At least 5 killed in suicide bomb attack in AfghanistanA suicide bomber detonated explosives near a police checkpoint and a bank in southern Afghanistan on Saturday morning, killing at least five people, officials said. Most of the victims were civilians. The bank building was badly damaged, AP reported, adding that no group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban fighters have recently escalated their activity as US-led foreign forces cut their presence in the country, with primary responsibility for security now handed over to Afghan troops.
15 killed in liquid ammonia leak in Shanghai, over 30 hospitalizedAt least 15 people died Saturday after liquid ammonia lead at a refrigeration unit in a factory in Shanghai, China’s Xinhua reports. Over 30 people were hospitalized, six of them in critical condition, the Shanghai regional government said. The incident occurred in the city's northern district of Baoshan, at a cold storage unit owned by a seafood company. It is not clear yet whether the company's workers or people living in the urban area nearby have also been affected.
Building at N. Korean missile launch site – US instituteSatellites show that building work has begun in North Korea at the site where the country fired a long-range rocket in December, AFP reported a US research institute as saying. The construction appears to be for a new launch pad for testing ballistic missiles, the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said on its 38 North website. “One possible explanation is that Pyongyang is building a 'flat launch pad', a large concrete area that would be used to test mobile ballistic missiles fired from a transporter-erecter launcher," the website said, adding that "rockets fired from this location... could travel over 4,000 kilometers [2,500 miles] before encountering a foreign land mass. This would allow full tests of North Korea's Musudan rocket." International criticism has backed North Korea into a corner with its missile program, but the country maintains that continuing down this path is the only way to an effective nuclear deterrent. December’s rocket launch and February’s nuclear test coincided with a rise in regional tensions, resulting in Pyongyang admitting to being able to fire a nuclear missile as far as the US West Coast. North Korea claims that its aims are peaceful and scientific, and that it is merely defending its rights as a sovereign state.
Three people killed as 5.9-magnitude earthquake hits southwest ChinaA 5.9-magnitude earthquake has killed at least three people and left several more injured in southwest China as homes for 22 families collapsed. The earthquake shook several counties in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces, including in Shangri-La County. Seventeen tourists have been reported trapped on a highway in Shangri-La as falling rocks hit a tour bus. Earthquakes are common in China's mountainous areas. In July an earthquake that hit China's northwest Gansu Province killed 94 people and injured more than 1,000. In April, a quake in Sichuan Province killed 193 people.
India to deliver first verdict in gang rape and murder caseA New Delhi court is finally set to hand down its first verdict in the trial over the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old female student, who was assaulted with an iron bar on a public bus in the city in December. A juvenile court has delayed announcing the verdict four times since wrapping up the case against the teenage man charged over the brutal attack. Six men were initially arrested over the attack, in which the young woman died from internal injuries. The man, who was 17 at the time, faces a maximum of three years in prison if found guilty. The trial of four other adult suspects continues, with the men facing possible death sentences if convicted.
US cyber-operations regime more aggressiveUS intelligence agencies executed 231 cyber-operations in 2011, The Washington Post reported in detailing a more aggressive, expanding cyber-attack architecture than was previously known. In addition, a $652 million program named GENIE helps the US break into foreign networks to plant sophisticated malware in computers, routers and firewalls in tens of thousands of machines every year. Almost three-quarters of the 231 attacks in 2011 were against top-priority targets including Iran, Russia, China and North Korea, and activities including nuclear proliferation. The disclosure of US cyber-ops, defined by the US “to manipulate, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy information resident in computers or computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves,” were provided by NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Court upholds ban on gay-to-straight therapyA controversial psychological practice that purports to convert a youth from gay to straight is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled has ruled unanimously. The judges upheld an earlier court’s ruling, agreeing that a treatment claiming to change a minor’s sexual orientation through intense therapy seemed dangerous, and have rightfully been rejected by the scientific community. The therapy, one judge wrote, poses “critical health risks, including depression, shame, decreased self-esteem, social withdrawal, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide.” The law is the first of its kind in the US.
Catholic school files second suit against contraception mandateA Catholic university has filed a second lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services over contraception coverage “facilitation.” Ave Maria University said in the suit it “cannot fulfill its mission of preparing students to impact the world by living their Christian values if it violates its own religious convictions by" facilitating access to contraception, sterilization, or abortion, or related counseling and services. The first suit was dismissed when the government agreed to change regulations of its health care mandate to accommodate religious beliefs, yet religious entities felt the new rules were inadequate.
Two Guantanamo detainees released to AlgeriaThe US announced the release of two detainees from the prison at Guantanamo Bay to their home nation of Algeria, bringing the total number of detainees at the prison to 164. Nabil Said Hadjarab and Mutia Sadiq Ahmad Sayyab were approved for transfer based on a review directed by President Obama. Hadjarab had been detained for 12 years, his lawyer told the Guardian, and was cleared for release in 2007. He took part in the ongoing hunger strike at the prison. More than 37 detainees remain on hunger strike, according to the US military.
Car bombing in Iraq kills at least 11At least 11 people has been killed and 27 wounded in a car bomb in the Iraqi city of Samarra, some 125 kilometers north of Baghdad, reports Reuters, citing police and medical sources. The parked vehicle blew up in a busy market street. This comes just a day after a series of terrorists attacks ripped through Baghdad, killing up to 90 people and injuring around another 300. In July, over 1,000 Iraqis died in attacks – the highest monthly death toll since 2008, the UN said.
Moscow links Iraq bombings to Syrian armed groupsMoscow is “seriously concerned” over a new escalation of violence in Iraq, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Thursday, commenting on a series of bombings Wednesday in Baghdad that killed up to 90 people and wounded nearly 300.“These terrorist attacks are obviously backed from abroad, including by armed groups operating in Syria,” the ministry said in a statement. The ministry said the attacks showed that the ongoing conflict in Syria had spread and that further destabilization could lead to a worsening of the situation “not only in neighboring states, but in the entire region.”
Greek unions start fall protestsGreece civil servants’ union, ADEDY, caused most public services to close early, while several hundred protesters marched peacefully to parliament. The action against government plans to axe thousands of state jobs saw no major disruption Thursday, but unions are threatening to organize more protests in September. The conservative-led government is planning to suspend up to 50,000 public servants this year and fire 15,000 by the end of 2014. The start of the new school year could be disrupted as teaching unions were meeting Thursday to plan strikes.