Friday, February 7, 2014

Bosnian police use stun grenades, rubber bullets on rally in capital Sarajevo

7 02 2014
Protesters throw stones at police in front of a local government building in the northern Bosnian town of Tuzla, on February 6, 2014.(AFP Photo / Stringer)
Protesters throw stones at police in front of a local government building in the northern Bosnian town of Tuzla, on February 6, 2014.
Police in Bosnian capital Sarajevo have launched stun grenades and rubber bullets at angry demonstrators, Reuters reports. Several cities in the Balkan state are gripped by dissent after a local unemployment demonstration grew into a nationwide protest.
The protests originated in the northern town of Tuzla, where workers on Wednesday took to the streets angry at the closure of factories sold off by the state. On Friday, an angry rally set fire to a local government building there, a Reuters photographer said.
During the days of violence, over 130 people got injured, around one hundred of police officers among them.
Anti-government demonstrations in Tuzla, Bosnia resulted in over 130 people – including 104 police officers – reporting injuries as protests over unemployment and political intransigence entered their second day across the country.
Tuzla police fired tear gas at thousands of demonstrators throwing stones, flares, and eggs at a local government building. The discontent in Tuzla, feeling the impact of diminished industry in recent years, highlights widespread frustration with a stalled economy in Bosnia, which has the highest unemployment rate – at least 27.5 percent – of the Balkan states.
Police finally dispersed the crowd after protesters began smashing shop windows and setting bins on fire, according to a Tuzla police spokesperson, media reported. Tuzla’s emergency service said it treated 104 police officers and 30 civilians for injuries.
Solidarity protests in support of the Tuzla demonstrations occurred in the towns of Zenica, Bihac, Mostar, and Bosnia’s capital of Sarajevo, where protesters blocked traffic in the city center. Four police agents were taken to the hospital, according to officials.
The clashes prompted the nation’s prime minister to hold an emergency meeting with regional security ministers and prosecutors.
“We put on one side the workers who were left without basic rights, such as pensions and health benefits…and on the other side all hooligans who used this situation to create chaos,” prime minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nermin Nikšić, said following the meeting.

International News Synopsis

7 02 2014

Syria govt to participate in second round of Geneva peace talks

Syria’s government will participate in the second round of peace talks in the Swiss city of Geneva, state television reported. “The participation of the delegation of the Syrian Arab Republic in the Geneva conference in the second round of talks next Monday has been decided,” Reuters quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad as saying on Friday.

6.7 magnitude quake strikes off Vanuatu

An earthquake of 6.7 magnitude struck off the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Friday, Reuters reported, citing the US Geological Survey (USGS). The depth of the earthquake was 101km. No casualties or damage were reported, and the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake was too deep to generate a tsunami.

Two explosions rock Giza district near Cairo

Two explosive devices detonated on Friday in a Cairo suburb, according to state television. The explosions occurred near a police station in Giza, a large district on the outskirts of Cairo, Reuters reported. Three people were injured, a security source said.

Operations stopped at S. Africa’s Harmony Gold after rock-fall, fire

South Africa’s Harmony Gold stopped all its operations for a 24-hour safety shift on Friday after at least eight workers were killed in a rock-fall and fire at the Doornkop mine near Johannesburg, Reuters reported. The country’s third-largest bullion producer also said two other workers had died in separate incidents at different mines on Thursday. The incidents showed that companies had to do more to improve safety in South Africa’s mines, Mining Minister Susan Shabangu said.

Taliban and Pakistan govt launch peace talks

The Taliban insurgency and the government of Pakistan have engaged in the much-awaited first round of talks in Islamabad on Thursday, Reuters reports. The militant’s ambitions of overpowering the government and instituting a strict version of Islamic rule in Pakistan date back to 2007, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed optimism for the first time about the prospect of negotiations between the two, especially as both have openly declared their commitment. “Both committees concluded that all sides should refrain from any act that could damage the talks…both condemn recent acts of violence in Pakistan, saying such efforts should not sabotage the talks,” a statement from a recent meeting read. A top Pakistani official has already commented on the talks as “cordial and friendly” in a text message sent from the Islamabad government building where the talks are being held.

Homs evacuation deal reached between Syrian govt, rebels

An agreement securing the evacuation of civilians stranded in the Syrian city of Homs and the delivery of aid has been secured. The UN, although not party to the deal, has welcomed the agreement between the government of Bashar Assad and the rebels, and is standing by with aid, Reuters reports. UN spokesman Farhan Haq gave a statement that “the United Nations and humanitarian partners had pre-positioned food, medical and other basic supplies on the outskirts of Homs ready for immediate delivery as soon as the green light was given by the parties for safe passage.” These are seen as welcome developments after the stalemate that took hold earlier in the week at the Geneva peace talks.

Rio protests over public transportation

Demonstrations in Rio de Janeiro’s primary train station turned ugly Thursday when Brazilians protesting against a ten cent fare hike violently clashed with police. Activists threw stones and petrol bombs at police dressed in full riot gear as the chaos spilled from inside the station onto the surrounding street. A cameraman for Band TV was hospitalized in serious condition after he was struck by either a stun grenade fired by police or an explosive thrown by demonstrators. Thousands of commuters were trapped inside when police shut down the transit system, and many became ill because of the tear gas. Thais Jorao, 22, told The Washington Post that the outrage was about more than the fare increase. “If it was a public transportation fare hike when we had good health services and education, you wouldn’t have this many people on the street,” he said. “On top of this you see spending with the world Cup, things that we really don’t need. We want health, education, decent public transportation.”

TSA forbids carry-on liquids on flights to Russia

The US Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that airline passengers flying from the US to Russia will not be allowed to bring any liquids in their carry-on luggage. The prohibition comes after the Homeland Security Department, which oversees TSA, warned that terrorists may try to disguise explosives in toothpaste tubes. Delta Airlines, the only airline that carries Americans on nonstop flights to Russia, posted the advisory on its website Thursday. Homeland Security officials maintain there are no current terror threats against the US. However Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, said on Thursday that media reports that explosives could be smuggled into Russia ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics in toothpaste tubes might emerge because of a “misunderstanding.”

Boehner says immigration reform ‘difficult’ due to Obamacare

Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner said Thursday that meaningful immigration reform “would be difficult to pass this year” because more conservative members of the Republican Party have a “lack of trust” in President Obama. Immigration reform has vexed Washington for years, but as pressure has increased for lawmakers to provide undocumented immigrants with a viable path to citizenship, positive steps seemed to be taken when Boehner assembled influential GOP leaders for private meetings last week. Yet Boehner’s announcement Thursday could be another step back, with the Speaker blaming the party’s reluctance on how President Obama’s healthcare reform was implemented. Referencing Obamacare, Boehner said “it’s going to be difficult to move any immigration legislation until that changes.”

3 rockets hit Israel from Gaza, no injuries or damage

Three rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the last 24 hours, according to the Israeli Defense Force spokesman’s office. The latest rocket hit an empty area in the Eshkol region in Israel on Thursday. No injuries or damages were reported, The Times of Israel said. The other two rockets – fired into the Ashkelon region – also hit open areas and caused no injuries.

​Gunmen attempt attack on Libyan army HQtrs

Unidentified gunmen attacked the Libyan army command headquarters in Tripoli on Thursday, leading to a limited clash with soldiers that resulted in no casualties, according to military sources, Reuters reported. Details on the attempted raid are still unclear, though the gunmen did steal a few Kalashnikov rifles and at least four vehicles before fleeing the army chief of staff headquarters in south Tripoli, sources said. “We clashed with them when they tried to enter, but they left,” said Ali Al-Sheikhi, an army spokesman. The confrontation occurred at the gate of the command building. One senior army officer who requested anonymity said he believed the dispute was between guards at the military base.

7 dead, 1,000 rescued in attempts to swim to Europe

Seven people have drowned as part of a collective of 200 migrants trying to swim from Morocco’s mainland to Ceuta, a Spanish enclave attached to Morocco’s northern coast, according to the Spanish daily, El Pais. Potential migrants make frequent attempts to cross the border separating the two, often risking their lives to access the territory which lies just 15 km over the sea from Spain. Meanwhile, over 1,000 people were rescued from rafts near the Italian island of Lampedusa by Italy’s navy. The country is another major migrant point of entry into Europe and over 200 died in October last year alone, only a kilometer from the coast. Sea crossings tripled last year, thought to be prompted by regional instability, including civil war in Syria.

Georgia won’t meet Putin during Sochi Olympics

Georgia’s president, Georgy Margvelashvili, will not be traveling to the Sochi Olympic Games according to a statement released on Thursday. “The Georgian official delegation will not attend the Olympic Games in Sochi,” Vano Machavariani, Margvelashvili’s foreign policy adviser, told Reuters. “Georgia will be represented in Sochi by our sportsmen and representatives of the Georgian Olympic Committee,” he said. The Kremlin previously said that Margvelashvili could meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin there in what would have been their first meeting since the five-day war in 2008, when Mikhail Saakashvili was president. Margvelashvili was elected late last year.

Pakistan-Taliban landmark peace talks kick off

Delegates from both the Pakistani government and the Taliban met for over three hours on Thursday in the first round of peace talks targeted at putting an end to the militant group’s insurgent activities. The meeting took place in Islamabad after Tuesday’s talks failed to take place after the Pakistani government expressed doubts about the Taliban negotiators. During the successfully rescheduled meeting on Thursday, the two groups charted a ‘roadmap’ for future discussions, with Irfan Siddiqui, the government’s chief negotiator saying the Taliban had “responded to us beyond our expectations,” according to media agency reports.

Syria chemical weapons deadline cooperation vital

Sigrid Kaag, head of the joint mission of the United Nations and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), told the UN Security Council on Thursday that it was essential that Syria persists in cooperating with the deadline for the destruction of their chemical weapons arsenal. “With [the] deadline on the horizon, it is essential that Syria accelerates [the shipments out of the country],” Kaag told a closed-door briefing, according to an anonymous diplomat who spoke to Reuters. “Time for action is now,” added Kaag.

Syria rebels seize most of central jail in Aleppo

Syrian rebels on Thursday seized control of most of Aleppo’s central prison, freeing hundreds of detainees, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. “Ahrar al-Sham and Al-Nusra Front [brigades] have taken control of 80 percent of Aleppo central prison and freed hundreds of prisoners,” Observatory director, Rami Abdel Rahman, told AFP. Fighting was reportedly ongoing in the prison.

Moscow sees misunderstanding in reports on ‘toothpaste danger’ for Russia flights

Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Aleksandr Lukashevich, has said media reports that explosives could be smuggled into Russia ahead of the Sochi Winter Olympics in toothpaste tubes might emerge because of a “misunderstanding.” Earlier reports were allegedly based on a US Homeland Security Department warning. It might be due to “misunderstanding or wrong translation,” Lukashevich said on Thursday, as cited by Interfax.

Blast confirmed at Trade Union HQ seized by opposition in Kiev

The Ukraine’s Interior Ministry confirmed on Thursday that a blast happened at the Trade Union Headquarters in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. The victim was hospitalized in serious condition. His identity has not been established, Itar-Tass said. The man was wounded in an explosion after he allegedly opened a suspicious box at the Trade Union House, seized earlier by opposition forces.

UN chief condemns attacks on the LGBT community ahead of Olympics

The UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, has used a speech ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi to condemn attacks on the LGBT community, the Guardian reported. Addressing the IOC, the UN secretary-general highlighted the fact that the theme of the UN’s human rights day last December was “sport comes out against homophobia.” Speaking to reporters after his address, Ban said he appreciated the assurances of President Vladimir Putin that “there will be no discrimination and that people with different sexual orientation are welcome to compete and enjoy this Olympic Games.”

Putin could meet with Georgian counterpart at Sochi Olympics

President Vladimir Putin may meet his Georgian counterpart, Georgy Margvelashvili, in Sochi during the Olympic Games, Reuters quoted a senior Kremlin official as saying on Thursday. This would be the first meeting between the two leaders since a brief military conflict in 2008 that followed Tbilisi’s aggression against South Ossetia.

Deal reached with UN to evacuate civilians from old city Homs

A deal was reached with the UN on Thursday to evacuate civilians from the besieged old city of Homs, Syrian state media quoted the city governor as saying on Thursday. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces are surrounding rebel-held areas in the city, media reported. Moscow said earlier on Thursday that an agreement to allow in humanitarian aid was also under discussion.

Pakistan, Taliban start talks

Negotiators for Pakistan’s government and Taliban met Thursday for a first round of talks aimed at ending the militants’ seven-year insurgency, AFP reported, citing sources. The two sides met in Islamabad for a preliminary meeting likely to chart a ‘roadmap’ for future discussions. An official close to Irfan Siddiqui, the chief government negotiator, said the talks had begun on Thursday afternoon, amid deep skepticism over the outcome of dialogue.

Rival Syria sides appear to agree over aid to Homs – Moscow

The Syrian government and rebels appear to have reached an agreement on allowing humanitarian aid to reach the besieged city of Homs, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Thursday. “The issue of humanitarian access to the old city of Homs is being discussed,” Reuters quoted ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich as saying. “Judging by the latest information, it appears that such an agreement between the opposition and the government has already been reached,” he said.

France ready to extend mission in C. African Republic

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Thursday the UN would probably have to renew a mandate for French troops to restore order in the Central African Republic when it expires in May. France deployed 1,600 troops there in December to try to stem violence between Christian militias and largely Muslim Seleka rebels, who ousted President Francois Bozize last March. Catherine Samba-Panza, the interim president, hopes to restore order within a month.

Tehran may modify Arak heavy-water reactor

An Iranian official said for the first time that Iran may modify a heavy-water reactor near Arak. “We can do some design change… in order to produce less plutonium in this reactor, and in this way allay the worries and mitigate the concerns,” Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told Press TV. The statement signals a willingness to compromise as the uncompleted Arak heavy water reactor was a stumbling block that almost derailed nuclear talks last November, Bloomberg reported.

Russia can guarantee Sochi Olympics safety

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak said Thursday that the Russian government can guarantee safety at the Winter Olympics. He stressed that the level of danger in Sochi is no greater than in many other cities and is “like in Boston, in London,” RIA Novosti reported. The Russian security services are working with colleagues from Europe and North America, Kozak told reporters in Sochi on the eve of the Games’ start. Russia can guarantee the safety of people during any mass event “as well as any other government,” he said.

Italian navy rescues 1,100 migrants in rafts south of Sicily

The Italian navy has rescued more than 1,100 migrants from nine large rafts in the waters south of Sicily. Patrol helicopters identified the overcrowded rafts with the latest arrivals from North Africa on Wednesday and four navy vessels participated in the rescue which ended early on Thursday, Reuters reported. The navy gave no details about the nationalities of the migrants.

Russia calls on participants in all armed conflicts to declare ‘Olympic truce’

Russia, as organizer and host of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, has called on participants in all in armed conflicts “to proclaim an Olympic truce” for this period, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday, as cited by Interfax. “Our message is primarily addressed to the sides in Syria’s bloody conflict, which is exerting a serious destabilizing impact both on the situation in that country and the region as a whole,” the ministry said.

Blogger convinces Subway to remove asthma-causing chemical from bread

The Subway fast food chain, one of the largest bread bakers in the world, announced Wednesday that it will remove a chemical in its bread that drew the attention of a health blogger. Azodiacarbonamide is a chemical that is used to increase elasticity in bread, and can also be found in products such as shoe rubber and yoga mats. The chemical has been linked to asthma and other maladies and is banned from human consumption in Europe. Vani Hari, the blogger behind, began her campaign against azodiacarbonamide after US First Lady Michelle Obama praised Subway’s kids’ menu. “We are already in the process of removing Azodiacarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts despite the fact that it is USDA and FDA approved ingredient,” Subway said in a statement. “The complete conversion to have this product out of the bread will be done soon.”

​US warns of explosives in toothpaste tubes on Russia flights ahead of Olympics

Days ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the US Department of Homeland Security has warned airlines with direct flights to Russia that explosives hidden in toothpaste tubes could be smuggled on board. An anonymous law enforcement official told AP the explosives could be assembled in flight or upon arrival in Russia. The department said in a statement that it “isn’t aware of a specific threat to the homeland at this time,” and that the department “regularly shares information with domestic and international partners, including those associated with international events such as the Sochi Olympics.” Delta Airlines is the only US carrier with direct flights to Moscow from the US; Russian airlines Aeroflot and Transaero also have nonstop flights from the US.

Moody’s raises Mexico’s credit rating

Moody’s credit agency raised Mexico’s credit rating to A3, making it the second nation in Latin America to receive an A level rating. The reason for the lift was the country’s acclaimed economic reforms. Moody’s believes the reforms “will strengthen the country’s potential growth prospects and fiscal fundamentals,” the agency’s statement said. The higher rating lifted Mexico’s peso and the leading share index. Chile is the only other Latin American country with an A rating.

US disrespects Germany’s sovereignty

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder responded to reports of the National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping on him by stating that the US has “no respect” for Germany’s sovereignty. “The United States has no respect for a loyal ally and for the sovereignty of our country,” Bild daily quoted Schroeder as saying. “That countries spy on each other is certainly not a new experience. But to spy on the telephone of a chancellor is clearly a step too far.” Schroeder was added to the NSA espionage targets list as number 388 by 2002, Munich daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and NDR revealed in their reports on Tuesday.

2 injured, 3 missing after French shopping center roof collapse

At least two people received minor injuries and three others are unaccounted for after a 200 square meter roof at Carrefour shopping center collapsed in Lingostiere, Nice, French media reported. Dozens of firefighters and rescuers have been working at the scene, searching for people who may still be trapped under the rubble. The cause of the accident was not immediately clear. According to ITAR-TASS, the shopping center is the largest in France’s southeastern Alpes-Maritimes department, which has been experiencing pouring rains and strong winds for several days in a row.

Ukraine’s anti-rally laws lose effect

Ukraine’s controversial anti-protest laws – passed on January 16 and later repealed by parliament – have become invalid, the Justice Ministry confirmed. The laws, which were adopted amid ongoing anti-government rallies, sparked outrage among society and drew criticism from abroad. As a concession to the opposition, authorities canceled nine of the 12 laws on January 28. The ministry’s confirmation follows an article in Kommersant Ukraine newspaper which said that despite the cancellation, the laws remained in force. The daily cited the parliamentary database.

EU to help investigate clashes in Ukraine – EU Foreign policy chief

The EU is ready to participate in the investigation of clashes between security forces and radicals in Ukraine, EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton told reporters in Kiev. The opposition and the protesters in Ukraine have to split from radical elements, said the EU Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, Stefan Fule, as cited by Itar-Tass. An advisory panel proposed by the EU Council should be promptly formed, he said, adding that this would be a step forward to solving the ongoing political crisis. EU officials have arrived in Kiev this week to meet with the government and the opposition to resolve the political crisis in the country.

Russian Progress M-22M launches with goldfish on board

The Russian Progress M-22M resupply ship was launched by a Soyuz-U launch vehicle from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Wednesday at 4:23pm GMT. The resupply ship is heading to the International space station and is expected to dock in around six hours time. “The space shuttle will deliver more than 2.5 tons of cargo to the station, including a container with goldfish for a Russian-Japanese experiment Aquarium-AQH,” a source from Russian federal Space agency told RIA Novosti. Among other biological objects sent to the station were mosquito larvae and flat earthworms.

Aston Martin recalls over 17,000 cars

Aston Martin has recalled 17,590 cars after discovering a Chinese sub-supplier was using counterfeit plastic material in a part supplied to the UK-based luxury car manufacturer, Reuters reported. The vehicles being recalled include all left-hand drive models built since November 2007 and all right-hand drive models built since May 2012. The recall affects about 75 percent of all the cars made in that period, a spokeswoman said. The Vanquish is not affected. Aston Martin said there have been no reports of accidents or injuries related to the issue, and that the financial impact to the automaker is small.

Kremlin concerned about Ukraine’s growing gas debt

Moscow is worried about Ukraine’s increasing gas debt, but it is not going to reconsider its financial agreements with the neighbor, presidential spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said in an interview with Kommersant FM radio. “We hope that our Ukrainian partners will comply with all terms of the existing agreement,” he said. Speaking about the financial aid, Peskov said that Russia will not revise its agreements since this aid was intended for the Ukrainian people. Still, Moscow would like to understand how this money will be used, the spokesman added. Ukraine has seen mass anti-government protests since November, when President Viktor Yanukovich refused to sign an association agreement with the EU.

Four members of US Congress ask North Korea to release Kenneth Bae

Four US members of Congress – the last surviving members of Congress to have served in the Korean War – have sent a letter to the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, urging him to release Kenneth Bae, an imprisoned American missionary. Bae has been held in captivity for more than a year after being sentenced to 15 years hard labor on a charge of trying to overthrow the state, Reuter’s reports.“You have done the right thing by releasing a fellow Korean War veteran, Merrill E. Newman. You would be making further progress on the humanitarian front by freeing Kenneth Bae,” the letter read.

US designates 3 Haqqani figures as ‘global terrorists’

The United States Treasury added three members of Pakistan’s Haqqani network to its list of global terrorists on Wednesday. The US Treasury named Saidullah Jan, Yahya Haqqani and Muhammad Omar Zadran as key figures in the organization. Jan was named as a Haqqani commander in Afghanistan and a logistical coordinator between the group and Al-Qaeda. Yahya Haqqani and Zadran were also said to have served with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Designating the three as global terrorists means that any assets they have in a US jurisdiction must be frozen, and bans any Americans from doing business with them.

France raises pollution alert as empty Spanish cargo ship split

An empty Spanish cargo ship split in half on a breakwater near Bayonne on the Atlantic coast, and France has raised a maritime pollution alert, the BBC reported. Drifting after its engine failed, the Luno crashed into the breakwater at Anglet. All 12 crew members were winched to safety by helicopter. The wreck leaked fuel oil, the report said.

7 killed in fire as Argentine bank archives destroyed

Seven first-responders were killed on Wednesday battling a fire that destroyed an archive of bank documents, AP quoted Argentina’s security secretary, Sergio Berni, as saying. The dead include five firefighters and two civil defense workers who were killed when a wall of the building collapsed on top of them. The fire at the Iron Mountain warehouse took hours to bring under control, and the sprawling building is reported to be ruined. Buenos Aires civil defense director, Guillermo Montenegro, said the archives contained banking documents.

UN agency starts polio vaccination in Syria’s besieged Yarmouk camp

Polio vaccination has begun in Syria’s besieged Yarmouk camp, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said on Wednesday. The once residential and commercial district south of Damascus, home to both Syrians and Palestinians, has largely been sealed off by an army siege for months, AFP said. “UNRWA has secured the formal authorization for the transfer of 10,000 polio vaccines to Yarmouk,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said. The agency earlier began moving food parcels and medicine into Yarmouk.

Israel approves over 550 settler homes in east Jerusalem

Israel has approved a plan to build 558 new homes in the settlement neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, sought by the Palestinians, reports Associated Press. The Jerusalem municipality said 386 new homes and apartments will be built in the settlements of Har Homa, 136 in Neve Yaakov and 36 in Pisgat Zeev. These settlements are in the part of the West Bank that Israel annexed to Jerusalem after capturing the territory in the 1967 Middle East war. Most of the international community considers them illegal. The Palestinians have said that expansion of Israeli settlements could derail US-sponsored peace talks, which resumed last summer after a three-year break.

Syria govt misses interim chemical weapons deadline

Syria’s government has missed another deadline for destroying its chemical weapons stockpile, saying that the final deadline of June 30 will still be met, AP reported. Damascus was to have given up its entire stockpile of chemical weapons by Wednesday, under a timetable set up by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. A US diplomat said last week Syria had only removed 4 percent of its most toxic chemicals so far, while all of them should have been removed by December 31 under the framework. Moscow said Tuesday that Syria is preparing a new schedule and will make further shipments soon.

6 children injured in explosion at school in Libya’s Benghazi

A blast rocked a primary school in Libya’s second city Benghazi during playtime on Wednesday, wounding six children, AFP reported. It was caused by an explosive device thrown over the exterior wall of the school as the children were playing, according to Fadia al-Barghathi, spokeswoman for Benghazi’s Al-Jala hospital. The injuries of the children “range between light and moderate,” she said. A security official described the force of the explosion as “weak.” Witnesses saw an individual throw an explosive device over the school wall during recess, he said.

At least 22 killed in Baghdad bombings

Multiple bombings rocked central Baghdad on Wednesday, striking mainly near the heavily fortified Green Zone and killing at least 22 people, AP reported, citing Iraqi officials. Sky News Arabia said 25 people were killed and dozens were injured. The deadliest of the attacks took place across the street from the Foreign Ministry building, when two parked car bombs went off simultaneously in two different parking lots. At least 12 people were killed in those explosions. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombings.

Travel chaos in London due to tube strike

Millions of commuters in the British capital faced travel chaos on Wednesday during the first full day of a 48-hour tube strike by London Underground staff, media reported. The strike was organized by the two main unions over planned job cuts and the closure of ticket offices. Staff went on the first of two planned 48-hour strikes late Tuesday evening. By rush hour on Wednesday, commuters faced long waiting times for over-crowded buses and trains. The world’s oldest underground rail network will run very limited services until Thursday evening.

4 car bombs explode near Baghdad’s Green Zone, 13 killed

Four car bombs exploded near Baghdad’s heavily-fortified ‘Green Zone’, killing at least 13 people early on Wednesday, media reported, citing security sources. Two of the bombs were parked opposite the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and killed five people, according to the sources. A suicide bomber blew himself and the vehicle up outside a restaurant close to a checkpoint one street away from the Green Zone, killing four people. Another explosion near Khullani Square in central Baghdad left four others killed. The explosions came a day after two rockets were fired into the Green Zone.

Israeli pilots punished for storing operational maps on smartphones

Two Israeli combat pilots were jailed for five days and 12 others were disciplined for storing operational maps on their smartphones, Israeli Army Radio said Wednesday. The security breach was discovered after one of the pilots reported he had lost his cellphone and that it contained sensitive data, Reuters reported. It was recovered and investigators found he had loaded maps and other classified documents. Other pilots had done the same, so they could have the information readily at hand.

North, South Korea agree to families holding brief reunions

North and South Korea agreed on Wednesday to allow some families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War to hold brief reunions, Reuters reported. The reunions will take place on February 20 to 25 in Mount Kumgang, just north of the border, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry. At previous reunions, about 100 families have been allowed to meet. The rare agreement between the two states came as Pyongyang did not link the reunions with its demand for the cancelation of the annual military exercises by the US and South Korean militaries scheduled for this month.

Fire localized as train derails in Russia’s Kirov, more than 400 evacuated

A train derailed early morning on Wednesday at the station of Pozdino in Novovyatsky District of Kirov, a city in the north-east of the European part of Russia. Twelve cars of the train were ablaze after the leak of condensate, but the fire was later localized, media reports say. Some 400 people from neighboring buildings were evacuated. No injuries were reported.

​Power outages impact 3 million across Brazil

Several Brazilian states reported power outages Tuesday, as high demand coupled with worries over energy supplies during a time of low rainfall led national grid operator ONS to warn of “disruption” in the north, southeast and south of the country. Media reports suggest around three million people across 11 states, including Rio de Janeiro, have seen supplies cut, according to AFP. ONS reported the cut lasted about 40 minutes before a gradual return to normal levels. High temperatures in the south contributed to a record-high day of demand on Monday. Low rainfall, though, has “nothing to do with the demands of the system,” mines and energy ministry executive secretary Marcio Zimmermann insisted. The power outage concerns some in Brazil given the nation is set to host World Cup action in June.

​Scotland parliament votes to allow same-sex marriages

Scotland voted Tuesday to allow same-sex marriages, making it the 17th country to approve gay marriage. The Scottish government called the bill – which was passed overwhelmingly by parliament – a major step for equal rights. Same-sex wedding ceremonies will begin later this year, Reuters reported. The bill faced opposition from the Scottish Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, though the law will not require either to wed same-sex couples on their premises. Media agencies

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