Islamabad, Dec 12 (IANS) Two Pakistani soldiers were killed and two were injured Wednesday when unidentified militants fired at an army vehicle in the country’s northwest tribal region, media reports said.
Official sources told Urdu TV channel Dawn that the gunmen opened fire at a vehicle used by a military-run construction company, the Frontier Works Organization, in Miran Shah area of North Waziristan.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Following the incident, the administration of North Waziristan imposed curfew in the area.
London, Dec 12 (IANS) Anti-apartheid hero and South Africa’s first black President Nelson Mandela, currently being treated in a hospital for a lung infection, has made progress, BBC reported Wednesday.
Mandela, 94, was rushed to a military hospital in Pretoria Saturday.
Doctors attending him were “satisfied with the way he is responding to treatment”, said a statement from President Jacob Zuma’s office.
Mandela is one of the world’s most-loved figures after spending 27 years in prison during the apartheid.
The former president, fondly referred to as Madiba, led the struggle against white-minority rule before being elected the first black president in 1994.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.
“We continue to request that Madiba and his family be accorded the necessary space and privacy and thank the media and the public for cooperation,” the statement from the presidency said.
Mandela was last admitted to hospital in February when he was treated for abdominal pain. In January 2011, he was treated for a serious chest infection.
While in prison in the 1980s, Mandela was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and his lungs are said to have been damaged when he worked in a prison quarry.
Mandela retired from public life in 2004.
Moscow, Dec 12 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Russian President Vladimir Putin in his state-of-the-nation address Wednesday warned against foreign interference in the country’s domestic affairs.
Putin also targeted local political actors who get money from abroad.
“Direct or indirect interference from outside in our internal political processes is unacceptable,” he said.
Someone “who receives money from abroad for his political activity, and in doing so certainly serves other (countries’) national interests, cannot be a politician in the Russian Federation”, he said.
With this, Putin reiterated concerns over foreign meddling in Russian politics that have been particularly acute since the outbreak of mass public protests last year.
At the time, Putin, then prime minister, made international headlines for claiming the street protests had been funded by the US State Department, a charge Washington has denied.
A current high-profile criminal case against one of the protest leaders involves accusations that he received funding to overthrow the Russian government from a Georgian politician. All the accused have also denied wrongdoing.
Putin asserted that, in politics, Russia has no option but democracy, but emphasised that the country has “its own traditions of popular self-rule”, and Russian democracy does not mean “the implementation of standards imposed on us from outside”.
Los Angeles, Dec 12 (IANS) Biopic “Lincoln”, musical “Les Miserables” and romantic comedy “Silver Linings Playbook” Wednesday dominated nominations for the 19th Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards with four nods each.
On the TV front, the constant contender and winner, ABC comedy “Modern Family” finished as the top nominee with four mentions, Xinhua reported.
Others like “30 Rock”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “Glee”, “Nurse Jackie” and “The Office” also made their way into the pack.
Actor-director Ben Affleck’s political thriller “Argo” and British comedy-drama “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” will also vie for the best ensemble cast, regarded the top honour at the annual event.
Moscow, Dec 12 (IANS/RIA Novosti) The recognition by the US of Syria’s opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people shows that Washington is gambling on a military victory by the coalition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.
“I was somewhat surprised to learn that the US, through its president, has recognised the national coalition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people,” he said.
“That is at odds with the agreements recorded in the Geneva communique calling for an all-Syria dialogue between the country’s government representatives on the one hand and the opposition on the other,” Lavrov said.
Syria’s opposition coalition has declared its refusal to negotiate with the government and defined its chief goal as regime change, Lavrov recalled.
Moscow will seek clarification of the US position on Syria, he added.
“In the course of consultations (three days ago in Geneva), we had the impression that the Americans understand the need for an all-Syrian dialogue with the government’s participation,” Lavrov said.
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday the US has decided formally to recognise the Syrian opposition rebel coalition that is fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
“We’ve made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime,” Obama said in an interview with the ABC TV network.
He described the move as a “big step”.
In a summary of the interview posted on its website, ABC news said the move did not include a decision to provide weapons to the Syrian rebels but opened the door to that possibility in the future.
The National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed Nov 11 in Doha, Qatar, and proclaimed itself the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Its legitimacy has since been recognized by France, Britain and several other countries.
“Obviously, with that recognition comes responsibilities,” Obama said.
“To make sure that they organise themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, (and) that they commit themselves to a political transition that respects women’s rights and minority rights.”
Washington, Dec 12 (IANS/RIA Novosti) Wednesday was the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012, a rare triple digit date so unique that it prompted thousands of couples in the US to tie the knot on what many saw as an extra lucky day.
“Weddings are one of the most important and significant events that happen in a woman’s life, and the ability to able to combine that with a once-in-a-lifetime date like 12-12-12 is something that doesn’t come along very often,” Brian Beitler, executive vice president of David’s Bridal wedding wear, told Huffington Post website.
“For a bride trying to make the most of her special day, a unique date like this, an iconic date like this, provides something that not many brides for the rest of this century are going to be able to do,” he said.
The wedding supply chain estimates roughly 7,500 couples will marry across the US on Wednesday, up more than 1,400 percent from the 485 couples who wed on the same date in 2011.
Among the lucky couples are Alysen Hargrove and Tommy Cowan of the state of Colorado. They got engaged last year 11-11-11, which also happened to be the bride’s birthday.
For some, the number 12 is considered lucky. For others it represents faith and love.
Numerologists say it is a symbol of wholeness and completion. It is also prominent for Biblical scholars — Jacob had 12 sons, there were 12 tribes of Israel and Jesus had 12 apostles.
Whatever the reason, the weddings are a boon for the US wedding industry and wedding chapels are eager to cash in on it, particularly in Las Vegas, a city known as much for its “quickie” weddings complete with Elvis impersonators as for its high stakes gambling casinos.
“From a marketing perspective, it’s a very big deal. Numbers are associated with Vegas,” Ann Parsons, marketing director for Vegas Weddings, which runs four chapels in town, told USA Today.
Wedding chapels marketed “12-12-12″ packages to lure in brides and grooms. They also marketed the next big iconic date on the calendar with “Armageddon Wedding” packages for Dec 21, 2012, the end of a Mayan calendar that some say will mark the end of the world.
Of course, for those who just are not ready to tie the knot right now, there is another iconic date to consider — next Nov 12, or 11-12-13.
Copenhagen, Dec 12 (IANS) All trains at the Copenhagen Central Station were suspended Wednesday after a suspicious package was found inside the station, Xinhua reported.
Police said they received a call from a station staff member at 12.42 p.m., saying a suspicious package was found inside a train on Track 5.
The entire station was evacuated and all rail traffic to and from the station was ceased, Denmark’s railway firm DSB said.
Police were trying to locate the owner of the package.
London, Dec 12 (IANS) A digital version of a fragile 2,000-year-old copy of the Ten Commandments will be put online, the Daily Mail reported Wednesday.
The Nash Papyrus – one of the most significant religious documents in the world – will be placed on the internet by Cambridge University.
It is among 25,000 new images made available by the university library.
Other manuscripts include one of the most remarkable ancient copies of the New Testament, The Codex Bezae, thought to date from the fourth century.
Another important historic text that has been released is the tenth-century Book of Deer, which is widely believed to be the oldest surviving Scottish manuscript and contains the earliest known examples of written Gaelic, according to the Mail.
Cambridge is also beginning to release digital versions of its library’s Islamic and Sanskrit collections, which include both secular and religious texts.
The Islamic manuscripts collection includes some of the earliest surviving Qurans, while the Library’s Sanskrit manuscripts cover all the major religious traditions of South Asia and include some of the oldest known manuscripts of key religious texts.
The Polonsky Foundation charity has helped to fund the digitisation of much of the new content on the website, the Mail added. It aims to make the world’s intellectual treasures freely available to a global audience.
Islamabad, Dec 12 (IANS) At least two policemen were killed and eight people injured Wednesday in a blast that rocked a restaurant in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, media reports said.
The blast occurred around 5.30 p.m. outside the restaurant in Landhi area, Xinhua reported citing Dunya TV.
Witnesses told local media the bomb may have been detonated by remote control.
At least two of the injured are in critical condition.
The restaurant and two motorbikes were destroyed in the blast while several nearby shops were damaged.
Iqbal Mahmood, additional inspector general of Sindh Police, earlier said that over 100 policemen have been killed in attacks in Karachi this year.
Beijing, Dec 12 (IANS) With prisoners in Beijing jails allowed to meet family members in reward for good behaviour, they can now even place orders online for meals they want to share with their loved ones.
Feng Jiancang, head of the Human Rights in Justice office at the Institute for Crime Prevention under the ministry of justice, said the system of ordering online meals frees up more time for the inmates to meet their families.
Inmates can also use the system to buy goods in prison supermarkets, now available in all prisons in the city, Xinhua reported.
Last year, the ministry lifted bans on homosexuality, dyed hair and other lifestyles and practices that were previously not allowed in prisons.
Sydney, Dec 12 (IANS) WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he intends to run for a seat in the Australian Senate in the next elections.
Plans to set up an Australian WikiLeaks party are “significantly advanced”, the whistleblowing organisation’s founder was quoted as saying by the Australian Associated Press (AAP).
Assange said that “a number of very worthy people admired by the Australian public” have expressed interest in standing for a yet-to-be registered Australian WikiLeaks party.
A draft party constitution has been prepared and is being subjected to legal review.
AAP said party registration with the Australian Electoral Commission would require confirmation of at least 500 members listed on the electoral roll.
Assange said he had not yet registered to vote but believes he will be able to register in either New South Wales or Victoria as an overseas voter.
The Australian citizen has been holed up at the Ecuador embassy in London since taking refuge there in June in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning over rape allegations.
Washington, Dec 12 (IANS) Indian Sitar maestro Ravi Shankar, who died in a US hospital Tuesday, gave just a little over a month back what was to be his final public performance, billed as a celebration of his tenth decade of creating music.
For the 92-year-old musician, who had suffered from upper-respiratory and heart issues over the past year performing, and especially touring, became increasingly difficult in recent months, the Ravi Shankar Foundation said in a statement.
“However, health couldn’t prevent Shankar from performing with his daughter, sitarist Anoushka Shankar, on Nov 4 in Long Beach, California,” it said.
This need of Shankar’s to constantly be moving forward and creating was present even in the final years of his life as he embarked on establishing his own recording label, East Meets West Music.
The album “The Living Room Sessions, Part 1″ has received a 2013 Grammy nomination, news of which reached Shankar the night prior to his surgery.
In a review of the record, Songlines magazine stated that the master has lost “absolutely nothing in the way of musical virtuosity, technical brilliance and the kind of high-energy passion that belongs in concert performances.”
“Memorial plans will be announced. The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Ravi Shankar Foundation. Donations can be made online at JustGive.org, the statement said.
Ravi Shankar maintained residences both in India and the United States.
He is survived by his wife Sukanya; daughter Norah Jones; daughter Anoushka Shankar Wright and husband Joe Wright; 3 grandchildren, and 4 great-grandchildren.
–Indo-Asian News Service