Briefs, January 18, 2013

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 January, 2013, 4:19am


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Peace process stalled in Afghanistan

KABUL - A real peace process in Afghanistan has not begun and the United States does not know what has happened to Taliban prisoners released by Pakistan, the US ambassador to Kabul said. Pakistan said 26 prisoners were freed late last year to kick-start peace talks ahead of the withdrawal of US-led Nato troops from Afghanistan. "We don't know, frankly, what has happened to the people that the Pakistanis have released," James Cunningham said. AFP


19 more killed in wave of Iraqi violence

BAGHDAD - A spate of bombings targeting Shiite Muslims across Iraq killed 19 people, the latest in a spike in unrest amid weeks of anti-government protests and a political crisis engulfing the country. The attacks marked the third consecutive day of violence which has claimed 78 lives overall, including that of a Sunni Iraqi MP killed by a suicide bomber and 33 others who died in twin car bombs in a northern city. AFP


Inmate electrocuted over prison killings

WASHINGTON - An American who murdered two fellow inmates while serving a life sentence was put to death by electric chair, the first such execution since 2010, authorities said. Robert Gleason, 42, was declared dead last night, said a spokesman for the Department of Corrections in Virginia. Gleason was serving a life sentence for a 2007 murder when he strangled a 63-year-old prisoner in 2009 and another, 26, while he awaited sentencing. AFP


Activists rail at annual fiery leap of horses

SAN BARTOLOME DE PINARES - About 100 Spanish horsemen jumped burning logs and flames leaping into the night, in a controversial, centuries-old rite held every year in this village. The festival on the eve of St Anthony's Day remembers the patron saint of animals. It is believed the rite protects the animals from curses. The town is fiercely attached to the festival despite opposition from animal rights groups concerned about the safety of the horses. AFP


'Arab spring' sparked revolts and crackdowns

KUWAIT - Countries whose leaders were overthrown in the "Arab spring" revolts of 2011 mostly made democratic gains last year, but the uprisings triggered crackdowns elsewhere in the region, an annual survey of political and civil liberties around the world showed. Libya improved the political rights of its citizens significantly last year by holding successful elections and Egypt's progress was "modest", according to Freedom House, a US-based advocate for spreading democracy. Reuters


Plea deal for marine who urinated on body

CAMP LEJEUNE, US - An American marine who pleaded guilty to urinating on the corpse of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan will likely be demoted one rank under a plea agreement, although a military judge called for a much harsher sentence. Staff Sergeant Edward Deptola pleaded guilty on Wednesday at a court martial. Deptola and a colleague were charged over a video showing four US marines urinating on the bodies of three Afghans in 2011. AP


Police, journalist held in British graft inquiry

LONDON - British police investigating corruption related to the country's tabloid phone-hacking scandal say they have arrested two police officers and a journalist. The three were detained on allegations related to "inappropriate payments to police and public officials", police in the capital said. The corruption inquiry is running alongside one into phone and computer hacking sparked by revelations that reporters at Rupert Murdoch's now-shuttered News of the World routinely intercepted voicemails of figures in the public eye. AP


Protesters block rail lines, roads in Canada

WINDSOR, Canada - Aboriginal demonstrators slowed highway traffic, snarled a rail line and protested at the busiest Canada-US crossing as part of their ongoing dispute with the government in Ottawa over treaty rights. The protests erupted almost two months ago against a budget bill that aboriginals say undermines century-old treaties by changing environmental rules in favour of resource extraction. AP


Tajik authorities take Facebook offline again

DUSHANBE - Tajikistan has blocked social-media website Facebook for the third time in 12 months. Internet regulation in the Central Asian former Soviet republic is expected to be strict ahead of a presidential election that will be held in November. AP