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Ukraine cease-fire agreed after marathon talks, but flashpoint unresolved

Ukraine cease fireThe leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany emerged from marathon talks in Minsk on Thursday with what they said was a comprehensive peace deal for eastern Ukraine, but disagreement over a key flashpoint still exist and it remains to be seen if this truce can succeed where past ones have failed.

Vladimir Putin told reporters that a cease-fire would be effective starting from Sunday. As part of the deal special status would be granted for the pro-Moscow rebel regions in Ukraine’s east and consensus had also been reached over border controls and humanitarian issues, the Russian president added.


Costa Concordia captain convicted of manslaughter

Captan of Concordia convictedThe captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia was convicted on 32 counts of manslaughter and sentenced to 16 years in prison Wednesday in a Grosseto, Italy, court.

Testimony in Francesco Schettino's 19-month multiple manslaughter trial ended with Schettino claiming he was a scapegoat for the incident. The ship, under Schettino's command, struck rocks as it traveled too close to Italy's Giglio Island and capsized in January 2012. The wreck and the ensuing evacuation attempt caused the death of 32 passengers.


UN: At least 300 migrants missing in new sea tragedy

missing migrantsSome 300 migrants who tried to cross the frigid Mediterranean in open, rubber boats, were reported missing Wednesday by survivors as the U.N. refugee agency and other aid groups sharply criticized the new EU rescue operation as insufficient and costing lives.

The suspected deaths add to the 29 reported earlier in the week by the Italian coast guard, which said those victims had died of hypothermia during the voyage that began over the weekend in Libya, where most smuggling operations originate.


Islamic State hostage Kayla Mueller confirmed dead

US hostage deadThe family of Kayla Mueller, an American hostage of the Islamic State, has received confirmation that she is dead.

Mueller, 26, was captured in August 2013 while working as a humanitarian aide in Aleppo, Syria. The Islamic State demanded a $7 million ransom with a deadline of Aug. 13, 2014, but what happened to Mueller after the deadline is unknown.


20,000 foreign fighters flock to Syria, Iraq to join IS

20,000 join ISISForeign fighters are streaming into Syria and Iraq in unprecedented numbers to join the Islamic State or other extremist groups, including at least 3,400 from Western nations among 20,000 from around the world, U.S. intelligence officials say in an updated estimate of a top terrorism concern.

Intelligence agencies now believe that as many as 150 Americans have tried and some have succeeded in reaching in the Syrian war zone, officials told the House Homeland Security Committee in testimony prepared for delivery on Wednesday. Some of those Americans were arrested en route, some died in the area and a small number are still fighting with extremists.


Leaked files implicate over 6,000 Israelis in massive bank scandal

Israelis in HSBC scandalBanking giant HSBC faced damaging claims Monday that its Swiss division helped wealthy customers dodge millions of dollars in taxes after a “SwissLeaks” cache of secret files emerged online. Among their clients are over 6,200 Israelis, with holdings totaling some $10 billion.

The documents published over the weekend claim the bank helped clients in more than 200 countries evade taxes on accounts containing $119 billion.


Netanyahu May Change Speech to Congress

NetanyahuIsraeli officials are considering amending the format of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's planned address to the U.S. Congress next month to try to calm some of the partisan furore the Iran-focused speech has already provoked.

Netanyahu is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress about Iran's nuclear programme on March 3, just two weeks before an Israeli parliamentary election, following an invitation from John Boehner, Republican speaker of the house.


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