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28 May, 2013


US embassy officials shot in Venezuela strip club

The US State Department has confirmed that two employees stationed at the American embassy in Venezuela were shot at “some sort of social spot” that local police say was a strip club. Little is known about the incident, and local sources spoke to the AFP on the condition of anonymity, but initial accounts say the diplomats were involved in an altercation with other bar patrons early Tuesday morning at Antonella bar in the capital city of Caracas. Several US diplomats have been assaulted in Venezuela in recent months; a possible side-effect of the tension between the two nations since the Americans were accused of orchestrating a failed coup to oust former President Hugo Chavez in 2002. 


Workers promise 'prolonged strikes' against Walmart

More than 100 Walmart workers walked off the job Tuesday in what union organizers promise is just the beginning of a series of “prolonged strikes” protesting the way the corporation treats its employees. Demonstrators went on strike in Massachusetts and around California's San Francisco Bay Area Tuesday morning, pledging to stay out until June 7, when Walmart shareholders are scheduled to meet in Bentonville, Arkansas. This and a previous protest, when 500 of the company's workers walked off the job before Black Friday last year, allege that the mega-store chain retaliates against employees who attempt to organize. The efforts, according to The Nation, are being backed by a labor group called OUR Wal-Mart and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, both of which have previously failed to unionize individual stores. Over 2.2 million people work for the corporation. 


Walmart to pay $110 million for dumping hazardous waste in California

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pleaded guilty Tuesday to dumping hazardous waste into sanitation drains across the state of California. The corporation admitted to “improperly disposing” of pesticide, fertilizer and paint, according to the Associated Press, and will pay $110 million in federal and state fines as part of a plea deal. That sum will also cover fines levied in Missouri, where witnesses reported watching children play in a pile of “yellowish colored powder” near the store’s garden department. Court documents show that the illegal dumping took place in 16 California counties between 2003 and 2005. 


Cargo train derailment sets off large explosion in Baltimore

A cargo train struck a tractor trailer and derailed near an industrial park in the US city of Baltimore, damaging some nearby buildings and causing an explosion reportedly felt miles away. Though it remained unclear what the cargo train was carrying at the time, Baltimore officials have stated no hazardous materials were aboard. The explosion, which was captured by witnesses on mobile phones and posted to social media, caused the closure of US Route 40 and closed off an adjacent neighborhood, though no injuries have been reported thus far. A local television helicopter captured the scene around the incident, with several train cars flipped and thick black smoke billowing as a fire continued to burn.


US welcomes EU arms embargo decision, urges Russia to stop S-300 shipments

The White House says it “welcomes” the EU’s move to lift an embargo on arming rebel groups in Syria, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. He also commented on Russia’s potential shipment of S-300 anti-aircraft missile batteries to Syria, saying that it "does not bring the country closer to the desired political transition." Russia called the EU's move an "example of double standards", saying it opens the door for Britain and France to supply weapons to Syrian rebels.


Muslims and Buddhists clash in Myanmar near Chinese border

A wave of sectarian violence in Myanmar has spread to the country’s north, as Muslims and Buddhists have clashed in the city of Lashio close to the Chinese border. No casualties have been reported, but witnesses reported several large fires and religious buildings being torched. Phone lines were down in the city, making it hard to establish the extent of the violence.


Younger suspect in Woolwich murder case discharged from hospital

Michael Adebowale, 22, a suspect in the murder of UK soldier Lee Rigby last Wednesday, has been discharged from hospital and taken into custody at a south London police station for questioning. Adebowale had been shot following Rigby’s death and held by armed officers, along with Michael Adebolajo, 28. Adebowale was also arrested on a second count: suspicion of attempted murder of a police officer.


Drone downed in South Somalia after being targeted by militants

A suspected US drone has crashed in the southern Lower Shebelle region of Somalia, amid reports that it may have been shot down by militants. The regional governor told Reuters that al Shabaab militants had been shooting at the unmanned aircraft for several hours before it crashed on Tuesday afternoon. African forces are fighting the Islamist militants in the region. The US does not widely report its activity in the country but their drones have been regularly employed in recent years to kill al Shabaab fighters.


Pirates kidnap oil tanker crew off Nigeria – reports

Armed pirates attacked an oil products tanker off the coast of Nigeria in West Africa and abducted an unknown number of crew, Reuters quoted security sources as saying on Tuesday. The Nigerian-flagged MT Matrix was boarded by gunmen early Saturday about 40 nautical miles off the coast of oil-producing Bayelsa state, they said. There were 12 Pakistani and five Nigerian crew aboard the vessel when it was attacked, according to one of the sources. A spokesman for ship operator Val Oil Trading confirmed there had been an “incident,” without giving further details.


First person dies in France of coronavirus

The first person to fall ill in France with the new SARS-like coronavirus, a 65-year-old man who had been travelling in Dubai, has died from the illness, Reuters quoted a source at the hospital as saying on Tuesday. The French Health Ministry did not immediately confirm the death from the virus, which has killed 22 people worldwide.


UK ‘not excluded’ from arming Syria rebels – Hague

Britain said on Tuesday it did not have to wait until an August 1 meeting of EU foreign ministers before taking a decision to arm Syria's rebels. “I know there has been some discussion of some sort of August deadline. That is not the case,” Foreign Secretary William Hague told BBC radio. He added that Britain was ‘not excluded’ from arming the rebels before August, and that it would not act alone if it chose to do so in line with international law.


Tamiflu resistance found in some cases of new bird flu – reports

A new strain of bird flu is, in some cases, resistant to widely-used flu drug Tamiflu, scientists say. Doctors from Shanghai and Hong Kong, writing in The Lancet medical journal on Tuesday, reported three of 14 patients with the H7N9 virus who did not respond to neuraminidase inhibitors - a group of medicines, including Tamiflu, that currently offer the only known treatment option. In one patient, the gene mutation responsible for resistance appears to have arisen after infection took hold, probably as a result of treatment with Tamiflu, Reuters reported.


Russian opposition files bid to hold Moscow march on June 12

The Russian opposition groups have filed a bid in the Moscow Mayor’s Office to hold a march on June 12. The organizers plan an hour-long event on the route Yakimanka-Bolotnaya Square and should finish at the Balchug Hotel, expecting up to 30,000 participants. The main demand will be to terminate the persecution of the defendants in the criminal case over massive disorder on Bolotnaya Square on May 6, 2012, and their immediate release, Itar-Tass reported. The Moscow authorities will take three days to consider the request. 


Two Afghan police defectors return, kill 7 colleagues

Two Afghan police officers who had recently rejoined the force after defecting to the Taliban, shot dead seven of their sleeping colleagues on Tuesday, police said. Kandahar Afghan National Police chief Abdul Raziq said the two police officers had defected to the Taliban months ago, but returned several days ago asking to rejoin, Reuters reported. The attack occurred in the early hours in the Arghistan district of the southern province of Kandahar.


Russian military find Mi-8T black boxes after helicopter crash

The Russian military have found black boxes of a Mil Mi-8T military helicopter that crashed earlier on Tuesday in the Saratov Region. The Investigative Committee’s Main Military Investigative Department has opened a criminal case over the crash, on charges of “violation of flight or preparation rules,” Interfax reported. Two crewmembers escaped death by parachuting out of the helicopter, while the pilot stayed in the cabin and died as the helicopter crashed near the Ivanovsky collective farm during a scheduled flight.


EU ‘won't yield’ to pressure from China on solar panels

The EU’s trade chief said on Tuesday he would not give in to Chinese pressure on European governments to drop plans to levy duties on Chinese solar panels. The Chinese “are not going to impress me by putting pressure on member states,” Reuters quoted EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht as saying at a meeting at European Parliament's trade committee. “I couldn’t care less whether that happens with… the biggest and most populous state in the world. For me it is the same.” The Chinese “can try to put pressure on member states, but they will waste their time trying to do so with me,” De Gucht said.


Pussy Riot’s Alyokhina transferred to prison medical station after hunger strike

Maria Alyokhina, a member of the Russian punk group Pussy Riot, has reportedly been transferred to a medical station in a penal colony. She went on a hunger strike on May 22 after she was barred from attending her own parole hearing, which denied her release. She is serving a two-year sentence after an impromptu punk protest in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral last year.


US environmentalist McKibben wins Sophie Prize

American environmentalist Bill McKibben has won the $100,000 Sophie Prize for efforts in the fight against global warming. McKibben was commended by the award committee on Tuesday for “building a global, social movement, fighting to preserve a sustainable planet.” McKibben, born in 1960, has written widely about the impact of global warming and in 2008 founded, an international movement aimed at solving the climate crisis. The annual Sophie Prize was created in 1997 to reward efforts for a sustainable future, and the winner is selected by a Norwegian cultural committee.


WHO’s polio drive in Pakistani city suspended after shooting

The World Health Organization suspended its polio eradication campaign in a Pakistani city on Tuesday after two young workers were shot as they administered drops. The victims of the shooting in the violence-plagued northwestern city of Peshawar were aged 18 and 20. Both have died, police said, but medical sources said one had died and one was seriously wounded, Reuters reported.


Russia grounds Mi-8 helicopter fleet after crash in Saratov

Russian Air Force Commander Lt. Gen. Viktor Bondarev has suspended all flights by Mil Mi-8 helicopters following Tuesday's crash. “The commander made such a decision pending an investigation into the crash of an Mi-8 helicopter in the Saratov region,” Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov told Interfax. One crewmember was killed and two other crewmen are in satisfactory condition, Itar-Tass quoted the spokesman as saying. The Mi-8 helicopter of the Syzran branch of the Gagarin and Zhukovsky Air Force Academy had reportedly started shaking violently and the blades of the main rotor hit the tail. It crashed near the village of Ivanovskoye, Saratov region, at around 08:00 GMT.


Japan to tighten nuke safety after accident at research facility

Tokyo pledged better safety practices for its nuclear industry Tuesday after an accident at a government research facility that exposed 33 people to minor excess radiation. The lack of “safety awareness and insufficient safety management systems apparently have invited the problem,” Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura, whose agency oversees such research, said. The government will set up a panel to discuss reform and safety compliance at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. The accident happened on Thursday at the Hadron Experimental Facility of the JAEA's Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex in Tokaimura, where at least two previous radiation accidents have occurred.


Pyongyang says South Koreans can re-enter joint Kaesong park

North Korea has said South Korean businessmen can enter a jointly-run industrial park in the North. The government agency in charge of relations with Seoul said on Tuesday Pyongyang is ready to talk about reopening the Kaesong complex if the business owners visit. South Korea’s Unification Ministry urged the North to have talks with the government not civilians. Kaesong is run with cheap North Korean labor and South Korean funds and knowhow. The North barred entry from the South in April and pulled some 50,000 workers.


Ferry capsizes in Malaysia’s Borneo

An overloaded ferry capsized Tuesday when it hit rocks in a remote river in Malaysia’s Borneo, leaving an unknown number of people missing, police said. There were dozens of survivors, including many who swam ashore. The vessel was believed to be carrying much more than its recommended limit of 74 passengers. Many were heading to their home villages for a harvest festival holiday that Borneo indigenous tribes celebrate later this week.


American fighter jet crashes off Japanese coast, pilot survives

An American F-15 fighter jet has crashed off Japan’s coast near Okinawa, ejecting one pilot safely and leaving no casualties, Japanese coast guard reports. The US military are still investigating what caused the crash of the flight that took off from Japan’s Kadena Air Base. A large part of the 47,000 American troops now in Japan are stationed in Okinawa. US military presence has often been blamed on excessive noise, pollution, crime levels and an increase in accidents.


Mali to hold presidential elections in July

The Malian government has set July 28 as the date for its upcoming presidential elections – AFP reports – while the smoke from France’s anti-extremist military operation there is still clearing and Islamist elements continue to wage war from desert hideouts. The campaign will start on Friday, July 7 at midnight, and finish the same time on July 26, according to the draft law. A runoff election, if needed, will be held on August 11, according to the document. This is the first such political process since a March 2012 coup that toppled the democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure, who had only had a few months left in his term before stepping down. The leaders of the coup claimed they acted in response to the government’s inability to contain the Tuareg rebellion taking place in the north, which had been on for two months at the time. The Tuaregs were eventually pushed aside by the Ansar Dine extremists, who took control of the desert region larger in size than France, and brought chaos.