A Japanese national working as a journalist in Syria was killed while reporting on the conflict there, the Japanese Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday. Forty-five-year-old Mika Yamamoto "was at reporting work in Aleppo," an official monitoring the safety of the country's nationals abroad said, "when she was caught in gunfire," AFP reports. The information had first been made public by the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which reported earlier that an unnamed female Japanese journalist had been killed in heavy fighting in Aleppo, while three other reporters were missing.
After NASA successfully landed its Curiosity rover on Mars, the US space agency has announced that it will send a new mission to the planet in 2016. The purpose of the InSight mission will be to look into the deep interior of Mars in order to see why the Red Planet evolved so differently from Earth, NASA said in a statement on its website. "The exploration of Mars is a top priority for NASA, and the selection of InSight ensures we will continue to unlock the mysteries of the Red Planet and lay the groundwork for a future human mission there," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said. "The recent successful landing of the Curiosity rover has galvanized public interest in space exploration and today's announcement makes clear there are more exciting Mars missions to come."
US President Barack Obama says Washington’s position on military involvement in Syria would change if chemical or biological weapons were introduced to the conflict. According to AP, Obama warned the Assad government and other “players on the ground” that the use of weapons of mass destruction would be a “red line” for the United States.
A Progress transport ship used as a scientific laboratory in orbit for three weeks has been successfully dumped in the Pacific Ocean, “buried in a spacecraft cemetery.” As spacecrafts normally burn up in the lower atmosphere, only wreckage, which poses no threat, usually reaches the ocean. The Progress undocked from the International Space Station on July 31 and was put into lower orbit. Before undocking from the ISS, Russian cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, Sergey Revin and Yury Malenchenko loaded more than a ton of waste and spent equipment onto the transport.
The US Coast Guard says responders have rescued 72 people from a sightseeing vessel off the coast of Alaska, AP reports. The ship was taking on water in Alaska’s Glacier Bay after hitting a rock. There are reports of minor injuries, according to a military spokesman. The Coast Guard says they were able to contain the flooding and that there are no immediate indications of water pollution.
Egypt is preparing to use aircraft and tanks in Sinai for the first time since the country’s 1973 war with Israel, security sources said on Monday. A plan to step up operations against militants in the border area was being finalized by Egypt's newly appointed Defense Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Reuters reported. Al-Sisi made his first visit to Sinai on Monday in the wake of the August 5 killing of 16 border guards. Cairo blamed the attack on Islamist militants. “Al-Sisi will supervise the putting together of final plans to strike terrorist elements using aircraft and mobile rocket launchers,” an Egyptian security source said.
Gunmen in northeastern Nigeria blew up part of a primary school and then attacked a Catholic church, police said Monday. The blast at the school in the town of Damagun in Yobe State late Sunday destroyed part of the building. Police then intercepted the militants as they attempted to storm a Catholic church and a police station early Monday, AFP reported. In a separate incident, two gunmen riding motorcycles opened fire on troops at a military checkpoint in the northern city of Kano on Sunday. One soldier was injured, military spokesperson Iweha Ikedichi said.
Ethiopian troops killed 16 rebel South Sudanese gunmen last Wednesday, officials said on Monday. The group was led by a traditional medicine man wanted for attacks in his native country, Omot Odeng Olol, head of the western Ethiopian region of Gambella, told AFP. The splinter group was not organized, and did not have an official name.
More than 20 people were killed in a riot at a prison south of Caracas, Venezuela, government officials said. One of the deceased was a relative of an inmate, Prison Minister Iris Varela said. The violence erupted Sunday night at Yare I prison, the AP reported. Order was restored at the prison as of Monday morning.
Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko dismissed Foreign Minister Sergey Martynov on Monday, the presidential press service reported. Lukashenko also issued an order appointing Vladimir Makey, Lukashenko’s chief of staff since 2008, as the new Foreign Minister. From 1993 to 1996, Makey served as the Belarusian Foreign Ministry’s representative at the European Council, and was the head of the ministry's Department of European Cooperation.
South African Marikana platinum mine owner Lonmin has reportedly given striking miners until Tuesday to return to work. Only 27 percent of workers returned to work on Monday morning, despite warnings that they could face dismissal for not returning. It is unknown how many of the returning workers had taken part in the strike that began on August 10. Lonmin told some 3,000 of its rock drill operations to return to work. The company also urged its 25,000 other workers and 10,000 contractors – who are on hiatus over recent strike-related violence – to return. Police shot and killed 34 striking miners last Thursday.
South Korea's ruling party overwhelmingly voted on Monday for the daughter of the country’s former dictator to be its presidential candidate. Veteran politician Park Geun-hye secured a landslide 84 percent of the vote over four male challengers during the conservative New Frontier Party’s primary, AFP reported. This is the first time a major party has chosen a woman to run for presidency. Opinion polls show she is favored to win the December presidential elections. Park's father, Park Chung-hee, seized power in a 1961 coup and was assassinated in 1979. Her mother was shot and killed in 1974 by a pro-North Korean assassin.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned that Ankara cannot handle more than 100,000 Syrian refugees, and proposed on Monday that the UN establish a buffer zone inside Syria to shelter them. “If the number of refugees increases to 100,000, we will not be able to shelter them in Turkey. We have to welcome them in Syrian territory [under UN auspices],” Davutoglu told the Hurriyet newspaper. He urged the UN to set up refugee camps “within the borders of Syria” to contain the masses of Syrians fleeing the ongoing conflict in their country.
The St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office has reportedly received 140 suits, representing millions of dollars in damages, against pop star Madonna over her declaration of support for gay rights during a recent concert in the Russian city. A law was passed in February making it illegal in St. Petersburg to promote homosexuality to minors. During the August 9 concert, Madonna asked fans to raise their hands in support of gays and lesbians. Representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office said the applications for prosecution have been submitted to police for a followup.
The Russian North Fleet’s anti-sub destroyer Admiral Chabanenko is preparing for the Northern Eagle 2012 international naval exercises in the Norwegian port of Bodo, fleet spokesperson Vadim Serga told Interfax on Monday. The joint Russian, Norwegian and US exercises in the waters of the Arctic Ocean will begin on Tuesday in the Norwegian Sea, and end with the ships visiting the North Fleet’s main base of Severomorsk on August 25. These are the fourth-ever Northern Eagle exercises. The naval and air forces are expected to hone counter-piracy and antiterrorism tactics, as well as practice rescue operations.
Pakistani authorities reportedly restored mobile phone services on Monday after a 14-hour blackout. The networks were shut down ahead of the biggest Muslim festival of the year, in the aims of thwarting possible terror attacks in Karachi, Lahore, Multan and Quetta. Service was suspended as a precautionary measure, as mobiles phones can be used to trigger explosive devices, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said. He apologized for the inconvenience, adding that terrorists were plotting to target “a few areas of Punjab province.”
Owners of the Marikana mine in South Africa, where police killed 34 protesters last Thursday, reported that 27 percent of mine shift workers returned to work Monday morning. Miners had been warned they must return to work or face dismissal. Ten more died and dozens were wounded during an outbreak of violence sparked by a pay dispute at the mine last week. President Jacob Zuma declared a week of national mourning starting on Monday. The period aims to commemorate the lives of all South Africans who have suffered violent deaths, including those at the Marikana mine.
Myanmar has ended its decades-long policy of media censorship in the latest in a series of democratic reforms. Last year, a number of publications were freed from government oversight. Political and religious journals, the last holdouts of government censorship, will now be permitted to print without state pre-approval beginning on Monday, AFP reported. “From now on, local publications do not need to send their stories to the censorship board,” said Tint Swe, head of the government's Press Scrutiny and Registration Department (PSRD). Censorship started in August 1964, when the Myanmar military began its nearly 50-year rule of the country.
Tightened security measures were enacted on Monday for the funerals of some of the seven policemen killed in a suicide bombing in Russia's North Caucasus republic of Ingushetia, police said. The explosion struck mourners at a police funeral on Sunday. At least 15 people were also injured in the attack, RIA Novosti reported. Ingushetian President Yunus-Bek Yevkurov ordered a period of mourning for the slain officers to commence on Wednesday.
The Israeli military has stationed an Iron Dome missile-defense battery west of Eilat, the IDF said on Sunday. The move came days after two Grad rockets were reportedly fired from the Sinai Peninsula at the Red Sea resort city. The remains of a Grad rocket were found north of Eilat on Friday evening, Israeli police said. The deployment of the battery was part of a national plan to test the Iron Dome system, the IDF spokesperson said.
The United Nation has officially ended its four-month observation mission in Syria after its mandate expired on Sunday at midnight. Some 300 monitors were deployed to Syria as part of former UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan’s failed plan to broker a truce in the conflict-wracked country. The mission was suspended in June when both sides violated the ceasefire and violence escalated. Both the Syrian army and rebel forces have failed to protect civilians, the mission said.
In September, South Korean refineries plan to resume importing up to 200,000 barrels a day of Iranian crude oil. The move ends a two-month halt in imports over a European Union ban on insurance covering Iranian oil. “The imports will resume from early September loading, meaning late September arrival,” Reuters quoted a source in the country’s economic ministry as saying on Monday. The oil will be “shipped by Iranian tankers under Iranian insurance cover,” the source said. Both Japan and South Korea, Iran's third- and fourth-biggest oil importers respectively, halted imports in July after EU sanctions made it difficult to ship, insure and pay for Iranian oil.
Tokyo urged China on Monday to protect its citizens after waves of anti-Japanese protests swept Chinese cities over the weekend. Huge rallies were held after ten Japanese nationalists swam to the disputed Senkaku islands on Sunday, following a similar stunt by Chinese activists. “Both countries do not want the Senkaku issue to affect overall bilateral ties,” Reuters cited Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura as saying. Tokyo plans to replace ambassadors to China, US and South Korea, the Yomiuri newspaper reported.
Tony Scott, director of Hollywood blockbusters like ‘Top Gun,’ ‘Beverly Hills Cop II,’ ‘True Romance,’ 'Enemy of the State', and '‘Déjà vu,’ apparently committed suicide by jumping off the Vincent Thomas Bridge near Long Beach, California, local police reported. The British filmmaker climbed over a fence on the south side of the bridge’s apex and jumped off “without hesitation” around 12:30pm Sunday, witnesses said. A suicide note was found in his car. Tony, brother of Academy Award-winning director Ridley Scott, was known for helming a number of blockbusters, including ‘Top Gun,’ one of the highest-grossing films of 1986, as well as other action movies.
Gu Kailai, the wife of a fallen Chinese politician, has been given a suspended death sentence after a court found her guilty of killing Neil Heywood, a British entrepreneur and onetime family associate. The sentence will likely be commuted to life imprisonment after several years. Gu Kailai’s role in the death of Heywood was grounds for dismissal for her husband Bo Xilai, who until March served as the party secretary of major city Chongqing and was seen as an up-and-coming politician set to enter the country’s top brass of party leaders come September, when the Communist Party will decide on its new leadership.
Libyan authorities arrested 32 supporters of the country’s late former leader Muammar Gaddafi, an official from the Supreme Security Committee told Reuters. Libyan authorities connect the group to a twin bombing Sunday, where two people were killed next to a police academy and the Interior Ministry building in the country’s capital, Tripoli.