Archive | December, 2011

Iran denies test-firing long-range missiles in Gulf

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

TEHRAN,(GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 : — Iran on Saturday kept tensions simmering over its threat to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tankers by readying war game missile tests near the entrance to the Gulf.
The United States has warned a closure of the strait “will not be tolerated” after Iranian Vice President Reza Rahimi’s threat this week that “not a drop of oil” will pass through the channel if more Western sanctions are imposed over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Iran has brushed off the warning from the United States, which bases its Fifth Fleet in the Gulf, with Iranian navy chief Admiral Habibollah Sayari saying it would be “really easy” to close the strait.
A spokesman for the Iranian navy, Commodore Mahmoud Mousavi, told state television on Saturday that, “in the next days, we will test-fire all kinds of surface-to-sea, sea-to-sea and surface-to-air as well as shoulder-launched missiles” in the final stages of the war games.
He did not say exactly when the launches would start, but explained they would involve tests of “medium- and long-range missiles” to evaluate their operational effectiveness.
The navy exercises started December 24 and are due to end on Monday.
Twenty percent of the world’s oil moves through the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance of the Gulf, making it the “most important chokepoint” globally, according to information released Friday by the US Energy Information Administration.
Around 14 crude oil tankers per day pass through the narrow strait, carrying a total 17 million barrels. In all, 35 percent of all seaborne oil transited through there this year.
On Thursday, a US aircraft carrier and an accompanying missile cruiser passed through the zone where the Iranian navy was conducting its drill. US officials insisted it was a routine passage.
No confrontation occurred, though an Iranian military aircraft flew in close to record video of the aircraft carrier, which was then shown on state television.
Analysts and oil market traders have been watching developments in and around the Strait of Hormuz carefully, fearing that the intensifying war of words between arch foes Tehran and Washington could spark open confrontation.
With tensions rising, the United States said it has signed a $29.4-billion deal to supply Iran’s chief rival in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, with 84 new fighter jets.
The sale was a “strong message” to the Gulf region, Washington said.
Iran is subject to four rounds of UN sanctions over its nuclear programme, which many Western countries allege is being used to develop atomic weapons. Tehran denies the allegation.
The United States and its allies have also imposed unilateral sanctions on Iran’s economy.
The last lot of unilateral sanctions triggered a demonstration in Tehran that led to members of the Basij militia controlled by the Revolutionary Guards ransacking the British embassy. London reacted by closing the mission and ordering Iran’s embassy in Britain closed.
More sanctions are on the way.
US President Barack Obama is expected to soon sign into law additional restrictions on Iran’s central bank, which acts as the main conduit for Iranian oil sales.
The European Union is considering other measures that could include an EU embargo on Iranian oil imports, with foreign ministers to meet on the issue in a month’s time.
Iran’s oil minister, Rostam Qasemi, told the Aseman weekly that sanctions would cause the price of oil to “increase drastically.”
“Sanctions on Iran’s oil will drive up the price of oil to at least 200 dollar” per barrel, he predicted.
As threats and counter-threats pile up, Iran is also reportedly leaving the door open to resuming long-stalled talks on solving the standoff over its nuclear programme.
Iran’s ambassador to Germany, Alireza Sheikh-Attar, told the Mehr news agency on Saturday that “we will soon send a letter, after which (new) talks will be scheduled.”
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi was also quoted by a website of the state broadcaster as telling a visiting Chinese foreign ministry official that “Iran is prepared for the continuation of nuclear negotiations” on the basis of a Russian proposal.

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Cuban statue of patron saint ends historic journey

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

HAVANA,(GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 : — Thousands of Cuban Catholics flocked to Havana Bay for an open-air mass marking the end of a 16-month island tour of the statue of Our Lady of Charity of Cobre, Cuba’s patron saint.
The service was led by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, the 73 year-old head of Cuba’s Catholic Church. Also present were senior members of Cuba’s Communist Party, including Vice President Estaban Lazo and Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, as well as the archbishop of the US city of Miami, Thomas Wenski.
The centerpiece was a statue of the Virgin Mary the size of a large doll cradling the baby Jesus in her left arm. The statue, according to legend, was found by local fishermen off eastern Cuba after a storm in 1612 and was bone-dry despite the tempest.
In the service, Ortega asked “our mother and patroness” to intercede so there can be “peace and fraternity” among Cubans, and for help for government officials “so those necessary transformations in the economic and social life that Cubans await can continue advancing without setbacks.”
The statue, encased in a clear glass box, arrived on the roof of a truck escorted by National Revolutionary Police officers on motorcycles.
“This is a moving event — I never thought it could happen,” said Arai Cavernilla, a 34 year-old pediatric nurse from Havana who was at the mass.
“There is no better way to say farewell to the patroness than in such a beautiful place, next to the sea,” added Diosdada Mate, 78.
The statue has covered 28,000-kilometers (18,000 miles) in criss-crossing the communist Caribbean island since August 2010, when the tour began at the relic’s sanctuary in the eastern town of El Cobre.
The long journey, the first such event since 1951-52, comes ahead of a visit by Pope Benedict XVI to mark the 400th anniversary of the relic’s discovery.
The pontiff is expected in March, although no date has been set.
In a recent statement, the conference of Cuban bishops underscored the significance of the anniversary and the papal visit, particularly in spurring reconciliation among Cubans.
“Reunion and reconciliation among Cubans should be one fruit of the Jubilee Year,” the bishops said.
The communist takeover in 1959 caused deep divisions in Cuba as millions were forced into foreign exile.
More than two million emigres and their descendants live in 40 countries, including more than 80 percent in the United States, mostly in the southern state of Florida and especially in the Miami area.
Benedict XVI’s predecessor, John Paul II, made a historic visit to Cuba in January 1998. John Paul urged the Castro regime to open up, saying the world would return the favor.
Yet more than a decade later Cuba’s one-party communist regime, the only one in the Americas, remains intact as it maintains a firm grip over almost every aspect of Cuban life.
There are some signs of change. In 2011 President Raul Castro ushered in economic reforms that should give Cubans greater control of private property, and the Catholic Church has become an important interlocutor.
Last week Castro pardoned 2,991 prisoners, including seven dissidents, saying he had taken into account requests from the Catholic clerics and various Protestant churches, as well as the upcoming papal visit.
Church authorities say five million Cubans, out of a total population of 11.2 million, came to pay tribute to the patron saint during its epic journey.
Since reaching Havana on November 1, the relic has been displayed in more than 300 public sites — schools, hospitals, universities, prisons — even on Revolution Square, reserved for major celebrations of the Castro regime.
The pilgrimage grew out of a dialogue begun in May 2010 between the Cardinal Jaime Ortega, 73, head of the Cuban Catholic Church for nearly 30 years, and Raul Castro, 80, who took over the reins of power in 2006 when his brother Fidel, a former altar boy, stepped down for health reasons.
The dialogue also led to the release of more than 130 political prisoners, most of whom were sent to exile in Spain, the opening of a seminary and various cultural centers by the Catholic Church.
The religious thaw began in the 1990s, with Catholics being allowed to join the Communist Party, which a year later officially switched from atheism to secularism.
Catholics today make up a little over 10 percent of the Cuban population, with the vast majority practicing Santeria, a fusion of west African religious beliefs, native Indian traditions and aspects of Catholicism.

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Spain Misses Deficit Target, Sets Cuts

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

Spain,(GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 :— Facing a wider than expected budget deficit, Spain’s new government announced a $19.3 billion package of tax increases and spending cuts on Friday and admitted that the country’s finances were probably even worse because of overspending by the autonomous regions.Spain’s new prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, said the austerity package was needed to maintain the confidence of European bond markets after it became clear that the budget deficit was expected to reach 8 percent of gross domestic product this year — two percentage points above the government’s target.

And while Spain’s overall fiscal status is nowhere near as dire as Italy’s, it has another problem all its own, as the new budget minister, Cristóbal Montoro, made clear Friday: serious budget shortfalls in its 17 autonomous regions, which have spent recklessly in the past decade.

Evidence of the regional profligacy dots the countryside. On the top of a hill here in the birthplace of Salvador Dalí, in northeastern Spain sits a giant, empty penitentiary.

But even without a single prisoner in residence, the prison is costing Spain’s heavily indebted regional government of Catalonia $1.3 million a month, largely in interest payments. If prisoners were actually moved in, it would cost an additional $2.6 million a month.

So it sits empty, an object of ridicule around here, often referred to as the “spa.”

Analysts say the mistakes are adding up. The Bank of Spain announced this month that regional debt had surged 22 percent, to $176 billion in September from $144 billion the year before. And some experts say that there remain tens of billions of dollars in “hidden” regional debt yet to be discovered.

The financial state of the regional governments is so bad, in fact, that some may be willing — maybe even eager — to shed some of their wide-ranging and costly responsibilities, like health care and education.

Much as the debt crisis is forcing the European Union to refashion its relationship with its member countries, stepping up oversight and control, some experts believe that some of Spain’s autonomous regions may be less so in the future.

“Whether publicly or not, some of the regional governments are saying: ‘Take this away from me. I didn’t realize how difficult it would be,’ ” said Ángel Berges Lobera, an economist at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and an expert on regional debt.

In recent years, the regions and municipalities have racked up debts, offering generous public services and investing in a wide range of projects, some of them bordering on the ridiculous, critics say.

Castilla-La Mancha, for instance, an agricultural region bordering Madrid, built itself an airport complete with a runway big enough for jumbo jets. But it may close soon, as no airline — even with smaller planes — is interested in flying there.

Municipalities have not done much better. They have also been accumulating debt, a total now of about $48 billion.

One town, Alcorcón, about 10 miles southwest of Madrid, spent $150 million on a cultural center, complete with a permanent circus and free birthday parties for its children.

“It’s been chaos out there,” said Lorenzo Bernaldo de Quirós, an economist who has been critical of Spain’s system of autonomous regions, a structure developed after Gen. Francisco Franco’s dictatorial rule ended in 1975.

And there is that “hidden debt,” most of it in unpaid bills, which is not included in Spain’s total national indebtedness of $915 billion. That could easily amount to $25 billion to $40 billion more, experts say.

And the bad news probably is not over. Some experts believe that as newly elected members of Mr. Rajoy’s Popular Party take control of some regional administrations, they are sure to unearth even more financial excesses. That is what happened in Catalonia, where the “hidden debt” problem first popped up this year. When elections were held there in 2010, the ratio of debt to regional G.D.P. was believed to be less than 2 percent. But after the vote, the departing government disclosed that its full year deficit could be 3.3 percent. The new government later revised that figure again, to 3.8 percent.

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Shahrukh Khan says he is not interested in politics

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

Shah Rukh Khan is having a perfect New Year’s holiday in Dubai with his kids.

“Awesome fun with kids on the beach… atv rides… fights in the sand… temple run game… but think I overdid the fights… aching all over,” Shah Rukh posted on micro-blogging site Twitter.

The actor, who had a packed year with projects like “RA.One” and “Don 2: The King Is Back”, had been wanting to catch up on books and devote time to his “babies” – Aryan and Suhana. He is getting to do exactly that and more during his Dubai sojourn!

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One or two amendments can be accepted to Lokpal: PC

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

New Delhi,(GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 :- Home Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday lashed out at the BJP saying if the party had the numbers in the Lok Sabha, it would not have allowed the Bill to be passed.
“The BJP did not support the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha. What happened in the Lok Sabha is a proof of that. If BJP had the numbers then, BJP would not have allowed the Bill to be passed,” he said.
The Home Minister added, “The Opposition presented 187 amendments in Parliament in the Rajya Sabha at 6 pm on December 29. It is not possible to scrutinise these amendments in such a short time. This again shows that the BJP did not want the Bill to be passed in the Rajya Sabha.”
He put the BJP in a tight corner by pointing out that parties that supported the Bill in the Lok Sabha, “opposed it in the Rajya Sabha”.
“They did it by introducing those 187 amendments,” he said.
“There was no way that the Bill could have been amended and be passed on the 29th. It would have had to be re-introduced in the Lok Sabha after considering the amendments. So the only way that was there was to keep the debate inconclusive and shift it to the Budget session.
“We are confident that we will complete the business during the Budget session,” the minister said.
The Congress has been accused of orchestrating the Rajya Sabha fiasco. Chidambaram however denied any “fixing”.
“There was no fixing. The BJP, along with other parties, introduced 187 amendments to scuttle the Bill.    The bill is safe. It has not been defeated.
“We thought that we had convinced the TMC in the Lok Sabha. But later they changed their position. We failed to convince them but we are sure that we can gain their confidence.
“It is wrong to conclude that (Congress is opposed to passing the Bill). We supported and passed the Bill in the Lok Sabha unlike the BJP who was against it. We bent over backwards to pass the Bill. But no one anticipated that 187 amendments will be introduced,” the minister said.
Regarding the low turnout at Anna’s rally, the Home Minister said, “I don’t want to comment on the size of the crowds that Anna attracts. I think people are beginning to realise that law-making should be left to elected representatives.
He concluded by saying that while the Congress would definitely “give in to certain amendments, there was no way that we will accept all the 187 amendments”.

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Samoa And New Zealand Mark The Start Of 2012 1Comments

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

Samoa,(GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 :—The New Year’s Eve parties started a whole day early on the South Pacific island nation of Samoa, after a hop across the international date line transported the country 24 hours into the future—making it the first in the world to ring in the new year.

Samoans began celebrating under a rainbow of fireworks at the stroke of midnight at the end of Thursday, Dec. 29—when the country skipped over Friday and moved straight into 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 31.

Samoa and neighboring Tokelau lie near the date line that zigzags vertically through the Pacific Ocean, and both sets of islands decided to realign themselves this year from the Americas side of the line to the Asia side, to be more in tune with major trading partners.

The time-jump revelry in Samoa continued throughout Saturday as the hours ticked down to 2012. Pools and beaches across the capital, Apia, were packed with Samoans and tourists celebrating the country’s sudden position as the first in the world to ring in the new year, rather than the last.

Despite the extended festivities, Samoan police said there had been no reports of any problems.

Elsewhere across the globe, people prepared to say goodbye to a year that was marked by upheaval and mass protests in several Arab countries, economic turmoil and a seemingly endless string of devastating natural disasters.

In Australia, people began crowding onto the shores of Sydney’s glittering harbor early Saturday in a bid for the best spot to watch the midnight fireworks extravaganza over the iconic Harbour Bridge. The display was designed around the theme “Time to Dream,” a nod to the eagerness many felt at moving forward after the rough year.

“It’s about giving people the opportunity to dream of the year ahead and that hopefully it is a bit better than the year we’ve had,” said Aneurin Coffey, the producer of Sydney’s New Year’s festivities.

Some of the fireworks were expected to explode in the shape of clouds—”Because every cloud has a silver lining,” Coffey said. A series of colorful lights will be beamed onto the center of the bridge forming an “endless rainbow” meant to evoke hope.

Many were eager for a fresh start.

“I’ve had enough this year,” said 68-year-old Sandra Cameron, who lost nearly everything she owned when her home in Australia’s Queensland state was flooded to the ceiling during a monstrous cyclone in February. “It’s gotta be a better year next year.”

For Japan, 2011 was the year the nation was struck by a giant tsunami and earthquake that left an entire coastline destroyed, nearly 20,000 people dead or missing and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in meltdown.

At the year’s end, many in Japan were left reflecting on the fragility of life, while remaining quietly determined to recover.

“For me, the biggest thing that defined this year was the disaster in March,” said Miku Sano, 28, a nursing student in Fukushima city. “Honestly, I didn’t know what to say to these people, who had to fight sickness while living in fear about ever being able to go back home. The radiation levels in the city of Fukushima, where I live, are definitely not low, and we don’t know how that is going to affect our health in the future.”

People across Japan were expected to spend Saturday visiting shrines and temples, offering their first prayers for the year. The giant hanging bells at temples will ring 108 times to purify the world of evil and bring good luck.

Kouichi Takayama, a university student, said 2011 was a year he would never forget.

“It was a year I felt the preciousness of life with a passion,” he said. “But I was also able to catch a glimpse of the warmth of human relations, and reconfirm my gratitude for family, community and everyday life. I hope I can connect meaningfully with more people next year to create a Japan that truly endures toward the future.”

In the southern Philippine city of Cagayan de Oro, people were still reeling from deadly flash flooding sparked by Tropical Storm Washi. The storm killed more than 1,200 in the southern and central Philippines, 800 of which were in Cagayan de Oro.

For Ana Caneda, a disaster relief official in Cagayan de Oro, the new year “offers a new ray of hope.”

“It’s going to be a relief to write the date 2012, not 2011,” Caneda said.

In Hong Kong, more than 400,000 people were expected to watch a four-minute, $1 million display of fireworks that will shoot off from 10 skyscrapers, lighting up the city’s famed Victoria Harbour.

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J&K: Pak violates ceasefire, BSF jawan injured

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

Jammu,(GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 :- Violating the ceasefire yet again, Pakistani troops fired at a BSF patrol party leaving a jawan injured in Samba district. Pakistani troops fired on the patrol party along the International Border (IB) in Khowara belt in Samba district last night, a senior BSF officer said on Thursday.
In the firing, a BSF jawan was injured, he said, adding that he has been admitted to a hospital.
“It was a clear case of ceasefire violation. We will lodge a protest over the incident with Pakistani counterparts today”, he said.
The injured jawan has been identified as Rakesh Kumar of Punjab.
This is the fourth ceasefire violation by Pakistani troops along the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir this month. On December 22, Pakistani troops targeted Indian posts with over 700 rounds of small arms fire to give cover fire to a group of infiltrating militants along the LoC in Nangi Tikri-Krishna Gati area of Poonch district.
On December 14, troops foiled an infiltration bid by a group of 4-5 militants along LoC in Tarkundi forest belt of Bhimbergali sector in Poonch district.
Pakistanis troops resorted to small arms firing and rocket attacks on Indian Posts in Krishnagati sub-sector along LoC in Poonch district on December 5.
Pakistan troops had also fired at Indian posts in Kupwara district on December 4.

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Oz pacers have potential to be best in world: Mickey Arthur

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

Sydney, (GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 :- Coach Mickey Arthur has said that Australia’s new pace attack, including James Pattinson, has the potential to be the best in the world.
Arthur was very impressed by the performance of the pace trio of Peter Siddle, James and Ben Hilfenhaus in the first Test win over India at the MCG.
With the likes of Ryan Harris, Patrick Cummins, Shane Watson and Mitchell Starc either injured or waiting in the wings, Arthur is optimistic about Australia’s pace strength.
He said he was very excited by the potential and the competition for places in every position, The Herald Sun reports.
“I thought we had 15 players that can play international cricket, at any given time. Hopefully by the end of the summer we might have 22 guys that can do that because we need to build up our strength in depth, which we are doing now,” Arthur said.

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Attacks reported in flashpoint Nigerian city

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

KANO (GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 : – An explosion and gunfire rocked an area near a mosque and market in northeastern Nigeria on Friday, killing four people, residents said, but the military denied there was a blast and said two people had been shot dead by armed robbers.

The violence erupted after a series of Christmas Day attacks blamed on Islamist sect Boko Haram that killed at least 49 people, most of them outside a Catholic church near the capital Abuja, and triggered fears of reprisals by Christians.

Details of Friday’s incident remained unclear, with residents initially reporting a loud explosion near a mosque in Maiduguri, a northeastern city that has borne the brunt of violence blamed on the Islamists.

Two residents said they later saw four dead bodies.

A spokesman for a military task force at first confirmed an explosion near the city’s main market, but later strongly denied there had been a blast, saying armed robbers had shot three people and that soldiers were in pursuit.

Lieutenant Colonel Hassan Mohammed said several robbers had stormed a market in Maiduguri after Muslim prayers.

“In the course of trying to rob the traders, they gunned down three people,” he said, adding that two people had been killed and the third was critically ill in hospital.

He said the robbers may also be members of Boko Haram, which has been accused of carrying out armed robberies in the past to finance its activities.

A relief agency official in the city said on condition of anonymity that “many residents in Maiduguri said that they heard the blast that took place in Guddum area, behind the emir’s palace.

“But the (military task force) denied there was a blast,” the official said.

“A robbery took place in the central business district of Maiduguri and there were gunshots fired at the scene. Where the robbery took place is about a kilometre away from the scene of the blast.”

Nigeria’s security agencies have come under intense pressure to stop attacks by Boko Haram amid spiralling violence blamed on the group.

President Goodluck Jonathan met with his security chiefs for the second time in as many days in Abuja on Friday following suggestions that he may reshuffle his team.

Boko Haram has carried out scores of attacks in Nigeria, most of them in the northeast, and its targets have included Muslim leaders.

Thousands have fled Maiduguri fearing further attacks by Boko Haram and heavy-handed military raids, with soldiers accused of killing civilians and burning their homes after bomb blasts.

Christian leaders have expressed mounting frustration over the Nigerian authorities’ inability to stop attacks that have killed hundreds of people this year.

They have said they will be forced to defend themselves if the authorities do not address the problem.

Amid the mounting concerns over reprisals, a bomb was thrown into an Arabic school on Tuesday in Delta state in southern Nigeria, wounding six children and an adult.

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is roughly divided between a mainly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south.

Violence had been raging even in the days before the Christmas Day bombings, especially in the northeastern cities of Damaturu, Potiskum and Maiduguri.

Another attack hit the northeast on Wednesday night, when gunmen opened fire and threw explosives at a hotel and open-air bar in the city of Gombe, wounding 15 people, the hotel manager said.

The motive for that attack was not clear, although Boko Haram has often targeted bars.

In Damaturu last week, suspected members of Boko Haram carried out attacks followed by a military crackdown that led to clashes. A rights group and police source said up to 100 people were feared dead in the violence.

An emergency official has said an estimated 90,000 people have been displaced in Damaturu.

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Father of Turkey murders accused arrested by police

Posted on 31 December 2011 by GGS News

N.Lreland,(GGS NEWS) 31 Dec 2011 :- The father of the man accused of murdering Co Down women Marion Graham and Kathy Dinsmore in Turkey has been arrested.
It is understood Eyup Cetin was detained by police after attending his son Recep’s hearing in a Turkish court in Izmir on Thursday.

Recep, the former boyfriend of Marion Graham’s teenage daughter Shannon, is accused of stabbing the pair to death around 60 miles from their Kusadasi holiday apartment in August.

He has been in a high security detention centre since the killings.

Baris Kaska, the lawyer representing the victims’ families, told UTV a witness came forward and told prosecuting lawyers in court they had heard screams and saw his dad Eyup at the scene.He is now being questioned by detectives investigating the killings.

During Recep’s hearing a judge ordered a bone marrow test be carried out after questions were raised about his age.He claims he is only 17 years old but the prosecution believes he is older.

If it is found he is younger he will be tried in a juvenile court which could mean a much lighter sentence than if he is tried as an adult.

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