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Ivory Coast on brink of genocide: UN envoy
A supporter of Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo sings the national anthem during a rally in Abidjan on Wednesday. United Nations, December 30
Ivory Coast’s new UN ambassador said an increasingly dangerous tug-of-war over the presidency is pushing the West African country to “the brink of genocide.” Veteran diplomat Youssoufou Bamba said he’s already consulting with members of the new Security Council before its first meeting next week about ways to help president-elect Alassane Ouattara assumes power.

A supporter of Ivory Coast's incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo sings the national anthem during a rally in Abidjan on Wednesday. — Reuters

US may evacuate embassy
Washington: The United States has started planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast amid concerns that post-election violence could escalate into full-blown conflict. Spokesman Mark Toner said a small team of Pentagon officials is now in Abidjan to weigh the US options, including evacuating embassy personnel.



EARLIER STORIES


ICEMAN: Wim Hof of the Netherlands, the Guinness World Record holder for his ability to withstand extreme cold conditions, takes a dip in ice water during a performance to raise public awareness on global warming in Hong Kong on Thursday.
ICEMAN: Wim Hof of the Netherlands, the Guinness World Record holder for his ability to withstand extreme cold conditions, takes a dip in ice water during a performance to raise public awareness on global warming in Hong Kong on Thursday. — AP/PTI

Punjab Avenue
A signboard that keeps disappearing

Los Angeles, December 30
The signboard for Punjab Avenue, a street in California’s Fresno County, has become such a favourite with thieves that officials have now mooted the idea of planting hidden tracking devices inside it.

Saving wives costs 2 Indians their lives
Melbourne, December 30
Two Indians have been killed while trying to save their wives as they were crossing a dangerous sandbar from Penguin island in Perth in Australia.

Mumbai-style terror plot foiled in Denmark
Copenhagen, December 30
Scandinavian intelligence agencies have said they had foiled a “Mumbai-style” plot by Islamic extremists to massacre staff at a Danish newspaper which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Single trip to US may put one on terror watch list
Washington, December 30
The US government has modified the terrorist database and the process as a result of which even a single trip to the country would add a suspect to this list which now numbers more than 4,40,000, a media report said today. A year after a Nigerian man tried to blow up a plane over the US air skies, US officials have now “effectively in a broad stroke lowered the bar for inclusion”, The Washington Post reported.

Russian tycoon jailed for 14 years 
Moscow, December 30 
Imprisoned former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once richest man of Russia, was sentended to 14 years in jail today for fraud, a trial widely viewed as a political vendetta by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.





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Ivory Coast on brink of genocide: UN envoy

United Nations, December 30
Ivory Coast’s new UN ambassador said an increasingly dangerous tug-of-war over the presidency is pushing the West African country to “the brink of genocide.” Veteran diplomat Youssoufou Bamba said he’s already consulting with members of the new Security Council before its first meeting next week about ways to help president-elect Alassane Ouattara assumes power.

Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent, refuses to step down although the world recognises Ouattara as the winner of recent elections. “I intend to meet with all 15 members” of the new council, Bamba told reporters shortly after presenting his diplomatic credentials to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

He noted that at least 173 persons already have been killed “only because they want to demonstrate, they want to speak out, they want to defend the will of the people.” “That’s one of the messages I’m trying to get across in the consultations I’ve conducted so far, to tell them we are on the brink of genocide,” Bamba said. “Something should be done.”

He implied that Ouattara supporters, whose strongholds are largely in the north, could be targeted by Gbagbo backers, saying: “If houses are being marked according to your tribe, what is going to be next?” The UN documented the 173 killings between December 16 and 21 and says that at least 90 other persons have been tortured or treated inhumanely because of post-election violence in the country. — AP

US may evacuate embassy

Washington: The United States has started planning for the possible evacuation of its embassy in Ivory Coast amid concerns that post-election violence could escalate into full-blown conflict. Spokesman Mark Toner said a small team of Pentagon officials is now in Abidjan to weigh the US options, including evacuating embassy personnel.

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Punjab Avenue
A signboard that keeps disappearing

Los Angeles, December 30
The signboard for Punjab Avenue, a street in California’s Fresno County, has become such a favourite with thieves that officials have now mooted the idea of planting hidden tracking devices inside it.

Fresno County, which is home to the first Sikh immigrants in the late 19th century, has a 40,000-strong Punjabi community today.

Punjab Avenue is the one of three streets at a housing project developed by local Sikh cardiologist Harcharan Chann in the late 1980s.

All is well in the rich neighbourhood with its posh, two-acre lots complete with circle driveways, manicured lawns and grand entrances except one thing - someone keeps stealing the street signs for Punjab Avenue.

No one knows why and no one has been caught, according to the local Fresno Bee newspaper.

Fed up with thieves when county officials called a meeting to consider the idea of changing the street name from Punjab Avenue to Sierra Hills Avenue, it raised a storm in the local Sikh community, with a Punjabi radio station leading the protest, according to the newspaper.

E-mails bombarded county authorities. “I request that you all keep in mind the feelings and sentiments of thousands of Sikh Americans residing in Fresno County,” read one. “This is flat out discrimination,” read another.

So when many Punjabis at the December 14 meeting opposed name changing and found some support among neighbours who called the proposal “distasteful ...racist, and insulting”, county authorities backed down. — IANS

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Saving wives costs 2 Indians their lives

Melbourne, December 30
Two Indians have been killed while trying to save their wives as they were crossing a dangerous sandbar from Penguin island in Perth in Australia.

Pavan Ghanasala and Praveen Srikanth, both in their 30s, sacrificed their lives while they were lifting their wives above the water to help them breathe yesterday.

Rangers were in the process of closing access to the sandbar when the two men drowned, according to media reports here. The two died on the shore despite efforts to resuscitate them after they were swept into deep water off the popular island.

Ghanasala who was a boilermaker had recently arrived in Australia with his family. His two young sons, aged seven and nine, have still not been told of their father’s death.

The victims’ wives and two other companions, who had attempted the crossing with them, were rescued and taken to hospitals in nearby Rockingham and Fremantle.

They had been picnicking on the island with their children and other family members, who had returned to the mainland by ferry and watched the tragedy unfold from the beach. — PTI

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Mumbai-style terror plot foiled in Denmark

Copenhagen, December 30
Scandinavian intelligence agencies have said they had foiled a “Mumbai-style” plot by Islamic extremists to massacre staff at a Danish newspaper which published caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Denmark’s PET intelligence service said yesterday five suspects had been arrested, preventing an imminent assault on the Copenhagen offices of the Jyllands-Posten daily in which as many staff as possible would have been killed.

Four men were arrested in Denmark while a spokeswoman for Swedish intelligence agency Saepo said a fifth was arrested in Sweden in connection with the same international plot.

“It is our sense based on intelligence that this is a militant Islamic group with links to international terrorist networks,” PET head Jakob Scharf told reporters. They were planning an attack “within the next few days”, the agency said in a statement.

In an email to Danish news agency Ritzau, Danish Justice Minister Lars Barfoed said the arrests prevented what could have been the most serious attack to ever occur in Denmark.

Scharf told the news conference “the plan was to try to gain access to the location of Jyllands-Posten in Copenhagen and to try to carry out a Mumbai-style attack”.

“These arrests have successfully stopped an imminent terror attack, where several of the suspects... were going to force their way into the (building which houses Jyllands-Posten) in Copenhagen and kill as many people as possible,” Scharf was quoted as saying in the PET statement.

The man arrested in Stockholm is a 37-year-old Swede of Tunisian background. Danish intelligence said the four men arrested in Denmark, in the Herlev and Greve suburbs of Copenhagen, were a 44-year-old Tunisian, a 29-year-old Swede born in Lebanon, a 30-year-old Swede and a 26-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker. — AFP 

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Single trip to US may put one on terror watch list

Washington, December 30
The US government has modified the terrorist database and the process as a result of which even a single trip to the country would add a suspect to this list which now numbers more than 4,40,000, a media report said today. A year after a Nigerian man tried to blow up a plane over the US air skies, US officials have now “effectively in a broad stroke lowered the bar for inclusion”, The Washington Post reported. Timothy Healey, Director of FBI’s Terrorist Screening Centre, said the new guidelines balance the protection of Americans from terrorist threats with the preservation of civil liberties.

He was quoted as saying by the daily that the watch list today was “more accurate, more agile”, providing valuable intelligence to a growing number of partners that include state and local police and foreign governments. The government’s master watch list is one of roughly a dozen lists, or databases, used by counter-terrorism officials, the daily said.

The master watch list is used to screen people seeking to obtain a visa, cross a US border, or board an airliner in or destined for the US, the report said, adding the standard for inclusion on it remains the same as it was before - that a person is “reasonably suspected” to be engaged in terrorism-related activity.

“Despite the challenges we face, we have made significant improvements,” Michael E Leiter, director of the National Counter-terrorism Center, was quoted as saying. “The result of that is, in my view, that the threat of that most severe, most complicated attack is significantly lower today than it was in 2001,” he underlined. — PTI

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Russian tycoon jailed for 14 years 

Moscow, December 30 
Imprisoned former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once richest man of Russia, was sentended to 14 years in jail today for fraud, a trial widely viewed as a political vendetta by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Already serving an eight-year sentence from their first trial, Khodorkovsky (47), who now faces imprisonment until 2017, and his business partner Platon Lebedev, were handed down 14-year terms by a Moscow court in the second case of embezzlement and bribing shareholders of their Yukos Oil Company. Judge Viktor Danilkin pronounced them guilty of embezzling 218 million tonnes of oil from Khodorkovsky's former oil firm Yukos and laundering over $ 97.5 million in revenues, Vesti FM radio reported.

Russian prosecutors had pleaded for a sentence of 14 years for each of the pair in the new trial but also qualified this by saying it should run concurrently with the term handed to the former businessmen in their 2005 case. — PTI 

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BRIEFLY

Suu Kyi meets Oppn leaders 
Yangon
: Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met on Thursday with former colleagues who disagreed with her election boycott and formed a new party to fight the controversial poll, the breakaway group said. The one-hour meeting between Suu Kyi and three leaders of the National Democratic Force (NDF) was her first with the group since her release from house arrest days just after the November vote. — AFP

Blast outside Athens court
Athens
: A bomb hidden on a parked motorcycle exploded outside two court buildings in central Athens on Thursday, damaging cars and shattering windows but leaving no one hurt, officials said. The blast following a warning telephone call to a newspaper and private TV station, authorities said. Authorities had evacuated the targeted buildings, and no one was injured in the blast, state heath officials said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on Greek militant groups, which have stepped up attacks in the past two years. A group of suspects facing trial next month. — AFP

Explosion kills 14 in Afghanistan
Kabul
: A roadside bomb blew up next to a minibus at a crowded intersection on a major highway in southern Afghanistan today, killing at least 14 civilians, officials said. The blast struck the minibus in the Lashkar Gah-Sangin district in Helmand province on the main road running from the city of Kandahar to Herat, said Daoud Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Helmand governor's office. He said four others were wounded in the blast and that the dead included women and children. — AP

‘Boney M’ star Bobby Farrell is dead
London:
Bobby Farrell, the frontman of the popular 70's disco quartet 'Boney M', has died in the Russian city of St Petersburg, of unknown causes. He was 61. The 'Daddy Cool' hit-maker, known for his flamboyant costumes and energetic dancing was found dead in his hotel room on Thursday morning, said his agent John Seine, reported Sun online. — PTI

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