Recently in International News Category

Typhoon in Philippines killed hundreds

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By Sarah Barchus

The death toll of a major out-of-season typhoon in the southern Philippines reached more than 270 Wednesday, officials said, the New York Times reported.

Typhoon Bopha, called Pablo in the Philippines, first hit the island of Mindanao on Tuesday, the most powerful typhoon to hit it in decades with winds of 175 kph, the Central News Network reported.

The storm raised the highest death toll on the region of Davao by causing violent floods that destroyed houses and carried away dozens of people, CNN reported.

Officials mandated early evacuation of communities in the typhoons path, the New York Times reported. However, the storm frustrated some of the authorities's efforts to get people to safety, CNN reported.

"In one case in Davao Oriental, the evacuation centers -- public buildings and schools -- were also victims of flash flooding," Camilo Gudmalin, assistant secretary at the Department of Social Welfare and Development, said. "And as a result, some people who were in an evacuation center died."

Rescue efforts are still underway, but roads blocked by landslides are restricting the rescuers's access, CNN reported.

More than 213,000 people were affected by the typhoon and about 170,000 people are in evacuation centers, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council's report, CNN reported.

The typhoon receded Wednesday, moving away from the outlying western island of Palawan, but its heavy rains are still affecting a large portion of the Islands, CNN reported.

Bopha brought back painful memories of the Severe Tropical Storm Washi, known in the Philippines as Sendong, which hit the Islands at the same time last year. At one point on Monday, Bopha's winds reached 240 kph in the open ocean--twice the speed of Sengong, CNN reported.


By Sarah Barchus

The Egyptian constitutional court postponed its ruling on the legitimacy of the constitutional assembly after Islamist protesters blocked the entrance to the courthouse on Sunday, the New York Times reported.

The court said in a statement that it will not hold any sessions until they can do so "without any psychological or physical pressures," the Cable News Network reported.

The court blamed the Islamists for using intimidation tactics but the Islamists said the court was just making excuses for not doing its job, the New York Times reported.

The draft was pushed through Friday by the constitutional assembly, which feared that the court might dissolve the assembly before it could finish the draft, the New York Times reported.

The postponing follows President Mohamed Morsy's power-grabbing edict, which put his law and the constitutional assembly out of the court's reaches until the new constitution was written, CNN reported.

Morsy announced a Dec. 15 constitutional referendum on Saturday and both protesters and supporters gathered in the streets to voice their opinions, CNN reported.

The constitution is "mixed" in the way it addresses human rights, according to a report from the international Human Rights Watch group, the New York Times reported. For example, the preamble says that women are equal to men, but it also emphasizes their role as mothers, CNN reported.

The constitution also contains a provision that would effectively serve to remove Judge Gebal, who is concerned by the rise of Islamists, who greatly support Morsy, from the bench, the New York Times reported.

President Morsy faces conflict over edict

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By Sarah Barchus

President Mohamed Morsy and members of Egypt's highest judicial body will meet Monday regarding Morsi's recent edict that limited judicial power, the Cable News Network reported.

The Supreme Judicial Counsel disapproved of Thursday's edict, which placed all created law from the time Morsy took office until the constitution is finished in six months beyond judicial review, CNN reported.

The edict also fired Egypt's prosecutor general, which Morsy's office "deemed necessary in order to hold accountable those responsible for the corruption as well as other crimes during the previous regime and the transitional period," CNN reported.

Government and party officials said Morsy's power claim was necessary to protect the writing of the constitution and that it would expire after the constitution is finished, the New York Times reported.

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki said that the edict's "means, the tools and the wording caused exactly the opposite of what was required," the New York Times reported.

Two of Morsy's advisers, Farouk Guweida and Samir Morcos have resigned in protest of the edict, CNN reported.

Thousands have protested Morsy's power move and some have vowed to occupy Tahrir Square, CNN reported.

The Muslim Brotherhood, supportive of Morsy, announced a "million man" demonstration in at Cairo's Abdeen Square. The demonstration is planned for Tuesday, when the opposition has planned a major protest, CNN reported.


By Sarah Barchus

The exhumation of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat's body began Tuesday as part of an investigation into his 2004 death, the Cable News Network reported.

The preparatory operation to remove Arafat from his glass and marble mausoleum in the compound in Ramallahis expected to take up to two weeks, as much of the stone removal is to be done by hand, The New York Times reported.

"It needs to be done meticulously and privately, out of respect for the late president and our religious traditions," an official said, who asked to remain anonymous because she isn't authorized to speak about the exhumation, The New York Times reported.

The exhumation was planned after Arafat's window, Suha Arafat, submitted a formal legal complaint under the suspicion that her husband was murdered, CNN reported.

Arafat became sick in October 2004 and was flown to a French military hospital for treatment. According to medical records he died there two weeks later at the age of 75 from stroke that resulted from a bleeding disorder caused by an infection, The New York Times reported.

Al Jazeera, the Arabic tv channel, reported that Arafat might have died from polonium poisoning, The New York Times reported.

Suha Arafat gave Al Jazeera Arafat's medical records and personal items, which Al Jazeera said they took to Europe for forensic testing, The New York Times reported.

University of Lausanne's Institute of Radiation Physics in Switzerland doctors said they found unusually high levels of polonium 210 and needed to do more testing to determine if it could have played a part Arafat's death, The New York Times reported.

French authorities opened a murder investigation of Arafat's death this year, CNN reported.

Suha Arafat said she asked for the exhumation so investigators could be "100% sure" that polonium was present at the time of Arafat's death, CNN reported.


BBC executives step aside after false sex abuse report

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By Sarah Barchus

The British Broadcasting Company's director and deputy director of news temporarily stepped aside from their positions the BBC said Monday, the Central News Network reported.

Helen Boaden and Steve Mitchell's "stepping aside" followed BBC Director General George Entwistle's resignation after the BBC's "Newsnight" program on Nov. 2 falsely implicated Alistair McAlpine, a Conservative Party politician, in allegations of sexual abuse at a children's home in North Wales in the 70s and 80s, The New York Times reported.

The BBC said it wanted "to make it absolutely clear that neither Helen Boaden nor Stephen Mitchell had anything at all to do with the false Newsnight report, The New York Times reported.

"Whilst recognizing this, the BBC believes there is a lack of clarity in the lines of command and control in BBC News as a result of some of those caught up in the ... review being unable to exercise their normal authority," the BBC said, CNN reported.

Fran Unsworth, head of news gathering, and Ceri Thomas, the editor of the "Today" current affairs radio program, will manage the executive's positions until the review is complete, The New York Times reported.

Lord Chris Patten, the chairman of the supervisory BBC Trust, said that the BBC is in need of a structural overhaul. Although the decisions around the Newsnight report showed ""unacceptably shoddy journalism," Patten urged readers to remember the BBC as a reliable news source, The New York Times reported.

"The BBC is and has been hugely respected around the world," Lord Patten said. "But we have to earn that. If the BBC loses that, then it is over," the New York Times reported.

Coptic Christians in Egypt choose new Pope

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By Sarah Barchus

A blindfolded boy chose the new leader for Egypt's Coptic Christians Sunday, the Cable News Network reported.

Bishoy Girgis Mosad, six, drew Bishop Tawadros's name from a glass bowl containing two other candidates a counsel of top church leaders had deemed uncontroversial, the New York Times reported.

Bishop Tawadros will become the church's 118th pope, replacing Pope Shenouda III who died in March of renal failure, CNN reported.

Bishop Tawadros said he would not involve himself politically like Pope Shenouda III, who supported President Hosni Mubarak in order to gain privileges for the congregation, the New York Times reported.

"The most important thing is for the church to go back and live consistently within the spiritual boundaries because this is its main work, spiritual work," Bishop Tawadros said, the New York Times reported.

Egypt's Christian population has been under attack in recent years, CNN reported. During Egypt's revolution last year, sectarian violence saw its bloodiest episode in half a century when police killed two dozen Coptic demonstrators during a protest, the New York Times reported.

Generals blamed the Maspero massacre on the Copts, adding to the Copts's fear of persecution by the Muslim majorities, the New York Times reported.

Coptic Christians make up about 9 percent of the Egyptian population, according to U.S. estimates, CNN reported.

Bishop Tawadros emphasized the importance of "living with our brothers, the Muslims." He said, "Integrating in the society is a fundamental scriptural Christian trait, " the New York Times reported.

Tarek Samir, a sales manager leaving the cathedral after the selection of Bishop Tawadros, said, "there are moderate Muslims who live the same life we do, who go to work with us, who live together with us, and if I am in trouble they will help me," the New York Times reported.

Intellectuals, activists, and churchgoers said in recent interviews that Christians will have to work with Muslims to promote nonsectarian citizenship, the New York Times reported.

Turkish police clash with Kurdish protesters

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By Sarah Barchus

Police used water cannons to control several thousand Kurdish protesters marching to a prison in southeastern Turkey Tuesday, the Star Tribune reported.

The Kiyarbakir prison is one of dozens where inmates linked to Kurdish rebels are on hunger strikes to protest the jail conditions of rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan and to demand more rights for Kurds, the Star Tribune reported.

The clash followed Monday's episode when Turkish riot police also fired water cannons and tear gas at opposition groups during a Republic Day rally, the Cable News Network reported.

The governor of Ankara banned the rally planned by groups unsupportive of Turkey's Islamist-rooted government. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People's Party, the largest opposition party in Turkey, and others marched on, CNN reported.

Kilicdaroglu addressed the gathering of several thousand, which was held a few minutes away from the Ankara fair grounds where the Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the government's traditional Republic Day parade, CNN reported.

Activists said that around noon, riot police started firing water cannons and tear gas at the crowd, CNN reported.

"This is the shameful face or our alleged democracy," Alper Kafa, an opposition party activist and general director of the Association of Public Conservatory Graduates said on the phone with CNN. "On the 89th anniversary of our great leader's foundation of the republic, in the place where he made the declaration, they used gas against the people. It is so very sad."

Prime Minister Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party won the parliamentary elections 10 years ago. Since then, Erodgan has expanded the economy and curbed the military's power over Turkish politics, but has been criticized for his authoritarian policies by human rights and freedom of expression groups, CNN reported.

"To ban even a small innocent rally. ... To think that any rally is essentially a hidden effort to overthrow the government, which is the paranoia in Ankara right now, points to an autocratic mindset," Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist with the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet, said, CNN reported.

Erdogan said the rebels, which Turkey and its Western allies view as terrorists, are using the hunger strikes as blackmail and that the government will not bow to it, the Star Tribune reported.


Syrian Government agrees to Cease-Fire

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By Sarah Barchus

The Syrian government agreed to a cease-fire during the upcoming Muslim holiday, U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria said Wednesday, ABC News reported.

Lakhdar Brahim said some rebels agreed to the 4-day cease-fire during the Eid al-Adha holiday, which starts Friday, ABC News reported. However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdessi said the General Command of the Army and the Syrian armed forces are still considering the effects of a cease-fire and will announce the final decision on Thursday, the Cable News Network reported.

After 19 months of violence and the massacre that the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said killed 16 Wednesday, opposition groups are skeptical that the government will follow through with the cease-fire, CNN reported.

"Based on our long experience in dealing with the Assad barbaric regime, we know that the Syrian government is just buying time and playing on words," spokesman for the Syrian National Council George Sabra said, CNN reported.

A cease-fire was central to the previous Syrian envoy and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's six-point plan for a peaceful transition. However, both sides violated the agreement and a truce was not made, ABC News reported.

"The whole world knows that the Syrian regime cannot be trusted and doesn't have any credibility in fulfilling any promise that they make to anyone. ... The crisis is too complicated in Syria, and the Assad regime is trying a diversion," Sabra said, CNN reported.

Sabra said the rebel Free Syrian Army will agree to the cease-fire if the "Syrian regime doesn't try to take advantage of the momentum so they can gain more territories and prepare to launch more attacks to kill our innocent civilians," CNN reported.

By Sarah Barchus

The Italian court a convicted six scientists of manslaughter on Monday for failing to predict the devastating earthquake that struck L'Aquila in 2009, the Cable News Network reported.

The six scientists from the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology and a member of the Civil Protection Agency are held responsible for the 300 deaths that resulted from the 6.3 magnitude earthquake. The scientists and the official face six years in prison if their appeals are denied, CNN reported.

After a series of small earthquakes and six days before the L'Aquila earthquake struck, the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks reassured Italian residents that a major earthquake was possible but not likely, ABC News reported. After the disaster, a group of the residents sued the scientists and the official for failing to warn them of the danger.

In order to support those on trial, 5,000 scientists from around the world signed a letter saying it is impossible to predict an earthquake and therefore the court was trying science, ABC News reported.
Luciano Maiani, a physicist and the chair of the High Risks Committee, said that the conviction was a mistake and the scientists are "are professionals who have spoken in good faith and were not driven by personal interests," ABC News reported.
"It is manifestly unfair for scientists to be criminally charged for failing to act on information that the international scientific community would consider inadequate as a basis for issuing a warning," the ABC News reported the letter said.

Aldo Scimia, whose mother was killed in the earthquake, said the State failed its main duty to provide security, ABC News reported.

David Oglesby, an associate professor at the earth sciences faculty of the University of California, Riverside, said he understands the frustration people feel toward events outside their control and the grief they feel over lost loved ones, CNN reported. But "convicting honest scientists of manslaughter does nothing to help this situation, and may well put a chill on exactly the kind of science that could save lives in the future," CNN reported Oglesby said.

The convicted will remain free during the appeal process, CNN reported.

Radovan Karadzic begins war crime defense

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By Sarah Barchus

Radovan Karadzic, former Bosnian Serb leader, began his defense Tuesday against war crime charges for his actions during the Balkan wars, ABC News reported.

Karadzic's trial is held at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia at The Hague in the Netherlands, the Cable News Network reported. Karadzic is accused of "ethnically cleansing" regions claimed to be Serbian of Muslims and Croatians, CNN reported. He will also defend himself against charges of annihilating 7,000 Muslims in a camp at Srebrenica and killing 12,000 civilians during the siege of Sarajevo, ABC News reported.

The early 1900s split of multiethnic communist Yugoslavia led to one of the grisliest conflict in Europe since WWII. ICTY head of communications, Nerma Jelacic,, said an estimated 140,000 people died in the wars, CNN reported.
At court, Karadzic said the media invented charges against him and that the number of reported victims were three to four time too high, ABC News reported.
Karadzic said his ethnic rivals plotted the violence but he "did everything within human power to avoid the war and to reduce the human suffering of all civilians," CNN reported.
"I should have been rewarded for all the good things that I've done," Karadzic said, CNN reported.
Karadzic was indicted in 1995. In 2008 he was captured in Belgrade, Serbia, after disguising himself and practicing alternative medicine in the Serbian capital for over a decade, CNN reported.
The presiding judge O-Gon Kwon of Korea has granted Karadzic 300 hours to defend himself during which time Karadzic plans to call 300 witnesses, ABC News reported.
The Karadzic gave his opening statements in March 2010, and the trial is expected to end in 2014, CNN reported.

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