Apr 29, 2013

First Curved OLED TVs To Go On Sale

LG Electronics says it will begin deliveries of curved OLED television sets next month, making it the first to offer such a product to the public.

The use of organic light-emitting diodes allows screens to be made thinner and more flexible than before.

The 55in (140cm) model will cost 15m won ($13,550; £8,725) and is initially limited to sales in South Korea.

One analyst said that being first to market gave LG "bragging rights", but suggested demand would be limited.

LG Electronics and its rival Samsung Electronics both showed off curved OLED TV prototypes at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, but did not announce release dates at the time.

The two businesses are part of larger conglomerates that have separate divisions manufacturing their own television display panels. Many of their competitors buy in the components from third parties, making it harder for them to claim such an exclusive.

OLED tech is based on carbon-based materials that convert electricity into light.

While LCD screens need a backlight to illuminate their crystals, OLED does not need a separate light source.

This allows the newer type of TVs to be made thinner, lighter and more energy-efficient than before, as well as offering the advantage of deeper blacks.

In addition, the OLEDs can be fabricated onto a flexible plastic substrate rather than a rigid glass layer, making it easier to manufacture them into a curved screen.

This has allowed LG to market the new EA9800 model as being only 4.3mm (0.17in) thick, weighing 17kg (37.5lb) and offering an "Imax-cinema-like" viewing experience.

"With more than five years research behind developing the optimum curvature, the entire screen surface is equidistant from the viewer's eyes, eliminating the problem of screen-edge visual distortion and loss of detail," the company said in a press release.

 

Second Ricin Suspect Everett Dutschke Due In Court

A Mississippi martial arts instructor is due in court on charges relating to ricin-laced letters that were sent to President Obama, a senator and a judge.

James Everett Dutschke, 41, has been charged with possessing a biological agent with intent to use as a weapon.

He was detained on Sunday, days after police arrested and then released another man, Paul Kevin Curtis.

Investigators, some in hazardous materials suits, searched Mr Dutschke's home, business and vehicles.

The Tupelo man had reportedly been under surveillance.

According to an FBI news release, Mr Dutschke has been charged with "knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin".

A lawyer for Mr Dutschke said her client was co-operating with the authorities. If convicted, he could face up to life in prison.

The letters were sent to the president, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker and Judge Sadie Holland on 8 April.

On 17 April, authorities arrested Mr Curtis, a 45-year-old local Elvis impersonator. But Mr Curtis was released from jail and charges were dropped six days later.

No evidence of ricin was found in FBI searches of Mr Curtis' home.

The letters were signed: "I am KC and I approve this message." Mr Curtis, who said he had been framed, often ended posts on his Facebook page in a similar manner.

Mr Dutschke and Mr Curtis reportedly knew each other, and Mr Curtis said the two men had discussed publishing a book on an alleged conspiracy Mr Curtis believed he had discovered, to sell body parts on the black market.

But the pair later fell out.

Authorities began investigating Mr Dutschke after Mr Curtis' defence lawyers gave them a list of people they thought might have a reason to hurt their client.

Source: BBC News

NBA Player Jason Collins Comes Out As Gay

US basketball player Jason Collins has come out as gay, the first active male athlete in a major American professional team sport to do so.

He declared his sexuality in an article for Sports Illustrated which began: "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay."

Collins said he had struggled with his sexuality for years.

Former NBA player John Amaechi came out as gay in 2007, but he had already retired.

Former US President Bill Clinton was among those who sent messages of support to Collins on Monday.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a statement: "Jason has been a widely respected player and teammate throughout his career and we are proud he has assumed the leadership mantle on this very important issue."

Sports label Nike, which has endorsed Collins, also supported his decision.

"Jason is a Nike athlete. We are a company committed to diversity and inclusion," a statement said.

In the Sports Illustrated article, Collins, who has most recently played for the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics, said: "I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport.

"But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, 'I'm different.'

"If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."

He added that this month's bombings at the Boston marathon reinforced the conviction that he should talk publicly about his sexuality.

"Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully?" Collins wrote.

Collins, who is professionally a free agent, having played 11 seasons in the NBA with six teams, said he had tried to suppress his feelings through relationships with women.

"When I was younger I dated women. I even got engaged," he said. "I thought I had to live a certain way.

"I thought I needed to marry a woman and raise kids with her. I kept telling myself the sky was red, but I always knew it was blue."

Collins said he decided he should go public after his former roommate at California's Stanford University, Congressman Joe Kennedy, scion of the Kennedy political dynasty, marched in a Boston gay parade.

Source: BBC News

Deadly Car Bombs Hit Shia Provinces In Iraq

At least 18 people have been killed and dozens injured by five car bombs in Shia-majority provinces of southern Iraq, officials say.

In the deadliest attack, two bombs went off in the town of Amara, killing at least nine people and wounding dozens.

An army raid on a Sunni anti-government protest camp last week has sparked a wave of violence.

On Saturday Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said "evil" sectarian conflict was returning to Iraq.

Mr Maliki said sectarianism was again plaguing Iraq "because it began in another place in this region" - an apparent reference to Syria.

The blasts in Amara struck a market and a place where labourers had gathered to look for work.

Other bombs went off at markets in Diwaniyah and Karbala, and in a Shia neighbourhood of the Sunni-dominated town of Mahmoudiya.

"I was preparing to go to work when a big explosion shook my house and broke the glass in all the windows," Woody Jasim, a resident of Diwaniyah, told Reuters news agency.

"I ran outside, the explosion was near my house and bodies were everywhere."

The past seven days have seen clashes in several towns and cities, sparked by the raid on the protest camp near the northern town of Hawija on Tuesday that left 50 people dead.

The protesters were calling for the resignation of Mr Maliki, a Shia, and denouncing the authorities for allegedly targeting the Sunni community.

More than 200 people have died in the recent violence between Sunnis and Shia, which is at its most intensive since the withdrawal of US troops at the end of 2011.

Source: BBC News

Syrian PM Survives Car Bomb Attack

Syrian Prime Minister Wael al-Halqi has survived a car bomb attack in the capital, Damascus, state media say.

The blast in the capital's western Mazzeh district targeted Mr Halqi's convoy, state TV said, causing a number of casualties.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based activist group, said one of Mr Halqi's bodyguards was among several others killed.

It is unclear whether the blast was a suicide bombing or a planted device.

State television carried a brief interview with Mr Halqi, saying that it was filmed after the attack.

He appears assured but somewhat shaken in the interview, in which he talks about a meeting he has just attended on the economy.

State TV said the blast happened at a busy intersection, near a public garden and a school. The upmarket neighbourhood is home to government buildings, the residences of several political figures and a military airport vital to the regime's defences.

"I was walking in the street when suddenly there was a very powerful explosion and I saw a car burning and people running," a witness told AFP.

An unnamed Syrian official said the explosion was caused by a bomb placed underneath a parked car in the area, the Associated Press news agency reported.

An earlier report said it had been a suicide attack.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted medical sources as saying five civilians in the area were also killed.

The activist group quoted medical sources as saying Mr Halqi's driver and another bodyguard were seriously injured.

Footage from the scene showed the charred remains of several vehicles, and a badly damaged bus. Debris and glass were strewn around a wide area, where onlookers had gathered.

A picture that activists said was of the site just after the attack showed a large plume of black smoke rising into the air near a road and a high-rise building.

Syrian forces and rebels have been fighting around Damascus for months but with neither side gaining the upper hand.

The attack is the latest bombing inside government-controlled areas of the capital.

In December a suicide bombing struck the interior ministry. State media said top officials had escaped unhurt, but it later emerged that the interior minister himself had been badly injured.

So far there has been no claim of responsibility for Monday's attack. Similar bombings in the past have been linked to the jihadist al-Nusra Front, one of the most prominent rebel groups fighting the regime.

Mr Halqi, a senior member of the ruling Baath party, became prime minister last year after Riad Hijab defected to Jordan. He was previously health minister.

More than 70,000 people have been killed since fighting between Syrian forces and rebels erupted in March 2011.

Source: BBC News
 

Powerful Blast Rocks Central Prague

A large explosion has damaged a building in the centre of the Czech capital Prague.

The area around the explosion in Divadelni St was sealed off by police. At least 35 people were injured by the blast, emergency services say, one of them seriously.

Prague's mayor told Czech radio three people may be trapped in the rubble.

Police say that the blast, which blew the windows out of nearby buildings, was most likely caused by a gas leak.

A strong smell of gas was reported before and after the blast by several people in the area, in Prague's Old Town.

The site of the explosion is close to the Vltava river, and near the country's National Theatre.

Neighbouring buildings were evacuated and a two-kilometre stretch of the embankment was cordoned off, Czech media say.

A police spokesman said that there had been about 15 people in the building, which included an office of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and an art gallery, Reuters news agency reports.

The building also housed a film school and the social sciences faculty of the city's Charles University.

"We heard a strong explosion and we felt the building tremble and the windows shake," eyewitness Jaroslav Faltus said.

Source: BBC News

Climbers And Guides Fight On Everest

Police in Nepal are investigating an alleged fight between two famous European climbers and their Nepalese mountain guides on Mount Everest.

Switzerland's Ueli Steck and Simone Moro from Italy were nearing Camp Three at 7,470m (24,500ft) when the incident occurred.

The fight allegedly broke out after the pair ignored orders to hold their climb while the Sherpas were rigging ropes.

The guides reportedly attacked the pair after they returned to their tents.

Following the incident, the climbers packed "bare essentials" and made their way back down to Mount Everest base camp, "feeling that this was the safest place to be", said Mr Moro, an experienced Everest climber.

One version of events is that the guides asked the climbers to wait while they went ahead and secured ropes, but the climbers continued and dislodged ice which fell on the guides.

Mr Moro said in a statement that "getting hit by chunks of ice is a very natural occurrence" on an ice face. "As it stands, no Sherpa has come forward to show any injury."

"The climbers believe that the lead Sherpa felt that his pride had been damaged as the climbers were moving unroped and much faster," the statement added.

When they returned to their tents, Mr Moro said a large mob of guides had grouped together to attack him, Mr Steck and a third climber in their expedition, Briton Jonathan Griffith.

"[The guides] became instantly aggressive and not only punched and kicked the climbers, but threw many rocks as well," said Mr Moro.

An unnamed eyewitness told the AFP news agency the incident had been "terrifying to watch - they nearly got killed".

More than 3,000 people have scaled Mount Everest since it was first conquered by Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

Straddling Nepal and China, the world's highest mountain has an altitude of 8,848m (29,029ft).

Botswana President Ian Khama Wounded By Cheetah

Botswana President Ian Khama has had stitches in his face after being scratched by a cheetah, officials say.

The animal was reportedly being fed in its enclosure at an army barracks when it jumped up and scratched Mr Khama, who was standing nearby.

The incident was "a freak accident, but not an attack", government spokesman Jeff Ramsay told local media.

Mr Khama's injuries were minor and there were "no real security implications", the official added.

The incident is said to have happened very fast, catching the president and his bodyguard by surprise.

"He was scratched by a cheetah but not really attacked per se," said Mr Ramsay.

Mr Khama was seen sporting a plaster at a meeting following the attack.

Cheetahs, the world's fastest land mammals, are listed as an endangered species.

Around 12,400 are thought to remain in the wild in African countries, including Botswana.

Ghanaians Ban Spirit Child Killing

Local leaders in northern Ghana have announced the abolition of the ritual killing of babies born with physical disabilities, who were believed to have been possessed by evil spirits.

"Spirit children" were thought to have been a sign of impending misfortune and given a poisonous drink to kill them.

One campaigner told the BBC that improved healthcare and education meant such beliefs were becoming less common.

Activist Raymond Ayine welcomed the ban, which covers seven towns.

But he said he could not guarantee that the practice had been eradicated from the whole country.

The BBC's Vera Kwakofi says the Kasena-Nankana region, where the ban has been announced, is the part of Ghana where such beliefs are most widespread.

Sometimes, babies born at the same time as a family misfortune were also accused of being "spirit children" and killed.

The "concoction men" who used to give the children the poisonous drink have been given new roles; they will now work with disabled children to promote their rights.

Investigative journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme that he took a plastic doll to a soothsayer, saying it was a child with eating problems and physical disabilities.

"He consulted the oracles, jumped up and down and after this said that the oracles confirmed that the child was an evil child and that the child needed to be killed immediately, and that the child had already killed two members of my family," he said.

Local chief Naba Henry Abawine Amenga-Etigo said that anyone caught trying to harm children from now on would be handed over to the police.

Mr Ayine, from the campaign group Afrikids, said he was "saddened that in today's era, a child could lose its life because of such a barbaric practice".

He noted that in rural areas where such beliefs are more common, women often give birth without ever seeing a midwife, let alone having a pre-natal scan. As a result, childbirth leads to complications more often than elsewhere, he said.

He also said that even before the official ban, there had been no recorded case of the killing of "spirit children" in the area for the past three years.

He put this down to awareness campaigns, as well as improved access to education that meant more people understood that physical disabilities had a medical explanation.

In other parts of northern Ghana, elderly women accused of being witches are sometimes forced to leave their homes and live in "witch camps".

Source: BBC News

Apr 28, 2013

Google Acquires News Stream Wavii

Google has acquired news stream service Wavii for an estimated $30m (£18m).

Wavii, which was launched last year, offers customised news feed to users, summarising news stories, tweets and blogs related to their interests.

Apple had also been keen to buy the start-up. According to reports, it wanted to incorporate the technology in the Siri function of its devices.

Last month, Yahoo acquired a news summarisation app, Summly, for "dozens of millions" of pounds.

Yahoo subsequently added the facility to its iPhone app earlier this week.

Neither Google or Wavii have revealed the price of the deal, but most reports say it was about $30m.

Wavii was created by engineers who previously worked for Amazon and Microsoft and offers services via the web or as a smartphone app.

It is closely integrated with Facebook. That may change since the social network competes against Google+.

According to its website, Wavii claims that the basic idea behind its service is to summarise everything that users care about into a customised news feed on the lines of a Facebook wall.

"We knew that we really liked what Facebook did… clearly summarizing everything our friends are doing into a simple, structured feed, and adding in related events and photos," it explains.

"Why can't we get all of our news that way?
"Wavii set out to solve this by making a similar feed that covers every topic in the news you might want to follow… or as we sometimes describe it, to make Facebook out of Google," it adds.

Its connection with Facebook does not stop there. Along with allowing users to select at least 12 topics of interest it also detects their likes based on their previous Facebook activity.

It can process up to 1,000 articles per minute and then summarize the most important bits to the user via a personalized news feed.

"We do it by teaching computers to read everything that is reported or shared on the internet, and automatically produce interesting social content about it," it says on its site.

According to some analysts, the technology could be used by Google to improve search results for news stories.

Source: BBC News

Man Charged Over US Ricin Letters

A man has been arrested in Mississippi and charged in connection with the sending of letters containing ricin to President Obama, a senator and a judge.

Everett Dutschke was detained at home in Tupelo on Saturday and handed over to US Marshals, police said.

Mr Dutschke has been charged with possessing a biological agent with intent to use as a weapon.

He has links to a man against whom charges were filed and later dropped, as well as the senator and judge.

Ricin is a naturally occurring protein, found in the castor oil plant, which is highly toxic. It is 6,000 times more poisonous than cyanide.

 

Thirteen Die In Mexico Prison Battle

At least 13 people are dead after a battle broke out between prisoners at a jail in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.

A group of inmates used homemade knives and picks to attack rivals at the La Pila prison, the state attorney general's office was quoted as saying.

Authorities took several hours to bring the fighting under control.

Deadly outbreaks of violence are common in Mexico's overcrowded jails, which house inmates from rival drug gangs.

Dozens of people were injured - some seriously - in the fighting that broke out at La Pila, situated in the state capital, early on Saturday morning, officials said.

The authorities in the northern state of San Luis Potosi have begun to name the dead and warned concerned families waiting for news that the number of fatalities may rise.

Violence began when a group of prisoners took action after being harassed by other inmates, news agency AP quoted the state attorney general's office as saying.

Rivalries between criminal gangs frequently spills over into Mexico's antiquated and dangerous prisons, correspondents say. Studies say some prisons are effectively run by gangs.

Human rights groups say the penal system suffers from chronic overcrowding and is in urgent need of an overhaul.

Despite assertions that the prison system would be reformed after the last major incident, in which 44 inmates were killed, there have been no tangible improvements, neither during the final year of the previous administration nor in the first six months of President Enrique Pena Nieto's government.

Source: BBC News

Greek MPs To Vote On Mass Job Cuts

The Greek parliament will vote on Sunday on proposals which would see 15,000 state employees lose their jobs by the end of next year.

The bill is part of continuing moves by the centre-right government to cut costs and ensure more bailout money from international creditors.

The law is a condition for Greece to receive the next tranche of loans worth 8.8bn euros (£7.4bn; $11.4bn).

Trade unions have called a protest in the streets outside parliament.

Although debate on the measure began on Sunday morning, a vote was not expected until midnight.

The new law would overturn what had been a constitutional guarantee for civil servants of a job for life.

The sector has been seen as notoriously bloated since it expanded in the 1970s and '80s as successive administrations employed their own people, our correspondent adds.

Some 2,000 civil servants will lose their jobs by the end of June, reports Kathimerini newspaper.

State workers who have broken rules will be targeted for dismissal, but many are expected to be replaced by younger employees in key sectors such as health.

So the law would not slim down the public sector, our correspondent says. That would be achieved by a parallel plan that would see 150,000 state jobs go by the end of 2015, by replacing only some of those who retire.

Adedy, the civil service trade confederation, and the private sector GSEE union called a demonstration outside parliament late on Sunday afternoon against "those politicians who are dismantling the public service and destroying the welfare state".

Critics say the law, which is part of a larger package of measures, will increase Greece's already high unemployment rate of 27%.

The conservative coalition, led by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, has 167 seats in the 300-seat parliament so the measure is thought likely to pass.
However, there are reports of divisions within his government on some issues and there is speculation he could reshuffle his ministerial team soon.

Eurozone finance ministers are expected to decide on the next instalment of aid for debt-ridden Greece at a meeting on 16 May.

Since 2010, the European Union and the IMF have promised more than 200bn euros in lending for Greece, the first country to be hit by the eurozone crisis.

The government has imposed tough austerity measures in return for aid, including cuts in pay and pensions leading to numerous general strikes.

Source: BBC News

Bombs Target Pakistan Politicians

Bomb attacks by the Taliban on the campaign offices of election candidates have left at least eight people dead and 23 injured in north-west Pakistan.

The first attack was in the city of Kohat; the second in the suburbs of Peshawar.

The Taliban have vowed to continue a campaign of attacks against political parties they see as secular.

Dozens of people have been killed in recent days in bomb blasts in the run-up to the general election on 11 May.

At least five people were killed and more than 10 injured in Kohat by the blast outside the office of Syed Noor Akbar, who is running as an independent candidate.

Police spokesman Fazal Naeem said the blast damaged shops and vehicles and also hit an office of the Awami National Party (ANP), which has previously been targeted by the Taliban.

Tanveer Khan, another police official, told AFP news agency: "The election office was open at the time and supporters [of Mr Akbar] were sitting inside. The death toll may rise, the condition of some of the injured is critical."

The explosion in Peshawar killed three people and injured 13, officials said.

The blast hit the office of another independent candidate, Nasir Khan Afridi, who has been campaigning for a seat in the Khyber tribal district.

Neither of the targeted candidates was in his office at the time of the attacks.

The Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban, issued a statement saying they were behind both blasts because they were opposed to any secular, democratic government.

Correspondents say violence has marred the campaign for the landmark election, in which one civilian government is due to be succeeded by another for the first time in the country's history.

On Saturday, bomb attacks against supporters of the governing Pakistan People's Party and the opposition MQM in Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, killed at least five people.

Source: BBC News

Boeing 787 Dreamliner Returns To Service In Ethiopia Flight

An Ethiopian Airlines 787 Dreamliner has flown from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, the first commercial flight by the Boeing aircraft since all 787s were grounded in January.

The 50 planes around the world were grounded due to battery malfunctions that saw one 787 catch fire in the US.

Over the past week teams of Boeing engineers have been fitting new batteries to the aircraft.

This was after aviation authorities approved the revamped battery design.

The Ethiopian Airlines plane took off at 09:45 local time (07:45 GMT) and landed in Nairobi, Kenya, some two hours later.

Each 787 has two of the lithium-ion batteries which caused problems.

In addition to new versions of the batteries which run at a much cooler temperature, the batteries are now enclosed in stainless steel boxes.

These boxes have a ventilation pipe that goes directly to the outside of the plane. Boeing says this means than in the unlikely event of any future fire or smoke, it would not affect the rest of the aircraft.

Boeing said it put 200,000 engineer hours into fixing the problem, with staff working round the clock.

On Thursday, the US Federal Aviation Administration issued a formal "air worthiness" directive allowing revamped 787s to fly.

Japanese airlines, which have been the biggest customers for the new-generation aircraft, are expected to begin test flights on Sunday.

A total of 300 Boeing engineers, pooled into 10 teams, have in the past week been fitting the new batteries and their containment systems around the world.

Boeing is expected to complete repairs on all 50 of the grounded Dreamliners by the middle of May.

In addition to the Dreamliners in service with airlines, Boeing has upgraded the 787s it has continued to make at its factory in Seattle since January.

The Dreamliner entered service in 2011. Half of the plane is made from lightweight composite materials, making it more fuel efficient than other planes of the same size.

The two lithium-ion batteries are not used when the 787 is in flight.

They are operational when the plane is on the ground and its engines are not turned on, and are used to power the aircraft's brakes and lights.

Source: BBC News

New Italian Grand Coalition Government Sworn In

A new Italian government has been sworn in at the presidential Quirinal Palace in Rome.

Democratic Party Deputy Leader (PD), Enrico Letta, becomes prime minister at the head of a "grand coalition" including Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party (PDL).

The swearing-in signals the end of two months of political deadlock.

Away from the ceremony, outside the PM's office, two police officers were injured in a shooting incident.

One was shot in the neck and is described as being in a serious condition. The second suffered a serious wound to the leg. A pregnant woman was also slightly hurt.

A man, named as Luigi Preiti, has been arrested.

Prosecutors said he had confessed to targeting politicians, angry that he had lost his job.

Rome Prosecutor Pierfilippo Laviani said he "wanted to shoot politicians, but given that he couldn't reach any, he shot the Carabinieri".

The Mayor of Rome Gianni Alemanno said: "It's not an act of terrorism but certainly the [political] climate of the past few months has not helped."

Since February's inconclusive poll there has been political stalemate in Italy, which is still plagued by economic woes after becoming one of the first eurozone victims of the global financial crisis of 2008.

The shooting happened about a kilometre (mile) away from the swearing-in ceremony, where, beginning with Mr Letta, the 21 new government ministers stepped forward one by one to receive the oath of office from President Giorgio Napolitano.

Correspondents say the "grand coalition" between Italy's current main right- and left-wing parties is unprecedented, and will probably prove an uneasy alliance.

Mr Berlusconi will not be a minister but had pushed for leading figures from his party to be given top posts.

Mr Alfano, the PDL's secretary and one of Mr Berlusconi's closest political allies, is deputy prime minister as well as interior minister in the new government.

Among the other key appointments are Bank of Italy director general Fabrizio Saccomanni to head the powerful economy ministry.

Source: BBC News

Collapsed Dhaka Building Owner Held

The owner of a factory building that collapsed in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka, killing hundreds of people, has been arrested.

Local government minister Jahangir Kabir Nanak said Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested at the Indian border.

He had been in hiding since the Rana Plaza collapsed on Wednesday.

Rescuers are in a race against time to reach remaining survivors as officials prepare to bring in heavy machinery to move the wreckage.

Mr Nanak said that Mohammed Sohel Rana was arrested near the land-crossing in Benapole along the border with India's West Bengal state.

Mr Nanak made the announcement by loudspeaker at the site of the collapsed eight-storey building in the Dhaka suburb of Savar.

He said the arrest had been made by soldiers from the Rapid Action Battalion.

Rescue workers cheered and clapped at the news.

Bangladeshi TV later showed Mr Rana in handcuffs after being flown back to Dhaka by helicopter.

Source: BBC News

Apr 26, 2013

Blaze Kills 38 At Psychiatric Hospital Near Moscow

A blaze has engulfed a wing of a psychiatric hospital in a village near Moscow, killing 38 people, with just three survivors, officials say.

Fire broke out in Hospital No 14 in Ramenskiy shortly after 02:00 (22:00 GMT Thursday), when most of the victims are believed to have been asleep.

Investigators say an alarm went off but the duty nurse only managed to evacuate two patients because of heavy smoke.

Reports suggest a patient who ignored a smoking ban may have started the fire.

It quickly consumed the one-storey, brick-and-wood building.

Firefighters dispatched to the scene took more than an hour to arrive instead of the standard 20 minutes because a river crossing had been closed due to flooding, Russian media report.

Several fires at state institutions across Russia in recent years resulted in heavy loss of life.

In 2009, 23 people died in a blaze at an old people's home in Komi while in 2007, 63 died at a home in Krasnodar. In 2006, a fire at a Moscow drug rehabilitation clinic killed 45 women.

According to a list of victims being circulated online, 36 were patients and two were members of staff.

Believed to be local people, they ranged in age from 76 to 20.

A statement by Russia's Investigative Committee says that, according to preliminary information, the source of the fire was a sofa used in a common room.

A surviving patient told investigators that a drug addict had been admitted with withdrawal symptoms on Thursday, and had been smoking constantly despite warnings from staff.

The Investigative Committee added that it was examining other theories such as a short circuit or arson.

A fire safety inspection was carried out at the hospital last year and action taken to improve safety measures, the hospital's chief doctor, who was not named, told Russian media.

The doctor described the patients who died as a "very tough group of people, psychiatric patients with chronic illnesses and frequent attacks" who had suffered from alcohol and drug addiction.

Patients were under sedation and most of them did not wake up, emergencies official Yuri Deshevykh told Russia's RIA Novosti news agency.

Bars on windows may also have been a factor in the high death toll.

A police source quoted by Interfax news agency said that following the blaze, a hole 1.5m (yds) deep was found beneath the charred remains of the building.

One of the patients may have been digging an escape tunnel, the source added.

Source: BBC News

Dhaka Building Collapse: Fears For Hundreds Still Missing

Hundreds of people are still missing after Wednesday's collapse of a building in Bangladesh which killed over 300 people, local officials say.

More than 40 people have been rescued since Thursday from the Rana Plaza building near Dhaka, which housed clothes factories.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called for special prayers to be held across the country later for the victims.

Angry protesters have taken to the streets of Dhaka for a second day.

They are demanding the authorities arrest the owner of the collapsed building and improve conditions for garment workers.

Police said that at least 10,000 people had gathered for the demonstrations and described the situation as "volatile".

Police used tear-gas and rubber bullets to break up the crowds, which had blocked roads, torched buses and attacked textile factories.

Source: BBC News
 

South Korea To Withdraw Staff From Kaesong Zone In North

South Korea says it is withdrawing its remaining workers from a jointly-run industrial complex in North Korea.

The announcement came from the unification minister shortly after Pyongyang rejected an offer of talks.

North Korea blocked access to the Kaesong zone - once a symbol of inter-Korean co-operation - earlier this month and later pulled its workers out.

The move followed weeks of high tension in the wake of North Korea's third nuclear test in February.

"Because our nationals remaining in the Kaesong industrial zone are experiencing greater difficulties due to the North's unjust actions, the government has come to the unavoidable decision to bring back all remaining personnel in order to protect their safety," Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae said.

"North Korea must guarantee the safe return of our personnel and fully protect the assets of the companies with investment in Kaesong," he added.

He did not give a timescale for the withdrawal. A total of 175 South Korean workers are currently in the complex, which is home to South Korean factories staffed by North Korean workers.

The remaining South Koreans were believed to be running out of food and medicines, because the North had refused to allow fresh supplies in.

But an association representing the South Korean companies in Kaesong had earlier suggested staff could be reluctant to pull out, because they wanted to protect their assets from seizure.

In 2011 North Korea said it seized assets from Mount Kumgang, a mothballed tourism site run by the two countries.

South Korea called for talks on the issue on Thursday, asking for a response by noon on Friday. Pyongyang rejected the offer, saying the South Korean "ultimatum" risked exacerbating tensions.

The Kaesong complex is the biggest contributor to inter-Korean trade and provides the North with much-needed hard currency.

The stoppage has also taken a heavy toll on South Korean firms, Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean President Park Geun-hye as saying.

The zone is seen as a litmus-test of relations between the two countries, and analysts consider such an extended shut-down to be a considerable setback.

In 2009 North Korean authorities briefly shut off entry to Kaesong industrial park after US-South Korean military drills, leaving hundreds of South Korean workers effectively trapped.

The current Kaesong ructions follow weeks of strong rhetoric from North Korea, which has been angered by tightened UN sanctions imposed after its 12 February nuclear test and by current joint US-South Korean military drills.

The past two months have seen unusually high tensions on the Peninsula, and while the rhetoric on both sides has softened slightly, the situation remains unresolved.

Source: BBC News
 

Growing Evidence Of Chemical Weapons Use in Syria - UK

There is "limited but growing" evidence that Syrian government troops have used chemical weapons, UK Prime Minister David Cameron says.

"It is extremely serious, this is a war crime," Mr Cameron said.

On Thursday, the White House said that US intelligence agencies believed "with varying degrees of confidence" that Syria had used the nerve agent sarin on a "small scale".

Syrian officials have denounced the allegations as "lies".

Opposition activists and state media meanwhile report fierce fighting between government troops and rebels in a number of suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

Mr Cameron said he agreed with the White House's warning that chemical weapons use would be a "red line" for possible intervention.

However, the US has said that this latest intelligence does not represent proof of chemical weapons use.

The White House's assessment was made in letters to lawmakers on Thursday signed by Miguel Rodriguez, White House director of the office of legislative affairs.

"Our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin," one of the letters said.

No details were given of where or when sarin had been used.

The letter added: "Given the stakes involved, and what we have learned from our own recent experiences, intelligence assessments alone are not sufficient - only credible and corroborated facts that provide us with some degree of certainty will guide our decision-making."

The phrase "varying degrees of confidence" is normally used to reflect differences in opinion within the intelligence community.

Speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said the use of sarin "violates every convention of warfare".

The UK Foreign Office echoed the US claims, saying it had "limited but persuasive information from various sources" of chemical weapons use in Syria.

It is understood that Britain obtained samples from inside Syria that have been tested by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down, Wiltshire.

"Material from inside Syria tested positive for sarin," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

On Friday, Syrian official Sharif Shehadeh told the Associated Press the US allegations were "lies", saying that similar US accusations about Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction had proved untrue.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad also dismissed the accusations in an earlier interview with Reuters,

Syria is believed to possess large quantities of chemical weapons and there has been heightened concern among the international community in recent months about the safety of the stockpiles.

Video shown to him by doctors treating the affected patients "showed pretty clearly that they had been gassed", Mr Loyd says.

None of the patients appeared to have been hit by shrapnel but were frothing at the mouth, had dilated pupils and several other symptoms suggesting the use of chemical weapons, he added.

US President Barack Obama warned in December that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would face "consequences" if he used such weapons.

The letters released on Thursday were sent to powerful US senators John McCain and Carl Levin.

In response, Senator McCain told reporters a "red line has been crossed" and recommended arming the opposition, a step the White House has been reluctant to take.

High-profile Democratic lawmakers also called for action to help secure Syria's stockpile of chemical arms and increase aid to the opposition, including the possible imposition of a no-fly zone.

On Friday Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Zev Elkin hinted that the US should consider military action to "take control" of Syria's chemical weapons.

"It is clear that if the United States wants to and the international community wants to, they could act - inter alia, militarily... And then all the fears... will not be relevant," Mr Elkin told Israeli radio.

Mr Cameron said he was "keen for us to do more" in helping opposition forces in Syria.

"We want our allies and partners to do more with us to shape that opposition to make sure we're supporting people with good motives," he said.

Meanwhile, opposition activists reported fierce fighting in the Barzeh district of northern Damascus on Friday, saying that the army and pro-government militiamen had pushed into the area backed by tank fire.

The state-run Sana news agency said troops had killed a number of rebels in fighting in the Jobar and Zamalka districts of the capital.

According to the UN, at least 70,000 people have been killed in the Syrian conflict.

Syria's government and rebels have accused each other of using chemical weapons. A UN team is trying to enter Syria to investigate.

Source: BBC News

Apr 24, 2013

Kidnapped Syrian Bishops Remain Missing

Two Syrian Orthodox bishops remain missing two days after being kidnapped, with each side in the civil war blaming others for the snatching.

The whereabouts of the two prominent clergymen, Greek Orthodox Bishop Paul Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Bishop John Ibrahim, remain unknown, despite some reports to the contrary, Greek Orthodox Bishop Mousa Khoury said.

There have been several kidnappings of Christian clergymen in Syria but the two bishops are the most senior church figures who have been abducted since the beginning of the uprising.

The Syrian regime's Ministry of Religious Endowment issued a statement blaming "this brutal act" on Chechen mercenaries operating under the mantle of Jabhat al-Nusra and al-Qaeda. The government did not provide evidence to back up the claim.

A spokesman for the Free Syrian Army said the government itself could be behind the kidnappings.

"The timing is very suspicious and we believe the Assad regime is behind the kidnapping," Louay Almokdad said.

Another opposition figure, Rami Abdurrahman of the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, elaborated, saying they believe that non-Arab foreign fighters are behind the kidnappings.

"We know that there are foreign fighters who are infiltrated by the regime and the Assad regime is well known for being a ventriloquist of proxy groups that they set up in order to spread chaos, strife and to divide the ranks of the opposition," he said.

Earlier, there were conflicting reports about the status of the bishops.

"The bishops were supposed to be released by the armed group yesterday evening; then we expected them to head back to their churches. But they didn't, so we are still carrying out all efforts to figure out what happened," Abdel Ahad Steifo, a prominent Syriac member of Syria's main opposition group, said.

Steifo, who is in charge of the negotiations for the release of the clergymen, says he does not know the identity of the kidnappers. But they are not part of the opposition, he said.

In an interview with the Vatican's Fides News Agency, the Chaldean bishop of Aleppo, Antoine Audo, said that at the root of the "scourge of kidnapping" is not politics, but "the pursuit of money on behalf of armed gangs."

Recent incidents of clergymen being kidnapped ended with their release after ransoms of thousands of dollars were paid, he said.

On Tuesday, the director of the Holy See press office, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said Pope Francis is closely following the events in Syria.

The pope is "praying for the health and the liberation of the two kidnapped bishops," Lombardi said.

A number of Muslim clerics have also been killed and kidnapped in Syria, including a top Sunni cleric and longtime supporter of President Bashar al-Assad, Mohammad Said Ramadan al-Bouti, who was killed in a suspicious blast while teaching religious class in Damascus. Rebels and regime officials blamed each other for the assassination of al-Bouti.

Source: CNN

21 Dead in Clash with 'Gangsters' in Western China

At least 21 people were killed on Tuesday in fighting in far western China between security officers and “gangsters,” according to a propaganda bureau spokeswoman for the regional government of Xinjiang, where the conflict took place.

Six of those killed were gangsters, and eight more people in the gang were detained during the violence, according to accounts from the bureau and a report Wednesday on a regional news Web site, Tianshan. The other 15 killed were police officers and community watch workers or volunteers. They died after the large gang herded them at knife point into a house and set the building on fire, said the propaganda spokeswoman, who gave only her surname, Ms. Hou.

The death toll was the highest reported in violence in Xinjiang in many many months. Xinjiang is a vast western region that encompasses many ethnicities and landscapes, and violence flares on occasion in the regional capital, Urumqi, or along a belt of southern oases towns that are inhabited mostly by Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people who often complain about governance and discrimination by the ethnic Han, who rule China. Sometimes the violence is clearly rooted in ethnic conflict, and other times it involves criminal gangs or attacks by individuals or groups against state organizations.

Ms. Hou said all 14 of the assailants were of Uighur ethnicity, most of them from a village administered by the township of Selibuya. She said they had been influenced by “religious extremism” and had been plotting a “jihad” since the end of last year, though there was no evidence they were working with foreign forces.

Uighurs generally practice Sunni Islam, and Uighur exiles often criticize Chinese officials for saying violence in Xinjiang arises from religious extremism. In the past, officials in Xinjiang and Beijing have tried to blame a group called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement for some acts of violence in the region, though several foreign scholars say the officials have presented little evidence to support their claims.

As with many such events in Xinjiang, details of the fighting on Tuesday remained murky even a full day after the violence had transpired. Some elements of the official accounts were bizarre.

The accounts called the assailants both “violent gangsters” and “suspected terrorists.” The violence took place in a village in Selibuya township under Bachu County, near the historic Silk Road oasis town of Kashgar, which is near the borders of Central Asian nations and Pakistan. The conflict began on Tuesday when a person called a local government office saying there was suspicious activity in a neighboring house. Three community watch workers went to check the house at around 1:30 p.m. and found people there with a large stockpile of knives measuring about 1.2 meters each, Ms. Hou said.

The workers called the police, but were then captured by the gang. Several police officers arrived with another group of community watch workers; only one of the officers was carrying a gun, Ms. Hou said. Those 12 people were unaware that the gangsters had already killed the three community workers who had initially arrived at the house, and they were in turn cornered in the building. The attackers then set the house on fire.

On the law enforcement side, six police officers and nine community watch workers died, Ms. Hou said. The Tianshan report said they were made up of 10 Uighurs, three Han and two Mongolians.

More security forces arrived at the scene and shot at the attackers, which resulted in the deaths of six of the gang members and the detention of another eight. None appeared to have fled.

Violence has occurred more frequently in Xinjiang ever since an eruption of rioting by Uighurs in Urumqi in 2009. Official news reports said nearly 200 people were killed, most of them Han, and many more were injured. Uighurs in the area say Han-dominated security forces then began a brutal crackdown, and Han went into the streets to seek revenge.

Source: New York Times

Bangladesh Factory Building Collapse Kills Nearly 100


A block housing garment factories and shops collapsed in Bangladesh on Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people and injuring more than a thousand, officials said.

Firefighters and troops dug frantically through the rubble at the eight-storey Rana Plaza building in Savar, 30 km (20 miles) outside Dhaka. Television showed young women workers, some apparently semi-conscious, being pulled out.

One fireman told Reuters about 2,000 people were in the building when the upper floors slammed down onto those below.

Bangladesh's booming garments industry has been plagued by fires and other accidents for years, despite a drive to improve safety standards. In November 112 workers died in a blaze at the Tazreen factory in a nearby suburb, putting a spotlight on global retailers which source clothes from Bangladesh.

"It looks like an earthquake has struck here," said one resident as he looked on at the chaotic scene of smashed concrete and ambulances making their way through the crowds of workers and wailing relatives.

"I was at work on the third floor, and then suddenly I heard a deafening sound, but couldn't understand what was happening. I ran and was hit by something on my head," said factory worker Zohra Begum.

An official at a control room set up to provide information said 96 people were confirmed dead and more than 1,000 injured. Doctors at local hospitals said they were unable to cope with the number of victims brought in.

Mohammad Asaduzzaman, in charge of the area's police station, said factory owners appeared to have ignored a warning not to allow their workers into the building after a crack was detected in the block on Tuesday.

Five garment factories - employing mostly women - were housed in the building, including Ether Tex Ltd., whose chairman said he was unaware of any warnings not to open the workshops.

"There was some crack at the second floor, but my factory was on the fifth floor," Muhammad Anisur Rahman told Reuters. "The owner of the building told our floor manager that it is not a problem and so you can open the factory."

He initially said that his firm had been sub-contracted to supply Wal-Mart Stores Inc, the world's largest retailer, and Europe's C&A. In a subsequent interview he said he had been referring to an order in the past, not current work.

Wal-Mart did not immediately respond to requests for comment. C&A said that, based on its best information, it had no contractual relationship with any of the production units in the building that collapsed.

The website of a company called New Wave, which had two factories in the building, listed 27 main buyers, including firms from Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Spain, Ireland, Canada and the United States.

"It is dreadful that leading brands and governments continue to allow garment workers to die or suffer terrible disabling injuries in unsafe factories making clothes for Western nations' shoppers," Laia Blanch of the U.K. anti-poverty charity War on Want said in a statement.

November's factory fire raised questions about how much control Western brands have over their supply chains for clothes sourced from Bangladesh. Wages as low as $38.50 a month have helped propel the country to no. 2 in the ranks of apparel exporters.

It emerged later that a Wal-Mart supplier had subcontracted work to the Tazreen factory without authorization.

Buildings in the crowded city of Dhaka are sometimes erected without permission and many do not comply with construction regulations.

Source: Reuters

Suspect in 5 Killings in Illinois Reportedly Nabbed After High-speed Chase

Five people were reportedly killed in a shooting in Manchester, Ill., Wednesday morning prompting the closure of three area schools.

The suspect attempted to run from the scene, got into a high-speed chase with police and shots were fired while the suspect was taken into custody.

One person was injured in the shooting, but the injuries remain unclear. The suspect, the station reports, is in custody. Police said that they do not believe another suspect is at large.

The crime scene was described as a single-story apartment. The relationship between the suspect and the alleged victims was not immediately clear.

Mayor Ronald Drake said he got the call around 4:45 a.m., indicating that there had been a shooting with multiple fatalities.

Drake did not say who the victims were or given any details about the suspect. He told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the victims "lived in federal housing and it's hard to keep up" with their identities because there is so much turnover of residents there.

Illinois State Police spokeswoman Monique Bond says the victims were found early Wednesday morning in the southwestern Illinois community, 50 miles west of Springfield. She didn't have any details on the deaths or the circumstances surrounding the capture of the suspect.

A school superintendent in the area says he was informed by sheriffs early Wednesday morning that the victims had been shot to death. Les Stevens of the North Greene School District says he canceled classes because authorities warned him at the time that the suspect was at large. The district has since been informed that the man was captured.

Classes were cancelled in three area school districts: Northgreene, Winchester and Jacksonville.  Approximately 950 students are affected.

Source: Fox News

Apr 21, 2013

China Confirms 102 H7N9 Cases, 20 Deaths

During the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. on Sunday, China confirmed six new cases of human H7N9 avian influenza, including five in Zhejiang and one in Jiangsu.

The National Health and Family Planning Commission said in its daily update on H7N9 cases that a total of 102 H7N9 cases have been reported in China, including 20 that have ended in death.

Of the total, 12 H7N9 patients have been discharged from hospitals after receiving treatment, and the other 70 patients are being treated in designated hospitals, according to the commission.

A total of 33 cases, including 11 that have ended in death, have been reported in Shanghai. Twenty-four cases, including three deaths, have been reported in Jiangsu Province, and 38 cases, including five deaths, in Zhejiang Province. Anhui Province has reported three cases, with one ending in death. Beijing has reported one case and three have been reported in Henan Province.

China officially confirmed the human cases infected with the H7N9 virus late last month.

According to the commission, China's confirmed H7N9 cases are isolated and there has been no sign of human-to-human transmission.

Source: Xinhuanet

At Least 185 Killed in Nigeria Attack

Fighting between Nigeria's military and Islamic extremists killed at least 185 people in a fishing community in the nation's far northeast, officials said Sunday, an attack that saw insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers spray machine-gun fire into neighborhoods filled with civilians.

The fighting in Baga began Friday and lasted for hours, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad. By Sunday, when government officials finally felt safe enough to see the destruction, homes, businesses and vehicles were burned throughout the area.

The assault marks a significant escalation in the long-running insurgency Nigeria faces in its predominantly Muslim north, with Boko Haram extremists mounting a coordinated assault on soldiers using military-grade weaponry. The killings also mark one of the deadliest incidents ever involving Boko Haram.

Authorities had found and buried at least 185 bodies as of Sunday afternoon, said Lawan Kole, a local government official in Baga. He spoke haltingly to Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima in the Kanuri language of Nigeria's northeast, surrounded by still-frightened villagers.

Officials could not offer a breakdown of civilian casualties versus those of soldiers and extremist fighters. Many of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition in fires that razed whole sections of the town, residents said. Those killed were buried as soon as possible, following local Muslim tradition.

Brig. Gen. Austin Edokpaye, also on the visit, did not dispute the casualty figures. Edokpaye said Boko Haram extremists used heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the assault, which began after soldiers surrounded a mosque they believed housed members of the radical Islamic extremist network Boko Haram. Extremists earlier had killed a military officer, the general said.

Edokpaye said extremists used civilians as human shields during the fighting — implying that soldiers opened fire in neighborhoods where they knew civilians lived.

"When we reinforced and returned to the scene the terrorists came out with heavy firepower, including (rocket-propelled grenades), which usually has a conflagration effect," the general said.

However, local residents who spoke to an Associated Press journalist who accompanied the state officials said soldiers purposefully set the fires during the attack. Violence by security forces in the northeast targeting civilians has been widely documented by journalists and human rights activists. A similar raid in Maiduguri, Borno state's capital, in October after extremists killed a military officer saw soldiers kill at least 30 civilians and set fires across a neighborhood.

Sunday afternoon, the burned bodies of cattle and goats still filled the streets in Baga. Bullet holes marred burned buildings. Fearful residents of the town had begun packing to leave with their remaining family members before nightfall, despite Shettima trying to convince some to stay.
"Everyone has been in the bush since Friday night; we started returning back to town because the governor came to town today," grocer Bashir Isa said. "To get food to eat in the town now is a problem because even the markets are burnt. We are still picking corpses of women and children in the bush and creeks."

Source: ABC News

Assad's Forces Kill 85 in Damascus Suburb, Activists Say


Syrian forces and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed at least 85 people when they stormed a Damascus suburb after five days of fighting, opposition activists in the area said on Sunday.

There was no immediate confirmation of the activists' account of what they described as a "massacre", including of women and children, at Jdeidet al-Fadel. Syrian authorities have banned most independent media since the uprising began in 2011.

Syria's Sana state news agency said the military "inflicted big losses on terrorists in Jdeidet al-Fadel and destroyed weapons and ammunition and killed and wounded members of the terrorist groups".

Jamal al-Golani, a member of the Revolution Leadership Council opposition group, said the number of dead may be higher than 250, mostly shot at close range, but the presence of army patrols made documenting all of them difficult.

"Jdeidet al-Fadel was militarily a lost cause from day one because it was surrounded by the army from every direction. There are almost no wounded because they were shot on the spot," he said.

The killings happened over several days when pro-Assad forces stormed an area where there were up to 270 rebels, Golani said, adding that he had counted 98 bodies in the streets and 86 people who he said had been summarily executed in makeshift clinics where they were lying wounded.

The working class district, part of Sunni Muslim towns surrounding the capital that have been at the forefront of the uprising against Assad, is situated near hilltop bases for elite loyalist forces, who mostly belong to Assad's minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam that has dominated the country since the 1960s.

Abu Ahmad al-Rabi', an activist in the adjacent district of Jdeidet Artouz, said: "We documented 85 summarily executed, including 28 shot in a makeshift hospital after Assad's forces entered Jdeidet al-Fadel. We fear that the victims of the massacre are much higher."

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition monitoring group operating from London, said it documented 80 names of people killed, including three children, six women and 18 rebel fighters.
The Syrian Network for Human Rights said the International Committee for the Red Cross should be allowed to evacuate civilians from the district after credible reports of "extrajudicial killings and summary executions inside homes and tens of cases of sexual violence".

Syrian state television showed troops in a pickup truck patrolling the dusty town and several bodies of dead men which a commander described as "terrorists" in front of a building that appears to have been wrecked by gunfire.

Video footage taken by activists showed three bodies of young men lying next to each other and apparently hit by bullets, and bodies in what they described as a makeshift clinic, two of which hit in the face.

In a pattern seen in other towns and neighborhoods overrun by Assad's forces, activists said shops in Jdeidet al Fadel were looted and torched.

Assad's forces have been accused of massacring hundreds of Sunni in areas they stormed in Hama and Homs provinces and Damascus suburbs, while international rights groups say rebel forces have also committed atrocities, although on a smaller scale.

Source: Reuters

Reese Witherspoon Arrested for Disorderly Conduct

Oscar-winning actress Reese Witherspoon was arrested in Atlanta for alleged disorderly conduct after her husband, talent agent James Toth, was stopped by police on suspicion of drunken driving, online Hollywood magazine Variety reported on Sunday.

Witherspoon, 37, was arrested early on Friday after she quarreled with officers who had taken Toth, 42, into custody during a traffic stop of the couple on Peachtree Street, Variety said, citing an Atlanta police report.

Toth, who was behind the wheel, was pulled over when he crossed a double line on the road, Variety said, citing the police report. Appearing disheveled and smelling of alcohol, he then failed a blood-alcohol breath test administered at the scene, according to the report.

Witherspoon was warned to stay inside the vehicle, but after her husband's arrest, she got out of the automobile and said, "she was a 'U.S. citizen' and that she had the right to 'stand on American ground,'" according to Variety.

Witherspoon herself was then arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct.

The magazine, citing the arresting police officer's account in the report, said: "Mrs. Witherspoon asked, 'Do you know my name?' I answered, 'No, I don't need to know your name.' I then added, 'right now.' Mrs. Witherspoon stated, 'You're about to find out who I am.'"

The report cited by Variety further quoted Witherspoon as telling the officer, "You're going to be on national news."

The couple was released from custody at about 3:30 a.m. on Friday, and were scheduled to appear in court on Monday, but sources told Variety that their attorney is expected to request a later date.

The couple married in 2011 and have a son together. Witherspoon has two children from her first husband, actor Ryan Phillippe.

Witherspoon won an Oscar for her work in the 2005 film about country music star Johnny Cash, "Walk the Line," in which she played his wife, June Carter Cash.

Source: Reuters

Apr 20, 2013

USA Today Founder Allen Neuharth Dead

Allen H. Neuharth, who revolutionized American newspapering by founding USA Today with its colorful layouts and concise storytelling that influenced many media empires, died Friday in his home in Cocoa Beach, Florida, the newspaper said. He was 89.

"The longtime newspaperman, media executive and columnist died after sustaining injuries in a fall at his home," USA Today said.

Neuharth was a former chairman of Gannett, the publisher of USA Today and 81 other newspapers, who made journalistic history when he took a bold risk launching a daily in 1982 that declared itself the first general interest national newspaper. He battled his own board of directors in championing the publication.

Some traditionalists of American journalism criticized USA Today for its emphasis on shorter articles -- calling it "McPaper" -- but the paper developed into an extraordinary success financially and journalistically. The newspaper is now the nation's second-largest daily.

The iconoclastic Neuharth was fond of saying that "the editors who called us McPaper stole our McNuggets."

"Al Neuharth reinvented news,'' USA Today Publisher Larry Kramer said in the newspaper's obituary. "Even in our recent efforts to translate his vision into the modern world of digital journalism, we relied on him to tell us if we were going in the right direction."

Neuharth "was, is and always will be USA Today," Dave Callaway, the editor-in-chief, added. "He holds a remarkable place in the history of American journalism, and the spirit and passion which he brought to our industry will never be extinguished."

Source: CNN

Amazon to Pilot TV Shows Online

Fourteen pilot shows - including Alpha House and Zombieland - are to be put to the public vote on Lovefilm and Amazon.com.

Viewers can submit feedback influencing which shows get made into full series.

The 14 shows are made by independent production companies and produced by Amazon Studios, the film and series production arm of Amazon.

"This is the first time Amazon Studios has done this," said Simon Morris, Lovefilm's chief marketing officer.

Eight adult comedies and six children's animation series will be put to the public vote.

The shows will be aired on Amazon's pay subscription services - Amazon Prime in the US, and Lovefilm in the UK - but Morris told the BBC they would be available to everyone and not just subscribers.

The adult pilot shows include Alpha House, about four senators who live together in a rented house in Washington DC and stars John Goodman, who was recently in Oscar-winning film Argo.

"Bill Murray has got a cameo in Alpha House, looking a bit older, a little bit more bedraggled, but definitely Bill Murray," Mr Morris added.

Onion News Empire is set behind the scenes of the Onion News Network, a satirical daily news service, and "shows just how far journalists will go to stay at the top of their game", according to Amazon Studios.

It stars Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor as the "egomaniacal lead anchor".

Musical comedy Browsers stars Cheers and Frasier actress Bebe Neuwirth as the "terrifying" boss of a news website in Manhattan.

Other pilot shows include Zombieland - based on the film of the same name - featuring four survivors attempting to outwit zombies, while animated comedy Dark Minions, written by Big Bang Theory's Kevin Sussman and John Ross Bowie, is about two "slackers" working on an intergalactic warship.

The children's shows include animations Sara Solves It, where Sara and Sam solve maths-based mysteries, and Creative Galaxy, an interactive art adventure series.

"This isn't X Factor for some new titles where you get to vote and they're fairly gimmicky," Mr Morris said. "It has a unique position in the world in that it has a platform that's a pay platform, it has an entertainment platform."

He said that the "world of digital has been growing, driven in large part by the BBC iPlayer, from about 2008" and that he saw this move as the next stage.

"Mass-market digital consumption and streaming have come of age in the last few years," he added.

Source: BBC News

Scores Die In Rural China Earthquake


A powerful earthquake has killed more than 150 people and injured several thousand in China's rural south west, officials say.

The 6.6-magnitude tremor sent people fleeing from buildings across Sichuan province, which was devastated by a massive quake five years ago.

Villages close to the epicentre in Lushan county were left in ruins.

Thousands of troops have been sent to Sichuan, and Premier Li Keqiang is also travelling to the area.

"The current most urgent issue is grasping the first 24 hours since the quake's occurrence, the golden time for saving lives," Mr Li was quoted as saying by state news agency Xinhua.

Rescuers have been able to pull some bodies and survivors from the rubble of devastated villages.

But recovery efforts have been hampered by aftershocks and landslides.

Power and water supplies have been knocked out in Lushan county, and some roads are impassable.

The quake struck at 08:02 local time (00:02 GMT), with the China Earthquake Administration categorising it as a 7.0-magnitude and the US Geological Survey (USGS) reporting it as 6.6.

Its epicentre was 115km (70 miles) west of provincial capital Chengdu, according to the USGS.

A square outside the Lushan county hospital has been turned into a triage centre, with dozens of people being treated in tents.

State broadcaster CCTV showed images of bloodied people being treated in tents in Lushan.

One injured man told the channel: "We still live in our old house, the new one is not ready yet. Our house just collapsed. Everything collapsed."

The quake was measured at 12km below the surface, a shallow depth that usually indicates extensive damage.

CCTV footage suggested entire villages around the epicentre had been flattened.

People in Chengdu felt the tremor and came running into the streets wrapped in blankets.

Chengdu resident Aaron Ozment said that there was huge confusion in the city.

"I threw on a some clothes quickly and made my way into the courtyard of my complex," he said.

"Making calls was almost impossible; everybody was trying to contact everybody they knew."

Residents in the nearest city to the epicentre, Ya'an, felt jolts from the quake and aftershocks, but the city does not appear to have suffered major damage.

Xinhua reported that more than 6,000 soldiers had been dispatched to help with rescue efforts.

Aircraft had begun flying over the area to assess the damage and deliver supplies.

Five years ago a massive quake hit Sichuan, killing tens of thousands.

The 2008 disaster left some five million people homeless.

Many of the collapsed buildings were schools and nurseries, leading to widespread criticism of local government's planning policies.

Source: BBC News

Ghana Impounds Faulty Condoms



More than 110 million Chinese-made condoms have been seized in Ghana after laboratory tests revealed they were faulty, Ghanaian officials have said.

"There are holes in them and... the condoms burst easily," a Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) spokesman told the BBC.

The condoms were being distributed free as part of an HIV/Aids prevention campaign by the Ghana Health Service.

About 200 million of the faulty condoms are believed to have been imported into the country.

The condom packaging is silvery white with a red Aids ribbon incorporated into the design and the words "Be Safe" also in red.

Thomas Amedzro, head of drug enforcement at the FDA, said the condoms had been imported via Kenya from a Chinese manufacturer.

All imported condoms are supposed to be tested by the FDA before distribution, he said.

"Somehow there was a lapse; the batches of the condoms were not submitted as duly required for the appropriate testing to be conducted," he told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

Anybody using them could be "exposed to sexually transmitted infections or be saddled with unwanted pregnancies", Mr Amedzro said.

"You may not be able to see the holes with your naked eye but when you look at it under the microscope you can see holes," he said.

They were also not adequately lubricated, the FDA said.

Our reporter says the health service took delivery of the condoms in February this year, but they arrived in the country in the last quarter of 2012.

"Since the alert went out, a number of individuals and organisations have already reported to us that they have stocks, which we are already retrieving," Mr Amedzro said.

A publicity campaign was underway to ensure that all the other unsafe condoms were found, he added.

According to UN figures, an estimated 230,000 people in Ghana, which has a population of 25 million, are living with HIV.

Source: BBC News

South Sudan Army Killed Nurses

Five health workers have been killed when South Sudan soldiers attacked a hospital in revenge for the deaths of eight members of the security forces, the local MP has told the BBC.

David Mayo said the fighting was still going on and urged the army to be withdrawn.

Local community leaders confirm that the hospital in the village of Lorema, Eastern Equatoria state, was attacked.

But the state governor denied the reports.

Louis Obong told the BBC that no hospital had been attacked and the security situation was "normal".

An army spokesman said he was investigating the reports and any soldier who had committed abuses would face justice.

The soldiers were deployed after eight of the governor's bodyguards were killed when they were sent to track down cattle rustlers.

The BBC's Nyambura Wambugu in South Sudan says many residents of the mountainous area around Lorema are heavily armed, including with rocket-propelled grenades, left over from the two-decade civil war against the north.

Mr Mayo said that 13 soldiers were currently being treated in hospital, in the state capital, Torit.

But he blames the soldiers for the violence, saying they opened fire indiscriminately when they arrived in Lorema, before going on to attack the hospital and set fire to local homes.

One doctor, one patient and four nurses died, he said.

Human rights groups have accused South Sudan's army, made up of former rebels, of committing numerous abuses against civilians since independence in 2011 - charges the army has strongly denied.

Our reporter says there is a long history of cattle raiding in Eastern Equatoria, as in many other parts of the country.

Cattle lie at the heart of life for many communities in the country which has hardly any banks - they represent wealth, a dowry, property and a source of food in the lean season.

A single cow can be worth hundreds of dollars depending on its colouring.

Source: BBC News

Boston Marathon Bomber Captured


A teenager suspected of carrying out the Boston Marathon bombings is in custody after a local resident found him hiding in a boat in his backyard.

Police said they exchanged gunfire with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, after cornering him in Watertown, near Boston.

He had escaped on foot early on Friday, apparently wounded, after a police shootout that claimed the life of his elder brother, an alleged accomplice.

Three people died and more than 170 were wounded in Monday's bombings.

As news emerged that the teenaged suspect was being treated in hospital, US President Barack Obama promised to seek answers on what had motivated the bombers and whether they had help.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was found after a day of lockdown on Boston's streets and a night of bloodshed that had claimed the life of a police officer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Sean Collier, 26, was fatally shot in Cambridge late on Thursday. Then, after a car was hijacked, a gun battle began further west, in Watertown.

A transport police officer was seriously hurt and one of the brothers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was fatally injured.

He had died of bullet wounds and injuries from explosives strapped to his body, a hospital doctor said.

As thousands of Swat team officers scoured the streets for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Boston and its suburbs were brought to a standstill, with residents told to stay indoors.

Despite house-to-house searches in the Watertown area, nothing was found and the trail appeared to have gone cold.
The Tsarnaev Brothers

It was not until 19:00 local time (23:00 GMT), an hour after the city-wide lockdown order was lifted and the transport system had reopened, that the breakthrough came.

A resident of Franklin Street, Watertown, emerged from his home and noticed blood near a boat in his backyard.

Upon opening the tarpaulin covering the boat, he found a man covered in blood in the stern and called police.

Bomb-squad vans and ambulances surrounded the house, while helicopters buzzed overhead.

"The hostage rescue team did try to talk him out but from what I understand, he was not communicative," Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis told reporters.

Officers tossed flash-bang grenades into the boat to disorient the fugitive.

Police said they exchanged gunfire with the suspect for about an hour before moving in and seizing him. Images show the teenager climbing out of the boat and then lying on his back as he is searched by police.

A crowd near the scene cheered as he was taken into custody.

Boston Police Department tweeted: "CAPTURED!!! The hunt is over. The search is done. The terror is over. And justice has won. Suspect in custody."

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was taken to a Massachusetts hospital, bleeding and seriously injured with gunshot wounds to the neck and leg, police told reporters.

Source: BBC News

Apr 19, 2013

Pakistani Police Arrest Musharraf

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has been arrested on charges relating to the unlawful detention of judges in 2007.

He appeared at a district court on Friday morning amid heavy security.

He was initially placed under house arrest at his home in Islamabad but later transferred to the police headquarters in the city.

Mr Musharraf has described the cases against him as politically motivated.

Thursday's order to arrest him was an unprecedented move against a former army chief who ruled the country for almost a decade, the BBC's Orla Guerin in Islamabad says.

Although he was present at court when the warrant was issued, police made no attempt to arrest him and he rapidly returned to his home on the outskirts of the city.

He was finally arrested on Friday morning and appeared at court, where a judge ruled that he should be held in custody for two days.

The decision to move him from his home to police headquarters appears to be largely procedural. He is expected to appear before an anti-terrorism court in the next 48 hours.

His legal team have said they will challenge the order in Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, members of Pakistan's Senate passed a resolution that the former president should be tried on charges of high treason relating to his declaration of a state of emergency in 2007.

Last month Mr Musharraf returned from years of self-imposed exile hoping to lead his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party into the general election next month.

Earlier this week his candidacy was rejected in Chitral, one of four seats he had applied to contest.

Mr Musharraf had already failed in an attempt to stand in three other seats.

The case for which he has been arrested relates to his controversial decision to dismiss judges - including Chief Justice Mohammad Iftikhar Chaudhry - when he imposed emergency rule in 2007.

He also faces several other criminal cases and had been trying to stave off arrest ever since he returned.

The Pakistani Taliban have also vowed to assassinate the former president, who seized power in a 1999 coup.

Source: BBC News

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