UN Peacekeeper Killed in Lebanon

This could heat up. Fast. “Two Israeli soldiers and a Spanish peacekeeper were killed on Wednesday in an exchange of fire between Hezbollah and Israel, one of the most violent clashes between the two sides since a 2006 war. The soldiers were killed when Hezbollah fired five missiles at a convoy of Israeli military vehicles on the frontier with Lebanon. The peacekeeper, serving with a U.N. monitoring force in southern Lebanon, was killed as Israel responded with air strikes and artillery fire, a U.N. spokesman and Spanish officials said.” (Reuters http://reut.rs/1BytsPH)

Quote of the Day: Deputy OCHA Director Kyung-wha Kang, to the Security Council on humanitarian funding for Syria…“Needs continue to outpace response…Lack of funding, for example, for the winterization programme, means that hundreds of thousands among the 3.3 million people targeted for assistance have not received assistance, during this particularly harsh winter.” (UN News Center http://bit.ly/1BysFhJ)

Arguably the Biggest Story in Africa Today: Through a remarkable and nearly unprecedented set of circumstances, the final slot in the quarter-finals of the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament will be decided old school: the drawing of lots. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1ByskM8)

Ebola

The African Union plans to launch an Ebola fund and disease control centre, officials said Wednesday, as aid agency Oxfam warned leaders needed to keep their promises to boost healthcare systems on the continent. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1zd3ujS)

The World Bank says the three countries most affected by Ebola will suffer a combined $1.6 billion in economic losses in 2015 due to the ongoing outbreak. Unemployment rates are also expected to remain high, with cross-border traders, private-sector wage earners and the self-employed among the worst hit. (VOA http://bit.ly/1z3PLgY)

The largest Ebola unit ever built opened in the Liberian capital Monrovia with 120 beds on August 17 but was immediately overwhelmed, with staff forced to turn patients away at its gates, despite more than doubling its capacity. Five months later to the day it registered no patients at all for the first time, and staff this week marked a drastic retreat of an epidemic which has killed thousands by dismantling and burning the first tent put up at the clinic. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1LikCv9)

The Ebola crisis in West Africa is high on the agenda of this year’s African Union summit in Addis Ababa. Although there are increasing signs the outbreak is in decline, African leaders remain focused on recovery efforts and erasing the stigma the virus has left on the continent. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yyCwj4)

Africa

A Sudanese rebel group has taken six Bulgarians working with the U.N.’s World Food Program captive after their helicopter was forced to land in war-torn South Kordofan province in southern Sudan, the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yyCs2Q)

Madagascar’s government appealed for international aid on Wednesday after a tropical storm earlier this month devastated large swaths of the Indian Ocean island, causing damage worth around $40 million. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yyCxn3)

A suicide bomb attack near the contested Malian town of Tabankort killed at least nine people overnight, Tuareg rebel sources said on Wednesday, as violence intensified in the desert north of the West African country. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yyCqIb

Tanzania’s president has reshuffled his cabinet following the departure of a fourth senior politician over a multimillion-dollar energy scandal. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1yyDVGg)

More than half a million people in Cameroon’s Far North region are in need of urgent food aid, the government says, as attacks by militant group Boko Haram have forced farmers to abandon their fields, shut down local markets, and halted the movement of people and goods. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1yyDWKj)

More than 100 people have been killed and 150,000 displaced by floods in Mozambique, a senior government official said on Wednesday, as southern Africa counts the human and economic costs of this month’s torrential rains. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1v5LXfo)

Islamic extremists are rampaging through villages in northeastern Nigeria, killing, burning and looting with no troops protecting civilians, fleeing villagers said Wednesday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1tsxGIx)

A surge in foreign debt issuance by African nations has left some fragile economies exposed to the risk of billions of dollars in foreign exchange related losses if the U.S. currency strengthens abruptly, a think-tank said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Limt2Y)

MENA

The head of the United Nations agency aiding Palestinians in rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed in last year’s 50-day war with Israel urged international donors Wednesday to live up to their pledges and provide urgently needed funding. (VOA http://bit.ly/1z3PHxI)

An Israeli rights group Wednesday criticised the government for what it called a deliberate policy of launching air strikes on homes that killed hundreds of civilians during last year’s Gaza war. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1tsxBod)

UN relief efforts in war-torn Syria are struggling to reach 40 percent of civilians in need and face a major funding shortfall, a senior UN aid official said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1zB6hGS)

Dozens of Palestinians attacked a United Nations compound in Gaza City following the world body’s suspension of an aid program for victims of last year’s war. (AP http://yhoo.it/15JjFLp)

A UN peacekeeper from Spain was killed Wednesday in southern Lebanon, a source at the Spanish embassy said, as the Israeli military shelled border areas after a Hezbollah attack. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1zB60no)

The Islamic State group has suffered “devastating” blows in Syria’s Kobane and on several Iraqi fronts, but analysts warn such victories in the fight against the jihadists cannot be replicated everywhere. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1zd3xwj)

Asia

Less than three weeks since Sri Lanka voted in a new president, rights activists and other NGOs say there are already encouraging signs that they may have more freedom to work under the new administration, including in the former conflict zone in the north. (IRIN http://bit.ly/1z3Qwqi)

Work to set up an autonomous Muslim region in the Philippines to end a 45-year insurgency has been suspended and may be abandoned altogether because of a clash in which more than 50 people were killed, legislators said on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1tsxGbm)

Washington is concerned about press freedom in China, a senior US diplomat said in Beijing Wednesday as some US news organisations face repercussions over their reporting of issues deemed sensitive by the ruling Communist Party. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1zd3yAn)

The Americas

The Mexican government says it is now a matter of “historical truth” that 43 college students who have been missing since last September were murdered by drug traffickers who believed they were members of a rival gang. (VOA http://bit.ly/1yyCpnB)

Parents of 43 college students missing since last year angrily rejected the Mexican attorney general’s declaration that investigators are certain the youths were killed and incinerated after being seized by police in the southern state of Guerrero. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zd2cp9)

The worst drought to hit Brazil’s biggest city in decades may leave residents with water service only two days a week. (AP http://yhoo.it/1zd3z7j)

Opinion/Blogs

Angelina Jolie on the Syrians and Iraqis Who Can’t Go Home (NY Times http://nyti.ms/1BxKGNl)

Election anxiety promises a new year of frustrations in Myanmar (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1Bq4Rdq)

The long-term impact of war: the urgent challenge of sexual and gender based violence (Development Progress http://bit.ly/1By8WyS

Here’s what moviegoers in Baghdad think of ‘American Sniper’ (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1v5LE43)

Are you or your org guilty of Trickle-Down Community Engagement? (Nonprofit With Balls http://bit.ly/1z41BHM)

The saddest thing in the world is not poverty; it’s loss of dignity (The Guardian http://bit.ly/1zBtrgv)

Africa in 2030: A future of smartphones, drones and digital witchdoctors (Mail & Guardian Africa http://bit.ly/1Byj6PW)

Obama, Modi Visits More Symbolism Than Substance (Al Jazeera America http://alj.am/1z47jJR)

Discussion

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