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Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Biden tells Yanukovych he must withdraw forces in Kiev


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WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday intervened as a political crisis in Ukraine turned deadly, calling President Viktor Yanukovych and saying he should withdraw government forces who stormed a protest camp.Vice President Biden called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych today to express grave concern regarding the crisis on the streets of Kiev.He called on President Yanukovych to pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint, a White House statement said.US officials had watched with alarm as television pictures showed flames engulfing a camp manned by opposition protesters in central Kiev after government forces moved in on the bloodiest day in the standoff so far, which saw at least 12 people killed.The White House said Biden made clear in the telephone call that Washington condemned violence by any side but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation.The vice president further underscored the urgency of immediate dialogue with opposition leaders to address protesters' legitimate grievances and to put forward serious proposals for political reform.The United States is committed to supporting efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the crisis that reflects the will and aspirations of the Ukrainian people.Biden has repeatedly reached out to Yanukovych and opposition leaders in an effort to help bring an end to the political crisis.Tuesday's violence marked the first such outburst since mid-January in the Ukrainian capital, which has been wracked by anti-government demonstrations since Yanukovych in November rejected a European Union pact in favor of closer ties with historical master Russia.
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UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday he was deeply disturbed by findings of grave human rights violations in North Korea from a UN-mandated inquiry, saying he hoped the report would raise international awareness.The detailed and wide-ranging report, compiled by the Commission of Inquiry (COI) on North Korea, offers a searing indictment of Pyongyangs rights record, detailing murder, enslavement, torture, imprisonment, rape, forced abortions and other sexual violence.Ban remains seriously concerned about human rights and the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK), a statement said, using the countrys formal name.As such, he is deeply disturbed by the findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the DPRK.Ban noted that the inquiry commission, established by the Human Rights Council was independent of the United Nations, and he said he hopes the report will contribute to raising international awareness about grave violations of those values in the DPRK.He also urged North Korean authorities to engage with the international community to improve human rights and the living conditions of its people.North Korea refused to cooperate with the commission, claiming its evidence was fabricated by hostile forces.The COI panel said its leaders should be brought before an international court for a litany of crimes against humanity -- a recommendation that many observers suggested was wishful thinking.Any substantive action on the part of the world community would require the participation of the Norths key ally China, which has made clear it opposes any move to refer the Pyongyang leadership to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
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ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, said Tuesday he had signed into force a controversial law voted in by the government that would tighten controls over web use.Gul said on his Twitter feed he promulgated the law -- which the opposition and rights groups say infringes on citizens' freedoms -- after the government assured him it would soften parts of it through later amendments.I am aware of the problems mainly on two points.... These concerns will be taken into account in the new law, he said.An opposition lawmaker earlier confirmed the planned amendments to aspects of the bill concerning some powers of Turkey's telecommunications authority.The steps are positive but not enough, Akif Hamzacebi of the Republican People's Party (CHP) was quoted as saying by NTV television.Under the bill, the Telecommunications Communications Presidency (TIB) can demand that Internet providers block pages deemed insulting or considered an invasion of privacy.But the government is now proposing that the TIB will have to inform a judge about any decision to block a web page, according to the Hurriyet newspaper.The judge would then have to issue a ruling within 48 hours or the TIB move would be deemed invalid.The Internet bill has sparked outrage both at home and abroad and fuelled concerns over the state of democracy in the EU-hopeful country under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.The legislation came on top of moves to curb the judiciary and a government purge of police and prosecutors in the face of corruption probe that has targeted close Erdogan allies.Erdogan has vehemently denied accusations of online censorship, and said Tuesday the proposed Internet curbs were aimed at countering blackmail and threats.The Internet will not be censored, freedoms will not limited, Erdogan told his lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament.He said the number of Internet subscribers in predominantly Muslim Turkey had swelled to 34 million from 20,000 since the AKP came to power in 2002.Defenders of the law say the new restrictions protect individual rights while critics argue they amount to nothing more than a fresh assault on freedom of expression and an attempt to stifle dissent.
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LAHORE (Web Desk) – Punjab Minister for Population Welfare Beguma Zakia Shahnawaz assured full support for bringing reforms in legislation related to child marriage.Addressing a seminar here on Tuesday, Beguma Zakia Shahnawaz said child marriage is one of the most wide-spread human right’s violations worldwide and girls are being affected more as compared to boys.More than 60 million girls around the world were married under the age of 18 in 2013.Pakistan shares a major portion in the early marriage as 42 percent of girls married under the age of 18 years across the globe were from Pakistan. The practice of child girl’s marriage is more common in the rural areas as compared to the urban areas.Begum Zakia Shahnawaz discussed that Chief Minister Punjab is very much focussed for the betterment and development of youth and women of Punjab. She also shared the efforts of Punjab government for making legislative reforms in the provincial assembly.She briefed about some of the features of new bill being tabled in the assembly and shared that minimum age of girl is also proposed as18 in the new bill and to ensure and validate the right age the possessions of CNIC is being recommended as mandatory at the time of marriage for both parties.Other speakers including MNA Jamshed Ahmad Dasti, Punjab Minister Atta Muhammad Manika, MPA Farah Manzoor Rind, MPA Farzana Mir andMPA Nasar Ullah Zarai also expressed their concerns over the issue and urged the federal provincial governments to amend child marriage laws.
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BEIJING (Web Desk) - President Mamnoon Hussain arrived here Tuesday evening on a three-day state visit as the guest of Chinese President Xi Jinping.At the Beijing Capital International Airport, red carpet was rolled out to welcome the distinguished guest and his entourage. President Mamnoon was greeted at the airport by Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Guo Ping Cheng.A small Chinese girl presented a bouquet to him.Pakistan’s Ambassador to China Masood Khalid, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weidong, and senior Chinese government and Pakistan Embassy officials were also present on the occasion.The President’s entourage included Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Tariq Fatemi and Punjab Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Rana Sanaullah.A contingent of People’s Liberation Army presented the salute to President Mamnoon Hussain, as he came out from his plane.Chinese President Xi will formally welcome President Mamnoon Hussain in a ceremony at the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday. It will be followed by bilateral talks between the two leaders and signing of various agreements.President Xi will also host a banquet for his Pakistani counterpart and the delegation.Ambassador Masood Khalid said that this was President Mamnoon Hussain’s first state visit since he took office last year, and he was also the first foreign head of state, received by China since the country’s Spring Festival.Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and top legislator Zhang Deijiang will also meet him.The visit would prove instrumental in further cementing the already close and cordial ties between Pakistan and China, said Ambassador Khalid, adding that the two countries highly valued their time-tested friendship.Chinese Foreign Office Spokeswomen Hua Chunying in a briefing termed the development of friendship and cooperation with Pakistan a high priority in China’s diplomacy.She said China was ready to work with Pakistan to ensure the success of President Mamnoon Hussain’s visit, in a bid to push for new progress in bilateral relations.
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TUNIS (AFP) - US Secretary of State John Kerry made a brief, unannounced trip to Tunisia Tuesday to back the transition to democracy in the North African country that spawned the Arab Spring.His visit came amid troubled relations between the United States and longtime ally Egypt over the military overthrow of the Islamist government elected there in the aftermath of the 2011 uprisings that shook the Arab world.Tunisias agreement earlier this year on a consensus government and a new constitution three years after the ouster of veteran dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali has been hailed as a model by Western governments uncomfortable about events in Egypt.Kerry met President Moncef Marzouki and caretaker Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa, who formed a cabinet of independents in January after a months-long political crisis ignited by the assassination of two secular politicians.We are very impressed by the steps that you have been taking, by the rational, thoughtful approach to the transition, Kerry told Marzouki.He congratulated Tunisia on its adoption last month of a new constitution that has been widely hailed as the most progressive in the region, calling it a big step, and said he looked forward to elections planned for later this year.Before boarding the plane for France, his next stop, Kerry said the visit was intended to show Tunisians that there are many, many countries and many people in the world who admire what people have been engaged in here.The top US diplomat often refers in his speeches to the Tunisian fruit vendor who set himself alight in protest at his countrys lack of democracy.The shocking self-immolation sparked the January 2011 revolution that toppled Ben Ali and ignited the Arab Spring uprisings across the region.What is unique, or at least striking in particular about Tunisia, is the willingness of opposing sides to reach out and show some inclusiveness and cooperation, a senior US official said, asking not to be named.Progress despite violence -Tunisias new leaders have grappled with a surge in Islamist unrest, which saw the murder of two opposition politicians, Chokri Belaid and leftist MP Mohamed Brahmi.That sparked a crisis between the governing Ennahda party, a moderate Islamist movement, and its secular opponents, from which the country is only now emerging with the adoption of the new constitution.Ennahda, which won Tunisias first free elections in October 2011, stepped down in January under a hard-won agreement to end the crisis. That allowed Jomaa to form a cabinet tasked with leading the country to fresh elections.Despite the political progress, Islamist violence remains a threat, and the new leaders must also deal with persistent social unrest.More than 1,000 protesters gathered Monday in the town of Jendouba to condemn the weekend killings of four people by suspected jihadists.Kerry hailed the Tunisian security forces success in arresting militants and breaking up Islamist cells in recent weeks, in operations he described as well planned and executed.State Department officials have also said Washington wants to work with the authorities to bring to justice those behind a 2012 attack on its embassy and the American school in Tunis, after suspended jail terms were given to 20 suspects last year.In our view theres more that could be done both in terms of arrests and prosecutions, a senior State Department official said.Washington has given some $400 million (292 million euros) in assistance to Tunis since 2011.Kerry was also to upgrade ties during his visit, announcing that they would launch a strategic dialogue, a high-level forum for regular talks.Washingtons relations with Tunis contrast with those with Cairo, where army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tilted squarely towards Moscow in a visit last week.Asked by journalists what lessons Egypt could learn from Tunisia, Kerry said he was not going to advise General Sisi at a press conference, but would talk to the Egyptian authorities personally in the coming days or weeks as part of a continuing dialogue.Kerry left Tunis for Paris for a meeting Wednesday with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas as the US seeks to hammer out an agreed framework to guide negotiations with Israel towards a peace treaty.
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VIENNA (AFP) - Nuclear talks between Iran and world powers moved into new territory Tuesday as negotiators embarked on what both sides predicted will be a long and difficult path towards a lasting deal.In a nutshell such an historic accord would let Iran retain its civilian nuclear programme, but on a modest scale and with enough oversight to make developing atomic weapons all but impossible.Success could lead to Tehran and Washington normalising relations after a 35-year chill and could even bear fruit in other areas, such as Syria. But failure might lead to conflict.The scheduled three-day meeting in Vienna between Iran, the United States, China, Russia, Britain, France and Germany follows an interim deal struck in Geneva in November that they now want to transform into a permanent agreement.Irans supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who Tuesday took to Twitter to denounce nuclear weapons, set a cautious tone Monday when he said this effort would go nowhere but that he was not against trying.Abbas Araqchi, a senior Iranian negotiator, told Iranian media in Vienna that a deal was a big task, and we have long and complicated negotiations ahead of us.It is probably as likely that we wont get an agreement as it is that we will, said one senior US administration official.But these negotiations are the best chance we have ever had.On Tuesday the seven parties held a brief plenary session before breaking off into bilateral meetings, including between the Iranian and US delegations, a senior US State Department official said.A spokesman for the world powers lead negotiator, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, said the aim of this Vienna round was a workable framework to facilitate these negotiations.Iran has long been suspected of seeking atomic weapons, despite its denials, and the US and Israel -- assumed to have a large atomic arsenal itself -- have never ruled out military action.Band-aid solution -Under the November accord which took effect on January 20, Iran scaled back certain nuclear activities in exchange for minor sanctions relief and a promise of no new sanctions.The freeze only lasts until July 20 -- although it can be extended -- and experts say that success in Geneva came at the price of postponing the really difficult issues.Geneva really was a stop gap, a band-aid solution that didnt really heal the wounds, Siavush Randjbar-Daemi, Iran and Middle East lecturer at Manchester University, told AFP.Under the comprehensive solution that the parties aim to sew up by November, the six powers want Iran to scale back for a long-term duration its nuclear programme.This might include closing the underground Fordo facility, slashing the number of uranium centrifuges, cutting the stockpile of fissile material, altering a new reactor being built at Arak and tougher UN inspections.In exchange, all UN Security Council, US and EU sanctions on Iran -- which are costing it billions of dollars every week in lost oil revenues, wreaking havoc on the economy -- would be lifted.But whether Iran will play along remains to be seen. Before the talks, Tehran had set out a number of red lines, including a refusal to dismantle any facilities.Washingtons watching -Those in Vienna will be well aware that whatever they agree will need to be sold not only to other countries like Israel and the Sunni Gulf monarchies, but also back home.Obama has members of Congress breathing down his neck, threatening more sanctions and demanding -- with Israel -- a total dismantlement of Irans nuclear facilities.Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, whose election in 2013 has helped thaw relations with the West, is on thin ice with hardliners seeking to turn Khamenei against him.The trouble is that both sides have hard men outside the negotiating room who have to be satisfied, Richard Dalton, the former British ambassador to Tehran now at think-tank Chatham House, told AFP.
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LAHORE (Dunya News) – At least eight persons including three brothers, two women and three children were found dead in a house E-Block of Johar Town on Tuesday.According to the preliminary police investigation report, Nazir, step brother of Shahid and Zahid, is the alleged culprit who committed suicide after killing other family members.Police investigators have found that he was a cancer patient and a chemical engineer. The report cites the use of ammonia gas, which was used to kill the eight residents.The initial investigation report says that Nazir, who was a cancer patient, rendered all other unconscious and then killed them with a hammer.Later the accused committed suicide by taking sleeping pills.Police also recovered murder weapon and sleeping pills with dead body of Nazir from the upper storey of the house.It is to mention here that eight members of the same family were found dead in a house in Johar Town.Police rushed to the scene after receiving the information of the incident and started investigation. Statements of the victims’ neighbours were also recorded.Two investigation teams headed by DIG Investigation were also constituted to probe the incident.Police said the evidences show that the incident occurred hours earlier.The tragic incident spread a wave of fear among the residents of the area.Talking to media, CCPO Lahore Shafique Gujjar said white coloured chemical was also found near all dead bodies.One of the deceased was a professor, another a contractor and the third one was a cancer patient.Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif had also taken notice of the incident and sought an urgent report.Dunya News has obtained photos of victim Zahid, his wife and daughter.
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MADRID (AFP) - Fanatical players forking out money to get ahead in games such as Candy Crush Saga or Angry Birds are driving explosive growth in the multi-billion-dollar mobile gaming business.Once hooked on free-to-download smartphone and tablet games, millions of not-so-brilliant or simply impatient gamers are ready to pay cash to obtain extra moves or new lives, or to avoid time delays standing between them and the next level.It is a lucrative model for businesses such as Candy Crush developer King Digital Entertainment, which announced Tuesday it had filed a request for a US initial public offering worth up to $500 million (364 million euros) and an ensuing listing on the New York Stock Exchange.Indeed, the so-called freemium phenomenon pushed up spending on mobile games, most of it devoted to such in-app purchases, by more than 60 percent to $16.5 billion in 2013, according to research house IHS.Double-digit annual growth is anticipated in the next three to five years.The way the games are set up is that there is no real limit on how much someone will spend within a single game, said Jack Kent, British-based mobile analyst at IHS.You are encouraged to keep going back and spend more, he said in an interview ahead of the February 23-27 World Mobile Congress in Barcelona gathering industry players including top app developers.Each in-app purchase may cost from $1 to $60 for anything from a few extra moves in the wildly popular Candy Crush game to green Gem currency in the strategy game Clash of Clans, or even a combined pack of in-game advantages on other titles, Kent said.Though games account for about 40 percent of all mobile app downloads, they make up about 80 percent of the revenues, the analyst said.The size of the smartphone and tablet games market is now more than twice that of traditional handheld consoles, such as the Sony PSP and Nintendo DS, he estimated.Technology research group Gartner Inc. predicts overall mobile game revenue will surge from $13.2 billion in 2013 to $17 billion in 2014 and $22 billion in 2015.This month, the Vietnamese creator of smash-hit mobile game Flappy Bird, Nguyen Ha Dong, actually withdrew his app from sale saying its runaway success had ruined his simple life.In an interview with Forbes, he said the game, where the aim is to direct a flying bird between oncoming sets of pipes and which reportedly raked in about $50,000 a day, had become an addictive product.- The app hooks you -Such qualms are unlikely to spread widely.As developers try to cash in, there are now more than a million mobile gaming apps available, making it hard for individual games even to be noticed.Lawrence Lundy, analyst at Frost & Sullivan technology research house, said mobile messaging providers in Asia were now teaming up with developers to offer games directly to their users.Japanese mobile messaging company LINE or South Koreas KakaoTalk, for example, have effectively become games platforms, analysts said, allowing users to challenge their friends.They prove it can be done and you can make a lot of money from those sources, Lundy said.The mechanics of the in-app purchase are key, said Brian Blau, consumer technology analyst at Gartner.You either get the app for free or you pay a very low price. Then, the app hooks you, gets you interested, he said.Suddenly you find yourself unable to proceed.Perhaps you have to buy extra moves, or part with just $1 to avoid waiting, sometimes for a day at a time, before you can carry on playing.There is a certain amount of that addictive gambling type psychology about it but for the most part people just want to play the game. They like it, Blau said.People have traditionally paid $40-60 to buy a single video game, he said.The surprise is that developers have figured out a way for some users to get that kind of money out of mobile apps.The big money comes from the huge numbers of users, not from gouging individuals for large sums of money, Blau added.There is nothing tricky about it. The thing is that you want to play the game. There is a quality of the game that you like and that is what is causing you to do it. Are people impatient? Yes, I have to say that. Do they love playing games? The fact is, yes.
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LONDON (Web Desk) - There was a simpler time, a time when potato snacks were shaped like smiley faces, leaving only an aftertaste of faint nostalgia and plastic.But those days are gone, now Birdseye are producing potato hashtags and potato @ symbols and calling them Mashtags.The addition of Mashtags to our food range is an exciting development for Birds Eye. Social media is all about conversation and we’re confident Mashtags will resonate across various groups of people, said Pete Johnson, senior brand manager at Birds Eye. Resonate. With an oven-baked potato product.He continues: We’re constantly looking for ways to innovate and inspire consumers and hope that Mashtags will get people talking around the table and help to make mealtimes more enjoyable.Billed as NEW and Tasty, Mashtags will be available in Asda, Sainsburys, Tesco and more from March.
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KHARTOUM (AFP) - Rebels in Sudans Kordofan region are not interested in peace, Khartoums defence minister said Tuesday, adding to accusations hurled by the two sides during peace talks in Ethiopia.We hoped that the negotiations in Addis Ababa would be a road to peace in the two areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein told more than 1,000 uniformed troops who shouted back, Allahu Akbar (God is greatest) during a conference.But there are others who want something different, he said in Khartoum, without naming the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), ethnic rebels who have been fighting for almost three years in the two states.The war has displaced or otherwise affected more than one million people, according to the United Nations.Khartoum and the SPLM-N began their first peace talks in nearly a year last Thursday, under African Union mediation.We are keen for peace, said Hussein, but they didnt want peace and security in the two areas.He told members of the Popular Defence Force (PDF), a type of reserve unit used frequently to support the Sudan Armed Forces, that the military is ready to complete an offensive he announced last November to crush the insurgents.Despite that vow, an African diplomat told AFP last week that its the same stalemate in Kordofan and Blue Nile.In Addis Ababa on Monday the head of the rebel delegation, Yassir Arman, said negotiations were deadlocked as Khartoum wants to freeze this war without giving any solutions to the humanitarian situation and the political situation.The government denied talks had stalled but accused SPLM-N of raising issues unrelated to the two warzones of South Kordofan and Blue Nile.Hussein is wanted by the Hague-based International Criminal Court on 13 counts of alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes in Sudans Darfur region.
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ROME (AFP) - Italy on Tuesday recalled its ambassador from India in protest over a new delay in court proceedings against two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen in a case that has raised tensions.Ambassador Daniele Mancini will return to Italy immediately for consultations, the foreign ministry said in a statement, condemning a new and unacceptable delay by the Indian Supreme Court.The two marines, Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who are staying at the Italian embassy in New Delhi, are accused of killing two Indian fishermen they mistook for pirates while guarding a cargo ship in 2012.Given the evident incapacity of the Indian judicial authorities to handle this case, Italy will continue and intensify action to defend its sovereign rights in line with international law, Foreign Minister Emma Bonino was quoted as saying.A first version of the statement had referred to Indias evident incapacity to handle the case, rather than accusing specifically the judiciary.Italys main aim remains trying to obtain the return of the two marines as quickly as possible, Bonino said.An Indian Supreme Court hearing scheduled for Tuesday was immediately postponed because prosecutors are still waiting for the Indian justice ministry to decide which law to try the case under.Attorney General Goolam Vahanvati has requested the pair be prosecuted under a maritime security law, which attracts a 10-year sentence.The matter was under the consideration of the law ministry and I need more time to work out a solution to the issue, Vahanvati told the court in New Delhi.The next hearing will be on February 24.This is too much. There is no justice in this case. We are faced with an ambiguous behaviour and a lack of trustworthiness on the part of the Indian authorities, said Mario Mauro, Italys defence minister.The decision to recall the ambassador is not only justified but inevitable and reflects the feelings of the Italian people, he said.Italian authorities have lobbied the European Union and the United Nations on the case, saying Latorre and Girone should be tried in Italy because it says the incident took place in international waters.India denies this, saying it happened in Indian waters.
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ISLAMABAD (Web Desk) - Pakistan has emphasized that Iranian forces have no authority to cross the borders in violation of the international law.Reacting to an Iranian statement that it can send forces into Pakistan to free five border guards abducted by militants‚ Foreign Office spokesperson said the two countries must respect each others borders.The spokesperson said Pakistan has already informed the Iranian authorities that Frontier Corps teams have intensively combed the entire region. However‚ it could not verify the entry or presence of these Iranian border guards on its territory.On Monday, Iran said that it would send forces into Pakistan to free five border guards said to have been kidnapped by militants if Islamabad did not take measures to secure their release.According to Iranian media reports, the guards were seized on February 6 in the Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan by militants who allegedly took them across the border to Pakistan.If Pakistan doesn’t take the needed steps to fight against the terrorist groups, we will send our forces into Pakistani soil. We will not wait for this country, Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli was quoted as telling the semi-official Mehr news agency.A Sunni insurgent Iranian group calling itself Jaish al-Adl (Army of Justice) had claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, according to a Twitter account purporting to belong to the group. The account s authenticity could not be immediately verified.The area where the kidnappings took place has a history of unrest, with the mainly Sunni Muslim population complaining of discrimination by Iran’s Shiite Muslim authorities, a charge Iran denies.Iranian security forces have also fought drug traffickers in the region that borders Pakistan and Afghanistan.The Iranian armed forces deputy chief of staff was quoted as telling the semi-official Fars news agency that Iran would show tough confrontation in this case.We will have no soft stand in this case and our neighboring country ... should account for its lack of action, Major General Hossein Hassani Sadi told reporters in Tehran on Monday, according to Fars English language website.Sadi said the guards were still alive, and underlined that political and military measures are underway to set them free, without elaborating.Interior Minister Rahmani-Fazli said an Iranian delegation would visit Pakistan on Monday to secure the guards’ release, state news agency ISNA reported.In October, 14 Iranian border guards were killed and three others captured in the same area in an attack that ISNA said was carried out by Jaish al-Adl.Sunni Muslim militant group Jundollah, which Iran says is linked to al Qaeda, has claimed a number of attacks and kidnappings since 2003, including a 2010 suicide bombing that killed dozens of people at a Shiite mosque.
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CHICAGO (AFP) - In fact, feeling extremely lonely can increase an older persons chances of premature death by 14 percent, an impact nearly as strong as that of a disadvantaged socioeconomic status, according to John Cacioppo, psychology professor at the University of Chicago.He noted that a meta-analysis of several studies published in 2010 showed that social isolation had twice the impact on the risk of death as obesity.Cacioppo presented the findings Sunday at an annual conference in Chicago of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.The research carried out on a group of 20,000 people revealed adverse health effects of feeling alone, including sleep problems, high blood pressure, impaired immune cells and depression.Retiring to Florida to live in a warmer climate among strangers is not necessarily a good thing if it means you are disconnected from people who mean the most for you, Cacioppo said.Often, loneliness is accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle, which can significantly weaken ones health.Simple exercise such as walking regularly at a good pace cant just cut the risk of cardiovascular and Alzheimers disease by 50 percent -- it can also clearly slow down the normal aging process of an older persons brain, Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh told AFP.At the conference, the assistant professor of psychology presented new details of a study published in 2011 that involved 120 people aged 65 and older.- Older brain highly modifiable -With age, the brain shrinks, he said. Physical activity, however, helps improve its overall functioning and, in particular, increases the volume of the hippocampus by 2 percent, which reverses cerebral aging by one to two years and boosts mental capacities.For one, this research has demonstrated the brain remains highly modifiable late in adulthood, Erickson said.Even though the brain shrinks and declines tend to happen it does not seem to be as inevitable ... and exercise seems to be a great way to take advantage of this natural capacity for brain plasticity.Whats more, its apparently not necessary to do a lot of exercise to get that result -- a modest amount is all it takes, he said.However, he acknowledged, there is still a lot to learn. We dont really know very much about how much is exactly needed.Even though we have learned a lot I have to say we still have a long way to go, he added.But that being said, physical activity seems to be one of the most promising approaches for positively influencing brain health in late adulthood.According to the Pew Research Center, the baby boomer generation began to turn 65 on January 1, 2011, with 10,000 doing so each day until 2030, said Cacioppo.This has been called the silver tsunami, he said.Some see an aging population as inevitably one with greater dementia and poor health, as predicted 15 to 20 years ago, he added.But in fact we see a decline in disability rather than an increase in part because of medical advances and people starting to take better cares of themselves.Still, a sedentary lifestyle rather than one filled with physical activity is the norm in old age, he said.But we have new information about how to better age.
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NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indias Supreme Court spared three killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi from the hangmans noose, citing delays in the case 23 years after his assassination by a Tamil suicide bomber.The top court headed by Chief Justice P. Sathasivam handed the three lives in prison on the grounds that successive Indian presidents had taken 11 years to decide their pleas for mercy against execution.We implore the government to render advice in a reasonable amount of time for taking a decision on mercy pleas, Sathasivam told the court in announcing the judgment.A lawyer for the three men -- Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan, all known by single names -- hailed the judgment as humane, adding that they were now living in hope of one day being released from prison.There is hope that the convicts will walk out of jail. The remission will be decided by the state government of Tamil Nadu, Yug Chaudhary outside the court.It is time that the death penatlty is abolished in this country, he added.The decision comes after the Supreme Court issued a landmark judgment last month that places new restrictions on executing prisoners in the worlds biggest democracy.The top court then commuted the death sentences of 15 convicts, ruling that inordinate and inexplicable delays in carrying out a death sentence were grounds for commuting a sentence.The three at the centre of Tuesdays ruling were members of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a Sri Lankan-based separatist movement, which was wiped out by Sri Lankan forces in 2009.The men were convicted of plotting the May 21, 1991 murder of Gandhi by a female suicide bomber, but their appeal to the president in 2000 for clemency was only rejected in 2011.The Chennai High Court in the countrys south then stayed their executions, pending another round of appeals from lawyers and state politicians who opposed their hanging.The lengthy delay contrasts sharply with the execution of Kashmiri Muslim separatist Mohammed Afzal Guru last year over a deadly raid on the Indian parliament in 2001 that left 10 people dead.Successive governments in India have long been wary of upsetting the large Tamil population in the south where the trios case has become a cause celebre.India had an eight-year unofficial moratorium on carrying out the death penalty from 2004 to 2012, with only three people executed in the last decade. The delays have led to a buildup of more than 400 prisoners on death row.- Murder seen as retaliation -Gandhi had become Indias youngest ever prime minister after his mother, former premier Indira Gandhi, was assassinated in October 1984. He ruled until losing an election five years later.His widow Sonia is the president of the ruling Congress party and his son Rahul is the frontman for the partys campaign in elections due by May.The shredded clothes and the shoes that Rajiv was wearing when he was killed while on an election tour in the south of the country remain on display in a museum in the Indian capital.Gandhis killing was seen as retaliation for a 1987 Indian government pact with the Sri Lankan government to disarm the guerrillas, who had been trained and armed by New Delhi in the early 1980s.After that pact, the LTTE fought Indian troops deployed to Sri Lanka by Rajiv Gandhis government to supervise the accord. India withdrew its troops after 32 months in which it lost 1,200 soldiers at the hands of the rebels.A relative of one of the killers, Perarivalan, reacted with joy to the news, saying for the full family it is an emotional moment.Perarivalan ... when you see him, he is a totally good human being, his aunt Nilaypapiya told NDTV in the southern city of Chennai.Amnesty International said Tuesdays decision piles pressure on the government to abolish the death penalty altogether.India must now do away with the death penalty -- a cruel, inconsistent and irreversible form of punishment that has no proven deterrent effect on crime, senior researcher Divya Iyer said in a statement.

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