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17 April, 2013


Opposition members barred from heading commissions in Venezuelan parliament

The head of Venezuela's National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, has removed members of the country’s opposition from all their positions as heads of parliamentary committees, local Globovision TV channel reports. “It’s fair and it’s not a fraud,” Cabello said, adding that he doesn’t recognize the MPs, who refuse to call Nicolas Maduro their president. The opposition demands a recount of votes after the late Hugo Chavez’s successor, Maduro, was announced the winner in the April 14 presidential election, beating pro-American candidate, Henrique Capriles, by less than 2 percent.


82 infected and 17 dead from H7N9 virus in China

Eighty-two people have been infected and 17 of them died from the H7N9 virus in China. Meanwhile 5 people, who had already contracted the  new avian influenza, were discharged. Another 60 patients are receiving medical treatment. Shanghai is the city with the highest rate of infection  – of the 31 people hit by the virus 11 have died. Beijing has recorded only one infected person, but two more cases have been found in the Chinese province of Henan. There haven’t been any documented cases of the virus transmitting from person to person.


Dynamo Moscow defend KHL crown

Dynamo Moscow has triumphed in Europe’s top hockey competition, the KHL, for the second season in a row, topping Traktor Chelyabinsk 4-2 in the final series of the Gagarin Cup. The fate of the title was decided in Game 6 at the Traktor Sport palace, with Aleksey Tsvetkov scoring in overtime to wrap up a 3-2 win for the Muscovites in the close-fought encounter. An 11th hockey title was the perfect present for the Dynamo sports society, which celebrates its 90th birthday on April 18.


Middle East should be nuclear-free region – Turkish FM

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has said the Middle East should be a nuclear-free region. If disarmament conditions are applied to Iran, “then Israel should obey them too,” Itar-Tass quoted the minister as saying after a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday.


Egypt prosecutor orders Mubarak back to prison

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was ordered to be transferred back to prison from a military hospital on Wednesday on the recommendation of a medical team. The Prosecutor General's Office said it had decided Mubarak would be returned to Torah prison on the outskirts of Cairo, Reuters reported. It was not clear when he would be moved. Mubarak's retrial on charges of complicity in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising will start on May 11.


Salafi jihadists claim Sinai rocket fire on Israel's Eilat

A Salafi jihadist group claimed an attack the Israeli Red Sea resort of Eilat on Wednesday, when at least two Grad rockets were fired from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The group, Mujahideen Shura Council, posted a statement online saying its militants had "managed to target occupied Eilat with two Grad rockets," AFP reported. They did not say where the rockets were fired from. The attack caused no casualties.


Mubarak retrial to begin May 11

The retrial of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on charges of complicity in the killing of demonstrators in the uprising will start on May 11. The announcement was made by a Cairo appeals court on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The retrial collapsed last Saturday when the presiding judge withdrew from the case and referred it to another court.


Egyptian court gives PM Qandil suspended prison sentence

The Dokki Misdemeanor Court on Wednesday gave Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil a suspended sentence of one year in prison with bail. He was charged of abstaining from implementing a verdict by the Administrative Court that ordered the renationalization of the Tanta Flax and Oil Company, and rendered invalid the selling of the company to Saudi businessman Abdullah Al-Kaaki, Ahram Online reports. The court also ruled that Hisham Qandil should be dismissed from his role as prime minister for failing to renationalize Tanta.


Magnitude 5.8 earthquake hits northeastern Japan

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8 jolted northeastern Japan on Wednesday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said. No tsunami warning was immediately issued. The epicenter was off the coast of Miyagi prefecture, more than 300km northeast of Tokyo, where buildings also shook from the quake, Reuters said. The northeast was hit two years ago by a magnitude 9 earthquake that triggered a devastating tsunami. A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.2 hit islands about 180km south of Tokyo earlier on Wednesday.


US senate committee passes resolution to back Israel against Iran

A US senate committee has passed Resolution 65, stating that the country will authorize the usage of military force, and commits to lend diplomatic, military, economic support to Israel in ‘defense of its territory, people, and existence’. The resolution stipulates that the country will have the aid of Washington in all these ways, suggesting that if Israel strikes Iran, the US will be compelled to offer support. It additionally emphasizes that the US is to commit to preventing Iran from procuring nuclear weapons. The motion is yet to be passed in the US Senate, but has the backing of groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The US has repeatedly held back from lending its full support to Israeli aggression against Iran, despite Israel’s claims and reports that US President Barack Obama is prepared to launch an attack against Iran as early as June. Israel has voiced concern over Iran’s controversial nuclear program and has made threats to strike any nuclear facilities.


Organizers to continue Boston Marathon next year

Boston Marathon organizers said that next year's race would go ahead as planned. "We are committed to continuing that tradition with the running of the 118th Boston Marathon in 2014," AFP quoted Thomas Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, as saying. Grilk said that the organizers were co-operating with the city of Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and all federal law enforcement officials in the investigation of the fatal blasts.


Friends of Syria 'negative' for dialogue – Russian FM

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday criticized the Friends of Syria grouping of Western and Arab countries opposed to the Syrian government as negative for dialogue. “Right now we see this process is making a negative contribution to the [Geneva] decisions,” Lavrov said in Istanbul, referring to a 2012 accord among world powers in Geneva aimed at solving the Syrian conflict. “When one party is isolated in any mechanism set up to deal with a conflict, we miss the ground for dialogue.” He also said that Moscow was not involved in “regime change” or “legitimization of such attempts.”


Thatcher opponents turn backs on funeral procession

About two dozen opponents of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher reportedly turned their backs on her funeral procession. Some others booed as her coffin passed through central London on a gun carriage on Wednesday, Reuters said. Many others clapped, threw flowers along the route and cheered for Britain's longest-serving prime minister of the 20th century. Thousands of supporters lined the route from Westminster to St Paul's Cathedral. Polls have shown that many are unhappy at the estimated 10-million-pound ($15 million) bill for the funeral.


Russian court adjourns trial of Navalny on defense request

Russian opposition leader Aleksey Navalny Wednesday went on trial in the embezzlement case, but a court in Kirov, 900km from Moscow, adjourned the process. The trial was adjourned for one week until April 24, although the defense had asked for one month to prepare. Navalny is charged with organizing the misappropriation in a timber deal of more than 16 million rubles ($512,000) from the Kirov regional government that he advised in 2009. He says the charges against him are politically motivated.


Attacks across Afghanistan kill 24 – officials

Attacks across Afghanistan on Wednesday killed at least 24 people in five separate incidents, including police officers and healthcare workers, officials said. Seven women and children died when the truck they were in hit a roadside bomb near the town of Shindad, said Muhiudin Noori, spokesman for the governor of the western Herat province. In eastern Laghman, insurgents attacked a checkpoint, killing four village policemen. In northern Jawzjan, insurgents opened fire on elders in a village, with two health workers killed in the crossfire. Six men with two officers and four enlisted men among them were shot and killed in another part of Jawzjan.  So far, April is the deadliest month this year for Afghan and foreign civilians.


UK unemployment increases to 2.56mn

UK unemployment has increased by 70,000 to 2.56 million between December and February, official statistics figures show. The total is the worst since last summer, giving the UK a jobless rate of 7.9 per cent. The number of people in work fell by 2,000 in the latest quarter, to just under 30 million. This is the first time the figure has dipped since autumn 2011.


At least 16 injured in blast near BJP party office in Bangalore, India

At least 16 people were injured after a blast near the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office in Bangalore on Wednesday, Indian police said. "Eight policemen who are on duty and by the site of the blast place are injured, and eight civilians are injured," a police official said, as cited by Reuters. The injuries are not so serious and nobody is critically injured, he said.


US drone destroys Taliban base in Pakistan, 5 militants killed

A US drone fired two missiles into a Taliban training camp in Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least five militants, local officials said. The compound was destroyed in the attack in the Baber Ghar area of the South Waziristan tribal district on the Afghan border, AFP reported. An official in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, confirmed the attack, saying that the drone targeted a base of Tehreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan's umbrella Taliban faction.


Two rockets hit Eilat, Israel

At least two rockets exploded in Israel's Red Sea resort town of Eilat early on Wednesday causing no casualties, police said. "We've found two explosion sites in the city, we've also closed off the airport as a precaution," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP. One rocket landed in an open area close to one of the neighborhoods. Rosenfeld said a number of explosions were heard but he could not say from where rockets were fired. The army had recently deployed a battery of the vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system in the vicinity of Eilat.


Taiwan holds 1st live-fire military exercise in 5 years

Taiwan has held its first large-scale live-fire military exercise in five years. President Ma Ying-jeou oversaw Wednesday's drill personally as soldiers aided by frigates and F-16 jet fighters repelled a simulated Chinese invasion on the offshore island of Penghu. Taiwan must reinforce its defenses to build a credible deterrent in the face of ballooning defense expenditures from Beijing, the president said.


China reports 16 deaths so far in bird flu outbreak

An international team of experts from the World Health Organization will be traveling to China to probe that country’s ongoing H7N9 avian influenza outbreak. Most commonly known as “bird flu,” China has so far reported 16 deaths and 77 cases of H7N9 since announcing several weeks ago that it had found the strain in people for the first time. According to Xinhua, 14 new cases were confirmed between 6pm on Monday and 8pm Tuesday, while eight of those patients were in critical condition. The virus, which is suspected of crossing from birds to humans, has prompted mass culls in several Chinese cities.


Pirate Bay co-founder indicted on hacking charges in Sweden

Gottfrid Svartholm, a co-founder of the Swedish torrent website The Pirate Bay, was indicted Tuesday on hacking charges unrelated to his involvement with what US officials have deemed one of the world’s most notorious websites. Svartholm, 27, has already been sentenced to one year in prison for facilitating copyright infringement but is now accused of hacking into Nordea Bank to withdraw money, and with infiltrating the Swedish tax agency’s website. Three others were indicted in connection with the hacks but a prosecutor told Swedish media that Svartholm was the “main person and brains behind the hacker attack.”


Iraq executes 21 in one day on terrorism charges despite human rights concern

Iraqi government officials told reporters Tuesday that the country had executed 21 men convicted on terrorism charges. The latest executions, which come by hanging in Iraq, brought the country’s total up to 50 in 2013 as human rights officials from around the world have called on Baghdad to suspend capital punishment. Amnesty International, in particular, has expressed concern over Iraq, calling the Middle Eastern country a “black spot” of 2012 after a year in which executions diminished across the globe. Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari said last month that Iraq would continue to implement the death penalty as the government continues to fight Al-Qaeda.