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30 July, 2012


US would-be suicide bomber pleads guilty

­Shaker Masri, a Chicago man accused of planning to join a training camp in Somalia in order to become a suicide bomber for terrorist groups, pleaded guilty on Monday. His sentencing is scheduled for October 16. Masri was born in Alabama but lived abroad before returning to the US aged 18. He was arrested in 2010 after the FBI exposed his alleged plot to become a suicide bomber. He was charged with attempting to provide material support to a violent extremist group and trying to offer material support by use of a weapon of mass destruction outside the US.


Indonesian police arrest 62 over bar attack

­Authorities in Indonesia have arrested 62 people, most of them minors, for taking part in an attack on a bar in the south of the country’s capital, Jakarta. A group of around 150 youths armed with Samurai swords, sickles and golf clubs participated in the raid on Saturday, Hermawan, a local chief detective said. The group, calling itself the Prophet’s Defenders Council, shattered windows, broke doors and smashed bottles, saying they wanted to ensure that all bars were shut during the month of Ramadan. Habib Bahar, the group’s leader also detained in the arrests, was quoted by local media as saying that he regularly raids “sinful places” during the month of Ramadan. Although Indonesian authorities have ordered bars and nightclubs to close during the month of Ramadan, the ban has not been strictly implemented.


Iran sentences four to death for bank fraud

­The Iranian Revolutionary Court has sentenced four people to death and two to life in prison following their convictions related to a $2.6 billion bank fraud, the country’s state prosecutor was quoted by the IRNA news agency as saying. Thirty-three other defendants linked to the scam also received sentences of up to 25 years in prison. Only general information has been released about the case, described as the country’s biggest financial scam, and the names of the defendants have not been released. The linchpin defendant, nicknamed Amir Mansour Aria, is described as the head of a company which prosecutors say paid bribes to bank staff and managers, and used “incorrect connections with executive and political elements” to accumulate wealth. Aria is also said to have forged documents to obtain credit from one of Iran’s top banks.


UN team to visit North Korea to assess flood damage

­A United Nations inter-agency team will visit the two most affected counties of North Korea on Tuesday to assess the damage from the recent floods, a United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) official has told Reuters. The team will then determine what measures need to be taken to mitigate the consequences of the flooding for the population. North Korea has been hit by massive floods caused by torrential rainfall since July 18. Eighty-eight people have died in the disaster and thousands made homeless, North Korean media report. Many rice paddies and other farmland have been destroyed, driving grain prices up, according to defectors in neighboring South Korea. The torrential rain came after a severe dry spell that also caused a poor harvest.


Putin vows to strengthen Russian nuclear navy

In a push to modernize the country’s fighting forces, President Vladimir Putin on Monday vowed he would increase Russia’s nuclear naval forces to maintain the country’s place as a leading sea power. His comments came as he oversaw the start of the construction of one of Russia’s latest generation submarines. Putin hopes to make missile-equipped nuclear submarines the heart of the Russian Navy. After two decades of chronic underfunding, the Russian Navy is expected to receive some $620 billion dollars for modernization by the end of the decade.


Greek political leaders carry on with austerity talks

Leaders from the three Greek political parties that collectively form the country’s coalition government said they would continue talks on further austerity measures to salvage the country’s bailout program following a two-hour meeting on Monday, Reuters reports. Those aligned with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras are hoping to delay the unpopular cuts by another two years despite objections from lenders. The parties have agreed to most of the $14.7 billion in cuts demanded by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, though implementation of those cuts remains a point of contention.


Hundreds of thousands flee Aleppo amid fighting - UN

­Some 200,000 Syrians have fled the city of Aleppo because of the recent fighting, UN reports. Valerie Amos, the top UN official for humanitarian affairs also said it is not known how many people remain trapped in the places where fighting continues. On Monday intense clashes between the government forces and the rebels erupted again.


Colorado shootings suspect charged with 12 first-degree murders

­Colorado shootings suspect James Holmes has been officially charged with 12 counts of first-degree murder and 12 counts of murder with extreme indifference following the shootings at the Aurora movie theater. Holmes has also been charged with 116 counts of attempted murder and one count of possession of explosives. Twelve people were killed and 58 people were injured on July 20 as former doctorate student Holmes opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora during a midnight showing of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises.


Greece dispatching 1,800 more troops to Turkey border over Syrian refugee crisis

­Athens is to quadruple the number of guards at the border with Turkey, says Greek Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias. Some 1,800 more officers will be sent to the posts and 26 floating barriers will be placed along the Evros River that divides the two countries, partly because of an expected influx of Syrian refugees. Turkey is hosting thousands of Syrian refugees who fled the 17-months of violence in their country. Greece is known as the busiest entry point for illegal immigrants trying to reach the EU.


Sappers defuse bomb on Dagestan beach in North Caucasus

A bomb has been defused on Monday evening in Makhachkala, the capital of the Russian Republic of Dagestan. After the bomb was found on the city’s Caspian beach, the area was cordoned off and people were evacuated. A bag with wires sticking out had caught the attention of vigilant citizens, police said, as cited by Interfax. The explosive device equivalent to 300-500 grams of TNT was defused at the scene.


Syria's charge d'affaires in UK resigns - Foreign Office

Syria’s charge d’affaires in London has resigned in protest over “oppressive acts” by the Syrian regime, the British Foreign Office has said. Khaled al-Ayoubi informed the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on Monday that he has left his post in the Syrian embassy in London, a Foreign Office spokesperson said. Ayoubi allegedly said he was no longer willing to represent a regime that “has committed such violent and oppressive acts.” He was the most senior Syrian diplomat serving in London.


Ethiopia ethnic clashes kill 18, displace thousands

At least 18 people have been killed in fighting between two communities over land in southern Ethiopia, the Kenya Red Cross Society said on Monday. About 20,000 refugees have fled to Kenya, Reuters reports. A dispute over the Ethiopian government's decision to settle the Garri community on land which the Borana claim to own prompted the fighting. Thousands of refugees are camped out in schools and a mosque around the Kenyan town of Moyale. Local Kenyan residents have given refuge to others.


Tajikistan blocks foreign websites, YouTube

The Tajik government's Communication Service has ordered internet providers to block access to several foreign websites, including YouTube. Among those blocked are Russian websites, including and and Tajikistan’s Ozadagon, media reports say. The blocking of the BBC website has not been confirmed, and an Interfax correspondent in Dushanbe freely entered the BBC English, Russian, Tajik and Persian websites. The current blocking of access to news websites follows a police operation in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region after the murder of a security service general on July 21. One civilian and 17 law enforcement officers reportedly died, and 40 policemen were injured. Police say they killed 30 militants and detained 41 in Khorog, the regional center.


Turkey sends new convoy to Syrian border – reports

Ankara has reportedly sent a convoy of about 20 vehicles carrying troops, missile batteries and armored vehicles to the border with Syria. The convoy left a base in Gaziantep province to head south to Kilis province, where the troops will stay, the Anatolian news agency said on Monday. The troops and vehicles had left a major highway and were now stationed along a fenced-off section on the frontier, Reuters said, citing witnesses. The deployment may be strictly precautionary as violence in Syria is continuing. Ankara last week warned the Kurdistan Workers Party against setting up camps inside northern Syria.


Namibia judge says 3 women sterilized without ‘informed consent’

A judge in Namibia has ruled that three women were sterilized without their informed consent. Judge Elton Hoff also said there was no evidence this was because they were HIV-positive. The three women had opted to have Caesarean deliveries to reduce the risk of passing AIDS to their babies, the BBC reports. Health officials had denied that the women were forcibly sterilized. Hoff announced that the damages would be decided at a later date. Lawyers say similar cases have been reported in nearby countries.


Torrential rain hits N. Korea as flooding continues

Torrential rain has drenched North Korea, adding to the country’s widespread flooding. The floods follow a period of drought, lifting food prices, Reuters said. A heavy downpour on Sunday worsened the flood situation, the UN North Korea office said. It added the government had requested assistance from resident UN agencies and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


Locog sells 3,000 tickets after empty Olympic seats scandal

The organizing committee for the Olympic Games in London has confirmed that an additional 3,000 tickets were sold last night. Empty seats at venues across the London Games over the opening weekend prompted London Mayor Boris Johnson to urge that more tickets be sold to the public. The extra tickets were reportedly sold after a host of sports federations returned their tickets. Some 1,000 of those tickets were for the gymnastics event.


Moscow court refuses to return Pussy Riot case to prosecution

The Khamovnichesky Court in Moscow on Monday refused to return the case of the group Pussy Riot’s members to prosecutors. The three women’s lawyers demanded the return, citing mistakes in the indictment, RIA Novosti reports. The court started considering the Pussy Riot case on its merits on Monday. The defendants are accused of hooliganism as they staged a guerilla performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior earlier this year.


Russia ratifies adoption agreement with US

President Vladimir Putin has signed a law on the ratification of the agreement with the US on adoption of children. The document was signed by Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on July 13, 2011. Russia had wanted such an agreement following a number of scandals involving Russian children adopted by US citizens. The document determines the adoption procedure and introduces control over the conditions in which adopted children live. Putin also signed a law on the ratification of a treaty on cooperation with France in adoption.


Putin signs bill criminalizing slander

President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill that returns slander to the criminal code. Criminal liability for defamation was abrogated in December, 2011. The move by the United Russia party in the State Duma provoked criticism from the public and journalists. The three other parties in the parliament voted against the bill. Under the new law, the maximum fine for a libelous accusation is 5 million rubles (about $152,000) or 480 hours of compulsory work.


India investigators blame Iran army for Israel diplomat attack

Indian police say members of Iran's Revolutionary Guards carried out an attack on an Israeli diplomat in New Delhi in February. Five suspects are believed to have worked with a local Indian journalist to plan the attack, The Times of India reports. The wife of the defense attaché was badly wounded after a hit-man on a motorbike attached a magnetic bomb to an embassy car. Interpol had issued international arrest warrants for four of the suspects named in the report. This is the first time India has alleged the plotters were members of the Revolutionary Guards, a branch of the Iranian military.


Philippines storm leaves 3 dead, 6 missing

A tropical storm swept past the Philippines, leaving at least three people dead and forcing many offices and schools to close. Many parts of Manila were without power early on Monday and low-lying areas were flooded, as Tropical Storm Saola roared off the country's northeast, AP reports. In a separate incident, two barges that drifted off of a Manila pier smashed into wooden shanties in the city's Tondo slum community, destroying dozens of huts but causing no injuries.


Eight killed as Polish train hits bus

Eight people where killed when a train hit a minibus on a level crossing in central Poland on Monday morning. Two people were injured, Reuters reports. The minibus carrying 10 people drove on to an unguarded crossing near the city of Lodz and was driven 30 meters down the tracks by the oncoming train, a local policeman said. None of the train passengers were hurt.


France urges UNSC ministerial meeting on Syria

Paris will ask for an urgent UN Security Council ministerial meeting on Syria, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on Monday. He urged the UN to do everything it can to stop the crisis in Syria. “We’re going to ask for a meeting of the Security Council, probably at ministerial level, before the end of this week,” the minister told RTL radio. France takes over the presidency of the Security Council on Wednesday.


Qatar to buy up to 200 tanks from Germany – report

Qatar plans to buy up to 200 Leopard tanks from Germany, with a potential value of up to $2.5 billion, German magazine Spiegel has said. The tanks are made by Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) in collaboration with German industrial group Rheinmetall. The German Security Council has not yet discussed Qatar's request, according to the magazine. It added, however, that the Economy Ministry and the Chancellery would give their support. The Economy Ministry has not commented on the report.


Blackout leaves 300 million without power in northern India

More than 300 million people were left without electricity on Monday after a massive grid failure in Delhi and much of northern India. The lights in Delhi and seven states went out about 2am and had not been restored by the morning rush hour, Reuters reports. This was one of the worst blackouts to hit the country in more than a decade. By mid-morning electricity had returned to parts of Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. The states of Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir were also hit by the blackout.


Colosseum under threat from subsidence

Authorities are investigating a recently developed slope at the ancient Colosseum in Rome. Experts first noticed the 40 cm incline on the south side about a year ago. La Sapienza University and environmental geology institute IGAG are closely monitoring the activity with investigation results due in a year. The scientists will also monitor the effects of traffic pollution and the effects it has on the 2000-year-old monument. If preliminary fears of a fractured slab of concrete on which the Colosseum rests are confirmed, the authorities would need to conduct stabilization work to save the ancient site.


North Korea faces further heavy storms

­North Korea faces a new wave of dangerous thunderstorms that could inflict major damage.  The alert was announced via the state media after a week-long flood earlier in July left 88 dead, 134 injured 134, and made almost 63,000 people homeless. More than 30,000 acres of farmland were also destroyed by the weather conditions. According to a recent UN observation, more than three million people will need food aid in 2012.


Thousands rally against China patriotism classes in Hong Kong

­Tens of thousands of people, including students, teachers and parents, have taken to the streets of Hong Kong to protest against the upcoming introduction of Chinese patriotism classes, saying that this will lead to brainwashing among children, AP reports. The demonstrators carried placards and banners and shouted slogans calling for the government to withdraw its plan. The government’s decision to introduce the Moral and National Education curriculum sparked concerns among the public and pro-democracy activists that it will be used to brainwash children into supporting China’s Communist Party. Authorities deny allegations claiming that the classes are aimed at building Chinese national pride. The people of Hong Kong see the move as yet another attempt by China to limit democracy in the semiautonomous territory.  On July 1, tens of thousands of people protested over the city's new leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who was chosen by an elite pro-Beijing committee and is widely suspected of having close ties to the Communist Party.


Night shifts can kill – research

­It has long been known that shift work disrupts the body clock and hormone production and through this can cause various disorders – from high blood pressure to diabetes and even cancer. In 2007, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that shift working was “probably carcinogenic”. Later, night shift work was even linked to some specific types of cancer. With all that, the overall impact on cardiovascular health had been unclear until Thursday, when an international group of researchers headed by Daniel Hackam from the Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Centre in Canada published their study in the BMJ (British Medical Journal). The results of their work are based on the analysis of 34 studies involving 2,011,935 people. The group has shown that shift work is associated with a 23-per-cent increase in the risk of heart attack, 24-per-cent rise in coronary events and five-per-cent more strokes. Night shift workers run the highest risk of 41 per cent for coronary conditions. Shift work was defined in the study as "regular evening or night schedules, rotating shifts, split shifts, on-call or casual shifts, 24 hour shifts, irregular schedules, and other non-day schedules." Studies on day workers were used for comparison.