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15 February, 2013


300k Cybers activist sign petition against CISPA

­A force of 300,000 online activists has gathered signatures and petitioned the House Intelligence Committee to reconsider the reintroduction of the controversial internet freedom Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which came before US congress this week. In it, activists have demanded the protection of their private data. In April, CISPA was first passed the Republican-controlled House but was not picked up by the Democratic-controlled Senate.


Facebook hacked in ‘sophisticated attack’, no user data compromised

­Facebook was hit by “a sophisticated attack” last month, the company announced Friday.  No user data has been compromised in the hacking after a malware entered employees laptops  after they had accessed a mobile developer’s website. Law enforcement have been notified and an investigation is continuing. It appears that the social media giant was hit by a similar wave of attacks that the Wall Street Journal and others reported last month.


French student faces 5 years in prison for ‘terrorist propaganda’

­A French student studying in Turkey as an exchange student has been sentenced to more than five years in prison  for “terrorist propaganda” but allowed to return to France pending an appeal. Sevil Sevimli, a French student of Turkish origin was sentenced to a total of five years, two months and 15 days in jail, for being a “member of an armed organization.” She is accused of participating in May Day demonstrations, and holding a  banner reading “We want free education.”
She is planning to appeal the decision. The court has also ordered the lifting of Sevimli’s travel ban after bail of some $6000 is paid.


Thai police seize nearly two million meth pills

­Police in Thailand  have seized nearly two million methamphetamine pills in the country’s northern border. Three people, belonging to the ethnic minority Hmong, have been arrested in one of this year’s largest drug busts. Law enforcement apprehended the men after chasing two pickup trucks near the Thai-Myanmar border in Chiang Rai province on Thursday night. Twenty kilograms of meth and 1.97 million tablets of methamphetamine were found in one of the pickups. Bangkok is planning to ask for Interpol’s help in tracing the drugs' producers in Myanmar. More than 15 million methamphetamine pills were smuggled through Thai’s northern borders in 2011.


Syria accuses Turkey of harboring, training terrorists in letter to UN

­Syria's foreign ministry has sent a letter to the United Nations accusing Anakara of harboring “terrorists from Al-Qaeda’s network,” the SANA news agency reported. Damascus also accuses Turkey of having an “increasingly hostile stances towards Syria, by blocking measures taken by Damascus for a political solution to the crisis.” The letter also claims Turkey is training terrorists. “Turkey has turned its territory into camps used to house, train, finance and infiltrate armed terrorist groups, chief among them the Al-Qaeda network and the Al-Nusra Front,” said the letter. The dispatch also states that the neighbor is pressuring the country’s opposition to refuse negotiations with the government. The UN estimates that around 70,000 people have died in the conflict.


Meteorite-like object reportedly spotted in Cuba

An object reportedly fell from the sky and exploded loudly over the province of Cienfuegos in southern Cuba, the local TV service Rodas cites eyewitnesses as saying. Residents described the object as being comparable in size to a bus, adding that their houses shook following the explosion. Cuban specialists are examining the scene for potential remains of the object. No damages or injuries have been reported.


IMF agrees to $750 million loan for Jamaica

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said it has reached an agreement with Jamaica for a $750 million loan. "The mission has reached a staff-level agreement with the Jamaican authorities on the key elements of an economic program that can be supported by a 48-month arrangement under the Extended Fund Facility," the IMF said in a statement. Earlier this week, Jamaica launched its second debt swap in three years. Jamaica's debt – which stands at 140 percent of gross domestic product – is one of the highest debt ratios in the world.


Dozens wounded as Palestinian protesters clash with Israeli soldiers

Dozens of people have been wounded in clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli soldiers. The violence occurred at a rally in support of a prisoner observing a hunger strike. Around 200 Palestinians threw rocks at soldiers, who responded by firing teargas during the demonstration outside Ofer prison in the West Bank, the Israeli military told AP. The protesters called for the release of Samer Issawi, who has been engaged in an on-again, off-again hunger strike for several months. Issaawi is serving time for alleged terror activity.


4 people die in clashes between Bangladeshi police, protesters

Four people have died in clashes between police and protesters in Bangladesh. The violence occurred in the Cox’s Bazaar region, after 5,000 supporters of the opposition Jamaat-e-Islami party took to the streets in protest against their leaders being put on trial in a government-appointed court. Jamaat supporters, armed with homemade firearms, bombs and stones, attacked the security forces who then retaliated with gunfire, police officers told AFP. At least 13 people have died in clashes over the Jamaat leaders being tried for their role in the country’s 1971 independence war. Opposition parties said the trials are based on false charges, and are part of a wider political vendetta.


Venezuelan government publishes pictures of Chavez

The Venezuelan government published photographs of Hugo Chavez on Friday, the first public pictures of the president since he had cancer surgery in Cuba on December 11. In the photos, Chavez was smiling while lying in bed and reading a newspaper, surrounded by his two daughters, Reuters reported. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said that a communique on the socialist leader's health would also be announced. The government said the photos were taken in Havana, Cuba, on Thursday. On Wednesday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Chavez was undergoing "complex" alternative treatments.


EU frees 20m euro for Mali aid

The EU on Friday announced fresh aid worth 20 million euro to help restore law and order in Mali, as well as basic state services. The aid comes on top of a quarter-billion-euro EU package also to be released, AFP reported. Friday's aid will be used to restore law enforcement and security, especially in the northern parts of the country, where French-led forces have routed Islamist insurgents. In the capital Bamako and other urban areas, funding will go to protect against the threat of future attacks. The EU money, provided through a special conflict prevention fund, will also help restore state services such as schools and medical centers.


2 tons of explosives seized en route to Sinai Peninsula – Egyptian officials

Two tons of explosives have been seized en route to the Sinai Peninsula from Cairo, Egyptian officials said Friday. They said the explosives were confiscated last Saturday in the main Suez Canal transport tunnel that links Egypt to the Sinai. The truck driver is currently undergoing questioning. In the past two years, Egypt’s Interior Ministry has confiscated hundreds of weapons smuggled from Libya. Officials said that some of those weapons are then smuggled into Gaza. Sinai’s Islamist militants have taken advantage of the deterioration of security in the area, launching bolder attacks against police and the military.


Bird flu case discovered on German poultry farm

A case of H5N1 bird flu has been discovered during initial tests on a poultry farm in the eastern German state of Brandenburg. The duck farm was carrying out its own tests, the Brandenburg state agriculture ministry said on Friday. Final tests are currently being carried out, and the farm has been sealed off. The H5N1 virus mainly affects birds, but occasionally infects humans. Bird flu is currently present in Asian countries, and has also been reported in wild birds in parts of Europe.


India puts on hold $750m Italian helicopter deal over bribery probe

India's Defense Ministry said Friday that it has put on hold a $750 million contract to purchase helicopters from Italian company Finmeccanica over allegations of bribery in the deal. A formal notice has been sent to Finmeccanica's AgustaWestland helicopter division requesting cancellation of the contract. The company has seven days to respond to the notice. India signed the contract for the purchase of 12 helicopters in February 2010, three of which were delivered in December. New Delhi has launched its own investigation after the Italian defense and aerospace giant's chief executive was arrested in Milan on Tuesday on charges he paid bribes to obtain the contract.


Czech Republic legalizes medical marijuana

President Vaclav Klaus signed into law on Friday legislation that makes it legal to use marijuana for medical treatment in the Czech Republic. The law was earlier approved by both houses of parliament. Marijuana can now be imported and later grown locally by registered firms licensed for such activity. Patients will not be allowed to grow marijuana at home, and will need a prescription from a doctor to get the drug at pharmacies. The treatment will not be covered by health insurance. Medical marijuana use is legal in a number of European countries, and parts of the US.


Mali to hold presidential election on July 7

Mali will hold its presidential election on July 7, the Malian government has said. The election aims to “reunite the minds of Malians, reunite their hearts, and to enable Mali to remain one and indivisible,” Territorial Administration Minister Moussa Sinko Coulibaly said in the capital Bamako on Thursday. To win in the first round, a candidate will need to earn more than 50 percent of the vote. Legislative elections will then be held on July 21, along with a second round of the presidential vote if a run-off is required.


House conservatives aim to block Obama’s pay increase for federal workers

Conservatives in the US House of Representatives want to extend the current freeze on cost-of-living pay increases for America’s two million civilian federal workers. They have fought to block a 0.5 per cent pay raise proposed by US President Barack Obama for the last nine months of this year, claiming the move will save $11 billion over the long run. Representative Ron DeSantis said federal spending is out of control, and that his bill “tackles Congress and our bloated federal government head-on.” The move was met with opposition from Democrats, who said federal workers have already done their fair share in helping reduce the country’s deficit.


Thousands of Iraqi Sunnis stage anti-government protest

Thousands have protested on the streets of western Iraq’s Anbar province against what they claim is selective enforcement of anti-terror laws. Protesters said that Iraq’s predominantly Shia government uses the law to persecute Sunnis, and demanded the ouster of PM Nouri Al-Maliki. Organized protests have continued for a week in the towns of Samara and Ramadi. The Iraqi government claimed that Al-Qaeda and its affiliates deliberately provoke sectarian tension to destabilize the country.


Bulgaria expels visiting Hamas lawmakers

Bulgaria reportedly expelled a visiting delegation from the Palestinian group Hamas on Friday. Bulgarian security service agents "entered the hotel rooms of the three deputies early on Friday morning and drove them to the airport," said Mohd Abuasi of the Center for Middle East Studies, the organization that invited the lawmakers. “The agents explained to them that they had to leave because of strong political pressure on Bulgaria from Israel,” he told AFP. The visitors were reportedly sent to Istanbul, Turkey. Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov said the lawmakers had left Bulgaria, without specifying if they had been expelled.


Syrian rebels claim 150 killed in airport clashes

Some 150 rebels and government troops were killed while fighting for control of the international airport in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo and a major military air base nearby, activists said. The reported death toll is from fighting on Wednesday and Thursday, and is almost evenly divided between opposition fighters and regime soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Rebels and government forces were reportedly shelling each other in renewed clashes in the area on Friday.


Georgian politician wanted in Russia for mass riots plot

Georgian politician Givi Targamadze is now wanted in Russia, the Moscow department of the Russian Interior Ministry said. On Thursday, investigators charged the head of the Georgian parliament’s defense and security committee with plotting mass riots in Russia, Investigative Committee spokesperson Vladimir Markin said. Targamadze was charged in absentia with preparing to organize mass riots in Russia. In October, a documentary was aired that claimed Targamadze had met with Russian opposition leaders to plan riots.


Pakistan test-launches nuclear-capable missile

Pakistan has test-fired from an undisclosed area a Hatf-II (‘Abdali’) nuclear-capable missile, which has an effective range of 180 kilometers, Pakistani intelligence said. The launch, witnessed by Pakistan’s military brass, was part of a wider review of the country’s ground-based ballistic missile systems. Earlier this week, Pakistan test-fired a similar missile with a range of 60 kilometers.


Ankara retaliates after Syrian shell hits Turkey

Turkish artillery has retaliated against a shell fired from neighboring Syria that breached Turkish territory, causing no casualties, Anatolia news agency said Friday. The shell fell near the town of Yayladag in Hatay province near the border with Syria Thursday night, and Turkish forces retaliated immediately. Turkey has retaliated against every cross-border shelling after Syrian fire killed five Turkish nationals on October 3.


Tearful Pistorius charged with murder – reports

South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, one of the biggest names in world sports, was charged in a Pretoria court on Friday with murdering his girlfriend. The Paralympic champion broke down in tears after being charged, Reuters reported. Police detained Pistorius after they found Reeva Steenkamp dead from multiple gunshot wounds at his house in the middle of the night Thursday.


40,000 flee eastern Syrian town – UN food agency

An estimated 40,000 people have fled a town in eastern Syria after three days of fighting, the UN food agency said on Friday. The World Food Program (WFP) has delivered additional rations to the area in recent days, Reuters reported. “A WFP team visited the area and estimated that around 40,000 people have fled al-Shaddadeh to al-Hassakeh city,” the agency said. Rebels reportedly seized al-Shaddadeh in Syria's oil-producing east on Thursday. At least 30 opposition fighters and 100 Syrian troops were killed in the fighting, a monitoring group said.


Horsemeat-tainted products ‘could have been re-exported’ to Russia

Processed foods marked as beef but containing horsemeat may have been re-exported to Russia, the country’s Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance Service (VPSS) said Friday. “It is not excluded that such products may have entered Russian territory,” Reuters said, citing a VPSS statement. The service also requested that European consumer protection authorities share the results of their investigation. The VPSS said there were “serious problems” with export controls in the European Union.


Strict curfew imposed in Indian Kashmir after protests

Authorities have re-introduced a strict curfew across most of Indian-controlled Kashmir ahead of Friday prayers. The Himalayan region was rocked by violent anti-India protests after Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged Saturday in a New Delhi jail for his role in a deadly 2001 attack on India's parliament that killed 14, including five gunmen. The curfew has been in place since the execution, but demonstrators have defied it and clashed with government forces. Three protesters have been killed and more than 100 have been detained. Many in Kashmir believe Guru did not get a fair trial.


Bahraini police officer killed in clashes with protesters

A Bahraini police officer died after being hit by an incendiary device thrown during clashes with protesters, the interior ministry said Friday. The incident happened in a Shiite village overnight, AFP reported. Bahrain saw daylong violence on Thursday in which a teenager was shot dead as protesters marked the second anniversary of a Shiite-led uprising against the kingdom's Sunni rulers.


Indian troops kill Pakistani soldier near border

­Indian troops have killed a Pakistani soldier who crossed the Line of Control in the Khoi Rata area of Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army reported. Pakistani military officials have claimed the soldier crossed the line accidentally because he was lost. The Indian Army has agreed to return the soldier’s body to Pakistan.


Heavy rains kill 23 in Bolivia

Heavy rains in Bolivia have claimed at least 23 lives in recent days, civil defense authorities said. Nearly 10,000 families across much of the country have been affected by rain-swollen rivers. A river in the southern region of Chuquisaca has overflowed its banks, and a bridge has collapsed over a swollen river south of La Paz. The Bolivian government may declare a state of emergency.


S. Korea finds no radioactive elements after Pyongyang nuke test

Seoul said Friday it has so far failed to detect radioactive elements that may have been produced by North Korea's third nuclear test. South Korea is halting sea operations to collect samples, and will continue monitoring at land stations. China and Japan have also reported no success after collecting air samples, which will be crucial in determining whether Tuesday's detonation used uranium or plutonium – a uranium test would be seen as a major step forward for Pyongyang's nuclear program, as highly enriched uranium degrades quickly. No radioactivity was detected after Pyongyang's second test in 2009.


Death toll from Vorkutinskaya mine blast in northern Russia rises to 19

The number of those killed in a blast at the Vorkutinskaya mine in Russia's northern Republic of Komi rose to 19 after miner Gennady Nesterenko died overnight in a Vorkuta hospital, the regional department of the Emergency Situations Ministry said Friday. Four people were hospitalized after the 800-meter-deep methane blast. During the explosion, 259 people were working at different sections of the mine, and most were evacuated. The mine resumed operations on Friday, except in the section where the blast happened.


Carnival Triumph cruise ship reaches Alabama port

­Carnival Triumph, the cruise ship disabled for days at sea has finally been pulled into the port at Mobile, Alabama. Many of the 3,143 passengers however still have hours to wait before they can come ashore as there is only one working elevator on board. Some 100 buses have been chartered to deliver passengers to the Texas cities of Galveston, Houston and New Orleans. The 13-storey, 272-metre cruise liner has been without power since an engine fire on Sunday.


Marijuana smuggler caught after 26-year run

­A fugitive convicted in a marijuana smuggling case has been captured in Mexico after a 26-year run. Manuel Lopez-Castro, a former banker and an attorney has been arrested in Cancun Mexico with the help of the local authorities, but is now in Miami. The 61-year-old fled before his 27-year sentence for marijuana smuggling and other convictions was due to begin. During his decades-long run, Lopez-Castro is believed to have lived in Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, Venezuela and Panama before settling in Mexico.