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Kenyan judge sentences two cops to death

NAIROBI (Reuters): A Kenyan judge on Wednesday sentenced two police officers to death for killing a colleague and two civilians in 2014. The decision is a fresh sign that authorities are getting tough on police brutality after years in which civilians and human rights groups accused the police of excessive force but officers were rarely charged and almost never convicted.

The government of President Uhuru Kenyatta has said it will fight impunity at a time when it has also arrested some senior public officials on charges of corruption. The Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) said in a statement its investigation found that officers Benjamin Changawa and Stanley Okoti killed their colleague, Joseph Obongo, and two of his relatives, saying they were robbery suspects. Obongo was a bodyguard to a lawmaker.

It said the Director of Public Prosecutions took up the case once the watchdog recommended they be charged with murder. They were convicted this month, the third such verdict arising from an IPOA investigation. “The accused faced no danger to use excessive force to kill the victims and should have performed their duty in most responsible manner,” Judge Stella Mutuku said in her ruling. The police watchdog was formed in 2011 after police were blamed for the deaths of dozens of protesters in the violent aftermath of the disputed 2007 presidential election.

In 2016, two officers were jailed for seven years after a 14-year-old girl was shot dead during a raid on a house in the coastal district of Kwale County in 2014. In April, another policeman was sentenced to 15 years after he was found guilty of killing a man in 2013 he suspected of stealing a mobile phone.

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Missing elite Chinese Varsity alumni spark outcry

BEIJING (AP): Students and alumni of several Chinese universities are sounding the alarm over the apparent detention of more than a dozen young labor activists who have been missing since the weekend. Three recent graduates of the elite Peking University have been taken away by authorities, the Jasic Workers Support Group said in a statement late Tuesday. According to the group, eyewitnesses saw one person being “kidnapped” from the Beijing campus, while others in Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shanghai also disappeared last Friday.

They were involved in a coalition, led by young Marxist activists, that was founded this summer to show solidarity with factory workers at Jasic Technology, a welding equipment manufacturer in southern China. Activists in China are routinely “disappeared” by authorities working for the ruling Communist Party, which is wary of collective action and potential threats to its authority. The young Marxists, however, are an unusual target because they espouse the same values — socialism, workers’ rights and Marxist ideology — for which the party has itself advocated.

The sudden disappearances all occurred at around 9 p.m. on Friday, the Jasic Workers Support Group said. Three others in Wuhan, including one factory worker, were taken away by police on Sunday, though one was released early the next day. Peking University students and alumni have expressed alarm after students published accounts online saying that they were beaten on campus by unidentified men who forced a recent graduate named Zhang Shengye into a car on Friday evening.

One fourth-year history student, writing on the Jasic Workers Support Group’s website, said he was thrown to the ground outside of a lecture hall by five people dressed in black. When he asked them who they were, he recalled, one swore at him and yelled, “If you keep yelling, we’ll keep hitting you!” Shortly afterward, a tall, burly man started kicking his head.

The student said he then saw that someone was being dragged into a car that swiftly drove away. The student who wrote this account could not be reached on Wednesday. Members of the Jasic Workers Support Group, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said they believe he has been forced to leave campus for the time being.



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Israel’s Lieberman resigns as defense minister

JERUSALEM (AA): Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday resigned from his post, one day after a cease-fire was reached between Palestinian resistance factions and Israel.

“I didn’t look for reasons to quit,” Lieberman told a press conference.

He cited Tuesday’s ceasefire deal in the Gaza Strip and Qatari funds for the blockaded Palestinian territory as reasons for his resignation.

“What we are doing now as a country is buying short-term quiet at the cost of our long-term security,” he said. “I did not agree to allow entry of Qatari money [into Gaza], and I had to allow it only after the prime minister announced it.”

Ahead of his press conference Lieberman announced his resignation at a closed-door meeting of members of his Yisrael Beiteinu party, according to the Israeli Broadcasting Authority.

“I am here to officially announce my resignation as defense minister,” he was quoted as saying. “What happened yesterday — the agreement with Hamas — is a surrender to terror; there’s no other interpretation,” Lieberman said.

The hardline defense minister’s resignation could lead to the dissolution of the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), according to sources close to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian resistance group Hamas has hailed Lieberman’s resignation as a “political victory” for the Gaza Strip.

“Lieberman’s resignation is a political victory for Gaza, whose steadfastness has succeeded in causing a political shake in the [Israeli] occupation arena,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Twitter.

“[The resignation] is also a sign of defeat and helplessness in the face of the Palestinian resistance,” he added.

Since Sunday, at least 14 Palestinians have been martyred — by Israeli airstrikes and artillery — across the blockaded Gaza Strip. At least one Israeli officer was reportedly killed and another injured.

Late on Tuesday, an Egypt-brokered truce was reached between Israel and the Gaza-based Palestinian resistance factions.

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Trump names new US ambassador to Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON DC (AFP): President Donald Trump on Tuesday tapped John Abizaid, a top US general from the Iraq war who has studied the Middle East for years, as ambassador to Saudi Arabia amid growing friction between the longstanding allies.

Abizaid is a fluent Arabic speaker of Lebanese Christian descent who headed US Central Command — which covers the Middle East — during the Iraq war from shortly after the US invasion in 2003 through 2007.

The 67-year-old wrote his master’s thesis at Harvard University about Saudi Arabia, studying how the kingdom makes its decisions on defense spending, in a paper that won acclaim in academic circles.

A California native, Abizaid graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point and later won a scholarship to study in Jordan, where he honed his Arabic, which he did not speak as a child.

Trump has been slow in filling key posts amid his promises to shake up Washington. But the absence of an ambassador in Riyadh, nearly two years into his presidency, has become more glaring amid rising tensions between the countries.

Trump, who quickly forged a close relationship with Saudi Arabia upon taking office, has been forced to criticize the kingdom and its powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, after a team from the kingdom killed a US-based critical journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Amid a US souring on the heir apparent, the United States has also curbed cooperation and demanded a halt to the Saudi-led military campaign against rebels in Yemen that has contributed to a humanitarian crisis believed to be the worst in the world.

But US pleas — made by telephone rather than in person by an ambassador — have failed to sway the Saudis.

Abizaid requires confirmation from the Senate, which would appear likely as the retired four-star general has long enjoyed respect in Washington.

Shortly after taking over as CENTCOM commander, Abizaid told reporters that US forces were facing a “classical guerrilla-type campaign” from remnants of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

His choice of words contradicted his bosses, who initially tried to portray the Iraq invasion as a quick victory, but then defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not move to replace him amid admiration for Abizaid’s skills.

And soon after retiring in 2007, Abizaid said that, while the United States should try to prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, “there are ways to live with a nuclear Iran,” describing the clerical state’s behavior as rational and noting the United States also dealt with a nuclear-armed Soviet Union.

Trump has championed a hard line on Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional rival.

The real estate mogul turned president has shown a fondness for appointing retired generals, with Jim Mattis as defense secretary and John Kelly as his chief of staff.

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Chinese premier says no winner in trade war with US

ANKARA (AA): The prime minister of China said Tuesday there are no winners in a trade war with the U.S.

“There is no winner in the trade war,” Li Keqiang said at the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Singapore where he addressed the trade war, the South China Sea dispute and the ASEAN market region.

He said China does not wish to see flaws in the global trade chain that can affect other countries.

Turning to the South China Sea, he said common effort is needed to resolve the issue and China wished the process to solve problems in the disputed areas to be resolved in three years.

Keqiang also said China is working to make the ASEAN market region even more dynamic and Beijing has the potential to do that.

The summit began Tuesday and will continue until Thursday.

Leaders of China, India, Japan, South Korea, Russia, Australia and of 10 ASEAN countries are expected to participate in the summit.

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US chose wrong path on sanctions, will be defeated

GENEVA (AFP): America has chosen the wrong path in reimposing sanctions on Iran and will be defeated, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Wednesday, according to the Tasnim news agency.

The United States reinstated sanctions targeting Iran’s oil industry on Nov. 5 as it seeks to force the Islamic Republic to accept tougher curbs on its nuclear programme, halt its development of ballistic missiles as well as its support for proxy forces in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.
“The Americans will definitely be defeated in this path. The path they have chosen is wrong and incorrect,” Rouhani said. “If they are being honest and they are looking for regional security, this is not the path. If they are being honest and respect the Iranian people, this is not the path.”

He added, “They have made themselves more infamous in the world and in front of our people. It’s clear for everyone that the incorrect and cruel sanctions of America will harm the dear and honourable people of our country.”

US National Security Adviser John Bolton said Tuesday that Washington intends to step up enforcement of sanctions on the Islamic Republic and “squeeze them very hard.”

President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions after withdrew the United States from world powers’ 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, reached before he took office.

The other signatories – Germany, France, Britain, Russia and China remain committed to the deal. Iran has said it will stay in it only if the other powers preserve its economic benefits against US pressure.

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Saudi-led coalition agrees to evacuate injured Houthis from Yemen: UK Office

LONDON (Sputnik): The Saudi-led coalition, supporting the Yemeni internationally-recognized government in the civil conflict with the Houthis, has agreed to allow the UN to evacuate up to 50 injured rebels to neighbouring Oman after the visit of UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the UK Foreign Office said.

“The Saudi-led Coalition have agreed to the evacuation of wounded Houthis from Yemen, one of the key stumbling blocks to the UN Geneva talks in September. Subject to final reassurances, Coalition forces will now permit the UN to oversee a Houthi medical evacuation, including up to 50 wounded fighters, to Oman, ahead of another proposed round of peace talks in Sweden later this month,” the office said in a statement published on its official website.

According to the office’s statement, during his trip, the foreign secretary had meetings with the Yemeni government as well as the Saudi and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ones.

“Serious consideration is being given to a set of political ideas and confidence-building measures that would allow for the start of political talks in Sweden by the end of November,” the statement continued.

In September, the United Nations attempted to hold peace talks between the warring parties in Geneva, however, the negotiations never took place, with the Houthi side claiming that the coalition had prevented them from leaving the country.

The coalition said the Houthi delegation were free to leave Yemen, but failed to use the opportunity.

Another attempt to hold the talks might take place soon, as the United Nations said in late October that the organization was awaiting answers from the three sides on whether they would attend peace talks in Sweden within 30 days. The civil war between the Yemeni government and the Houthi rebels broke out in 2015. The Houthis went on to seize vast territories in the northwest of the country, occupying the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

The Yemeni government was forced to move to the city of Aden, in the south of the country, making it Yemen’s de facto capital.

However, the Yemeni president was later forced to flee the country to Saudi Arabia when the rebels were approaching Aden.

The Saudi-led coalition interfered in the conflict to prevent the Houthi’s advancement in the south and has been carrying out airstrikes ever since.


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Trump continues offensive against France’s Macron

WASHINGTON (AA): U.S. President Donald Trump went on a prolific Twitter tear against his French counterpart Tuesday, slamming Emmanuel Macron for what he called low approval ratings and high unemployment.

“The problem is that Emmanuel suffers from a very low Approval Rating in France, 26%, and an unemployment rate of almost 10%,” Trump said. “He was just trying to get onto another subject. By the way, there is no country more Nationalist than France, very proud people-and rightfully so!”

“MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!” Trump added, mirroring his campaign slogan.

Trump was referring to a speech Macron delivered over the weekend on the centenary of World War I in which the French president derided the perils of nationalism in a veiled critique of Trump’s America First doctrine. During his address, Macron slammed countries who put “our interests first,” and warned “our demons are resurfacing” on the Great War’s anniversary.

Prior to the solemn commemoration, Macron urged the creation of a European military, telling French radio: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.”

He was alluding to Trump’s decision to withdraw from a 1987 nuclear missile treaty with Russia that was largely designed to stave off the prospects of nuclear war in Europe. Trump took exception last week to the idea that France needs protection from the U.S., calling it “very insulting,” and he continued to fume against the call Tuesday on Twitter.

“Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France?” he said. “They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!”


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Gaza resistance factions announce ceasefire with Israel

JERUSALEM (AA): An Egypt-brokered ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has finally been reached following weeks of intense shuttle diplomacy by Egyptian officials, Gaza-based resistance factions announced Tuesday evening.

“Egyptian efforts have succeeded in hammering out a ceasefire between the resistance and the enemy [i.e., Israel],” the factions declared in a joint statement.

“The resistance will commit to the terms of the agreement as long as Israel does the same,” the statement read.

The Israeli cabinet, for its part, has instructed the army to continue military operations in Gaza “as necessary”, according to an official statement. The announcements come following two days of military escalations between Israel and Palestinian resistance factions.

Since Sunday, at least 14 Palestinians have been martyred — by Israeli airstrikes and artillery — across the blockaded Gaza Strip.

On Sunday night, seven Palestinians were martyred, including a senior Hamas commander, in a botched Israeli ground incursion inside the Gaza Strip.

At least one Israeli officer was reportedly killed and another injured during the deadly raid.

The Israeli army claims the attacks are in response to rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel.

Meanwhile, a senior Israeli official on Tuesday said that Israel’s defense establishment broadly supported the notion of reaching a ceasefire with Palestinian resistance factions in Gaza, Israeli media reported Tuesday.

“The entire [Israeli] defense establishment… agrees on the need to halt hostilities against Gaza,” Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying.

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s office, however, has described reports that Lieberman, too, supported a ceasefire as “fake news”.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked (of the right-wing Jewish Home party), for their part, have also stated their opposition to a truce.

The Israeli army, meanwhile, says it has struck 160 targets across the Gaza Strip since Sunday, including four positions affiliated with Hamas, which has governed the coastal enclave since 2007. The army also claims that its Iron Dome missile-defense system successfully intercepted more than 100 out of 460 rockets recently fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

Since Sunday, at least 14 Palestinians have been martyred — by Israeli airstrikes and artillery — across the blockaded Gaza Strip.

And on Sunday night, seven Palestinians were martyred, including a senior Hamas commander, in a botched Israeli ground incursion inside the strip.

At least one Israeli officer was reportedly killed and another injured during the deadly raid.

Since March 30, more than 200 Palestinians have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire — and thousands more injured — while taking part in ongoing rallies along the Gaza-Israel buffer zone.


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Trump hopes OPEC will refrain from oil production cuts

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump expressed hope on Monday that OPEC and the cartel’s heavyweight Saudi Arabia would refrain from production cuts, in an effort to keep crude oil prices low in the global market. “Hopefully, Saudi Arabia and OPEC will not be cutting oil production. Oil prices should be much lower based on supply!” Trump wrote on Twitter.

In addition to the US granting waivers to eight major importing nations of Iranian crude, rising oil production worldwide has also created fears of oversupply in the global market, and has pushed crude prices into the bear market territory. International benchmark Brent crude lost around 19 percent since the beginning of October, hitting as low as $68.88 per barrel on Monday its lowest level since April 10, according to official data. American benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) fell on 11 out of the past 12 days to plummet 13 percent since Oct. 26. WTI reached as low as $58.69 a barrel on Monday, marking its lowest level since Feb. 14.

The US’ crude oil production climbed to a fresh record high of 11.6 million barrels per day (bpd) for the week ending Nov. 2, according to the country’s Energy Information Administration. (AA)