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tv   News  Al Jazeera  December 30, 2015 12:00pm-12:31pm EST

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deep sea not floating in a bay. thanks for watching. i'm stephanie sy. ♪ syrian troops backed by russian air strikes fight their way into a rebel-held town in the south. ♪ hello there, i'm barbara sarah. this is al jazeera live from london. also coming up on the program. central african republic votes in an election that it is hoped will bieng stability after years of violence. allegations the u.s. has been spying on israeli prime minister, benjamin netenyahu. also how salt lakes might be helping to slow climate change. ♪
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the syrian army backed by russian air strikes says its troops have fought their way into a southern rebel held town. the new offensive focuses on a strategic location on the main road connecting the capitol to the southern city of dara. syrian rebels say the assault was supported by the heaviest russian aerial bombing campaign so far in the south. and it's part of the government's first major offense nif southern syria since russia joined the fight at the end of september. the syrian observatory for human rights says moscow's strikes on syria have killed more than 2,300 so far. 792 of the dead, more than a third, were civilians, 180 were children. russia has denied that its air campaign in support of assad's government is hitting civilians. hashem ahelbarra has been following the story and sent us
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this report from turkey. >> reporter: it all started with intense air strikes by russian fighter jets paving the way for government troops to advance towards the town, which is an opposition strong hold. the rebels say that despite the losses, they are regrouping, and they are planning to launch a counter offensive to push the government troops out of the area. the town and the whole area is very crucial for the government and the rebels because it's in a strategic route that connects dara and the capitol damascus. for the rebels it has been a platform from where they could easily send weapons and fighters to provide and boost the presence of the opposition, and this is why the president has always been concerned about rebel groups present in the area. now there are different
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opposition fighting there. the nusra front, and factions associated with the free syrian army. we don't know whether they will pull out further south or will be trying to look for different routes to go to areas, which are strongly under the control of the opposition, but this is quite a delicate moment for the syrian opposition and rebel groups. iraqi forces and sunni tribal fighters say that they are tightening their grip on ramadi after recapturing it from islamic state of iraq and the levant. 52 families have been rescued by the iraqi military who say they were being used as human shields by isil. sweeping and clearing operations are underway on the northern front, but isil says it has launched a counter offensive. there is are also reports of fighting in fallujah. our correspondent sent us this update. >> reporter: according to the
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anbar police chief, 500 sunni tribal fighters have come to the front line in northern ramadi to help with the clean and sweep efforts. these are areas which are key in order for the iraqi forces to cross the euphrates river into the central part of ramadi which is still being held by isil. iraqi forces are confident they can take on ramadi and also other areas like fallujah and the surrounding areas. but the fighting still continues and the iraqi forces say it will take days to clear and sweep the whole area, of explosives that the isil fighters have left behind. turkish police have detained two men suspected of plotting a suicide bomb attack on the new year's eve celebrations in the
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capitol. the city's prosecutors say police seized this explosive device, which was fortified with ball bearings, and metal stakes, and all placed inside a backpack. during the course of the raid, police say they also found an armed suicide vest, and bomb-making equipment. the suspects are said to be turkish nationals from the islamic state of iraq and the levant. ♪ late voting is still underway in parts of central african republic for presidential and parliamentary elections that the international community hopes will bring peace to the conflict-ridden nation. the elections were delayed several times because of security concerns, and voting was monitored by peace keepers and security officials. the ballot follows a referendum two weeks ago where 90% of the country supported a move to
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limit presidential terms. the country has been plagued by violence since march 2013 when a largely muslim alliance of rebel groups known as the seleka overthrew the government. that was followed by a brutal backlash against muslims by a mostly christian militia. a tentative ceasefire was agreed in 2014, but the fighting has displaced almost a million people, and now 30 candidates are vying to replace the interim president. she is not allowed to run, and neither are our predecessors. there are three front runners, the former prime minister who is backed by one party. and this man, who some accuse of having ties to seleka fighters. also running is this man, the most prominent muslim candidate.
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tanya spaij in the central african republic capitol bangui, she says the election has not been without issues. >> reporter: some polling stations opened very late, and some opened without any election material, that was here in bangui where things should be most organized. the head of the observer mission told me aside from the delays, their biggest concern was that some people have been turned away from polling stations like this, some people haven't received their voter cards, and although they had been told that if they turned up with a receipt and another form of id that that would be able to vote, but there has been some kind of communication breakdown between the voters and some of the polling station staff. people really want this election to mean an end to sectarian violence that has rocked central african republic. everyone that votes has their finger dipped in ink to prevent them from voting again. some of the presidential candidates have alleged fraud, because they say in some of the markets here in the capitol,
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voter cards have been for sale. there were instances of intimidation at the referendum two weeks ago, but so far on the whole, this election is moving forward peacefully and calmly, but the country is volatile. a single killing can lead to days of violence, and for that reason, the new commander, the head of the united nations peace-keeping force here, says his troops are on alert, they are ready to respond aggressively and swiftly to any flairups. the primary suspect in a west bank arson attack which left three members of the same family dead is to be charged with murder in the coming days. the youngest of the family was an 18-month-old baby who died immediately in the attack last july. his parents died from their wounds later in hospital. the only family member to survive was their son. it has been reported that the u.s. has been spying on
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israeli prime minister benjamin netenyahu's private communications. the "wall street journal" says his conversations were monitored during u.s. nuclear negotiations with iran. for more on this, let's go live to rosiland jordan in washington, d.c. the u.s. had said it wasn't going to do this anymore, spying on or listening to foreign leaders, so has the white house responded to these allegations? >> reporter: there hasn't been any formal response from the white house, barbara, but the state department spokesperson did tell a u.s. network earlier on wednesday that the u.s. has a very strong and productive relationship with israel. he wouldn't address the allegations outlined in the wall street journal's story. it is worth pointing out that the whole [ inaudible ] began because of the revelations by edward snowden, the former nsa contract employee who said that
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the national security agency had been spying on world leaders, most notably the german chancellor, angela merkel. that created a real rift when the u.s. and germany. and the president had to come out and publicly say that the u.s. wasn't going to spy on its fellow leaders around the world. however, the wall street journal is reporting that there was a smaller list of countries and leaders that the u.s. would continue to spy on, and that included the israeli prime minister, benjamin netenyahu. apparently the concern was among other things that israeli efforts to oppose the ongoing efforts to negotiate a deal with iran on its nuclear program could be disastrous, and so that is according to the wall street journal why the spying continued. >> relations between the white house and benjamin netenyahu have been strained for a long time, especially as you mentioned over the iranian nuclear deal.
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so have we heard from the israelis at all? what are they saying? >> according to one israeli newspaper the interior minister is saying that israel doesn't spy on the united states, and that it's not very happy, frankly with this report from the wall street journal. now we don't know whether the israelis have yet filed a formal complaint with the obama administration about this alleged spying, but it is probably likely that this is going to happen. we also don't know whether there have been any conversations, for example, between the u.s. ambassador to israel and the israeli government, or whether there have been any conversations between white house officials and the israeli ambassador to the united states, but those sorts of things could happen if israel is trying to push the matter any further. >> rosiland jordan with the latest from washington, d.c. ros, thank you.
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still ahead on the program, a flooding disaster is declared in the u.s. state of missouri where rivers are still rising. defying health warnings the indian villagers opting for in door home fires despite the risks. ♪
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♪ welcome back. here is a reminder of the top stories on al jazeera. syrian government forces backed by russian bombers have fought their way into a key rebel-held town in the south of the
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country. late voting is still underway in presidential and parliamentary elections in the central african republic, following delays caused by security concerns and violence. the south american nations of brazil, argentina, paraguay, and uruguay, are experiencing their worst flooding in half a century. more than a thousand of people are now in temporary shelters. more than 100,000 have been displaced in total in the four countries. heavy rains have been linked to the el nino weather event, which is at its strongest level recorded in this century. the rain has finally stopped in the u.s. states of missouri and illinois, but flood waters are expected to continue rising for at least a day. at least 21 people have been reported dead, and thousands of homes have been evacuated. the national guard has been deployed to help.
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the flood water is moving down the mississippi river with water levels expected to peak on thursday. earlier we spoke to andy roesgen in valley park in missouri, one of the communities effected by the flooding. >> reporter: we are just west of st. louis here. along interstate 44. as you can see the river here has overflowed its banks. it is problem -- probably six or seven feet above the ground here. and starting to lap up on to businesses here. there have been dozens of evacuations of folks. they are sandbagging here. the governor has declared an emergency. he has brought in the national guard to help. especially in the st. louis area now, a major population center, and to secure the area. all of this water is coming to us from the west, the river to our west has now crested at a peak of about 35 feet. it is now 20 feet above flood
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stage, and now all of that water is heading eastward towards the river here, which will eventually empty into the mississippi, so all of this water eventually into the mississippi which is expected to crest as a record stage tonight or tomorrow morning at anywhere between 13 and 23 feet above flood stage and all of that water starts heading downstream to major cities like memphis and new orleans. at least 13 people have died in the flooding, including five foreign soldiers who were here training at an american base. their car was swept away, and in the last or so the last of the five bodies was found. they are among the 13 dead here in missouri. the governor is telling residents to get out of their homes if water is coming up. he is telling folks not to temp fate in all of this as the waters and the threats continue
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to rise. an indonesia court has thrown out a case against a plantation giant accused of causing the thick smoke that has blanketed the region for months. the country's government accused the company of illegally burning thousands of hectares of forests to make room for its crops. >> reporter: ahead of the verdict, an environmental group stages a protest to remind everyone of what is at stake. indonesia's people and its forests. a company was accused of starting fires last year, that effected 20 hectares of land in the western island. the ministry of environment and forestry brought the lawsuit, seeking $570 million in damages. but the courts found the evidence lacking, and ruled in favor of the company. >> translator: why would the company need to change its
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practices? it has been proven in court that our client has done everything in accordance with the law. >> reporter: it is setback for the ministry. which only a few months ago suspended the licenses. >> translator: we are going to appeal this decision. it's not only to bring justice to the people, but also for the dignity of this country. >> reporter: forest fires and the results haze that blankets indonesia and neighboring countries have become an annual occurren occurrence. this year's fires caused flight cancellations and school closures. more than a dozen have died and half a million fell sick from respiratory illnesses. some say small scale farmers who use slash and burn method to
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clear land are to believe. others believe it is the plantation owns who are responsible. >> because of this, then the -- the company and then also the people will say, oh, we can burn as big as we want, because the judge already gave us permission. yeah, i'm totally disagree and very disappointed. >> reporter: the court's verdict isn't this only thing that concerns environmental groups. they say satellite pictures have been detected. and they are worried that once the dry season starts this march, these fires could grow even bigger. the yearly phenomenon that has grown into an environmental disaster for indonesia and the region is unlikely to go away soon. a senior north korean
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official in charge of negotiating with rival south korea has been killed in a car crash as victoria gatenby now reports, it's raising more questions about what is going on inside north korea's secretive ruling regime. >> reporter: very few details have been released about the circumstances surrounding the car crash that killed this man. >> translator: member of the political bureau and secretary of the central committee of the worker's party of korea, and deputy to the supreme people's assembly of the democratic people's republic, died sadly in a car accident. >> reporter: as secretary of the ruling worker's party, he was one of north korea's most senior officials. he was an experienced negotiator who played an important role in talks with south korea. in august he helped diffuse
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tensions after an explosion injured two south korean soldiers at the border with north korea. the south korea government has paid tribute to his skill and hard work. >> translator: we offer our condolences. he worked to achieve an agreement in the high-level talks in august. >> reporter: his death is raising questions about what is really happening inside north korea's secretive government. south korean officials say that kim ki-jong has executed at least 70 senior officials, including his uncle since become supreme leader four years ago. the state funeral will take place on thursday. it's not clear what the death of such an experienced advisor will mean for north korea and itself
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relations with its neighbor. meanwhile there have been demonstrations in the south korean capitol just days after the country reached a deal with japan over historic sexual slavery. hundreds gathered outside of the japanese embassy, demanding a personal apology from the japanese prime minister. on monday japan offered a written apology, and more than $8 million compensation to the so-called comfort women who were forced 20 become sex slaves during world war ii. >> translator: we urge the japanese government to offer an official and direct apology, and play legal reparations instead of apologizing by proxy or statement. the french interior minister has condemned the violence in corsica. during his trip, to the capitol
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city, he says that there is no place in corsica for violence or racism. switzerland's federal office of justice has frozen about $80 million belonging to football's world governing body fifa. any assets held in 13 separate bank accounts were frozen on the request of prosecutors in the u.s. the swiss have always handed over bank documents to be used as part of the investigation into alleged bribery of high-ranking fifa officials in exchange for tv rights. it is estimated that more than a million people in india die each year from indoor air pollution. that figure is far greater than deaths attributed to outdoor air pollution. the reason? many people burn toxic materials to make fires in their homes. faiz jamil reports now from
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india. >> reporter: life is simple here in this village as is the cooking. this woman beginning her morning by making food for her family. >> translator: i start coughing sometimes because of the smoke. the cough and smoke makes my eyes water too. >> reporter: it's a similar story of hundreds of thousands of villages across india, where cooking is done in or near the home. and most of these old-style stoves use dirty fuels. smoke gets inside the home and lungs. this type of stove running on wood, charcoal of dung is the only option in many villages. but even when there is an alternative available, the preference is still these. some have a natural gas stove but it is rarely used.
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>> translator: food doesn't cook quickly on the gas stove. we don't like the taste either. this is better. >> reporter: but researchers say preference for the old ways is hurting their health. the smoke easily travels into the nearby home where it is breathed in by everyone in the family. >> translator: burning cow dung creates different sizes of particles. the smaller particles get deeper inside of the lungs. of all of the problem smoke causes, the smaller the particle, the worst the health problems it causes. >> reporter: experts say switching would have an immediate and noticeable effect. >> translator: the amount of smoke created and the amount of time a person sits in front of it cooks, effects them. if you use a gas stove there is very little smoke created. the lesser the smoke, the lesser the health effects.
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>> reporter: but changing happen be its is hard. wood, charcoal, and dung are easily available, and cost less. campaigns have focused on finding cheap alternatives and distributing them. but those have yet to reach the vast majority of indian villagers. as carbon levels in the atmosphere increase, scientists are looking for ways to reduce emissions. now researchers in this canada believe they have found a natural process that is actually soaking up carbon. daniel lak reports now from little mantu lake. >> reporter: they call this the dead sea of canada. rivers flow in, but not out, evaporation makes it even saltier. farmers have known not to plant crops on the shore. but there is a spa like the real
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dead sea, and it has been here for decades. >> in the 20s and 30s, these people came from all over to visit the lake, and they came and healed themselves in the water. it was very much a health place. >> reporter: salt water lakes are well-known in this part of the world, and aside from this one, where tourism and taking the waters has been popular for decades, they are seen as somewhat of a knew sense. but a lake like this with its sigh lean waters may be performing a very valuable service. researchers at the university say that such alkaline lakes, and there are hundreds year, absorb atmospheric carbon. their complex chemistry stores the carbon in mud. more than a million tons a year, up to a third of the vast carbon dioxide output of the farms. >> you don't have to do anything other than just make sure that
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we don't drain them. you know? i think lakes have really been under appreciated in the carbon budget just because total surface area relative to oceans and forests, they are not huge. but the rates at which they are processing carbon is far, far faster than say the open ocean. >> reporter: as oceans become more asidic, they sop up less carbon. these bodies of water are crucial then. the caspian sea has similar chemistries. environmental activists say this is exactly the kind of science that should transform our approach this the world carbon problem. >> we need good applied science to figure out how to achieve this. in we can figure out what we need to achieve we can hand over to the science -- scientists to
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figure out how we get there. >> reporter: there is excitement building over how the science might be applied. and the salt lakes of the north american prairies could be part of it. daniel lak, al jazeera. more on the website, aljazeera.com. ♪ deadly flooding, mandatory evacuations are called for across parts of missouri. changing tactics, major rom emmanuel, is rolling out new reforms for chick's police department. and isil may have lost a tactical advantage with the loss of ramadi. we'll look in to what is next to help remove the group from iraq completely. ♪

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