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21 December, 2010


Julian Assange to publish memoirs

­The founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has already sold his memoirs to two publishing houses, The Guardian reported. The fact of their publication was first mentioned by Twitter by Claudio Lopez, head of the literary department of the Spanish publishing house Random House Mondadori. According to Lopez, Assange is to finish the manuscript by March 2011. The publication date and the size of the author’s fee remain unknown.


7.4 quake hits Japan, tsunami warning issued

­An earthquake with a magnitude of 7.4 shook the Japanese islands on Wednesday and a tsunami warning was issued, the Japan Meteorological Agency stated. The epicenter of the earthquake was reported near the Ogasawara islands, which are about 1,000 kilometers south of Japan’s capital Tokyo. It was also felt on the eastern half of Honshu, one of the four main islands of Japan. The quake struck at a depth of 10 kilometers at 2:20 a.m. local time (5:20 p.m. GMT on Tuesday). There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage to property.


2 dead, 7 injured in bus accident in northern Russia

­Two people were killed and seven injured in a bus accident in northern Russia on Tuesday, the Interfax news agency reported. The bus was driving along a federal highway when one of its front wheels was allegedly punctured. The driver reportedly lost control of the vehicle and the bus drove into oncoming traffic, hitting a Scania truck. It is at least the fifth accident involving a passenger bus in Russia in the last two days, with more than 60 people reportedly injured and nine killed.


Plant workers in Russia steal platinum concentrate worth $5.6 million

­Police in the Siberian city of Norilsk have filed a case against a group of workers from the Norilsk Nickel plant, accusing them of stealing 340 kilograms of platinum concentrate. The suspects have been taking out their trophy by small portions in buckets, and as a result have allegedly collected platinum concentrate worth $5.6 million. The Norilsk Nickel plant is one of the leading platinum producers in the world.


UN headquarters evacuated because of ‘suspicious odor’

­Personnel at the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly were evacuated from their building in New York on Tuesday due to a “suspicious odor,” a UN spokesman said. The evacuation was a precautionary measure. Local authorities said they are trying to identify the odor. The Security Council and General Assembly had meetings scheduled for Tuesday that had to be suspended because of the alert.


Head of Russian hospice movement dies

Vera Millionshchikova, an oncologist and one of the founders of the hospice movement in Russia, died Tuesday in Moscow at the age of 68, from a massive blood clot, her daughter said. Millionshchikova opened one of the first hospices in Russia in 1997 where patients dying from cancer could receive palliative care. She was famous for her kind heart and care in treating her patients. Today there are eight hospices in Moscow.


Russia launches Google Maps’ rival

Russian Space Agency Roskosmos launched ‘Geoportal’ on Tuesday – an online mapping service similar to Google Maps. The web portal will give access to satellite images of the Earth’s surface. However, only low-definition images will be available for free – high resolution comes with a fee. The main difference from its American counterpart will be the daily data and image updates.


Thousands evacuated due to ‘Hallelujah flash mob’ in US

A Californian singing ‘flash mob’ ended with the evacuation of about 5,000 people from a mall in the town of Roseville on Monday night. Many in the crowd had shown up to sing the Hallelujah Chorus, in an event organized by a local choir. Some 50 people reported that the floor and foundations were moving and creaking. The police and fire officials who came to the site determined that the structure was sound. The organizers of the flash mob apologized for the inconvenience and the group performed Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus right outside the building.


Thailand ends eight-month state of emergency

­The Thai government has agreed to lift the eight-month state of emergency imposed in Bangkok and surrounding areas after the country’s worst political violence in modern times. April’s protests left 91 dead and more than 1,800 wounded. The Red Shirt opposition members demanded the current parliament be dissolved and called for new elections. They support former Prime Minister, who was ousted in a bloodless military coup in 2006. The state of emergency was supposed to "restore peace and order and to stop the spreading of false information to the Thai public, " Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said, as cited by CNN. The cabinet imposed such restrictions as curfews and bans on gatherings.


Iraqi parliament to vote on new cabinet

The Iraqi parliament is set to vote on the composition of its new government on Tuesday after incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki submitted the list of nominees. It follows months of political deadlock following the country's inconclusive March elections. The parliament will vote on a list of 42 ministers and top government posts. Al-Maliki was re-appointed in November after striking a power-sharing deal.


Tens of thousands stranded due to severe snow in Europe

­Freezing temperatures and heavy snow are continuing to cause massive disruption in the UK and across Europe. Most of London's Heathrow airport is still shut leaving tens of thousands of people stuck there, faced with spending another night on terminal floors. Many flights are also cancelled due to icy conditions in Paris, Frankfurt and Brussels. The Arctic temperatures are predicted to continue until Christmas and even beyond.


Weather satellite launch postponed after Glonass trouble

­Russia’s space agency has postponed the launch of the Elektro-L weather satellite by one month. It was originally scheduled for December 25.

The decision was due to the need to double check the condition of the Fregat-SB booster, which will be used together with the Zenit-2SB rocket to deliver the satellite into orbit. In light of this new modification of the booster, Roscosmos decided to perform extra tests before approving it for launch.

The move is also partially due to the failure to launch three Glonass satellites earlier this month. The navigation satellites fell into the Pacific because of an error in technical documentation for the Proton rocket, which resulted in too much fuel being loaded.


Israeli jets fire at Gaza in response to rocket attacks

Israel carried out a series of air strikes on suspected militant sites in Gaza on Tuesday. Israeli military officials said the attacks were targeted at smuggling tunnels and a weapon manufacturing facility. It is in retaliation for the firing of 13 rockets at Israel in the past two days. A health official in Gaza reported that three people were injured.


Online cat and dog skin products cause outcry in China

Chinese animal rights activists have been outraged by the sale of products made of cat and dog skin on China’s largest retail website Taobao, Shanghai Daily reports. The site offers more than 6,600 items, from cushions to trousers and waist coats. Animal lovers launched an online campaign calling on Taobao to take action against the sellers. They claim that the dealers catch stray animals and peel their skin off. Activists are demanding the introduction of a law to protect small animals.


UN extends peacekeepers’ mandate in Ivory Coast

The UN Security Council on Monday extended the mandate of its peacekeeping force in the Ivory Coast for six months, urging the incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo to recognize the opposition leader Alassane Ouattara and step down. The decision came amid Gbagbo’s calls that the ten thousand UN strong force leave the country. He claims the UN has been arming his political rival, who observers say won November's run-off election.


Ukraine may raise retirement age for women

­The Ukrainian Parliament has submitted a bill to raise the retirement age for women by five years – up to age 60. The increase is planned to be gradual: starting from February 2011 the retirement age would be raised by 6 months each year. Also, the bill calls for the retirement age for men working for the state to be raised to 62 years.
In November 2010 the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine said the country would not raise the retirement age for women, as demanded by the International Currency Fund.


1.4 million rubles stolen from St. Petersburg mosque

­Three persons wearing masks broke into the cathedral mosque in St. Petersburg on Monday and stole 1.4 million rubles, RIA Novosti news agency reports. The burglars immobilized an 81-year-old secretary with an electrical stun gun and tied up a 70-year-old cashier, after which they took the money from the mosque safe. The city police are investigating. If captured, the thieves face up to 15 years in prison.


7 killed in Iranian earthquake

­As a result of a powerful tremor that occurred on Sunday evening in southeast Iran, seven people were killed, hundreds remain trapped and three settlements were destroyed, Reuters news agency reports. The first underground quake happened about 10 pm local time in Kerman province. As rescue work continues, more victims might be discovered, according to officials. Iran is located in a high-activity seismic zone. Overall, more than 170,000 Iranians have been killed in its 20 most powerful earthquakes.