Global news bulletin 16/06/2012

Posted: June 16, 2012 in News bulletin

-People in Greece weighed their options today as they prepared to vote in a pivotal election that could determine the debt-stricken country’s future in the eurozone and have an impact on the global economy. Two parties, New Democracy and Syriza, are considered to be front-runners going into Sunday’s vote. Campaigning has now ended but in the last official polls they were running neck-and-neck.

-The UN observer mission to Syria has suspended its activities, saying escalating violence is impeding the monitors’ ability to carry out its mandate. “UN observers will not be conducting patrols and will stay in their locations until further notice,” the mission’s chief General Major Robert Mood said in a statement today. 300 observers were deployed in Syria, tasked with monitoring a ceasefire and supporting the full implementation of a six-point peace plan drafted by UN-Arab League envoy Kofi Annan, which was supposed to lead to talks between the two sides.

Saudi Arabia‘s Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud has died “outside the kingdom”, the royal court has said. Prince Nayef, who was also deputy prime minister and interior minister, had left the country for a holiday and medical tests late last month. On 3 June, the deputy interior minister said the prince, who was 77 or 78, was in good health and would return “soon”. He was named crown prince in October 2011 after the death of the previous crown prince, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz.

-President Obama has said that illegal immigrants who entered the US as children will no longer be deported and may instead get two-year work permits. The move is seen as aimed at Hispanics whose votes could be crucial in an election year. It affects immigrants aged under-30 who have lived in the States for five years. “Now, let’s be clear: This is not amnesty. This is a temporary stop-gap measure that lets us focus our resources wisely while giving a degree of relief and hope to talented, driven, patriotic young people. It is the right thing to do,” Obama told reporters at the White House.

-An initial report into one of Switzerland’s worst coach crashes in 30 years is pointing the finger of blame in some way at the driver. The coach was carrying schoolchildren home to Belgium and the Netherlands from a ski-ing trip in March when it crashed into a tunnel wall on the A9 motorway between Sierre and Sion killing 28 including the driver. The public prosecutor for the Valais canton, Olivier Elsig, said: “An autopsy only takes a few days but we carried out toxicology analyses which take about three months, and then in April when we came to Belgium we asked for the drivers’ medical records and these files were sent to specialists who are making their reports.” Twenty-two of the dead were children aged around 12.

China has launched its latest manned space mission – whose crew includes its first female astronaut, Liu Yang.The Shenzhou-9 capsule rode to orbit atop a Long March rocket from the Jiuquan spaceport on the edge of the Gobi desert. Ms Liu and her two male colleagues are heading to the Tiangong space lab. They will spend over a week living and working on the 335km-high vessel, testing new systems and conducting a number of scientific experiments. Before leaving, the crew were presented to Communist Party officials, VIPs and the media.

-With the country’s post-revolutionary politics in turmoil, Egyptians are voting in the first day of a presidential runoff which pits the Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate against the last prime minister under deposed president Hosni Mubarak. Turnout was mixed in the morning hours today, with reports of long lines at some polling stations. One monitoring group, the Egyptian Alliance for Election Monitoring, said the crowds were larger than those during the first round of voting in May. Voting hours were extended by one hour, to 9pm local (1900:GMT), the electoral commission announced.Polls will be open again on Sunday. There was a heavy police and army presence at many polling station, witnesses said.

Japan’s government has approved the resumption of nuclear power operations at two reactors for the first time since last year’s radiation leak at the Fukushima plant in the wake of an earthquake-triggered tsunami. The government’s decision to restart the two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Co at Ohi in western Japan was announced by Yoshihiko Noda, the prime minister, at a meeting with key ministers today. The government’s approval came after Ohi’s mayor and the local governor publicly supported the plan, as the city depended heavily on nuclear energy before the crisis. Yukio Edano, trade and industry minister, said safety remained the government’s main concern’.“We have approved the beginning of the restarting process. It will take some time for the reactors to begin generating electricity. If there are safety problems, the process could be delayed,” he said.

-Aung San Suu Kyi has described how winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 encouraged her to keep up the struggle for democracy in Myanmar through her years as a political prisoner. Suu Kyi, on finally being able to receive the prize, after decades of detention said at the ceremony today that winning the prize while under house arrest 21 years ago helped to shatter her sense of isolation and made her feel that the world would demand democracy in her military-controlled homeland.

-Cloaked in darkness and enveloped by mist, aerialist Nik Wallenda walked across Niagara Falls on a tightrope late Friday and into the record books. It was a historic walk that observers say was in line with his appetite for the extreme and the high-wire customs of his “Flying Wallendas” family. Pumping his fist in the air, Wallenda sprinted the last few steps on the wire. After touching down on Canadian soil, he embraced his family, grinning ear to ear. The tense 1,800-foot journey took 25 minutes, according to CNN affiliate CTV. “I’m extremely blessed to be where I am,” Wallenda said after stepping onto Canadian soil.

Sources: BBC, CNN, Al Jazeera, Reuters, euronews, NYT, WSJ

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