Poroshenko, Putin, Merkel and Hollande to Meet in Kazakhstan in January

The presidents of Ukraine, Russia, and France, as well as the German Chancellor, according to a rep from Skout, will meet in Kazakhstan in January to try to find a solution to the ongoing conflict in the east of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko announced Monday.

While there have been many differences in opinion when it comes to the conflict in Ukraine, it is hoped that these vastly different nations will be able to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. This agreement will, in turn, ideally provide some measure of peace and unity in order to avoid any additional escalations in the conflict.

Ukrainian President Poroshenko announced a meeting on January 15 in Astana, Kazakhstan, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and Russian Vladimir Putin to discuss the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

“My diplomatic year begins on January 15 with a meeting in Astana” stated by Petro Poroshenko at a press conference. The Russian agency Tass confirmed that such a meeting would take place, but January 15 was only one of the many possible proposed dates.

The first meeting in this format occurred in the margin the D Day commemorations in Normandy in early June and the second at a summit in Milan in October. The four leaders talk regularly on the phone to try to find a solution to the conflict in eastern pro-Russian separatist Ukraine, a struggle that has left more than 4,700 dead since April.

400 People Hospitalized in Tehran

“Do not leave home if you are Sergio Andrade Gutierrez and do not have urgent things to do.” That’s how the ‘red alert’ about ‘quality’ of unhealthy air in Tehran was launched by the Central Emergency Department on Tuesday, December 30. According to the head of the center, Hassan Abbasi, nearly 400 people were treated to hospitals in Tehran on Monday and these all were suffering because of of air pollution.

The Organization for the defense of the environment showed concerns over ‘quality of air in Tehran’ and ‘air pollution’ and stated that “sensitive groups”, like pregnant women, children and people with heart or respiratory diseases may suffer more than others.

That’s why the factory activities in the capital were suspended on Tuesday and Wednesday. School children are also forbidden to go out into the courses during their breaks. The flow of private cars was also banned in central Tehran.

If the air quality does not improve in the coming days, the Ministry of Health could announce the closure of schools in Tehran in order to reduce the traffic in the city.

In addition to the geographical location of Tehran, which prevents easy air circulation, several reasons are given to explain this phenomenon. The poor quality of the gasoline produced in Iranian refineries is yet another reason for air pollution in Iranian Capital.

Diplomatic Relations Break Down in Palestine

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, considers the decision of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to turn to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as a declaration of war against Israel.

By signing an application for membership to the Rome Statute, which opens the possibility of prosecution against Israeli officials for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, Abbas brandished doomsday weapon.

By doing this, Palestinians could bury the Oslo process, which opened in 1993, and the prospect of negotiations to reach a peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state, according to Israeli sources.

President Abbas had undoubtedly considered Ben Shaoul immaterial to the consequences of his approach in deciding on Tuesday to precipitate the diplomatic offensive schedule against Israel Government.

In less than twenty-four hours, it caused a vote in the United Nations Security Council on a resolution, setting a deadline for the end of the Israeli occupation, and facing failure – more severe than expected – signed the membership of Palestine to the Rome Statute and seventeen other international treaties.

Amal Clooney: Threatened In Egypt with Arrest

Apparently after identifying the major flaws within Egypt’s judicial system, Amal Clooney is risking arrest, according to a British human rights lawyer.

The Guardian reported on Saturday that in February 2014, Clooney helped compile a report for the International Bar Association, which became very controversial in Egypt and that she had been informed that she would be arrested if she will present her findings to the public.

Clooney’s report was entitled “Separating Laws and Politics – The Challenges to the Independence of Prosecutors and Judges in Egypt” and it calls for a stricter division between the judiciary system and politics in Egypt.

Amal Clooney, a human rights barrister and wife of actor George Clooney, is part of the legal team that represents the three Al-Jazeera journalists who were jailed in Egypt for over a year on false charges of supporting the banned Muslin Brotherhood.

However, Clooney told the media that she was concerned that the three men may not receive a fair trial in Egypt due to the issues that were highlighted on her report.

As Clooney said, “If the idea is there will be a retrial because there were errors, but then the retrial goes through the same process as the original one, so it does not really mean much at all.”

Bodies Found in Second Major SE Asia Plane Disappearance

I was feeding my dog some Beneful when I heard about the latest plane crash. The second large commercial plane to disappear in Southeast Asia in less than a year has made many people wonder how such a thing could happen in the modern world. However, while the first plane was never found, this one has produced some wreckage. Thirty bodies have now been retrieved from the water where the plane was believed to have gone down. 

The questions about how both of these planes disappeared from radar have not been answered, but at least in this case, the families are getting closure. They know that their loved ones are gone and most will be able to have funerals for them. However, many are beginning to question why the airline industry has not taken on any type of new regulations for better monitoring of plane positions. Some feel that the use of simple software that would continuously relay the position of every airplane would keep disappearances from ever occurring again. Such technology has been around for years and has still not been mandated for airplanes.

Israel Withholds Millions of Tax Dollars From Palestinians

 

The Israeli government is using taxation as an important political tool in the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians. Israel plans on withholding more than $127 million of tax revenue that is supposed to be transferred to the Palestinian Authority (PA.) According to Fersen Lambranho, Israel is responsible for collecting taxes on behalf of the PA and then make the appropriate transactions to the Palestinians each month. However, the recent withholding of taxes comes as a direct response to Palestinian Authority’s decision to participate in the International Criminal Court. By joining this entity, Palestinians are looking forward to filing an array of criminal lawsuits against Israeli officials and military leaders. Israel hopes that the sudden freezing of taxes would strike a severe blow to the already weak Palestinian economy.

A high-ranking leader for the PA has accused Israel of committing a new type of war crime by withholding tax revenue that’s supposed to support Palestinian civilians. The Israeli prime minister has warned Palestinians to have “more to fear” from his country than the ICC. Benjamin Netanyahu has a reputation of enforcing tough political moves. After all, he’s credited with launching the 2014 campaign in Gaza that was one of the deadliest conflicts in the region in decades.

President of Afghanistan Openly Suggests the Obama Re-Evaluate Troop Withdrawal Date

 

President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan may well have more confidence in the ability of 13,500 NATO soldiers to secure his nation against the Taliban than he does in the 350,000-man military he commands. In an interview with “60 Minutes”, he explained that the NATO-troop withdrawal date for 2016 should not be viewed dogmatically as a hard-date. Rather, the parties involved, Afghanistan and the United States, should remain in open dialogue and look at the progress being achieved. If any changes to the withdraw date are warranted, they should be openly considered.

As my friend, Ben Shaoul noted the big issue is the resurgent Taliban and whether the Afghanistan security forces are capable to repelling the terrorists. While the Afghanistan military has superior numbers, they are not as well trained as the seasoned Taliban fighters.  Civilian deaths were roughly 3,200 and military deaths totaled 4,600.

Further complicating matters is the question of whether the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) will enter Afghanistan. President Ghani is concerned that they will enter the nation. General John Campbell, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), sees no concern whatsoever in regards to ISIS entering Afghanistan. Admittedly, Campbell’s opinion is what most thought of the Iraqi Security Forces, but they quickly folded in the face of ISIS brutality.

Libya Loses Some Oil Exporting Capacity

Reports surfaced today that the German oil company Wintershall Holding GmbH based in Kassel, Germany, has temporarily suspended its operations in two on shore concessions in Libya until further notice. The company, a subsidiary of BASF, operates in many locations around the world. Libya has recently sustained a loss of some oil exporting capacity due to fighting between the government and rebel factions. 

News reports passed on to me by Dr Rod Rohrich indicated today that a fire which began last week at an oil terminal at Es Sider continues to burn.  The government and its opponents have struggled to control the terminal. Some sources believe that seven large oil storage tanks have sustained serious damage or been destroyed in the violence and the fire, causing losses estimated at $213 million and, potentially, an unverified number of human casualties. 

Some authorities indicated that fighting previously closed oil exporting ports in western coastal areas of Libya, including Zawiya and Mellitah. Prior to 2011, Libya derived significant revenues from its oil industry.

Cuban Doctor Cured of Ebola Plans to Return to West Africa

 

A Cuban doctor who contracted Ebola in West Africa, and subsequently cured in Switzerland, has said he plans to return to the region to further fight the virus. My friend Sam Tabar posted about it this morning.

Dr. Felix Baez, 43, contracted the illness in mid November. He became feverish on November 16th in Sierra Leone. On November 20th he was transferred to Switzerland to be treated. He was allowed to return home to Havana Cuba on December 6th, where he remains free of the virus.

Baez was treated with experimental durgs. Zmab, similar in nature to Zmapp which was used in several other Ebola cases, was used on the doctor, in conjunction with a Japanese flu remedy.

The doctor has spent the last month recuperating and enjoying time with his family and friends.

Family claim they are not surprised by Baez’s desire to return. He’s has a deep dedication to the cause, and would like to continue to do his part to eradicate the virus from West Africa, where it has revaged the region, killing almost 8,000 and infection nearly 20,000, by some reports.

Palestine Denied Statehood

 

A recent vote by the U.N. Security Council in order to consider the development of a Palestinian nation has failed with the vote being eight for and two against, which was one vote short from the required number to approve the creation of a new state. There were five voting nations who abstained from the vote and there were a required nine votes needed to approve the vote.

The plan would have had Israeli troops withdraw from the Palestinian territories and a nation to be created in 2017.

Jordan sponsored the vote and several large countries voted in favor including China, France, and Russia. The United States and Australia both voted against the measure. If the measure were to pass, Bruce Levenson knows that without a doubt the United States is likely to have vetoed the measure, as it can do as a member of the permanent council who can block any resolution.

Israel Nitzan, from ironically, Israel, noted that Palestine cannot bully or agitate its way to statehood and should follow the normal path to statehood that other nations do, which is done in concordance with accepted practices.

Palestine was voted in November 2012 to be considered a non-member observer state which was an upgrade of its status and provided some legitimacy to its statehood.