Selasa, 29 April 2014

The Star Online: World Updates

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The Star Online: World Updates

Shootouts claim 14 lives in northern Mexican border city

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 08:50 PM PDT

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - At least 14 people were killed in a series of shootouts in the northern Mexican border city of Reynosa on Tuesday as gunmen battled police in a region racked by violence between warring drug gangs.

Assailants in armoured vehicles opened fire on federal police and military officers in three shootouts in Tamaulipas, an unruly state on the U.S. border where the brutal Zetas drug gang has fought the Gulf Cartel for control.

The death toll in Reynosa, which is directly across the border from Hidalgo, Texas, included 10 gunmen, two federal police officers as well two young adults who were caught in the crossfire while driving in separate vehicles.

It was not immediately clear if the gunmen were affiliated with any drug cartels, which vie for control of lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.

Some of the slain gunmen were killed while still in their trucks, while others were found dead on the street, a security official told Reuters.

Drug violence in Mexico has claimed more than 85,000 lives since the start of 2007 when then-President Felipe Calderon ordered the military to engage the cartels.

Calderon's successor, President Enrique Pena Nieto, pledged to end the violence when he took office in December 2012. But although police data shows killings have dropped somewhat, large areas of the country are still convulsed by cartel violence.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Dave Graham & Kim Coghill)

Cast of 'Star Wars: Episode VII' announced

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 08:10 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES: The original Star Wars movie blasted its way onto screens a long time ago, in a cinema galaxy seemingly far, far away - but Han, Luke and Leia will be back soon.

On Tuesday, Disney announced the cast of the film just now entering production under the name Star Wars: Episode VII, after months of frenzied speculation among the sci-fi saga's passionate fans.

At 71, Harrison Ford may no longer have space smuggler Han Solo's roguish good looks and thick head of hair.

And 62-year-old co-star Mark Hamill will fill out Luke Skywalker's flowing Jedi robes a little more thoroughly than he once did.

But fans of the saga - many of them disappointed by a series of prequels to the three-decade-old original trilogy - will welcome their return and that of 57-year-old Carrie Fisher's feisty Princess Leia.

Disney, the new owner of pioneering director George Lucas' record-breaking franchise, has recruited blockbuster director J.J. Abrams to bring these fan favourites back to the screen.

His trio of stars may have aged, but he will have access to a much more powerful array of computerized special effects than Lucas had when he launched the series in 1977.

And the original cast, including Anthony Daniels and Kenny Baker as androids C3PO and R2-D2 and Peter Mayhew as the hairy "Wookie" warrior Chewbacca, will be joined by new, mainly younger talent.

Andy Serkis, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson, plus Hollywood veteran Max von Sydow join the Star Wars team.

Actors joining the original cast for Star Wars: Episode VII include (top row, form left) Andy Serkis, Adam Driver and John Boyega, (bottom row, from left) Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson and Max von Sydow. - AFP

Serkis is well known but not the most recognisable, as his biggest roles have been as the voice and movements behind motion-capture animated characters like the villainous Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.

Cast members appeared in a photo of a script reading, alongside Abrams and R2-D2, the loyal robot mechanic that has accompanied the heroes through all six movies to date.

"It is both thrilling and surreal to watch the beloved original cast and these brilliant new performers come together to bring this world to life, once again," Abrams said.

"We start shooting in a couple of weeks, and everyone is doing their best to make the fans proud," he promised.

Abrams is a respected mainstream director who has already won plaudits for reviving a beloved space opera franchise, taking the captain's chair on the successful 2009 Star Trek re-boot.

But Star Wars is, if anything, an even bigger challenge.

The two previous trilogies were released between 1977-2005 and inspired spin-off books, comics, toys, videogames and cartoons - earning US$4.4bil (RM14.37bil).

But, while the stories still have a massive popular audience, many purists were disappointed by the prequel trilogy, which they felt failed to capture the mythic feel of the originals.

Filming on Episode VII will begin next month at London's Pinewood Studios. Reports in local media in Abu Dhabi have suggested that some sets have also been constructed in the Arabian desert.

Scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan returns to the sage, having previously written the second and third films The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Music will once again come from Oscar-winning composer John Williams, whose epic score - one of the most recognizable in cinema history - soars over the iconic opening narrative crawl of each film.

The new Star Wars movie is due for worldwide release on Dec 18, 2015. - AFP

Santos holds lead in Colombia election opinion poll but rival gains

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 08:00 PM PDT

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos maintained his clear lead in voting intentions ahead of May 25 elections, a Gallup poll published on Tuesday showed, but his nearest rival, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, continued to gain support.

Santos would win 32 percent of the vote, down half a point from the pollster's March survey, while Zuluaga, the anointed candidate of still-popular former President Alvaro Uribe, jumped 5 percentage points to 20.5 percent.

Santos would beat Zuluaga in a second round of voting by 46 percent of votes versus 34 percent for his rival.

Though all leading candidates appear to differ little on broad economic themes, a choice between Santos and Zuluaga is likely for many voters to come down to who's approach to ending a five-decade conflict with leftist guerrillas they prefer.

Santos initiated talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia at the end of 2012 and the negotiations have made slow but promising progress. Zuluaga has indicated he would likely call the talks off or impose tougher conditions under which the government would be prepared to negotiate.

Like Zuluaga, Santos gained a lot of support from the public backing of then out-going president Uribe, who decimated the guerrilla's ranks during his two mandates in office with support from the United States. Santos' decision to engage with the FARC in peace talks has since turned the two bitter enemies.

Support for the Green Alliance's candidate, and former Bogota mayor, Enrique Penalosa fell to 10.1 percent of voting intentions down from 11.3 percent last month, causing him to slip to fourth place behind the Conservative Party candidate Marta Lucia Ramirez who has 11.2 percent support.

Clara Lopez of the left-wing Polo Democratico came last in the poll with 7.1 percent of voting intentions, down from 8.6 percent in March.

The percentage who plan to make a blank or protest vote by choosing none of the candidates, fell 4 percentage points to 15.9 percent of voters.

The survey of 1,200 respondents in 50 different towns carried out between April 23 and April 27, has a 3 percent margin of error.

(Reporting by Peter Murphy; Editing by Michael Perry)


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