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California Shooting, Pistorius Verdict, Ozzy Birthday

CALIFORNIA SHOOTING: 14 DEAD, COUPLE SUSPECTED

Photo: David Bauman/Press-Enterprise/ZUMA

Police have identified a couple in their late 20s as the two shooters in the latest mass killing in the United States that left at least 14 people dead and 17 injured Wednesday in the southern Californian city of San Bernardino.

  • Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, who The Los Angeles Times reports were married, were killed in a shootout with police later in the day.
  • Reports today began to piece together the events that led to the shooting during a holiday gathering of employees at the San Bernardino County Public Health Department, where Farook worked as a health inspector.
  • The couple's motives aren't yet clear. Relatives of American-born Farook, whose parents are Pakistani, said he was a devout Muslim but knew of no connections to any radical Islamist organization. Coworkers described him as kind and quiet. The couple had a baby and appeared to be "living the American dream," Patrick Baccari, a fellow health inspector who shared a cubicle with Farook, told the LA Times.
  • Malik's nationality has not yet been confirmed by authorities, though reports say that Farook had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia and "returned with a new wife he had met online.".
  • Though the shooting comes three weeks after 130 people were killed in Paris by Islamist terrorists linked to ISIS, it is also part of a steady stream of mass shootings in the United States. Here's a recap from Reuters.

UK BEGINS SYRIA STRIKES

Britain's Royal Air Force conducted its first strikes against ISIS in Syria early this morning, just hours after lawmakers in Westminster voted to extend British airstrikes against jihadists from Iraq to Syria, The Guardian reports. Defense Minister Michael Fallon said the strikes targeted an oil field in eastern Syria, dealing a "real blow" to ISIS finances.

  • Syrian and Russian forces have been holding military exercises in preparation for an offensive to regain the city of Idlib, held by al-Qaeda's Syrian offshoot al-Nusra, AFP reports citing a security source. This comes amid reports that the Syrian army continues to regain territory in the northwest provinces held by ISIS.

PUTIN'S HARSH WORDS FOR TURKEY

As expected, a large part of Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual state of the nation speech Thursday was devoted to the current diplomatic crisis and tension with Turkey. "We shall remind them many a time what they have done, and they will more than once feel regret," Putin said of Turkey's shooting of a Russian warplane in Syria near the Turkish border last week. Putin said, however, that there would be no "nervous, hysterical reaction, risky for ourselves and the whole world."

  • One of these retaliatory measures seems to be the decision announced this morning by the Energy Minister to suspend the Turkish Stream pipeline project that would have delivered Russian gas to Turkey and eventually southern Europe.
  • In his address, Putin also reiterated accusations that Turkish leaders were gaining financially from ISIS oil and said Moscow "will not forget this complicity with terrorists." Russia's Defense Ministry presented yesterday its evidence backing its claims that Turkish officials, among them President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and members of his family including his son Bilal, were illegally profiting from smuggled oil, to the benefit of ISIS. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed the accusation as "Soviet-style propaganda." Read more from Reuters.
  • ISIS meanwhile released a video purportedly showing the execution of a "Russian spy."

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD



VERBATIM

"If the families of the privileged continue to live abroad, they will not have careers; if they live abroad, they will become dishwashers," Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told Deutsche Welle in a plea for Afghan asylum seekers to return home. Ghani met with Angela Merkel in Berlin yesterday, and the German Chancellor told a press conference that the country "will have to deport people to Afghanistan," explaining that the Afghans' hope for a better life "is no reason to get asylum status or residency status here." An estimated 140,000 Afghans have fled the country since January, with Germany as the final destination for most.


CAMEROON FREES 900 BOKO HARAM HOSTAGES

Cameroon troops have killed some 100 Boko Haram fighters and freed about 900 people the Islamist group was holding hostage in a major blow to the Nigeria-based outfit, Vanguard reports citing Cameroon's Defense Ministry. The operation took place near the border with Nigeria.


WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO

Shouldn't women who believe it's wrong to abort a girl just because she's a girl also believe it's wrong to abort a baby just because she might have a disability? Yes, says German feminist author Kirsten Achtelik in an interview with Süddeutsche Zeitung. "There is no such thing as a single ‘feminism,' but it's a fact that most feminists are against gender-based selection. That's how we can see the inconsistency of the female viewpoint: Aborting a girl, simply because she's a girl, is discriminatory and sexist. But aborting because of a baby's disability is part of a women's self-determination? It's just as discriminatory. Requesting a ‘normal' child isn't feminist."

Read the full article, A New Feminist Argument Against Abortion.


NEW ROUND OF FIFA ARRESTS

Swiss police took several FIFA officials into custody in a new series of dawn arrests, as part of the ongoing U.S. investigation into corruption at the world's soccer governing body. According to The New York Times, more than a dozen people are expected to be charged. The official list of those arrested hasn't been made public yet, but it includes at least two top officials accused of accepting millions of dollars of bribes. They were arrested at the same Zurich hotel where several officials had been arrested in May, and ahead of a planned two-day meeting to vote on proposed reforms.


ON APPEAL, PISTORIUS GUILTY OF MURDER

Paralympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, the South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein said this morning. Pistorius, who's been on house arrest since late October after serving one year of his five-year-sentence in jail issued for the initial guilty verdict of manslaughter charges. A new, likely heavier sentence will have to be pronounced for the murder charge. Read more from The Star.


BRAZIL'S ROUSSEFF TARGETED BY IMPEACHMENT PROCEEDINGS

The speaker of Brazil's lowest house of Parliament, Eduardo Cunha, has initiated impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff. The political showdown between two leaders described as "arch enemies" was put in stark terms on the Thursday edition of Portuguese-language Brazilian daily Correio, which used the English word "Impeachment" on the front page. Read more about Brazil's Game-of-Thrones-like politics on Worldcrunch.


90 MILLION

Egypt will hit a new population threshold next week, reaching 90 million in a country that has seen a demographic explosion over the past few generations.


ON THIS DAY


Happy birthday to one of the icons of heavy metal music, plus three more events to mark Dec. 3 in your 57-second shot of history.

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Geopolitics

One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin

From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.

Leaders of Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attend a summit marking the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty in Moscow on May 16.

Oleksandr Demchenko

-Analysis-

KYIV — Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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Before zooming in on the current state of relations in the region, and what it means for Ukraine's destiny, it's worth briefly reviewing the last 30 years of post-Soviet history.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was first created in 1992 by the Kremlin to keep former republics from fully seceding from the former Soviet sphere of influence. The plan was simple: to destroy the local Communist elite, to replace them with "their" people in the former colonies, and then return these territories — never truly considered as independent states by any Russian leadership — into its orbit.

In a word - to restore the USSR.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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