs and a car bomb followed by a suicide attack targeting emergency responders in the town of Taji – at least 42 people were killed and 40 wounded, medical officials said.

ZimbabweThe Herald of Zimbabwe reported: The European Union yesterday extended the illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by another year saying it will consider reviewing the embargoes after the country holds a referendum on the envisaged new constitution. The Council of Ministers of the EU met in Brussels yesterday and resolved to extend the illegal embargoes. In a statement, the EU said in line with its “incremental approach,” it would adjust its policy to recognise progress made by Harare along with the Sadc roadmap. “The EU agrees that a peaceful and credible constitutional referendum would represent an important milestone in the preparation of democratic elections that would justify a suspension of the majority of all EU targeted restrictive measures against individuals and entities,” reads the statement by the Foreign Affairs Council after its meeting in Brussels.

Spain – The Eagle via (AP) reported: As a wildfire closed in on them, five members of a vacationing French family abandoned their car and stumbled through thick smoke down a steep hillside in a desperate bid to reach the waters of the Mediterranean. Instead of a beach, they found themselves at the edge of a cliff with no choice but to jump or try to climb down. Two plummeted to their deaths. The deaths of the father and daughter off the 65-foot high cliff were among the most tragic tales from Spain as it battles blazes during one of its driest summers in decades. The fire involved was likely sparked by someone throwing a lit cigarette out of a car along a small road inundated by vehicles heading to France, police said. The deaths occurred Sunday night in Portbou, a Spanish town just three miles from the French border. Because wildfires elsewhere had forced the closure of the main highway linking Spain to France, traffic was diverted to the smaller road via Portbou.

Egypt – The New York Times via (AP) reported: Egypt is easing travel restrictions on Palestinians that will make it easier for them to enter the country, especially from Gaza, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said Monday. The changes appeared to be a gesture to Palestinians after Egypt’s new president, Mohamed Morsi, met separately last week with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas, which controls Gaza. The region has been subject to an Israeli blockade for five years, and the only land route out, other than through Israel, is to cross the Egyptian border, although Cairo has assisted in enforcing the blockade for years.

Philippines – The Voice of America reported: Philippine President Benigno Aquino says his country will not back down in a territorial dispute with China. Aquino made the statement Monday in his annual state of the union address, reacting to China’s establishment on Sunday of Sansha city across several disputed islands of the South China Sea. China refers to the islands as Xisha, Zhongsha and Nansha. Beijing’s planned deployment of a military garrison to Sansha brought a swift response from President Aquino. He said, “If someone entered your yard and told you he owned it, would you agree? Would it be right to give away that which is rightfully ours?” Protesters hold banners while chanting slogans during an anti-China protest along a street in Hanoi, July 22, 2012. Vietnam has also criticized the establishment of Sansha, calling it “serious violation” of Hanoi’s sovereignty over the Paracel and Spratly chains, which it claims as part of Danang city and Khanh Hoa province respectively.

PakistanThe NEWS of Pakistan reported: Fourteen people, some of them said to be suspected militants, were killed and a number of others injured in a US drone attack in Shawal Valley of the volatile North Waziristan tribal region on Monday night. Official and tribal sources said drones fired eight missiles and pounded a house at Dre Nishtar village in mountainous Shawal Valley, about 90 kilometres southwest of Miranshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency. The death toll could rise as, according to sources, some of the injured were said to be in critical condition and medical facilities are not available in the remote forest-covered valley.

IndiaThe NEWS of Pakistan reported: About 30,000 villagers have fled their homes in northeast India amid clashes between Bodo tribal groups and Muslim settlers that have seen 19 people killed so far, police said on Monday. Soldiers were out in force in the restive state of Assam to try to stop the violence over land rights, in which houses have been set ablaze and villagers forced to shelter in government buildings and schools to avoid the fighting. “Clashes that broke out on Friday night have so far claimed the lives of 19 people and at least 12 (were) also injured,” S.N. Singh, Assam inspector general of police, told AFP by telephone. “Police, army and paramilitary troopers have intensified patrols and a curfew has been imposed in many areas,” Singh said, adding there were 30,000 people in the government shelters.

Sudans – The Washington Post reported: South Sudan on Monday offered to increase the transit fees it would pay to Sudan to use its pipelines as part of a deal that could restart its oil industry and provide much needed money to both governments, an official said. The deal was proposed by South Sudan’s negotiators at ongoing talks in Ethiopia’s capital between the two nations. The proposal focused on peace and security measures but South Sudan also offered to provide Khartoum with $3.245 billion to help it meet part of the financial gap created by South Sudan’s secession last year. South Sudan’s chief negotiator, Pagan Amum, said the agreement “if accepted by the Republic of Sudan, would not only rejuvenate Sudan’s economy, but also end hostilities, resume bilateral trade, and ensure a permanent peace between South Sudan and Sudan.” After South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan last year, the south inherited about 75 percent of the formerly unified oil production. But the south’s oil must be pumped through Sudan’s pipelines, and South Sudan in January shut down its oil industry after accusing Sudan of stealing its oil. Khartoum said it was taking the oil in lieu of unpaid fees.

MyanmarReuters reported: The United States is encouraged by economic and political reforms underway in Myanmar but needs to see further progress before easing a long-time ban on U.S. imports from the resource-rich Asian country, a top U.S. official said on Monday. Under Secretary of State Robert Hormats, who along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently met with Myanmar’s President Thein Sein, told the Center for Strategic and International Studies he was optimistic the long-isolated country intended to stay on the path of reform. “In the meeting with Secretary Clinton, (Thein Sein) was very clear that he wanted to do things to improve the living standards of his people … He was very direct, and I think very persuasive and credible,” Hormats said.

24 July 2012

Syria – The Telegraph UK reported: Syria sent thousands of troops surging towards Aleppo in the early hours of Wednesday, where its forces have been pounding rebel fighters from the air, as Turkey announced it would close all its borders with the embattled country. Recent days have seen Syria’s 16-month-old uprising transformed from an insurgency in remote provinces into a battle for control of the two main cities, Aleppo and the slightly smaller capital, Damascus, where fighting exploded last week. President Bashar al-Assad’s forces have launched massive counter assaults in both cities. They appear to have beaten rebels back from neighbourhoods in the capital and are turning towards Aleppo, a commercial hub in the north. Turkish Customs and Trade Minister Hayati Yazici announced it would close its border gates with Syria on Wednesday, according to reports by broadcaster NTV, after a number of gates along the frontier were said to have been seized by Syrian rebels.

China – The BBC China Corps reported: Newspapers report the inauguration of the local government in Sansha City, set up recently by Beijing to govern disputed South China Sea islands. The new government held a ceremony on Yongxing Island in the Paracels – known as Woody Island in English – where the mayoral office sits. Chinese Vice-Minister of Civil Affairs Sun Shaochi read out Beijing’s order approving the establishment of the city, People’s Daily and China Daily report. Beijing News quotes various officials as saying that Sansha City’s formation gave China the initiative in the “South China Sea struggle”.

IndiaCNN reported: Ethnic clashes in India’s northeastern Assam province have left 32 dead as of Wednesday and sent an estimated 150,000 fleeing their homes to escape the violence, police said. Long-standing tensions between the predominant Bodo tribes people and minority migrant Muslim settlers erupted into bloodshed nearly a week ago and has largely gripped the province’s Kokrajhar district, which borders on neighboring Bhutan to India’s north, said Assam police chief J.N. Chaudhury. What sparked the mayhem is not yet known and under investigation, he said. But it has resulted in incidences of attacks and counter attacks between the two groups, CNN sister network CNN-IBN has reported.

Zimbabwe – The Voice of America reported: Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says he thinks President Robert Mugabe is ready to give up power if he loses the country’s next election. Mr. Tsvangirai said Wednesday that he did not see any reason why Mr. Mugabe would want to bring another election dispute to the country. The two leaders competed in a contested 2008 vote that led to a shaky unity government. Mr. Tsvangirai said the president is committed to his legacy as well as that of Zimbabwe. Mr. Mugabe has led the Zimbabwe government since 1980.

Pakistan – The BBC India Corps reported: Former Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has taken office as the country’s 13th president. He was sworn in by Chief Justice SH Kapadia at the central hall of parliament in the capital, Delhi. The position is largely ceremonial but he could help determine who forms the next government after elections in 2014 if there is no clear winner. Mr Mukherjee’s term runs for five years. He replaces Pratibha Patil, who was India’s first woman president.

Greenland – The Sydney Morning Herald of Australia reported: The Greenland ice sheet is melting at an “unprecedented” rate, according to NASA satellite data that shows 97 per cent of the vast mass is undergoing some form of melting. “This was so extraordinary that at first I questioned the result: was this real or was it due to a data error?” a NASA researcher, Son Nghiem, said. About half the ice sheet usually shows signs of melting in a northern hemisphere summer, but the satellite data shows that between July 8 and July 12 the melt extended to cover almost all of Greenland.

South Korea – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: President Lee Myung-bak apologized Tuesday for a string of corruption scandals implicating his relatives and allies that have undermined his last year in office. Lee’s nationally televised apology came two weeks after the arrest of his elder brother, Lee Sang-deuk, on bribery charges. Hours after the president bowed before television cameras Tuesday, two of his former aides were arrested on bribery charges, joining a growing list of Lee’s acquaintances who have been jailed on suspicion of corruption. Lee, whose term ends in February, said in his address that he was so ashamed he could hardly lift his face. “The more I think about it, the more it crushes my heart,” he said. “But whom can I blame now? It’s all because of my negligence.

United KingdomTIME Magazine reported: Britain’s phone hacking scandal entered a new and expanded criminal phase Tuesday, with charges brought against two former members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s inner circle over a campaign of illegal espionage that has rocked the country’s establishment. The Crown Prosecution Service announced Tuesday that Andy Coulson and Rebekah Brooks — both former editors of Rupert Murdoch’s now-shuttered News of the World tabloid — were among eight people being charged with conspiring to intercept the communications of at least 600 people between 2000 and 2006. The alleged victims included everyone from a murdered teenager to Hollywood power couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Coulson and Brooks, who had previously been charged in related cases, have both denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges.

Tajikistan – The BBC Asia Corps reported: At least 42 people including 12 soldiers and 30 rebels have been killed in fighting in the remote Tajik region of Gorno-Badakhshan, state television has reported. Some unconfirmed reports speak of a far higher level of casualties, with dozens of people being killed in the violence. It follows the fatal stabbing of a top security forces official on Saturday. That led to military action against local opposition strongman Tolib Ayombekov, reports say. Residents of the provincial capital Khorog told the BBC their town now resembled a warzone. Communications in Gorno-Badakhshan province have now been cut.

United NationsRadio Free Europe reported: Nongovernmental organizations are criticizing a draft for a new global Arms Trade Treaty that is being negotiated at a United Nations conference in New York. Amnesty International’s arms control expert Brian Wood says the text would ratify the current arms trade status quo rather than changing it. Anna MacDonald, head of arms control at Oxfam, said the draft had “more holes than a leaky bucket.” Oxfam and the International Committee of the Red Cross raised concerns about the narrow scope of weapons included and the exclusion of ammunition.

25 July 2012

Syria via RussiaXinhua (China’s Official Party Paper) reported: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the U.S. position over the Damascus bombing that killed several top Syrian officials was “a direct whitewashing of terrorism.” The comment was made in response to U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland’s remarks that the attacks on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s top officials were “not surprising.” “This is a direct justification of terrorism. How should one understand that?” Lavrov told reporters. In a July 18 suicide bombing attack, Syrian Defense Minister Dawood Rajha was killed along with three other senior officials, including Rajha’s deputy, Assef Shawkat, who was also al-Assad’s brother-in-law.

SyriaRadio Free Europe reported: The United States has confirmed the defection of two more Syrian diplomats amid intensifying clashes between pro-government forces and rebels in the city of Aleppo. Abdel Latif al-Dabbagh, ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and his wife, Lamia Hariri, Syria’s charge d’affaires in Cyprus, are reported to have fled to Qatar. White House spokesman Jay Carney said on July 25 that the move showed senior officials were fleeing the government because of the “heinous actions” taken by President Bashar al-Assad and because of the recognition that his days were “numbered.” A military attache at the Syrian Embassy in Oman, Mohammed Tahseen al-Faqir, told Al-Jazeera television that he also had defected.

Turkey – In a related story The Washington Post reported: Come nightfall, a bucolic farming village begins to buzz with unusual activity. Shadowy figures emerge from olive groves, clutching small suitcases. Cars crowd the winding rural road collecting and discharging passengers. Farmers step onto their porches, ready to offer a bed for the night to Syrians who have hiked across one of the countless illegal crossing points along Turkey’s 550-mile border with their country. On Wednesday, Turkey closed all of its legal border posts after Syrian rebels seized control of several crossings on the Syrian side. The move was prompted in part by concerns that Islamic extremists may have overrun at least one of the Syrian posts, at Bab al-Hawa, after a video posted online showed jihadi fighters there declaring they had established an “Islamic state.” Turkish officials said that the closure would affect only Turks traveling to Syria and that Syrian refugees would still be allowed into Turkey.

IraqXinhua reported: An al-Qaeda’s affiliate group in Iraq has claimed responsibility for scores of attacks across the country this week. The assaults killed and wounded hundreds of people. The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda affiliate group, said in a statement posted on a militant website that it was behind the recent attacks. They called the attacks the start of a campaign called “Destroying the Walls” which was announced last week by the local insurgency’s leader, Al-Baghdadi. He said the network’s aim was to rebuild tribal alliances in order to make a comeback in Sunni areas from which it had retreated in 2007 and 2008. Over 100 people were killed and hundreds were wounded in bomb and gun attacks on Monday. It was by far the bloodiest day of violence since US troops withdrew in December. A day earlier 20 was killed in bombings as part of a co-ordinated surge of violence.

India – The BBC India Corps reported: The situation in India’s violence-torn Assam state continues to be tense, with the death toll in fighting there rising to 40, reports say. More than 170,000 people have fled their homes after fighting between indigenous Bodo tribes and Muslim settlers in Kokrajhar and Chirang. Security forces have been given shoot-on-sight orders and a curfew has been imposed in the troubled areas. Rioters have continued sporadic attacks, setting homes on fire. There has been tension between indigenous groups and Muslim Bengali migrants in Assam for many years.

France – The San Francisco Chronicle reported: All six people on board a helicopter died Wednesday when it crashed in flames in an area often referred to as France’s answer to the Grand Canyon, officials say. Francis Mene, a defense official, said the helicopter crashed while carrying out a test flight in the Verdon Gorge in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence in southeastern France. All six were employees of aviation company Eurocopter. The EADS-owned firm issued a statement confirming the aircraft involved was manufactured by them, and was being delivered to a buyer. They added that they were working to identify the circumstances and cause of the accident.

26 July 2012

SyriaCBS NEWS reported: The State Department said Thursday the Syrian dictatorship is preparing a massacre in Syria’s largest city, Aleppo. Aleppo is a city of more than 3 million people, the size of Los Angeles. Refugees are pouring out of town. It was a year and a half ago that a popular uprising rebelled against the 42-year-old dictatorship of the Assad family. Rebels have taken some Aleppo’s neighborhoods. One recent photograph from the embattled city stands out: Five-year-old Mohammad Amumrej, wounded during Syrian army shelling of the town, is whisked away for medical treatment. The rebels are also holding other pockets in Syria. One village at a time, using light weapons and homemade bombs, fighters who call themselves the Sham Falcons have accomplished something very significant: They have pushed Syrian government forces back and carved out an area of rebel control in the hills of Jebel-a-Zawya, southwest of Aleppo.

TurkeyReuters reported: Two Turkish soldiers were killed in the mainly Kurdish southeast on Friday when the vehicle they were travelling in was hit by a remoted-controlled explosive, security sources said. A third soldier and one civilian were also wounded in the attack, which occurred around 7 a.m. (0500 GMT) near the town of Lice in Diyarbakir province, they said. Security officials blamed the attack on the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a 27-year campaign against the Turkish state in which 40,000 people, mainly Kurds, have died.

North KoreaReuters reported: Talk that North Korea’s young leader plans to reform the broken economy is already having an impact. It’s helping send rice prices even further out of the reach of most families in one of the world’s most under-fed societies. Seo Jae-pyoung, a defector who now lives in South Korea, spoke this week to a friend in the secretive North who had furtively called him by mobile phone from a mountain-side to plead for cash to be smuggled across to help. “He couldn’t cope with the high prices, saying rice prices had shot up … and he is running out of money,” Seo told Reuters.

IsraelABC NEWS reported: Iran called Israeli allegations that it was responsible for last week’s suicide bombing of a bus carrying Israeli tourists in Bulgaria “baseless” on Wednesday and accused Israel of carrying out a terrorist operation. Israel’s deputy U.N. ambassador Haim Waxman called the allegation by Iranian Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee “appalling but not surprising” since it came from the same government that says the 9/11 attack was a conspiracy theory and denies the Holocaust. Israel accuses Iran of developing atomic weapons and has repeatedly hinted it is prepared to strike Iranian nuclear targets if Tehran does not curb its suspect program. Iran denies it is trying to develop nuclear weapons and says its nuclear program is designed to produce nuclear energy.

Iran – The Washington Post reported: Western-led sanctions and diplomatic pressure will not force Iran to halt its nuclear program, Iran’s Supreme Leader said Wednesday. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state matters in Iran, voiced confidence that the Islamic Republic can beat the latest punitive measures aimed at blocking the country’s vital oil and banking industries over the disputed program. “They (the West) explicitly say they need to increase pressures, tighten sanctions to force Iranian authorities to reconsider their calculations,” Khamenei said in comments broadcast on state television. “But a look at the facts leads us not only to avoid reconsidering our calculations, but to move on our intended path with greater confidence.”

Philippines – The Washington Post reported: The Philippine military was chasing Al Qaida-linked Muslim militants Friday, a day after a deadly clash with militants blamed for past attacks killed 10 soldiers and nine rebels, making for one of the bloodiest days in recent weeks in the volatile south. Soldiers had attacked an Abu Sayyaf encampment early Thursday on Basilan Island’s Sumisip township after locating the group believed responsible for ambushes on rubber plantation workers and military units who were providing their security, the military said. The initial battle left eight soldiers and four militants dead, Army Maj. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz said. The army sent more troops and sporadic fighting continued until the afternoon.

27 July 2012

UgandaCNN reported: The lethal Ebola virus has left at least 14 people dead in western Uganda this month, according to Health Ministry officials, after local reports of a “strange disease” swept through the region. A total of 20 cases of the virus have been recorded, officials said Saturday. The cases have emerged in Kibaale, a district in midwestern Uganda, where a national task force had been mobilized in an effort to combat the outbreak. Officials from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control are also supporting that effort, ministry officials say.

United NationsReuters reported: Delegations from around the world failed on Friday to agree a landmark U.N. arms-trade treaty to regulate the more than $60 billion industry, opting for further talks and a possible U.N. General Assembly vote by the end of the year, diplomats said. More than 170 countries have spent the past month in New York negotiating a treaty, which needed to be adopted by consensus, so any one country effectively could have vetoed a deal. Instead, no decision was taken on a draft treaty. But this leaves the door open for further talks and a draft arms-trade treaty could be brought to the 193-nation U.N. General Assembly and adopted with a two-thirds majority vote. Diplomats said there could be a vote by the end of the year. “We feel that we could have agreed (a treaty). It is disappointing that more time is needed. But an arms-trade treaty is coming – not today – but soon. We’ve taken a big step forward,” said a spokesman for Britain’s delegation.

RussiaBloomberg Businessweek reported: Russia is in talks to set up naval bases in former Cold War allies Cuba and Vietnam as President Vladimir Putin undertakes the country’s biggest military overhaul since the Soviet era. “We are working on establishing navy bases outside Russia,” Vice-Admiral Viktor Chirkov, the navy’s commander-in- chief since May, said in an interview with the state-run RIA Novosti news service and confirmed by the navy. “We aim to set up resupply bases in Cuba, the Seychelles and Vietnam.” Russia’s intentions for overseas military expansion threaten to further strain relations with the U.S. when the former superpower rivals are at loggerheads over American missile-shield plans and how to respond to the fighting in Syria. Putin’s government plans to spend 23 trillion rubles ($712 billion) this decade on defense spending, including 4.4 trillion rubles next year, an increase of 19 percent.

IsraelTIME Magazine reported: There are a number of ways to understand Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel, where he pitches up Saturday night from London. One is optics, as they like to say in Washington. The presumptive Republican nominee clearly wants to occupy the chilly space visible between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose tense personal relationship feeds the impression that Obama is cool toward not only Bibi, as Netanyahu is universally known, but also toward Israel itself. What supposed evidence of which might exist – the Cairo speech, Obama’s insisting on a settlement freeze as a pre-condition to peace talks with the Palestinians – is both receding in time and being pushed into the background by the keen, almost obsessive attention the White House has paid Israel in the last two years, in official visits, security coordination and, yes, dollars. The latest arrived Saturday, when Obama signed a bill sending $70 million to Israel to pay for more of the anti-missile batteries called Iron Dome, the wonder technology that’s been knocking down 80 percent of the missiles fired toward Israeli cities from the Gaza Strip. Defense minister Ehud Barak promptly issued a statement of thanks, pointedly calling the aid “yet another expression of the consistent support of the Obama administration, and indeed of the U.S. congress, to the security of the State of Israel.” Such is the power of the incumbency. There will be more. Coming in October, as the fall campaign crests: The largest US-Israel joint military operation in history.

Serbia – The Voice of America reported: Serbia’s parliament has voted in a new nationalist-led coalition government headed by Ivica Dacic, the former spokesman for the late Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. Prime Minister Dacic was sworn in Friday, marking the first time socialists have gained control of the Belgrade government since Milosevic was ousted in 2000 near the end of the Balkan wars.  Milosevic, who later died in prison while on trial for war crimes, is widely blamed for instigating those conflicts, which followed the 1991 breakup of the former Yugoslavia. Dacic, who railed against the West while a part of the Milosevic regime, has since embraced a reformist agenda and says his coalition will continue to pursue membership in the European Union.

Pakistan – The Houston Chronicle reported: Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States says her country will not relent from demanding that the CIA end its drone strikes. In a debate with White House war adviser Douglas Lute at the Aspen Security Forum, Sherry Rehman said drone attacks have damaged al-Qaida but are now only serving to recruit new militants. “I am not saying drones have not assisted in the war against terror, but they have diminishing rate of returns,” Rehman said by video teleconference from Washington. With Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam, expected to hold his first meeting with CIA Director David Petraeus at CIA headquarters in Virginia next week, the ambassador said, “We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.”

Egypt – The Washington Post reported: An alliance of pro-democracy advocates on Saturday criticized Egypt’s new Islamist president for unilaterally choosing a prime minister with no track record, while leading without transparency and alienating political groups with liberal leanings. The National Front alliance — an umbrella group of democracy advocates, secularists and moderate Islamists behind the uprising that drove longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak from power last year — said Mohammed Morsi has reneged on campaign promises to form a national unity government. On Tuesday, Morsi surprised the country by choosing an unknown technocrat and former water minister, Hesham Kandil, as his prime minister. Many advocates see Kandil, a U.S.-educated engineer in his 40s, as a political lightweight. The new government faces a mounting crisis amid alarming lawlessness, a flagging economy, and public frustration. Hospitals have come under attack by angry Egyptians, while demonstrators block roads in frustration over frequent power outages and a lack of running water. Labor strikes are widespread.

KenyaXinhua reported: Kenyan police have swiftly launched investigations in connection to the death of Venezuelan top diplomat who was found strangled in her house in Nairobi on Friday. Regional police commander Anthony Kibuchi told Xinhua that they suspected that Olga Fonseca Jimenez who was the acting ambassador at the embassy in Nairobi was murdered but did not give further details, saying ongoing investigations will reveal the motive behind her death. “We have launched investigations to establish the cause of the diplomat’s death. We are questioning some of the domestic workers at her house and would let you know the full details after the investigations,” Kibuchi said. He said investigators have also picked up two employees from the embassy for questioning in connection with the death of the 57- year-old Jimenez whose death came barely a week after she had sacked some staff for filing sexual harassment complaint with the police.

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