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Eye 1

North Dakota debates slew of 'draconian' anti-abortion bills

© Flickr/Beechwood Photograph
The state rated one of the worst for access to women's reproductive services, is debating introducing 'draconian' bills

A new front in the battle over abortion and reproductive rights has opened in North Dakota, where state lawmakers are holding hearings into a series of draconian anti-abortion bills.

The state, one of four in the US with only one abortion clinic, has already been rated as one of the worst for access to women's reproductive services, according to a report by Naral Pro-Choice America published last month.

Among the measures introduced by five proposed bills in the state include: defining a "person" as a fertilised human egg; enforcing penalties on physicians who perform abortions after a foetal heartbeat is detected; restricting abortions to women only in the event of a threat to life; and criminalising physicians who perform them.
Yoda

Military judge orders government to stop censoring 9/11 hearings

© AFP Photo
Courtroom drawing shows Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
A military judge ordered the US government Thursday to stop censoring September 11 pre-trial hearings from outside his courtroom.

Judge James Pohl said the government must "disconnect the outside feed or ability to suspend the broadcast" from outside his court.

Proceedings are heard in the press room, and in a room where human rights groups and victims families sit, with a 40 second delay. This is done so that a security officer sitting next to the judge can block anything deemed classified.

The ruling means classified information could still be blocked, but only by order of the judge and not from outside the courtroom.
Star of David

Russia denounces Israeli strike on Syria as unprovoked attack on sovereign country

© Reuters
The Russian Foreign Ministry has issued a statement expressing deep concern over Israel's airstrike on Syria saying that it violates the UN Charter.

The Ministry website says; if this information is confirmed that would mean that we have to deal with unprovoked attacks on the territory of a sovereign state which is inadmissible, whatever objectives are declared as a justification.

Russian diplomats are taking urgent measures to clarify the situation and to establish the details of the incident.

Russia has again called upon the international community to stop the violence in Syria, prevent foreign intervention in the conflict, and assist the start of a nationwide dialogue based on the Geneva agreements.
Stop

Russia temporarily bans U.S. meat imports

Russia has imposed a temporary ban on US meat starting in February. The restrictions were enacted after the US Veterinary Service failed to meet regulations for levels of ractopamine, which stimulates muscle tissue growth.

Chilled meat will be prohibited from February 4, and frozen meat imports will be banned starting on February 11. According to Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance, the US ignored numerous requests from the Russian regulative body, and refused to support its products with documentation confirming the absence of ractopamine.
Rocket

'Israeli airstrike intended to stop Syrian scientific military research'

Though Israel has not yet claimed responsibility for an airstrike targeting a military site near Damascus, experts believe that Tel Aviv aimed to further destabilize Syria and undermine its military capabilities.

Initial reports suggested that Israel conducted an airstrike on a convoy carrying sophisticated weaponry that was preparing to cross the Syria-Lebanon border. Israeli officials said the vehicles may have contained chemical weapons and Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles intended for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

"This episode boils down to a warning by Israel to Syria and Hezbollah not to engage in the transfer of sensitive weapons," a regional security source told Reuters.

But the latest reports from Syria suggest that the airstrike hit the Jamraya research center in the suburbs of Damascus, far from the Lebanese border. An anonymous diplomatic source told Reuters that chemical weapons may be stored at the center, and that the vehicles in Hezbollah convoy were unlikely to be carrying such arms.
Bad Guys

Canadian Special Forces on ground in Mali to protect 'assets'

Mali Children
© Jerome Delay/Associated Press
Children cheer foreign visitors arriving in the streets of Gao, Northern Mali on Monday. French and Malian troops are moving through areas in Mali's north previously controlled by al-Qaeda-linked insurgents.
Harper tells MPs Parliament will be consulted on 'any further steps'

Canadian special forces are on the ground inside the troubled West African country of Mali to protect Canadian assets there, CBC News has learned.

The special forces are not there to train Malian troops - and they are not involved in any combat role, as the government has repeatedly stressed and Prime Minister Stephen Harper repeated again Monday in the House of Commons.

The Department of National Defence would not confirm or deny the special forces are in Mali due to issues of security of personnel.

But a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs told CBC News, "Steps have been taken to ensure our mission and Canadian personnel are protected."

Comment: The following article (Hat tip Cryptogon) from CBC News tells us exactly what it is the Canadians are so keen to 'protect': What Canada Is Doing in Mali:
Canadian bilateral trade with Mali doesn't amount to much. In 2011, we exported about $26 million worth of goods to Mali, most of that machinery and equipment. Imports from Mali came to less than $1 million.

But Canadian investment in Mali amounts to considerably more - in the hundreds of millions. And the bulk of that investment can be summed up in one word: gold.

About a dozen Canadian gold miners are actively producing and exploring in Mali. Rich veins of gold were discovered in the country's southwest region in the late 1980s.

The biggest Canadian company there, Toronto-based Iamgold Corp., operates two joint ventures with South Africa-based AngloGold Ashanti and the Malian government.


Eye 2

'U.S. has militarily coerced Middle Eastern political outcomes since the Cold War'


Hillary and Flynt Leverett
Though Washington tries to engineer Middle Eastern politics by influencing economies, Iran has never given in to such pressure, Middle East experts Hillary and Flynt Leverett told RT. Iran's concerns deserve fair consideration, they argue.

The Leveretts acted were analysts in both the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and are two of America's most informed Middle East experts. Their new book, 'Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran,' offers a way out of the current diplomatic crisis facing the two countries.

RT: Washington seems to be very happy with the sanctions. They are crippling the Iranian economy. Why should they change policies now? Why should they come to terms with Iran?

Hillary Leverett: Sanctions are not going to work. Sanctions have not worked. We've seen sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic of Iran for 32 years. We saw crippling sanctions imposed on Iran during their 8 year war on Iraq from 1980 to 1988. We saw at that time half their GDP was erased, half of it. And still the Islamic Republic of Iran did not surrender to hostile foreign powers. The idea that now the sanctions are going to force the Islamic Republic of Iran to surrender to what it sees as hostile foreign powers and their demands, there's no basis for that in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. And, frankly, there's no basis for that anywhere. The United States imposed crippling sanctions, for example, on Saddam Hussein's Iraq for over a decade, killing over a million people, half of them children, and even then Saddam Hussein's government did not implode and it did not concede to the demands of hostile foreign powers. It took a massive US land invasion to do that.
Pistol

Arkansas lawmakers push for concealed guns in churches

© Reuters/Lucy Nicholson
Legislators in the US state of Arkansas approved by a wide margin Monday a measure that would allow churchgoers to bring concealed guns to their place of worship. The bill cites "personal security" as its impetus.

The Arkansas State Senate voted 28-4 to pass the Church Protection Act of 2013, penned by Republican State Senator Bryan King.
Cardboard Box

Four U.S. states considering laws that challenge teaching of evolution

© Photograph: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty Images
A worker cleans a display at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky.
Critics charge 'academic freedom' legislation in Colorado, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma is just creationism in disguise

Four US states are considering new legislation about teaching science in schools, allowing pupils to to be taught religious versions of how life on earth developed in what critics say would establish a backdoor way of questioning the theory of evolution.

Fresh legislation has been put forward in Colorado, Missouri and Montana. In Oklahoma, there are two bills before the state legislature that include potentially creationist language.

A watchdog group, the National Center for Science Education, said that the proposed laws were framed around the concept of "academic freedom". It argues that religious motives are disguised by the language of encouraging more open debate in school classrooms. However, the areas of the curriculum highlighted in the bills tend to focus on the teaching of evolution or other areas of science that clash with traditionally religious interpretations of the world.
Star of David

Syria files complaint with UN over Israeli airstrike


Israel has not commented on reports of an attack on Wednesday
Syria has formally complained to the United Nations over a reported Israeli attack within its borders.

Syria's army said Israeli jets had targeted a military research centre north-west of Damascus on Wednesday.

It denied claims by the US and others that lorries carrying weapons bound for Lebanon were hit.

Russia has called the attack unacceptable, while a Syrian official and Iranian deputy minister have suggested there could be retaliation.
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