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7 January, 2013


US Supreme Court passes on stem cell decision

Washington has the go-ahead to continue funding stem cell research, as the Supreme Court declined Monday to take up an appeal on the method, which is controversial in the US. Researchers that filed the case had hoped the court would put an end to financing research that uses embryonic, as opposed to adult, stem cells, on the grounds that federal law made it illegal to create or destroy embryos for scientific study. A federal judge had banned financing for such research in 2010, but a Washington appeals court overturned that ruling in 2012.


Kyrgyz hostages freed from Uzbek enclave

 ­All Kyrgyz citizens held captive in the Uzbek enclave of So‘x have been released, Kyrgyz border police reported. At least thirty people were taken hostage following Sunday’s attack by a group of Uzbek villagers opposed to the construction of a Kyrgyz border outpost, women and children included. The hostages were later released in two groups after negotiations, Kyrgyz officials said. Minor injuries and outpost property damage were reported. Ukrainian FM and OSCE Chairman-in-Office Leonid Kozhara has welcomed the release of the hostages and called for Kyrgyz-Uzbek dialogue, saying that the “OSCE is ready to contribute to this process.”


8 killed in Turkey mine blast

Rescue workers in northern Turkey in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak have recovered the bodies of eight coal miners believed to have been killed in a methane gas explosion, according to the state run Anatolia news agency. Eight miners lost their lives and were buried in coal dust and one was brought out alive. Explosion and accidents are common in Turkey’s mines particularly in privately run operations, where there is scant regard for safety. The worst accident in recent history happened in 1992 when 263 miners were killed in a gas explosion in the same area.


Iraqi troops fire in air to disperse Sunni Muslim protestors

Iraqi soldiers have fired shots into the air to disperse Sunni Muslims rallying against Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday after another day of protests against the fragile cross sectarian government, which has been in a slow-burning crisis since US troops left in 2011. Thousands of protestors have taken to the streets in Sunni strongholds across Iraq for more than two weeks. In the northern City of Mosul troops shot over the heads of hundreds of protesters, with one protestor being hit by a security forces vehicle, several others were wounded. Thousands of Sunnis feel sidelined by Maliki, a Shiite, who Sunni Iraqi’s believe is amassing power and who they see as under the influence of non- Arab Shiite Iran.


Man faces charges raging Tasmanian bush fire

A 31-year-old man has been accused of starting a massive 10,000 hectare bushfire in Australia’s island state of Tasmania after leaving his campfire unattended last week, SBS Australia reports. Police said they would charge the suspect with leaving an unextinguished fire unattended. The fire continued to rage on Monday night despite the deployment of 28 Tasmanian Fire Service vehicles to tackle the blaze.


Ghana’s main opposition boycotts President Mahama’s inauguration

­Ghana’s New Patriotic Party (NPP) has boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of President John Mahama amidst allegations of election fraud. President Mahama, who narrowly won the country's December election, called for unity in Ghana and said he would fulfill the promises made ahead of the inauguration. Mahama was sworn in before several African heads of state on Monday. Although international observers described the election as “free and fair,” Ghana’s main opposition party NPP has claimed widespread voting irregularities – enough to swing the election results in favor of Mahama’s rival, Nana Akufo-Addo of the NPP.


English nationalist leader jailed for false passport offense

­English Defense League leader Stephen Lennon has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for using a friend’s passport to illegally travel to the United States in September. Lennon had previously been denied entry to the US for prior criminal convictions. Lennon’s lawyer did not deny his client had knowingly traveled with the document, though he maintained the passport had not been stolen and his client had only used it for one day.


India gang-rape scandal: Govt orders probe into alleged police negligence

­India’s Ministry of Interior has launched a probe following allegations that police wasted crucial time arguing over jurisdiction instead of immediately assisting the two victims of an infamous New Delhi bus assault. The allegations were aired Sunday in a TV interview with the surviving victim. The man accused police of hesitating to lift the gang-raped woman, who was lying on the side road naked and severely beaten. According to some reports, police waited 30 minutes before calling in an ambulance. The Delhi police denied the allegations on Sunday. The 23-year-old woman, a paramedical student, was assaulted and gang-raped by six men in a bus on December 16. She died from her injuries in a Singapore hospital on December 29.


Obama to nominate John Brennan as CIA head

­US President Barack Obama will nominate his chief counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Brennan, a 25-year CIA veteran, has advocated the use of drones overseas and played a key role in the planning of the 2011 Osama bin Laden assassination. Obama reportedly considered naming Brennan head of the CIA in 2008, but he withdrew from consideration amid questions about his approval of the use of controversial 'enhanced interrogation techniques.' If the Senate confirms Brennan’s nomination, he will replace David Petraeus, who stepped down last November.


Iran praises Syrian President’s ‘peace plan’

Syrian President Bashar Assad has rejected violence and put forward a “comprehensive political process" to end the Syrian conflict, the Iranian foreign minister told state press. Assad’s “peace plan” was widely condemned by the international community, with both the EU and US calling for his resignation after Assad's rare public address on Syrian state television on Sunday. Iran is a traditional supporter of President Assad, regarding him as an important regional ally against Israel.


Obama set to nominate Hagel for defense secretary

­US president Barack Obama is set to nominate Chuck Hagel, a Republican and former senator from Nebraska, to be the next defense secretary. The announcement is scheduled for Monday, and is likely to spark heated debate among both Republicans and Democrats. Hagel, a Vietnam War veteran and outspoken critic of the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is widely expected to oversee the end of the Afghan War.


US humanitarian trip to North Korea 'ill timed' – White House

­Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Google chairman Eric Schmidt have arrived in North Korea on a humanitarian visit that raised concerns of the White House. The visit will last about two-and-a-half days, Richardson said. The two US citizens are planning to negotiate with North Korean authorities for the release of Kenneth Bae,  an American of North Korean descent. Richardson, who has visited North Korea a number of times, has previous experience negotiating the release of US citizens held in the isolated country. The White House called the visit ill-timed, referring to the recent North Korean satellite launch condemned by many countries, including the US.


UK’s oldest man dies at 110

Former church minister and World War II veteran Reginald Dean has died at the age of 110 years and 63 days. The centenarian lived through both of the World Wars and saw a total of 24 Prime Ministers come and go. Dean was born in the county of Staffordshire in 1902, and ended his long life at his home in Derbyshire in the Midlands.


Russian businessman jailed in Cambodia urges investigation

­Eccentric Russian tycoon Sergey Polonsky, currently in police custody in Cambodia on accusations of threatening local sailors with a knife, has said he will strive for a full acquittal. The real estate developer said he would be freed within minutes if he pleaded guilty, but wants an investigation to prove his innocence. Last week, Polonsky and two other travelers were arrested in the Cambodian city of Sihanoukville for holding six sailors hostage and physical violence. The three remain in custody; their court date has not yet been determined, the Russian embassy said.


5 gang-rape suspects appear in court in New Delhi

­Five men accused of gang-raping a female Indian student who died in late December appeared in court on Monday, Reuters said. The suspects face rape and murder charges. On Saturday, two of the suspects reportedly sought to testify against their accomplices, possibly in return for a remission of sentence. Five adult men and a teenager are accused of gang-raping the 23-year-old student on a public bus. The victim died in hospital two weeks after the incident. The case sparked massive public protests throughout India calling for better laws to protect women.


Clinton set to return to work

­US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has returned to work on Monday after suffering a blood clot last week. According to the State Department's weekly schedule, Clinton will attend a meeting with assistant secretaries of state on Monday morning. Clinton was hospitalized after doctors discovered a blood clot while conducting a series of tests related to a recent concussion. She was discharged from hospital last week.


S. Korean youth population to sharply decrease by 2060

Data on recent birth rates in South Korea suggests that by 2060, the country's youth population will be less than half its current level, a government report has revealed. In 1980, the number of young people peaked at 14 million, and has been in decline ever since. The ministry said the current demographic situation would see that number falling to just 5 million by 2060. The decrease means that by 2050, South Koreans aged 60 years or over will account for 39 percent of the population, resulting in rising welfare costs and a declining workforce that could become a serious challenge for the country.