Thursday 26 April 2018

In brief: Syria to lift emergency laws as more demonstrations hit Damascus

Syria's president said he expects the government to lift the country's decades-old emergency laws this week. Lifting the state of emergency has been a key demand during protests over the past four weeks.

The protests have posed a serious challenge to President Bashar Assad's authoritarian regime. The emergency laws give the regime a free hand to arrest people without charge and extend the state's authority into virtually every aspect of Syrians' lives.

Earlier it was reported that a Syrian policeman died after being beaten by protesters during a demonstration.

Court orders Mubarak party wind-up

An Egyptian court yesterday ordered the dissolution of the political party of former President Hosni Mubarak, one of the demands of protesters who ended his 30-year rule.

The Higher Administrative Court in Cairo also ordered the liquidation of the assets of the National Democratic Party (NDP), with the funds to be returned to the state.

The party's headquarters were torched during the protests that led Mr Mubarak to step down in February.

Nigerians vote on president's future

Voters in Nigeria were deciding yesterday whether to keep their accidental president in power.

Unease regarding the Christian leader among Nigeria's Muslims could force a run-off in the oil-rich country, where elections have long been marred by violence.

Voters had to decide whether President Goodluck Jonathan should now be elected after taking over last year. Mr Jonathan is the candidate for Nigeria's long-dominant ruling party and is the clear front-runner, but it could go to a second round for the first time since Nigeria became a democracy 12 years ago.

Actor Cage arrested on abuse charge

Authorities say actor Nicolas Cage (pictured right) has been arrested in New Orleans on charges of domestic abuse battery and disturbing the peace.

The Orleans Parish Sheriff's office says Cage was booked into the Orleans Parish Prison at 11.30am yesterday. Cage has been a frequent visitor to New Orleans, where he has owned property and shot movies in the past.

Fears of new leaks at nuclear plant

Levels of radioactivity in seawater have risen sharply near a tsunami-crippled nuclear plant in northern Japan, possibly signaling new leaks, the Japanese have said.

The announcement came after a magnitude-5.9 earthquake jolted Japan yesterday, hours after the nuclear safety agency ordered plant operators to beef up their systems to prevent a recurrence of the nuclear crisis.

There were no immediate reports of damage from the earthquake, and there was no risk of a tsunami similar to last month's that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, causing Japan's worst-ever nuclear plant disaster.

Pontiff enjoys a busy 84th birthday

Pope Benedict XVI spent yesterday, his 84th birthday, working, making appointments and receiving aides, while well-wishers sent their greetings.

The Pontiff, who had a busy day, appointed an Italian bishop and greeted Spain's new ambassador to the Vatican with a speech defending religious freedom.

UN decision sparks Croatian protests

Several thousand Croats protested yesterday at the decision of the UN to convict two former Croatian generals at a war crimes tribunal in The Hague. The trial was a condition of Croatia's attempt to join the EU.

Ante Gotovina and Mladen Markac were jailed last Friday, for 24 and 18 years respectively, for orchestrating a campaign of murder and plunder, which drove 200,000 Serbs from an enclave of Croatia in 1995.

UK to stop 'best before' food labelling

The "best before" dates on food packaging in the UK are to be scrapped in a drive to stop millions of tons of edible produce worth €7bn being thrown away each year.

New guidelines will be unveiled to provide better information for shoppers and make them far more reluctant to throw out food before it is even opened.

Instead of marking food "best before" a certain date, retailers will have to produce labels that give details of the health risks associated with foods that remain on shelves, or in the fridge, for a lengthy period before being eaten.

Burkina Faso army continues looting

Merchants in Burkina Faso's capital say soldiers looted for a second night following unrest over their unpaid housing allowances. Witnesses also said some soldiers robbed hotels, continued looting shops and stealing cars. The latest disquiet started late last Thursday with shooting at the presidential compound.

Activists criticise Italian horse races

Animal welfare activists are demanding the famous Siena Palio and other Italian horse races are shut down as concerns grow over the number of animals dying on the streets of ancient towns.

Staged in Siena's steep Piazza del Campo, the Palio has taken place on this course since 1659. But leading Italian animal welfare activists want the event to be scrapped, citing the deaths of 48 horses between 1970 and 2007.

Clegg seeks change in succession laws

Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the UK government is considering changing the rules of royal succession so that if Prince William and Kate Middleton's first child is a girl she would eventually become queen.

Mr Clegg stressed that such a change was a complex process that required consultation with nations in the British Commonwealth. His comments yesterday come less than two weeks before the couple's April 29 wedding.

Cops hunt man after rush-hour attack

BRITISH police were yesterday hunting a man over a rush-hour attack on another motorist, which occurred on the hard shoulder of a motorway in Manchester.

After a minor collision, the drivers of a red Fiesta and a people carrier argued. A passenger from the people carrier sprayed an unknown substance into the face of the other driver, temporarily blinding him. He was hit on the leg before the men then fled the scene.

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