Argentina's former military ruler Jorge Rafael Videla has been found guilty of stealing babies during the country's so-called Dirty War, between 1976 and 1983. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison for systematically stealing babies from political prisoners and giving them new identities in order to remove any trace of the country's opposition. Videla was tried along with Gen. Reynaldo Benito Bignone, who has been sentenced to 15 years in prison. A former senior commander in the Argentine Army, Videla became the de facto President of Argentina after a coup that deposed then-President Isabel Martinez de Peron in March 1976.
The UN Security Council renewed a peacekeeping mission in South Sudan for a second year on Thursday. "South Sudan and the Sudan currently stand at a crossroads and this is a defining moment for both countries," said UN chief Ban Ki-moon, adding that South Sudan needs to “cultivate constructive relations with the Sudan." The UN mission in South Sudan was created in July 2011. Since their separation, the two states have repeatedly clashed over a disputed border and oil fields located in the region.
A Florida judge has set a $1 million dollar for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch member accused of killing an unarmed black 17 year-old. A previous bail of $150,000 was revoked last month after prosecutors accused Zimmerman of misrepresenting his wealth to obtain a lower bail bond and potentially flee.
A member of Assad’s inner circle and a brigadier in the Republican Guard, Manaf Tlas, has reportedly fled Damascus and was in Turkey en route for Paris, Reuters reports. Tlas could not be reached for comment but several sources confirmed his defection. A witness in Damascus, who spoke to Reuter anonymously, said Tlas's house in the Syrian capital had been ransacked by security agents. Tlas’s father Mustapha served as defense minister under Assad's father for 30 years.
The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution threatening sanctions against Islamist fighters in northern Mali. It expresses concern over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Mali and demands the restoration of constitutional order following a March 21 coup.
"Russkiye vityazi" ("Russian knights") won't make it to the Farnborough International Air Show this year because they didn't get the necessary license from the Military Cooperation Federal Service. Military equipment can't be taken abroad without permission from the body. Formed in 1991, the team of six Sukhoi Su-27s is famous around the world for its aerobatic performance demonstrations. The Farnborough Air Show is a week-long international trade fair that is held every other year at the Farnborough Airport in Hampshire, England.
The Vatican’s quest to be placed on the prestigious “white list” of financially transparent countries is coming to a close, after the Council of Europe completed a report on its financial activities. The contents of the report will not be disclosed for another month. Italy is currently conducting several investigations against recently-employed Vatican bank officials accused of money-laundering and other financial misdeeds.
Saint Petersburg authorities annulled a previously sanctioned march and rally for LGBT rights. The event was scheduled for this Saturday, and no more than 1,000 people were expected to participate. "The cancellation was caused by a huge number of citizens who demanded that the rally be forbidden", the governor's press-secretary stated.
The health of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, one of jailed activists of feminist-punk band Pussy Riot, worsened after the three detainees declared a hunger strike yesterday, said her lawyer Mark Feigin. He said Nadezhda is suffering from a severe headache which forced her to ask for a pain-killer injection. Feigin stressed that the administration of the pre-trial detention center is treating all of the punk-group’s members properly.
Libya's outgoing National Transitional Council has recommended that Islamic law should be the “main” source of legislation. “The Libyan people are attached to Islam, as a religion and legislation,” the council’s spokesman Saleh Daroub said on Thursday. “And this should not be subject to a referendum,” AFP quoted him as saying. Libyans will vote on Saturday for a General National Congress, which is expected to appoint a new government and a constituent authority.
The death toll from an explosion and fire at a liquid gas reservoir in Afghanistan's capital Kabul has risen to 17, police said on Thursday. The accident on Wednesday, in which 155 people were injured, could have been caused by an electrical short circuit. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) helped Afghan emergency services tackle the blaze.
Tunisia has called for Arab ministers to meet to discuss the death of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. “The general secretariat received a request today from the Tunisian representative to convene a ministerial meeting to study the circumstances of the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat,” the Arab League Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed Ben Helli said on Thursday, as cited by Reuters. The request follows new allegations that Arafat was poisoned with the radioactive element polonium-210 in 2004.
Britain's Defense Secretary Philip Hammond has said the army cuts will not undermine its military might. “We do have the fourth-largest defense budget in the world and the army is one of the top-performing armies in the world and will remain so,” he said. The UK army will shrink from 102,000 troops to 82,000 by the end of the decade, Hammond said on Thursday. The army will lose 17 major units. The government is expected to offset reductions by increases in part-time reservists and greater reliance on civilian contractors.
The pilot of an Air France jet that crashed into the Atlantic in 2009 made a fatally flawed maneuver, the final report on the crash of Flight 447 says. The pilot nosed the plane upwards during a stall instead of downwards as he should have because of false data from sensors, the report concluded. The report also points to pilot error, families of victims who were briefed on the conclusions said, AP reports. France's BEA air accident investigation agency has spent three years investigating the incident. The plane flying from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plunged into the ocean during a nighttime thunderstorm. All 228 people on board were killed in Air France's deadliest ever crash.
A court in Bahrain has said that an 11-year old boy who was accused of taking part in an anti-government protest can remain at home, but must be monitored by a social worker for a year. The boy's lawyer said the charges, including participation in an illegal gathering, were not dropped. Ali Hasan, who was one of the youngest demonstrators taken into custody, was allowed to return home after spending a month behind bars. Bahrain has seen almost daily protests for over a year.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has denied that Moscow has plans to provide shelter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Foreign counterparts said they were convinced that “we will collect him [Assad] and so resolve all problems facing the Syrian people,” Lavrov said on Thursday, as cited by Interfax. He described this as “an unscrupulous attempt to mislead serious people dealing with foreign politics or failure to understand what… Russia's position is." Lavrov stressed that "only the Syrian people can decide on Syria's fate, including the fate of its leaders."
The captain of the wrecked cruise liner Costa Concordia was released from house arrest by order of Italian judges on Thursday. Francesco Schettino was ordered not to leave his hometown while the case against him continues, Reuters reports. Schettino is accused of causing the January 13 accident in which as many as 32 people died. Francesco Magistrates in the Tuscan town of Grosseto said Schettino would no longer have to remain confined to his home in Meta di Sorrento near Naples.
UK armed police closed a major motorway near Birmingham, England on Thursday over an incident involving a passenger traveling on a bus from Preston to London. Both lanes on the M6 toll motorway were closed off. Megabus said that one of the company’s vehicles was involved, with 48 people booked. The company was helping police with regard to “an allegation made against a passenger.” It was not immediately clear what caused the alert, but dozens of fire trucks, police and emergency vehicles and an army bomb disposal team were on the scene, AP said. Police say they are not treating the bus situation as a counter-terrorism incident, adding that no passengers were injured.
China said on Thursday it would not attend a forthcoming meeting of the Friends of Syria group in Paris. Beijing “at present does not consider attending the meeting,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said. The group’s member states are the US, France, Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and some 60 other countries. Russia has stayed away from the Paris meeting, saying the group only supports one foreign-based faction of the Syrian opposition.
Iraq warned on Thursday that militants loyal to Al-Qaeda were crossing from Iraq into Syria to carry out attacks. Intelligence shows that “members of Al-Qaeda terrorist networks have gone in the other direction, to Syria, to help, to liaise, to carry out terrorist attacks,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari said, as cited by Reuters. The Syrian government has called a 16-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad not a popular revolt but a "terrorist" conspiracy.
South Korea plans to resume hunting whales for research purposes, officials said Thursday. Non-whaling nations and environmental groups suspect the plans may be a cover for commercial whaling, AP said. The plan was conveyed to the International Whaling Commission during an IWC meeting this week in Panama. Seoul says the whaling would be aimed only at studying the types and amounts of fish whales eat. Fishermen reportedly complain that an increasing number of whales are consuming large amounts of fish stocks. The commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, but some exceptions allow Japan, Iceland and Norway to hunt whales.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said he would have been toppled long ago like the shah of Iran if his people did not support him. “Everybody was calculating that I would fall in a small amount of time,” he told the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet in an interview published on Thursday. “They all miscalculated.” He said Syria was under attack from Islamist militants sent by hostile Arab countries. Assad promised to continue the fight against militants, adding that Syria “will defeat terror.”
Switzerland is freezing arms exports to the United Arab Emirates after a media report said a Swiss-made hand grenade shipped to the UAE had been found in Syria. A newspaper published a picture of a hand grenade produced by Swiss weapons manufacturer RUAG which it said had been seized in the Syrian town of Marea last month, Reuters said. Switzerland stopped arms exports to Syria in 1998. The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs has frozen all pending applications for arms exports to the UAE and demanded the return of licenses which have already been issued, the government said in a statement. Authorities from the UAE have not yet commented on the matter.
The daughter of slain South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee will launch a bid to become the country’s first female president. Park Geun-hye, 60, has a double digit lead over most of the potential opposition for the presidential poll due in December, Reuters said. She is likely to be the clear front-runner in the primary of the ruling conservative New Frontier Party. Park failed to win the conservative nomination in 2007. She currently describes her policies as “Korean Thatcherism”. She has pledged a dialogue with Pyongyang if it abandons its hostile stance and nuclear weapons.
British police say they have arrested five men and one woman in counter-terror operations. The suspects were detained on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism. Those arrested range in age from 18 to 30, AP reports. Three were detained in west London and three others at a residential address in east London. Police say the arrests are not linked to the Olympic Games.
The President of Cyprus Dimitris Christofias has said there is nothing wrong with simultaneously pursuing a loan from Russia that may come with better terms than a European Union bailout. He stressed that “there's no issue” with Cyprus refusing a bailout funds loan if it clinches a Russian loan. Cyprus last week became the fifth country in the eurozone to seek a bailout.
Trucks carrying NATO supplies resumed their routes to Afghanistan via Pakistan on Thursday. The cargo will be transported to Peshawar before crossing the border into Afghanistan, AP reports. Pakistan’s cabinet on Wednesday endorsed the decision to reopen the route and end the seven-month blockade. The decision came after the US apologized for air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.
Hundreds of thousands of Somalis run the risk of being pushed back into hunger amid ongoing conflicts and a predicted late harvest, Save the Children warned on Thursday. Many of the 1.4 million Somalis displaced by conflict and drought will bear the brunt of the new crisis, the humanitarian agency said, as cited by Reuters. Last year's crisis has left a large number of Somali families unable to cope with the effects of drought one year on, according to Sonia Zambakides, humanitarian director for Save the Children's Somalia program. The charity has asked for more funding and efforts by the international community in Somalia.
Nuclear power returned to Japan's energy mix on Thursday after the first reactor came back online following a nationwide shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Kansai Electric Power Co’s Ohi plant in Western Japan resumed supplying electricity to the grid even though a parliamentary investigative commission has yet to release the final report on Fukushima nuclear crisis, AP said. Thousands had protested against the resumption of operations in Ohi. Before the crisis, Japan got one-third of its electricity from nuclear plants.
A boat carrying 30 people capsized in Oyster Bay Harbor in New York on Wednesday, WABC-TV reports. Most of the passengers have been rescued by the Coast Guard and Nassau and Suffolk Marine Units, but some are still missing.
Hundreds of online pedophiles have been identified in 141 countries in a year-long operation conducted by Austrian authorities, federal police said Wednesday. Large quantities of video footage and other information have been seized and are being examined by police. In Austria alone, police found 272 suspects who had broadcast child pornography videos on the Internet. It was the largest operation against online pedophiles since March 2011, when Europol identified 670 suspects and made 184 arrests.
The Paraguayan Foreign Ministry has ordered home its ambassador to Venezuela citing “the grave evidence of intervention by Venezuelan officials in the internal affairs of Paraguay.” Earlier, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered his ambassador to leave Paraguay and halted oil shipments in protest against the impeachment of Paraguay's former President Fernando Lugo. Paraguay accuses the Venezuelan foreign minister of participating in a meeting with senior Paraguayan military officials during the impeachment process.
A severed human head that was discovered in a Montreal park belongs to Jun Lin, the victim of the dismemberment case that has shocked Canada, police said. Prosecutors say porn actor Luka Magnotta killed and dismembered Lin, sending parts of his body to the headquarters of political parties and two schools in Vancouver. Lin’s torso was discovered next to Magnotta’s house.
ECOWAS, a regional bloc composed of West African states, said in a communiqué that it does not recognize the military junta behind the March coup in Mali, nor junta leader Amadou Sanogo’s “former head of state” title. Captain Sanogo led the military coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure in March, and became Mali’s head of state as the Chairman of the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State. In April, he relinquished some of his powers to Dioncounda Traore, who became the country’s acting president. Nevertheless, the junta continued to maintain considerable clout over the country. The turmoil that broke out in the aftermath of the coup allowed Tuareg rebels to take control of the north of the country and establish the breakaway state of Azawad.