Tag Archive: Agence France-Presse


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More than 100,000 people have been killed in the ongoing Syrian conflict according to figures released Wednesday by UK-based watchdog The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The unrest began in March 2011.

By FRANCE 24 (video)
News Wires (text)

More than 100,000 people have been killed in Syria since the beginning of the country’s uprising in March 2011, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights watchdog said in a new toll on Wednesday.

The Observatory said the toll now stands at 100,191 people, with at least 36,661 civilians killed, including more than 3,000 women and more than 5,000 children under the age of 16.

The group, which relies on a network of activists, doctors and lawyers on the ground throughout Syria, said 18,072 rebel fighters had been killed.

On the regime side, the group reported the deaths of at least 25,407 army soldiers, 17,311 pro-regime militia and 169 members of the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, which has dispatched fighters to battle alongside the Syrian army.

 

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Syria Blames Saudi Arabia for Conflict

The civil war in Syria has now killed more than 100,000 people, a grim new estimate Wednesday that comes at a time when the conflict is spreading beyond its borders and hopes are fading for a settlement to end the bloodshed.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has been tracking the death toll through a network of activists in the country, said most of the 100,191 killed in the last 27 months were combatants.

The regime losses were estimated at nearly 43,000, including pro-government militias and 169 fighters from the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah group — a recent entrant in the conflict.

The Observatory said 36,661 of the dead are civilians. Recorded deaths among the rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad reached more than 18,000, including 2,518 foreign fighters.

Observatory director Rami Abdul-Rahman said he suspected that the toll actually was higher, since neither side has been totally forthcoming about its losses.

The United Nations recently estimated that 93,000 people were killed between March 2011, when the crisis started, and the end of April 2013, concurring with Abdul-Rahman that the actual toll is likely much higher.

The Syrian government has not given a death toll. State media published the names of the government’s dead in the first months of the crisis, but then stopped publishing its losses after the opposition became an armed insurgency.

Mideast Syria.JPEG

Abdul-Rahman said that the group’s tally of military deaths is based on information from medical sources, records obtained by the group from state agencies and activists’ own count of funerals in government-held areas of the country. Other sources are the activist videos showing soldiers who were killed in rebel areas and later identified.

The new estimate comes at a time when hopes for peace talks are fading. The U.N.’s special envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said Tuesday an international conference proposed by Russia and the U.S. will not take place until later in the summer, partly because of opposition disarray.

 

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CLIMATE SCIENCE

Pacific’s Marshall Islands facing drought emergency


by Staff Writers
Majuro (AFP) Marshall Islands (AFP) May 8, 2013

A drought has left areas of the Marshall Islands facing “dire” water shortages with aid agencies scrambling to ship relief to affected communities, officials in the Pacific nation said Wednesday.

With almost no rainfall since late last year on some of the northern islands, the government this week issued a disaster declaration as villages began rationing water to preserve supplies.

“We’ve got 3,700 people without drinking water, the situation is dire,” national water advisor Tom Vance said on Wednesday following a trip to Mejit Island.

Health officials said water tanks were running low and water from wells had turned brackish, making it unsafe to drink. Without rain, the only other source of liquid for the islanders is coconuts.

 

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Marshall Islands face acute water shortage

Australia and US offer desalination and reverse-osmosis units as severe drought worsens in Pacific archipelago

  • Associated Press in Majuro
  • guardian.co.uk, Friday 10 May 2013 02.30 EDT
Marshall Islands

The Marshall Islands have declared a state of disaster in the north of the archipelago. Photograph: Doug Wilson/Corbis

About 6,000 people who live on the remote Marshall Islands in the Pacific are facing an acute shortage of fresh water as a severe drought worsens.

A state of disaster was declared in the north. Australia announced it would provide AU$100,000 (£65,335) for emergency desalination units. The US has also donated several reverse-osmosis machines, which convert salt water into fresh water.

There is no end in sight to the drought, with fine weather forecast for at least the next 10 days. The drought has also affected the food supply, hitting crops such as breadfruit, bananas and taro.

Casten Nemra, who chairs the national disaster committee, said many large families were surviving on as little as 4.5 litres of water a day.

 

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WATER WORLD

Rome river judged too dirty for tourist cruises


by Staff Writers
Rome (AFP) May 09, 2013

“Tourists and Rome residents were expecting navigation for the year to resume at Easter. But we didn’t open out of respect for them,” said Mauro Pica Villa from “Rome Boats”, the company in charge of all cruises on the river.

“We’re ashamed of the Tiber’s state of abandonment,” he told AFP on Thursday.

The river’s tall stone embankments have become grey with pollution, the river banks are strewn with rubbish and homeless people live under the bridges.

“The last time the river was cleaned up was in 2008! Everyone can see it since trees along the Tiber are covered in plastic bags and other rubbish every time the river overflows,” which happens several times in a year, he said.

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Published time: April 29, 2013 07:30
Edited time: April 29, 2013 17:45

 

Syrian Prime Minister Wael Halqi survived an attempted bombing assassination in central Damascus on Monday. Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary General, has condemned the attempted assassination, calling it a “terrorist attack”.

Syrian Prime Minister Wael Halqi (Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova)

Syrian Prime Minister Wael Halqi (Photo by Nadezhda Kevorkova)

The explosion struck near a school in a southwestern district of Damascus, and at least ten were killed in the attack.

The attack was reported by Syrian state television. “The terrorist explosion in al-Mezze was an attempt to target the convoy of the prime minister. Doctor Wael al-Halqi is well and not hurt at all,” the report said.

Image from sana.sy

Image from sana.sy

A handout picture released by the Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) on April 29, 2013, shows people gathered at the scene of a blast in the Mazzeh district of Damascus. (AFP Photo/SANA)

“The Secretary-General condemns the terrorists attack on the convoy of Srian Prime Minister Wael al-Halki in Damascus earlier today, which resulted in deaths and injuries,” Ban Ki-moon’s press office said in a statement.

At least 19 people, including one of Halqi’s bodyguards, were killed and 25 others were wounded in the attack, local correspondent Abdullah Mawazini told RT. Syrian media reported that up to 10 people may have been killed in the explosion.

Halqi’s driver and a second bodyguard were seriously wounded in the explosion, AFP said, quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

An explosive device was placed under a black BMW vehicle that was parked along the route of Halqi’s convoy. The explosion took place near a kindergarten and a school. No children were killed in the attack, but two were injured, Mawazini said.

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Image from sana.sy

Image from sana.sy

US Black Hawk helicopter crashes near North Korean border during military exercises

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US Black Hawk

  Picture: Gary Ramage

A US military helicopter has crashed near the North Korean border, a South Korean defence official says, with no reported casualties.

The helicopter, identified by the Yonhap news agency as a UH-60 Black Hawk, came down in Cheolwon county, which touches on the border with North Korea, a defence ministry spokesman told AFP on Tuesday.

The precise cause of the crash was not immediately clear, but the incident occurred during ongoing South Korea-US joint military exercises.

Yonhap quoted emergency rescue workers as saying the 12 service personnel on board the helicopter had survived the crash, which comes at a time of heightened military tensions on the Korean peninsula.

North Korea has condemned the joint exercises as a rehearsal for invasion, and made a series of dire threats of military retaliation.

FARM NEWS

Shanghai stops poultry trade on bird flu fears

by Staff Writers
Shanghai (AFP) April 6, 2013

 

The commercial hub has had six of the country’s 16 confirmed cases of the H7N9 strain, found in humans for the first time, with four deaths. The other two fatalities have been in the neighbouring province of Zhejiang.

Shanghai had culled more than 20,500 birds at an agricultural market in a western suburb by Friday, after the virus was found in pigeons, and the government announced a ban on live poultry trading and markets.

A uniformed worker sprayed disinfectant from a tank on his back at one local market in central Shanghai Saturday, where two booths selling live poultry were dark, and cages empty.

“All trading has stopped because of bird flu. The seller has gone home because he has nothing to do,” said a seafood vendor.

 

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FLORA AND FAUNA

Kenya to toughen poaching sentences to save elephants

by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) April 06, 2013

Kenya plans to bolster current lenient sentences for convicted wildlife poachers or ivory smugglers in a bid to stamp out a spike in elephant killings, the government said Saturday.

“We intend to fight poachers at all levels to save our elephants,” government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said in a statement.

A major obstacle to this is that Kenyan courts are currently limited in their powers to jail or fine those convicted of wildlife crimes, he said.

“One of the major setbacks are lenient penalties and sentencing for wildlife crime by the courts,” he said.

“The government is concerned about this and has facilitated the process of reviewing the wildlife law and policy with a view to having more deterrent penalties and jail terms.”

Poaching has recently risen sharply in east Africa, with whole herds of elephants massacred for their ivory. Rhinos have also been targeted.

Passing tougher wildlife laws will be made a priority for Kenya’s parliament, elected last month but which has yet to begin business.

“We look forward to… parliament giving priority to passing of a new wildlife law and policy,” Kariuki added.

Kenya’s current wildlife act caps punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes at a maximum fine of 40,000 Kenyan shillings (470 dollars, 365 euros), and a possible jail term of up to 10 years.

Last month, a Chinese smuggler caught in Kenya with a haul of ivory was fined less than a dollar (euro) a piece.

 

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Kenyan, Tanzanian poachers arrested in possession of ivory

Souce:Xinhua Publish By Updated 07/04/2013 6:21 am

NAIROBI, April 6 — Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said two suspected poachers, a Tanzanian and his Kenyan accomplice have been arrested while in possession of six pieces of ivory weighing 43kilograms.

KWS said in a statement issued on Saturday that Emellian Shirima, Tanzanian, and Uchapa Mirie, Kenyan were arrested on Thursday in Taita Taveta in the coastal region.

“It is believed that the ivory was from a recent poaching incident in the area. KWS officials will prefer charges against the suspects for being in illegal possession, dealing with a government trophy and failing to make a report of being in its possession to authorities,” the statement said.

In February, two Tanzanians were arraigned in a Nairobi court after they were arrested with 16 pieces of ivory weighing 141 kilograms in Ongata Rongai Township on the outskirts of Nairobi. A Tanzanian registered vehicle was impounded in the incident.

Rampant poaching in Kenya has forced the wildlife agency to step up anti-poaching measures after experiencing a loss of 19 elephants since the beginning of 2012.

 

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By Agence France-Presse
Friday, March 15, 2013 11:28 EDT
Pigs on a truck heading to market in Jiaxing in China's eastern Zhejiang province on March 14, 2013. (AFP)

Shanghai fished another 809 dead pigs out of its main waterway on Friday, bringing the total carcasses found this week to 8,300 in a scandal that has spotlighted China’s troubles with food safety.

The swine effluent discovered flowing down the Huangpu river — which supplies a fifth of the commercial hub’s drinking water — has added the country’s most popular meat to a growing list of food items rocked by scandal.

“As of 3:00 pm today, another 809 floating dead pigs have been fished out,” Shanghai authorities said on their Weibo account, a service similar to Twitter.

It gave assurances that authorities had not found any substandard pork products on the market and were closely monitoring water quality.

Shanghai has blamed farmers in neighbouring Zhejiang province for casting pigs thought to have died of disease into the river upstream, although officials from the area have admitted to only a single producer doing so.

Pork accounted for 64 percent of total meat output last year, and China’s increasingly wealthy urban residents consumed 21 kilograms (45 pounds) of the meat per person in 2011.

 

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John WorldNews

Published on Mar 7, 2013

Silvio Berlusconi is sentenced to 1 year in prison, that’s already confirmed!.

The ex-premier is accused of violating secrecy laws after making public a police wiretap concerning his political rival in 2005. They were published in Il Giornale, a newspaper run by his brother, who was also sentenced to over two years and three months in prison.

Under Italian law, people over 75 who are sentenced to less than two years don’t have to actually serve their term behind bars. Berlusconi is 76.

 

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Berlusconi sentenced to 1 year behind bars in wiretap trial

Published time: March 07, 2013 11:18
Edited time: March 07, 2013 12:54
Italy's former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (AFP Photo)

Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi (AFP Photo)

Italy’s former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sentenced to one year in jail after a wiretap trial linked to a 2005 banking scandal.

The ex-premier is accused of violating secrecy laws after making public a police wiretap concerning his political rival in 2005. They were published in  Il Giornale,  a newspaper run by his brother, who was also sentenced to over two years and three months in prison. The leaks were about the attempted takeover of BNL bank by insurance giant Unipol.

Berlusconi denied any wrongdoing and may seek an appeal trial, until the end of which he won’t be put into custody.

 

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SINO DAILY

by Staff Writers
Shangpu, China (AFP) March 3, 2013


Angry scenes in China amid land grab protest
Beijing (AFP) March 1, 2013 – Villagers in southern China were Friday locked in a tense standoff with police after angry protests over land rights, local residents said, as Beijing prepares for its annual meeting of legislators.Residents of Shangpu, in the province of Guangdong, have occupied the village square since last Friday amid claims that corrupt local officials were selling local land, the US-based Radio Free Asia website reported.

Hired thugs employed by local officials attempted to remove the protesters on Sunday but were repelled in angry scenes which saw 30 cars being smashed, RFA said.

Police arrived to clear the square and became caught up in the clash, it added.

Six people were arrested, according to the website of the local Jiexi county government. Authorities have since called on the protesters to clear the square, RFA said.

A nearby resident who spoke to AFP said the demonstrators were continuing to occupy the square, in a protest echoing a dispute in the nearby village of Wukan which became a symbol of resistance against corruption last year.

The resident, who gave his surname as Lin, said: “Right now, both sides are in a stalemate, but there is no more fighting. Police have blocked roads to keep other people away. Meetings are being held.”

Another villager, surnamed Li, confirmed the road blockage and said 10 or more people had “suffered serious injuries” since the tensions started.

Li said that officials in Mianhu township, which has jurisdiction over the area, had called the residents “unreasonable” and blamed them for the trouble. He added that villagers appealed to senior officials and were awaiting a reply.

Villagers in Wukan began protesting in September 2011 in what was initially seen as just another bout of social unrest in China, where land grabs have become a major source of discontent.

But the death of one of the protest leaders in police custody two months later led to villagers taking their demonstration a step further, barricading roads leading into Wukan and facing off with security forces for more than a week.

Then, unexpectedly, Communist Party authorities backed down and promised villagers rare concessions, including pledges to investigate the land dispute and allow village polls to be held in an open manner — a first in Wukan.

Many in Wukan claim little has changed since the elections, which were held at the start of last year’s annual session of the National People’s Congress (NPC), or parliament.

This year’s meeting begins in Beijing on Tuesday.

 

Villagers in southern China were locked in a stand-off with authorities Sunday and were demanding democratic polls after a violent clash with thugs linked to a local official over a land transfer.

Just over a week ago, residents of Shangpu in Guangdong province fought with scores of attackers whom they claimed were sent by the village communist party chief and a business tycoon after they protested against a land deal.

Now police are blockading the settlement to outsiders while residents refuse to let officials inside, days before the annual meeting of the country’s legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC).

The situation recalls a similar episode in Wukan, also in Guangdong and around 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Shangpu, which made headlines worldwide 15 months ago.

AFP is believed to be the first Western media organisation to enter Shangpu since the stand-off began.

At the main entrance of the village of 3,000 people, 40 police and officials stood guard, barring outside vehicles from entering. Not far away, a cloth banner read: “Strongly request legal, democratic elections.”

Shangpu’s two-storey houses, typical of the region, and low-slung family-run workshops are surrounded by fields awaiting spring planting. But the main street is lined with the wrecks of cars damaged in the clash, with glass and metal littering the ground.

Residents said they should have the right to vote both for the leader who represents them and on whether to approve a controversial proposal to transform rice fields into an industrial zone.

“This should be decided by a vote by villagers,” said one of the protest leaders, adding: “The village chief should represent our interests, but he doesn’t.”

Locals fear that once the NPC — which starts Tuesday — ends, authorities will move in with force.

 

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