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11 May, 2012


Jennifer Hudson's brother-in-law convicted of carrying out 2008 massacre

­A Chicago jury found William Balfour, the husband of singer Jennifer Hudson’s sister Julia, guilty of perpetrating a deadly October 2008 massacre. The prosecution argued he was the one who killed Julia Hudson’s mother, brother and 7-year old son after feeling jilted by his wife. The defense argued that the main target of the massacre was Julia and Jennifer Hudson’s brother Jason, who was suspected of trading cocaine, but there was scant evidence to prove this to be the case.


AP obtains video from inside Sukhoi Superjet-100

­The Associated Press has obtained video footage from the first demonstration the doomed Russian Sukhoi Superjet-100 made in Indonesia on Wednesday. The video gives a view of what went on inside the cabin, showing preparations for the ill-fated second demonstration, during which the jet crashed, presumably killing all 45 people on board. Twelve bodies have been found so far, many of them dismembered, making identification a difficult task. The Sukhoi Superjet-100 crashed into the side of Mount Salak, an Indonesian volcano, on Thursday.


Syriza coalition refusal puts Greek government on the rocks

­The leader of Greece’s radical Left Coalition (Syriza) party says he will not join a national unity government with Socialist leader Evangelos Venizelos. "We will not participate in a government that will enforce the policies of the memorandum," Alexis Tsipras said Friday. Tsipras was referring to Greece’s international bailout agreement with the EU, meant to keep the country’s economy from collapsing. With Greece's international creditors claiming any future government will be bound to its existing austerity and reform program, Tsipras’ decision could force the country out of the eurozone.


Greece fails to form coalition government

­Greek leaders have failed to form a coalition government, said Socialist Party leader Evangelos Venizelos. If the country's president fails to bring party leaders together, a new election will be held. Recent polls show that a young radical Leftist party would most likely take the vote.


Mladic calls for judge's disqualification, postponement of trial

­Ratko Mladic has appealed to disqualify the presiding judge in his trial, Alophons Orie, and to postpone the trial that will start next week. Mladic's lawyers say the judge is biased since he has already been involved in the similar trials, like the one of Mladic's former political boss Radovan Karadzic. They also insist that Orie's Dutch nationality makes him biased in charges linked to the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Mladic has repeatedly tried to postpone his trial. So far, there has been no official reaction from the court. Mladic faces 11 charges, including two counts of genocide, for heading the Serb forces responsible for atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian war.


Non-Islamist parties dominate Algerian elections

­Algeria's National Liberation Front and a sister party have won legislative elections, crushing an Islamist alliance. The Front took 220 seats, and its sister party, the National Democratic Rally, ended up with 68 – thus forming a solid majority in the parliament. The Islamist Green Alliance came in a distant third with 48 seats. The alliance says the elections were fraudulent, and is threatening to take “the appropriate measures.”


Algerian Islamists warn of widespread fraud in elections

An alliance of Islamist parties accused Algerian authorities on Friday of widespread fraud as initial figures pointed to them finishing third. Preliminary figures based on initial vote tallies show that the former ruling party, the National Liberation Front will win 100 seats, AP said. The Islamist "Green Alliance" was expected to have nearly as many in the 462-seat assembly. However, figures released on private television showed the Islamists coming behind two pro-government parties. Abderrazak Mukri, a spokesman for the alliance, said that "there is a process of fraud on a centralized level to change the results that is putting the country in danger."


Israel not invited to NATO summit – Rasmussen

Israel will not be invited to NATO's May 20-21 summit in Chicago, Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said. He denied that alliance member Turkey had blocked Israel's participation, AP said. The reason is because Israel does not participate in NATO's main military missions, Rasmussen said. News reports earlier assumed Turkey had blocked Israel's participation because of the raid in 2010 by Israeli troops on ships heading to Gaza. Eight Turks and a Turkish American died in the operation.


Three blasts rock Nigeria's city of Maiduguri

Three explosions and gunshots have rocked Nigeria's restive city of Maiduguri, a hotbed of Islamist insurgency. It was unclear if anyone was hurt, AFP said, citing security sources. The attack on Thursday night happened near a church in an area where a mosque owned by the Boko Haram terrorist group was razed during a 2009 crackdown on the group. Truckloads of soldiers were deployed to the area on Friday morning. A third blast was reported in a different area of the city.


Palestinian hunger strike escalates in Israeli jails

Hundreds of Palestinians on hunger strike in Israeli jails shunned vitamin supplements on Friday protesting against detention conditions. They called themselves “potential martyrs” in a letter read out by Hamas's Ismail Haniyeh in the Gaza Strip, Reuters reports. An estimated 1,600 inmates out of 4,800 began the hunger strike on April 17. They are demanding improved conditions in Israeli custody, including more family visits and an end to solitary confinement and administrative detention without charge.


EU to impose new sanctions on Syria

The EU is set to slap new sanctions on Syria, imposing an asset freeze and visa ban on two firms and three individuals. Diplomats said on Friday the new measures would target “mainly sources of revenue for the regime,” AFP reports. The decision will be taken at talks between EU foreign ministers next Monday. The previous round of sanctions agreed last month targeted the high-end lifestyle of the Assad couple and regime supporters.


Hollande ‘worth’ $1.5 million, less than Sarkozy

Francois Hollande, the Socialist to be sworn in as French president next week, has declared assets of 1.17 million euro (almost $1.5 million). This is considerably less than his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy’s assets. Hollande’s declaration published on Friday shows that his principal asset is a house on France's southern Riviera coast, Reuters said. He rents his apartment in Paris and does not own a car. Other assets include bank accounts worth 8,200 euro and 15,000 euro of furniture.


12 bodies evacuated from Superjet crash scene in Indonesia – reports

Twelve bodies have been evacuated from the site of the crash of a Sukhoi Superjet 100 passenger plane in Indonesia, a Russian blogger said on Friday. Sergey Dolya wrote from the search operation headquarters that the work was stopped because it became dark. “It takes two hours to evacuate one body to a helicopter pad,” he said on Twitter. Earlier the Indonesian national search and rescue agency confirmed that 12 bodies had been found at the site where the Russian plane crashed on Wednesday.


Japan grants visa to China’s Uighur leader

Tokyo has issued an entry visa to Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer before next week's World Uighur Congress. Kadeer, the exiled head of the movement, who lives in the US, is set to arrive in Japan on Sunday, AFP reports. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei condemned the Japanese move. He said the World Uighur Congress “is closely connected to terrorist organizations and is a downright anti-China splittist organization.” Many Uighurs say they are persecuted by authorities in their homeland.


Victim’s brother hurls shoe at Breivik during Norway trial

The older brother of one of the victims of Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik threw a shoe at him during the trial on Friday. This is the first time the proceedings have been interrupted by a public outburst. “Go to hell, go to hell, you killed my brother,” the man screamed, as cited by newspaper VG. The man was seated in the second row of the public gallery. The shoe missed Breivik but struck his co-defense lawyer, Vibeke Hein Baera, AP said. People attending the trial reportedly applauded. The man was removed from the courtroom by police.


Greek left-wing party rules out coalition with conservatives and socialists

A small left-wing party vital in Greece's coalition negotiations will not join forces with the conservatives and socialists to form a government. Fotis Kouvelis, the head of the Democratic Left party that won 19 seats in Sunday's election, made the announcement on Friday. He warned that he would not join any coalition that does not include the election runner-up, the Radical Left Coalition, AP said. The party's leader Alexis Tsipras has refused to join a government that does not reject the austerity terms of an international bailout. The winning conservatives and third-placed socialists have said that Tsipras' demands would force Greece out of the euro.


EU says economy of 17 eurozone states to shrink in 2012

The European Union on Friday confirmed that it expected the economy of the 17 countries of the eurozone to shrink this year. The European Commission predicted that the eurozone economy would contract by 0.3 percent in 2012, AP said. However, it may grow by 1 percent next year. Last November, the commission predicted growth of 0.5 percent for 2012.


Poland's parliament approves plan to raise retirement age to 67

Lawmakers in Poland have approved a government plan to raise the retirement age to 67. The lower house of parliament voted on Friday 268 to 185 to approve changes proposed by Donald Tusk’s government, AP reports. The current law allows women to retire at age 60 and men at 65. Trade unions have opposed the plan. Protesters staged a rally outside the parliament. The new law needs approval from the Senate and the president.


Greece must carry out reforms to get payments – German FM

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has warned Greece there will be no more aid payments unless Athens carries out reforms. “Greece has to want to be helped,” the minister told lawmakers on Friday, as cited by AFP. “If they deviate from the agreed reform path, then the payment of further tranches of aid is not possible.” Greek politicians are battling to form a new government. The elections at the weekend handed gains to parties opposed to austerity measures that the EU supports.


NATO trooper killed by attacker in Afghan uniform

An attacker wearing an Afghan army uniform has killed a NATO service member in the country's east, the alliance said on Friday. NATO did not give the nationality of the service member killed in the Friday attack as member nations usually provide such details, AP said. The coalition is investigating the incident. Afghan soldiers or insurgents in military uniforms have opened fire on NATO troops several times this year.


Russian investigators open criminal case over beating of woman protester

The Russian Investigative Committee (SK) on Friday opened a criminal case over a special task force police officer beating a woman during Sunday’s "March of Millions" in Moscow. Criminal proceedings were opened under Criminal Code Article 286, Part 3 ("exceeding of authority and use of violence"), SK spokesman Vladimir Markin said, as cited by Itar-Tass. The case was opened after a video of the beating appeared on the Internet, showing a police officer hitting a woman and kicking her in the stomach during a protest action in Bolotnaya Square on May 6. The SK main department was ordered on Thursday to run a pre-investigation check into the incident.


Vatican investigates Legion of Christ priests for sexual abuse

The Legion of Christ religious order has said the Vatican is investigating seven of its priests for alleged sexual abuse of minors. Another two are being probed for other alleged crimes. This is the first known investigation against Legion priests. It follows a scandal involving the Legion’s founder, who sexually abused his seminarians and fathered three children with two women, AP said. The Legion confirmed on Friday it had referred seven cases of alleged abuse to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.


14 bodies found near Superjet crash site in Indonesia

Indonesian climbers have found 14 bodies near the wreckage of a Russian-made Sukhoi Superjet 100, Itar-Tass reports. The team used ropes on Friday to scale the slopes of Mount Salak where the plane crashed on Wednesday. All 45 people on board are feared dead. The cause of the crash is being investigated by Russian and Indonesian specialists.


Filipinos protest at China embassy over territorial row

Hundreds of Filipinos rallied outside the Chinese embassy in Manila on Friday over an escalating territorial row. The protesters denounced China's rulers as “arrogant bullies,” AFP reports. The placards read: “China stop bullying the Philippines,” and “China, Stop Poaching in Philippine Waters.” Both countries insist that Scarborough Shoal is their territory. The rocky outcrop in the South China Sea is about 230 kilometers from the Philippines' main island of Luzon.


Two servicemen killed in clash with militants in North Caucasus

Two servicemen were killed in a gun battle with militants in Dagestan in Russia's North Caucasus, the republic’s interior ministry said on Friday. Seven other officers of law enforcement agencies were injured in the clash that occurred in Kizlyar district on Thursday, Interfax reports. The skirmish broke out after a group of militants hiding under a motor road bridge refused to surrender to police.


US to send Viktor Bout to Colorado 'supermax' prison

­The US Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has ruled to send Russian businessman Viktor Bout to the “administrative maximum” detention facility in Florence, Colorado. The federal supermax prison for men, nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies,” houses the most dangerous convicts in need of the tightest control. The bureau’s decision overrides Bout’s and his relatives’ hopes for a general regime imprisonment. In April, Bout was sentenced to 25 years behind bars after allegedly attempting to sell anti-aircraft weapons. Prosecutors also maintained he supplied the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with smuggled arms to be used against US forces, but this count failed. Bout’s lawyer suspects the BOP’s recent ruling is still connected with this accusation. The Russian businessman insists he is not guilty, and that the case against him is prejudiced.


Sukhoi Superjet crash investigation could take up to 15 months – report

­The investigation into the crash of the Sukhoi Superjet-100 in Indonesia could take up to 15 months, according to preliminary reports. The statement came as a representative of the Interstate Aviation Committee flew out of Jakarta airport to visit the site of the crash. Russia and Indonesia had agreed to conduct a joint rescue operation. Several bodies from the scene of the crash, south of the capital, were found earlier on Thursday. 48 people are feared dead as the new Russian-made jet crashed on Wednesday in Java's west during a demonstration flight.


Obama administration committed to Jackson-Vanik revocation - former US envoy to Russia

­The Obama administration is committed to revoking the Jackson-Vanik Amendment, former US ambassador to Russia John Beyerle said during a seminar on US-Russian relations in Washington, DC. Beyerle stressed that canceling the amendment would benefit US-Russian relations for decades ahead. Beyerle’s opinion was echoed by former US Trade Representative Susan Schwab, who stated that the quicker the amendment was revoked, the better. The Jackson-Vanik amendment is a provision in US federal law which denies Russia most favored nation status in trade relations. It was implemented in the 1970s to pressure the Soviet Union over its restriction of Jewish emigration to Israel.


Missing Tennessee girls found alive, kidnapper shoots self

­Mississippi authorities say Alexandria Bain, 12, and Kyliyah Bain, 8, are safe and have been taken to hospital for observation. Adam Mayes, the man accused of kidnapping the girls and murdering their mother and sister, shot himself in the head as a SWAT team moved in to apprehend him Thursday night. The two surviving sisters "are suffering from the experience of being out in the woods and from being kidnapped. They are suffering from dehydration and exhaustion, but appear OK," police told CNN. Mayes' wife told investigators he had killed the girls’ mother and older sister on April 27 at their home in Whiteville, Tenn., so he could abduct the two younger sisters.


JP Morgan announces $2 billion trading loss

­JP Morgan, the United States' largest bank by assets, announced that it had lost $2 billion in a trading portfolio designed to hedge against risk. CEO Jamie Damon said the portfolio proved to be risky and that it was less effective as an economic hedge than initially expected. The company’s stock plunged almost seven per cent in the aftermath of the announcement. JP Morgan fared relatively well after the 2008 economic crisis; a success that was partially accredited to its prudent investment tactics.