Obama Daughters Unfazed by Global Spotlight

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 8:55 pm (UTC-5)
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What may have seemed like the start of an exciting new adventure four years ago for Sasha and Malia Obama has apparently turned into the routine.

While her father was delivering his second inaugural address Monday, television cameras caught 11-year-old Sasha yawning. She also complimented her father for, in her words, “not messing up” when he privately took the oath of office in the White House Sunday.

Fourteen-year-old Malia has also become used to the spotlight. She casually swayed to the music of marching bands and took pictures of her father with her cell phone during the inaugural parade.

Despite living in the White House, constantly surrounded by the trappings of power, limousines and the Secret Service, Michelle Obama says she is striving to give her daughters normal lives and raising them to be as unaffected as possible by their status as the president's children.

Russia Sends Aircraft to Evacuate its Citizens from Syria

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 8:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Russia says it is sending two planes to Lebanon to evacuate its citizens who wish to flee the conflict in Syria.

A spokeswoman for Russia's Emergencies Ministry (Irina Rossius) said more than 100 Russians were expected to board the planes after traveling overland from Syria. She said Russia is sending the planes so that all Russians who want to leave Syria can do so.

It is not clear whether the flights are the beginning of a longer evacuation operation.

Russia is one of Syria's strongest allies and the move to evacuate its citizens is the clearest sign yet that Moscow may be preparing for the possibility that President Bashar al-Assad's government could fall.

Also Monday, Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported a car bombing in Syria's capital Damascus, as well as another car bomb in central Syria that killed at least 30 people.

The United Nations says at least 60,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.

Earlier Monday, Syria's opposition postponed forming a transitional government. After a meeting in Istanbul, opposition leaders said they have created a five-person committee to consult with opposition forces, the Free Syrian Army and what the opposition called “friendly” countries before making proposals on an interim body.

The Syrian National Coalition was formed in November and has since been recognized by more than 110 countries as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. It is calling for President Assad, who has been in power for 12 years, to step down.

Obama Vows Action on Climate Change

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 6:50 pm (UTC-5)
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President Obama said in his inaugural speech that he will make climate change a priority in his second term.

The president said failing to address the global warming threat would betray the world's children, and all future generations.

Mr. Obama acknowledged that some people do not believe human activity such as burning fossil fuels is causing the Earth to heat up. But he said no one can avoid the consequences of a warmer planet, including drought, fires and stronger storms.

The president said the United States must lead the transition toward sustainable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Many Republicans and others who oppose Mr. Obama's policies say the U.S. economy cannot afford to move away from traditional fossil fuels. They cite theories that global warming is a part of the natural cycle of climate change.

However, environmental groups cheered the president's commitment to action on climate change.

The Sierra Club said the president's remarks were heartening. It says global warming is a pressing challenge for the entire world.

The Natural Resources Defense Council says Mr. Obama's sentiments should be read a call for action on environmental issues.

Global Unemployment Set To Rise Again

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 5:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The International Labor Organization says nearly 200 million people worldwide are without jobs, and unemployment is set to increase further this year.

The ILO's “Global Employment Trends 2013″ report says unemployment worldwide rose by 4.2 million in 2012 after falling for two straight years. It says one-quarter of the increase is in the advanced economies, while three-quarters is in developing economies in East and South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

The report released Tuesday finds another 39 million people around the world have dropped out of the labor market and are not counted in the jobless rate.

The ILO predicts the number of job seekers will rise to more than 210 million over the next five years. The report says the labor market is particularly bleak for young people. It says almost 74 million people aged between 15 and 24 are unemployed around the world – an unemployment rate of 12.6 percent.

Arrest Made in Paris Murder of Kurdish Activists

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 4:35 pm (UTC-5)
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French prosecutors have filed preliminary murder and terrorism charges against an associate of three female Kurdish activists shot dead in Paris earlier this month.

The suspect, a 30-year-old Turkish driver for one of the slain women, was one of two ethnic Kurds detained last week in connection with the January 10 killings.

Prosecutors filed charges against the driver during a court hearing Monday in Paris. The other suspect detained last week has since been freed without charge.

Prosecutor Francois Molins said the suspect has denied the charges against him.

“He is of Turkish nationality. He doesn't have any criminal record and says he has been a member of the PKK for the last two years. Other aspects of his persona are being looked into, and you will understand that I cannot comment in more detail today.”

The PKK, or the Kurdistan Workers Party, is an outlawed group that took up arms for Kurdish self-rule in southeastern Turkey.

The three women, Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Soylemez, were found shot to death at the Kurdish Information Center in Paris. Cansiz was a founding member of the PKK.

Turkey has suggested that the killings are linked to ongoing negotiations between the Turkish government and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, while Kurdish activists say that it might be the work of Turkish extremists.

Obama Uses Two Bibles at Swearing-In

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 3:55 pm (UTC-5)
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When U.S. President Barack Obama took the oath of office Monday, he placed his hand on two Bibles.

The first was the Bible used by former President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, when he took the oath for his first term in 1861. The second Bible was the so-called “traveling Bible” used by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Junior.

Monday is the official government holiday honoring King who was assassinated in 1968.

President Obama was officially sworn-in for a second term Sunday during a brief, private ceremony at the White House, where he used his wife Michelle's family Bible. Mr. Obama repeated the oath for the public Monday, where he also made his inaugural address.

The presidential term ends on the Constitutionally-mandated date of January 20, which was on a Sunday this year when courts and public offices are closed. Tradition holds that when Inauguration Day is on a Sunday, the president is sworn-in privately and a public ceremony is held the next day.

Monday's swearing-in was the fourth time Mr. Obama took the oath of office.

He was sworn-in twice for his first term in 2009 when the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, John Roberts, stumbled over one of the words while administering the oath. So the oath was given again one day later.

Mr. Obama is the first president since Franklin Roosevelt to take the oath of office four times. Mr. Roosevelt was elected four times, in 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944. The law currently limits a U.S. president to two four-year terms.

Also Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden took the oath of office on a Bible that his family has used since 1893.

Opposition Wins German State Election

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 12:45 pm (UTC-5)
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Germany's center-left opposition has won a razor-thin victory in a regional election that is seen as a test for Chancellor Angela Merkel eight months before nationwide legislative elections.

The opposition Social Democrats and Greens won a one-seat majority over Ms. Merkel's center-right coalition in Sunday's election in Lower Saxony state.

Ms. Merkel described the defeat as 'painful'.

“I am not going to pretend, after all the feelings generated by this election, defeat hurts even more. We are all sad today. Sad that it did not work.''

The election is the last test before September, when polls for Bavaria will take place followed by national elections, which will determine whether Ms. Merkel will win a third term.

Pirates Seize Oil Tanker in Ivory Coast

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 11:25 am (UTC-5)
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Armed men have hijacked a tanker carrying 5,000 tons of oil from a port in Ivory Coast.

Ivorian port officials said Monday that the Nigerian-owned vessel, along with its 16 crew members, was seized late last week as it was preparing to unload at the port in Abidjan, the country's commercial capital.

The statement says officials believe the ship is currently located off the coast of neighboring Ghana. However, that has not been confirmed.

Hijackings and attacks on ships have increased along Africa's Gulf of Guinea in the past year.

The International Maritime Agency says piracy in West Africa, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, is on the rise with 58 incidents reported in 2012, including 10 hijackings and 207 crew members taken hostage.

A total of five incidents were reported off Ivory Coast in 2012, up from one the previous year. In October, suspected Nigerian pirates seized a tanker carrying more than 30,000 tons of gasoline off the coast of Abidjan, the first reported hijacking in the country.

Ugandan Troops Kill Kony Bodyguard

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 9:15 am (UTC-5)
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Ugandan troops have killed a top bodyguard of Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

A Ugandan army official said Monday that the rebel, known as Brigadier Binani, was killed Friday during a firefight in the eastern part of the Central African Republic, near South Sudan.

Army spokesman Felix Kulayigye said Ugandan troops were deployed to the area after receiving intelligence that a group of LRA rebels was there.

Kulayigye said in addition to being Kony's top bodyguard, Binani was responsible for logistics, food collection and abductions for the rebel group. He said although no one knows for sure where Kony is hiding, finding Binani means Ugandan forces are on the right track.

Ugandan troops have been working as part of an African Union force, with the help of U.S. military advisers, to hunt Kony and other LRA members.

The LRA, which originated in northern Uganda, is accused of killing, kidnapping and mutilating tens of thousands of people across central Africa over the past 25 years. Officials now believe the group is down to about 250 rebels and is hiding somewhere in the jungles close to where the borders of Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo meet.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

India Gang-Rape Trial Begins

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 9:10 am (UTC-5)
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The trial of five men accused of the brutal rape and murder of a 23-year old student in New Delhi has begun in a fast-track court for crimes against women.

The start of the trial on Monday was delayed by more than an hour as defense lawyers argued that it should be open to the media and public. The judge rejected the motion. Arguments in the case will begin on Thursday.

Defense lawyers of two of the five accused say their clients will plead not guilty. They say the men were tortured by the police to coerce confessions.

Prosecutors say DNA evidence, cellphone records and the testimony of the victim will prove their case. A senior prosecutor has said he will seek the death penalty for the five men. A sixth suspect claims to be a juvenile and is being tried separately.

India's Supreme Court will rule Tuesday on an appeal from one of the five accused to move the trial out of New Delhi, on the grounds that he cannot receive a fair hearing in the city where the December 16 attack took place.

The special fast-track court was established to circumvent India's notoriously slow justice system.

The expedited proceedings in this specific case are in response to public outrage over the brutality of the attack. The defendants are accused of beating the woman and her male companion with an iron rod and using the rusty rod during the sexual assault of the woman.

The unidentified victim died of her internal injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital, where she had been taken for treatment.

The woman's rape and death sparked outrage across the country. Protesters have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the way India treats women.