A tour boat with 15 passengers onboard has capsized and sank after it was hit by a heavy transport vessel on the Neva River in St. Petersburg near the Summer Garden on Wednesday night. Officials say the passengers have been rescued by the crews and passengers of passing vessels. "According to preliminary information, all the passengers have been saved and are on the shore," said a representative of Russia's Emergencies Ministry.
Seven members of an Iranian Red Crescent aid mission were abducted soon after arriving to the city of Benghazi, Libyan security sources told Reuters. They were reportedly snatched from their vehicle while on their way to a hotel. The Libyan Red Crescent also reported that their Libyan counterparts had been kidnapped. Intertribal strife has been rife in the country since the downfall of the Gaddafi regime last year, and armed militias have been involved in a number of kidnappings.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has given Mali ten more days to form a unity government. "Mali has obtained a postponement of the deadline of July 31 for the formation of the new government," an advisor to interim President Dioncounda Traore told AFP. The interim government in Mali was established in April, taking over from the junta that ousted the regime of Amadou Toumani Toure in March. ECOWAS set the deadline of July 31 for Mali's current authorities to form a wider government that would better address the country's crises.
France's data protection commission (CNIL) has requested that Google hand over data secretly collected by the company’s Street View cars from unsecured wifi hotspots. CNIL said on its website that it had asked Google to "place at its disposal the relevant data and to conserve the data for as long as it takes to carry out the necessary investigations." On July 27, Google contacted CNIL, saying the company wanted to erase the remaining data but would not do so in case CNIL wanted to examine it. Google’s international Street View project, launched in 2006, sparked privacy concerns and complaints by data regulators around the world after the IT giant admitted that its cars “accidentally” gathered data sent over unsecured wifi hotspots.
Six people have been killed in protests against rising fuel prices in the western Sudanese state of South Darfur, a local government spokesperson said. She added that an investigation into the exact causes of the deaths is underway. Over 1,000 people gathered in Nyala, the state capital, to protest against cuts to fuel subsidies enacted by President Omar al-Bashir’s government last month. Witnesses say demonstrators hurled rocks at the police, blocked roads and burned tires, while police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas and batons. Opposition activists also accuse the police of firing live ammunition at demonstrators. The entire country was gripped by a wave of anti-government protests last month, sparked by the fuel subsidy cuts. Those protests largely waned in the aftermath of a government crackdown and with the beginning of Ramadan. The government of Sudan has been forced to implement austerity measures following the secession of oil-rich South Sudan last year.
The longest set in Olympic history was played at Wimbledon Tuesday after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France bested Canada's Milos Raonic in just under four hours. Tsonga managed to defeat Raonic 6-3, 3-6, 25-23 in the second round, AP reports. The previous record was held by Fernando Gonzalez, who beat Taylor Dent 16-14 in the third set, clinching the bronze.
Venezuela has become a full member of Mercosur, six years after first applying to join the South American trading bloc. President Hugo Chavez went to Brazil for the ceremony. "We have waited for this day for many years. This is our path, it is our project, a South American union," he said. Venezuela's inclusion was made possible after the temporary suspension of Paraguay in June. The list of full members of the organization also includes Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay.
The US State Department has named Iran and al-Qaeda as the main terrorist threats to the United States and the world in an annual report submitted to Congress. The report said that beyond al-Qaeda and its affiliates, Iran was the primary sponsor of global terrorism. The report also accused Iran of undermining international efforts to “spread democracy,” threatening regional stability in the Middle East, continued efforts to undermine the security situation in Iraq, and supplying arms to Palestinian militants and the militant wing of Lebanese political party Hezbollah. The report comes as US lawmakers finalize the latest package of sanctions against Iran's energy and shipping sectors.
US President Barack Obama has announced a new round of sanctions against Iran. They will target Tehran's energy sales and financial transactions, affecting some Chinese and Iraqi banks accused of cooperating with Iran. The measure aims to curb the country's nuclear ambitions, Obama explained. "If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to impose increasing consequences," he said in a statement.
A new draft resolution on Syria created by Saudi Arabia and backed by Western countries is to be put to a vote at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, Itar-Tass reports, citing anonymous UN sources. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a number of other countries are pushing for the document, which will bar Damascus from using heavy weapons. General Assembly resolutions, however, are of an advisory nature and thus not legally binding, unlike resolutions passed by the Security Council.
Members from Germany’s major opposition parties have harshly condemned Berlin’s plans to sell up to 200 Leopard tanks to Qatar’s Ministry of Defense. The lawmakers said the decision shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “moral bankruptcy” and the country’s support for dictators in the Arab world. German arms manufacturers have long lobbied the government to reconsider “blacklisted” countries in which weapons cannot be exported.
Ukrainian Verkhovnaya Rada Chairman Vladimir Litvin has signed a hotly contested bill that alters state policy on language. The legislation grants legal 'regional' status to languages other than Ukrainian – including Russian. The bill was passed to President Viktor Yanukovych for signature. The Ukrainian parliament passed the bill, initiated by the Party of Regions, on July 3, sparking nationwide protests. Litvin initially refused to sign the bill, since it was passed in his absence. He also announced his resignation, but most of parliament's deputies voted against it. Yanukovych said he would make a decision on whether to sign the bill after it was examined by experts.
Many civilians in Aleppo have been forced to flee the city by perilous routes or take refuge in safer areas due to battles between the Syrian army and rebels. “Thousands of frightened residents are seeking shelter in schools, mosques and public buildings,” Melissa Fleming, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday, Reuters reports. More than 7,000 Syrians have taken refuge in university dormitories and many more are camped out in 32 schools, all of whom are unable to flee the city, Fleming said. Some 15,000 to 18,000 have been displaced within Aleppo by the ongoing conflict.
Syrian opposition figure Haytham al-Maleh said on Tuesday that he has been tasked with forming a government-in-exile based in Cairo, AFP reports. “I have been tasked with leading a transitional government,” Maleh told reporters. He added he will begin consultations “with the opposition inside and outside” the country.
Two simultaneous car bombs in Iraq’s capital killed 20 people and wounded at least another 57 on Tuesday, officials said. The blasts took place in the Karradah area of central Baghdad, AFP reports. The first car bomb reportedly killed six people and wounded 21. The second exploded a few minutes later, killing 14 and wounding 36. Iraq suffered a spike in violence in June, when at least 282 people were killed.
Turkish specialists have lifted nine fragments of a jet, allegedly downed by Syrian fire on June 22, from the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. The recovered pieces of the jet's wreckage are essential for an inquiry into the circumstances of the incident, Turkish officials said. The fragments include a radar receiver, engine fragments and elements of the wings, Itar-Tass reports. Experts lifted several dozens parts of the jet out of the sea, but have not confirmed whether the wreckage contains evidence of damage from a missile or a shell.
India’s Supreme Court has allowed the infamous oil tanker Exxon Valdez to be dismantled in the country's western state of Gujarat. The ship, now known as the Oriental Nicety, was involved in one of the worst US oil spills in history. The court ruled Monday that the ship could anchor near Alang, the hub of India's shipbreaking industry, the AP said. The tanker entered Indian waters in May. The Supreme Court had temporarily denied the ship permission to anchor after a petition filed by an environmental activist claiming the vessel contained toxic substances. On March 24, 1989, millions of gallons of crude oil spilled into Alaska's Prince William Sound when the Exxon Valdez ran aground. The spill caused incalculable environmental damage, killing hundreds of thousands of birds and demolishing the region's fishing industry.
Pakistan signed an agreement with the US on Tuesday on arrangements for NATO troop supply convoys in Afghanistan. Islamabad agreed to reopen NATO land routes earlier this month after closing them for seven months in protest against a US air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. A Pakistani security official said the agreement gave Islamabad the right to refuse or reject any shipment, AFP reports. Pakistani authorities may also fit all supply containers with special tracking chips.
The US Embassy in Oslo and surrounding buildings were evacuated after a suspicious object was found beneath a car near the embassy, Norwegian police said. Police evacuated a 500 meter area around the embassy, Spokesman Martin Todnem said. A bomb squad has been dispatched to the area.
The number of unemployed in the Eurozone's 17 countries hit a record high in June, official figures showed on Tuesday. Eurostat, the EU's statistics office, said 17.801 million people were out of work in the Eurozone in June, 123,000 more than May. These are the highest levels of unemployment since the Eurozone was formed in 1999, the AP said. Spain had the highest unemployment rate of any Eurozone country, at 24.8 per cent. Many countries, including France and Italy, also have double-digit unemployment rates. In Germany, the unadjusted jobless rate climbed to 6.8 per cent in July, from 6.6 percent in June, the country's Federal Labor Agency reported.
The Japanese company that operated the nuclear power plant behind the last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster received a trillion-Yen ($12.8 billion) bailout on Tuesday. The move effectively puts the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) under government control. TEPCO apologized for the “inconvenience and anxiety” caused by the disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, and for the subsequent hike in electricity rates. The company faces massive compensation demands from those forced to evacuate, and those whose land and products were contaminated by radiation, AP reports. TEPCO must also shoulder the cost of decommissioning the three reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi that went into meltdown.
In a speech on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's visit to Israel “kissing the foot” of the Jewish state to boost his campaign. Ahmadinejad did not specifically mention Romney’s stop this week in Israel, but asked why the GOP nominee would make “concessions to get some pennies” for his presidential run, the AP reports. In Israel, Romney backed Tel Aviv’s threats to strike Iran's controversial nuclear program.
The widow of Yasser Arafat formally requested on Tuesday that France investigate his death. Suha Arafat brought a complaint of assassination weeks after new suspicions were raised that the former Palestinian leader's 2004 death was caused by poisoning. A French judge will still have to decide whether to accept the complaint, which was also brought on behalf of Suha Arafat's daughter, AP reports. The family's French lawyer, Pierre-Olivier Sur, said that Tuesday's request was intended to “establish the truth in honor” of Arafat.
A Yemeni man wanted on charges of murder and robbery is behind the weekend kidnapping of an Italian embassy security agent in Sanaa, Yemen’s Interior Ministry said. Ali Naser Huraidkan, from the Al Jalal tribe in Yemen's eastern Marib province, was claimed to have kidnapped the Italian in order to pressure authorities to drop charges against him, and to offer him money. Alessandro Spadotto, 29, a member of Italy's military police force, was picked up while in civilian clothes in a shop near the embassy on Sunday, media reports say. He also reportedly managed to send a cellphone text to a member of his family after the kidnapping.
The deputy chief of Iran’s armed forces said on Tuesday that Tehran “will not allow the enemy to advance” in Syria. But Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri said that “there is still no need for Syria’s circle of friends to fully enter the arena,” and that “there will be no need to do so,” AFP reports. Jazayeri also warned that Iran is “very sensitive when it comes to our friends.” Another senior commander, General Hamid Reza Moqadam-Far, said that Syrian civilians were now fighting the rebels alongside the regime's troops.
North Korea will allow a group of South Korean businessmen to visit a troubled resort, a South Korean tour operator said on Tuesday. Hyundai Asan said that about 10 officials will travel to North Korea's Diamond Mountain on Friday for an annual ceremony commemorating the death of former Asan chairman Chung Mong-hun. Pyongyang approved the trip last week. Seoul suspended tours to the mountain in 2008 after a North Korean soldier shot and killed a South Korean tourist, the AP said. Last year, Pyongyang reportedly seized South Korean properties, and kicked out South Korean workers from the resort after Seoul refused to resume the tours.
China criticized Washington on Tuesday for its recent annual report by the State Department on global religious freedom. Xinhua news agency described the report as “continuing a notorious practice of blatantly interfering in the internal affairs of other countries.” The report, released on Monday, highlighted a lack of religious freedom in China, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, the AP said. The document criticized the “severe” repression of religious freedom in Tibet and the far western region of Xinjiang, home to a significant Muslim population.
Radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada is launching a new legal bid in Britain's High Court for release from detention, the AP reports. Qatada has been described by Spanish and British courts as a “leading Al-Qaida figure in Europe,” and is currently being held in a high-security prison while he fights deportation to Jordan over terror charges. He argues that if deported, he will be tortured upon return to Jordan. His lawyers will ask the High Court’s judges for permission to challenge his detention on Tuesday.
Sudanese refugees camped outside the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in Beirut, Lebanon, have been on hunger strike for more than 50 days. Some 20 men are refusing food to protest the lengthy process for determining refugee status. Their complaints against the Lebanese government include delayed resettlement for those granted refugee status, and the poor quality of assistance granted. The country generally affords no special rights to refugees and asylum-seekers, as many have entered the country illegally.
The mother of Ta Phong Tan, a Vietnamese blogger set to face trial next week for posting anti-government articles, has died after setting herself on fire near provincial offices, local police say. Dang Thi Kim Lieng, aged 64, passed away en route to hospital. Her daughter and two other bloggers who are set to face trial belong to the banned Free Journalists Club.
The House and Senate have reached an agreement on a new batch of crippling sanctions targeting Iran's energy, shipping and insurance sectors. “The bill sends a clear message to the Iranian regime that the US is committed, through the use of sanctions, to preventing Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold,” said the chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The new legislation would sanction transactions relating to Iran’s energy sector. Any company shipping proliferation-sensitive goods to Iran would be subject to penalties under the bill. It also introduces sanctions on any company that provides insurance to a shipping service from Iran as well as anyone who helps Iran evade oil sanctions. The new bill extends penalties that came into effect earlier this year and targeted Iran’s financial sector. A vote on the final version of Monday’s bill is expected on Wednesday.
Ohio police have arrested a woman for trying to climb over the fence of Butler County Jail. The jail’s night shift staff spotted Tiffany R. Hurd reportedly lying next to the prison’s fence as they were going home. They repeatedly told Hurd to leave the premises, but she refused and asked them to arrest her. The woman then tried to climb over the fence. Police responded by arresting her and placing her in the same jail she was trying to get into. Deputies say Hurd appeared to be intoxicated. She now faces misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct. Her bond was set at $2,500 at Monday’s arraignment.
President Barack Obama and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have spoken by telephone “to coordinate efforts to accelerate a political transition in Syria,” which would include “the departure of Bashar al-Assad,” the White House said in a statement. The two leaders have expressed their concerns about “the Syrian regime’s ruthless attacks against its own people.” Obama also acknowledged Turkey’s generosity in hosting so many Syrians “who have fled their homes in search of safety.” The leaders have agreed that the countries would remain in close contact to promote a democratic transition in Syria.
Mexican police have arrested Hilario Guadelupe Reyna Cuevas, nicknamed “El Vago” (Spanish for “The Slacker”), the suspectedleader of the Los Zetas drug cartel in Sabinas Hidalgo, a city in the north-western state of Nuevo Leon, the federal Public Security Secretariat said. He was detained along with four other people. Police also seized two rifles, one handgun, three magazines and 105 cartridges. Investigators say Reyna Cuevas was involved in drug trafficking and was implicated in the kidnappings and murders of at least six members of rival gangs. Police also report finding a clandestine grave containing human bones at an abandoned construction site in the town of Carboneras. Los Zetas was founded by a group of army deserters over a decade ago, and was originally a wing of the Gulf drug cartel. Several years later, Los Zetas broke away and started competing with the Gulf cartel. Over 2,000 people were killed in drug related violence in the state of Nueva Leon last year.
Christine Assange, the mother of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, says she has handed evidence to the government of Ecuador indicating that the United States wants her son to be extradited to America. Christine Assange, who is currently visiting the country to plea for the Wikileaks founder to be granted political asylum in Ecuador, also said she was terrified of what could happen to her son if he is extradited to the US, noting that he could face torture or execution, and would not receive a fair trial. Christine Assange also said her son, who has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London since June, was “under extreme psychological stress” as he has been forced to stay indoors and has been unable to exercise. A UK court ruled in favor of extraditing Assange to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in a sexual misconduct case. Assange believes he would subsequently be extradited to the US, where he could face espionage charges related to Wikileak’s revelatory publication of classified data.
The family of Manuel Diaz, who was shot and killed by Anaheim police, want an independent autopsy conducted to find out where exactly he was shot, the Orange County Register reports. “We want it for legal purposes and the family wants to know," said the family's attorney. Last week a $50-million lawsuit was filed on behalf of Manuel Diaz's family against Anaheim and the Anaheim Police Department. According to the Anaheim police union, an officer opened fire after Diaz pulled some “object” resembling a weapon from his waistband and turned toward the officers. Meanwhile, witnesses claim that Diaz was shot in the back. This month, police fatally shot two men in Anaheim: Manuel Diaz on July 21 and Joel Acevedo on July 22. The shootings sparked a wave of outrage and protests, with the latest taking place on Sunday.
Saudi Arabian judoka Wodjan Shaherkani has been granted permission to wear her hijab at the Olympic Games in London. "The parties have agreed on a specific design of the hijab in which the judoka will fight,” said the official representative of the National Olympic Committee of Saudi Arabia. Earlier, the International Judo Federation had ruled that Shaherkani would have to fight without a hijab in order to comply with “the principle and spirit of judo.” Shaherkani threatened to withdraw from the Olympics if she was not allowed to wear her hijab.