Home' Greymouth Star : February 14th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
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US anger as
Scores of Taliban ghters have walked
free from jail in Afghanistan, triggering
condemnation from the United States,
which said they were responsible for
killing Nato and Afghani soldiers as well
e release of the prisoners further
worsened the bitter relationship between
Kabul and Washington as US-led foreign
troops prepare to withdraw after 13 years
ghting the Islamist militants.
" e 65 prisoners were freed and walked
out of the Bagram prison compound,"
Abdul Shukor Dadras, a member of the
Afghani government's review body, said.
" eir cases were reviewed and we had
no reason to keep them in jail."
e US embassy criticised the releases
as "a deeply regrettable" move that could
lead to further violence in Afghanistan,
which has su ered a bloody Taliban
insurgency since 2001.
" e Afghani government bears
responsibility for the results of its
decision,"the embassy said in a statement.
"We urge it to make every e ort to
ensure that those released do not commit
new acts of violence and terror."
But President Hamid Karzai has called
Bagram prison a "Taliban-producing
factory" and alleged that some detainees
were tortured into hating their country.
e US military described the men as
"dangerous individuals" directly linked to
attacks that killed or wounded 32 Nato
personnel and 23 Afghanis.
It gave names and details of three men
to be freed, including Mohammad Wali,
whom it described as a suspected Taliban
explosives expert "biometrically linked"
to two bombings.
e overnight prison releases
could threaten essential funding for
Afghanistan as US politicians become
increasingly frustrated at Kabul's
antagonistic approach to its biggest aid
Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen
also criticised the decision, calling it "a
major step backwards for the rule of law
in Afghanistan and poses serious security
concerns". --- AFP
Tr a c comes to a standstill as Charlotte Mecklenburg police o cers work to assist motorists attempting to drive up a hill covered in snow in
Charlotte, North Carolina.
'Snowmageddon' lashes US east
A major storm blowing in heavy snow
and ice is gripping large swaths of the
winter-weary United States, leaving a
dozen people dead and knocking out
power to hundreds of thousands of
ousands of travellers were stranded
as ights, including at major air hubs in
Atlanta and New York, were cancelled,
and nearly 800,000 homes and
businesses lost power, mainly in Georgia,
and North and South Carolina.
e latest brutal freeze to hammer
the eastern States of the country since
the start of the year has been dubbed
"snowmaggedon", "mind-boggling" and
"historic" by major television networks
CBS News said at least 11 deaths had
been blamed on the ferocious conditions.
"A strengthening area of low pressure
will move up the east coast bringing
with it signi cant winter weather from
the southeast to New England (in the
northeast)," the National Weather
Service, which had warned of a
"mammoth dome" of Arctic air, said.
e massive storm --- which had an
estimated 100 million people in its
path in 20 States --- hit on Wednesday
and by early today day the National
Weather Service had warnings in e ect
in numerous States, advising people to
stay o the "dangerous" roads.
Earlier, President Barack Obama had
declared states of emergency in Georgia
and South Carolina to deploy federal
resources to help deal with the frigid
Flight Aware website said airlines
cancelled at least 3700 ights yesterday
and had already shelved 4500 for today.
e US capital's downtown was a
virtual ghost town as snow blew in late
on Wednesday night, with temperatures
hovering around -3degC.
e severe weather has also been
playing havoc with US businesses and
governments' bottom line.
Payrolls rm ADP said last week that
the wintry onslaught has taken a toll on
Oil prices, by contrast, have been
propelled higher by the extra-cold
weather and succession of winter storms.
State and local governments are
scrambling to cover the cost of clearing
the snow, especially as road salt prices
skyrocket amid shortages.
Farmers and rural residents are also
facing high prices and shortages of the
propane used to heat their homes and
barns. --- AFP
Tens of thousands of Britons have
endured a second day without power
as yet another Atlantic storm barrelled
towards a country struggling to deal
with the wettest winter for 250 years.
e fresh band of rain, snow and
strong winds was due to strike ood-hit
southern Britain later today, two days
after hurricane-force gales tore through
the country leaving one person dead.
e swollen River ames was expected
to reach its highest level for 60 years at
the weekend, promising fresh misery for
ooded towns west of London where
the military is providing relief.
Energy companies were overnight
trying to get power back to more than
56,000 people still left without electricity,
having restored supplies to 402,107 hit
by outages during yesterday's storm.
e Met O ce said there would be a
"multi-pronged attack" of wind, rain and
snow striking Britain later today.
e heavy rain could lead to more
ooding as downpours of up to 40mm
could fall in just six hours, a spokesman
Gusts approaching 160kph tore at parts
of England and Wales on Wednesday
One man died after being electrocuted
while attempting to move a fallen tree
that had brought down power lines in
Wiltshire, south-west England, the
rst to be killed in the latest round of
Britain also faces an economic battering
after Bank of England governor Mark
Carney said the fragile recovery from
recession would be a ected by the bad
" ere's a big human cost here and I
absolutely recognise that," Carney told
" en there's the disruption to
economic activity that we see just
through transport, but farming clearly
will be a ected for some time, (and)
other businesses." --- AFP
faces new winter storm
All sodas and other sugar-
sweetened drinks sold in California
would be required to carry warning
labels for obesity, diabetes and
tooth decay under a bill introduced
in Sacramento overnight, backed
by several public health advocacy
If passed, caloric drinks would
join tobacco and alcohol products
in carrying health warning labels
in California, the nation's most
populous state and a legislative
Proponents say the rst-of-
its kind e ort takes aim at the
epidemic of obesity in the United
States, where 35.7% of adults and
16.9% of children aged two to 19
are obese, according to the Centres
for Disease Control and Prevention.
A growing body of research has
identi ed sugary drinks as the
biggest contributors to added,
empty calories in the American
diet, and as a major culprit in a
range of costly health problems
associated with being overweight.
e proposal is expected to face
sti opposition from the beverage
industry, which has fought e orts
elsewhere to clamp down on the
consumption of high-calorie
beverages ranging from soda to
In New York City in 2012,
then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg
spearheaded a ban on sales of large
sugary drinks, but the move was
later declared illegal by a State
judge after a legal challenge by
soft drink makers and a restaurant
New York's highest court has
agreed to hear an appeal.
San Francisco voters may decide
on a ballot initiative that would
impose a 1c per 14g tax on sodas
and other drinks with added sugar
sold there, but two other California
cities failed in their attempts to
impose a special soda tax, as did
the ski resort town of Telluride,
e American Beverage
Association, which represents
industry leaders such as Coca-Cola
Co, Pepsi Co Inc and Dr Pepper
Snapple Group Inc, has said raising
taxes and restricting soft drink
consumption will not necessarily
lead to a healthier population.
Critics of such moves have
derided them for what they call the
rise of the "nanny state". --- Reuters
Belgium became the rst country to
allow euthanasia for terminally ill children
of any age overnight when its lower house
of parliament passed new "right-to-die"
legislation by a large majority.
e law goes beyond Dutch legislation
that set a minimum age of 12 for children
judged mature enough to decide to end
their lives. It has popular support in
Belgium, where adult euthanasia became
legal in 2002.
In the Chamber of Representatives, 86
lawmakers voted in favour, 44 against
and 12 abstained. Most opposition
parties supported it, as well as the
governing socialists and liberals.
One man in the public gallery shouted
"murderers" in French when the vote
e Christian Democrats, although
members of Prime Minister Elio
Di Rupo's coalition, voted against.
Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders
denounced the law ahead of the vote
in a rare joint declaration and Catholic
bishops have led days of prayer and
fasting against it.
" is is not about lethal injections
for children. is is about terminally ill
children, whose death is imminent and
who su er greatly," Carina Van Cauter,
a lawmaker for the Flemish Liberal
Democrats who back the law, said.
" ere are clear checks and balances in
the law to prevent abuse," she said of the
legislation, which now has to pass the
largely symbolic stage of being signed by
the country's monarch.
e vote attracted more attention
abroad than in Belgium, where none of
the major newspapers carried the news
of the vote on their front pages, and
television news concentrated on Belgium
being in the international spotlight.
Children seeking to end their lives
must be "capable of discernment",
the law says, and psychologists must
test them to con rm they understand
what they are doing. Parents must also
approve of their child's decision.
Supporters of the law say these
safeguards would rule out the very
young and teenagers not mature enough
Opponents have dismissed these rules
as arbitrary and warned the new law will
lead to a slippery slope of ever wider
interpretation and a "banalisation" of
Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph
Leonard, head of the Catholic Church
in Belgium, asked at a prayer vigil last
week why the state wanted to give
minors such responsibility when they
had to wait until 18 for many other legal
" e law says adolescents cannot make
important decisions on economic or
emotional issues, but suddenly they've
become able to decide that someone
should make them die," he said.
Belgium's rules on euthanasia have
come under international scrutiny in
the past year after it granted the right
to die to deaf twin brothers who were
about to turn blind and to a transgender
person after an unsuccessful sex change
e new law speci es that children
seeking euthanasia must be terminally ill
rather than just in a state of unbearable
su ering, which is the quali cation for
adults. --- Reuters
Belgium nod for euthanasia of terminally ill children Fizzy drinks to carry
warnings in California
Just days after a Copenhagen
zoo sparked global outrage by
putting down a healthy gira e
named Marius, another Danish
zoo says it may do the same
thing to a gira e with the same
e Jyllands Park Zoo, near the
town of Herning, said overnight
that it may have to kill one of
its gira es, coincidentally also
named Marius, because his
genes make him unsuitable for
"We can't keep him if we get a
female, because then we would
have two males that would ght
with each other," zoo keeper
Janni Loejtved Poulsen told AFP.
Seven-year-old Marius is
healthy but is less of a priority
for breeders since his genes
are already represented in the
European Endangered Species
Programme (EEP), which the
zoo joined just over a year ago.
e zoo received a purebred
male in April that is considered a
higher priority by the EEP.
"We have received one male
gira e that is highly ranked
genetically, and it's up to the
breeding co-ordinator when they
have another purebred gira e for
us," Loejtved Poulsen said.
If the European organisation
is unable to nd Marius a new
home, the Jyllands Park Zoo will
have to put him down, she said.
Last week, the scienti c director
of Copenhagen's zoo received
death threats after Marius, an
18-month-old gira e, was put
down despite thousands signing
an on-line petition to save him.
e animal was later skinned
and dissected in front of visitors.
e zoo said it had no choice
other than to prevent the animal
attaining adulthood, since under
European rules inbreeding
between gira es is to be avoided.
Two Russian daredevil climbers
have ascended to the top of the
world's second tallest building
in China's commercial hub
Shanghai, posting a stomach-
turning video which has received
more than a million views.
e duo, who identi ed
themselves as Vadim Makhorov
and Vitaliy Raskalov, said they
scaled the Shanghai Tower, which
will reach over 630m when it is
nished this year if construction
goes according to schedule.
Globally it will be second only
to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai,
which stands at 828m.
e video showed the two,
wearing black hoodies, walking
up stairs, climbing ladders and
nally scaling a crane at the top
of the Shanghai Tower as they
peered at buildings shrouded in
Raskalov said on his blog that
they started the ascent on January
31, the rst day of China's Lunar
"At that time the security was
less watchful, workers were on
vacations," he said.
"It took us almost two hours to
get on the 120th oor by foot.
And also, we (spent) almost 18
hours on top of the building,
sleeping and waiting for better
A video of their feat, posted on
You Tube had been viewed nearly
1.8 million times on You Tube
and more than 1.4 million times
on Chinese site Youku.com.
In China, where You Tube is
blocked by authorities, the clip
was re-posted to several video
websites.Many Chinese netizens
were impressed by their antics,
though some did highlight it was
a violation of the law. --- AFP
Russian daredevils scale
Second Danish zoo
may kill healthy gira e
Facebook has freed members from the
bonds of being either male or female,
letting people opt for custom genders
such as transsexual or "intersex" at the
Along with adding scores of "custom
gender" options on pro le pages,
Facebook is letting members select
which pronouns they wish used when
referring to them in posts or messages.
Along with "he/him" and "she/her"
options, there is a neutral "they/their"
"While to many this change may not
mean much, for those it a ects it means
a great deal," Facebook said in a post at
its Diversity page that included a picture
of a rainbow ag on display on the
company's campus in the Silicon Valley
city of Menlo Park.
"We see this as one more way we can
make Facebook a place where people can
express their authentic identity."
Facebook said it worked with lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender activist
groups to create a thorough list of gender
options, which can be found in an "other"
category on pro le About pages.
Custom genders are available only to
those who use Facebook in US English
but the company planned to expand the
range in the future. --- AFP
Schapelle Corby will
be told not to do her
inter view, after Indonesian
authorities agreed it could
end her parole.
Deputy Law and Human
Rights Minister Denny
Indrayana last night said
he had discussed the issue
with the minister.
ey determined the
inter view would threaten
Corby's parole, and it "would be wise"
for her not to do it.
Indrayana told reporters in Kuta that
the convicted Australian drug tra cker
was not a special case.
She had met the conditions to be
granted parole, and if she met the
conditions to have it revoked, including
that she creates unease among society, it
would be, he said.
"I have communicated with the
minister earlier regarding the would-be
"We have agreed, and we have conveyed
this to corrections board o cers, that it
would be better that those interviews
were not conducted
because the content might
invite polemics and it's
possible that it creates
unease among society."
If the inter view took
place, Indrayana said, it
was possible that Corby's
parole would be revoked.
"So, instead of creating
problems, we're giving
the view, advice, as I have
conveyed to corrections
board o cers to convey
this to Corby that it (the interview) shall
not be conducted because she's still in
"With parole, there's regulation."
Since her release from Kerobokan jail
on Monday, Corby has been in talks
with the Seven Network about giving
her rst tv interview, with reports
the exclusive rights could earn her
e backlash in both Australia and
Indonesia prompted sister Mercedes
Corby to release a statement to tv in
both languages earlier yesterday.
In it, she said: " e sums being reported
are ridiculous". --- AAP
Indonesia puts stop
to Corby inter view
e World Bank said overnight it
was investigating claims of labour and
human rights abuses at an Indian tea
plantation project that it jointly nances
with tea giant Tata Global Beverages in
the north-eastern State of Assam.
e International Finance Corporation
(IFC) --- a member of the World Bank
Group --- said its accountability o ce
decided to probe the project, run by
Amalgamated Plantations Private
Limited (APPL), after charities
complained that tea pickers were being
" e Compliance Adviser
Ombudsman (CAO) has announced an
investigation into whether IFC followed
its policies and procedures in the case of
APPL," said an IFC statement e-mailed
to Reuters in response to questions.
"IFC takes all concerns in relation
to its investments/projects that are
expressed by stakeholders and a ected
Both Tata Global Beverages and APPL
have denied any violation of workers
rights. APPL said it would extend full
co-operation to the CAO probe.
"Wages are paid as per industry
agreements. Cash wage plus bene ts
total up to 189 rupees ($3) per man day.
Working hours are as speci ed in the
Plantations Labour Act, 1951," Kaushik
Biswas, APPL's company secretary, said.
ree non-governmental organisations
complained to the CAO in February last
year about alleged worker violations in
three of APPL's 24 plantations.
e complaint cited long working
hours, inadequate compensation and poor
health conditions, including the unsafe
use of pesticides. It said there is restricted
freedom of association among workers
and barriers to voicing grievances.
Productivity targets are so di cult to
meet, it said, that tea pickers engage
other family members, including
children, to receive a single wage.
A damning report on the project
by Columbia University earlier this
month said tea pickers faced "dire living
and working conditions, in violation
of Indian law and the World Bank's
standards for environmental and social
sustainability." --- Reuters
World Bank probes Indian
Spanish archaeologists have discovered
a 3600-year-old Egyptian mummy
inside a wooden sarcophagus adorned
with rare feather drawings in the ancient
city of Luxor.
e 2m long and 50cm wide
sarcophagus was in good condition and
its colours were still bright, Egypt's
antiquities ministry said in a statement
Antiquities minister Mohamed
Ibrahim said feather drawings are rarely
found on ancient co ns.
" e sarcophagus goes back to the 17th
dynasty (1600 years BC)," Ali El-Asfar,
the head of the antiquities ministry's
pharaonic department, said.
"Its owner could have been an
important statesman, according to the
sarcophagus's preliminary examination
and its inscriptions," El-Asfar said
e sarcophagus was discovered in an
ancient burial site on Luxor's west bank,
near a tomb belonging to the storehouse
administrator of Queen Hatshepsut, a
member of the 18th dynasty who ruled
Egypt from 1502 to 1482 BC.
e Spanish archaeological team,
which has been working in Luxor for 13
years, discovered last year the wooden
sarcophagus of a ve-year-old boy that
goes back to the 17th dynasty.
Luxor, a city of about 500,000
residents on the banks of the Nile in
southern Egypt, is an open-air museum
of intricate temples, tombs of pharaonic
rulers and landmarks such as the Winter
Palace hotel, where crime novelist
Agatha Christie is said to have written
Death on the Nile. --- AFP
Ancient mummy discovered
Bangui (Central African Republic)
e head of the United Nations'
refugee agency says he has witnessed
"a humanitarian catastrophe of
unspeakable proportions" during his visit
to the Central African Republic.
"Massive ethno-religious cleansing is
continuing. Shocking barbarity, brutality
and inhumanity have characterised this
violence," said Antonio Guterres, the
UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
He also said the country's new
government is incapable of e ectively
protecting its citizens.
His statement clashed awkwardly with
a speech yesterday by the CAR's new
transitional President, Catherine Samba
Panza, who vowed war against a mostly
Christian anti-balaka militia whose
recent attacks have led to a mass exodus
"We are going to go to war against
the anti-balaka," she told a crowd in the
town of Mbaiki, south of the capital,
" ey think that because I'm a woman,
I'm weak. But now the anti-balaka who
want to kill, will themselves be hunted,"
e anti-balaka emerged last year
after a mostly Muslim rebel group
seized control of the country. ey have
gone on the rampage in Bangui and
elsewhere, largely targeting Muslims,
since the rebels were ousted from power
Samba Panza was joined on stage by
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le
Drian. France has grown increasingly
strident in its calls for action against the
anti-balaka, fearing violence could lead
to partition. --- AAP
Tragedy 'unspeakable': UN
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