Jumaat, 13 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: World Updates

Mexican senators approve electoral, anti-corruption bills


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's Senate gave final congressional approval on Friday to an electoral reform bill that allows for the re-election of lawmakers, and also pushed forward legislation that would create an anti-corruption watchdog.

The electoral bill, which opposition conservatives demanded in exchange for supporting President Enrique Pena Nieto's landmark energy overhaul approved this week, will now be sent to state lawmakers. Lawmakers in 16 out of Mexico's 31 states need to ratify the legislation.

The approval of the electoral bill clears the way for Congress to focus early next year on secondary laws needed to flesh out both the energy legislation and a law approved in the spring that aims to boost competition in the telecommunications sector.

Pena Nieto mounted a major reform drive this year to boost growth in Mexico's economy, and lawmakers this week backed his cornerstone bill to open up state-run energy industries to private investment.

The electoral reform, which passed 95-11, sets out rules for coalition governments and aims to strengthen Congress at the expense of the president.

The bill would also empower electoral authorities to annul elections if the winner exceeded campaign spending limits. Pena Nieto was accused by the opposition of overspending heavily in his 2012 campaign.

Lawmakers will be allowed to run for re-election, but with term limits of 12 years. Mexican federal and state lawmakers currently cannot be re-elected to consecutive terms in the same office. The reform does not allow for presidential re-election.

The Senate approved the bill earlier this month, but lower house lawmakers made some changes and sent the bill back to the Senate for final approval.

Senators also voted 111-2 to approve a bill to establish an anti-corruption authority that would investigate political graft. The bill now goes to the lower house.

Pena Nieto pledged to establish an authority to fight corruption after he won the presidency and returned the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, to power after it spent 12 years in the opposition.

The PRI was reviled by many Mexicans as corrupt and heavy-handed by the time it lost power in 2000 after ruling Mexico for most of the 20th century.

(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Student opens fire at Colorado high school, wounds two classmates


CENTENNIAL, Colo. (Reuters) - A student bent on confronting a teacher opened fire with a shotgun at a Colorado high school on Friday, wounding at least two classmates before taking his own life, law enforcement officials said.

The student entered Arapahoe High School in a Denver suburb around midday brandishing the gun and asked for the teacher by name before shooting two students, critically wounding a 15-year-old girl, said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson.

The teacher immediately fled the school and was not injured, while the gunman was later found in a classroom at the school, dead of an self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. The incident was over in 14 minutes.

"I believe the shooter knew that deputy sheriffs were immediately about to engage him and I believe that shooter took his life because he knew that he had been found," the sheriff told a news conference.

Authorities did not name the suspected gunman.

The rampage in the Denver suburb of Centennial took place just eight miles from the scene of one of the deadliest school massacres in U.S. history at Columbine High School, where two students gunned down 13 classmates and staff before killing themselves in 1999.

Robinson said there was no sign the incident was related to the anniversary on Saturday of last year's shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in which a gunman massacred 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

Holly Schaefer, an 18-year-old senior at Arapahoe High School, said she was in mathematics class when she and fellow students heard a loud bang. That was followed shortly by another bang and "then we knew definitely it was a gunshot."

Schaefer said her teacher immediately locked the door to the classroom as students huddled in a corner of the room.

After about 30 minutes, Schaefer said, they heard police calling out on the other side of the door. Officers eventually cleared the classroom and as students were being escorted out of the building, she said she saw blood on the hallway floor.


Classmates speaking to CNN described the suspected shooter, who they said was on the school's track and speech and debate teams, as smart and likeable. They said they would not have guessed that he was capable of such violence.

The sheriff said detectives were investigating "revenge" as a possible motive, but did not elaborate. The Denver Channel on ABC News reported the suspected gunman was upset after recently being kicked off the debate team. Reuters could not immediately confirm that report.

Arapahoe senior Frank Woronoff told CNN the gunman had recently been "demoted" on the debate team and that the teacher he was said to be targeting was its adviser. "I'm told that's what led him to sort of snap," Woronoff said.

Reuters was unable to contact the teacher, who was not identified by authorities, but was named in local media reports.

Authorities said searches were under way of the suspected gunman's vehicle, his home, and a secondary home.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who pushed through tougher gun control legislation this year following Newtown and last year's attack in a Colorado movie theatre, called the shooting an "all-too-familiar sequence, where you have gunshots and parents racing to the school and unspeakable horror in a place of learning."


Television images from the high school showed students running out with their hands raised and gathering on a track field.

Nearby businesses were evacuated as dozens of police descended on the scene with guns drawn, on the scene. Authorities said they did not engage in a confrontation with the suspect, nor did they fire their weapons as they entered the school and then methodically evacuated students

"We were having fun and laughing, and then all of sudden we heard a really loud bang and my teacher asked what it was, and then we heard two more, and we all just got up and screamed and ran into a sprinkler system room," Whitney Riley, 15, told CNN. "It sounded like it was coming from the hall that was near us."

"We were shaking, we were crying, we were freaking out. I had a girl biting my arm," she said. "We stayed quiet and we heard a whole bunch of sounds. We heard people yelling, we heard walkie-talkies."

The most seriously wounded victim, identified only as a 15-year-old girl, was in critical condition at a local hospital. Robinson said a second student had been treated and released after suffering a minor gunshot wound.

A spokeswoman for Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colorado, said her hospital had treated two victims from the shooting incident, both of whom suffered non-gunshot injuries. She said one of those patients was listed in good condition and that the other had been discharged.

A device believed by police to be an improvised Molotov cocktail was also found on the grounds and a bomb squad was on hand to identify it and search for other possible explosives.

U.S., Chinese warships narrowly avoid collision in South China Sea


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. guided missile cruiser operating in international waters in the South China Sea was forced to take evasive action last week to avoid a collision with a Chinese warship manoeuvring nearby, the U.S. Pacific Fleet said in a statement on Friday.

The incident came as the USS Cowpens was operating in the vicinity of China's only aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, at a time of heightened tensions in the region following Beijing's declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone farther north in the East China Sea, a U.S. Defence official said.

Another Chinese warship manoeuvred near the Cowpens in the incident on December 5, and the Cowpens was forced to take evasive action to avoid a collision, the Pacific Fleet said in its statement.

"Eventually, effective bridge-to-bridge communications occurred between the U.S. and Chinese crews, and both vessels manoeuvred to ensure safe passage," a Defence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in an email.

The Cowpens had been in the Philippines helping with disaster relief in the aftermath of the massive typhoon that hit the region in November. The U.S. Navy said it was conducting regular freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea when the incident occurred.

China deployed the Liaoning to the South China Sea for manoeuvres in the midst of the tensions over the air zone, which covers air space around a group of tiny islands in the East China Sea that are administered by Japan but claimed by Beijing as well.

Beijing declared the air zone late last month and demanded that aircraft flying through it provide flight plans and other information. The United States and its allies rejected the Chinese demand and have continued to fly military aircraft into the zone.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea and is involved in territorial disputes with several of its neighbours in that region as well.

Asked if the Chinese vessel was moving toward the Cowpens with aggressive intent, an official declined to speculate on the motivations of the Chinese crew.

"U.S. leaders have been clear about our commitment to develop a stable and continuous military-to-military relationship with China," the official said in the email.

"Whether it is a tactical at-sea encounter, or strategic dialogue, sustained and reliable communication mitigates the risk of mishaps, which is in the interest of both the U.S. and China," the email said.

The Pacific Fleet said the incident with the Cowpens underscored the need for the "highest standards of professional seamanship, including communications between vessels, to mitigate the risk of an unintended incident or mishap."

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