British spy fund “Courage Fund to Protect Journalistic Sources,”
Journalist dressed as priest ‘tried to sneak’ into Schumacher hospital room
A reporter dressed as a priest attempted to gain access to the room where Michael Schumacher is fighting for his life after a skiing accident, the Formula One champion’s manager Sabine Kehm has said. “This is something I would not have thought possible,” Kehm told Die Welt newspaper. “As soon as his disguise was recognized, he was expelled from the hospital.” The number of media personnel outside the hospital has risen to over 100 since Schumacher’s arrival at Grenoble University Hospital on Sunday, the Independent reported.
Bahrain probing torture claims by men jailed for bomb attacks
Bahrain is investigating torture claims by three men jailed for 15 years for two homemade-bomb attacks. Five men – including two who were tried in absentia – were convicted on Sunday by a court for their role in the blasts, which destroyed several vehicles but caused no injuries, the BNA news agency said. It added the men had admitted being behind the bombings. However, the men's lawyer, Jassim Sarhan, told Reuters they pleaded not guilty to involvement in the attacks. They also reportedly told the court their confessions during questioning were obtained under torture. One attack took place during last year's Formula 1 car race.
More than 130,000 killed in Syria since start of conflict – monitoring group
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday that 130,433 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011, among them 46,266 civilians. The number includes more than 7,000 children and more than 4,600 women, according to the Britain-based watchdog. The group said 52,290 pro-government fighters had been killed, among them more than 32,000 regular troops and 262 reinforcements from the Lebanon's Hizbullah, AFP reported. The Observatory said 29,083 rebels were killed, including 6,913 fighters from jihadist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Iraq army to leave Anbar province cities - PM
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Tuesday the army will leave cities in Anbar province, AFP reported. The move could help defuse tensions after security forces closed a major Sunni anti-government protest camp. Maliki called on the army “to devote themselves to… pursuing Al-Qaeda hideouts” in the desert of Anbar province. The army will turn over the administration of the cities to the hand of the local and federal police.
Israel to deploy extra police units ahead of New Year celebrations
Police will deploy extra officers and Border Police units across Israel on Tuesday night, the national police headquarters said Tuesday morning. The move comes as part of efforts to secure New Year's Eve celebrations, the Jerusalem Post reports. Policemen will be sent to nightclub districts and they will also enforce drunk driving regulations and carry out checks.
Schumacher undergoes 2nd operation, remains critical
Former Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has undergone a second operation to treat brain injuries sustained in a skiing accident, The Guardian reported. Doctors at the university hospital in Grenoble said they had carried out more surgery following a modest improvement in his condition and a brain scan on Monday afternoon. A fresh scan on Tuesday morning had confirmed “signs… of slight improvement,” according to Jacqueline Hubert, director of the hospital. The situation was better controlled than the previous day, but the doctors warned that the driver's condition remained critical.
Russian Supreme Court upholds complaint by Pussy Riot’s Samutsevich
The Russian Supreme Court has upheld a complaint filed by lawyers for Yekaterina Samutsevich, quashing her probation. “Upheld without studying the case,” a statement published on the court’s website said. The presidium of the Moscow City Court will now study the legality of sentences for Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina. They were convicted of hooliganism for staging a performance in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral on February 21, 2012. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were released earlier this month from penal colonies under an amnesty.
France’s DIY stores allowed to open on Sundays
The French government has ruled to let home improvement stores open on Sundays, Reuters reported. Sunday has been enshrined in law as a day of rest in France since 1906. Furniture and gardening stores were cleared for exemptions, and managers and workers from DIY stores staged protests in recent months demanding the right to open too. In a joint statement on Tuesday, France's trade and labor ministers said the government had passed a decree exempting DIY stores from the Sunday trading ban until July 1, 2015.
French priest kidnapped in Cameroon freed
President Francois Hollande's office announced Tuesday that a French priest kidnapped in Cameroon in mid-November has been set free. Georges Vandenbeusch was captured by armed men on November 13 in the far north of Cameroon, about 30 kilometers from the border with Nigeria, AP reported. The Koza region has been flagged as a risk for terrorism and kidnapping as the radical Islamic sect Boko Haram operates in the area, but the priest chose to stay on there to carry out his mission. Hollande thanked authorities in Cameroon and Nigeria for their efforts in helping to free the priest.
Bangladesh court issues arrest warrants for factory owners on homicide charges
A Bangladesh court on Tuesday issued arrest warrants for two owners of a garment factory and four of their employees on homicide charges for the deaths of 112 workers. They were killed in a fire that engulfed the factory last year in 2012. Judge Wasim Sheikh issued the arrest warrants for the six, including owners Delwar Hossain and his wife, Mahmuda Akter, AP reported. They have all fled, however, and if they are not found by February 25 when the court considers their case, they could be tried in absentia. It is the first time Bangladeshi authorities have prosecuted factory owners in the garment industry.
‘Good progress’ made in expert nuclear talks in Geneva - Iran
Iran and six world powers have made good progress in expert talks in Geneva over last month's nuclear deal, a senior Iranian official said Tuesday. Abbas Araqchi, Iran's deputy chief negotiator, told Iran's state news agency that some issues remained to be agreed at a more senior level. It was unclear, however, how close the negotiators came to resolving all the practical issues involved in putting the November 24 accord into practice, Reuters said. A date to implement the deal that obliges Tehran to suspend its most sensitive atomic work was not reported either.
Schumacher's condition improved slightly, doctors say
Michael Schumacher's condition has improved slightly after an operation to relieve pressure on his brain, the BBC reported. A new scan taken overnight showed signs that the German motor-racing champion’s condition was “better than yesterday,” but he was still “not out of danger,” doctors said. Schumacher suffered head injuries on Sunday in a skiing accident in the French Alps and was put in a medically-induced coma. A new scan taken late Monday indicated a window of opportunity for a second operation, doctors said.
Marathon talks over N. Ireland communities tensions break down
Marathon talks between the leaders of Northern Ireland's Catholic and Protestant communities broke down Tuesday without agreement, Reuters reported. The talks were aimed at reaching an agreement to ease tensions and end some of the highest levels of street violence and attacks by militant groups since a peace and power-sharing deal in 1998. The five largest parties failed to reach an agreement during 18 hours of talks that ended shortly before 0500 GMT, the culmination of six months of negotiations, the US diplomat chairing the talks said. No date was set for the resumption of the talks.
Chinese doctor admits selling newborns
A Chinese doctor has admitted in court that she stole babies from the hospital and sold them to human traffickers, AP reported. Zhang Shuxia, a locally respected obstetrician, stood trial on Monday in northern Shaanxi Province's Fuping County. Zhang told parents their newborns had congenital problems and persuaded them to "sign and give the babies up," the court said in its ruling. Child trafficking remains a problem in China, despite legal punishments that include the death penalty.
Congo attacks death toll rises to 100
Clashes of security forces with supporters of a self-proclaimed 'prophet' in Democratic Republic of Congo left around 100 people killed Monday, Reuters reported. The figure was announced by government spokesman Lambert Mende, who added that Pastor Paul Joseph Mukungubila was on the run from authorities. The rebels tried to seize control of the airport, a military barracks and state television in Kinshasa.
S. Sudan's troops clash with rebels in flashpoint town of Bor
South Sudanese troops fought rebels supporting former Vice President Riek Machar on Tuesday in the flashpoint town of Bor, Reuters reported, citing Mayor Nhial Majak Nhial. The town is 190 kilometers to the north of the capital, Juba. East African nations earlier urged both sides in the conflict to end hostilities. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said the nations had agreed to move in and defeat Machar if he rejected a government ceasefire offer.
New eruption at volcano in western Indonesia
A rumbling volcano in western Indonesia that has been spewing lava and clouds of gas high into the sky let out a new, powerful eruption Tuesday, officials said. Nine eruptions Tuesday sent lava and searing gas tumbling out of Mount Sinabung in North Sumatra province, AP quoted Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho. The eruption prompted panic among villagers, and a warning was issued for airplanes. The volcano started spitting clouds of gas and lava as high as 7,000 meters in the air late Monday. No casualties have been reported so far.
5.1-magnitude earthquake hits eastern Japan
A 5.1-magnitude earthquake has struck eastern Japan, the US Geological Survey says. The quake occurred in the Ibaraki Prefecture, 146 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, the agency said. There are no reports of any damage so far. The quake was about 80 kilometers southwest of the Fukushima nuclear plant, but Tokyo Electric Power Company said it did not affect the plant.
ACLU sues US govt for rules guiding NSA's surveillance abroad
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on Monday against the US government for failing to respond to information requests related to the surveillance of Americans' international communications. The ACLU’s lawsuit, filed in a Manhattan federal court, says the organization’s Freedom of Information Act requests since May have been largely ignored by the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, and the Department of State. It seeks a court order to force the US government to supply information on how the monitoring of Americans’ international calls and emails is governed. The lawsuit seeks legal standards and guidelines, the ACLU says - not operational details. “While the government has released several documents describing the rules that govern its collection and use of Americans' international communications under statutory authorities regulating surveillance on U.S. soil, little information is publicly available regarding the rules that apply to surveillance of Americans' international calls and emails under Executive Order 12,333,” the ACLU wrote in the suit.
Israel to free 26 Palestinian prisoners
Israel is set to release 26 Palestinian prisoners on Tuesday, as part of peace negotiations with the Palestinians that kicked off in July. This will be the third batch of inmates to be released. A fourth and final release is expected to take place at a later date. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to release a total of 104 inmates at the start of the US-brokered negotiations. The inmates set to be released on Tuesday are serving up to 28 years for killing Israeli civilians and soldiers, and were jailed before the signing of the 1993 Oslo Accords which launched the Middle East peace process.