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15 January, 2013


SWAT team battle toy gun in NY state school

­A school has been shut down in new York state as the SWAT team searched the building for a lime-green Nerf toy gun. The incident happened after Nassau County Police department has been called in reporting a suspicious teen wearing a black jacket and carrying a black backpack at Elmont Memorial high School in Elmont. A SWAT team searched the school room by room to find a toy gun in a student locker. Police did not make any arrests and the lockdown was lifted.


UK lower house grants Scottish parliament powers for independence vote

­Westminster has agreed to give the Scottish Parliament the powers it needs to hold a referendum on self-determination. The Government's order, which paves the wave for Edinburgh to hold the vote in 2014, now needs to be approved by the House of Lords. The Scottish government plans to hold the vote in autumn next year with a single Yes/No question on Scotland leaving London. In addition it wants 16 and 17-year-olds to take part in the ballot.


­Missouri college student shoots administrator, then himself

A student at the Stevens Institute of Business & Arts in St. Louis, Missouri shot a financial aid officer at the school, then turned the gun on himself, local media report. The 21-year-old gunman, who has not been identified, shot aid officer Greg Eisenrath in the chest with a handgun, then shot himself as police closed in on him. He and Eisenrath are both said to be in critical condition. The shooter and his victim reportedly knew one another, and the shooting is thought to have been the result of some dispute over financial aid. The Stevens Institute is a small, private for-profit college with student body of about 180.


Kuwaiti women allowed to seek prosecutor posts

Kuwait has for the first time has allowed women to apply to become prosecutors in the country's courts, Gulf News reported. Overall thirty two women have filed an application with Kuwait’s justice ministry, half of them law school graduates. More women have the opportunity to apply, as the current application period last for a month. Previously, the job was only open to male applicants.


Russian judge killed in Dagestan

­A senior judge has been killed in the center of Makhachkala in Russia's Dagestan province on Tuesday, law enforcement officials said. It is alleged the gunman opened fire on Magomed Magomedov of the Republic's Supreme Court, at close range before escaping the scene. Police are conducting an investigation. The violence in the region is blamed on Islamist extremists who have been displaced from Chechnya.


Indian troops kill Pakistani soldier in fresh Kashmir shootout – Pakistani military

­Indian troops have violated the ceasefire with Pakistan and attacked an army outpost in Kashmir killing one soldier, Pakistani military claimed on Tuesday. Indian border forces allegedly carried out the unprovoked attack at the Line of Control in Hot Spring and Jandrot sectors, Inter Services Public Relations said in a statement. So far the Indian military has not commented on the report of yet another episode of violence in the disputed area.


Majority of Americans support gun control over gun ownership – Pew Research Center

Fifty one percent of Americans now say that gun control is more important than the protection of gun rights, according to the latest Pew Research Center poll. The survey, taken from January 9-13, also found that 85 percent of respondents supported background checks for gun shows and private sales of firearms, while 80 percent said mentally ill people should be banned from purchasing guns. A similar survey taken in July showed that only 47 percent of people valued gun control more than gun rights.


Anonymous hacks MIT website again, posts JSTOR files as Aaron Swartz is buried

­Anonymous said it “wiped” the virtual directory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website in honor of deceased info activist and Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz, whose funeral was scheduled for Tuesday. The hacktivist group has also posted a link on its twitter account, claiming it directs users to the 33 GB of JSTOR digital library files Swartz had illegally downloaded. In a commemoration posted on Tuesday, Anonymous referred to Swartz as a “true hero” and called for people to take to the streets in a “peaceful protest” against the Department of Justice.


Facebook unveils new 'Graph' search-engine

Facebook has revealed its new much anticipated tool which is called Graph Search, the founder of the prominent social network Mark Zukerberg said Tuesday. Unlike Google the new feature is not a web search. Instead it browses through everything friends have done and searches through people, places, photos and interests. Ahead of Tuesday’s press conference, there has been a lot of speculation as to what will be revealed with many saying it would be a Facebook Phone. After a poor financial performance during 2012, where the social networking site’s share price fell from $38 in May to $20, the share price is finally on its way up and broke the $32 barrier this week for the first time since July.


Assad should be allowed to run for presidency in 2014 - top official

A senior official has said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should be allowed to stand in the 2014 elections just like any other candidate and that it is up to the Syrians themselves to decide their future leadership. “We are opening the way for democracy. In a democracy you don’t tell someone not to run,” Faisal Muqdad, the Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister said in an interview with the BBC on Monday. However, one of the key demands of the opposition is that Assad steps down and a transitional government is formed. But Muqdad stressed that dialogue would only be offered to elements of the opposition that the regime deem acceptable and not rebel affiliated groups which he labeled “killers” and “terrorists”.


UK abandons ‘insulting words’ crime

The crime of “insulting” someone through words or actions will be dropped, Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs on Tuesday. May confirmed that the government would not attempt to overturn a Lords amendment which did away with the ban. Massive public opposition to the UK insult lawdrew broad public support after an Oxford student was arrested for asking a policeman if he realized his horse was gay. Police attempted to prosecute the student for making homophobic remarks.


Saudi clerics stage protest against appointment of women to advisory body

Dozens of Saudi clerics demonstrated in front of the Royal Court on Tuesday against King Abdullah’s move to appoint 30 women to the Shura Council, a body which advises the government on new laws. The protesters demanded an audience with the King, but were denied. King Abdullah had promised to place women on the council in 2011, stirring discontent within conservative forces within Saudi society uncomfortable with social reform.


Swedish 50-car pileup leaves 3 dead, 20 injured

Swedish police say a massive highway pileup involving around 50 cars and trucks has killed at least three people and injured 20 more. At least two emergency vehicles were among the vehicles involved in the crash on an interstate bridge northeast of the city of Helsinborg. A police spokesman said poor road conditions and reduced visibility due to fog were likely behind the accident.


Cuba battles cholera outbreak in Havana

Cuban authorities are making efforts to contain a cholera outbreak that has sickened dozens of people in Havana. The Health Ministry said the outbreak was first detected on January 6. “Fifty-one cases have been confirmed to date,” Reuters said, citing a statement that did not mention fatalities. “Due to the measures adopted transmission is in the phase of extinction,” the ministry said. There have been no reports of foreigners contracting the illness.


Charging Syrian govt in war crimes court ‘counterproductive’ – Moscow

The Russian Foreign Ministry has criticized the “counterproductive” idea put forward by a number of countries to send a file on Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Switzerland sent a collective address to the UN Security Council on behalf of 56 countries on January 14 requesting the forwarding of the file. “We consider this initiative untimely and counterproductive for immediately stopping bloodshed in Syria, which is the priority goal at the moment,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.


China to carry out geographical survey of disputed islands

Beijing plans to carry out a geographical survey of islands in the East China Sea, in a new development in its territorial dispute with Japan. The cartographic survey is part of a program to map China's "territorial islands and reefs" and safeguard its "maritime rights and interests," Xinhua news agency said. It is unclear whether the survey would involve activities on land. Chinese media also said the country’s armed forces have been instructed to train for battle this year. On Tuesday, US and Japanese fighter jets carried out joint air exercises.


Russian Railways sues Apple in arbitration court

Moscow’s arbitration court has registered a suit by the Russian Railways company against Apple Inc. for the recovery of compensation of 2 million rubles (about $66,000), Rapsi news agency reported. Representatives of the Russian company told Rapsi that the suit was filed over the use of its trademarked image in the Apple Store. Apple has not commented on the matter.


Moscow to extend $1bn loan to Bangladesh to buy Russian arms

Moscow has agreed to extend a $1-billion loan to Bangladesh to buy Russian weapons, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. He made the announcement after a meeting with Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Moscow. Since the two nations intend to expand military-technological cooperation, Moscow will provide Bangladesh with a loan which will be spent on “Russian weapons and military hardware,” Putin said. A separate agreement on Russia’s $500-million credit to Bangladesh for the building of the Rooppur nuclear power plant was also signed on Tuesday.


Sunni lawmaker killed in Iraq suicide bombing

A Sunni lawmaker has been killed in a suicide bombing in western Iraq, officials said. Lawmaker Ifan al-Issawi was killed when a suicide bomber detonated his explosives in the city of Fallujah on Tuesday, Anbar province Governor Qassim al-Fahdawi said. The Sunni minority-dominated province has recently seen more than three weeks of sustained protests against the Shia-led government.


Russian consulate temporarily suspends work in Aleppo, Syria

The Russian consulate general has temporarily suspended operations in Aleppo, Syria. The Russian embassy in Damascus will be taking over the consulate’s responsibilities, RIA Novosti reported on Tuesday. Aleppo has been a central battleground in the fight between government troops and opposition forces for more than six months.


Japanese, US fighter planes carry out joint air exercises

US and Japanese fighter jets carried out joint air drills on Tuesday over Pacific waters off the coast of Shikoku, the fourth-largest of Japan's islands. The five-day exercise involves six US FA-18 fighters and around 90 American personnel, along with four Japanese F-4 jets, AFP quoted an official as saying. The exercise comes amid a standoff between China and Japan over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Chinese and Japanese military planes recently shadowed each other near the territory.


IAEA aiming for nuclear framework agreement with Iran – official

The UN nuclear watchdog is aiming to seal an agreement with Iran this week on a framework deal that would allow inspectors to investigate suspected nuclear research site. Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Herman Nackaerts and other officials departed for talks with Iranian officials on Wednesday in Iran. “We are aiming to finalize the structured approach to the possible military dimension,” Reuters quoted Nackaerts as saying, adding that he hoped to be allowed to visit the Parchin military site.


Italy withdraws staff from Benghazi consulate

Italy suspended activity at its consulate in Benghazi on Tuesday after a gun attack on its consul over the weekend. The staff was withdrawn for security reasons, Reuters reported. Guido De Sanctis was unhurt after gunmen opened fire on the diplomat’s armored car in Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, on Saturday.


‘No business as usual’ with Pakistan after Kashmir incident – Indian PM

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday that it “cannot be business as usual with Pakistan” after a clash last week along the Kashmir border in which two Indian soldiers were killed and their bodies mutilated. “Those who are responsible for this must be brought to book. I hope Pakistan realizes this,” Indian media quoted Singh as saying. On Tuesday, the process of issuing visas on arrival to Pakistani senior citizens was delayed. The move was due to “technical reasons,” Indian officials said.


Israeli troops kill teenager in West Bank – reports

A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli troops in northern West Bank on Tuesday, Palestinian medical and security sources said. Samir Ahmed Awad, 17, died after being hit by a bullet to the chest and to the leg, AFP reported. The incident took place in an area near the village of Ras Karkar, about 10 kilometers northwest of Ramallah, close to the separation barrier. The Israeli military denied any involvement in the incident. On Saturday, a 21-year-old Palestinian laborer was shot dead by troops as he tried to cross the separation barrier in southern West Bank.


S. Africa's Amplats plans to close mines, cut 14,000 jobs

Anglo American Platinum has said it will mothball two South African mines, sell another and cut 14,000 jobs in a bid to restore profits. The world's top platinum producer said it aimed to cut output by around one-fifth, or 400,000 ounces, Reuters reported. If any single facility is shut down, “all of the operations will go on strike,” Reuters quoted Amplats labor leader Evans Ramogka as saying. About 50 people died during mining strikes in the country last year.


Al-Qaeda holding Western hostages in Yemen – official

Three Westerners abducted in Yemen last month are being held by members of Al-Qaeda, a senior Yemeni official said on Tuesday. A Finnish couple and an Austrian man, who were studying Arabic in Yemen, were captured by gunmen in the capital Sanaa on December 21. They were sold to the militant group by tribesmen and transferred to Bayda province in the south, the Interior Ministry official told Reuters. "There are negotiations to pay a ransom and free them," he added.


6 Pakistani security officers killed in clashes with militants

About 100 militants attacked a Pakistani security checkpoint, sparking overnight clashes in a tribal region, officials have said Tuesday. Six officers and four militants were killed in the fighting in the northwestern Khyber tribal region. The militants attacked a Frontier Corps post in the Shalobar area of Bara in Khyber, a security official told AFP. Four paramilitary soldiers and two tribal police officers were killed, and 16 other personnel were wounded.


French armored vehicles arrive in Malian capital

French armored vehicles have arrived in the Malian capital Bamako, the army said Tuesday. The column of the armored personnel carriers reportedly entered Mali from Ivory Coast. French President Francois Hollande said earlier in Abu Dhabi that Paris had deployed 750 troops in Mali, and that this number will increase. France began its intervention in Mali on Friday in a bid to stop Islamist rebels from advancing south towards the capital.


Moody’s downgrades 3 Cypriot banks

Moody's Investor Service has downgraded Cyprus' top three commercial banks, bringing them closer to the bottom of junk status. The Bank of Cyprus, Laiki Bank and Hellenic Bank were downgraded to ‘Caa2,’ with more downgrades possible. Last week, Moody's slashed Cyprus' sovereign rating by three notches, to ‘Caa3.’ On Monday, the ratings agency cited uncertainty over bailout talks between Cyprus and its international creditors. A heightened risk of the government defaulting could hurt the ailing banks, Moody’s added.


Deployment of African force in Mali will take a week – Hollande

French President Francois Hollande said Tuesday that the deployment of a joint African force to help French troops battle militants in Mali could take "a good week." Overnight, French forces in Mali "made further strikes which hit their targets," Reuters quoted Hollande as saying at a French military base in Abu Dhabi. "We will continue the deployment of forces on the ground and in the air," he said. Meanwhile, Algeria has closed its border with Mali.


US, Dominican agents seize 900kgs of cocaine

Dominican and US authorities have seized about 900 kilograms of cocaine from a speedboat, the Dominican Republic's National Drug Control Agency said. The boat was heading towards a bay west of the Caribbean nation’s capital Sunday when it was detected by the US Drug Enforcement Administration. Three Dominican aircraft and four military boats pursued the traffickers, who threw bales of cocaine into the international waters and escaped. The US Coast Guard later recovered the drugs. Earlier this month, Dominican authorities confiscated 1,870 kilograms of cocaine from a boat in the same bay.


Household gas blast kills 2 in Russia’s Chuvashia

Two people have been killed in a household gas explosion at a three-story building in the village of Tuvsi in Central Russia’s Republic of Chuvashia. Seven people were injured, Interfax said, citing the regional department of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry. Five people were rescued following the explosion, which demolished four apartments in the Tsivilsky district early morning on Tuesday.


Malaysian religious authority prohibits non-Muslims from using the word ‘Allah’

Non-Muslims have been banned by one of Malaysia’s leading religious authorities from using the word “Allah” when describing “God” in their religious publications. The PAS Syura Council ruled it could not be translated in non-Muslim publications to denote for the word “God.” However, some Christian groups in the country claim the right to use the term “Allah” in their own religious scripts.


Clinton to testify before Senate over Benghazi attack

­US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on January 23 over the Benghazi attacks in September last year. The deadly September 11 attack on the US mission in Libya killed US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi. Clinton is expected to be grilled in the Senate hearing by her Republican rivals over foreign security issues and US intelligence concerning the attack.


Armstrong reportedly confesses to using performance enhancing drugs on Oprah

­Lance Armstrong, the seven time winner of Tour de France, has allegedly confessed to US talk show host Oprah Winfrey to have used performance enhancing drugs, AP reported. Armstrong is said to have made the confession during an interview Monday, which is to be broadcast Thursday on Winfrey's network. Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and Olympic bronze medal after a report from the US Ant-Doping Organization (USADA) found illegal substances in his samples.