36 injured as blast hits Oppn rally in Thailand
Obama to unveil reforms in NSA snooping programme
Manila, January 17
Thousands of people fled rising floods and an approaching storm in a fresh round of evacuations in the Philippines, officials said today as the death toll from a week of foul weather rose to 37.
Pakistan court charges ex-PM in power scam
Layers of bodies found in Lankan mass graves
A police officer takes a video of human skeletons at a site that used to be in the war zone in Mannar near Colombo. Reuters
Bangkok, January 17
The blast occurred at the rally led by Opposition leader and Peoples Democratic Reforms Committee (PDRC) movement chief Suthep Thaugsuban, who escaped unhurt.
"When the incident happened and perpetrators threw the explosive, Suthep was 30 metres away," Akanat Promphan, a spokesman for the movement, said. Security guards whisked Suthep away to an unknown location.
The Erawan Emergency Centre, which monitors Bangkok hospitals, said 36 people were being treated for injuries caused by the blast at Banthat Thong. The bomb, either an improvised explosive or a giant firecracker, went off as protesters were passing along the street near an intersection, damaging a pick-up truck. PDRC security officers said the explosive was lobbed from a nearby three-storey building.
Army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha said an armed group might be behind sporadic attacks launched during the anti-government protests in Bangkok. The military police rushed to the scene to inspect the explosion.
The army sent soldiers to help police and the protesters conduct security patrols, and appointed military medical units to be on standby at rally venues.
Around 12,000 protesters were on the streets during the attack. That is a fraction of an estimated 1,70,000 people who gathered on Monday to launch "shutdown" of the capital campaign in their latest bid to force the 46-year-old premier from office.
Protesters, who seek to rein in the political dominance of the Shinawatra clan in the country, allege that the Yingluck regime is controlled by her fugitive brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra who was ousted in a coup in 2006. They want to install an un-elected "people's council" to carry out reforms before the February 2 snap polls.
Yingluck, however, remained defiant and said that the easy way to oust her would be to cast the ballot in the general elections as other unconstitutional ways could not fix the problems.
She said if the country could pass through the elections, the political conflict would be over. - PTI
Washington, January 17
Obama will say he is ordering a transition that will significantly change the handling of what is known as the telephone "metadata" program from the way the NSA currently handles it.
Obama's move is aimed at restoring Americans' confidence in U.S. intelligence practices and caps months of reviews by the White House in the wake of damaging disclosures about U.S. surveillance tactics from former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
In a nod to privacy advocates, Obama will say he has decided that the government should not hold the bulk telephone metadata, a decision that could frustrate some intelligence officials. In addition, he will order that effectively immediately, "we will take steps to modify the program so that a judicial finding
is required before we query the database," said the senior official, who revealed details of the speech on condition of anonymity.
While a presidential advisory panel had recommended that the bulk data be controlled by a third party such as the telephone companies, Obama will not offer a specific proposal for who should store the data in the future.
Obama has asked Attorney General Eric Holder and the intelligence community to report back to him before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28 on how to preserve the necessary capabilities of the program, without the government holding the metadata. — Reuters
NSA scoops up millions of SMS a day: Report
* Collection of 200 million mobile phone text messages a day from around the world allowed the NSA to extract contact networks and credit card data of users *
A joint probe carried by The Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News has revealed the spy programme, Dishfire, to collect "pretty much everything it can". *
Dishfire analyses SMS messages to extract information including contacts from missed call alerts, location from roaming and travel alerts, financial information from bank alerts and payments
* Collection of 200 million mobile phone text messages a day from around the world allowed the NSA to extract contact networks and credit card data of users
* A joint probe carried by The Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 News has revealed the spy programme, Dishfire, to collect "pretty much everything it can".
* Dishfire analyses SMS messages to extract information including contacts from missed call alerts, location from roaming and travel alerts, financial information from bank alerts and payments
Manila, January 17
Nearly 13,000 people left their villages along the flooded banks of the Agusan river on the southern island of Mindanao in the past 24 hours, the civil defence office in the region said in an updated report.
"The rains come to this region around this time, but this year has been terrible," John Uayan, an operations official for the government agency said.
The state weather office said a weather system off the Philippines' east coast has turned into a tropical storm and would hit Mindanao's coast on Saturday, increasing the danger to residents of the already flooded Agusan basin.
The storm looks set to spare the nearby region where Super Typhoon Haiyan left nearly 8,000 people dead or missing and made more than four million people homeless in November -- a rare piece of good news for the disaster-weary Asian nation. — AFP
Islamabad, January 17
The bench conducting the trial sought all relevant evidence from the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in the next hearing of the case which was adjourned until February 4.
Later, Ashraf said his character assassination by the media was highly regrettable, adding his hands were clean and he performed his duty with utmost honesty.
The case had earned him the nickname "Rental Raja". His lawyer Farooq H Naek said Ashraf has been charged on three counts, "which has proved that he didn't cause any loss to the exchequer.” — PTI
Court rejects plea to arrest Musharraf
Islamabad: The Pakistani special court conducting the treason trial of Pervez Musharraf on Friday rejected the prosecution's plea to order the "symbolic arrest" of the former military ruler. Prosecutor Akram Sheikh, after hearing the court's decision, asked who would be responsible if Musharraf left the country. The court said it had been informed by authorities that Musharraf was barred from travelling out of the country.
Colombo, January 17
A team of forensic experts led by Judicial Medical Officer Dhananjaya Waidyaratne has so far found skeletal remains of at least 36 individuals in the grave.
"The bodies have been buried in several layers," Waidyaratne told BBC's Sinhala Service in Mannar's Thirukatheeswaram area.
"It is difficult to place a time of death or a cause of death without further scientific tests," he said.
Workers of a state water entity stumbled on the grave while digging the ground to lay water supply pipes late in December.
Digging at the site of the mass grave took place in the presence of magisterial and judicial medical officials upon the discovery of first 4 skeletal remains on December 21.
Police said in an initial reaction that the site had been under LTTE control for well over 15 years.
"It was possible that the victims might be those abducted and killed by the LTTE during their violent separatist campaign," police spokesman Ajith Rohana said.
Tamil rights groups, however, said the remains were those of Tamil civilians who disappeared during the conflict. This was the first mass grave found in the former conflict zone since the war ended over four years ago. —PTI
Skeletal remains of 36 found so far
* A team of forensic experts has so far found skeletal remains of at least 36 individuals in the grave
* Digging at the site of the mass grave took place in the presence of magisterial and judicial medical officials upon the discovery of first 4 skeletal remains on Dec 21
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