Jumaat, 27 Disember 2013

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The Star Online: World Updates

Four U.S. military personnel released in Libya -U.S. official

Posted: 27 Dec 2013 08:45 PM PST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four members of the U.S. military detained in Libya were released after being taken into custody by the government, U.S. officials said on Friday.

"All four (have been) released," a U.S. defence official said.

Earlier, the U.S. State Department confirmed that the four were being held and U.S. authorities were in touch with the Libyan government over the issue.

Circumstances under which the four were detained remained unclear. But more than two years after the collapse of Muammar Gaddafi's government, the country remains in turmoil with widespread insecurity.

The New York Times reported that the service members were taken into custody near Roman ruins at Sabratha, a tourist area about an hour's drive from the capital, Tripoli.

The incident takes on greater significance because of the militant attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

The attacks touched off a political storm in Washington, with Republicans accusing President Barack Obama's administration of telling shifting stories about who was behind the attacks.

In October, U.S. forces seized Nazih al-Ragye, better known by the cover name Abu Anas al-Liby, in Tripoli in connection with the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Missy Ryan; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Thai anti-government protester shot dead - hospital official

Posted: 27 Dec 2013 08:35 PM PST

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A Thai protester was killed and four wounded, an emergency official said on Saturday, after an unidentified gunman opened fire on demonstrators whose efforts to topple Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra flared into violence over the past two days.

The shooting came 48 hours after clashes between police about 500 protesters, who are determined to disrupt a snap February 2 election called by Yingluck, outside a voting registration centre in which two people were killed and scores wounded.

Petphong Kamjonkitkarn, director of the Erawan Emergency Centre in the Thai capital Bangkok, told Reuters one man in his 30s had been killed and four others suffered gunshot wounds.

The protesters have been rallying for weeks in their attempt to topple Yingluck, who they see as a puppet of her brother and former premier, billionaire tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, and have vowed to disrupt the election.

Yingluck, who draws her support from the populous voter base among the rural poor in the north and northeast, is determined to go ahead with the poll. On Friday, her government asked the military for help to provide security for both candidates and voters.

However, the chief of the heavily politicised military refused to rule out military intervention, responding that "the door was neither open nor closed" when asked if a coup was possible.

Several hundred protesters are camped out in tents around the walls of Government House in Bangkok. Witnesses said they were sleeping when gunfire suddenly rang out at about 3.30 a.m. on Saturday (2030 GMT Friday).

"I was sleeping and then I heard several gunshots. I was surprised," said one 18-year-old protester, who would not identify himself other than by his nickname "Boy".

Other witness said the shots could have come from a car as it drove past the protest site. Reuters television pictures showed bullet holes in a concrete wall and a generator, as well as bloodstains inside in one of the many flimsy tents set up by protesters around Government House.

Protesters showed several small-calibre slugs they had found.

Registration for the election was to continue on Saturday, although Thailand's Election Commission has requested that the poll be delayed after Thursday's violence until "mutual consent" from all sides was achieved - an increasingly unlikely outcome.

With the street protests escalating, any delay to a poll that Yingluck's Puea Thai Party would otherwise be expected to win would leave her government open to legal challenges or, worse still, military or judicial intervention.

Thailand's military has staged or attempted 18 coups in 81 years of democracy, making Friday's comments by General Prayuth Chan-ocha more chilling for Yingluck and Thaksin, who was toppled in a 2006 coup.

The protesters draw strength from Bangkok's conservative middle classes and elite, many with ties to the judiciary and military, who resent the rise of the billionaire Shinawatra family and their political juggernaut.

They accuse them of manipulating Thailand's fragile democracy by effectively buying the support of the rural poor with populist policies such as cheap healthcare, easy credit and subsidies for rice farmers.

Instead of an election, the protesters want an appointed "people's council" to oversee reforms before any future vote.

The first two years of Yingluck's government had been relatively smooth until a blunder by Puea Thai in November, when it tried to push through an unpopular amnesty bill that would have exonerated Thaksin from a 2008 graft conviction he says was politically motivated. Thaksin fled into exile to avoid jail.

(Additional reporting by Jutarat Skulpichetrat; Writing by Paul Tait; Editing by Ken Wills)

China formally eases one-child policy, abolishes labour camps

Posted: 27 Dec 2013 08:15 PM PST

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - China formally approved on Saturday easing its decades-long one-child policy and the abolition of a controversial labour camp system, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Both were among a sweeping raft of reforms announced last month after a meeting of the ruling Communist Party that mapped out policy for the next decade.

Under the new policy, couples will be allowed to have two children if one of the parents is an only child. Previously, a couple could generally only have a second child if both parents were only children.

The plan was envisioned by the government about five years ago, with officials worried that the strict controls were undermining economic growth and contributing to a rapidly ageing population China had no hope of supporting financially.

The resolution, formally approved by China's largely rubber- stamp parliament on Saturday, will allow local legislatures to decide when to implement the policies, Xinhua said.

Parliament also approved the abolition of the "re-education through labour" system, in place since 1957, which allows police to sentence petty criminals to up to four years' confinement in labour camps without going through the courts.

Critics say the system undermines the rule of law and is often used against political activists and followers of Falun Gong, a banned spiritual group.

(Reporting by Kazunori Takada; Editing by Paul Tait)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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