Saturday, December 21, 2013

Global news dose


China launches Bolivia’s first satellite

Bolivia’s first telecommunications satellite TKsat-1 has blasted off on top of a Chinese rocket from China’s Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province. The 5.1-ton spacecraft will service Bolivian territory as well as neighboring countries. The Long March-3B/E carrier rocket cost $302 million and was financed by the China Development Bank. Bolivian President Evo Morales, who travelled to China to witness the launch, said it would end Bolivia’s dependence on foreign powers for its communications.

14 killed in bombings, shootings in Iraq

At least 14 people were killed in a wave of sectarian bombings and shootings in northern Iraq on Friday. Two roadside bombs exploded in a livestock market in the town of Tuz Khurmatu, 175 kilometers north of Baghdad, killing nine people and wounding 24, police and medics reported. Also Friday in the northern town of Hawija, militants attacked two adjacent houses, killed five members of the family that lived there, and then bombed the buildings before escaping. Police believe the attack was part of infighting between Sunni insurgent groups currently under way in the area.

​Spain approves tight restrictions on abortion

Spain’s conservative government approved Friday new restrictions on abortion, allowing the procedure only in cases of rape or if there is a serious health risk to the mother or fetus. The legislation now goes to parliament for final passage, which is likely. The ruling Popular Party, long an ally of the Roman Catholic Church, made the move one of its top promises in the 2011 vote that swept them to power. Women seeking abortions must have approval from two doctors not performing the procedure. Doctors can now decline to perform an abortion on reasons of conscience, Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon said. A child likely to have disabilities will not be an acceptable reason for an abortion. Opponents of the bill fought vigorously against it, saying it is an attack on women’s rights. Over 1,000 people marched to the Justice Ministry Friday, as scuffles with police broke out after a life-size effigy of Ruiz-Gallardon was burned, AP reported.

Libya’s intelligence chief killed at a wedding

Chief of Benghazi’s military intelligence Colonel Fethallah al-Gaziri was “shot dead” by an unknown assailant, AFP reports citing an anonymous official. The colonel in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi was killed while visiting family for the marriage of a niece in neighboring Derna. Unrest in Libya continues following the assasination of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and foreign invasion.

Syria most dangerous place for reporters – study

For a second consecutive year, Syria has been labeled as the most dangerous spot for journalists with 19 press workers dying covering the conflict, International News Safety Institute announced. The institute also noted that kidnappings and disappearances of reporters was rising globally, with 18 foreign and 20 Syrian journalists are believed taken in Syria. Overall INSI found that 126 journalists lost their lives in 2013, 21 fewer than last year.

Security forces clash with pro-Morsi protesters across Egypt

Law enforcement have fired tear gas to disperse supporters of former president Morsi. Egypt’s Health Ministry said eight civilians were injured. Clashes erupted after Friday prayers in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez in eastern Egypt. The Interior Ministry announced that 85 “rioters” have been arrested following Friday’s unrest, while 5 officers and 3 soldiers sustained injuries.

1 killed, 3 wounded by IDF in Gaza cross-border violence – reports

Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian and wounded three others in separate incidents of cross-border violence in the Gaza Strip on Friday, medics and media reported. “The martyrdom of a young man of around 20 shot by the occupiers’ bullets,” Al Rai news reported. In separate incidents, the medics announced that three other Palestinians were wounded by the IDF. The army confirmed using live ammunition near the border saying ”several hits were identified”. It did not confirm the dead or wounded but added that a mortar was fired into Israel while blaming Palestinians for damaging the border fence.

2 soldiers killed in Sinai in an attempt to arrest militant leader

At least two Egyptian soldiers have been killed while battling militants in the northern Sinai Peninsula in the village of Nagaa Shabana, military officials announced. Eight more have been wounded as the troops sustained a “dense fire from all directions,” Col. Ali Ahmed, said in a statement. Three militants have also been killed in the clashes, while Islamic extremists paraded with one of the soldier’s body while it hung from a pole, witnesses report. The military was attacked while leading an operation to arrest Shadi a-Menei, an alleged chief of the al Qaeda-linked Ansar Beit al Maqdis cell.

​Agreement with Russia allowed Ukraine to avoid bankruptcy, no need of IMF loan – PM

Ukraine faced bankruptcy until it reached the agreement with Russia, Ukrainian Prime Mininiter Nikolay Azarov told a local TV station. “Upon finalizing agreements with Russia, financing has opened for us under normal conditions,”Azarov said. The PM also noted that bilateral agreements facilitate favorable trade with the Russia and with the Customs Union, but most of all lower gas payments. He noted that the $15 billion credit line offered by Russia, annihilated the need to ask the IMF for credit.

2014 Pentagon budget addresses sexual assault, Guantanamo trials

The US Senate has approved $630 billion for the 2014 defense budget with conditions that will make it easier to transfer detainees from Guantanamo Bay, and will overhaul the military’s handling of sexual assault. The budget, which provides approximately $80 billion for the end of the Afghanistan war, makes it more difficult for commanders to sway the justice system when sexual assault victims come forward. The changes also call for the dishonorable discharge of sexual-assault convicts and enacts a civilian review board for cases that military prosecutors decide not to pursue. The new rules come on the heels of a number of high-profile military sexual assault cases within the past year. The Senate also voted to remove the restrictions that prevent Guantanamo detainees from being tried in the US, where President Obama has sought to charge them in a criminal court.

Utah’s same-sex marriage ban struck down

A federal judge struck down Utah’s ban on same-sex marriage on Friday on the grounds that it violated the US Constitution’s guarantee for due process and equal protection under the law. “The state’s current laws deny its gay and lesbian citizens their fundamental right to marry and, in so doing, demean the dignity of these same-sex couples for no rational reason,” wrote US District Court Judge Robert J. Shelby. The judge noted that “any regulation adopted by a state, whether related to marriage or any other interest, must comply with the Constitution of the United States.” The state’s attorney general’s office requested an emergency stay to halt same-sex marriages, which had already begun in the wake of the court’s ruling, reported the AP.

Geneva nuclear expert-level talks extended

Iran and six other world powers have extended closed-door expert consultations in Geneva by a day, according to diplomats. The negotiations are targeted at putting into practice the November 24 deal which will see the country freezing its nuclear program. The new round of talks kicked off on Thursday and was scheduled to have reached its conclusion by the end of Friday.

5.3-magnitude earthquake hits eastern Japan, shakes buildings in Tokyo

A 5.3-magnitude earthquake has hit eastern Japan, causing buildings in Tokyo to shake seismologists said. It hit the southern part of Honshu’s Ibaraki prefecture, 35 kilometers north east of the capital Tokyo, at 01:10 am (1610 GMT Friday). There is no risk of a tsunami. The epicenter of the quake has been registered at a depth of 67-kilometres, the United States Geological Survey reported. There were no immediate reports of damage.

Britain to destroy part of Syria chemical stockpile

The British government has stated that it will be involved in the destruction of part of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. The process will take place at a commercial facility after being transported to the country by ship, according to a statement from the Foreign Office seen by Reuters.

Spanish police raid ruling People’s Party HQ in corruption probe

Spanish police have searched the headquarters of the ruling People’s Party (PP) for 14 hours as part of a corruption investigation, Reuters reported. Police followed late on Thursday the order of examining Magistrate Pablo Ruz, to search for documents and invoices over evidence of off-the-book payments linked to renovation work on the building carried out from 2005 to 2011. They left the central Madrid building on Friday morning, according to a PP spokesman. Ruz is looking into an alleged slush fund operated by former PP treasurer Luis Barcenas. The corruption scandal has threatened to destabilize the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

More than 30 injured as London bus crashes into tree

At least 32 people have been injured in a bus crash in south London, with seven in serious condition, after the bus struck a tree, Sky News reported, citing police. Two people were believed to be trapped inside the bus after it collided with a tree on Kennington Road, in south London. The No. 59 bus was en route to King’s Cross, and the incident occurred around 10.50 am on Kennington Road, near the Imperial War Museum.

Russian aviation watchdog to revoke Tatarstan Airlines license

The Federal Air Transport Agency will annul the operating license of Tatarstan Airlines as of December 31, 2013, the aviation watchdog announced Friday. The decision, dated December 19, was taken after violations of certification requirements had been exposed in the airline, as well as violations of the work time and leisure time of the crews, Itar-Tass reported. Rosaviatsiya also said the crews had not taken advanced training courses. All passengers and crewmembers – a total of 50 people – died in the air crash of a Boeing-737 belonging to Tatarstan at Kazan airport on 17 November.

India govt asks Supreme Court to review anti-gay law

India’s government asked the country’s Supreme Court on Friday to review a decision in which it upheld a colonial-era law that bans homosexual acts, AP reported. Law Minister Kapil Sibal said he hoped the court would overturn the law. The Supreme Court ruled last week that only lawmakers and not the courts can change the law. In 2009, a lower court said that the law violated fundamental human rights. The law, dating back to the 1860s, makes homosexual acts punishable by up to a decade in prison.

UN says 2 Indian peacekeepers killed in S. Sudan

Two UN peacekeepers from India have been killed and a third wounded when a UN base in South Sudan was overrun by armed youths, the organization’s spokesman Joe Contreras said Friday. Previous reports indicated three Indian peacekeepers died in the incident Thursday. Contreras said two civilians were also killed when Lou Nuer youths breached a UN compound in Jonglei State. He did not confirm comments by presidential spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny that 54 people from the ethnic Dinka group were killed in the raid.

Indian activists attack Dominos Pizza over diplomat row in US

Activists of a small Indian political group ransacked a Dominos Pizza outlet in a Mumbai suburb on Friday, Reuters reported. The protesters were demanding a ban on US goods until Washington apologizes for the arrest of an Indian diplomat in New York. No-one was hurt in the attack, but the Republican Party of India, which carried it out, sent pictures to media showing a broken glass door at the outlet. Diplomats from the two states are seeking to defuse the row over the arrest and subsequent strip-search of Devyani Khobragade in a visa fraud case.

UN-mandated probe cites Syria’s ‘systematic campaign’ of disappearances

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry has said in a report that the Syrian government forces are “waging a systematic campaign of enforced disappearances to terrorize the population,” AFP reported.“Enforced disappearances are perpetrated as part of a widespread campaign of terror against the civilian population,” the UN-mandated probe said. The commission said the enforced disappearances were committed as part of an attack against the civilian population, and therefore “amount to a crime against humanity.” In 2011 through to early 2012, the majority of those who disappeared “were men aged between 16 and 40 who were seized at demonstrations,” it said, adding that the net has widened since then.

Lebedev to discuss with lawyers possibility of applying for pardon

The former head of the Menatep Group, Platon Lebedev, will discuss with his defense team the possibility of submitting a request for a pardon, his lawyer Aleksey Miroshnichenko told Interfax Friday. The issue will be discussed at a “meeting at the penal colony today,” he said. The decision is expected to be announced later Friday. Lebedev’s business partner and former Yukos CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was pardoned by President Vladimir Putin on Friday morning.

US deploys 45 troops to S. Sudan to protect personnel

The US has deployed 45 troops to protect US personnel and assets in South Sudan amid ongoing fighting between rebels and government forces, the White House said. President Barack Obama sent a letter to Congress, saying the group of soldiers was sent Wednesday, AFP reported. The small force will remain in South Sudan “until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed,” Obama said. “Although equipped for combat, this force was deployed for the purpose of protecting US citizens and property.”

Senate approves defense bill to crack down on sexual assault in military

Congress has sent President Barack Obama a defense bill that would crack down on sexual assault in the military and add protection for victims. The Senate voted 84-15 Thursday night for the legislation, after a year-long campaign to address cases of rape and sexual assault in the ranks, AP reported. The military’s handling of high-profile cases of assault and other crimes had angered both the House and Senate, setting in motion what will be sweeping changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Philippines mayor, 3 others killed in Manila airport ambush

Four people, including the mayor of a southern Philippines town, were killed Friday in an ambush at Manila airport, AFP reported, citing its general manager. The mayor of Labangan, Ukol Talumpa, and his family and some security escorts were attacked, Angel Honrado said. Talumpa, a member of the opposition, won a mayoral race in last May’s elections.

Turkey has more journalists detained than any other country – report

For the second consecutive year Turkey has been ranked the number one jailer of journalists in the world by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Forty journalists are currently serving time in Turkey, a number lower than the 49 who were locked up as of December 1, 2012, but still more than Iran (35) and China (32). The three countries account for more than half of the 211 journalists imprisoned around the world, according to the rights watchdog. “Jailing journalists for their work is the hallmark of an intolerant, repressive society,” said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. The agency speculated that Turkey cracked down on journalists in part because of the Gezi Park protests. Meanwhile, Vietnam, Egypt, and Syria also reported increases in the number of jailed media personnel.
Media agencies

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