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Sun, 10 Dec 2023
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Planning Afghanistan's Future Beyond 2014

© The Associated Press/J. Knippertz
A view of the World Conference Centre (WCCB), in Bonn, Germany, Saturday. On Monday, the Afghanistan Conference will take place at this venue.
Unable to persuade key neighbor Pakistan to reconsider its boycott of an international gathering on Afghanistan's future, the United States and conference organizers said they will go ahead with promises of continued aid for Afghanistan after most foreign forces leave the country.

The Bonn conference is expected to address the transfer of security responsibility from international forces to Afghan security forces over the next three years, long-term prospects for international aid and a possible political settlement with the Taliban.

About 100 countries and international organizations will be represented, with some 60 foreign ministers in attendance, among them U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"Our objective is a peaceful Afghanistan that will never again become a safe haven for international terrorism," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

The Bonn conference attendees are also hoping to agree on a set of mutual binding commitments under which Afghanistan would promise reforms and work toward goals such as good governance, with donors and international organizations pledging long-term assistance in return to ensure the country's viability beyond 2014.


Muslim Brotherhood Top Winner in Egyptian Election

© The Associated Press/Amr Nabil
Egyptian protesters rally Sunday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, demanding that the military council ruling Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak's ouster step down.
Parties that want an expansion of Islamic law captured a clear majority of the votes in Egypt's first election since the uprising that ousted longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak, according to results released Sunday.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party topped winners with 37% of the nearly 10 million valid ballots cast for party lists in the first of three electoral rounds for the Egyptian parliament.

The Brotherhood, a movement that seeks to expand Islamic law in many countries in the Middle East, prevailed in an election that included voters in Cairo and Alexandria, cities where liberal parties had hoped to exhibit their greatest strength.

Also winning big was the Nour Party, which took 24% of the vote. The party, dominated by the ultraconservative Salafis, did not exist until a few months ago. It seeks to impose strict Islamic law similar to Saudi Arabia in which women must be veiled and alcohol banned.

Star of David

Clinton Criticism Sparks Israeli Anger

© Reuters
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she fears for the future of Israel’s democracy; a comment which has prompted an Israeli backlash.
Israeli ministers reacted angrily on Sunday after local media quoted U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as saying she feared for the future of Israel's democracy and the rights of women in the Jewish state.

Clinton's remarks, reportedly made Saturday behind closed doors at the Saban Forum in Washington, made headlines in most Israeli newspapers, which reported them without explaining how they obtained the comments.

Top-selling Yediot Aharonot said Clinton had expressed concern about a slew of "anti-democratic" bills proposed by right-wing members of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government.

And the newspaper said Clinton had described shock at hearing that some buses in Jerusalem were gender segregated and some religious Israeli soldiers refused to attend events where women would sing.


Websites Downed by Russian Poll Hack

© Agence France-Presse
Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin speak to their supporters in the United Russia ruling party's campaign staff in Moscow.
Websites which revealed violations in Russia's elections were inaccessible yesterday after a massive hacking attack their operators said was aimed at preventing the exposure of mass election fraud.

Popular Russian radio station Moscow Echo and election monitoring group Golos said their websites were the victims of massive cyber attacks, while several opposition news sites were inaccessible.

"The attack on the website on election day is clearly an attempt to inhibit publication of information about violations," Moscow Echo editor-in-chief Alexei Venediktov wrote on Twitter.

Golos said it was the victim of a similar "distributed denial of service" (DDoS) attack, while several other opposition news sites were down. The Moscow Echo is popular among the liberal opposition although it is owned by state gas giant Gazprom.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose United Russia party is expected to win Sunday's polls but with a reduced majority, has denounced non-governmental organisations like Golos, comparing them to the disciple Judas who betrayed Jesus.

Arrow Down

Putin Party Suffers Big Decline in Russia

Vladimir Putin
© unknown
Vladimir Putin
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party suffered a big decline in Russia's parliamentary election on Sunday, winning less than half of votes cast, according to the two biggest exit polls published after voting closed.

According to the poll from state pollster VTsIOM, Putin's United Russia party won 48.5 percent of the vote followed by the Communists with 19.8 percent, LDPR with 11.4 percent and Just Russia with 12.8 percent.

An exit poll by FOM shown on state television showed United Russia won 46 percent, a result which the pollster projected would give the party just 220 of the 450 State Duma seats, far below the 315 seats it won in the last election in 2007.


Italian Government Approves Austerity Measures

Mario Monti
© The Associated Press/Mauro Scrobogna/LaPresse
Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti
Premier Mario Monti said his government of technocrats has approved a package of austerity and growth measures worth euro30 billion ($40.53 billion) to "reawaken" the Italian economy and help save the euro common currency from collapse.

The measures include immediate cuts to the costs of maintaining Italy's bulky political class as well as significant measures to fight tax evasion, Monti told a news conference following a three-hour Cabinet meeting.

As part of the political cost cuts, Monti said he would forego his salaries as premier and finance minister - a move he said was a personal decision and not meant as an example for other ministers in the government, which was formed 2 1/2 weeks ago after Premier Silvio Berlusconi's resignation under market and political pressure.

The package also includes measures to spur growth and competition, while aiming to stamp out rampant nepotism. But it also raises the retirment age and the number of years of service to qualify for a full pension, steps strongly opposed by unions, and imposes new taxes on Italians' private wealth, including their homes, boats and luxury cars, measures that conservatives have protested.


New Nicolas Sarkozy link to hotel in IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn 'rape' storm

© Sipa Press / Rex Features
Close bond: French President Nicolas Sarkozy with multi-millionaire Sebastien Bazin
New details have emerged of links between French president Nicolas Sarkozy and the hotel where former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a maid.

Until his arrest in May, Mr Strauss-Kahn was the frontrunner to defeat Mr Sarkozy in presidential elections next year.

The sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo - which Mr Strauss-Kahn says was consensual - took place at the New York Sofitel, which is owned by hotel giant Accor.

One of Accor's senior directors has had a close bond with the French president since Mr Sarkozy - then the mayor of a prosperous Paris suburb - helped rescue his three-year-old daughter from a school siege.

Sebastien Bazin's daughter, Fleur, was one of 21 children taken hostage at their nursery in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Gunman Erick Schmitt threatened to detonate dynamite - which he had attached to his body and planted in the doors and corners of the classroom - unless he was paid a ransom.

Comment: For a more interesting outlook on this case, read What Really Happened to Strauss-Kahn?

Red Flag

U.S. Official Says No Sign Iran Shot Down Drone

US drone
© unknown
An RQ-170 American drone has been shot down in eastern Iran
Iranian media reported on Sunday that their country's military had shot down a U.S. reconnaissance drone in eastern Iran, but a U.S. official said there was no indication the aircraft had been shot down.

NATO's U.S.-led mission in neighbouring Afghanistan said the Iranian report could refer to an unarmed U.S. spy drone that went missing there last week.

The incident comes at a time when Tehran is trying to contain foreign outrage at the storming of the British embassy on Tuesday, after London announced sanctions on Iran's central bank in connection with Iran's nuclear enrichment programme.

Iran has announced several times in the past that it shot down U.S., Israeli or British drones, in incidents that did not provoke high-profile responses.

"Iran's military has downed an intruding RQ-170 American drone in eastern Iran," Iran's Arabic-language Al Alam state television network quoted a military source as saying.

Bad Guys

Rejecting Apology, U.S. May Hasten End of Pakistan as Client

Pakistani protesters
© Reuters/Akhtar Soomro
President Barack Obama has sided with U.S. military and Defense Department officials in rejecting a proposal by the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan for a U.S. apology for last weekend's attack on two Pakistani border posts, and approving an investigation into the attack that won't be completed until Dec. 23 at the earliest.

The White House and the military bloc are gambling that the lengthy investigation into the attack that killed 25 Pakistani troops will defuse popular Pakistani anger and that final report will allow the Obama administration to return to a more aggressive policy toward Pakistan in 2012.

But the course Obama has chosen is likely to further aggravate the anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan that has boiled over in response to the violation of Pakistani sovereignty and unprecedented number of deaths of Pakistani troops. U.S. diplomats in Pakistan and State Department officials are seriously concerned that the rejection of any acknowledgement of U.S. responsibility for nearly three weeks will push Pakistan further toward a potentially irreversible break in relations with the United States.


Terrorists Have Won: Treason in the US Senate

Danny Panzella sits in for Gary Franchi and reports on the treasonous act committed by the US Senate by passing the Indefinite Detention Bill. Panzella also reports on Wall Streets Private Army and the Big Brother Banksters.