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14 February, 2013


Three terror acts in Pakistan kill at least 23

­More than 20 people have been killed in separate incidents in North-West Pakistan. A suicide bomber targeted a police post in Hangu district killing 11 people while a roadside bomb also claimed the lives of 7 anti-Taliban militia. 5 suicide bombers died in a failed attack at a police outpost in the city of Bannu.


Tiffany sues Costco for counterfeit engagement rings

­America's largest warehouse retail chain is being sued by Tiffany & Co. for selling counterfeit jewellry carrying the retailer’s name. The luxury brand demands Costco forfeit its profits from the ring sales and pay $2 million per infringement. Tiffany believes that Costco has sold hundreds if not thousands of fake merchandise. Tiffany also learned that retailer was not using the Tiffany trademarks online for the same products to avoid detection, according to the lawsuit.


Illinois Senate passes same-sex marriage bill

­The midwestern state of Illinois could become the tenth in the US to legalize marriage for same-sex couples, with the state's Senate voting 34 to 21 in favor of allowing the unions Thursday. The bill will now be sent to the House, and if it passes, is up for approval from Governor Pat Quinn, who has pledged to sign it. If the bill becomes law, Illinois will be the first state in the Midwest to allow same-sex couples the same rights as straight couples.


3 arrests in UK over horsemeat scandal

­UK police have arrested three men in relation to the horsemeat scandal, a spokesman for Dyfed-Powys police said Thursday. The men, aged 64, 63 and 42 years, were arrested at food plants located in Wales and West Yorkshire. These plants were inspected on Tuesday by the Food Standards Agency. The police also confirmed that the three men “have been arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act” and that they would be interviewed by the police and FSA.


Egypt regulator appeals against court’s YouTube ban

­An Egyptian telecoms regulator has appealed against a court order, according to which YouTube, the video file-sharing site owned by Google, will be banned for 30 days. Only the US has the right to shut down YouTube without affecting the Google engine, though Egypt is regarded as the second biggest user in the Middle East. The reason for the YouTube ban relates to the controversial video “The Innocence of Muslims” , which denigrated the Prophet Mohammed and was regarded as a threat to Egyptian national security. The video shows the Prophet in a blasphemous way: as a fool and sexual deviant.


Transocean to pay $400 million in fines over 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill

­Transocean Ltd. has agreed to plead guilty to violating the US Clean Water Act and to pay a total of $400 million to settle US government criminal charges related to the massive BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, a judge said on Thursday. Last month the company was asked to pay $1 billion in civil penalties in addition to the $400 million in criminal penalties for its conduct related to the blowout of the Macondo well. Transocean owned the Deepwater Horizon, which was on contract to BP PLC, operator of the well.


Some 200 flights cancelled in Germany over strike

­About 200 flights at Düsseldorf airport and 90 flights in Hamburg airport were cancelled as security staff walked off the job. The strike affected tens of thousands of passengers after some 90 percent of staff took part.  The strikes, part of a demand for a significant pay rise for security personnel, are expected to continue on Friday. The staff claim the majority of workers who play a key role in trying to prevent terrorist attacks are underpaid.


Warrant Buffet to buy Heinz for $28bn

­Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and private-equity firm 3G Capital have united to buy ketchup giant HJ Heinz Co. for $23.2 billion in cash, Heinz announced Thursday. Heinz was valued at $28 billion, due to the company’s debt. Heinz has already marked the deal as “historic,” and the largest in the food industry. The takeover has been approved by the company's board, but still needs to be voted on by shareholders. Buffet’s staples are known all over the world, his investment in Coke being the best-known example.


Large Hadron Collider to take 2-year break

Researchers with the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) said Thursday that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has reached the end of its first three-year running period. “We have every reason to be very satisfied with the LHC’s first three years,” said Rolf Heuer, director-general of CERN. The LHC, which has already provided physicists with reams of data, will be shut down until 2015. Data from the past three years will continue to be analyzed while maintenance is performed on the LHC and the machine is upgraded for higher-energy running. Steve Myers, director for Accelerators and Technology at CERN, said the interconnections between LHC magnets will essentially be rebuilt: “So when we resume running in 2015, we will be able to operate the machine at its design energy of 7TeV per beam.”


Syrian rebels down 2 govt planes – reports

Syrian rebels shot down two military warplanes over the northwestern province of Idlib on Thursday, according to a monitoring group. The jets were hit with fire from heavy machineguns as the air force carried out a series of raids in the area, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Government media said Thursday that the military had lost Base 80, a strategic army complex securing the nearby Aleppo international airport and other military airports. Government forces also seized Jobar, a key district in the central city of Homs, after several weeks of fierce fighting, the Observatory said.


Iran denies shipping arms to Somali militants

Tehran has denied claims that it supplied weapons to Islamist militants in Somalia. The allegations are “absurd fabrications and have no basis or validity,” Iran's UN mission wrote to the UN Security Council in a letter obtained by Reuters on Thursday. Following earlier sanctions against Somalia, UN monitors warned that Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa nation are receiving weapons from distribution networks linked to Yemen and Iran. “It is unfortunate that the Monitoring Group has… put such unfounded allegations and strange fabrications in its report, without first bothering itself to communicate them to my government," Iran's UN Ambassador Mohammad Khazaee wrote.


6.9 earthquake hits east Siberia

A magnitude-6.9 earthquake hit the eastern part of Siberia on Thursday, the US Geological Survey said. The quake struck the Russian Republic of Yakutia at a depth of approximately 10km at 13:13 GMT. The epicenter was 389km from the town of Verkhoyansk and 340km from Ust-Nera. The area is sparsely populated.


7 killed in wave of Iraq attacks

Attacks mostly targeting Iraqi security forces north of Baghdad killed seven people on Thursday, officials said. Gunmen killed two brothers, a police officer and a soldier, inside their home near the main northern city of Mosul, AFP reported. The soldier was a bodyguard for Iraqi parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. A roadside bomb near Mosul targeting a police patrol also killed two police officers and wounded one other. Just north of Baghdad, separate shootings and bombings in Balad and Dujail left three people dead, including two anti-Al-Qaeda militiamen, and seven people wounded. No organization immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.


Fog caused An-24 plane crash in Donetsk, Ukraine – investigators

Bad weather conditions caused the crash of an An-24 passenger plane near Donetsk, according to a preliminary investigation, the Ukrainian state aviation service said Thursday. The landing on Wednesday evening took place in heavy fog, sources said. The South Airlines plane crash-landed at Donetsk airport and split in two. Of the 52 people on board, five were killed and nine were hospitalized.


Norwegian court sentences Rwandan to 21 years in genocide case

The Oslo District Court has convicted a Rwandan national of participating in the country’s 1994 genocide, and sentenced him to 21 years in prison. The court on Thursday found Sadi Bugingo guilty of complicity in the premeditated killings of at least 2,000 people belonging mainly to the Tutsi ethnic group. Three prolonged attacks during April 1994 in his home town of Kibungo, eastern Rwanda, were singled out. Bugingo, 47, denied all the charges and said he would appeal his sentence. The former businessman arrived in Norway in 2001 to join his family, and was given a residence permit. He was arrested in 2011. More than 500,000 people were killed in the 1994 genocide carried out by Hutu extremists against the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates.


Syrian rebels seize eastern town of al-Shaddadeh – reports

Syrian rebels seized a town near the Iraqi border in the eastern oil-producing province of Hasakah on Thursday, activists said. The capture provides rebel forces with a key defensive position against government troops on the road to the provincial capital, Reuters reported. Rebel fighters, including militants of the Al-Qaeda-linked Nusra front, now control al-Shaddadeh, said Omar Abu Laila, a spokesperson for the eastern command of the rebel Free Syrian Army. The town is 46 kilometers south of Hasakah city, where rebels have reportedly overrun state security and military intelligence compounds.


Horsemeat containing harmful drug entered food chain in France – UK

The British government has said that three horse carcasses that tested positive for the equine drug bute entered the human food chain in France. Eight horses from British abattoirs had tested positive for bute, and three had entered the human food chain in France, Environment Minister David Heath told the House of Commons on Thursday. Bute is a painkiller used on horses, and is considered harmful to human health if ingested. European states are conducting tests for the drug after horsemeat was found in food products labeled as beef.


Tibetan self-immolates in China – reports

Another Tibetan man has burned himself to death in protest against Chinese rule, Western rights groups reported on Thursday. The incident brought the total number of such Tibetan self-immolations to at least 101. The deceased, Lobsang Namgyal, was identified as a former monk from the Kirti monastery. US-based Radio Free Asia said he self-immolated last week near a police station in Aba prefecture, a Tibetan area of Sichuan province in southern China. Namgyal, 37, belonged to a family of four brothers and four sisters. The first Tibetan to set himself on fire was also from Kirti monastery.


Eurozone economy worsened in Q4 2012

The eurozone recession sharply deepened in the fourth quarter of 2012, official data showed on Thursday. The economy shrank 0.6 percent, compared to a decline of 0.1 percent during the previous quarter, AFP said. In the second quarter of 2012, the eurozone economy contracted 0.2 percent on a sequential basis, meaning the recession has now lasted three quarters.


S. African police charge Olympic athlete Pistorius with murder

South African police said on Thursday they had charged a 26-year-old man with murder after the girlfriend of paralympic track superstar Oscar Pistorius was shot dead at his Pretoria home. Police did not name the 26-year-old Pistorius, in accordance with South African law, Reuters reported. However, a police spokesperson later confirmed that he and the victim, Reeva Steenkamp, were the only people in the house at the time of the shooting.


Putin orders creation of unified system to counter hacker attacks against Russia

President Vladimir Putin ordered the Federal Security Service (FSB) on Thursday to create a unified system for detecting, preventing and repulsing computer attacks against Russia. The system should be completed as soon as possible, Putin said during a meeting of an extended board of the FSB. His order came in line with his January 15 decree on creating a state system to repulse hacker attacks on Russian government bodies.


‘Prisoner X’ negotiated plea bargain before suicide – Israeli lawyer

Israeli attorney Avigdor Feldman said he met ‘Prisoner X’ Ben Zygier before he apparently committed suicide in his cell at Ayalon Prison. They were negotiating a plea bargain, the lawyer said. Zygier, an Australian immigrant reportedly recruited by Israel's Mossad spy agency, had been charged with grave crimes. The Israeli government forced the country’s media to censor coverage alleging that Zygier was secretly detained for months until he committed suicide in 2010.


Malaysian forces surround Philippine ‘intruders’ on Borneo

Malaysian security forces have surrounded about 100 armed men believed to be from a breakaway rebel faction in the southern Philippines, police and officials said on Thursday. The government will “negotiate with them so they leave peacefully to return to the south of the Philippines,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said during a visit to Sabah. A senior Philippine military official said navy boats and an aircraft had been sent to the border area, adding that the people were unarmed Filipinos who had been promised land in Sabah, Reuters reported. The standoff in Malaysia's eastern Sabah state on Borneo island may stir tension between the Southeast Asian neighbors.


Austerity increasing child poverty in European debtor nations – charity

Nearly one-third of children in Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain have been pushed to the brink of poverty by austerity, global charity Caritas said on Thursday. A generation of poorly fed young people with low morale is being created, as the number of children at risk of poverty continues to rise, the charity said, citing EU statistics. The charity blamed the growing child poverty on cuts to welfare, unemployment benefits and increased fuel duties, Reuters reported. In 2011, over 30 percent of children in Spain and Greece were at risk of poverty or exclusion, a rise of four percentage points since 2005. In Portugal, that figure is just below one-third at 28.6 percent.


Potential growth rate of Russian economy is 5.3% – Goldman Sachs

According to Goldman Sachs, the improvement of Russia’s business environment and institutions of economic governance could increase the country’s potential economic growth by 5.3%. During the post-crisis period, Russia has made good progress with a macroeconomic policy shifted to target inflation and free rate fixing, Andrew Meteni of Goldman Sachs said. Russia is still considered to be a country with increased risks to business. In January, the risk premium on shares was 7.2%, compared to 4.6% in Turkey and 4.8% in Poland. Goldman Sachs was recently hired as a consultant by the Russian government to improve the country’s business image.


IAEA, Iran fail to reach deal in nuclear talks

The UN nuclear watchdog said on Thursday it had again failed to clinch a deal in its talks with Iran on investigating the country's nuclear program. Herman Nackaerts, deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Wednesday the agency was committed to continuing talks but needed more time to reflect on the way forward, Reuters reported. The IAEA team returned to Vienna after Wednesday's talks in Tehran. Iranian ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh said that a new meeting would be held, though he did not provide a date.


1 killed in Bahrain as activists mark uprising anniversary

One person was killed in Bahrain on Thursday as activists demonstrated on the second anniversary of the 2011 uprising, the Interior Ministry said. The man had been taken to Salmaniya Hospital for his injuries and later died, Reuters said, citing the ministry’s statement. Rioters have blocked a number of roads in the island kingdom, and security forces sought to restore order. Two police officers were reportedly injured after their vehicles crashed in Budaiya when rioters poured motor oil on the road.


S. African police arrest man in Pistorius shooting

South African police have arrested a 26-year-old man after a woman was shot dead at the Pretoria home of Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius. “We found a 9mm pistol at the scene. A 26-year-old man was taken into custody,” police spokesperson Katlego Mogale told Reuters. She declined to name the suspect.


7 pro-government militiamen killed in Pakistan bomb attack

A bomb attack in northwest Pakistan on Thursday killed at least seven members of a pro-government militia and wounded 13 others, officials said. Twenty militiamen were traveling by bus from the tribal district of Khyber. A roadside bomb struck the bus in the village of Hassanzo in the neighboring tribal district of Orakzai as it drove to Kohat, one of the main garrison towns for the Pakistani army in the northwest, AFP reported. The van was hired by a local peace committee from Khyber, and 20 members of the peace committee were on board along with the driver.


Russia ready to study US proposals on cuts to nuclear arsenals

Moscow has not yet received any specific proposals from the US on cutting its strategic nuclear arsenal, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. “If such proposals are submitted, we, of course, will be studying them,” RIA Novosti quoted ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich as saying. Implementing a Russian-US treaty on the reduction and limitation of strategic offensive arms is a priority for Moscow, Lukashevich said, adding that Russia would then be able to discuss further steps, taking into account factors such as the US plans to deploy a global missile defense system. US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that Washington will suggest to Moscow that the two states further reduce their strategic nuclear arsenals, in keeping with the new START treaty.


Iranian commander killed in Syria by rebels - regional reports

­A senior commander in the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard has been killed in Syria, a television station run by Lebanese political party Hezbollah reports. Al-Manar television claims that the official, who it did not name, was attacked by Syrian rebels while on his way from Damascus to Lebanon., an Iranian news site, named the commander as Gen. Hassan Shateri, claiming he was murdered by "mercenaries of the Zionist regime." Neither claim has been verified by Iranian or Syrian officials.


Three tons of marijuana discovered in Bogota, Colombia

­More than three tons of marijuana was discovered by Bogota police on Wednesday. Valued at $1.7 million, the drugs were inside a truck parked in a fruit warehouse. The truck contained three thousand packages of marijuana weighing one kilo each. The five month investigation into drug distribution was aided with the participation of locals who revealed the location of the drug-packed vehicle. No one has yet been arrested in relation to the case. In 2012, around 360 tons of marijuana were confiscated in Colombia.