Chavez wins Venezuelan reelection

•October 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Venezuela’s electoral council says President Hugo Chavez has won re-election, defeating challenger Henrique Capriles.

National Electoral Council president Tibisay Lucena says that with most votes counted, Chavez had about 54 percent of the vote.

It was Chavez’s third re-election victory in nearly 14 years in office. The victory gives Chavez another six-year term to cement his legacy and press more forcefully for a transition to socialism in the country with the world’s largest proven oil reserves.

Brandishing a replica of the sword of independence, Chavez pledged Venezuela would continue its “march towards democratic socialism” and he vowed to be a “better president”.

The United States, which has had strained relations with Chavez, congratulated Venezuela for a high turnout and generally peaceful voting, but said the opposition should also be heard.

“We believe that the views of the more than 6 million people who voted for the opposition should be taken into account going forward,” said state department spokesman William Ostick.

At the Capriles campaign headquarters, opponent Henrique Capriles congratulated Chavez but told opposition supporters not to feel defeated. “I want to congratulate the candidate, the president of the republic,” he said at his campaign headquarters. “We have planted many seeds across Venezuela and I know that these seeds are going to produce many trees. I will continue working to build one country”.

Joran Van der Sloot impregnates woman while in jail

•October 8, 2012 • Leave a Comment

A newspaper said Monday that Joran van der Sloot, a Dutch man who is serving a 28-year-sentence for murdering Peruvian woman Stephany Flores, has impregnated a woman while imprisoned in Lima, Peru. Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf cited Van der Sloot’s lawyer Maximo Altez as saying the pregnancy is past its third month, and Van der Sloot himself as having confirmed the news in a telephone call on Saturday.

The woman, identified by the paper as “Leidi,” was said to have become pregnant during an unsupervised visit with Van der Sloot. It was not clear whether that is allowed or possible under Peruvian prison rules. Peruvian media identified a woman named Leydi Figueroa Uceda as Van der Sloot’s girlfriend last year.

Van der Sloot is a self-described liar, having repeatedly confessed to killing U.S. teenager Natalee Holloway, who disappeared in 2005, and later retracting the confessions. He is the last person known to have seen her alive.

He is wanted by authorities in the U.S. for allegedly extorting money from the Holloway family on the promise of revealing the location of her body. Van der Sloot could resist extradition to the United States, where is wanted in the Holloway case, if he obtains Peruvian nationality. That would be a possibility if he becomes the father of a Peruvian child or if he marries a Peruvian citizen.

Smoked salmon causes salmonella outbreak

•October 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

A number of people in the Netherlands and the US have caught salmonella after eating Dutch smoked salmon, say Dutch health authorities. About 200 people have fallen ill in the Netherlands along with about 100 people in the US, according to the National Institute for Public Health.

Smoked salmon produced by Foppen has been taken off the shelves in the Netherlands, and an international recall targeting salmon sold in the US is being prepared. In a statement on its website, Foppen offered its “sincere apologies for any inconvenience”.

The salmonella infection normally causes diarrhea, abdominal cramps and sometimes fever and vomiting. The symptoms usually clear up in four to seven days, but in some cases treatment may be required for dehydration.

Half of Great Barrier Reef coral lost in last 27 years

•October 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half its coral cover in the past 27 years, a new study shows. Researchers analyzed data on the condition of 217 individual reefs that make up the World Heritage Site.

The results show that coral cover declined from 28.0% to 13.8% between 1985 and 2012. They attribute the decline to storms, a coral-feeding starfish and bleaching linked to climate change. The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) determined that tropical cyclones – 34 in total since 1985 – were responsible for 48% of the damage, while outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown-of-thorns sea star accounted for 42%.

Two severe coral bleaching events in 1998 and 2002, caused by ocean warming, also had “major detrimental impacts” on the central and northern parts of the reef, the study found, putting the impact at 10%. “This loss of over half of initial cover is of great concern, signifying habitat loss for the tens of thousands of species associated with tropical coral reefs,” the authors wrote in their study. They added that improving water quality was imperative to controlling sea star outbreaks.

Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili admits election loss

•October 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

President Mikheil Saakashvili has admitted his party has lost Georgia’s parliamentary election, in a live TV announcement. He said the Georgian Dream bloc of his main rival, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, had won Monday’s election.

Victory for Ivanishvili means the first democratic transfer of power in Georgia’s post-Soviet history. Saakashvili, who has led the country since 2003, is due to remain in power until presidential elections next year. Under agreed reforms, the parliament and prime minister will acquire greater powers than the president after that election.

In his TV address, Saakashvili said he would respect the Georgian people’s decision, and his United National Movement would become “an opposition force”. He went on to say “It’s clear from the preliminary results that the opposition has the lead and it should form the government – and I as president should help them with this.”

But in a later news briefing, Ivanishvili called on Saakashvili to admit he would not be able to retain power, to resign and call a snap presidential election.

Students killed by gunmen in Nigeria

•October 2, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Around 25 people, mostly students, have been killed by unknown gunmen in Mubi, Nigeria, police say.

Police spokesman Mohammed Ibrahim said that 22 were students, whom the attackers had called out by name. A local resident claimed at least 40 people had been shot dead or stabbed.

The killings come days after a major operation against the Boko Haram militant group in the town, while others have linked them to a dispute over student union elections.

Ibrahim said two of the dead were security guards and the other an elderly resident.

A resident, who did not want his name to be used, told the BBC that men in military uniform went to a hall of residence away from the Federal Polytechnic Mubi campus just before midnight, got the students out of their rooms and ordered them to say their names.

Some of the victims were shot dead and others stabbed with knives, and their bodies left in lines outside the buildings. It is not clear why some were killed and others spared as some of the dead were Muslims and others Christian.

The authorities have imposed an indefinite curfew in the town and ordered residents to stay indoors while the university has been temporarily closed.

Austerity measures cause clashes in Greece

•September 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Greek police have fired tear gas to disperse anarchists throwing gas bombs near Athens’ parliament on a day-long strike against austerity measures. Clashes erupted during the first trade union-led action since a conservative-led coalition came to power in June.

The protest is against planned spending cuts of 11.5 billion Euros ($15 billion). The savings are a precondition to Greece receiving its next round of bailout funds, without which the country could face bankruptcy in weeks. march past parliament turned violent as anarchists wearing black masks and carrying sticks threw gas bombs and broken pieces of concrete at riot police on Syntagma Square. Wednesday’s strike has brought the whole country to a standstill with doctors, teachers, tax workers, ferry operators and air traffic controllers all joining the protest. An estimated 50,000 people have joined the protests.

Greece needs the next 31 billion Euro installment of its international bailout, but with record unemployment and a third of Greeks pushed below the poverty line, there is strong resistance to further cuts.

The government of conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras is proposing to save money by reducing pensions and raising the retirement age to 67. It has also urged the triumvirate representing Greece’s lenders – the European Commission, the European Central Bank (ECB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – to give it an extra two years to push the austerity program through.

Banks and historic sites in Athens remained closed on Wednesday, with many shopkeepers expected to close up early so they could attend demonstrations. Schools and government services were also closing down, though buses were still running, reportedly to help carry people to the protests. The strike was called by the country’s two biggest unions, which between them represent half the workforce. A survey conducted by the MRB polling agency last week found that more than 90 percent of Greeks believed the planned cuts were unfair and a burden on the poor.

Greece is currently trying to qualify for the next installment of its 130bn-euro bailout, which is backed by the IMF and the other 16 euro nations. Greece was given a 110bn-euro package in May 2010 and a further 130bn Euros in October 2011. That money is paid in installments, but the lenders are reluctant to pay out the latest amount as they feel Greece has not made enough effort to meet its deficit-reduction targets.

Greece needs the new money to make repayments on its debt burden. A default could result in the country leaving the Euro.

Rebels attack Syrian army headquarters

•September 26, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Rebels have targeted Syria’s army headquarters with two large bomb blasts in the center of Damascus, damaging the main building of the General Staff.

The rebel Free Syrian Army said it had carried out the attack and claimed dozens had been killed. However, the army said no personnel had died. Syrian state TV quoted a military source saying no senior personnel were harmed by the explosions, but some of the building’s guards were wounded.

For hours, gunfire echoed around the city after the bombings as rebels fought with soldiers at the compound.

The blasts happened just before 7:00 a.m. local time (12:00 a.m. EST) in an area dominated by government buildings.

Diplomats living close to the area said the blasts were the biggest they had heard for months and buildings more than half a mile away shook violently under the force of the explosions.

The attack comes days after the Free Syrian Army announced it had moved its command from Turkey to Syria in an apparent attempt to bolster its fight against regime forces.

Myspace introduces new rebrandning strategy

•September 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Social network Myspace, formerly styled as “MySpace” has announced its fourth major redesign as it seeks to regain relevance in the world of social media.

The site, now part-owned by singer/actor Justin Timberlake, aims to focus more on music and offer deeper integration with Facebook and Twitter.

A message on the website announced the redesign stating “We’re hard at work building the new Myspace, entirely from scratch. But we’re staying true to our roots in one important way – empowering people to express themselves however they want.”

The new-look Myspace says it aims to put music at the heart. Users can control audio content from a navigation panel and pair photograph albums with playlists in a social media mix tape.

A “Discover” tab within the navigation panel will offer access to trending artists, music, mixes, radio, videos, news, and upcoming concerts. There is also an emphasis on what’s called Artist Pages, with the promise of lots of tracks, albums and videos.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp paid $580 million for Myspace in 2005, but users and advertisers left the site for rival social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Following the 2005 purchase, the site rebranded itself as “social entertainment site”. However, in June 2011, News Corp sold Myspace to online advertiser Specific Media at a loss. Following the sale, another rebrand claimed Myspace would become “the number one online community music destination”.

Eight-day-old panda dies at National Zoo

•September 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

An eight-day-old giant panda cub has died at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington with the cause of its death not immediately apparent.

Zoo staff was alerted to the cub’s condition after its mother, Mei Xiang, was heard making sounds of distress. The tiny cub was removed from the panda enclosure but attempts to revive it proved unsuccessful.

In a statement, the zoo said: “We are brokenhearted to share that we have lost our little giant panda cub. Panda keepers and volunteers heard Mei Xiang make a distress vocalization at 9:17 a.m. and let the veterinarian staff know immediately. They were able to safely retrieve the cub for an evaluation at 10:22 a.m., which we only do in situations of gravest concern. The veterinarians immediately performed CPR and other life-saving measures, but sadly the cub was unresponsive.”

The zoo said the cub weighed just under 3.5 ounces and that there were no obvious signs of injury or infection. A necropsy showed the cub had liver problems and fluid in its abdomen, but it’s too early to say if that contributed to the death, according to the zoo’s chief veterinarian, Suzan Murray. Final tests results won’t be available for two weeks.

Fourteen-year-old Mei Xiang had five failed pregnancies before giving birth to the cub, which was conceived by artificial insemination after she and the zoo’s male, Tian Tian, failed to mate.

There are an estimated 1,400 to 1,600 pandas living in the wild in China and approximately 350 additional pandas in captive breeding programs in China and around the world.