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3 November, 2011


Case against Michael Jackson's doctor goes to jury

The case against the doctor accused of killing Michael Jackson has gone to jury, with deliberations set to begin Friday. The seven-man, five-woman panel were referred the case on Thursday after spirited, daylong closing arguments by both the prosecutor and the defense attorney.   Prosecutor David Walgren urged the group to convict Dr. Conrad Murray, arguing the Houston-based cardiologist was reckless with Jackson's life and left his children without a father when he gave the singer an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol. Defense attorney Ed Chernoff countered that Jackson injected himself with the fatal dose and prosecutors were trying to convict Murray for the actions of Jackson.


Russian party calls on Duma to condemn 1917 revolution

­The Russian parliament should officially recognize “the Bolshevik coup committed in 1917” was illegitimate, the chairman of the liberal Yabloko party, Sergey Mitrokhin, said on Thursday. He promised to push for this decision if the party enters the State Duma after December’s parliamentary elections. Mitrokhin said that during commemorative events on November 7, Yabloko members will honor the Cadets who opposed the Bolsheviks. The Communists on that date will celebrate the anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution.


Ban Ki-Moon warns Palestinians against trying to join UN bodies

­UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has said Palestinian efforts to join other United Nations agencies after a successful UNESCO bid are “not beneficial for Palestine and not beneficial for anybody.” Speaking in Cannes with AP on Thursday, the UN chief warned that “millions and millions” of people could be affected if UN agencies see their funding cut as a result of the Palestinian bids. The US, Canada and Israel have already frozen their funding of UNESCO after the Palestinian Authority was granted full membership of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


US accuses Russia and China of stealing secrets in cyber-attacks

­A US government report says Chinese and Russian intelligence services and corporate hackers are using cyber-attacks to steal high-tech American research and development data. The stolen information is helping both countries build their own economies, the authors conclude. The document, which includes information from the 14 US spy agencies, says China and Russia remain “aggressive and capable collectors” of US economic information and technologies, the Associated Press reports. Cyber-attacks by foreign governments are mentioned in the report as a “persistent threat to US economic security.”


Violence continues in Syria despite Arab League peace plan

­Syrian activists said on Thursday the Baba Amr district of Homs, a city in the center of uprising, came under heavy fire from tanks and guns. At least nine people were reported killed in that fire and other violence, the Associated Press reports citing witnesses. The clashes continue although the Arab League said on Wednesday its plan to ease tension has been accepted by Damascus. According to the agreement, the Syrian government should stop violence against protesters and pull its military out of cities.


Greek PM reverses decision to hold bailout referendum

­Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou has scrapped his plan to hold a referendum on the EU bailout plan following talks with the opposition, the Associated Press reports, citing the government officials. Papandreou reportedly announced the decision at an emergency Cabinet meeting on Thursday, also saying that he would not resign despite pressure from many sides. He will face a confidence vote in the parliament on Friday. The premier warned that early elections would lead the country to exit from euro.


Eleven US officials placed on Russian ‘Magnitsky list’

­Eleven American citizens have been put on Russia’s “Magnitsky list,” according to Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Sergey Ryabkov. The list has been compiled as a response to Washington sanctions against Russian officials allegedly involved in former lawyer for Hermitage Capital Management, Sergey Magnitsky, who died in a pre-trial detention facility in 2009. The Russian list includes US officials “flagrantly violating the rights of foreign nationals,” Ryabkov said. It concerns those who violated human rights in US territory and in zones under US jurisdiction, including the American prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the diplomat said.


WTO ministerial conference could discuss Russia’s accession on December 15

­The issue of Russia’s accession to the World Trade Organization could be raised at the WTO ministerial meeting on December 15, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said. Next week, it will be officially announced that that the process of co-ordinating Russia’s admission “has been completed,” he said. Russia has practically solved all the issues, including those with Georgia, and most other problems have been overcome, he said.


Russia, US ‘unlikely to agree’ on missile defense before next NATO summit

­There are no grounds to say that Russia and the US will come to an agreement on the missile defense before the NATO summit in Chicago next May, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov has said. It is difficult to say if something will have been prepared by the summit, he told reporters on Thursday. So far nothing indicates that there will be any agreements, Itar-Tass quotes the diplomat. Commenting on another bilateral issue, Ryabkov said Russia and the US will exchange notes on visa relaxation agreement in November.


Israel stops financing UNESCO

­Israel has frozen its funding of UNESCO, which amounts to $2 billion annually, Aleks Selsky, an aide to the prime minister, said, Itar-Tass reports on Thursday. The decision of Benjamin Netanyahu followed the admission of the Palestinian Authority to this UN organization. Earlier, the US and Canada cut their financing of UNESCO. Palestinian officials also said on Thursday that Israel did not transfer the tax payments it collects on behalf of the Palestinians in the first three days of November, as it is supposed to every month.


Russian president supports balance of security, openness of internet

­President Dmitry Medvedev has said ways should be found to provide security on the internet, but they must not disagree with as openness and accessibility to any user. “A balance between these two goals may be hard to attain, but I think it is high time to do that,” he said at the G20 Business Summit in Cannes on Thursday. The president noted that Internet security must be provided with investments in new technology and upgraded legislative regulation. He also voiced his opinion on the new approach towards intellectual property protection on the internet.


Papandreou ‘prepares to step down’

­Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou is expected to offer his resignation on Thursday following an emergency Cabinet meeting, the BBC said, citing its sources in Athens. The premier is likely to meet Greek President Karolos Papoulios to offer a coalition government headed by former Greek central banker Lucas Papademos. Papandreou himself is expected to stand down. The Greek opposition also proposes transition government to prepare for early elections, the Associated Press reports. Papandreou, who had called a vote of confidence for Friday, is losing support among his own party’s MPs and the cabinet members.


Russia will support eurozone – Medvedev

­Russia is part of Europe and it is not indifferent to problems facing the eurozone, President Dmitry Medvedev said at the G20 business summit in Cannes on Thursday. “We will participate in supporting EU member states, at least via the IMF,” he stressed. He argued that the G20 authorities assisted the financial markets, preventing a collapse of banking systems three years ago. For many economies, the price proved “unbearable,” he noted, adding that big business should take the lead now and ensure the sustainability of financial institutions.


Blida ship freed from Somali pirate captivity

­MV Blida, an Algerian bulk carrier hijacked by Somali pirates in January, has been freed and is heading to a safe port, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said on Thursday. Pirates captured a crew of 17 Algerians, six Ukrainians including the captain, two Filipinos, an Indonesian and a Jordanian on their way from Salalah in Oman to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania in the Gulf of Aden. On October 11, pirates freed two ill sailors. It is not clear if any ransom has been paid.


Ukrainian activists protest against all branches of power

­Participants of Ukrainian protest events in Kiev on Thursday rallied near the buildings of the government and parliament and then marched to the presidential administration. The column reportedly includes about 300 representatives of different organizations, who are protesting against plans to cut benefits. Protesters, including former liquidators of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Nikolay Azarov, RIA Novosti reports. The Chernobyl activists started their rallies on Tuesday. President Viktor Yanukovich has alleged that attacks against government bodies are being prepared, and slammed “calls to revolution.”


Israel ready for new naval blockade against Gaza-bound ships

­The Israeli Navy has said it has completed preparations to prevent two boats carrying pro-Palestinian activists from reaching the Gaza Strip. The ships sailed from Turkey on Wednesday in another attempt to break the sea blockade imposed in 2007 after Hamas militants seized control of the territory. Spokesman for the activists Amjad Shawwa told the Associated Press that 27 people from nine countries are on board. Israel warns that the militants could get weapons by sea and suggests that aid should be delivered by land. Last year, nine Turkish activists were killed in an Israeli raid on a similar flotilla.


BRICS member states elaborate common stand on eurozone crisis

­BRICS member countries have agreed to elaborate a consolidated position on the eurozone situation, President Dmitry Medvedev said at a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Cannes, France, on Thursday. Because of the difficulties the eurozone is now experiencing, the BRICS need a common stance, Medvedev explained. Russian presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich said leaders of BRICS countries have agreed to establish closer contacts at the level of finance ministries. BRICS comprises Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.


Fire breaks out on Red Sea ferry with Egyptian passengers

A ferry carrying about 1,200 passengers to Egypt’s Red Sea port of Nuweiba caught fire in the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba on Thursday. A rescue operation was launched, but no casualties have been reported. The passengers had to escape on lifeboats as fire broke out on the Pella, owned by the Arab Bridge Maritime Company, media reports say. An Egyptian port official reportedly said the ferry's passengers are mostly Egyptian expatriate workers returning home for the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday.


TEPCO denies Fukushima nuclear reaction allegations

­The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has played down the detection of xenon at the meltdown-afflicted Fukushima No 2 reactor.  There is no evidence the nuclear reaction has started again, it said. The company confirmed xenon, a fission byproduct, had been detected. A mixture of water and boric acid has been poured into the reactor as a precaution. “Analysis suggests that it was not a critical situation,” the Guardian quoted Ai Tanaka, a spokeswoman for TEPCO, as saying.


Killer of Russian football fan sentenced to 17 years in jail

­The Moscow City Court has sentenced Akhmedpashi Aidayev to 17 years in a high-security prison for killing football fan Yury Volkov in the center of Moscow, Interfax reports. Prosecutors had sought a 20-year sentence. The second defendant, Bekkhan Ibragimov, who was found guilty of hooliganism and assault, received a six-year prison term. The sentences are based on a Moscow City Court jury verdict, which earlier found Aidayev and Ibragimov guilty of the premeditated murder that happened on July 10, 2010. Another Spartak fan, Yegor Sviridov, was shot dead in December 2010 in an incident that sparked race-hate riots in Moscow.


Greek ministers oppose referendum, say country will stay in eurozone

­Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos and three other government members came out on Thursday against Prime Minister George Papandreou’s initiative to hold a referendum on the euro and the EU rescue plan. “Greece’s place in the euro is a historical conquest by the Greek people,” Venizelos was quoted by AFP as saying on television. This place “cannot be made dependent on a referendum,” he stressed. Papandreou had agreed to call a referendum on December 4. The exact wording is not clear, but the prime minister is certain Greek voters want to remain in the euro. Papandreou has called emergency Cabinet meeting for Thursday.


Russia’s Topol missile successfully test-fired

­Intercontinental ballistic missile Topol (RS-12M) has been successfully launched at Plesetsk Space Center, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Thursday. The ICBM, assembled in 1987, successfully hit a target in the Kamchatka Peninsula in the Far East. The test was conducted by Russian Strategic Rocket Forces (RVSN) and Space Forces for training and combat purposes, RVSN spokesman Vadim Koval told reporters. The main task of the launch was to confirm the stability of the main characteristics of such ICBMs, he noted. The deployment term of these kinds of missiles has been extended to 24 years. The military are assessing the possibility of expanding it to 25 years.


Russia calls Bout verdict ‘unfair’

­The Russian Foreign Ministry has said political pressure applied by the US authorities on the trial of businessman Viktor Bout calls into question the fairness of the guilty verdict handed down on him. “A negative environment obstructing unbiased consideration of facts was purposely created around the Bout case with the US executive authorities’ direct encouragement,” Interfax quoted the ministry’s spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich as saying on Thursday. He also stressed that the tough conditions in which the Russian citizen was held, were “clearly aimed at forcing him to bargain with the investigation.” Russia will be seeking Bout’s return to his homeland, Lukashevich said.


Insurgents attack Afghan construction company

­A suicide bomber has struck a private construction company in the western province of Herat about 10am on Thursday, according to an Afghan official. One guard was wounded, the Associated Press said. At least two other insurgents managed to burst into the compound housing the private construction company after the bombing, and Afghan security forces had to engage them in a firefight. The company is reportedly located along a road leading to the province’s main airport which is used by NATO and Afghan forces.


Moscow concerned over Israeli construction plans

­The Russian Foreign Ministry has urged Israel to reverse its decision to speed up the housing construction in the Palestinian territories. Any construction in the occupied territories is “illegal by generally-known standards of international law” and must be halted, the ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this week ordered that housing construction for Jews in Jerusalem and the settlements of Etzion and Maale Adumim be sped up. The decision “further mars the atmosphere for the resumption of the peace process,” the Russian ministry said.


Putin follows Obama on top of Forbes list

­US President Barack Obama has topped Forbes magazine’s list of the world’s most powerful people in 2011, replacing Chinese President Hu Jintao in the No. 1 spot. This time Hu came third, while Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who will run for president in 2012, is No. 2. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the most powerful woman with her fourth place on the Forbes list. Explaining this year’s rankings, the magazine said that the US remains “the most powerful nation in the world, with the largest, most-innovative economy and the deadliest military.”


Russia, Georgia approve bilateral agreement at WTO talks

­Delegations representing Russia and Georgia have approved a draft bilateral agreement on managing commodity trade, the head of the Russian delegation at the WTO talks, Maksim Medvedkov, has said. “We are satisfied that Georgia supported the draft and that an agreement has finally been reached,” Interfax quoted him as saying following consultations Wednesday. The document provides for trade data auditing by an independent company, and two countries will give such data to a WTO integrated database. The talks between Moscow and Tbilisi, which are designed to open the door to the WTO for Russia, have been held since March with the Swiss mediation. Georgia said the talks could be finalized by November 10.


Catholic journal withdraws gay devil column

The oldest Roman Catholic newspaper in the United States has retracted an opinion column suggesting the devil may be responsible for gay attraction. The Friday column in the Boston archdiocese's The Pilot newspaper was titled “Some fundamental questions on same-sex attraction.” It was written by an associate director for policy and research at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. Associate director Daniel Avila says in the piece “the scientific evidence of how same-sex attraction most likely may be created provides a credible basis for a spiritual explanation that indicts the devil.” The 182-year-old newspaper withdrew the online column on Wednesday. It posted an apology from Avila saying the column doesn't represent the position of the Conference of Catholic Bishops and wasn't authorized for publication.


Railway bridge collapses after being hit by heavy truck

­A railway bridge has collapsed in Russia's Urals overnight after a heavy truck crashed into a pillar of the bridge across the Yekaterinburg-Perm highway, the local emergency service said on Thursday. The driver was injured and hospitalized, though no other injuries have been reported. The accident occurred near the town of Revda in Sverdlovsk Region and traffic now has to bypass the scene of the accident via the city of Pervouralsk.