Saturday, August 3, 2013

Honduran President unharmed after explosion outside his residence

No one was injured after an explosion 100 meters from the residence of Honduran President Porfirio Lobo. Honduran police say a device tossed from a moving car exploded around midnight when the head of the country was home with his family. It is still unclear if the attack was aimed at the head of state as investigation continues.


​Driver of derailed Spanish train ignored warning signals

The driver of the Spanish train crash that killed 79 people last week ignored three speed warnings leading to the accident, the “black box” records revealed Friday. The locomotive was going almost twice the speed limit at 179 kph around the bend when it derailed. The driver also stopped speaking on the phone just 11 seconds before the fatal accident. Friday's report revealed the driver ignored warnings as the train approached the reduced-speed zone. The 52-year-old Francisco Jose Garzon Amo has been charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide. The investigation is continuing.


Five wounded in attack on police installations in Benghazi

An explosion at a police station in Benghazi has left at least 5 people wounded, security official said. The target of the attack was a building that belongs to the police force tasked with guarding electricity infrastructure. According to authorities, this is not the first time that this site has been targeted. This time it was largely destroyed in the explosion.


Berlusconi’s sentencing postponed for one month

A judge in Milan has signed an order postponing the sentencing of Silvio Berlusconi convicted of tax fraud. Now the 76-year-old legal team has a month to ask for either house arrest or community service, instead of a jail sentence. On Thursday, the highest judicial authority in Italy upheld former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s prison sentence for tax evasion. The Court of Cassation also ordered a further judicial review to determine if the politician should be banned from holding public office. Berlusconi was sentenced to four years in prison last October, but his sentence was automatically reduced to a year under a 2006 pardon law. Following the ruling, Berlusconi made an announcement denouncing the decision as "based on nothing, and which deprives me of my freedom and political rights".


Two policemen injured in Egypt during scuffles

Two policemen have been injured as law enforcement clashed with a pro-Morsi protest march near the Media Production City complex, Ahram online reports. The scuffles broke out as police fired teargas at demonstrators. They responded with birdshot. The march by pro-Morsi supporters was an attempt to highlight bias in the media. 31 Muslim Brotherhood members have also been arrested, for "seeking to break into the media complex," MENA reported.


UN human rights chief urges independent probe into Syria Khan al-Assal massacre

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Friday she wanted an independent investigation into an apparent massacre carried out by Syrian opposition forces in the town of Khan al-Assal. “Based on the analysis by my team to date, we believe armed opposition groups in one incident - documented by a video - executed at least 30 individuals,” she said in a statement. The majority of those executed appeared to be soldiers, she said. Syrian state media have accused insurgents of killing 123 people, mainly civilians, during a rebel offensive in Aleppo province late last month.


US to give equal treatment to visas from gay spouses – Kerry

The US will immediately begin considering visa applications of gay and lesbian spouses in the same manner as heterosexual couples, according to US Secretary of State John Kerry. He made the announcement at the US Embassy in London on Friday, Reuters reported.


Russian Interior Ministry requests businessman Polonsky be arrested in absentia

The Russian Interior Ministry has requested that the head of the Mirax-Group corporation Sergey Polonsky be arrested in absentia. The businessman is accused of fraud, Interfax reported. The ministry has received information from Israeli law enforcement agencies that Polonsky is living in Israel, which he entered on a tourist visa that expires on September 27, 2013. If the court grants the investigators' request, extradition proceedings against Polonsky could begin, officials say. Investigations into Polonsky's deals, including alleged money laundering, have been opened in a number of countries, the ministry said on Friday.


US embassy in Cairo to shut for 3 days over pro-Morsi protests

The US embassy in Cairo has announced that it will be closed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The closure is a precautionary step to protect employees as well as those visiting the embassy, it said in a statement. The diplomats also warned US citizens to avoid protests and marches planned for Friday, as well as ongoing pro-Morsi sit-ins in Cairo. Supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi plan to hold 33 marches around Cairo and Giza on Friday. Egypt’s interior ministry was authorized to disperse the pro-Morsi sit-ins in Giza and Cairo’s Nasr City.


New Zealand names islands after 200 years

The New Zealand Geographic Board has proposed names for the country’s two main islands. They have never been formally named due to a 200-year-old clerical oversight despite being universally known as the North and South Islands. The board said the names had appeared on maps since European settlement began in the early 1800s. Two names were proposed for each of the islands, one in English and one in the indigenous Maori language. The English version will be the widely used North and South Islands. The Maori names put forward by the board are Te Waipounamu - meaning rivers of green stone - for the South Island and Te Ika-a-Maui (the fish of Maui, a Maori god) - for the North.


US Deputy Secretary of State Burns to visit Egypt - spokesman

US Deputy Secretary of State, William Burns, is set to visit Egypt late on Friday, said a spokesman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry. Badr Abdelatty said Burns was due to arrive on Friday evening and meet Egypt’s interim Foreign Minister, Nabil Fahmy, on Saturday, Reuters reported. He said it was not known whether Burns would also hold talks with army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who overthrew President Mohamed Morsi on July 3.


Moscow police detain 1,500 people in raids against illegal migrants

Moscow police said they have detained more than 1,500 people during raids against illegal migrants at markets throughout the Russian capital. In particular, some 1,200 Vietnamese were detained during a raid on a complex of small workshops, all of whom are reportedly staying in Russia illegally. The Interior Ministry said the operation found workers and their families living in unsanitary conditions. The Emergencies Ministry is building a tent camp and field kitchen to house and feed the detainees, pending deportation hearings.


Rockets hit area south of Lebanese capital

At least two rockets slammed Thursday night into an area south of Beirut that houses the Defense Ministry and presidential palace. There were no casualties from the rockets, which fell in Beirut's Fayadiyyeh area, Lebanon’s state news agency said. It was not immediately clear who fired the rockets. Eyewitnesses said one fell only a few meters from an entrance to the presidential palace.


Russian Defense Ministry says 2+2 meeting in Washington not delayed

The Russian Defense Ministry says it has not received notification from the Pentagon about the possible cancellation or postponement of the 2+2 meeting scheduled for August in Washington. US officials earlier warned they would consider the expediency of the meeting between Russian foreign and defense ministers and their US counterparts in light of the situation around Edward Snowden. In July, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced that the meeting on a 2+2 format will be held in Washington on August 9.


Ex-PM Keita to face Cisse in Mali election run-off

Former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita came first in Mali’s presidential election, but failed to secure an outright majority. He will face ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse in a run-off, the government said on Friday. Keita secured 39.24 percent of the vote in the July 28 poll, well ahead of Cisse, who managed 19.44 percent, Reuters cites Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, Mali’s minister of territorial administration, as saying. The run-off will be held on August 11.


Tunisia mounts anti-Islamic land and air operation

On Friday Tunisian forces launched a land and air operation against Islamic militants on a remote mountain near the Algerian border. “A huge operation, with ground and air units, was launched at dawn to clean up the mountain,” AFP quoted armed forces spokesman, Taoufik Rahmouni, as saying. The assault was mounted after clashes on Thursday night between soldiers and fugitive Islamic militants.


UN peacekeepers to enforce security zone in eastern Congo

UN peacekeepers have begun a new effort to disarm fighters in volatile eastern Congo, setting up a zone where only the country’s security forces can now carry firearms. The move is aimed at stabilizing the eastern city of Goma. Home to more than 1 million people, the area has faced waves of rebellion and attacks from armed groups in recent years. Earlier this week, the UN peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, issued an ultimatum before beginning the disarming drive.


Jordan police seize arms cache from Syria on border

Border police in Jordan have arrested smugglers trying to sneak in a large cache of arms from neighboring Syria, an army spokesman said. The group arrested late Thursday included Jordanians and other Arab nationalities. The arms included mainly machine guns, according to the spokesman. There is concern in Jordan that the militants may try to smuggle in weapons to use in attacks to destabilize the kingdom.


Indian army kill 12 rebels in Kashmir

The Indian army has killed a dozen suspected rebels in five days of fighting near the militarized line dividing disputed Kashmir between India and Pakistan. The fighting began on Monday after soldiers intercepted militants crossing into a northern part of Indian-held Kashmir from the Pakistani side, Indian army spokesman Naresh Vig said Friday. Rebels also made attempts to cross into the Indian side at three other places in remote and mountainous northern Kashmir, sparking fierce gun battles with the army, he added. There was no independent confirmation of the fighting.


Taiwan MPs brawl over nuclear plant bill

Taiwanese lawmakers exchanged punches and threw water at each other Friday ahead of an expected vote that would authorize a referendum on whether to finish a fourth nuclear power plant. Friday's row pitted the pro-referendum forces of President Ma Ying-Jeou’s ruling Nationalist Party against strongly anti-nuclear forces affiliated with the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party, AP said. DPP lawmakers occupied the legislative podium late Thursday night amid vows to disrupt the vote, but it had not taken place by midday Friday. With a large Nationalist majority in the 113-seat legislature, the referendum bill is expected to pass easily.


Berlusconi denies tax fraud conviction as supreme court confirms jail term

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has denied having committed tax fraud and railed against the “uncontrolled” judiciary. “In return for the commitment that I have lavished on my country… I receive as a reward accusations and a sentence founded on absolutely nothing which deprives me of my personal freedom and my political rights,” he said in a TV broadcast on Thursday. Berlusconi was handed his first definitive criminal conviction as judges dismissed his final appeal to overturn a guilty verdict concerning the fraudulent purchase of broadcasting rights by Mediaset. They ordered him to serve a jail sentence that had been cut to one year according to a 2006 amnesty. The court also called for a re-examination of a ban on Berlusconi’s holding public office.


​ Egyptian military 'restoring democracy' – John Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry has voiced support for the military ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, calling it a step towards “restoring democracy.” He hailed the deposing of Morsi as reflecting the will of “millions and millions of people” in the country. Kerry also stressed that to the White House’s knowledge,“the military did not take over.”

Power confirmed as next US ambassador to the UN

Samantha Power has been confirmed by the US Senate as the next ambassador to the United Nations in an 87-10 vote. Power, who was backed across the board by Democrats and some Republicans had received strong approval from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month. Power will replace the outgoing envoy Susan Rice, who has been the subject of aggressive criticism by Republicans due to her role in the Obama administration’s handling of the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11 last year, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador to that country. A former national security staffer for the White House, Power is also the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “A Problem from Hell,” which delves into US failure to prevent genocide. An early supporter of Obama’s first presidential candidacy, Power had faced questions from some Republicans in Congress critical of her past comments regarding the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on US politics.


​Ariel Castro sentenced to 1,000 years in prison

A man who has held three women hostage was sentenced to 1,000 years in prison for sexually, physically and emotionally torturing them over a decade. Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape and murder in his Cleveland home. The 53-year-old claimed that violence towards victims was caused by his addiction to porn and what he suffered as a child. The investigators which showed gruesome pictures of the captivity said that the man kidnapped the three women and tied them in chains in the basement to repeatedly rape them.


Some US embassies to close on Sunday due to security threat

The US state department has announced that it will close a number of its embassies due to security concerns, Sunday August 4. The number of such embassies around the world has not been disclosed. The “precautionary”measures are being implemented to protect employees and visitors. It is also unclear how long the US missions will remain closed, but they will reopen after proper assessment of the threat. The spokeswoman also declined to specify from which part of the world the threat was emanating.


Supreme Court upholds Berlusconi guilty verdict

Italy’s Supreme Court has rejected former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s appeal against a tax fraud conviction, handed out in October 2012. The 76-year-old media mogul will likely start serving his 1-year term – which may be commuted to community service or house arrest - in September. The court ordered a judicial review of a different part of his sentence that would have banned the senator from occupying public office for five years.


UN inspectors prepare for on-sight investigation of Syrian chemical weapon claims

UN inspectors are preparing to travel to Syria within days to investigate claims of chemical weapons use in the country's civil war after the Bashar Assad’s government granted them access to three sites. "The team will depart for Syria as soon as practical and is preparing to depart within days," UN spokesman, Martin Nesirky, is cited as saying by Reuters. The UN has received 13 reports of chemical attacks as the Syrian government and the opposition both deny using such weapons. The UN inquiry will only try to establish if chemical weapons were used, not who used them.


Tunisia orders release of Femen activist Amina

The Tunisian judiciary on Thursday ordered the release of Femen activist Amina Sboui pending trial for desecrating a cemetery. “She will be free within hours. I wasn’t expecting this,” her lawyer Halim Meddeb told AFP. The young woman was detained in May. She faces trial for painting the word "Femen" on a cemetery wall in protest at a planned meeting of radical Sunni Muslim Salafists.


US airstrike ‘accidentally kills’ 5 Afghan police

The NATO-led force in Afghanistan has launched an investigation into the accidental killing of five Afghan policemen in a US air attack during an overnight operation. Two policemen were also wounded in the incident Wednesday night, Reuters reported. Afghan special forces called in for air support during a clash with a group of Taliban fighters at a police checkpoint, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the governor of the eastern province of Nangarhar. “A US aircraft engaged, inadvertently killing five Afghan National Police members,” Master Sergeant Bryan Gatewood, a spokesman for the NATO-led force, said.


Morsi supporters reject police appeal to end Cairo sit-ins

Egypt’s Interior Ministry urged supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi on Thursday to evacuate their Cairo protest camps. The ministry called on those in Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda squares to “let reason and the national interest prevail, and to quickly leave,” AFP reported. The ministry also pledged a “safe exit and full protection to whoever responds to this appeal.” The previous day, the government ordered police to end the protests. But a coalition of Islamist groups announced that they have rejected the appeal. “We are going to continue our peaceful sit-ins and our peaceful protests,” said Allaa Mostafa, a spokeswoman for the Anti-Coup Alliance. Islamists reportedly plan more than 30 pro-Morsi marches on Friday.


Bahrain’s ruler stiffens terror penalties

Bahrain’s King Hamad has issued a decree toughening penalties for acts of terrorism, including the death penalty for deadly bomb attacks. Under a new law, bombers will also face life in prison if no one is killed in the attack, the official BNA news agency said Thursday. The minimum penalty for an attempted bombing will be 10 years behind bars. Suspects found guilty of "raising money for a terrorist organization" will be handed jail terms ranging from 10 years to life. Bahrain has been rocked by a Shiite-led uprising since 2011.


Iraq’s July death toll tops 1,000 - UN

The UN mission in Iraq says more than 1,000 people have been killed in violence across the country last month, the highest monthly figure in years. A total of 1,057 people were killed in July, including members of Iraq’s security forces. The capital, Baghdad, was the worst affected, with 238 killed. The UN death toll for June was 761.


Moscow police chief fires officers for failing to combat illegal migration

Moscow police chief Anatoly Yakunin has fired a group of officers for “inactivity” in combating illegal migration and reported them to the Investigative Committee. The officers sacked include the police chief for the Izmailovo precinct and two of his deputies. Earlier, another precinct chief, for the Ochakovo-Matveyevskoye police department, was sacked for his failure to maintain law and order. Yakunin has promised to step up a crackdown on ethnically-motivated crime in the city, following an incident at the Matveyevsky market, where a police officer was injured.


Greek public workers go on strike against layoffs

The Greek umbrella union representing state workers, ADEDY, has launched a strike against layoffs in the public sector. The strike was to kick off at 11am on Thursday, culminating in a march to the Finance Ministry in Syntagma Square on Friday at noon. On Friday, protesters will rally at the Administrative Reform Ministry on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. The unions are protesting the government’s decision to cut 75 percent of salaries for 12,500 civil servants.


Direct Palestinian-Israeli talks to start after Ramadan

Direct Palestinian-Israeli talks will resume after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends August 11, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki said Thursday. He also told the Voice of Russia radio that the first meeting between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations in Washington should not be considered the start of preliminary peace negotiations.


Mugabe party claims victory ‘in emphatic manner’

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has won the presidential election, a senior member of ZANU-PF party claimed Thursday. “We have romped [to victory] in a very emphatic manner. We have defeated the MDC,” a top party member told AFP. He said Mugabe had won against his longtime rival Morgan Tsvangirai and that the party has retaken many urban parliamentary seats.


US resumes strategic dialogue with Pakistan – Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry and his Pakistani counterpart, Sartaj Aziz, say the two countries will resume high-level negotiations over security issues. Kerry said he invited Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif to come to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama. The two diplomats spoke Thursday after Kerry met with Sharif in Islamabad. Aziz said Pakistan wanted the US to end drone strikes aimed at militants on its territory. The Secretary of State also said he was confident there will be a “timely” agreement with Afghanistan on future troop levels in the country.


Assad confident he will defeat Syrian rebels

Syrian President Bashar Assad said on Thursday he was confident of victory against rebels in the 28-month-old civil war. “If we were not sure that we were going to win in Syria, we would not have the ability to resist and the ability to continue fighting for more than two years against the enemy,” SANA news agency quoted Assad as saying. Government forces have shown “courage in the face of terrorism… and the fiercest barbaric war in modern history,” Assad said, addressing officers on the 68th anniversary of the creation of the Syrian army.


Moscow criticizes US Congress over tougher Iran sanctions

Russia’s Foreign Ministry has criticized a US House of Representatives resolution to tighten sanctions against Iran, saying it would not help resolve the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear program. “Additional sanctions are actually aimed at the economic strangulation of Iran, but not at solving the problem of non-proliferation,” Interfax quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov as saying Thursday.


Spanish PM Rajoy says ‘wrong’ to trust party’s ex-financial chief

Spain’s prime minister has admitted he was “wrong” to trust his party’s financial chief as his government struggles to fend off allegations of widespread corruption. PM Mariano Rajoy told Parliament he was “wrong to maintain confidence in someone we now know did not deserve it.” But he denied allegations by ex-Popular Party treasurer Luis Barcenas that the party ran a slush fund, AP said. Barcenas has been jailed while under investigation about the party's funding and having huge secret Swiss bank accounts. On Thursday, Rajoy called his long-time friend Barcenas “a delinquent.”


Tsvangirai's MDC party says "monumental fraud" in Zimbabwe election

Zimbabwe Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party on Thursday said Zimbabwe’s presidential elections had been a monumental fraud. “Zimbabweans have been taken for a ride by ZANU-PF and Mugabe, we do not accept it,” a senior source in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) told Reuters. President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party on Thursday claimed a landslide victory. Zimbabwe's leading domestic election monitoring agency cried foul on Thursday over the poll, saying the credibility of the vote was "seriously compromised" by irregularities on election day. Wednesday's poll was peaceful across the southern African state.


Congress reduces US college student loan rates by half

American college students will be able to focus on their studies this upcoming school year after the US House of Representatives voted 392-31 Wednesday to reduce student loan interest rates to an average 3.86 per cent. The Senate passed the bill last week and President Obama is expected to sign it into law soon, a relief for cash-strapped students who have watched lawmakers quarrel for months over student loan interest rates. This bipartisan legislation reverses a recent rate hike after interest loans automatically doubled to 6.8 per cent because of congressional inaction. Wednesday’s deal, struck on the eve of a five week recess for lawmakers, goes into effect retroactively.


Congress enacts tougher sanctions on Iran despite election optimism

The US House of Representatives voted Wednesday to impose strict new sanctions on Iran despite whispers that the Obama administration would pursue better relations after the election of the moderate President Hassan Rohani. The legislation, which forbids any business with Iranian mining and construction sectors, does not refer to Rohani’s presidency, set to begin this week. The sanctions also commit the US to ending Iran’s global oil sales by 2015. Petroleum sales are thought to serve as the main financing for Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program. Tehran claims to use the program for energy and research purposes.


US to go ahead with Egypt military exercise despite president’s ouster

The US will go ahead with a major military exercise with Egypt’s armed forces in mid-September despite its removal of president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, according to US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who confirmed plans on Wednesday. The exercise, called Bright Star, has been held every two years since 1980, though it was canceled in 2011 due to turmoil in Egypt following the ouster of longtime US ally Hosni Mubarak in a popular revolution. Since Morsi’s toppling the Obama administration has supported the continuation of the $1.3 billion in annual US aid to Egypt’s military, though some members of Congress have pointed to existing laws barring aid to countries that have undergone a coup. Hagel has been in regular contact with Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi since the overthrow, according to Reuters. The last Bright Star exercise in 2009 included an airborne jump of over 300 US, Egyptian, German, Kuwaiti and Pakistani paratroopers and a simulated amphibious landing by more than 1,000 marines.

Media agencies 

Kerry to discuss drone strikes in surprise Pakistan visit

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived unannounced in Pakistan Wednesday for a visit aimed at easing tension over US drone strikes in the Middle Eastern country. Senior US aides also told reporters that Kerry hopes to convince the nuclear armed nation to do more to remove radical militants from inside its borders. Relations remain uneasy between Pakistan and the US over the continuous drone strikes and the 2011 American raid that killed Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, which violated Pakistan’s sovereignty, according to Pakistani leaders. The trip is Kerry’s first as Secretary of State, although his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, visited in 2011.


Jihadist groups take 200 Kurdish civilians hostage in Syria

Some 200 Kurdish civilians have been taken hostage by a Syrian rebel group with ties to al-Qaeda following violent clashes in two villages in the country’s east, reports AFP. "Fighters of Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) have seized control of Tall Aren village in Aleppo province and are laying siege to another village nearby, Tall Hassel," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Relations between Kurdish Syrian leaders and the main opposition forces fighting to wrestle control of the country from the Assad government seemed to deteriorate following the assassination this week of Isa Huso, a prominent Kurd politician. The Committees for the Protection of the Kurdish People (YPG) claim that FSA battalions were coordinating with hardline jihadist groups, including Al-Nusra and ISIS. Clashes between jihadists and Kurdish fighters have raged for some two weeks now after jihadists were forced out of the town of Ras al-Ain along the Turkish border.


Budget cuts could mean smallest US Navy since WWII - Hagel

The US military could be forced to scrap as many as three Navy aircraft carriers and liquidate large areas of the Army and Marine Corps budget over the next few years if Congress fails to prevent step budget cuts started in 2014, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday. While admitting “there is politics in all this,” Hagel warned that deep cuts may leave the nation with an under-equipped military with technology inferior to future enemies. The Pentagon has stepped up rhetoric in recent weeks over how drastically the budget would affect the military, with more than $50 billion expected to be cut in 2014 alone then a gradual $500 billion decrease over the next decade. If Hagel’s warnings are true, the reformatted Navy would be the US’s smallest since World War Two, although lawmakers have wondered whether the current sized force is necessary.


July deadliest month for Iraq since 2008

A continuing spike in violence has made July the deadliest month for Iraq since April of 2008, when the country was emerging from years of bloody sectarian conflict. Government figures account for 989 people killed this month, including 778 civilians, 88 police officers, 55 soldiers and 68 insurgents, according to figures disclosed by the Iraqi health, interior and defense ministries. Analysts cited by the AFP believe that widespread discontent among the Sunni Arab minority which the country’s majority Shiite government has failed to address is behind the recent spike in violence. Under Saddam Hussein’s rule prior to 2003’s US-led invasion the Sunni minority dominated Iraq’s regime.


Gadaffi minister issued death sentence for inciting violence

A Libyan court has sentenced a former Gadaffi minister, Ahmed Ibrahim, to death after being accused of inciting violence during the country’s civil war in 2011. Ibrahim held senior posts in the Gadaffi government, including that of education minister. He was captured by rebel forces in the northern coastal town of Sirte – Gadaffi’s hometown – according to Reuters. The news comes shortly after it was announced that Gadaffi’s son is to stand trial for alleged crimes against humanity within Libya – a move the International Criminal Court has said should be stopped so he can be tried in The Hague, under fears he will not receive a fair hearing in Libya. Nearly two years after Gaddafi was deposed and killed, Tripoli and other Libyan cities have been plagued by violence, lawlessness and factional infighting.


Putin to meet new Iranian president in September – ambassador

President Vladimir Putin will meet Iran’s newly elected president for the first time in Kyrgyzstan in September, the Iranian ambassador to Moscow said on Wednesday. Media reported last week that the Russian president would go to Iran in August for talks with Hassan Rouhani on Tehran’s nuclear program. Ambassador Seyed Mahmoud-Reza Sajjadi described the reports as false. Putin's first talks with Rouhani would be on the sidelines of a summit of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek on September 13.


ChronoPay chief jailed to 30 months for hacker attacks on Aeroflot

Moscow's Tushino district court on Wednesday sentenced the owner of Russian payments firm ChronoPay to 30 months in prison for plotting a hacker attack on online ticket sales of Russia's flagship carrier Aeroflot. Pavel Vrublevsky will serve his sentence in a penal colony, Itar-Tass reported. He was charged with illegally accessing computer systems which caused a huge financial loss and with the creation, use and spreading of "bot" infections. The court's verdict said Vrublevsky decided to remove his company's rival electronic payment system Assist and staged attacks on its web resources to disrupt ticket sales, causing damages worth $4.4 million to Aeroflot and more than $450,000 to Assist. The ChronoPay chief pleaded not guilty.


No one fired over Snowden – NSA official

No one has been fired and no one offered to resign in light of the fact that former security contractor Edward Snowden was able to take large amounts of classified data from US National Security Agency computers, the deputy director of the NSA said on Wednesday. “No one has offered to resign. Everyone is working hard to understand what happened,” Reuters quoted John Inglis as saying. The official was speaking at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.


Tunisian education minister resigns

Tunisian Education Minister Salem Labyedh has resigned, the prime minister’s spokesman said on Wednesday. The move came as pressure mounts on the Islamist-led government to step down. Labyedh, a secular leftist, had said he was considering resigning after the killing of fellow leftist Mohamed Brahmi last week, Reuters reported. The secular opposition has blamed the ruling Ennahda party for the killing.


5,000 Chinese workers strike over takeover of US firm

More than 5,000 Chinese workers at a Sino-US joint venture tire manufacturer have gone on strike against the American parent company’s $2.5 billion takeover by an Indian firm, AFP said. Cooper Tire and Rubber announced last month that it would be taken over by Apollo Tires of India. Thousands of staff at Cooper Chengshan, a joint venture in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong, have walked out in protest, Xinhua reported. Union leaders said they wanted to block the huge transaction as workers are concerned the Indian company will be unable to repay debt taken on in the highly leveraged acquisition.


Iran grants Syria $3.6bn credit facility

Syrian authorities and Iran signed a deal this week to activate a $3.6 billion credit facility to buy oil products with long term payment terms, officials said Wednesday. The deal was agreed to last May between the two allies and will allow Iran to acquire equity stakes in investments in Syria, Reuters reported. The agreement was part of a package to extend Iranian aid to President Bashar Assad’s government.


Russian commissioner blasts US ‘double standards’ in Manning case

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and Supremacy of Law Konstantin Dolgov has criticized the US for “applying double standards” in the case of US Army Private Bradley Manning. Dolgov noted that Washington constantly blasts Russia over human rights, but when the interests of US authorities are affected, they “act toughly, resolutely, often without paying attention to the observance of human rights,” RIA Novosti reported. The official also recalled growing evidence of human rights violations in the US penitentiary system. Moscow hopes the US will observe human rights standards in the Manning case, as well as in other cases, Dolgov continued.


New intl TV channel reports news from Israeli point of view

A new addition to the international news landscape, Israel's i24news TV channel has been on the air for less than two weeks, and says it can potentially reach 350 million households via cable and satellite operators in Europe, Asia and Africa. An expansion to the North American market is expected in early 2014. “We have to show that there are a lot of things about Israel that people don't know about,” AP quoted Frank Melloul, the channel's chief executive, as saying. The channel broadcasts in English, Arabic and French. It receives no government funding, and denies any political affiliation. The effort is funded by private money, and much of it comes from Patrick Drahi, a French-Israeli telecom tycoon who owns HOT, an Israeli cable network of TV channels and telephone service providers.


Amnesty weighs in on California prisons hunger strike

Amnesty International joined inmate supporters from the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition on Tuesday, urging an impartial probe into the death of a prisoner and weighing in on a 22-day-long hunger strike in California prisons. Billy Sell, 32, who was serving a life term for attempted murder, was found hanged in his cell on July 22 at the Corcoran State Prison in central California, Reuters reported. “Conditions for prisoners in solitary confinement in California are an affront to human rights and must end,” Thenjiwe McHarris of Amnesty said.


Metal poisoning from factory kills 26 in China

At least 26 villagers have died from cadmium poisoning and hundreds more have fallen ill since 2009 near a disused factory in central China, local media said Wednesday. Soil samples from Shuangqiao in Hunan province contained 300 times the authorized cadmium levels and excess amounts were found in 500 of 3,000 villagers tested by health authorities, AFP reported. A major chemical plant operated in the village until 2009, and a "huge" industrial waste pile remains on the factory grounds.


More than 1,300 Afghan civilian casualties in 6 months – UN

Violence against civilians is on the rise in Afghanistan, the UN said in a report on Wednesday, putting the mid-year toll of civilians killed at more than 1,300. The number of children killed over six months climbed 30 percent compared with the same period last year, Reuters reported. Improvised explosive devices remained the single greatest killer, claiming 53 percent more victims than last year. Fighting between security forces and insurgents was the second most significant cause of civilian deaths, with 207 killed as a result of crossfire. Mounting casualties are reinforcing fears about Kabul’s ability to tackle the insurgency on its own, as international forces hand over security to Afghans.


Filipino peacekeepers should stay in Golan - foreign secretary

Foreign Secretary of the Philippines Albert del Rosario said Wednesday that he wants Filipino peacekeepers to stay in the volatile Golan Heights for at least six months now that the UN has promised to bolster their safety. “We received many calls from the [UN] secretary-general and from various other countries that our leaving would probably create a situation where there will be maximum volatility,” Del Rosario said. He asked President Benigno Aquino III in May to withdraw the some 340 Filipino peacekeepers from Golan in the UN-patrolled buffer zone that separates Syria from the Israeli-occupied plateau. Filipino peacekeepers were abducted in two separate instances and another wounded in recent months in fighting between Syrian government and rebel forces.


Zimbabweans go to polls in crucial presidential vote

Zimbabweans are voting Wednesday in a fiercely contested presidential election amid suspicions of vote rigging. President Robert Mugabe, 89, who has been in office since Zimbabwe gained its independence from Britain in 1980, is seeking another five-year term as president. As Africa’s oldest leader, Mugabe is running for election for the seventh time. The contest pits him against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader who teamed up with the president’s party in a coalition. The power-sharing deal was forged by regional leaders after Zimbabwe’s disputed and violent election in 2008.


​Russia’s 2.8 MJ laser to be operational by 2017

The first stage of the megajoule-class $1.5 billion laser facility, which will be constructed in the Russian city of Sarov, is to become operational by 2017, according to Valentin Kostyukov, director of the Research Institute for Experimental Physics. Earlier reports on the project said scientists would begin conducting experiments with the UFL-2M laser in 2020. The device, which is to surpass its US and French counterparts – The National Ignition Facility and Laser M├ęgajoule – in terms of energy, will be used for nuclear fusion research.


Obama sends two senior senators to Egypt amid mounting criticism over US aid

Amid continuing violence following the removal of Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi by the armed forces president Barack Obama has requested that two senior Republican senators travel to the country, and meet with both military leaders and the opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood. Senators John MCCain and Lindsey Graham, both members of the influential Senate Armed Services Committee, are likely to travel to Egypt next week, according to a statement by Graham on Tuesday cited by Reuters. "The president reached out to us, and I said obviously I'd be glad to go," Graham told reporters outside the Senate. "We want to deliver a unified message that killing the opposition is becoming more and more like a coup." Graham’s comments seemed aimed at mounting criticism from some members of Congress, including Rand Paul, over continued US military aid, to the tune of $1.3 billion per year, which looks to go ahead as planned despite existing laws against funding countries that have undergone a coup.

Competitiveness, climate, security Finn’s priorities Ministry of Finance release Finnish road map of EU presidency. Finland i...