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Diane A. Wade

Diane is a perfectionist. She enjoys searching the internet for the hottest events from around the world and writing an article about it. The details matter to her, so she makes sure the information is easy to read and understand. She likes traveling and history, especially ancient history. Being a very sociable person she has a blast having barbeque with family and friends.

The US Senate has failed to pass a bill approving the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline.

The Senate voted by 59-41 in favor of the bill, but this was one vote short of the 60 needed to pass it.

The 1,179-mile pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to Nebraska where it joins pipes running to Texas.

Republicans have vowed to approve the bill next year when the new Congress convenes.

The current Senate is controlled by the Democratic Party, but Republicans will control the next Senate, following gains in elections earlier this month.

President Barack Obama is said to take a “dim view” of the legislation, but has not directly threatened a veto in the event of the bill reaching the White House.

The pipeline project has pitted Republicans and other supporters – who say it will create much-needed jobs – against many Democrats and environmentalists who warn the pipeline will add to carbon emissions and contribute to global warming.

Republicans maintained their majority in the House and gained control of the US Senate during mid-term elections on November 4. But the official start of the new Congress is not until early January.Keystone pipeline bill Senate photo

The bill failed to pass despite all 45 current Republican senators as well as 14 Democrats voting in favor.

The proposed XL pipeline has the same origin and destination as an operational pipe, also called Keystone but takes a more direct route and has a wider diameter.

It would daily carry 830,000 barrels of mostly Canadian-produced oil from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Steele City, Nebraska and then on to the Texas coast for export.

The southern section to the Gulf opened in January 2014.

It is a privately financed project, with the cost of construction shared between TransCanada, an energy company based in Calgary, Alberta, and other oil shippers.

A state department report raised no major environmental objections in February, but the final recommendation was delayed amid a court battle over the project in Nebraska.

The state department is involved because the pipeline would cross an international border.

The Keystone XL pipeline aims to carry some 830,000 barrels of heavy crude a day from the fields in Alberta to Nebraska.

The oil would then be transported on existing pipes to refineries in Texas. The southern section of the project was finished last year.

The bill passed easily in the House last week with a 252-161 vote, but it was not the first time the chamber had voted to approve the project.

The bill’s sponsor, Louisiana Representative Bill Cassidy, is facing a run-off election against incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu for her seat.

Mary Landrieu – among the pipeline’s Democratic supporters – successfully pushed the Senate to hold the vote on the measure on November 18 and urged backing for the measure.

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The UN has called for the Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over its human rights record.

The human rights committee passed a motion seeking a probe into alleged crimes against humanity committed by the Pyongyang regime.

The motion still needs to be voted on by the General Assembly itself.

A UN report released in February revealed ordinary North Koreans faced “unspeakable atrocities”.

The UN Commission of Inquiry detailed wide-ranging abuses in North Korea after hearing evidence of torture, political repression and other crimes.

It led to Tuesday’s non-binding vote, which was passed with 111 countries in favor and 19 against, with 55 abstentions.

China and Russia, which hold veto power on the Security Council, voted against the motion.

The resolution also condemned North Korea for its poor human rights record, and urged the Security Council to consider targeted sanctions against those responsible for the crimes.

Michael Kirby, who chaired the report, described the move as “an important step in the defense of human rights”.

“One of the only ways in which the International Criminal Court can secure jurisdiction is by referral by the Security Council. That is the step that has been put in train by the big vote in New York,” he said.North Korea ICC 640x416 photo

The General Assembly is to vote on the motion in coming weeks.

Diplomats say, however, that long-time ally China would probably use its veto to block the Security Council from referring the case to the ICC.

The UN report said North Korea’s human rights situation “exceeds all others in duration, intensity and horror”.

It said those accused of political crimes were “disappeared” to prison camps, where they were subject to “deliberate starvation, forced labor, executions, torture, rape and the denial of reproductive rights enforced through punishment, forced abortion and infanticide”.

The report, based on interviews with North Korean defectors, estimated that “hundreds of thousands of political prisoners have perished in these camps over the past five decades”.

It included an account of a woman forced to drown her own baby, children imprisoned from birth and starved, and families tortured for watching a foreign soap opera.

North Korea refused to co-operate with the UN report and rejected its conclusions.

Speaking ahead of the vote, a North Korean foreign ministry official warned the committee of the possibility of further nuclear tests.

Penalizing North Korea over human rights “is compelling us not to refrain any further from conducting nuclear tests”, Choe Myong-nam said.

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Hong Kong police clashed with a small group of protesters who tried to break into parliament early on November 19.

Protesters used metal barricades to break down a side door at the Legislative Council building (LegCo).

The incident happened hours after bailiffs and police peacefully cleared a section of the main protest camp.

Protesters calling for full democracy have occupied three key sites in Hong Kong for nearly eight weeks.

Dozens of young protesters, some wearing masks, tried smashing in the door shortly after 01:00 AM. Some reportedly managed to enter the building.

Riot police warned protesters to stay back, using red flags, and later used pepper spray to push them back.

There were repeated attempts by protesters to enter the building throughout the night, but they appeared to retreat by daylight.Hong Kong protest at LegCo 640x427 photo

Democratic lawmaker Fernando Cheung, who was among a group of people who tried to stop the protesters, told Reuters that it was “a very, very isolated incident” as the movement had been peaceful so far.

Student leader Lester Shum, from the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told AFP: “It’s not something we like to see… We call on occupiers to stick firm to peaceful and non-violent principles and be a responsible participant of the umbrella movement.”

The police said they arrested four people, while three officers were injured.

Some protesters said that they attempted the break-in because they were angry about the earlier clearance of part of the main protest site at Admiralty.

Tuesday’s clearance in front of Citic Tower came after the building’s owners were granted an injunction by the high court.

An injunction has also been granted for the clearance of roads at the Mong Kok protest site. The South China Morning Post says hundreds of police are on standby to clear that site as early as Thursday. A third protest site remains at Causeway Bay.

The protesters have been on the streets since early October to demonstrate against a decision by China to screen candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership election. Numbers were originally in the tens of thousands but have fallen to a few hundred.

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Indian police is continuing an operation to arrest guru Rampal, after nearly 200 people were injured in clashes at his ashram in Haryana state on November 18.

The self-styled guru is wanted in connection with a 2006 murder case and for contempt of court.

Thousands of his supporters are protecting the Barwala town compound.

Police says armed supporters are holding people hostage and using women and children as human shields.

A week-long stand-off at the Satlok Ashram – some 105 miles north-east of Delhi – escalated on November 18 as police moved in to arrest Rampal.

Police fired tear gas and used bulldozers to try to break into the sprawling complex, while ashram members threw stones and other missiles and opened fire.

More than 100 policemen and 85 devotees of the guru sustained injuries, said police.

The unrest continued on Wednesday morning as several thousand policemen stood outside the ashram.

They have also cut off power and water supplies to the complex.

Reports say that some 60 devotees managed to slip out of the Satlok Ashram, but several hundred are reportedly still held up inside. Police say many are being held against their will.

Mani Ram, a devotee who managed to escape, told the Indian Express newspaper that ashram authorities had prevented them from leaving for two days, insisting police would kill them if they went outside. photo

A spokesperson for the ashram, Raj Kumar, was quoted as saying in the Indian Express newspaper that “innocent people have lost their lives” in the fighting and that “eight bodies were lying inside the ashram, of which four are women”.

However, Haryana police chief N Vashisth denied there had been any deaths, saying that “we have ensured that no innocent person is harmed, and so far no such casualty has come to our notice”.

Rampal is accused of involvement in a murder case dating from 2006 in which a man died in a clash at another of his ashrams.

He denies these allegations and is on bail, but authorities ordered his arrest on contempt charges after he failed to appear in court several times.

It remains unclear whether he is still inside the complex.

Police says he is, but Raj Kumar said he had already “been shifted out and is undergoing treatment in a private hospital outside the state”.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court had set a final deadline for Rampal to appear in court on November 17 in the contempt case.

Rampal ignored the summons and his lawyers said he was too ill to make the 155-mile journey to the court in Chandigarh, which serves as the capital of both states.

The judges criticized the government, saying they “lacked the will” to arrest the guru and said he must be presented at court by November 21.

Rampal began his life as a junior engineer in the irrigation department in Haryana after picking up a diploma in engineering, according to his website.

Born in a farming family, Rampal was apparently of a “religious nature since his childhood”. He began giving talks to groups of people in 1994. Encouraged by a growing number of devotees, he set up the Satlok Ashram in 1999. The year after that Rampal resigned from his government job.

The guru now has tens of thousands of devotees in several Indian states who have “given up alcohol, marijuana, smoking, meat, egg, and social evils like idol worship… fasting etc, baseless reverences” after becoming his followers, his website says.

Rampal claims that “thousands of people have got their chronic illnesses cured” and “ruined families have become prosperous again” after coming in contact with him.

His website details a number of cases against the guru. They relate to allegedly fraudulent purchase of land, conflicts with some devotees and an alleged case of murder involving the death of a man at another ashram in Rohtak. They dismiss all of these cases as false and fabricated.

Rampal is a tech-savvy guru – his website contains live streaming discourses and offers downloads of a number of his religious books. The website also contains video entitled God has descended to Haryana.

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Forty suspects were arrested in northern Italy as the authorities targeted mafia cells.

Meanwhile anti-mafia police have released unprecedented footage of an initiation ritual filmed as part of an inquiry into the ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate.

Three groups were under investigation, based north of Milan, in the provinces of Como and Lecco in Lombardy region.

Most of the arrests were in northern Italy, but some of the men were detained in Sicily.Mafia arrests northern Italy photo

The ‘Ndrangheta is based in Calabria, in the far south “toe-end” of Italy.

Italian media said the investigation had involved phone intercepts as well as secret filming and the three groups at the ceremony came from small villages in Como and Lecco.

During the meeting, those present organized their hierarchy and allotted roles to each other. One of those sworn in was 17 years of age, officials said.

Milan anti-mafia prosecutor Ilda Boccassini, who led the investigation, said the video showed how “the force of tradition” enabled the ‘Ndrangheta to survive.

The ‘Ndrangheta are known to have distinctive initiation rites and an elite membership known as “Santa”.

Those arrested by a special police unit were being held on suspicion of belonging to the mafia and extortion, as well as carrying unlicensed guns.

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has called snap election in December, two years ahead of schedule.

At a news briefing, Shinzo Abe said he would dissolve parliament on November 21 and was also delaying a planned but unpopular increase in sales tax.

The prime minister was elected in 2012 with an ambitious plan to revive the economy, but has struggled to do so.

Shinzo Abe’s popularity has fallen but he is expected to win the election, which will take place in mid-December.

“I will dissolve the lower house on 21 [November] ,” Shinzo Abe said.Shinzo Abe snap election photo

His party, the Liberal Democrats, already has a majority in the lower house, but analysts said Shinzo Abe hoped to consolidate power over an opposition party which is in disarray.

Shinzo Abe’s popularity fell below 50%. In another year from now he may face a very tough battle to get re-elected.

An early election means he is almost certain to win another majority.

The rise in Japan’s sales tax was legislated by the previous government in 2012 to curb Japan’s huge public debt, which is the highest among developed nations.

The first rise – from 5% to 8% – took place in April.

Shinzo Abe’s government had hoped the increase would boost income but instead Japanese consumers stopped spending.

Figures released on November 17 showed Japan had fallen back into a technical recession.

The second increase, to 10%, was set for October 2015 but will now be delayed by at least 18 months.

An election does not need to be held until 2016.

Howevr, Shinzo Abe is looking for a secure mandate ahead of introducing unpopular policies that could see his popularity fall even further, correspondents say.

He has strongly advocated restarting Japan’s nuclear power generation plants, all of which were shut down amid public anger after the Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Before the accident about 30% of Japan’s power was nuclear-generated, and the prime minister says the shutdown is damaging the economy because of expensive energy imports.

Shinzo Abe has also supported a reinterpretation of Japan’s constitution that would allow the use of force to act to defend allies, known as collective self-defense.

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Hong Kong authorities have cleared part of a pro-democracy protest camp in the Admiralty district.

The bailiffs, backed by police, dismantled barricades outside Citic Tower after the building’s owners complained about the disruption and were granted a high court injunction.

The student protesters did not resist the clearance, and many helped to remove tents and fences.

The high court has also authorized the clearance of the Mong Kok site.

A third protest camp remains at Causeway Bay.

The activists have been on the streets since early October to protest against a decision by China to screen candidates for Hong Kong’s 2017 leadership election. Numbers were originally in the tens of thousands but have fallen to a few hundred.Hong Kong Admiralty protest site photo

Hong Kong and the Beijing government say the protests are illegal, and there is growing public frustration with the disruption to traffic and business.

The high court has also granted an injunction to taxi and minibus associations to clear the roads in Mong Kok, where on November 18 protesters had also begun packing up.

More requests have been lodged by bus companies to clear other roads affected by the protest sites.

Police operations to clear and contain the camps in recent weeks have sometimes led to clashes.

An attempt to clear an underpass near Admiralty led to accusations that police had used excessive violence, after a video emerged of officers apparently beating a protester.

At the weekend, a group of student leaders were prevented from travelling to Beijing, where they had hoped to seek an audience with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, after their travel permits were declared invalid.

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Czech President Milos Zeman has been pelted with eggs by angry protesters on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, which ended communist rule.

Thousands of people carried football-style red cards as a warning to Milos Zeman, while others threw eggs. One accidentally hit the German president.

Many are angry with Milos Zeman, who they see as too sympathetic to Russia.

The Velvet Revolution began on November 17, 1989, when police attacked a student protest.

A wave of demonstrations followed across the now Czech Republic, toppling the communist government and replacing it with one led by dissident playwright Vaclav Havel.

Some Czechs feel that certain aims of the revolution, such as the promotion of human rights, have been sidelined by Milos Zeman.

They also worry that the president, a former communist, is too close to both Russia and China.

On November 17, demonstrators carried banners reading “down with Zeman” and “we do not want to be a Russian colony”.

As the president unveiled a plaque to the students involved in the 1989 protest, he was booed, jeered and pelted with eggs.

Czech President Milos Zeman has been pelted with eggs by angry protesters on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution photo

Czech President Milos Zeman has been pelted with eggs by angry protesters on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution

Though Milos Zeman appears not to have been hit, German President Joachim Gauck was struck during the attack.

Milos Zeman angered many Czech citizens when he defended Russia’s stance on Ukraine, declaring the conflict there “a civil war between two groups of Ukrainian citizens”.

Though Moscow has long denied any direct involvement in the Ukraine crisis, the EU, of which the Czech Republic is a member, has imposed sanctions on Russia, saying it has supplied separatist rebels there with weapons and Russian fighters.

The Czech president also used derogatory language when discussing Russian protest group Pussy Riot in an interview earlier this month.

In October Milos Zeman shocked some when he said he wished to learned how China “stabilized” its society.

In the run-up to Monday’s celebrations, Milos Zeman said the 1989 student protest had not triggered the Velvet Revolution.

Despite his participation in it, Milos Zeman said the historic protest had been just one of “any number of rallies” and he played down police brutality.

Milos Zeman still has the backing of many voters and his supporters were scheduled to hold a rally on November 17.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has activated the state’s National Guard in anticipation of a grand jury decision over the killing of Michael Brown.

In a statement, Jay Nixon said the guard will “support law enforcement’s efforts to maintain peace”.

A panel is deciding whether to charge Officer Darren Wilson in the August death of black teenager Michael Brown.

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has activated the states National Guard in anticipation of a grand jury decision over the killing of Michael Brown 640x411 photo

Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has activated the state’s National Guard in anticipation of a grand jury decision over the killing of Michael Brown

No specific date for the jury’s decision has been given.

Michael Brown, 18, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson in August after a confrontation in Ferguson, a majority-black suburb of St Louis.

His death set off protests, sometimes violent, in the area. Ferguson police and other law enforcement were criticized for being heavily armed and using excessive force during protests.

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According to a recent survey by anti-slavery campaign group Walk Free, nearly 36 million people worldwide, or 0.5% of the world’s population, live as slaves.

The Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index says India has the most slaves overall and Mauritania has the highest percentage.

The total is 20% higher than for 2013 because of better methodology.

The report defines slaves as people subject to forced labor, debt bondage, trafficking, s**ual exploitation for money and forced or servile marriage.

It uses slavery in a modern sense of the term, rather than as a reference to the broadly outlawed traditional practice where people were held in bondage and treated as another person’s property.

The Global Slavery Index’s estimate is higher than other attempts to quantify modern slavery.

In 2012, the International Labor Organization estimated that almost 21 million people were victims of forced labor.Global Slavery Index 2014 640x425 photo

Walk Free says it found evidence of slavery in all 167 countries it surveyed.

The report says Africa and Asia face the biggest challenges in eradicating slavery, while the practice is least prevalent in Europe.

According to the report, more than 14 million people live as slaves in India. Next in the index comes China, with more than 3 million slaves, followed by Pakistan, Uzbekistan.

Russia is ranked fifth. The country’s economy is said to rely on enslaved migrant workers in the construction and agricultural sectors.

Mauritania meanwhile has the highest number of slaves as a proportion of the population, at 4%. Many people in the African country inherit their slave status from their ancestors.

The report calls for much wider international cooperation on slavery. It wants governments to increase penalties for trafficking and to put pressure on businesses to clamp down on the use of slaves in their supply chains.

The Global Slavery Index was first published in 2013. The rise in the overall figure from 2013 was attributed by the report’s authors to better data and methodology, rather than to an exponential rise in the numbers enslaved.

Top 5 countries with the highest proportion of slaves:

  1. Mauritania – 4%
  2. Uzbekistan – 3.97%
  3. Haiti – 2.3%
  4. Qatar – 1.36%
  5. India – 1.14%

Source: Global Slavery Index, 2014

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Southern Switzerland and northern Italy have been hit by deadly landslides following days of torrential rain.

Two women died when a wall of mud destroyed a house near the Swiss town of Lugano on November 16.

Over the border, a pensioner and his granddaughter were killed when a mudslide engulfed their home.

The heavy rain is expected to continue across the region, and both countries have issued major flood alerts.

The levels of lakes Lugano and Maggiore are already dangerously high.

Homes and businesses near Italy’s Lake Maggiore have been cut off by rising waters.Italy and Switzerland mudslides photo

The region has had more rain in a few days than it would normally expect in a year.

The Ticino river burst its banks near Vigevano in northern Italy.

Further north, in the Ticino region of Switzerland, rescue workers were searching for survivors on Sunday after mud swept down a hillside and destroyed an apartment building.

Swiss authorities said two women, aged 34 and 38, had died when the mudslide hit the building in the village of Davesco-Soragno.

A third person, a 44-year-old Italian, was rescued from the rubble and taken to hospital.

Relatives were also mourning the deaths of a 70-year old man and his 16-year-old girl in Cerro di Laveno in Italy.

Their house, near Lake Maggiore, was hit by a landslide late on Saturday night.

The weekend’s landslides are the latest of many to have hit northern Italy and southern Switzerland amid incessant rainfall over recent weeks.

High volumes of water gushed down the Ticino river, seen here in the town of Giornico in southern Switzerland, last week.

At least 11 people have been in killed Italy because of extreme weather over the last month.

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The removal of MH17 flight wreckage has begun at the crash site in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, Dutch officials say.

The Malaysian Airlines plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was shot down over Ukraine in July. All 298 people on board were killed.MH17 Wreckage 640x426 photo

Debris will be transported to the Netherlands for investigation, the Dutch Safety Board said.

Access to the site has previously been limited by the rebels, and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The recovery operation was expected to take several days, the Dutch Safety Board said.

MH17 wreckage would assist “the investigation into the cause of the crash”, it said in a statement, adding that it intended to reconstruct a section of the aircraft.

The G20 summit in Brisbane has been closed by Australia’s PM Tony Abbott who detailed economic pledges agreed by world leaders.

The leaders agreed to boost their economies by at least 2.1% by 2018, adding $2 trillion to global economies.

Much of the summit focused on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s position on the crisis in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin faced fierce criticism and left the meeting before it ended, but said the summit was “constructive”.

He said he was leaving before the release of the official communiqué, citing the long flight to home to Russia and the need for sleep. photo

Australia, as host of the meeting, had sought to keep the focus on economic issues, but the issues of climate change and the conflict in Ukraine attracted significant attention.

President Barack Obama met European leaders on November 16 to discuss a co-ordinated response to what they see as Russia’s destabilization of Ukraine.

Barack Obama told reporters Vladimir Putin was “violating international law, providing heavy arms to the separatists in Ukraine” and violating the Minsk agreement.

He said the “economic isolation” of Russia would continue unless Vladimir Putin changed course.

In a television interview on November 15, Vladimir Putin called for an end to sanctions against Russia, saying they harmed the world economy as well as Russia.

The Kremlin denies sending military forces or heavy weapons to pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine.

During the summit, Canadian PM Stephen Harper and British PM David Cameron also sharply criticized Vladimir Putin.

World leaders agreed to plans drawn up by finance ministers from G20 countries in February, known as the Brisbane Action Plan, to boost their collective GDP growth by at least 2%.

The statement also agreed to take strong, effective action on climate change, following pressure from the US and European leaders.

G20 leaders also released a statement in which they vowed to do all they could to “extinguish” the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Romanian voters are set to elect a new president in a run-off vote which pits social democrat PM Victor Ponta against centre-right candidate Klaus Iohannis.

PM Victor Ponta led in the first round with 40% to 30% for Klaus Iohannis, an ethnic German mayor.

The social democrat has promised both to reduce the budget deficit and increase pensions and the minimum wage.

President Traian Basescu, Victor Ponta’s long-time political foe, cannot stand for re-election after serving two terms.Ponta Iohannis 640x464 photo

Since taking office as prime minister two years ago, Victor Ponta, 42, has overseen economic growth and political stability in Romania.

Klaus Iohannis, 55, has promised to crack down on wrongdoing and strengthen the independence of the judicial system.

However, critics accuse the mayor of Sibiu, a town of around 155,000 people in Transylvania, of seeking to avoid confrontation with the outspoken Victor Ponta, who has maintained his lead in opinion polls.

As prime minister, Victor Ponta often feuded with President Traian Basescu and their poor relations delayed much-needed reforms in the public sector.

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Russia rejected reports that President Vladimir Putin is allegedly leaving urgently the ongoing G20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, over the pressure on him due to the situation in Ukraine.

Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “This is full nonsense.

“Negotiators are raising this issue constantly.

“This is an ordinary routine situation,” he added.

Several media reported earlier that Vladimir Putin planned to leave the G20 summit before its end over the pressure exerted on him over the situation around Ukraine.Vladimir Putin G20 Brisbane Summit 640x360 photo

Russia has been rebuked by Western leaders about its role in the Ukraine crisis, at a G20 summit in Australia.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper told President Vladimir Putin that he needed to “get out of Ukraine”.

President Barack Obama said Moscow’s “aggression” in Ukraine was a “threat to the world”, while the UK threatened more sanctions unless Russia stopped “destabilizing” its neighbor.

The two-day summit in Brisbane is focusing on promoting economic growth.

World leaders are expected to elaborate on plans agreed by G20 finance ministers in February to boost global growth by 2% in five years.

However, November 15 – the first of the two-day summit – was dominated by Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists have been fighting government forces in eastern regions.

Ukraine and its Western allies have accused Russia of sending military forces across the border, something the Kremlin denies.

The EU imposed sanctions when Russia annexed Crimea in March and has added further measures since.

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Hong Kong pro-democracy protest leaders have been stopped from boarding a plane to Beijing.

The three had hoped to meet China’s leaders as part of their push for greater democracy, but were told their travel permits were invalid.

Protesters have been camped out on the streets of the territory since late September.

They want Beijing to allow more candidates to stand in the territory’s next leadership election in 2017.Occupy Central Hong Kong 640x427 photo

They were mobbed at the airport by fellow democracy activists, who unfurled yellow umbrellas – a symbol of Hong Kong’s democracy movement.

They were led by Alex Chow, who heads the Hong Kong Federation of Students.

An editorial in China’s state-run Global Times, written before the activists were stopped at the airport, said the group would have had little chance of meeting Chinese leaders.

Hong Kong’s Occupy Central movement had “failed”, the editorial concluded.

On November 14, the House of Representatives passed legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline by a decisive vote of 252 to 161.

However, President Barack Obama is signaling he is increasingly skeptical of the project.

While the White House has not issued a formal veto threat, it has indicated it is prepared to reject the House bill; press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on November 13 it has recommended vetoes against similar bills in the past. And barring an extraordinary legislative maneuver forcing his hand next Congress, according to individuals familiar with the administration’s thinking, Barack Obama is likely to reject a final permit when the matter comes before him.

Republicans have identified Keystone as one of their top legislative priorities, and it enjoys the support of several major business groups along with the oil industry.

TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling issued a statement on November 5 saying that the Keystone XL pipeline “has always enjoyed bipartisan support and is a great example of an issue where both parties can work together to create jobs and enhance energy security for the United States. After six years, it is time to break the gridlock on Keystone and move forward”.Keystone XL oil pipeline  photo

Russ Girling said that pipelines “remain the safest and most efficient way to move large volumes of Canadian and American oil to US refineries. Keystone XL will help push oil out of US refineries from countries and parts of the world that are often openly hostile to America’s interests or values – and that benefits all of us”.

Senator Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), one of the pipeline’s fiercest congressional backers, said he was “very, very skeptical” Barack Obama would grant a permit to the project’s sponsor TransCanada if the question was “left to a presidential decision”.

Some unions, including LIUNA and the International Union of Operating Engineers, have endorsed the project as a means of generating high-paying, short-term construction jobs.

However, environmentalists have framed the 1,700-mile pipeline, which would ship bitumen that is extracted though an energy-intensive process in Canada’s oil sands, as a referendum on the president’s commitment to addressing climate change.

In June 2013, Barack Obama said that he would reject the project if it would “significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” a pledge he repeated again last week in a press conference he held after the midterm elections.

President Barack Obama has defended plans to use his overriding executive powers to push through changes to the US immigration system.

Barack Obama said Congress had been given ample opportunity to come up with its own plan but had failed to act.

Republicans in Congress say such action would be beyond Barack Obama’s authority.

His remarks follow media reports he plans to extend protection from deportation, potentially affecting as many as five million immigrants.

At a news briefing during a visit to Myanmar, Barack Obama said he had given the House of Representatives more than a year to come up with an immigration bill but they had failed to do so.

The Senate passed a far-reaching immigration bill in 2013, but the House has not taken up the legislation.

“There has been ample opportunity for Congress to pass a bipartisan immigration bill that would strengthen our borders, improve the legal immigration system and lift millions of people out of the shadows,” he said.

“I said that if in fact Congress failed to act, I would use all the lawful authority I possess to try to make the system work better,” the president added.160343745 photo

“And that’s going to happen before the end of the year.”

Barack Obama added that as soon as Congress passed a bill he could sign, “any executive actions will be replaced”.

However, Republicans in Congress said the president should work with them.

“We’re going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path,” House Speaker John Boehner told reporters.

Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate majority leader, urged the president to “work with us to try to find a way to improve our immigration system”.

Some Republicans are pushing for the budget bill to include a statement prohibiting “the use of appropriated funds for the president’s immigration machinations”.

Such a move could provoke a block by the Democrats, or a veto by the president, which in turn raises the risk of a government shutdown.

Unilateral action has been expected on immigration but details of what the president was considering were first reported this week in the New York Times and Fox News.

At the centre of the reports is a plan to extend Barack Obama’s “deferred action” plan, which was designed to protect young adults who were brought to the US illegally as children from being deported.

The plan is to include parents of children who are US citizens or legal residents.

The action is designed to prevent the break-up of families via deportations. The number of those affected by the suggested policy is based on how long an individual has lived in the US.

If the administration limits the “deferred action” to those who have lived in the US for more than 10 years, it would affect 2.5 million undocumented immigrants, experts estimate.

If the time limit is lowered to five years, it would stop deportations for as many as 3.3 million.

Other parts of the executive action reported by the media include: increasing the number of high-tech workers allowed to live and work in the US; an expansion of the existing deferred action plans that would move the cut-off date for children arriving to 2010; shift border security resources to the US southern border, according to reports.

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President Barack Obama has met Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon.

At a news briefing with the US president, Aung San Suu Kyi has said constitutional rules which bar her from running for president because her sons are half British are “unfair, unjust and undemocratic”.

She said the reform process in the once military-ruled nation had hit a “bumpy patch”.

Aung San Suu Kyi said it could be brought on track with international help.

President Barack Obama said the reforms were “by no means complete or irreversible”.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, moved from military to civilian rule in 2010 and is governed by a military-backed civilian administration.

Under Thein Sein, many political prisoners have been freed and media restrictions eased. The pro-democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest, has rejoined the political fold and holds a small block of seats in parliament.

President Barack Obama has met Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon photo

President Barack Obama has met Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Yangon

Critics have warned that reforms have stalled in recent months, as all eyes turn to 2015 when the next general election will be held.

A clause in the new constitution states that anyone whose spouse or children are foreign citizens cannot run for the top job. Aung San Suu Kyi’s late husband was British and her two sons are British citizens.

Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters outside her home: “I always warn against over-optimism, because that could lead to complacency.

“Our reform process is going through a bumpy patch, but this bumpy patch is something we can negotiate with commitment, with help and understanding from our friends around the world.

“What we need is a healthy balance of optimism and pessimism.”

Barack Obama was in the Burmese capital, Nay Pyi Taw, on November 13 for an Asian summit where he held talks with President Thein Sein.

He said the process of reform was “by no means complete or irreversible” and added that the US “recognizes the challenges ahead and cannot be complacent”.

“I don’t understand a provision that would bar someone from running for president because of who their children are. That doesn’t make much sense to me,” he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi said the Burmese people supported the opposition’s call to amend the clause, but added: “I don’t think it’s because they want me to be president, but because they recognize it’s unfair, unjust and undemocratic.”

Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won a landslide victory in the by-elections in 2012. It did not contest the November 2010 general election because of laws it said were unfair.

Barack Obama said he and Aung San Suu Kyi had discussed ways of bolstering Myanmar’s transition.

North Korea will send top Communist party official Choe Ryong-hae as special envoy to Russia, state media have said, without stating the purpose of the trip.

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) also did not say when Choe Ryong-hae would go.

In Soviet times, Russia was a strong ally to North Korea, supplying aid and missile technology.

Relations with China, North Korea’s strongest supporter in recent years, have frayed recently.

North Korea will send Choe Ryong hae as special envoy to Russia 640x350 photo

North Korea will send Choe Ryong-hae as special envoy to Russia

Beijing is distancing itself from Pyongyang after North Korea raised tensions last year with a third nuclear test and issued threats of nuclear strikes against South Korea and the US.

North Korea has also pulled out of the six-party talks aimed at its nuclear disarmament which involve China, the two Koreas, Russia, Japan and the US.

The visit comes ahead of an expected UN General Assembly vote next week on a resolution – put forth by the EU and Japan – that condemns the North’s human rights record.

Choe Ryong-hae is thought to be one of Kim Jong-un’s closest associates. He went to Beijing last year as Kim Jong-un’s special envoy to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Choe Ryong-hae was also part of a high-profile delegations that went to South Korea in October to resume senior-level talks.

Three American sailors have been attacked by Turkish nationalist protesters in Istanbul.

The protesters, who posted a video of the attack on an ultra-nationalist website, tried to put hoods on them and chanting “Yankees go home”.

They also threw red paint and chased the sailors down a street.

The sailors returned unharmed to their ship, the USS Ross, which was docked nearby, a US military spokesman said.

US officials condemned the attack, but said it appeared to be a one-off event.

Turkish police arrested 12 people in connection with Wednesday’s incident, but later released them, local media reported.

Three American sailors have been attacked by Turkish nationalist protesters in Istanbul 640x444 photo

Three American sailors have been attacked by Turkish nationalist protesters in Istanbul

The protesters, members of the nationalist Turkish Youth Union, were told they could still face charges of insult, injury and breaching laws on public protests, the Dogan news agency said.

Just before the assault, one of the protesters shouted in English at the sailors: “Because we define you as murderers, as killers, we want you to get out of our land.”

The protesters then started throwing objects at the sailors and grabbed hold of at least one of them, briefly pulling a white sack over his head.

Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, called the attack “ugly and disturbing”.

He described the assailants as “local thugs”, saying they brought “great discredit upon the Turks and the Turkish reputation for hospitality”.

“We’re working closely with Turkish authorities to have this investigated and to get to the bottom of exactly what happened,” he said.

The Turkish foreign ministry also condemned the attack, calling it “in no way tolerable”.

Mexico’s governing PRI party’s offices in south-western Guerrero state have been set on fire by protesters to vent their anger at the official handling of the case of 43 missing students.

Their disappearance more than six weeks ago from the town of Iguala has sparked a series of sometimes violent protests.

Officials say local gang members have confessed to killing the students and burning their bodies.

However, remains found nearby have not yet been matched to the missing.

About 1,000 people marched in the Guerrero state capital, Chilpancingo, before unrest broke out.

A group of protesters fought running battles with police, throwing stones and petrol bombs.


The disappearance of 43 students six weeks ago from the town of Iguala has sparked a series of violent protests

Officials said three police officers and two journalists were injured in the clashes.

The disappearance of the 43 trainee teachers and the links it has revealed between the local authorities and a gang calling itself Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors) have triggered mass protests.

Investigators said that municipal police officers confessed to seizing the students, who had been protesting in Iguala on September 26, and later handing them over to the gang.

Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca is under arrest on suspicion of ordering police to intercept the students. Iguala’s police chief is still on the run.

Residents say they suspect links between the gang and officials reach higher levels than that of the local town council.

Relatives of the missing are also angry about the way the search for the students has been conducted.

The search uncovered a series of mass graves in the hills surrounding Iguala.

Tests carried out by the Guerrero state authorities suggested the bodies they contained were not those of the students.

Mexico’s Attorney-General Jesus Murillo Karam later said the initial tests may have been flawed.

A group of international forensic scientists acting for the families has also been examining the remains. On November 11 they released their first statement.

They said that they had so far been able to determine that 24 of the 30 bodies found in the six mass graves in Pueblo Viejo near Iguala were not those of the students.

It is not clear who they may belong to or how long ago they may have been buried there.

Test on the remaining six bodies found in Pueblo Viejo continue and results on those are expected soon, they said.

The team, made up of scientists from Argentina, Colombia, France, Mexico, Uruguay and the US, said it was also testing nine bodies found in burial pits in La Parota, also near Iguala.

Furthermore, charred remains found at a landfill site near the town of Cocula will be sent to a specialized laboratory in Austria for testing.

The landfill site is where, according to testimony by gang members given to prosecutors, the Guerreros Unidos killed and burned the students.

Polish police clashed with hundreds of masked men during march marking National Independence Day in Warsaw.

The clashes began as some of the marchers – said to be members of far-right groups – broke away from the main rally and started to throw stones and flares at the police.

Several people were arrested, and there were reports of injuries.

It is the fourth year in a row that violence has erupted during the march.

In 2013, a group of protesters tried to attack the Russian embassy.

Polish police have used water cannon to disperse hundreds of masked men during march marking National Independence Day in Warsaw photo

Polish police have used water cannon to disperse hundreds of masked men during march marking National Independence Day in Warsaw

On November 11, thousands of people took part in the annual march in Warsaw, which was initially noisy but peaceful.

The violence broke out when a group of people – many of them wearing masks – broke away from the main rally.

They hurled rocks, flares and paving slabs at police, who responded with water cannon.

One man was seen with blood coming from a wound to his head, according to Reuters news agency.

Earlier in the day, President Bronislaw Komorowski led official celebrations in the capital.

The march commemorates the day Poland regained its independence at the end of World War One in 1918.

Before that, Poland had been carved up between Russia, Prussia and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Unemployed EU citizens who go to another member state to claim benefits may be barred from some benefits, the European Court of Justice has ruled.

The ruling on so-called “benefit tourism”, relating to a case in Germany, could set an important legal precedent for the rest of the EU.

Tuesday’s ruling relates to a case involving a Romanian woman and her son living in Germany who had been denied access to a non-contributory subsistence allowance from the German social security system.

The court decided the German authorities were right to refuse her request, and there was no discrimination involved in denying her access to a non-contributory benefit which is available to German citizens.

The European Court of Justice has ruled that unemployed EU citizens who go to another member state to claim benefits may be barred from some benefits 640x360 photo

The European Court of Justice has ruled that unemployed EU citizens who go to another member state to claim benefits may be barred from some benefits

It said the defendant did not have sufficient financial resources to claim residency in Germany after the initial three months and therefore could not claim that the rules excluding her from certain benefits was discriminatory.

More broadly, it said the right of EU citizens to live and work in other member states – the principle of freedom of movement – did not stop states passing legislation of their own excluding migrants from some non-contributory benefits available to their own citizens.

National Parliaments have the “competence to define the extent of the social cover” offered in the way of certain non-contributory benefits, it stated.

“The directive thus seeks to prevent economically inactive European Union citizens from using the host member state’s welfare system to fund their means of subsistence,” the European Court of Justice said in a statement.

“A member state must therefore have the possibility of refusing to grant social benefits to economically inactive European Union citizens who exercise their right to freedom of movement solely in order to obtain another member state’s social assistance.”

The ruling only applies to non-contributory benefits, benefits where the claimant does not make a contribution through the tax system.

The European Commission has said it supports action by member states to tackle abuse of the benefits system by migrants but that it will not countenance restrictions on the principle of freedom of movement and labor across Europe.

Lee Joon-seok, the captain of the Sewol ferry which sank in April, has been found guilty of gross negligence and sentenced to 36 years in prison.

The Sewol ferry was carrying 476 people when it went down. More than 300 died, most of them school students.

Lee Joon-seok was among 15 crew members on trial over the sinking, one of South Korea’s worst maritime disasters.

Prosecutors charged him with homicide and called for the death penalty, but judges acquitted him on that charge.

Lee is in his late 60s, and he accepted in court that he would spend the rest of his days in jail.

Sewol ferry Captain Lee Joon seok has been found guilty of gross negligence and sentenced to 36 years in prison 640x427 photo

Sewol ferry Captain Lee Joon-seok has been found guilty of gross negligence and sentenced to 36 years in prison (photo Yonhap)

The judges said that he was not clearly not the only person responsible for the tragedy and they accepted that his negligence did not amount to an intent to kill.

Crew members did not secure cargo which moved when the vessel took a tight corner, toppling the ferry, and Lee was filmed leaving the sinking ship while many passengers remained inside.

During the trial Lee Joon-seok apologized for abandoning them.

The chief engineer of the ferry, identified by his surname Park, was found guilty of murder and jailed for 30 years.

Thirteen other crew members were given jail sentences of up to 20 years on charges including abandonment and violating maritime law.

Relatives of victims were distraught at the verdict, with some weeping, according to AFP news agency.