Australian PM survives leadership spill motion
The Australian Liberal Party voted to keep PM Tony Abbott as the leader of the party on Monday, with 61 to 39 members voting against a leadership spill motion. Earlier, Liberal Party members called for what was effectively a no-confidence vote against Abbott after weeks of backdoor discussion. The prime minister reportedly sought to solve the leadership crisis by pledging to support a $20 billion tender for South Australian shipbuilder ASC. Abbott has come under a barrage of criticism lately, ranging from how he has handled the nation’s economic problems to granting an Australian knighthood to Queen Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip.
Jordan Air Force carries out 56 raids in 3 days on ISIS targets
The head of Jordan’s Air Force says they have made 56 raids in three days targeting Islamic State strongholds in the northeast of Syria, according to Reuters. The missions were carried out in response to the brutal killing of a Jordanian pilot, who was burned alive by the militant group on February 3. “We achieved what we aimed at. We destroyed logistics centers, arms depots and targeted hideouts of their fighters,” General Mansour al Jbour, head of the Jordanian Air Force, told a news conference.
21 police officers detained in Turkey wiretapping probe
A Turkish court ordered the arrest of 21 police officers on Sunday for their involvement in the illegal wiretapping of politicians, civil servants and business men, according to the Dogan News Agency. The move is part of President Tayyip Erdogan’s ongoing campaign against his archrival, cleric Fethullah Gulen, and his supporters. Erdogan has accused US-based Gulen of attempting to set up a parallel state. Last December, a Turkish court issued a warrant for the cleric’s arrest and revoked his passport.
Referendum on same-sex couples rights fails in Slovakia
A Slovakian referendum intended to strengthen bans on same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption failed on Sunday due to low turnout, the country’s election commission reported. Less than a half of 50 percent of eligible voters required for a valid ballot cast their votes, with the turnout being just 21.4 percent. A large majority of those who took part in the referendum supported the country’s existing constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union of a man and a woman, which bans same-sex marriages and adoptions. The referendum in the eastern European country with a predominantly Catholic 5.4 million population was initiated by the “Alliance for family” organization. Gay rights activists have been reportedly trying to encourage people to boycott the vote, and welcomed its outcome.
Middle East Quartet calls on restart of Israel-Palestine talks
The “Quartet” of Middle East peace mediators urged a prompt resumption of talks between Israel and the Palestinians after Sunday’s meeting in Munich, Reuters reported. “The Quartet underlined the importance of the parties resuming negotiations as soon as possible,” a group comprising the US, EU, United Nations and Russia said in a joint statement. Talks collapsed last April with the Palestinians slamming ongoing construction of Jewish settlements in occupied territory and Israel decrying attempts to bring Hamas, which officially denies Israel’s right to exist, into the Palestinian government.
Ukrainian journalist accused of treason and espionage – family
The Ukrainian Security Service has detained an independent Ukrainian journalist, Ruslan Kotsaba, after he said he wasn’t ready to join the army because he “would have to kill his countrymen.” The journalist has been accused of treason against the state and espionage, Kotsaba’s wife revealed on Facebook. According to Mrs Kotseba, police searched their house and the journalist’s personal belongings were seized. Kotseba revealed his stance on military service in a video clip published in his YouTube channel in mid-January, saying that the “Kiev authorities are not worthy of being obeyed.”
Air Asia X flight forced to turn back to Kuala Lumpur after malfunction
The pilots of an Air Asia X flight from Kuala Lumpur to Jeddah were forced to abort the journey and turn back to Malaysia Sunday, Air Asia’s CEO Tony Fernandez said.Fernandez said in a text message to AFP that one of the auto-thrusters was not working properly, and that although it was ok to fly the pilots took the precaution of turning back. Flight tracking websites showed flight D7172 flying wide circles over the Strait of Malacca to burn off fuel, which was described by Fernandez as “routine”. The incident comes after Air Asia flight QZ8501 went down in stormy weather in late December between Surabaya in Indonesia and Singapore killing all on board.
Moscow demands copies of ‘Russian soldiers IDs’ shown in Munich
Kiev hasn’t provided Moscow with copies of documents it describes as proof of Russian military presence in Ukraine, said Viktor Sorokin, director of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) department within the Russian Foreign Ministry. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko showed the audience at the Munich Security Conference several passports on Saturday, saying they belonged to Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine. “We asked the Ukrainian side to give us copies of the documents containing last names, because such IDs, as were shown yesterday, could easily be bought. There’s no real proof, as of today, the Ukrainian side has not been able to give us the copies of these documents,” Sorokin said, as cited by RIA Novosti.
26yo US female aid worker ‘sentenced to death’ by ISIS last year – activist
The American hostage Kayla Mueller, seized by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants in Syria in 2013, was initially given a “life sentence” but was then told she would be executed, Muslim activist Mauri Saalakhan said. The militants claimed the 26-year-old hostage from Prescott, Arizona, was killed in a Jordanian fighter jet airstrike on Friday. Earlier her family had received threats of her execution, though US authorities couldn’t confirm this information. Mueller volunteered in the Syrian war zone, as well as in India, Israel and Palestine, and was the last known American held hostage by IS.
40 homes destroyed in Northern California wildfire
Heavy winds fanned a wildfire that swept through two small towns at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains on Friday. Up to 150 people had to be evacuated as 39 houses burnt down in Swall Meadows and one in the town of Paradise. The blaze came under control when rain started to fall in the area. “We had to take defensive positions to protect as many structures as we could while protecting ourselves,” said California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Capt. Liz Brown. “We did what we could.” The state of California is suffering historic drought, making timber that fueled the wildfire extremely dry.
Kerry gives Iran end of March nuclear deadline
The US Secretary of State John Kerry has held two talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Munich. The pair discussed Tehran’s nuclear program, as Kerry “reiterated our desire to move toward a political framework by the end of March,” a senior US official said, AFP reports. After missing two previous deadlines, the group known as the P5+1 – Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States, set a March 31 deadline for a political agreement.
Russian convoy delivers aid to eastern Ukraine
Russia has sent yet another aid convoy to provide humanitarian support for the people of Donetsk. “All the trucks have passed through customs and have started to head for Donetsk and Lugansk,” said the deputy head of the national center for crisis situations for the Russian Emergencies Ministry, Oleg Voronov. More than 170 lorries are bringing 1.8 tons of aid, which include food and building materials. The Russian Emergencies Ministry has made deliveries of more than 16,000 tons in aid since August.