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9 February, 2013


Russian tycoon heading biathlon vows to play all-or-nothing Olympic game

­Russian tycoon Mikhail Prokhorov said he will step down from his position as head of the country’s biathlon federation if the team fails to achieve success at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. “A result that wouldn't do for me is fewer than two gold medals. If there will be fewer than that, then I'm resigning,” Prokhorov said on Saturday. The Russian teams flop in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics remains etched in many peoples memory. Prokhorov, Russia’s eighth-richest man with assets worth of $13.2 billion, is also a keen biathlete and has been heading the country’s Biathlon Union since October 2008.


Pregnant woman killed in Yemen clashes

A pregnant woman was accidently shot dead in the southern city of Aden while protesters demanding the release of prisoners clashed with Yemeni police, AFP cites government and medical officials as saying. Violence erupted after protesters attempted to block a road in the city. Police opened fire, killing the woman, who was eight months pregnant. Protesters took to the streets after two local residents were arrested nine days ago with a warrant.


Israeli forces break up Palestinian camp in the Southern West Bank

The Israeli military has driven out about 100 Palestinian activists who pitched an illegal tent camp near the city of Hebron in the Southern Western Bank, military sources say. The activists were protesting against an Israeli policy that is aimed at preventing Palestinians from building in West Bank areas that are under Israeli control. The military said that it used riot control measures to disperse the crowd. The operation marked the fifth time in the past month the Israeli military has broken up the Palestinian camp.


Spain’s PM reveals tax payments amid corruption scandal

­Spain's prime minister Mariano Rajoy published his tax returns in bid to defuse corruption allegations that he and other conservative politicians received secret cash payments. The government's website posted tax authority documents for the past ten years. On Friday the ruling People's Party also disclosed financial accounts for the past four years. The El Pais newspaper previously published alleged accounting books of the party’s treasurers that revealed cash contributions from business leaders, which were then distributed to party leaders. Spain is still struggling with a deep recession and unemployment. The euro zone's fourth-largest economy, has been expecting an aid-tranche from IMF of about 2 billion euros to support the country's banks.


Dozens of Saudi Arabians protest in capital for release of prisoners

­At least five people were arrested Saturday when over a hundred protesters took to the streets of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, to demand the release of prisoners. The rally called for those detained without charge on suspicion of involvement in militant activity, to be freed. North of the capital in the city of Buraydah, around 30 people, mostly women related to the prisoners, held a similar rally.  Protests are rare in the conservative kingdom.


Two men with explosives arrested in Mali near Gao

On Saturday two men with explosives were arrested at a checkpoint on the road from Bourem as they were trying to enter the city of Gao, the Malian military said. On Friday a suicide bomber blew himself up in an attack that has fueled fears of a militant insurgency in northern Mali.


Russian spaceship Progress M-16M undocks from ISS

­Russian transport ship Progress M-16M set sail from the Pirs module of the International Space Station (ISS), to make way for the new "cargo ship”, said head of press of Central Research Institute of Machine Building, Irina Romanova. Progress M-16M will almost completely burn up passing the dense atmosphere and will fall about 3,000 kilometers from New Zealand in the Pacific Ocean. After leaving the ISS, the spaceship made way for Progress M-18M, which is planned to be launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome on February 11 at 18:41 GMT.


Two Russians, 1 Romanian confirmed as hostages in Cameroon piracy

­The three crew members captured Thursday in the Cameroon port of Douala have been taken as hostages, the ship’s operator, Carisbrooke Shipping, confirmed on Saturday. The three were aboard a British-owned cargo ship when the pirates besieged it. Russian and British authorities are working collaboratively to identify and release the hostages.


UK authorities charge man over Facebook threat to kill 200 US citizens

A British citizen has been charged with making malicious comments after he allegedly published an online threat to kill 200 people in the US state of Tennessee, local authorities said. Reece Elliott, 24, from a town east of the northern English city of Newcastle, on Wednesday published a threat to use gun violence on the Facebook page of a deceased Tennessee student. 2,900 children skipped class in Warren County the following day.Police did not address the motive behind the posting. Elliot will remain in custody until his next hearing.


Germany's education minister quits over plagiarism scandal

­Germany's education minister and close ally of Chancellor Merkel, Annette Schavan, intends to resign on Saturday after being accused of plagiarism in her Ph.D, granted more than 30 years ago, ruling coalition sources said. A few days earlier, the University of Dusseldorf said that Schavan "systematically and intentionally" copied parts of her thesis from others and withdrew her Ph.D. Schavan said she intends to take legal action against the university's decision. This comes amid Chancellor Angela Merkel’s campaign to win a third term in office.


Chile to exhume body of famous poet Pablo Neruda

­Chile will exhume the remains of the Nobel Prize Winner in literature Pablo Neruda to investigate the cause of his death. There are allegations that the poet might have been killed by agents of the dictator Augusto Pinochet. The date of exhumation of the poet’s body has not been determined, but is likely to happen in March, according to the Pablo Neruda Foundation. The decision was made by Judge Mario Carrosa, responsible for the investigation. According to the official version, Neruda died of cancer 12 days after a military coup removed from power his friend, the elected socialist President Salvador Allende. The poet’s funeral was the first demonstration against the Pinochet regime in Chile.


Twelve soccer fans die in Chile bus crash

­At least 12 soccer fans have been killed returning to Santiago from O'Higgins soccer team away game, police said Saturday. The bus carrying 45 O’Higgins supporters fell off the mountain road south of the Chilean capital late Friday night. Police says the driver lost control and the bus full of people spiraled down 30 meters. Rescue teams, which arrived to the area in the dark, found 22 wounded.


Assad appoints seven new ministers

­Syrian President Bashar Assad changed his cabinet by appointing seven new ministers, the official SANA news agency reported, not indicating the reason. In addition Assad has split the Ministry of Labor and Social affairs into two, with Hassan Hijazi to head the first, Kinda Shmat the latter. The reshuffle affected such agencies as the Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources, headed by Suleiman Abbas, and the Ministries of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture and Public Works and the Department of Finance. Assad has announced several reshuffles since the uprising against his rule broke out nearly two years ago, the most recent in August last year.


Afghanistan landmine explosion kills 6

­A landmine explosion killed six members of a family traveling in a civilian vehicle in Southern Afghanistan, provincial authorities said on Saturday. Two elderly men, two women and two other men in the vehicle were killed in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province on Friday evening. Nobody claimed responsibility for the killings. Roadside bombs are the favorite weapons of the Islamist Taliban against the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.


Russia strikes $1bn arms deal with Bangladesh

­Russia will sell arms to Bangladesh out of the proceeds of a US$1 billion credit, says the Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation. Bangladesh is interested in anti-aircraft missiles, MI-17 helicopters and, specifically, armored troop carriers BTR-80. Russia issued credit to Bangladesh so it could purchase its arms in mid-January. Besides the purpose loan, Russia has invested half a million dollars into construction of the first Bangladeshi nuclear power station.


Georgian police detain ex-head of Interior Ministry press service

­Guram Donadze has been detained at Tbilisi International Airport. The former boss of the Interior Ministry press service has been charged with exceeding his authority by concealing involuntary homicide. In 2004 Georgian national Amiran Robakidze was recklessly shot dead by a Georgian police office. Investigators suspect Donadze of planting a firearm into Robakidze’s car to present the incident as armed resistance against police. Donadze returned to Georgia from Turkey voluntarily. He maintains his innocence.


Eric Schmidt to sell 42% of Google stake

­Google Inc. Chairman Eric Schmidt plans to sell as many as 3.2 million shares - valued at US$2.5 billion - of his shareholdings in Google, the world’s most popular search engine, Bloomberg reports. The sale will be spread over time so as not to disrupt the company’s share price. Google spokeswoman, Niki Fenwick, explains the maneuver as a “routine diversification of assets” and added “Eric remains completely committed to Google.” Last year, Forbes magazine estimated Schmidt's net worth at $7.5 billion. Since stepping down from daily operations at Google, Schmidt has made headlines as a supporter of Barack Obama and as an acute critic of Chinese cyber hacking.


Fourteeen dead, 5 still missing in Bangladesh ferry collision

­At least 14 people died and five are still missing after a collision between a 50 passenger ferry and a sand barge on Bangladesh’s Meghna River, 32 miles south of Dhaka, officials said on Saturday. Six children are among those killed in Friday accident. Local villagers came to the rescue and others were able to swim to shore. Ferry accidents are common in Bangladesh, as they are a common mode of transportation for the 153 million inhabitants of the delta nation. Officials deny the ferry was overcrowded.


Six dead in rocket attack on dissident camp in Iraq

A rocket attack on a camp of Iranian dissidents has killed at least six people and injured a further 50 in Iraq, said the country’s Interior Ministry.  Camp Hurriya, which houses exiled members of the People's Mujahideen Organization of Iran (PMOI), is located near Baghdad. Iraq officials said the wounded were evacuated immediately to a nearby hospital.


Australia reaches refugee agreement with NZ

New Zealand has agreed to accept 150 refugees from Australian detention centers each year as part of a new deal between the two countries. New Zealand will increase its total annual humanitarian intake to 750 people to accommodate asylum seekers processed in centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.  The Australian opposition has condemned the deal as “pointless” and a “band-aid cover-up” for Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s “failed” detention centers on Manus Island and Nauru.


Massive blizzard knocks out power in over 500,000 US homes

A huge blizzard has struck the northeast coast of the US causing havoc and leaving over 500,000 homes without power. “Nemo,” as the snow storm has been dubbed by the media, dumped over 16 inches of snow on Friday and more is expected. In Massachusetts a flood warning has been issued as waves taller than 30 feet (10m) have begun to buffet the coast.


Japan may release evidence China targeted ship in island dispute

Japan’s government could release proof that a Chinese naval frigate targeted a Japanese ship near a disputed group of islands in the East China Sea. Beijing has rejected accusations that it targeted a Japanese destroyer last month, insisting the frigate was using its normal surveillance radar. Tensions have been mounting between the Asian nations over a small group of islands known to the Japanese as Senkaku and to the Chinese as Diaoyu. Both countries claim the territoryб which is believed to hold significant fuel reserves.


Venezuela devalues currency by a third

The Venezuelan government has announced they have devalued their currency by a third to combat economic hardship in the country. The measure is expected to revitalize flagging imports and solidify government finances. However, there are fears it could push inflation up and lead to a deepening in the economic crisis.


Syrian authorities ready for unconditional dialogues with opposition

­The Syrian government is ready for dialogue with the opposition if they abandon conditions they had set previously, AFP reported citing Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad. The government is open to talk to any Syrian who wants to, but when it is “either discuss this or we will kill you” this is not a dialogue, he said. In January, the main opposition body, the Syrian National Coalition, announced that it will be ready for the dialogue with the authorities only after 160,000 Syrian prisoners are freed. Later it was announced that the government will lose the opportunity of the dialogue if it doesn`t release all female prisoners before February 10.


Nuclear plant shut down during US blizzard

A nuclear power plant has experienced automatic shutdown as a result of a massive snow storm in Plymouth Massachusetts. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission stated that the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant had lost power in the huge blizzard that has enveloped the northeast of the US.


Canadian spy who worked for Russia gets 20 years

­Naval intelligence officer Jeffrey Delisle will spend the next 20-years in a Canadian federal prison for passing state military secrets to the Russian secret service. The sentence was welcomed by security experts, but rather shocked the 41-year-old spy, who had volunteered his services to Russia. Reportedly over the period of five years starting from 2007, he received 23 payments amounting to $71,817.


US northeast declares state of emergency over massive snowstorm

Five US states have declared a state of emergency as a massive blizzard slammed into the country's northeast on Friday, disrupting traffic and causing thousands of flights to be canceled.  Winds were blowing at 56 to 64 kph by Friday afternoon, and forecasters expected gusts up to 97 kph as the evening wore on. Some 10,000 Americans have been left without power due to the snowstorm. The governors of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Rhode Island declared the state of emergency, while Massachusetts announced a ban on most car travel and Connecticut closed its highways to all but emergency vehicles. New York City was predicted to get about 30 cm of snow in some areas, while the Boston area could face up to 60 cm, forecasters say.