Briefs, October 22, 2012

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 22 October, 2012, 5:15am


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Fidel Castro appears in public after months

HAVANA - A top executive at Havana's Hotel Nacional said that Fidel Castro made a public appearance there, challenging rumours that he is in ailing health. The hotel's commercial director Yamila Fuster said 86-year-old Castro arrived there in a car to drop off a "distinguished Venezuelan guest," then stayed to chat with hotel employees. Castro has not appeared on television or publically since March. AP


BP agrees to swapfor Rosneft stake

LONDON - A person familiar with the matter said that the board of UK energy company BP has struck a deal to swap its profitable but troublesome Russian oil venture TNK-BP for a big stake in Rosneft, the Kremlin-controlled energy company. The sale of BP's half of TNK-BP would net the company between US$10 billion to US$15 billion in cash as well as a 15 to 20 per cent stake in Rosneft. AP


Opposition to boycott Kuwait elections

KUWAIT CITY - Opposition groups in Kuwait said they will boycott December 1 parliamentary elections, calling changes to the voting system announced by the government on Saturday a "coup against the constitution". The government decided to amend the election law to allow each voter to choose one candidate instead of four. Reuters


Reprieve for mass killer in Florida

MIAMI - A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for a mass killer in Florida who is mentally ill and was scheduled to be executed tomorrow. John Errol Ferguson, who has been on Florida's death row for 34 years, was convicted of killing eight people, including six who died execution-style, in 1977. AP


Pioneering bone marrow doctor dies

OREGON - E. Donnall Thomas, an American physician who pioneered bone marrow transplants and later won the 1990 Nobel Prize in medicine, has died in Seattle at age 92. Thomas' groundbreaking work is among the greatest success stories in the treatment of leukaemia. Bone marrow transplantation and its sister therapy, blood stem cell transplantation, have improved the survival rates to upward of 90 per cent from almost zero. AP


Counter-coup foiled in Guinea-Bissau

BISSAU - Six people died in a gunbattle near Guinea-Bissau's capital on Saturday in an apparent counter-coup attempt. The West African state is in the midst of a messy recovery after the army overthrew the government and derailed planned elections. Reuters


US police kill armed naked woman at party

TAMPA, US - Two off-duty Florida law-enforcement officers fatally shot an armed, naked woman who confronted them at a social gathering. The shooting occurred on Saturday north of Tampa. The county sheriff's office said in a news release that the men were approached by an "armed, naked and irrational female". The news release did not identify her weapon. AP


US-Israeli exercises send message to Iran

JERUSALEM - Israeli and American troops began a vast missile-defence exercise called Austere Challenge 12, in what was hailed as their largest-ever joint military operation. The exercise, which involves 3,500 personnel from the US European Command and 1,000 Israeli troops, is expected to last three weeks. It is likely intended to send a clear signal to Tehran over its nuclear programme, which most of the West believes is a weapons drive. AFP


Colombian soldiers die in attack by Farc rebels

BOGOTA - Five Colombian soldiers were killed by Farc rebels in the first major incident since peace talks between the Andean country's government and guerilla leaders began last week. The Friday night attack with explosives by rebels in the southern Putumayo region killed five soldiers and injured 10 more. The attack took place in a Farc stronghold near Colombia's border with Ecuador. Reuters


Lourdes mops up aspilgrims flee flooding

LOURDES, France - A massive clean-up was under way in the French pilgrimage town of Lourdes yesterday as firefighters pumped water from its famed Catholic sanctuaries after flooding forced the evacuation of hundreds of visitors. The waters, from days of non-stop rain in the region, had begun to recede, but the main places of worship remained closed to the public. AFP


Saudi Arabia promises safe Mecca pilgrimage

MECCA - The annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca will not be affected by events in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia's interior minister said. Officials expect the main events, which begin on Wednesday, to attract more than two million devotees. AFP