Japan sets up defences ahead of North Korea rocket launch

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Japan has set up anti-missile defences on the Okinawa islands ahead of a planned rocket launch by North Korea.

A Japan naval vessel transported Patriot missiles and related radar equipment to the port of Ishigaki island on Wednesday.

The North Korean state news agency announced a week ago, the intended launch of a satellite into space, some time between the 10th and 22nd of   December.

Senior representatives from Japan the US and South Korea condemn the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test that violates UN resolutions.

“We all agree that we will continue diplomatic efforts until the last minute. The international community will take firm action if North Korea goes ahead with the launch,” said Shinsuke Sugiyama, Head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau.

The J-alert emergency warning system has been tested across Japan, to swiftly let the public know if the missile falls into Japanese territory.

The flight path is similar to that of a failed launch in April.

The Japanese government has given orders to intercept the rocket if it appeared to be falling towards Japan.

Philippines typhoon kills more than 200

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The death toll from the Philippines’ strongest typhoon of 2012 has risen to at least 280.

Officials fear hundreds more bodies will be found as the army and rescuers reach the worst hit villages.

One of the areas most devastated by Typhoon Bopha was the Compostela Valley.

Up to 80 percent of the plantations here have been destroyed, at an estimated cost of 75 million euros.

Raging waters from the mountains swept through school buildings, courts, town halls and health centres where residents had taken shelter.

“My father is in the hospital,” said one survivor “My mother and older brother were swept away by flood waters. The last time I saw them, my Mama said ‘I love you.’”

Thousands of bloodied survivors, caked in mud, piled into temporary shelter areas, as local officials appealed for aid.

Schools remained closed on Wednesday and dozens of domestic flights were suspended.

Scenes like this are all too common in the Philippines, Typhoon Washi which hit in December last year killed around 1,500 people.

Croatia/Serbia: Gotovina ruling ‘opens old wounds’

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The acquittals of General Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac for war crimes by a UN appeals court were greeted with jubilation in the streets of the Croatian capital, Zagreb, on Friday.

The successful appeal marks the biggest reversal for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia during its two decades of hearing cases involving the bloody breakup of the country.

Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic welcomed the decision, but conceded that there had been wrongdoing on his side:

“Obviously these are two innocent men but that does not mean that the war was not difficult, bloody and just as far as Croatia is concerned.

There were mistakes in that war, mistakes that the Croatian state is ultimately responsible for, not Markac and Gotovina. And for those, and to those, who were wronged by the Croatian state, Croatia will fulfil its debt to justice,” he said.

Shameful

But, Savo Strbac, the director of Serbian NGO “Veritas”, echoed the feelings of many of his countrymen.

“We are shocked by the verdict. I can freely say that it is shameful because I am a judge myself and I know how things work. This verdict is the result of a majority vote,” he said.

The Serbian President was also vocal in his opposition to the courts decision.

In a written statement Tomislav Nikolic said: “It is now quite clear the tribunal made a political decision and not a legal ruling. Today’s ruling will not contribute to the stabilisation of the situation in the region and will open old wounds.

If we had reasons to believe that the tribunal is neutral, fair and more than a court only for Serbia and its people, these reasons are now annulled with the acquittal of war criminals.”

Egyptian PM seeks Israel-Palestine ceasefire

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The Egyptian Prime Minister has denounced Israel’s attacks on Gaza and says Cairo will try to secure a ceasefire.

Hisham Qandil paid a three-hour visit to the Palestinian territory on Friday, visiting the Council of Ministers building as well as a hospital treating those wounded by the attacks.

Cross-border fighting continued during the visit.

Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, has brokered informal truces between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza strip before.

The government of Egypt, which is seen as ideologically close to Hamas, now has to balance solidarity with the fellow Islamists with the country’s dependence on US aid, worth around 1.6 billion euros per year.

Qandil says Egypt seeks the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Anti-Putin activist charged with plotting protest

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Russian opposition leader, Sergei Udaltsov has been formally charged with plotting mass disorder.

The anti-Putin activist remained defiant as he entered the headquarters of the Russian Federal Investigative Committee – which is modelled on the FBI in the USA – but if convicted he faces up to 10 years in prison.

He is accused of seeking funds from Georgia to stoke Unrest in Russia. The allegations were first brought by a pro-Kremlin documentary, but critics say it is just part of a government clampdown on anti-Putin protest.

Torture

It was earlier reported that one of his associates, Leonid Razvozzhayev, was snatched off the street in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev last Friday and brought back to Moscow.

He made a confession implicating Udatsov but later repealed it claiming it had been made under torture.

Protest

Speaking to reporters Sergei Udaltsov said: “This case is based on torture, it’s shameful, it hurts the Russian image. If somebody expected me to run across the border like a scared dog – they will not see this. I have not committed a crime.”

The shaven-headed opposition leader who leads the Left Front Coalition has been at the front of a series of sanctioned protests in the Russian capital, prompted by allegations of fraud in December’s parliamentary election which was won by Putin’s United Russia Party.

US Campaign: The cost of becoming President

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The US Presidential campaign is set to be the most expensive in history.

Both candidates are on their way to raising a billion dollars (over 773 million euros) by the November 6 election.

They have been spending massive amounts on advertising as well as get-out-and-vote efforts by campaigns and outside groups that have no fund-raising limits.

On Thursday Barack Obama voted early in his home state of Chicago, to encourage other democrats to do so.

Final push

After several months lagging behind Obama in fund raising Mitt Romney and his allies overtook their Democratic rivals for the month of October.

Romney’s campaign says it has 169 million dollars left in its campaign coffers while the Obama campaign says it has 123 million – hefty sums for the final push.

Advertising

In a record breaking spending spree both campaigns have devoted the bulk of their cash to blanketing the airwaves with advertising.

In the first three weeks of October the latest tally by the Wesleyan Media Project shows Romney and his Super Political Action Committees (Pacs) spending more on advertising, but Obama and his allies actually running more ads.

While Mitt Romney may hold the cash advantage in recent months, that has been down to fund raising by his party. Obama’s campaign on its own has dwarfed that of the Republican Candidate.

Peugeot-Citroen to open talks with French unions

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The head of French car maker, PSA Peugeot-Citroen, has agreed to open talks with unions following the announcement of cuts that will result in the loss of 8000 jobs.

In July, the ailing company announced the measures as well as the closure of its plant in Aulnay, north of Paris.

PSA Union leader Jean-Pierre Mercier said the workers were happy that talks are opening:

“We’re faced with a company that is tough, a management that doesn’t want to give anything up. But today through the unity of the workforce, we have managed to score a very important first point.”

On Wednesday the French government promised a 7 billion euro state guarantee for PSA’s finance division, but the its Chief Executive, Philippe Varin says savings still need to be made:

“The closure of the Aulnay plant will take place. A total of 8,000 jobs in total are concerned. But as we have said since the very start: we attach a great importance to the limitation of the social impact.”

Peugeot reported a 3.9% fall in sales during the July to September quarter and its shares fell sharply as it said it would not pay dividends while in receipt of government aid.

Ukraine’s East/West divide

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Still littered with reminders of its Soviet past the eastern city of Donetsk highlights the East – West divide in Ukraine.

The country is set to go to the polls on Sunday and mostly Russian speaking Ukrainians in the east favour Viktor Yanukovich’s ruling Party of Regions over the opposition.

Valentyn Litvinov, a retired miner lives in Donetsk, he says: “In the past 20 years we haven’t seen so many things achieved: but now schools, nurseries, everything else, roads, airports, everything which needs to be done has started to be done, my only hope is with the Party of Regions.”

But Tatyana Petrova, a former coke plant worker who now sweeps the streets to top up her pension earnings says she will not vote for the Party of Regions again: “I am disappointed with the Party of Regions for many reasons. The pension is small and they don’t raise it, I am over 70 but am still working, I’ve been working for 50 years already.”

Opposition

But in the western city of Lviv the opposition coalition is far more popular. It includes imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s Fatherland Party, as well as the party of heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko.

Vasyl Soroko, a student said: “I expect the opposition to win. At least I hope for it and that life will get better bit by bit.”

But electrician, Andriy Mostovy was more pessimistic: “I doubt that anything will change in the country’s political life. Anyway, I don’t expect any improvement.”

Corruption

Last year corruption monitor, Transparency International, downgraded Ukraine to the 152nd of 183 countries in the world and this has been a key campaign issue for all parties.

Corruption has been described as a cancer in Ukrainian life which hits personal incomes, kills entrepreneurial spirit and deters vitally needed foreign investment. But regardless of the election result many voters feel that this is unlikely to change.

Rogue-trader Kerviel loses appeal

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Jerome Kerviel, the man behind France’s biggest rogue trading scandal, has lost his appeal at a Paris court, which has upheld his jail term.

Kerviel was originally given five years, two of which were suspended, in 2010.

The former Societe Generale trader has also been ordered to repay the impossibly large sum of 4.9 billion euros that he lost in illicit positions on the financial markets.

The little known junior trader working in a grim Paris suburb became internationally known overnight as the financial crisis began to hit in 2008. It emerged he had taken positions worth 50 billion euros on the markets.

Kerviel never denied masking his actions, but has always claimed his bosses were complicit and that he has simply become a pawn of what he called the “rotten financial system.”

Testifying in 2009 former Societe Generale CEO, Daniel Bouton, denied Kerviel’s accusations and said the bank’s risk managers never stood a chance against his manipulations.

After the decision was announced his lawyers said they were considering the possibility of a higher appeal, but Kerviel himself later told RTL radio that he would not appeal.

Russian handbook insults immigrants

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What was intended to be a friendly guide for labour migrants to Russia, has instead been taken as an insult. The brochure gives practical advice on dealing with authorities, such as guards and police, but workers have taken exception to the fact that the booklet represents them as work tools.

The book was published by an NGO and distributed in the Russian, Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik languages.

Alexander Shishlov the Human Rights Ombudsman in St. Petersburg said: “When migrant workers who come here from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and other countries are portrayed as spatulas, brushes and other tools, while all the other characters in the brochure are portrayed as people, this clearly sets people who live here against those who are visitors. And this comparison is insulting to a large degree.”

Outrage

The government of Tajikistan has formally asked Russian authorities to withdraw the handbook, but despite the book having been promoted on a Russian government website, authorities have denied any connection with its publication.

Gleb Panfilov, deputy head of the Look into the Future group that published the guide in St Petersburg said he could not understand the sudden public outrage, many months after its release. He claims to have consulted workers from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan while putting the book together aiming “to help labour migrants learn about their rights and avoid getting into trouble in this city”.

Hate crime

Activists say the book is another example of discrimination against the impoverished, mostly Muslim migrants who move to Russia and take on low-skilled work. The immigrants, many of whom have dark skins, have been the targets of hate crime in recent years.

This reached a peak in 2008 when 115 immigrants were killed and nearly 500 wounded, according to an independent watchdog. A police crackdown on neo-Nazi groups has helped to reduce racially motivated crimes, but numbers are said to be still high.

US Republican makes abortion gaff

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The Republican candidate for the US senate in Indiana caused outrage by saying that if a woman is raped it is part of God’s will.

Richard Mourdock, who is a favourite of the conservative Tea Party movement, made the comments during a debate on abortion.

He had been locked in a close battle with Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly but these remarks could amount to political suicide:

“I believe that life begins at conception,” Mourdock said. “The only exception I have, to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it, myself, for a long time, but I came to realise life is a gift from God, and I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who on Monday launched state-wide ads endorsing Mourdock, immediately distanced himself from the comments.

The Republicans need a net gain of four seats in the elections on November 6 to take control of the US senate.

Russia: Navalny to lead protest movement

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Anti-Putin blogger Alexai Navalny has been selected to lead the opposition movement and will now be tasked with turning mass street protests into more structured attack on the Russian President.

More than 81,000 people voted online to chose 45 new leaders, who it is hoped will unify protesters and give them direction.

Professional chess player Garry Kasparov and writer Dmitry Bykov were also popular choices and will join the opposition’s coordination council. Navalny was the outright winner with 43.723 votes.

It is reported the election had to be extended by a day due to cyber-attacks on the platform.

Putin has been the subject of spirited protests since returning to the presidency for a third time in May but the opposition candidates gained no ground in Russia’s regional elections on October 14.

EU summit in ‘small revolution’

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European leaders have agreed a deal on a banking union.

France and the European Commission arrived at the summit keen to run ahead with a new European bank supervisory mechanism to be in place by January, but the cautious German chancellor, Angela Merkel said she thinks baby steps are needed first: “Concerning the move towards banking supervision, we have decided to move forward with the principle that quality is more important than rapidity. This means we will not have a working banking supervision at the beginning of 2013.”

The summit agreement now says that “work on the operational implementation will take place in the course of 2013” rather than in January.

European Council President, Herman Van Rompuy hailed the result of the summit as highly successful: “This is a small revolution, it means that we’ll have only one supervisor for the whole Europe, who – to a certain extent – will replace all the national supervisors.

“You know the source of our problem is the financial crisis. Now we will have only one supervisor for Europe, if we had this in 2008 I don’t think the crisis would have reached this level.”

The art of compromise has prevailed once again in Europe, but there is still much more that needs to be done, as the Spanish and Greek emergencies are still waiting.

Russian opposition leader detained

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Russian opposition leader Sergei Udaltsov has was led away by police on Wednesday morning, as authorities began criminal proceedings against him, and other associates, for planning “mass disorder” in protests against President Vladimir Putin.

The charges focus on allegations, made in a pro-Kremlin documentary, which claims Udaltsov received money and orders to cause mass unrest in Russia, from an ally of Georgian President Mikeil Saakashcili. The charges carry a jail sentence of up to 10 years.

The head of the investigation committee, Vladimir Markin, gave a warning to protest leaders:

“I would like to warn all of those who think that one can organise without consequences, massive disorders and terror attacks that threaten the life and health of civilians in our country. You don’t imagine how professional our special services are,and you don’t know our laws and our penal code.”

Udaltsov who has led a series of protests sanctioned by Moscow denies the allegations against him.

His supporters say the Kremlin is conducting a politically motivated crackdown on protest leaders.