SPECIAL COVERAGE
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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

US Senate ratifies new arms control treaty
Signed with Russia early this year, new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would reduce the nuclear stock piles of the two countries to 1,500
Washington, December 23
The US Senate ratified the arms control Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia to cut down the countries’ nuclear stockpile, after several Republicans broke ranks with their party to vote in its favour giving US President Barack Obama a major political victory ahead of Christmas. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty cleared the required threshold of a two-thirds of the Senators present, and the Senate ratified it by an overwhelming vote of 71 to 26.

Blasts hit Swiss, Chile embassies in Rome
Firemen leave the Swiss Embassy in Rome after a parcel bomb exploded injuring an employee, on Thursday. Rome, December 23
Two people were injured in separate explosions at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Thursday, authorities said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the incidents bore similarities to an episode in Greece last month in which far-left militants were suspected of sending parcel bombs to foreign governments and embassies in Athens.
Firemen leave the Swiss Embassy in Rome after a parcel bomb exploded injuring an employee, on Thursday. — AFP





EARLIER STORIES

Judo king

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (top) takes part in a judo training session at the Moscow sports complex in St. Petersburg, on Tuesday.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (top) takes part in a judo training session at the Moscow sports complex in St. Petersburg, on Tuesday. — Reuters

UK confirms training B’desh police ‘death squad’
Dhaka, December 23
Britain today confirmed it trains a Bangladeshi police unit that human rights groups have labelled a government “death squad” but stressed the programme was to improve ethical standards. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was set up in 2004 and admits about 600 persons have died in what it calls “encounter/ shootout" incidents over the last six years.

‘US intervened in screening of Fahrenheit 9/11’

SKorea starts new drill
Seoul, December 23
South Korea's military today launched a major live-fire drill involving tanks, artillery and jet fighters, in a show of strength staged one month after North Korea's deadly attack on a border island. Washington expressed support for the live-fire exercise by its ally, the second this week, but Pyongyang criticised the South's "puppet warmongers".





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US Senate ratifies new arms control treaty
Signed with Russia early this year, new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would reduce the nuclear stock piles of the two countries to 1,500

Washington, December 23
The US Senate ratified the arms control Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia to cut down the countries’ nuclear stockpile, after several Republicans broke ranks with their party to vote in its favour giving US President Barack Obama a major political victory ahead of Christmas. The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty cleared the required threshold of a two-thirds of the Senators present, and the Senate ratified it by an overwhelming vote of 71 to 26.

As many as 13 Republican lawmakers crossed their party lines to join 56 Democrats and two Independents to enable the treaty sail through. The treaty was signed between the US and Russia early this year and the US administration considers it the centrepiece in resetting the relationship between the former Cold War foes and key to national security interest.

Soon after the Senate green light, Obama told a White House news conference that this was the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades. “... it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify,” Obama said.

The New START would reduce the nuclear stockpiles of the two countries to 1,500 down from the current ceiling of 2,200, besides establishing a system for monitoring and verification. It will also replace a 1991 treaty and would pave the way for resuming weapons inspections that ended last year with the expiry of the earlier treaty.

“We will continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges - from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. And this treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them,” Obama said.

The development was also welcomed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who said the ratification was signal of “efforts to ensure the dynamic development of bilateral relations” between Russia and the US.

Russia is yet to approve the accord that was signed by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The treaty allows the two countries to conduct 18 short-notice, on-site inspections each year, with as many as 10 "Type 1" inspections, which focus on strategic systems, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines and bombers, and up to eight "Type 2" inspections, which cover storage sites, test ranges and other operations.

On-site inspections, data exchanges on the technical characteristics, locations and distribution of weapons are key components of the treaty.

Once the treaty enters into force, on-site inspections of Russia's strategic nuclear weapons facilities can resume, providing US with an on-the-ground view of Russia's nuclear forces, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. — PTI

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Blasts hit Swiss, Chile embassies in Rome

Rome, December 23
Two people were injured in separate explosions at the Swiss and Chilean embassies in Rome on Thursday, authorities said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the incidents bore similarities to an episode in Greece last month in which far-left militants were suspected of sending parcel bombs to foreign governments and embassies in Athens.

The Italian news agency ANSA said a suspect package had been found at the Ukrainian mission but the Embassy later said no dangerous items had been found after a search .

The police said the injured Swiss embassy employee had been taken to hospitalsuffering serious wounds to his hands after he opened a package in the mailroom.

Bomb disposal experts searched the Embassy offices,located in a prosperous part of Rome which houses many foreign embassies, but staff remained in the building following the incident. “The Ambassador is still on site, the Embassy has not been evacuated," Maurizio Mezzavilla, a spokesman for the Carabinieri, Italy's paramilitary police told reporters.

Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel said that so far no one had claimed responsibility for the act.

The explosion at the Chilean embassy in early afternoon, hours after the earlier incident. Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini condemned the incident at the Swiss Embassy. The explosions occurred at a time of heightened security fears in Europe following a botched attack by a suspected suicide bomber in Sweden this month. — Reuters

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UK confirms training B’desh police ‘death squad’

Dhaka, December 23
Britain today confirmed it trains a Bangladeshi police unit that human rights groups have labelled a government “death squad” but stressed the programme was to improve ethical standards. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) was set up in 2004 and admits about 600 persons have died in what it calls “encounter/ shootout" incidents over the last six years.

The deaths have been condemned by rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who say they are deliberate executions often targeting political activists.

Human Rights Watch describes the RAB as a “Latin American-style death squad dressed up as an anti-crime force.” US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks discussing the counter-terrorism objectives of the British and United States in Bangladesh revealed details of the RAB training programme.

“We confirm that...the UK provides a range of human rights assistance in Bangladesh,” a British High Commission press officer in Dhaka told AFP by email. "Our counter-terrorism assistance is fully in line with our laws and values.” One cable makes it clear that the US was not able to offer assistance to the RAB because it would be illegal under US law. — AFP

‘US intervened in screening of Fahrenheit 9/11’

London: Filmmaker Michael Moore’s unpopularity with the Bush administration was never a secret but a WikiLeaks cable has revealed that panicky US officials had tried to stop a screening of his documentary ‘Fahrenheit 9/11’ in New Zealand, terming it a “potential fiasco”. — PTI

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SKorea starts new drill

Seoul, December 23
South Korea's military today launched a major live-fire drill involving tanks, artillery and jet fighters, in a show of strength staged one month after North Korea's deadly attack on a border island. Washington expressed support for the live-fire exercise by its ally, the second this week, but Pyongyang criticised the South's "puppet warmongers".

The one-hour live-fire exercise at Pocheon, 30 km south of the tense land border with North Korea, a defence ministry spokesman said. — AFP

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BRIEFLY

Millions affected as Skype goes down
Washington:
Skype suffered an outage lasting several hours affecting millions of users of the Internet communications service.”Our engineers and site operations team are working non-stop to get things back to normal - thanks for your continued patience,” Luxembourg-based Skype said in a message on its Twitter feed @Skype following Wednesday’s outage. In a blog post, Skype explained that computers known as “supernodes” had been taken offline by an unspecified problem affecting some versions of Skype. — AFP

Liz Hurley blames Indian media
London:
Elizabeth Hurley's split from Arun Nayar and her fledging romance with Australian cricketer Shane Warne might have first hit headlines in the UK but it is Indian media that has earned her wrath for making up stories about her. Stories in India media that Nayar wants a quickie divorce with Hurley and has been spotted with a brunette has not gone down well with the actress. "The Indian press has to take top marks for fiction," a livid Hurley wrote on her twitter page. "Sorry to rain on your parade Gossip Press, but Arun's 'mystery brunette' is his brother's wife. Snigger (sic)," the former model said. — PTI

Mouse that tweets like a bird
LONDON:
A team of Japanese scientists have created a genetically-modified “tweeting” mouse, which they say will shed a new light on how languages evolved. The singing mouse developed by the researchers at the University of Osaka as part of their “Evolved Mouse Project” are prone to miscopying the DNA and are more likely to develop mutations. “We checked the newly-born mice one by one ...One day we found a mouse that was singing like a bird,” lead researcher Arikuni Uchimura said. According to Uchimura, the “singing mouse” was born by chance but the trait will be passed on to future generations. — PTI

Beijing to get 500m skyscraper
BEIJING:
Chinese are set to build a 500- metre tall building here, the 122-floor skyscraper that will dominate the skyline of Beijing will serve as an office building, house apartments and a hotel. The underground area will be used as a commercial area and connect with other underground commercial space in the neighbourhood. At the moment, the city's tallest building is the China World Trade Centre Tower 3, which is 330-metre tall. The 122-floor skyscraper will stand on an 11,478-square-metre site that sold at auction for 6.3 billion yuan ($ 948.15 million) on December 21, state run China Daily reported. The building will take five years to complete. — PTI

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