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25 April, 2012


Military judge refuses to drop Bradley Manning case

­Military judge Denise Lind has refused to dismiss the case against Army private Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking reams of sensitive data to the whistleblower website WikiLeaks. Lind is also to rule Thursday on whether to drop individual charges against Manning, including the most serious count of aiding an enemy, which has a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. Manning's lawyers sought to dismiss all the charges on the basis that the prosecutors failed to reveal all the information that could be helpful to the defense. Lind ruled Tuesday that prosecutors wrongly assumed discovery rules didn’t pertain to classified information, but refused to charge the prosecution with procedural misconduct. Manning has been in pretrial confinement since being accused of having downloaded documents, diplomatic cables and video clips to send them to WikiLeaks in May 2010.


US Marine discharged after criticizing Obama on Facebook

­Sgt. Gary Stein, who spoke against US President Barack Obama on his Facebook page, has been discharged, a Marine Corps spokesman said on Wednesday. Stein was given an "other-than-honorable" discharge after having been found to commit a "serious offense" significantly outside the bounds of conduct expected of a Marine, added the spokesman. The sergeant told his Facebook followers Obama was a liar, and suggested he would not follow some orders issued by the president. On Wednesday, Stein posted a Facebook status update saying the discharge will be put off until the results of a medical condition, with which he was diagnosed Monday, arrive and treatment is discussed.


Ukraine invites German doctors to treat Tymoshenko

A spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said his country filed an official request for a group of doctors from the Charite clinic in Berlin to come to Ukraine to examine and treat jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. This comes after Tymoshenko announced that she was going on a hunger strike to protest an alleged beating that she endured while being transported to a hospital. Doctors from Charite have already visited Tymoshenko twice, and dismissed charges that she was faking the debilitating back pains that have kept her bedridden for months. Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October for abuse of power after she signed a gas deal with Russia.


France warns Damascus of military action

­France has warned the Syrian government that if it does not carry out an international peace plan, military action against Damascus is possible. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France could push for Security Council action under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, which can be militarily enforced. Juppe also demanded that the 300 UN observers authorized to go into Syria will be deployed within 15 days. “We think this mediation should be given a chance, on the condition that the deployment of the observer mission happens quickly,'' he stated.


South Sudan releases Sudanese war prisoners

­South Sudanese authorities have freed 14 Sudanese prisoners of war in hopes of lightening tensions between Khartoum and Juba, Reuters reports. The deal was negotiated by Egypt’s foreign minister during a visit to both countries; the prisoners would fly to Khartoum through Cairo. Since South Sudan gained its independence, a conflict over oil reserves has continued to escalate. The US, China and Britain have urged both sides to return to the negotiating table and end the fighting. The African Union's Peace Council issued a seven-point roadmap that called on both sides to cease hostilities.


UN to investigate living conditions of US Native Americans

The UN is to conduct an investigation into the plight of US Native Americans. The human rights inquiry is led by James Anaya, the UN Special Reporter on Indigenous Peoples, the Guardian newspaper reports. This is the first mission to the US by an independent expert “designated by the UN human rights council to report on the rights of the indigenous peoples," a UN statement said. Anaya is Professor of Human Rights at the University of Arizona, and will examine the situation of the Native American, Alaska Native and Hawaiian peoples.


Five killed in attack on Nigerian bar

Gunmen killed five people, including a police officer and a politician, at a bar in Nigeria, AFP reports. The attack took place in an area previously hit by a bomb blast. Three gunmen stormed the bar in Damaturu, the capital of the north eastern Yobe State, late Tuesday. No group has claimed responsibility. However, Islamist group Boko Haram was blamed for an explosion at a nearby bar in January that wounded several people.


Prosecution urges life sentence for Rwanda opposition leader

Rwandan prosecutors have called for a life sentence for opposition leader Victoire Ingabire. The charges include complicity in a terrorist group and denying the 1994 genocide, AFP reports. Deputy Prosecutor General Alphonse Hitiyaremye also asked for 10 years for each of Ingabire's four co-accused in the seven-month long trial in the capital Kigali. Ingabire, who was accused of "giving financial support to a terrorist group” denies the charges. Ingabire's unregistered party, Unified Democratic Forces, accuses Rwandan authorities of fabricating evidence against its leader.


Greece completes private sector debt swap

Greece has completed a huge exchange of government debt held by private creditors worth nearly 199 billion euro ($262 billion), the finance ministry said on Wednesday. It noted that following the final settlement the country will have restructured approximately 96.9 per cent of “the total face amount of bonds eligible to participate,” AFP reports. The swap initiated in February cuts some 106.5 billion euro of Greece's near- and mid-term debt of over 350 billion euro. Investors are expected to lose 53.5 per cent of their investment in Greek government bonds.


EU ambassadors start returning to Belarus

Swedish Ambassador to Belarus Stefan Ericsson has returned to Minsk, an embassy spokesman said. He had been withdrawn in February along with other EU ambassadors following Belarus authorities’ crackdown on opposition. The Polish ambassador to Belarus, Leszek Szerepka, has also returned, and is currently in the city of Brest, RIA Novosti said. The Belarusian ambassador to Belgium, who is Minsk's representative at EU institutions, as well as the Belarusian ambassador in Poland, have also reportedly returned to their duties.


Report accuses NATO of misleading with 'Afghan-led' operations phrase

International forces are misleading the public by calling military operations "Afghan-led" even in cases where NATO or US forces act on their own, a Kabul-based think tank, the Afghan Analysts Network, said. ISAF's desire to present accounts of events as favorably as possible sometimes leads to “propaganda, half-truths and, occasionally, cover-up,” said British analyst Kate Clark, the author of the report, as cited by AP. The phrase "Afghan-led" has become increasingly prevalent in NATO and US news releases about operations. In at least once instance, it was used for an assault conducted entirely by US troops, the report said.


As pirate activity declines, attacks off West Africa double in February

Global pirate activity declined in February from January, shipping and marine services company GAC has said in a report. This was due to a fall in incidents in southeast Asia. However, attacks off West Africa doubled to a total of eight, the report said. Currently, at least 18 ships and 263 crew members are being held, according to the monthly piracy intelligence report. Four successful hijackings took place, and the monthly success rate is now around 24% compared with 9.5% in January.


Libyan authorities ban religious, ethnic parties

As Libya prepares for elections in June, the government has banned political parties based on religion, tribe or ethnicity. The National Transitional Council passed the law governing the formation of political parties, spokesman Mohammed al-Harizy said on Wednesday. Libya's Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists had been expected to compete with secular parties for seats in a national assembly, which will draft a new constitution for the country.


China sends envoy to Sudans

Beijing will send its envoy for Africa to Sudan and South Sudan to urge talks between the two countries, Chinese officials said on Wednesday. China is also working with the United States to bring an end to border fighting as South Sudan continues to accuse the North of mounting bombing raids. Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the two Sudans to return to talks during Tuesday’s meeting with the South's President Salva Kiir, Reuters said. China has significant oil and business interests in both African states.


Missing girl Madeleine McCann may be alive – police

It's possible missing girl Madeleine McCann is alive, UK police said. The girl went missing on a family vacation in the Algarve coast in Portugal in May 2007. She vanished before her fourth birthday. London's Metropolitan Police said on Wednesday a new image of the girl would be released, AP reports. The investigation is continuing, and police have regular contact with her parents.


Ukrainian ombudsman ‘confirms Tymoshenko beating’ – deputy

The Ukrainian parliament’s commissioner for human rights has reportedly confirmed the alleged beating of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Arseny Yatsenyuk, the head of the opposition Front for Change made this statement on Wednesday. He said that ombudsman Nina Karpacheva ordered her representative to visit Tymoshenko in a penal colony in Kharkov Region. The circumstances of the former PM’s recent transportation to hospital were clarified, Yatsenyuk said. Tymoshenko earlier said that physical force was used against her during transportation. Penitentiary service officials deny the accusation.


Norway police had thought 'two bombers' targeted Oslo

Police had thought they were dealing with not one, but two bombers after a car bomb exploded at Oslo's central government building last summer, killing eight and injuring more than 200. Thus, there was thought to have been a risk that “more bombs had been positioned,” police superintendent Thor Langli explained on Tuesday, on the seventh day of Anders Behring Breivik’s trial. Langli said he had suspected two attackers because of conflicting descriptions of a man seen leaving a car that blew up, Reuters said. Following the Oslo attack, Breivik drove to a Labor Party summer camp where he massacred 69 more people.


Jordan to train 10,000 Libyan policemen

Jordan has started a two-year program to train 10,000 Libyan policemen. The first batch of 2,000 Libyans have begun their three-month course, AP said, citing Jordan government officials. Libyan officers will study policing, security and investigative work at the international police academy outside Amman. Some 550 Libyan officers will also receive special forces training in combating terrorism. Jordan's police academy has instructed more than 53,000 Iraqi policemen and 8,000 from other Arab nations.


Israel frees Palestinian protest leader Al-Tamimi

An Israeli military court has ordered the release of prominent Palestinian protest leader Bassem al-Tamimi, activists say. He had been held since March 2011 on charges of inciting youths to throw rocks at Israeli soldiers. Al-Tamimi was also accused of organizing demonstrations against Israeli activities in the West Bank. He was released on bail, and a verdict in his trial is still expected in May, AP said. The EU and rights groups had condemned the detention of Al-Tamimi because he was allegedly charged based on evidence obtained by interrogating children.


Murdoch to reveal details of papers' influence

Rupert Murdoch is to face a grilling when he appears at the Leveson Inquiry into media ethics. The News Corp boss is expected to reveal details of his meetings with senior politicians and to answer questions on the current phone-hacking scandal. His son James Murdoch denied during testimony on Tuesday that he used the influence of his family's British newspapers to help News Corp.'s bid to own BSkyB outright. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt rejected claims that he privately supported attempts by News Corporation to take full control of BSkyB.


Romney lays claim to Republican nomination after 5-state sweep

Mitt Romney has claimed the Republican presidential nomination after he won primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. “Tonight is the start of a new campaign,” Romney told supporters in New Hampshire on Tuesday. Romney is short of the 1,144 delegates needed to be named as the party’s candidate, but most analysts say the nomination struggle is over.


Israel's chief-of-staff doubts Tehran has decided to build bomb

Israel's army chief has said Iran has not yet decided whether to build a nuclear bomb. Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz told Haaretz daily on Wednesday that Tehran was going “step-by-step to the place where it will be able to decide” if it wants to manufacture the bomb. The view is largely shared by the US administration. If the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei wants, “he will move forward towards acquiring a nuclear bomb, but the decision must first be taken,” Gantz said. “I don't think he will want to go the extra mile.”


N.Korea has ‘mobile weapons’ capable of striking America – official

Pyongyang possesses “powerful mobile weapons” capable of striking the United States, a senior North Korean army official has said. Vice Marshal Ri Yong told officials that the weapons could defeat the US “at a single blow,” AP reports. Pyongyang marks the 80th anniversary of the army on Wednesday. North Korea officials said on Monday that “special actions” could reduce Seoul's government to ashes.


South Africa’s ruling ANC expels influential youth leader after appeal fails

­Julius Malema, the leader of the youth wing of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) party, was unsuccessful in his appeal of the decision to expel him from the party. Malema is a vocal critic of President Jacob Zuma, and has won wide popularity among poor South Africans with his calls of mine nationalization and seizures of white-owned land. Last year, Malema was suspended and then expelled from the ANC after a disciplinary committee found him guilty of calling for regime change in Botswana, unfavorably comparing Zuma to his predecessor Thabo Mbeki and storming into a meeting of senior officials. However, Malema was allowed to remain a member of the party pending the outcome of his appeal of the decision.


North Korea: Third nuclear test ready ‘soon’ – report

­Pyongyang has almost finished preparations for a third nuclear test, Reuters reports. "Soon. Preparations are almost complete," said a senior source associated with Pyongyang and Beijing. Observers believe that Pyongyang may have the capacity to conduct a test using highly enriched uranium, though it could also be done using plutonium. North Korea also carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009. South Korean media, quoting defense sources, predict that a launch could come within two weeks. But US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told journalists in Brazil he has no specific information on North Korea’s test plans.


Over two dozen OWS protesters detained in San Francisco

­Police have arrested about 24 people as several hundred protesters gathered at Wells Fargo's annual shareholder meeting, reports the Associated Press. At least 14 of them were inside the meeting in San Francisco’s financial district on Tuesday afternoon. Six others were arrested for trespassing. The protest was meant to slam Wells Fargo for pursuing home foreclosures, predatory lending, not paying enough taxes, and investing in private prisons. The company’s spokesman said they respect the protesters' right to gather but would work to keep their customers, employees and shareholders safe.