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Six dead in central China knife incident

Posted by Rattana_S On March - 14 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(Reuters) – At least six people died after a knifing incident in central China’s Changsha city, state media reported on Friday, in what appeared to be a dispute involving market vendors from the restive far western region of Xinjiang.

Police shot dead one assailant, the official Xinhua news agency said. Unverified photos circulating online showed several bodies on the street and police taking a suspect into custody.

One suspect in the incident worked as a bread vendor and was involved in an argument with a customer, traffic radio in Hunan province said on its official Weibo microblog, citing the Changsha police.

Xinhua said a knife fight broke out between businessmen Hebir Turdi and Memet Abla – whose names suggest they are ethnic Uighurs from Xinjiang – at a market mid-morning.

“Abla was hacked to death by Turdi, who later stabbed four passers-by as he ran away. Police shot Turdi, killing him. Two of the passers-by died at the scene. The two others died in hospital,” the agency added.

China is still jittery after a mass stabbing at a train station in its southwestern city of Kunming two weeks ago in which 29 people were killed and about 140 wounded.

The government blamed that attack on militants from Xinjiang, home to a large Muslim Uighur minority.

Beijing has not explicitly accused Uighurs of carrying out the Kunming attack, but by calling the perpetrators Xinjiang extremists the implication is clear.

Many Uighurs say they are infuriated by Chinese curbs on their culture and religion, although the government says they are given wide freedoms.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard, Li Hui, and Sui-Lee Wee, Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Paul Tait and Clarence Fernandez)

Venezuela protesters, troops clash, death toll at six

Posted by Rattana_S On February - 21 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

(Reuters) – Security forces and protesters fought around Venezuela on Thursday in streets blocked by burning barricades and a supporter of socialist President Nicolas Maduro was shot dead, the sixth fatality from more than a week of violence.

Maduro said a “fascist bullet” killed Alexis Martinez, a brother of a ruling Socialist Party legislator, in the central city of Barquisimeto. A local journalist said Martinez was shot in the chest while passing an opposition protest.

There have also been scores of injuries and arrests since the violence broke out eight days ago, the most serious unrest since Maduro was narrowly elected in April 2013.

The protesters, mostly students, want Maduro to resign, and blame his government for violent crime, high inflation, shortages of goods and alleged repression of opponents.

The most sustained clashes on Thursday were in the western Andean states of Tachira and Merida, which have been especially volatile since hardline opposition leaders called supporters onto the streets in early February.

In Tachira state capital San Cristobal, which some residents are describing as a “war zone,” many businesses remained shut as students and police faced off again in barricaded streets.

With some residents saying they dared not leave their homes because of the violence, the government said it was taking “special measures” to restore order there.

“This is not a militarization,” Interior Minister Miguel Rodriguez Torres said on state television from San Cristobal. “We are here to work for the great majority of people in Tachira. … Before we have dialogue, we must have order.”

Maduro says he will not let his rivals turn Tachira into “a Benghazi,” referring to the violence-racked Libyan city.

On Wednesday night, Caracas saw one of the worst bouts of violence since the protests began nearly three weeks ago.

Around a square in the wealthier east of the city, security forces fired teargas and bullets, chasing youths who hurled Molotov cocktails and blocked roads with burning piles of trash.

‘DON’T GIVE UP!’

Caracas was much calmer on Thursday, though knots of opposition demonstrators gathered again in the same square, Plaza Altamira. Some businesses stayed closed, a further drag on the already ailing economy.

The government said a funeral parade for deceased folk singer Simon Diaz, a beloved figure who died on Wednesday aged 85, was held up due to “violent groups” blocking roads.

Tensions have escalated since opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a 42-year-old Harvard-educated economist, turned himself in to troops this week. He is being held in Caracas’ Ramo Verde military jail on charges of fomenting the violence.

“Change depends on every one of us. Don’t give up!” Lopez’s wife, Lilian Tintori, said on Twitter on Thursday.

Local TV channels are providing almost no live coverage of the unrest, so Venezuelans are turning to social media to swap information and images. Falsified photos are also circulating.

Both sides rolled out competing evidence of the latest violence on Thursday. Ruling Socialist Party governors showed photos and video of charred streets and torched vehicles, while the opposition posted footage of brutal behavior which they said was by National Guard troops.

Protest leaders say soldiers and pro-government armed community groups known as “colectivos” are sometimes shooting at demonstrators, while officials say sharpshooters are targeting pro-Maduro rallies from rooftops and elsewhere.

Maduro, elected last year to succeed socialist leader Hugo Chavez, says Lopez and “small fascist groups” are in league with the U.S. government and want a coup.

He has been sharply critical of international media coverage, and on Thursday he warned CNN it risked being kicked out of the country if it did not “rectify” its ways.

U.S. President Barack Obama has criticized Maduro’s government for arresting protesters and urged it to focus on addressing the “legitimate grievances” of its people.

‘GROSS INTERFERENCE’

That brought a typically scathing response from Caracas. Obama’s comments were “a new and gross interference” in its internal affairs, the government said in a statement.

“Independent governments and the people of the world want the U.S. government to explain why it funds, encourages and defends opposition leaders who promote violence in our country.”

Street protests were the backdrop to a short-lived coup against Chavez in 2002 before military loyalists and supporters helped bring him back. There is no evidence the military, which was the decisive factor in 2002, may turn on Maduro now.

Countries around Latin America are watching closely. Political allies such as Cuba, which receives Venezuelan oil on preferential terms, have denounced an opposition “coup attempt,” while other nations have called for dialogue between the two sides.

Lopez’s defiant stance has won him admiration among opposition supporters frustrated by 15 years of electoral losses, first to Chavez and then to Maduro.

But detractors call him a dangerous hothead. He has frequently squabbled with fellow opposition leaders and was involved in the 2002 coup, even helping arrest a minister.

Though the majority of demonstrators have been peaceful, an increasingly prominent radical fringe has been attacking police, blocking roads and vandalizing buildings.

While the Caracas protests began in middle-class neighborhoods and are still strongest there, sporadic demonstrations have also spread to poorer areas of the city, residents say.

Rights groups say the police response has been excessive, and some detainees say they were tortured.

Venezuela’s main opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in last year’s presidential election, disagrees with Lopez’s street tactics but backs protesters’ grievances and has condemned the government response.

“How many more deaths do they want?” he said to reporters on Thursday, urging opposition activists to avoid violence.

Indonesian volcano erupts, killing 3 and grounding flights

Posted by Rattana_S On February - 14 - 2014 ADD COMMENTS

Jakarta, Indonesia (CNN) — A volcano eruption in Indonesia killed three people and forced tens of thousands more out of their homes, the disaster management agency said Friday.

Two died from smoke inhalation while the third was hit by a collapsing wall. Officials had originally reported two deaths due to falling building debris.

Mount Kelud in the eastern part of the main island Java has been spewing ash for at least two days high into the air, as a smoke plume has risen from out of its crater into the sky.

The government raised its eruption alert to its highest level overnight, and authorities have ordered an evacuation of all residents in a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) radius of the volcano in eastern Java.

At the height of the crisis Friday, 100,000 people evacuated, but that number later dropped to more than 75,000.

Seven airports closed due to volcanic ash, which filled the skies and can lead to jet engine problems.

Lightning was seen striking the volcano’s peak as it spewed debris, according to National Disaster Mitigation Agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The nation’s volcanology agency said other smaller eruptions could happen. Authorities urged people to stay outside the 10-kilometer radius.

Pictures from the scene show large black plumes rising over Mount Kelud, raining pebbles and ash on the surrounding area.

The military has been called in to help evacuate people from the area to nearby shelters.

Mount Kelud last erupted in 2007, but it has recently ramped up activity in the past 10 days.

In 1990, an eruption killed more than 30 people and injured hundreds.

Indonesia is part of the vast “Pacific Ring of Fire,” an area of colliding continental plates where powerful earthquakes and volcanic eruptions often occur.

(Reuters) – A deadly winter storm gripped the southeastern United States on Wednesday, crippling travel, grounding flights, knocking out power to 363,000 customers and encasing magnolia and palmetto trees in ice.

The weather was blamed for at least 13 deaths in the region, including three people killed when an ambulance transporting a patient skidded off an icy road in Carlsbad, Texas.

Winter storm warnings and advisories were in place from Arkansas east to much of the Atlantic coast, the National Weather Service said. The storm is expected to sock the northeastern United States in the next two days with up to 15 inches of snow.

“We definitely consider this to be a high-impact event, and we’re definitely telling everyone to stay off the roads and stay inside as much as possible,” said Carl Barnes, a weather service forecaster in Sterling, Virginia.

Snow and freezing rain that pummeled South Carolina and North Carolina created a dangerous commute for drivers in a hurry to get home as the snowfall got heavier and the ice thickened.

A possibly historic accumulation of ice as well as heavy snow was expected to add up to nearly 8 inches of frozen precipitation for Charlotte, North Carolina, and 9 inches were forecast for Spartanburg, South Carolina, meteorologists said.

More than an inch of ice was possible from central Georgia into South Carolina by Thursday morning, according to forecasters.

Traffic on interstate highways ground to a halt, and at least one snow plow went off a North Carolina highway into a ditch.

Todd Pekks, a chef at Duke University, was just half a mile into his drive home to Raleigh when he began to skid so badly he gave up, his wife Sherri Pekks said.

He made his way back to work on foot, and returned to the kitchen, she said.

“He’s definitely gone for the night. I wonder if he’ll be able to make it back tomorrow,” Pekks said.

Fatal road accidents were reported in Mississippi and South Carolina. In Georgia, a man died of exposure near his home in Butts County, south of Atlanta, and North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory told CNN two people had died in weather-related incidents.

STATES OF EMERGENCY

Governors declared states of emergencies from Louisiana to New Jersey, and hundreds of schools, colleges and offices throughout the region shut down. The basketball game between archrivals Duke University and the University of North Carolina was called off.

About 6,700 U.S. flights were canceled or delayed on Wednesday, and another 3,700 were scrubbed for Thursday, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.com. About half of the Thursday flights to and from Washington and New York were called off.

The U.S. Department of Energy reported that 363,000 power customers were without electricity as of mid-afternoon. More than a third of them were in Georgia, where some residents may have to wait up to a week for power to be restored, said Georgia Power spokeswoman Amy Fink.

About 5,000 people were without power in Birmingham, Alabama, with more than 6 inches of snow expected. Roads were closed across the northern part of the state, authorities said.

In the path of the storm, the White House delayed a Thursday event to mark the launch of My Brother’s Keeper, a campaign to help young black men. Federal offices in Washington were closed.

Washington city officials authorized a $15 snow surcharge for taxi rides to encourage cabbies to stay on the road. In New York, the MTA Metro-North train system was to operate on a reduced schedule on Thursday.

Most motorists in Georgia, where thousands were stranded in their vehicles during the last weather front, stayed off the roads after a state of emergency was declared, Governor Nathan Deal said.

Vehicles that did venture out were soon coated with ice, their radio antennas looking like ice skewers, television images showed.

Shelters were opened in Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina to help those stranded by the storm.

(Additional reporting by Harriet McLeod, Jon Herskovitz, Karen Jacobs, Scott DiSavino, Dave Warner, Verna Gates and Marti Maguire.; Writing by Colleen Jenkins, Ian Simpson and Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Bernadette Baum, Gunna Dickson and Ken Wills)

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