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11 December, 2013


Heavy Rain sparks state of emergency in Rio

Torrential rains caused floods and landslides in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday, leaving one person missing and another hospitalized in Rio de Janeiro. Residents of 43 favelas or slums have been urged to leave their precariously built homes as a precaution. A man has been reported missing in Realengo in the northern part of the state, where up to 18.8 cm of rain has fallen, fire brigade colonel, Sergio Simoes, told broadcaster TV Globo news. Another person has been admitted to hospital in Realengo and firefighters are working to reach a person trapped in a landslide.


Russian Railways open first duty free shop

The first duty free shop in the history of Russian railways was opened at Zabaikalsk station on the border with China, Itar-Tass reported. The shop is intended for passengers on the Moscow-Beijing and China-Manchuria (China) routes. Russian Railways also plan to open duty free shops at Finlyandsky station in St. Petersburg and a station in Vyborg in north-western Russia.


‘Productive talks’ between Iran, IAEA as new meeting scheduled for Jan. 21

The UN nuclear agency and Tehran held a “productive” meeting over Tehran's nuclear activities on Wednesday, they said in a joint statement. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iranian officials will hold a new round of talks in Tehran on January 21, Reuters reported.


Desmond Tutu's house burgled as he delivers prayer at Mandela's memorial

The former Archbishop of Cape Town, Desmond Tutu, was burgled while he was paying tribute to Nelson Mandela at Tuesday’s memorial service, the Daily Mail reported. The thieves targeted his home in the suburbs of Cape Town when he was more than 800 miles away at the ceremony in Johannesburg. It is the second time in three months that the anti-apartheid icon has been the victim of burglars, according to the paper.


Auditors urge EU to stop paying Gaza officials who ‘do not work’

European auditors have urged the EU to stop funding Palestinian civil servants in the Gaza Strip because money is allegedly going to officials who do not work. The EU is the biggest aid donor to the Palestinian territories, and European taxpayers pay a fifth of the salaries of teachers, doctors and bureaucrats in Gaza, Reuters reported. The coastal territory has been governed by the Islamist group, Hamas, since 2007. Following an investigation, the European Court of Auditors has found that large numbers of recipients are providing no public services.


Attempts to disrupt Geneva-2 violate will of world community – Lavrov

The attempts to upset a Geneva-2 conference are a blatant violation of the will of the world community, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday. Asked about reported Saudi Arabia's intention to boycott the conference on Syria, if President Bashar Assad runs in the elections, the minister said that he was “unaware of this statement by representatives of Saudi Arabia,” Itar-Tass reported. The initiative of the conference was supported by UN Security Council Resolution 2118 and “under the UN Charter is compulsory for the fulfillment by all UN states," Lavrov said in Tehran. “Someone finds it more productive and quicker to settle the problem… through a foreign intervention, but I did not receive any confirmation to these words,” he added.


Tehran to set date for IAEA inspection of uranium mine

Iran will set a date for a UN nuclear inspection of a uranium mine, said Reza Najafi, the Iranian envoy to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Under a deal signed last month to help allay international concern about its nuclear program, Iran would provide "managed access" to the Gchine mine by early February for the first time in some eight years. The inspection of the mine near the Gulf port of Bandar Abbas would allow the IAEA to know the amount of natural uranium mined there, Reuters reported. A meeting with the IAEA on Wednesday would also discuss practical measures under the next phase of the cooperation deal, Najafi said.


4 Thai soldiers killed by roadside bomb

Four Thai soldiers were killed when a powerful roadside bomb went off on Wednesday in Thailand's unrest-plagued south, police said. Twelve other soldiers were wounded and six of them remain in a critical condition, AFP reported. The 50kg bomb, hidden in a gas canister, was detonated by a mobile phone device at around midday as an army truck approached. Police in nearby Yala province said two Muslim villagers had been shot dead on Tuesday.


Several injured as crane collapses on supermarket in Western Germany

A crane has collapsed on a supermarket in Western Germany, injuring several people, police said on Wednesday. Part of the building in Bad Homburg, a town near Frankfurt, collapsed following the impact, dpa news agency reported.


Thai PM rejects calls to resign before February elections

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has refused opposition calls to resign before snap elections she had scheduled on February 2. “I would like the protesters to stop and to use the electoral system to choose who will become the next government,” she told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. She has not yet discussed with party colleagues whether she would run in the election, media reports say. The premier also rejected protesters' calls that her family be removed from Thai politics.


Woman wins case as UK Supreme Court says Scientology is religion

Louisa Hodkin who wants to get married at the Church of Scientology in London won her case on Wednesday at Britain's Supreme Court. It ruled that Scientology is a religion and the chapel is legally a place of meeting for religious worship, Reuters reported. Officials earlier refused to record a chapel of the Church of Scientology as a place that could be used for marriages. They cited a court ruling from 1970 that said Scientology did not involve religious worship. The Supreme Court justices said, however, that the 1970 ruling was out of date. “Religion should not be confined to religions which recognize a supreme deity,” wrote Lord Toulson, giving the judgment.


Amnesty urges Australia to review asylum laws

Rights group Amnesty International has urged Australia to review its asylum seeker policies and end offshore detention, Reuters said. Amnesty said in a report it had found “debilitating and humiliating conditions” at processing centers. Some 1,100 male asylum seekers now detained on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea are living in squalid 'prison-like' conditions, according to the group. Prime Minister Tony Abbott's Liberal-led coalition won power in September partly on the back of a tough campaign against asylum seekers.


US suspends non-lethal assistance into northern Syria

The US has suspended all non-lethal assistance into northern Syria, an embassy spokesperson said. The move came after Islamic Front forces seized headquarters and warehouses belonging to the opposition's Supreme Military Council, Reuters reported. The spokesperson added that humanitarian assistance was not impacted because it is distributed through international and non-governmental organizations.


19 Lord's Resistance Army rebels captured in Uganda

Uganda troops have captured 19 Lord's Resistance Army rebels in the Central African Republic (CAR), the African Union said. The Ugandan army is leading a US-backed African Union force, tasked with capturing the LRA's leaders, several of whom are wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The “19 members of the LRA belonging to the group commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Obur Nyeko, alias Okuti, defected and reported to a detachment of the Ugandan contingent,” on December 6, the AU said, as cited by AFP. The UN Security Council earlier expressed concern that chaos in CAR could disrupt the hunt for LRA rebel chief, Joseph Kony, who is blamed for 100,000 deaths.


Myanmar authorities free 44 political prisoners

Myanmar on Wednesday freed 44 political detainees, AFP reported, citing a presidential adviser. “In total 44 political prisoners have been released around the country today,” Hla Maung Shwe said. This was the latest in a series of prisoner amnesties by the country's reformist regime. President Thein Sein has pledged to release all political prisoners by the end of the year.


Czech parties to form center-left govt

The Czech Republic's Social Democrats have reached a coalition deal with two other parties to help clear the way for a center-left government to take power, Reuters reported. The leftist Social Democrats won an October parliamentary election by a slim margin. They are set to return to government for the first time since 2006 in a coalition with the centrist ANO movement and the Christian Democrats. The parties agreed late on Tuesday to leave taxes on companies and high earners unchanged next year. ANO, founded by billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, opposed to higher taxes.


Bangladesh halts execution of opposition leader convicted of war crimes

Lawyers for Abdul Quader Mollah, who was convicted of war crimes and was due to be executed early Wednesday, went to the home of Judge Syed Mahmud Hossain and secured a postponement. The lawyers now are trying to convince the Supreme Court to throw out the sentence, AP reported. The stay of execution gave them time to file the petition which the Supreme Court's Appellate Division was reviewing Wednesday. Mollah's Jamaat-e-Islami party issued a statement warning of "dire consequences" if he was executed. The execution would be the first from special trials begun in 2010 for suspects accused of crimes during the nation's war of independence against Pakistan in 1971.


Suicide bomber strike near Kabul International Airport

A suicide bomber has attacked foreign troops near the Afghan capital’s international airport, military officials report. The attacker was killed but no other casualties have been reported yet. The airport houses the ISAF Command which is charged with the day-to-day management of the US-led alliance force in Afghanistan.


Dalai Lama will miss Mandela service due to ‘logistical’ problems

The Dalai Lama will not join other world leaders at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa. A spokesman did not provide specific details, only saying “logistically it’s impossible at this time.” However, it is known that the Buddhist leader has twice failed to obtain a visa in recent years. The Dalai Lama traveled to visit his fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate in 1996 when Mandela was South Africa’s first black president. He also tried to visit Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2011 but a South African court later revealed that China pressured the country to delay the visa process until the Dalai Lama withdrew his application.