A house has blown up in the city of Corning, New York, leaving two of its residents seriously injured, local media report. The blast reduced the house to a pile of rubble, from which the two people were rescued. A house adjacent to the one that exploded was severely damaged, while other buildings in the neighborhood had their windows blown out. The explosion was apparently caused by a gas leak.
German prosecutors have charged a German man with membership in an Islamist militant group, and with preparing a “serious act of violent subversion.” The 26-year-old, known only as Thomas U, is suspected of being a member of an organization calling itself the German Taliban Mujahideen between December 2009 and July 2010, federal prosecutors said, as cited by Reuters. The man had also been trained to use firearms and explosives at a facility on the Afghan-Pakistan border. Prosecutors say he participated in an attack on an American military base in late 2009. He was arrested in Turkey in 2010 and extradited to Germany in May of this year.
The National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) has announced that it will pay $1.1 billion over the next three year to three private firms to develop commercial spaceships capable of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Boeing is set to receive $460 million to develop the CST-100 capsule, while Space Exploration Technologies (SET) will be paid $440 million to upgrade its Dragon capsule. The Sierra Nevada Corp. will receive $212.5 million to construct the Dream Chaser, a winged spacecraft resembling a miniature shuttle. In May, the Dragon capsule became the first privately-owned spacecraft to dock to the ISS. NASA hopes the new spacecraft will replace the space shuttles it had been using until last year. Since then, it has been dependent on Russian rockets to transport astronauts to and from the ISS.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over reports that the Syrian opposition is receiving weapons from abroad, with arms including air-defense missile systems. This type of weapon can be used against civilians, Moscow emphasized. It comes two days after American network NBC reported, quoting a rebel source, that the Free Syrian Army got nearly two dozen missiles “that came in from Turkey,” previously having disappeared from storehouses in Libya.
At least nine people have been wounded in what is suspected to be a suicide bombing near a military air base in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. The attacker, who detonated a device police suggest was a grenade, is said to be the only one killed in the explosion. Police believe the bomber intended to blow up a group of soldiers, though all those injured were civilians.
Up to 12 American servicemen brought women to their hotel rooms in Colombia just hours before President Barack Obama arrived in the country for an April summit, according to revelations obtained by the Associated Press. The investigation says the hotel's staff complained to US officials that the soldiers had violated hotel policy by bringing women, who were most likely sex workers, to their rooms after 6:00 am. Nine servicemen have been punished in the scandal.
The United Nations General Assembly has approved a resolution on the Syrian crisis, with 133 votes in favor. Twelve countries, Russia among them, voted against, while 31 abstained. The document includes criticism of the Security Council for not facilitating an end to the violence in the country. The resolution also condemns Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for using heavy artillery, helicopters and planes for a crackdown in Damascus. The draft of the document was submitted by Arab countries.
The Iraqi leadership has summoned the Turkish envoy in Baghdad after the country’s foreign minister visited the city of Kirkuk, which is claimed by both the central government and the autonomous region of Kurdistan. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry accused Ahmet Davutoglu of breaching the country’s constitution with the visit, saying Turkey’s foreign minister never asked for permission to enter Kirkuk. It comes amid worsening relations between Iraq, a neighbor of both to Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Turkey, with the countries also being at odds over the conflict in Syria.
Syrian troops stormed Damascus' southern district of Tadamon with dozens of tanks, armored vehicles and soldiers, Reuters reports. The escalations came as rebels attempted to win back control of their last stronghold in the Syrian capital. Activists said most of the district was under the control of government forces by early evening.
The Belarusian Foreign Ministry has denied that Minsk expelled the Swedish ambassador. “The decision has been made not to prolong his accreditation,” ministry’s spokesperson Andrey Savinykh said on Friday. Stefan Eriksson has been the ambassador since 2008, and is reported to have left Minsk. Eriksson’s activity “was directed at destroying Belarusian-Swedish relations rather than strengthening them,” RIA-Novosti quoted Savinykh as saying. The ambassador was expelled from Belarus “for being too supportive of human rights,” Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said earlier on Friday.
A senior Egyptian Coptic bishop said on Friday that attacks on Christians are on the rise in the country. The general climate “is turning against Christians,” Bishop Morcos told AFP, adding that there has been an uptick in assaults on members of the faith. The bishop also criticized the inclusion of only one Copt in President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood-led government. Dozens of Copts have died in sectarian clashes since ex-president Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year. Muslims attacked a church and Christian homes in a village outside Cairo on Wednesday, leading to clashes.
Sweden's ambassador has been expelled from Belarus, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said. The country will not welcome the incoming Belarusian ambassador, Bildt said on Friday. Two Belarusian diplomats have also been asked to leave the Nordic country, the AP reports. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko was reportedly angered by meetings between the Swedish ambassador and opposition activists in Minsk, Belarus, Bildt said. The expulsion comes in the wake of a recent incident where two Swedish activists used a small plane to drop hundreds of teddy bears into Belarusian territory. The stuffed animals carried messages supportive of freedom of speech and human rights.
India plans to launch a satellite into Mars’ orbit next year, an Indian scientist said on Friday. A rocket will blast off from the country’s southeastern coast and deploy the satellite, which will end its journey by settling into orbit around Mars, Reuters quoted the unnamed scientist as saying. Devisprasad Karnik, spokesperson for the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in Bangalore, did not confirm the existence of the mission. “After the Moon, worldwide attention is now focused on finding out if there (are) habitable spots on Mars,” Karnik said.
Seychelles President James Michel announced on Friday that his country is seeking a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2017-2018 term. Michel said the nation of 90,000 has shown it is ready for a seat through its role in combatting Somali piracy. The president also referred to the country’s recent mediation efforts in helping resolve a political crisis in Madagascar. The five permanent members of the council are the US, China, Russia, France and the UK. The council also has 10 non-permanent seats which are occupied for two-year periods.
Pakistan's Supreme Court struck down a recently passed law on Friday aimed at protecting Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf from being charged with contempt of court and ousted from office. Ashraf’s predecessor, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was convicted of contempt of court and forced to step down. Gilani had refused to reopen a corruption case against Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Ashraf was ordered by the count to write a letter to Swiss authorities asking them to reopen the case. The court struck down the contempt law because it “violated the basic principle of equality” among the country’s citizens.
Moody's rating agency has downgraded Slovenia’s government bond rating by three notches due to concerns over troubled banks and rising borrowing costs in the country. The rating was reduced from A2 to Baa2 due to funding challenges the government faces and substantial risks to the country's financial system. The deteriorating macroeconomic environment “opens the possibility that external assistance may be required,” Moody's said. Slovenia was the first ex-Communist nation to adopt the Euro.
A grandson of former US president Harry Truman, who authorized the use of two atomic bombs on Japan during World War II, met with survivors of the bombings on Friday in Tokyo. Talking with a handful of survivors, Clifton Truman Daniel defended his grandfather, saying “there is no right decision in war,” AFP reports. Daniel, 55, attended ceremonies for the 67th anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. None of Truman’s relatives had previously attended the annual event. The atomic bombings on August 6 and 9 in 1945 are estimated to have killed more than 200,000 people, either instantaneously or from burns and radiation sickness following the blast.
The UK promised more non-military support for Syrian rebels Friday after the resignation of peace mission envoy Kofi Annan. “That doesn’t mean... that we give up on diplomacy,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said. “We don't give up on the diplomacy with Russia and with China. But we will have to do other things as well,” he told BBC Radio 4. He promised his country would increase “practical but non-lethal support to the opposition” in the coming weeks. The UK has already supplied rebels with communication equipment. “Diplomacy has not worked so far,” Hague said.
Hong Kong police have arrested 84 men and 46 women on suspicion of crimes including money laundering and running illegal gambling dens. The detained Triad members laundered roughly $38.7 million earned from their illegal activities over the course of two years, police said. More than 20 locations were raided over two days, AFP reports. The raids were part of a special operation conducted by police in Hong Kong, Macau and the Chinese mainland.
A roadside bomb killed four Iraqi soldiers north of Baghdad on Friday, officials said. The bomb targeted an army patrol east of Dhuluiyah, killing four soldiers and wounding four others, AFP said. At least 43 people have been killed in attacks across the country in August, including 30 members of the Iraqi security forces.
Malaysian activists have welcomed the release of three men held without trial for two years under a now-revoked security law. A Malaysian, a Sri Lankan and a Pakistani detained for alleged human trafficking were released from detention two weeks ago, the AP reports. But another 42 people from eight nations were still being detained under the law, the Abolish ISA Movement said on Friday. The decades-old Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial, was abolished recently as part of government reforms.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in South Sudan's capital of Juba on Friday for a brief diplomatic visit. She is expected to press the new nation’s leaders, and their counterparts in the north, to resolve differences that threaten to reignite a civil war. A UN Security Council deadline for Sudan and South Sudan to reconcile or face sanctions expired on Thursday, the AP said. The Security Council has deferred action until Wednesday at the earliest.
Kurdish rebels have killed one soldier and wounded ten others in an attack in Turkey’s southeast, the country’s state television reported. The rebels attacked a military outpost near the town of Eruh in Sirt province. Ankara recently said that Turkish rebels are likely to use the crisis in Syria to establish bases in the country.
The Vietnamese government is protesting a US State Department report that accused the country of denying some citizens' right to religious freedom. The State Department this week released its annual assessment of religious freedom around the world, which said that Vietnam has generally respected freedom of worship but continues to harass some denominations, particularly Christians, the AP reports. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Luong Thanh Nghi claimed on Thursday that the report contains erroneous information. Vietnam ensures “full religious freedom for all,” he said.
A Mongolian district court has charged former president Nambaryn Enkhbayar with graft and sentenced him to a four-year prison term. The court ordered the confiscation of more than $22,200 of the former leader’s assets. Enkhbayar denied the charges, and has 14 days to appeal his sentence. The politician and his supporters say his trial is politically motivated, and was aimed at barring him from running in June’s parliamentary elections.
More than 400 firefighters are struggling to contain a wildfire that threatens more than 40 buildings, including 25 trailer park homes, in northern California’s Plumas National Forest. Only 5 percent of the fire was contained by Thursday evening, with full containment not expected until August 15. The blaze began on July 29 and has been fueled by high temperatures, low humidity and strong winds.
Over 200 current and former Canadian policewomen have filed a class action suit against the country's federal police over alleged sexual harassment on the job. Hearings opened in British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver on Thursday. The suit was filed in March by a 19-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Janet Merlo. It transformed into a class action suit after more women who suffered abuse and harassment on the job came forward.
Farmer Roger Pion has been arrested after driving his tractor over five police cruisers, as well as two other police vehicles, in Newport, Vermont, near the Canadian border, local media report. The farmer was apparently expressing anger at an earlier arrest for marijuana possession and resisting arrest. Authorities estimate the damage at $250,000. Pion is now facing 11 charges, including grossly negligent operation and aggravated assault on a police officer. His arraignment has been set for Friday.