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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

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US drone strikes down since curbs were imposed


WASHINGTON (Agencies) - Six months after President Obama vowed to change his administrations approach to lethal drone missile strikes, the pace of aerial attacks has fallen sharply, thanks in part to stricter targeting criteria.Obama also promised to make the drone campaign more transparent. But a blanket of secrecy thus far has remained firmly in place.The Democrat-led Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Nov. 5 to require the administration to disclose how many civilians and militants were killed by drones each year. That tally has never been publicly available.The panel also voted to impose additional intelligence demands before the White House could authorize a drone strike against a U.S. citizen or resident alien. Drones have killed five Americans since 2002, although only one, Al Qaeda operative Anwar Awlaki, was officially marked for death.The American people should be given basic facts about mistakes when they are made, and they should also be given the rules that the government must follow when targeting and killing an American involved in terrorist activities, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a committee member, said in a statement.The proposed restrictions, however, part of a broader intelligence bill, may not survive. Republicans on the Senate panel voted for the bill, but most opposed the drone amendments. Key lawmakers in the GOP-controlled House also oppose the provisions.The White House has yet to take a position. Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the administration already was transparent concerning drones.The president has committed to undertaking these activities with the greatest possible transparency, and we will continue to share as much information as possible with the American people, the Congress and the international community, she said.In a speech in May at National Defense University, Obama said he had signed a policy directive that set new standards before the White House would approve targeted killing by drones.Obama said the CIA had to show that a proposed target posed a continuing imminent threat to Americans, rather than a significant threat, the previous standard. In addition, no attack would be ordered without near certainty that civilians would not be harmed, the president said.The number of strikes already had fallen before May, but the new rules served to cut the frequency further.The Long War Journal, which tracks drone attacks through local news reports, has counted 22 strikes this year in Yemen, down from 42 last year. It has counted 25 attacks in Pakistan this year, down from 46 last year and a peak of 117 in 2010. A single strike has been reported in Somalia this year.Administration officials have said drone strikes have killed relatively few civilians, but have refused to say how many. The Long War Journal says 11 civilians have been killed in Pakistan this year and two in Yemen; other estimates are higher.In June, a drone-launched missile hit an SUV carrying an Al Qaeda commander in Yemen. CIA officers didnt realize that his younger brother also was in vehicle, according to U.S. officials who would not be named because the operation is classified. The CIA later put the victims age at between 6 and 13.The CIA has given a classified briefing to Congress on the death, but has refused to acknowledge it publicly. The NSAs Hayden declined to comment.Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the number of noncombatant deaths was significantly lower than critics claimed. She said she had urged the White House to disclose the data so the American people know how careful these strikes have been.In part, drone strikes have declined because there are fewer identified terrorist leaders to hit. In Pakistan, the core leadership of the Al Qaeda network founded by Osama bin Laden has been decimated, although remnants are still active.But experts say the Nov. 1 drone strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud, who helped organize the suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers and contractors in December 2009 in eastern Afghanistan, proves that drones remain a vital counter-terrorism weapon.Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which is based in Yemen, has weakened but is still virulent. Nine U.S. drone strikes were launched against the group in August after authorities detected a plot against U.S. embassies. But the pace has dropped to about two a month since then.Harold Koh, who served as State Department legal advisor in Obamas first term, said in an email that the new targeting standards had disciplined the drone program.But Koh, now a professor at Yale Law School, said he saw little or no movement on making the program more transparent, a goal he believes is necessary to boost the programs legitimacy abroad.In May, White House aides indicated that the Pentagon would take over at least some covert drone operations from the CIA. The military operates under different legal statutes than the CIA, and can provide more information to the public.That plan has stalled, however, due to logistical, bureaucratic and legal concerns.The CIA is resisting giving up its drones, especially in Pakistan, where the government almost certainly would oppose U.S. military operations. Some counter-terrorism officials also worry that the Pentagon wont be able to act as quickly as the CIA.Leon E. Panetta, who served as CIA director from 2009 to 2011 and as secretary of Defense from 2011 to 2013, favors shifting more drone operations to the military.We made a great deal of progress at the CIA, and it was a very effective operation in terms of establishing targets and conducting very specific strikes at going after core Al Qaeda leadership, he said on CBS Face the Nation on Nov. 10.The Pentagon is beginning to develop that kind of capability, he said. I think ultimately the more we can probably put into the military the better, because its a much more open process.

ECP to finalize preparations for LG polls


RAWALPINDI (Online) - The meeting of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to prepare new electoral schedule for LG polls would be held today (Tuesday).ECP has also unblocked voters' lists of Sindh and Balochistan, allowing for further corrections and additions; during what the spokesman ECP has described finalization of voters' lists from all four Provinces.The agenda also covers such issues as provision(s) of ballot papers, magnetic ink, and also the possible deployment of Army during LG polls.

Karachi: 10 accused arrested


KARACHI (Dunya News) – According to details, police conducted a raid in Mahmoodabad and its surrounding areas and arrested 10 accused involved in various crimes.Police sources informed media that four of the accused were absconders and four others were kidnapers.Sources further informed that the accused were also involved in street crimes. Police have also recovered arms, stolen mobile phones and a motorcycle from their possession.

Lahore: Couple killed in robbery attempt


LAHORE (Dunya News) – According to details, 70-year-old Riaz and his wife were killed in their house in Muslim Town area of Lahore on Monday.Police sources informed that Muhammad Riaz was killed with a sharp-edged weapon while his wife was strangulated to death.Residents of the area nabbed a man, named Ghulam Dastagir, who was fleeing from the house and handed him over to police.Meanwhile, SP CIA, Umar Virk has termed the incident as a robbery attempt. Further investigation is underway.

Culprits behind Rawalpindi tragedy identified


RAWALPINDI (Dunya News) – Situation remained tense in Rawalpindi as traders of Raja Bazar took to the street on Monday after curfew was lifted.The protesters pelted stones on media personnel while army continued patrolling sensitive areas to avert any untoward incident.The judicial commission and fact finding committee formed to probe the incident has started their work. Police and district administration have provided initial details to the fact finding committee. More than 40 culprits involved in the incident have identified with the help of CCTV cameras.Majority of attackers belonged to other cities. Police teams will also visit Parachinar and Gilgit-Baltistan and seek assistance of intelligence agencies to arrest the culprits.On the other hand, CM Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif presided a high level meeting on Monday. The meeting decided to suspend RPO Rawalpindi Zaeem Iqbal on negligence. He will be replaced by IG Counter Terrorism Department, Aftab Cheema.Meanwhile, all public and private schools and market in Rawalpindi will remain open today (Tuesday).The sectarian clash that prompted the curfew occurred Friday. Ten people were killed in the clash and 56 people were wounded.

US to keep Patriot missiles in Turkey for another year


WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States will keep two Patriot missile batteries in Turkey for another year to help bolster the countrys air defenses against threats from Syrias civil war, the Pentagon said Monday.Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told Turkeys Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu of Washingtons decision in talks at the Pentagon that focused on the conflict in Syria, a spokesman said.Hagel conveyed to Minister Davutoglu that the United States has decided to continue its contribution of two Patriot batteries under NATO command and control for up to one additional year, Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said in a statement.Turkey had made a formal request to NATO to extend the deployment of the surface-to-air Patriot missiles, which are designed to counter aircraft and short-range missiles.The United States, the Netherlands and Germany have provided a total of six Patriots along the Turkish border with Syria.Turkey was once an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad but now backs the opposition fighting to topple the embattled leader.At Mondays talks, Hagel and Davutoglu also discussed the imperative to eliminate the regimes chemical weapons and achieve a political transition in Syria, Woog said.Ankara has faced an influx of refugees from Syria, and Hagel praised Turkeys actions to provide humanitarian relief to the people of Syria, he added.The 32-month war has reportedly killed more than 120,000 people and displaced millions.

Russia and Egypt strike missile deal: Moscow


MOSCOW (AFP) - The head of Russias state industrial holding company said on Monday that Moscow had reached an agreement to deliver air defence systems to the Egyptian army.Rostec chief Sergey Chemezovs comments came in the wake of a visit to Cairo last week by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu devoted to military and diplomatic ties.Chemezov told Russias state-run RIA Novosti news agency that some contracts (with Egypt) have already been signed -- particularly one concerning air defence systems.He did not provide any financial details and did not specify which type of missiles the deal involved.Chemezov added that the two sides were also discussing the delivery of Russian helicopters and jets.Moscows Vedomosti business daily reported on Friday that the deals under discussion were worth more than $2 billion and could be financed by Saudi Arabia.Chemezov confirmed that Egypts new rulers were discussing funding options with their regional allies and also want to ask Russia to extend them a corresponding loan.The Soviet Union was the main supplier of arms to Egypt in the 1960s and early 1970s, but cooperation declined after Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty and Cairo began receiving generous US aid.But Washington suspended some of its military aid to Egypt after the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July, and Moscow has been keen to fill the resulting void.

Seven children killed in Afghan blast: official


KABUL (AFP) - Seven schoolchildren were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb in southeastern Afghanistan on Monday, an official said.The bomb was planted on the side of a main road in the Khairkot district of Paktika province, and exploded when the children stepped on it while playing.This afternoon as a result of the mine explosion in Khairkot, seven children from one family lost their lives, provincial spokesman Mokhlis Afghan told AFP.He said they were aged 7-12 and were in elementary school. The injured children were taken to hospital.No one has yet claimed responsibility for the incident, but roadside bombs are the Talibans weapon of choice in their 12-year war against US-led and Afghan security forces.

Kerry says won't visit Israel this weekend


WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he would not be able to visit Israel over the coming weekend, despite an announcement by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Instead, Kerry said he would try to visit Israel again after the November 28 Thanksgiving holiday in the United States.Netanyahu told his ministers on Sunday at his weekly cabinet meeting that he would meet with Kerry in Jerusalem on Friday for more talks on the nuclear negotiations with Iran and the Middle East peace process.But Kerry told reporters: It looks as if I probably will not be able to get there over the course of this weekend. But I am committed to going in order to engage in the ongoing discussions that we are currently engaged in shortly after the Thanksgiving break, as soon as we can work out the timings.It will be his eighth visit to Israel and the West Bank since he took up the post as Americas top diplomat in February.Kerry was speaking after talks with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the State Department.

Sardinia flash floods leave nine dead


ROME (AFP) - Flash floods on the Italian holiday island of Sardinia Monday left nine people dead as rivers broke their banks and a cyclone smashed cars, flooded homes and brought down road bridges.The worst affected area was in and around the city of Olbia in the islands northeast -- a ferry port and popular destination in the summer months.Three people from the same family died when a road bridge collapsed onto their van near Olbia, while a mother and daughter were found dead in a car that was swept away in the city, the ANSA news agency reported, citing officials.A police car with four officers that had been escorting an ambulance was also swept away by the heavy rain and high winds of a cyclone named Cleopatra.Three of the officers were rescued by emergency services but a fourth died.The victims also included a 64-year-old woman who died in her flooded home in the village of Uras in southwestern Sardinia, the report said.Her husband has been taken to hospital with hypothermia and hundreds of villagers are spending the night sheltering in a local sports hall.An eighth victim, a man, was reported killed in another bridge collapse while a 90-year-old woman was found dead in a flooded home near Nuoro in the mountainous central part of the island.In Olbia, hundreds of residents took to Facebook to offer their homes as shelter for the night to those forced out of their houses on a special group entitled: Let us open our homes to our fellow citizens.

Qatar vows to protect World Cup workers


DOHA (AFP) - Qatar pledged Monday to ensure respect for labourers rights after Amnesty International urged the energy-rich Gulf state to end the alarming abuse of migrants working on football World Cup infrastructure.A 169-page Amnesty report called on world football governing body FIFA to press Qatar to improve labour conditions, alleging exploitation of the workers, mostly from South or Southeast Asia.In response, the organising committee in Doha, which rejects claims of slavery-style conditions on construction sites in the worlds wealthiest nation per capita, pledged to impose respect for workers rights.The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee (Q22) said it had held constructive talks with Amnesty on Sunday on the conditions of foreign labourers, and that the dialogue would continue right up to the tournament.A Workers Welfare Standards setting clear guidelines from recruitment to repatriation is to be issued at the end of this year, it said in a statement.It stressed that compliance would be a contractual obligation for companies working on Q22 projects and would be robustly monitored.In a damning report, however, Amnesty said its researchers had heard one construction firm manager use the term animals to describe migrant workers.Amnesty secretary general Salil Shetty said the findings indicated an alarming level of exploitation in Qatar, and called the abuses widespread and not isolated.FIFA has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup, he said.After meeting Qatars emir and prime minister on November 9 in Doha, FIFA chief Sepp Blatter said the issue of working conditions was being addressed.On Monday, FIFA said human rights must be respected.FIFA has made very clear... that it upholds respect for human rights and the application of international norms of behaviour as a principle and part of all our activities, it said.It said that it understood and shared Amnestys efforts to ensure justice and respect for rights, adding it expects the hosts of its competitions fully respect these.German trade union chief Michael Sommer, meanwhile, called for FIFA to pull the World Cup from Qatar unless the country improves conditions of migrant workers.We urge an immediate end to forced labour conditions or the World Cup be withdrawn from Qatar, said the president of the Federation of German Trade Unions (DGB), Michael Sommer.And a South Asian rights group called for a boycott of the tournament in Qatar.The preparations provide an opportunity to expose the treatment of migrant workers by a rich nation, said Suhas Chakma, director of the New Delhi-based Asian Centre for Human Rights.Chakma said countries which support human rights should boycott the event.

Football: Gerrard confident England will avoid Germany rout


LONDON (AFP) - England captain Steven Gerrard has vowed his side will not be humiliated by Germany in a friendly international at Londons Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.Gerrard was a member of the England side that crashed out of the 2010 World Cup after a 4-1 defeat by old rivals Germany in South Africa.England were outclassed in Bloemfontein by Joachim Loews men -- but Liverpool midfielder Gerrard warned Germany not to expect such an easy ride in London.Ahead of equalling Bobby Moores record of 108 England caps, Gerrard said: I would say we are (better) now, and the reason I say that I feel that if we were to meet Germany tomorrow in a World Cup situation I dont think we would leave the pitch having been beaten 4-1.I do feel we are a lot stronger. There is a good mix of youth and experience in the squad at the moment. We are all moving forward and improving all the time.I look back to the Chile result (losing 2-0 in a friendly at Wembley on Friday) and I come away from that game feeling different from a lot of people, having read what I read.Im really confident that if we were to meet Chile further on into a World Cup competition we would have the players at full strength to go and beat them.They are always physical encounters and even though it is a friendly it is a game all the players are desperate to win and bounce back from the Chile performance.I know they (Germany) have got fantastic players, and not just in the starting XI, I know they are going to rest a few or make some changes.These are Champions League players that are coming in to replace the players that are being rested. It shows how strong they are in most positions and how much strength in depth they have got.At 33 years-old Gerrard is being managed through the internationals with the help of injections on a hip problem after starting every single Premier League game for his club this season.I have them every couple of years, he said.I think my game returned when I had them two years ago. I surprised myself really and my game has been really good so Im hoping I can get the same return from this set Ive had.Im alright. Ive been carrying a niggle for the past two or three games around the hip area so Ive had some treatment in my back area as I have done for many years to stay on top of it.Its certainly a lot better than it was a week or 10 days ago.Roy Hodgson will be out to prevent back-to-back England defeats at Wembley for the first time in 36 years and will give Adam Lallana another chance to stake a claim for a Brazil 2014 squad spot after the Southampton midfielder made his international debut against Chile.

Messi's injury problems may be his own fault


MADRID (AP) - Lionel Messi seems to keep getting injured these days, and he could be the one to blame for his own troubles.The four-time world player of the year hurt his left hamstring while playing for Barcelona on Nov. 10 and will be sidelined for 6-to-8 weeks, keeping him off the field until after Christmas.Trainer Fernando Signorini, who has worked closely with Messi, tells The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he is a kid who doesnt know how to manage himself because he is so passionate for the sport. Someone has to set limits for him.Prior to his most recent injury, Messi said he was not yet 100 percent recovered from the last one.

Rossi scores in Italy's 2-2 draw with Nigeria


LONDON (AP) - Giuseppe Rossi put his injury torment behind him by scoring on his first Italy start in two years in a lively 2-2 draw with Nigeria on Monday.The New Jersey-born striker took just 12 minutes to find the net for the first time in almost 30 months for Italy in a display that will raise his hopes of making the World Cup squad next year.It was another U.S.-born striker who provided Nigerias equalizer in the international friendly, when Bright Dike headed in from Shola Ameobis cross in the 35th minute. Ameobi found the target himself four minutes later with a slick volley.But Nigerias lead was erased a minute after halftime when Rossi helped to set up Emanuele Giaccherinis equalizer. The Italians were repeatedly denied a winner by goalkeeper Austine Ejide.

Golf: Pebble Beach secures PGA spot through 2014


PEBBLE BEACH (AFP) - The Pebble Beach National Pro-Am will remain on the US PGA Tour through 2024 under a 10-year sponsorship extension with AT&T announced Monday.The deal, in place since 1986, is the second-oldest current corporate presenter deal on the US tour. It was set to expire after next years edition of the event, set for February 6-9 on the Monterey Peninsula of California.The unique $6.6 million tournament, once known as the Bing Crosby Clambake when the late actor served as host, features multiple courses and amateur players, often including famous movie actors and sporting celebrities, playing in groups alongside touring professionals.Bill Murray, whose roles include a famous turn in the golf movie Caddyshack, won the Pro-Am crown in 2011.Beyond its popularity among players, celebrities and fans, the tournament has a history of making a meaningful difference in the community by contributing more than $110 million to deserving programs, US PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said.

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