News Notes June 22, 2013

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Turkey arrests 23 more over anti-government protests

Turkish authorities arrested 23 more people on Saturday over their alleged role in this month’s anti-govt protests, accusing them of acting on behalf of a far-left “terrorist” group, a news report said.

A court in the capital accused them of helping to organise the protests and engaging in violence in the name of the Communist Marxist-Leninist Party (MLKP), CNN-Turk said on its website.
Another three were released but placed under judicial supervision, the report said.
Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the operation had been planned for about a year against the “terrorist” (MLKP), but that the suspects were also implicated in the protests, the most violent since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted government came to power in 2002.
Prosecutors could not immediately confirm the arrests, which follow a sweep last Tuesday against far-left groups in Ankara and Istanbul and bring to at least 47 those detained over the protests that grew from a peaceful demonstration on May 28.
In Istanbul, 18 members of the small far-left Socialist Party of the Oppressed (ESP) were detained in the same operation on Friday and held for “belonging to a terrorist organisation” and “destroying public property”.
On Tuesday police had arrested dozens of ESP members and searched the offices of the Atilim newspaper and the Etkin news agency, both tied to the group.
What began as a peaceful protest against plans to demolish Istanbul’s Gezi Park, one of the city’s last large green spots, turned violent on May 31 when police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse demonstrators.
Police moved in on June 15 to evacuate Gezi Park, the last stronghold of the anti-government protesters after a series of police crackdowns.


President Dilma Rousseff promises to protesters 

 

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has ended her near-silence about days of massive, violent protests, saying that peaceful demonstrations were part of a strong democracy but that violence could not be tolerated.  

 
She promised to improve public services and hold a dialogue with protest leaders. But it remained unclear exactly who could represent the massive and decentralised groups of demonstrators taking to the streets, venting anger against woeful public services despite a high tax burden.
 
 
“I’m going to meet with the leaders of the peaceful protests, I want institutions that are more transparent, more resistant to wrongdoing,” Rousseff said on Friday in reference to perceptions of deep corruption in Brazilian politics, which is emerging as a focal point of the protests.
 
 
“It’s citizenship and not economic power that must be heard first,” she added
 
 
Though offering no details, Rousseff said that her government would create a national plan for public transportation in cities – a hike in bus and subway fares in many cities was the original complaint of the protests.
 
 

She also reiterated her backing for a plan before congress to invest all oil revenue royalties in education and a promise she made earlier to bring in foreign doctors to areas that lack physicians.

 

Opposition needs more support to end Syria ‘imbalance’ – Kerry

 
US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the backers of the Syrian opposition to step up military and other aid to restore parity in the country’s civil war as forces supporting President Bashar Assad advance on the rebels. During a conference of foreign ministers in Qatar, he confirmed that the Obama administration is committed to a peace plan, which includes a conference in Geneva and a transitional government picked both by Assad and the opposition, AFP reports. Kerry stressed that the rebels need more support “for the purpose of being able to get to Geneva and to be able to address the imbalance on the ground.” He also accused Assad of an “internationalization” of the conflict, which has claimed nearly 100,000 lives by involving support from Iran and the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah.
 
 

Seven die, 30 injured in Brazil bus crash

 
Seven people have died and 30 sustained injuries after a bus crashed in the city of Ceara in northeastern Brazil. The investigation has indicated that the driver fell asleep during the overnight trip.
 
 

Texas-based airline cancels 57 flights

 
A computer system failure led Southwest Airlines to ground its entire fleet of planes late on Friday due to a computer glitch, with a further 57 services cancelled on Saturday even after the problem had been resolved. 14 had been scheduled for Saturday morning, but crews had been unable to reach to their respective airports in time.  250 flights in total were grounded temporarily as a result of the glitch; those already in the air were not impacted by the system failure. The problems prevented the airline from checking passengers in, printing boarding passes, and monitoring aircraft weight.
 
 

Over 20 injured in train car crash in Germany

 
More than 20 were injured in a car incident in the German city of Bad Laasphe on Saturday. According to police, a train crashed into a truck as it was crossing the line. Police said that there is a traffic light but no barrier at the crossing. The train and truck drivers were seriously injured.
 
 

Arming rebels only way to peace in Syria – Qatar

 
The only way to achieve peace in Syria is to provide more weapons to the rebel forces fighting the government of President Bashar Assad, said Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani. “Force is necessary to achieve justice. And the provision of weapons is the only way to achieve peace in Syria’s case,” he told visitors of the “Friends of Syria” conference in Doha. Qatar is among the most vocal supporters of the Syrian rebels, and has been arming them since the early months of the conflict.
 
 

Nine killed in Iraq attacks

 
Separate attacks killed nine Iraqis on Saturday, sparking fears of a return to full-scale sectarian war in the country, which has seen months of protests by its Sunni minority. The deadliest attack took place in al-Athba village near the northern city of Mosul. A suicide bomber rammed his car into a police patrol, killing three civilian bystanders and one police officer and wounding six other people, AP reports, citing local police. In the in the ethnically-diverse town of Tuz Khurmatu, gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on a civilian vehicle carrying four off-duty policemen, killing three and wounding the fourth. Another group of militants attacked a police checkpoint in the city of Samarra, killing two police officers and wounding four.
 
 

5 dead in latest Mumbai building collapse

 
A four-story building collapsed on Saturday in Mumbai, India’s financial capital, killing five people. The tragedy, the second such incident in as many days, highlights poor construction practices widespread in the country, AFP reported. The dilapidated building, located in a market area in suburban Dahisar, was vacated two years ago but local vendors continued to use it as a night shelter, officials said. Rescue workers continue to clear the debris and search for survivors.
 
 

UNESCO grants World Heritage status to Mount Fuji

 
Japan’s Mount Fuji, known for its cone-shaped volcano, has been granted World Heritage status, UNESCO said on Saturday. It is the highest mountain in Japan at 3,776 meters, and is one of the most recognizable sights in the country. Located 100 kilometers southwest of the capital Tokyo, it last erupted around 300 years ago. It is the seventeenth site in Japan to be inscribed by UNESCO.
 
 200 injured in huge Samara region explosion
 
 
More than 200 people sought medical help after explosions ripped through a munitions depot – where up to 13 million shells were stored – in Russia’s Samara region. Previous reports said that 50 people were injured. RUB43 million (approximately US$1.3 million) has been allocated as assistance to those affected by the blasts. The first explosion was heard on Tuesday, and they continued until Friday, prompting more than 6,000 residents to be evacuated from the town of Chapayevsk.
 
 
 

Hamas executes two Palestinians for spying for Israel

 
Hamas says that it has hanged two Palestinians who were found guilty of spying for Israel. The movement said that the convicts had been giving Intel to Tel Aviv for over a decade. Hamas has executed 16 Palestinians on espionage charges since taking control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. The latest executions were the first since April, when Hamas announced a month-long amnesty for informants.
 
 

No decision yet on UK arming Syrian rebels – Hague

 
The British government has not yet taken a decision on providing weapons to Syrian rebels, said Foreign Secretary William Hague. “In the end, there is only a political solution for the conflict. We want to see a successful conference in Geneva,” he added, speaking about the US-Russian proposal for a peace conference. Hague was speaking ahead of a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Qatar

 Nuclear reduction possible with all possessing countries involved – Russia

 
Russia would discuss further strategic nuclear arms reduction if all countries possessing nuclear weapons were involved, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. He added that this includes not only the five members of the “nuclear club”, but all nations with the nuclear capability. The comment came after US President Barack Obama suggested that Russia and the US scrap one third of their strategic nuclear arsenals and possibly dismantle tactical nuclear weapons. The US, Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea officially have atomic weapons at the moment, and Israel is widely believed to have a secret nuclear arsenal.
 
 

US envoy arrives in Qatar for Taliban talks

 
US special representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins has arrived in Qatar’s capital Doha, where the Taliban opened a political office earlier this week, sparking outrage from the Afghan government. US Secretary of State John Kerry is also in Qatar, where he is to meet local officials and members of the “Friends of Syria” international conference. The State Department gave no timeline for Dobbins’s meeting with the Taliban representatives, and insists that Kerry will not meet with them.
 
 

At least 600 killed, thousands missing after India monsoon

 
Monsoon rains have triggered flash floods and landslides in northern India, killing at least 600 people and leaving tens of thousands missing, officials have said. The death toll is expected to rise. Many of the missing are pilgrims who were at the Ganges river, which is considered sacred by Hindus, when the disaster struck. Thousands of troops have been deployed to assist the rescue operations, and the air force has dispatched helicopters to pick up survivors. Officials say about 33,000 people have been rescued from the area.
 
 

More than 200 treated after Russia arsenal explosions

 
 
Russian doctors have treated more than 200 people following explosions at an arsenal in Russia’s Samara Region on Tuesday, where up to 13 million shells were stored, the Emergency Situations Ministry has reported. New statistics were released by the ministry on Saturday after it compiled new data from mobile emergency clinics set up in the wake of the disaster. “The victims of the blast have received a total of US$1.3 million”,Interfax quotes the ministry as saying. More than 1,500 firefighters were deployed to combat the blaze, which killed one person and forced thousands to flee. A total of 1,100 tons of water was used to fight the blaze, the ministry said.
 
 
 

Woman killed as storms hit South Dakota

 
 
Multiple tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, and hail moved across South Dakota, US, killing one woman and leaving thousands of residents without power. The 63-year-old woman was killed in her trailer parked by a lake, with the storm lifting the vehicle then dropping it to the ground. The woman was sheltering in the trailer’s bath at the time, AP reports. Two people have been injured in the storms, while a total of about 6,000 residents remained without power as of Friday evening, said Hamlin County Sheriff Chad Schlotterbeck.

Computer glitch grounds all Southwest Airlines flights

 
 
Southwest Airlines grounded all of it flights on Friday night due to a failure of computer system that dispatches flights. “A system outage has caused us to hold departing flights. Flights in the air are not affected by this. All hands on deck to resolve,” airline officials Tweeted. The system went down at around 04:00 GMT. The glitch has mainly affected the west coast due to the time when it occurred. Some passengers on aircraft that had departed from their gates were forced to sit for an hour before they were allowed to deplane, NBC quotes witnesses as saying. Southwest Airlines is one of the largest operators worldwide, with 550 aircraft in service as of August 2012.
 
 
 

FBI monitored ‘Mexico’s most celebrated novelist’ for decades

 
Newly unveiled documents reveal that the FBI spent two decades monitoring Mexican author Carlos Fuentes, fearing he was a Communist sympathetic to Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Dubbed “Mexico’s most celebrated novelist” by The Guardian, the documents reveal Fuentes was denied an entry visa to the US at least twice in the 1960s. The FBI’s stance softened over time, though, as an internal memo from 1985 mentions his authorial status. Fuentes would eventually go on to teach at Harvard University before passing away in 2012 at age 83.
 
 

Microsoft ‘Project Mountain’ to expand Iowa data center

 
Microsoft has proposed the construction of a $700 million data center in Des Moines, Iowa. Dubbed “Project Mountain,” the building will expand Microsoft’s existing Iowa presence from 50 jobs to roughly 74. The Iowa Development Authority board also approved a $20 million tax credit for for the tech corporation, which will now have invested more than $1 billion in the region. Des Moines is quickly becoming a hot spot for tech companies, offering cheap real estate and low energy costs. Facebook and Google currently have their own data centers in the area. 
Media agencies

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