Briefs, October 24, 2012

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 24 October, 2012, 4:31am

Troops bring calm to Beirut streets

BEIRUT - Calm returned to the streets of Lebanon's capital, a day after troops launched a major security operation to quell fighting touched off by the assassination of a top anti-Syrian intelligence chief. The country's police chief released details of the investigation into the killing of Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan, describing a carefully planned car bombing. Many in Lebanon blame Syria for the killing. Hassan challenged Syria and its powerful Lebanese ally, the Shiite militant group Hezbollah. Seven people have died in clashes between pro- and anti-Syria factions since Friday. AP


Disaster chief quits in protest over jailings

ROME - The head of Italy's top disaster body quit in protest after seven of its members were sentenced to six years in jail for manslaughter for underestimating the risks of a deadly 2009 earthquake that killed 309 people. Luciano Maiami told the ANSA news agency he had resigned as head of the Major Risks Committee because "there aren't the conditions to work serenely," a day after the watershed ruling that sent shockwaves through the international scientific community. The seven defendants are appealing the ruling by the court in the town of L'Aquila. Reuters


Qatar ruler hailed on visit to Gaza

GAZA CITY - The emir of Qatar received a hero's welcome in Gaza, becoming the first head of state to visit the Palestinian territory since the Islamist militant Hamas seized control of the coastal strip five years ago. Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani's visit gave Gaza's Hamas rulers an important diplomatic victory. Hamas is considered a terrorist group by the West and its rule of Gaza is not inter-nationally recognised. The visit reflects the rising influence of Hamas' parent movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, since last year's Arab spring uprisings. AP


Soyuz takes three to space station

KOROLYOV - A Soyuz spacecraft carrying two Russians and a American blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS), where the men are to spend five months in orbit. The Russian-built Soyuz TMA-06M lifted off on time from the Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan, according to Russia's mission control centre outside Moscow. US astronaut Kevin Ford is making his second space voyage, while cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky and Yevgeny Tarelkin are on their first mission. Reuters


Court passes buck on constitutional panel

CAIRO - An Egyptian court meant to rule on the fate of an Islamist-dominated panel in charge of writing the constitution has instead referred the case to a superior court which has that already expressed its opposition to the draft charter. The case has widened a rift between the ruling Islamists and secular-leaning opponents over the role of religion in the text that led to skirmishes this month during rival rallies in Cairo. AFP


2 children die as rebels shell southern town

KHARTOUM - Sudanese rebels killed two children and wounded eight other civilians when they shelled the main town in Sudan's oil-producing South Kordofan state, the army said - the third bout of shelling in the past two weeks. Sudan's army has been fighting SPLM-North rebels in the state, which borders South Sudan, since June last year, shortly before South Sudan seceded. But the South Kordofan capital of Kadugli was until recently kept out of the fighting. Reuters


Supervision order over student's hazing death

ORLANDO - The first of a dozen defendants to be sentenced for last year's hazing death of a Florida university drum major avoided jail, but he will spend more than two years under close supervision. Brian Jones' role in the hazing death of Robert Champion was relatively minimal and Jones did not hit the Florida A&M student, Judge Marc Lubet said. Champion died in November after being beaten by fellow band members aboard a bus after a football game. AP


Clintons, stars launch industrial park in Haiti

CARACOL, Haiti - US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton encouraged foreigners to invest in Haiti as she and her husband Bill Clinton led a star-studded delegation inaugurating a new industrial park at the centre of Washington's efforts to help the country rebuild after a devastating 2010 earthquake. Actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller were among the luminaries at the opening of the US$300 million Caracol Industrial Park, which is projected to create thousands of jobs more than 100 kilometres from the quake-ravaged capital Port-au-Prince. But some Haitians say the industrial park will benefit outsiders more than Haitians. AP


Director took pills before suicide leap

LOS ANGELES - Hollywood filmmaker Tony Scott had an anti-depressant and sleep aid in his blood when he leapt to his death from a suspension bridge in August, the Los Angeles County Coroner's office said. Preliminary autopsy results confirmed Scott's suicide was caused by blunt-force trauma and drowning. The British-born director, 68, of hits such as Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop II had therapeutic levels in his system, investigators found. Reuters