ECB, EU officials warn euro's survival at risk Thu,31 May 2012 07:25 PM PDT Reuters - BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Central Bank stepped up pressure on Thursday for a joint guarantee on bank deposits across the euro zone, saying Europe needed new tools to fight bank runs as the bloc's debt crisis drives investors to flee risk. The European Commission's top economic official, Olli Rehn, warned that the single currency area could disintegrate without stronger crisis-fighting mechanisms and tough fiscal discipline. ... Full Story
GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Former Senator John Edwards' affair and child out of wedlock derailed a political rise that put him on the Democrats' 2004 White House ticket, but the one-time trial lawyer held his head high on Thursday after a North Carolina jury delivered his most personal victory yet. Twelve jurors in the state Edwards represented in the U.S. Senate from 1999 to 2005 acquitted him on one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions given during his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination four years ago. U.S. ...
Greek pro-bailout party leads leftists in surveys Thu,31 May 2012 04:53 PM PDT Reuters - ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's pro-bailout New Democracy party had a lead of more than two points over the SYRIZA leftists in surveys published on Friday ahead of a June 17 national election that may decide the debt-laden country's future in the euro currency club. The result of the election - which could have far-reaching ramifications for the future of the 17-nation euro zone - remains finely balanced, as different polls in recent days have produced contradictory results. ... Full Story
Sudan to keep police in disputed Abyei region Thu,31 May 2012 04:20 PM PDT Reuters - KHARTOUM/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Sudan will keep police forces in the disputed Abyei region bordering South Sudan for now, the state news agency SUNA said on Thursday, defying a call by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw. Abyei has been a main bone of contention between the African neighbors, which came close to all-out war last month when border fighting escalated, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July. ... Full Story
Sudan to keep police in disputed Abyei region Thu,31 May 2012 04:19 PM PDT Reuters - KHARTOUM/ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Sudan will keep police forces in the disputed Abyei region bordering South Sudan for now, the state news agency SUNA said on Thursday, defying a call by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to withdraw. Abyei has been a main bone of contention between the African neighbors, which came close to all-out war last month when border fighting escalated, the worst violence since South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July. ... Full Story
GREENSBORO, North Carolina (Reuters) - Former U.S. Senator John Edwards was acquitted on Thursday on one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions, and the judge declared a mistrial on five other counts because the jury was deadlocked. The jury's decision came on the ninth day of deliberations and marked yet another dramatic turn of events for the one-time politician who rose to become the Democratic Party's vice presidential nominee in 2004, only to see his career ruined by scandal four years later. ...
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Private payroll growth picked up only slightly in May and claims for jobless benefits rose last week, suggesting the U.S. labor market recovery was losing steam after a strong performance early in the year. Other data on Thursday showed factory activity in the Midwest slowed considerably in May and economic growth in the first quarter was a bit softer than initially estimated. Economists said the reports reflected business anxiety amid an uncertain global economic outlook as the euro zone's debt crisis escalates and China's economy slows. ...
Blind activist urges U.S. to push China on rule of law Thu,31 May 2012 04:01 PM PDT Reuters - NEW YORK (Reuters) - Blind Chinese rights activist Chen Guangcheng urged the United States on Thursday to "try harder" to promote rule of law in his homeland as he described his brother and nephew being so badly beaten in an attack he blamed on local officials that thick axe handles being used as weapons broke. ... Full Story
U.N. rights body set to call for full Houla inquiry Thu,31 May 2012 03:57 PM PDT Reuters - GENEVA (Reuters) - The top U.N. human rights body is set to call on Friday for a full U.N. inquiry into a massacre in the Syrian region of Houla after putting initial blame on government bombardment and gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, diplomats said. The 47-state forum in Geneva holds an emergency session on Friday - its fourth on Syria in a year - following last week's slaughter of at least 108 people, nearly half of them children. A draft resolution, circulated late on Thursday at the U.N. Human Rights Council, condemns the "killings confirmed by U.N. ... Full Story
U.S. national kidnapped in Benin is freed Thu,31 May 2012 03:36 PM PDT Reuters - COTONOU (Reuters) - Security forces in Benin on Thursday freed a U.S. citizen lured to the West African state last week by criminals he met on the Internet, Benin's interior ministry said. "The kidnappers are in the hands of the police," spokesman Frank Kinninvo said, adding that the U.S. national had been found in the Mono region of southwest Benin. A security source said the man had travelled to Benin to meet a group of people from Benin and neighboring Nigeria. ... Full Story
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Looking relaxed and healthy after a month in jungle captivity, French journalist Romeo Langlois said Colombia's FARC rebel leaders may be prepared for peace talks, but younger fighters are ready for 50 more years of war. Langlois, 35, was released on Wednesday after being taken hostage in late April when the military unit he was reporting alongside came under fire from heavily armed rebels. Aided by billions of dollars in U.S. funding, Colombia's armed forces have debilitated the FARC, leaving it arguably at its weakest in almost five decades. ...
U.N. Security Council concerned by lack of aid access in Sudan Thu,31 May 2012 03:18 PM PDT Reuters - UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council expressed concern on Thursday over a lack of access for aid to Sudan's border states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting has been raging between the Sudanese army and rebels. Sudan and South Sudan came close to all-out war last month when border fighting escalated in the worst violence since South Sudan's secession in July. Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting rebels in South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Juba denies the claim. The 15-member Security Council was briefed by senior U.N. ... Full Story
(Reuters) - Facebook Inc bounced back from record lows in frenetic trading on Thursday to finish in positive territory for the first time in four days, lifted in late trade by a U.S. market rebound and a brokerage upgrade. Facebook, the No. 1 Internet social network and first U.S. company to debut with a capitalization of more than $100 billion, rose 5 percent to close at $29.60. Options volume skyrocketed with bets ranging from a sharp rebound to a sustained selloff, promising more volatility to come. ...
Russian protest fund manager looks to elite for cash Thu,31 May 2012 02:59 PM PDT Reuters - MOSCOW (Reuters) - Almost a decade after Russia's richest man was jailed after funding groups opposed to Vladimir Putin, a former top bank manager is chipping at the wall between politics and business in a renewed challenge to the Russian president. With his Wharton Business School degree and expensive suits, Vladimir Ashurkov, 40, cuts an unlikely figure within the rag-tag ranks of Russia's political opposition. ... Full Story
China deflects pressure for new approach on Syria Thu,31 May 2012 02:19 PM PDT Reuters - HAMMAMET, Tunisia (Reuters) - China's foreign minister said on Thursday his country was keeping faith with mediator Kofi Annan's peace plan for Syria, sidestepping calls for tougher action after the killing of more than 100 people in the town of Houla. China, along with Russia, has for months blocked efforts to take more robust action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the United Nations, but the massacre last week in Houla prompted an outcry and fresh calls for a more decisive response. ... Full Story
BOSTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal appeals court in Boston found on Thursday that a U.S. law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to lawfully married same-sex couples in a ruling that promises to push the issue of gay marriage to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ruling on the 1996 law, the Defense of Marriage Act, marked a victory for gay rights groups and U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration announced last year it considered the law unconstitutional and would no longer defend it. In its 3-0 ruling, a panel of the U.S. ...
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria is nearing full-blown sectarian civil war that would be catastrophic for the entire Middle East, Western nations said on Thursday, urging Russia to end its support for President Bashar al-Assad and put pressure on him to stop the bloodshed. With anti-Assad rebels urging international envoy Kofi Annan to declare his peace plan dead, freeing them from any commitment to the tattered truce, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the prospect of spiraling violence presented "terrible" danger. "A civil war in a country that would be driven by sectarian divides ... ...
CAIRO (Reuters) - The Islamist aiming to be Egypt's president professes confidence his liberal rivals will swallow their fears of religious rule and vote him to victory in the election runoff against a former general he sees as the heir to the oppressive old regime. And, in his first international media interview since he won the first round ballot, the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Mursi appealed to last year's revolutionaries by vowing, if elected, to keep Hosni Mubarak, the president they deposed, in jail forever - whatever verdict a court passes on him on Saturday. ...
Fraudsters fleece Egypt using foreign wheat Thu,31 May 2012 01:29 PM PDT Reuters - LONDON/ABU DHABI (Reuters) - Top wheat importer Egypt's decision to increase the price premium paid to its own farmers has given fraudsters a golden opportunity to pass off cheap foreign grain as locally grown and profit at the country's expense. Traders and a government official admitted that despite efforts to check whether local farmers really grow the grain they sell, the problem of disguising imported wheat to profit from the payments will remain or worsen this year as the rewards grow. ... Full Story
U.S. military trickles back into Western Pakistan Thu,31 May 2012 01:20 PM PDT Reuters - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has sent a handful of military officials back into northwestern Pakistan in a sign the two nations may be able to achieve some low-level military cooperation despite a string of confrontations that have left Washington's relations with Islamabad in crisis. Two U.S. officers have been sent in the last few weeks to the city of Peshawar, close to the border with Afghanistan, a U.S. official said, restoring after a months-long absence a U.S. military presence in an unstable region home to militants fueling violence across the border. ... Full Story
Syria rebels demand Hezbollah apology to free Lebanese Thu,31 May 2012 01:15 PM PDT Reuters - BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syrian rebels said they were holding a group of kidnapped Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim pilgrims, and accused some of the hostages of opposing their revolution against Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, news channel Al Jazeera reported on Thursday. The insurgents added they would not start negotiations for the release of the hostages until the leader of Lebanese guerilla group Hezbollah, an ally of Assad's, apologized for a recent speech. ... Full Story
Greek pro-bailout ND party leads leftists in polls Thu,31 May 2012 01:01 PM PDT Reuters - ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's pro-bailout New Democracy party is ahead of the SYRIZA leftist party in the run-up to a June 17 parliamentary election that may decide whether the debt-laden country remains in the euro, four polls showed on Thursday. The forecasts, among the last before a ban on polling enters into force on Saturday, gave the conservative New Democracy party (ND) a lead of between 1.6 and 2.8 percentage points over SYRIZA, the anti-bailout party. ... Full Story
U.S. condemns reported Russian arms shipment to Syria Thu,31 May 2012 12:57 PM PDT Reuters - UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United States described Moscow's latest arms sale to Syria as "reprehensible" after a rights group reported on Thursday that a Russian cargo ship heavily laden with weapons arrived in Syria last weekend. Western officials confirmed information from Human Rights First that the ship arrived on Saturday, bringing to the Syrian port of Tartus a cache of heavy weapons for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who for 14 months has used his security forces to attack an increasingly militarized opposition. ... Full Story
EU says does not recognize Bissau interim government Thu,31 May 2012 12:40 PM PDT Reuters - BISSAU (Reuters) - The European Union said on Thursday it does not recognize the recently-formed caretaker government in Guinea-Bissau which appears to be taking orders from the military junta. The West African state, a narcotics trafficking hub to Europe, has been in turmoil since soldiers seized power on April 12, derailing a presidential election in the latest of a string of coups since independence from Portugal in 1974. ... Full Story
U.S. tourists freed unharmed in Sinai Thu,31 May 2012 12:35 PM PDT Reuters - CAIRO (Reuters) - Two U.S. tourists were released unharmed in the Sinai Peninsula on Thursday, a day after being abducted by Bedouin tribesmen seeking the release of a kinsman held by the Egyptian authorities in a drugs case, officials said. The Americans, both 31-year-old men, were seized on Wednesday while driving near the resort of Dahab. "Egyptian officials have confirmed to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that the two U.S. citizens kidnapped on the Sinai Peninsula on May 30 have been released unharmed," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement in Washington. "The U.S. ... Full Story
Mexican leftist closes in on presidential front-runner Thu,31 May 2012 12:20 PM PDT Reuters - MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has cut the gap on front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto to just four percentage points according to a new poll, raising doubts about the outcome of the July 1 election. The latest voter survey by newspaper Reforma published on Thursday showed support for 2006 runner-up Lopez Obrador at 34 percent, up seven points from a previous poll last month. ... Full Story
Greek leftist leader to cancel bailout Thu,31 May 2012 12:17 PM PDT Reuters - ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece's radical leftist leader Alexis Tsipras said on Thursday he would cancel the EU/IMF bailout that keeps the country afloat but that did not mean Athens would be forced to leave the euro. "We need to cancel the bailout which has led to catastrophe," Tsipras said in an interview with enikos.gr website. "We will replace it with a national plan to resurrect the economy. ... Full Story
German hostage in north Nigeria killed during raid Thu,31 May 2012 12:12 PM PDT Reuters - ABUJA (Reuters) - A German man held hostage in northern Nigeria by a group linked to al Qaeda was killed on Thursday during a raid by Nigerian forces, according to the army and security sources. Edgar Fritz Raupach was seized in the north's main city Kano in January. A group claiming to be al Qaeda's North African wing said in March it was holding him and demanded the release of a Muslim woman imprisoned in Germany in exchange for his freedom. ... Full Story
Iran engaged in "malignant behavior" in Syria: White House Thu,31 May 2012 12:10 PM PDT Reuters - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Thursday accused Iran of "malignant behavior" for propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and warned anew that the country's conflict could explode into a wider proxy war unless Assad steps down. In sharp comments toward Tehran, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Iran was exploiting the violence in Syria to entrench its regional sway. ... Full Story
U.S. says Egypt confirms release of kidnapped U.S. citizens Thu,31 May 2012 12:07 PM PDT Reuters - WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Thursday that Egyptian officials had confirmed that two American citizens who had been kidnapped in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula had been released unharmed. "Egyptian officials have confirmed to the U.S. Embassy in Cairo that the two U.S. citizens kidnapped on the Sinai Peninsula on May 30 have been released unharmed," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. "The U.S. Embassy has been in touch with the victims' families and is providing appropriate consular assistance," Toner said. ... Full Story
U.S. says concerned about businessman in Dubai prison Thu,31 May 2012 12:01 PM PDT Reuters - DUBAI (Reuters) - The United States is concerned about the health of an American businessman who has been on hunger strike at a Dubai prison for more than two weeks, the U.S. embassy said on Thursday. Zack Shahin, a U.S. citizen accused of embezzlement while at the helm of Deyaar, was arrested in 2008 after a corruption investigation. He has been on hunger strike since May 14, an embassy statement said. "We are gravely concerned about Mr. Shahin's health after more than two weeks on hunger strike," said Justin Siberell, the U.S. counsel general in UAE after visiting Shahin. ... Full Story
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained dozens of protesters in rallies held in Moscow and St Petersburg on Thursday against President Vladimir Putin and to demand the right to free assembly. More than 100 people attempted to gather in a central Moscow square where city authorities had denied them permission to demonstrate, chanting "Russia without Putin!" and "Let's stop dictatorship!" Many were wearing the white ribbons that have become a symbol of protests against Putin, who returned to the Kremlin for a third term earlier this month. ...
Rwanda accuses U.N. of fomenting regional tensions Thu,31 May 2012 11:45 AM PDT Reuters - GOMA, Congo (Reuters) - Rwanda accused the United Nations of stirring tensions in the Great Lakes region on Thursday after the world body said that men recruited in Rwanda had been tricked into fighting for a rebel group in neighboring Congo. Rwanda has in the past backed rebels in Congo, citing a need to stamp out fighters who operate there and who are linked to its 1994 genocide. The two neighbors have enjoyed warmer ties since 2009 when the Rwandan-backed CNDP rebel group signed a peace deal and integrated into the Congolese armed forces. ... Full Story
LONDON (Reuters) - British cabinet ministers worked behind the scenes to support James Murdoch's bid to take over a pay-TV company, a public inquiry heard on Thursday, adding weight to opposition criticism of the government's ties to powerful media barons. The Leveson inquiry into relations between politicians and the press has shone a spotlight on the government's handling of News Corp's bid for BSkyB and whether Rupert Murdoch's media empire was able to promote its interests by influencing ministers. ...
EU drafting new Syria sanctions, Hague says Thu,31 May 2012 11:13 AM PDT Reuters - ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The European Union is drafting new sanctions against Syria and wants other nations to do the same to increase pressure on President Bashar al-Assad to comply with an international peace plan, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday. Hague echoed fears voiced by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier in the day that the 14-month uprising in Syria was becoming more sectarian and threatening to spill over into neighboring countries. Syria is moving towards "all-out civil war or a state of collapse", Hague told Reuters in Istanbul. ... Full Story
Libya says it is ready to try Gaddafi loyalists Thu,31 May 2012 11:05 AM PDT Reuters - TRIPOLI (Reuters) - The civilian trials of senior officials in Muammar Gaddafi's former government will begin in early June with his former spy chief, Libya's prosecutor general said on Thursday. The trials are being seen as a test of the new government's ability to try higher-profile Gaddafi loyalists and family members, including his son, Saif al-Islam - who could yet be transferred to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. ... Full Story
German hostage in north Nigeria killed during rescue bid Thu,31 May 2012 11:02 AM PDT Reuters - ABUJA (Reuters) - A German man held hostage in northern Nigeria by a group linked to al Qaeda was killed on Thursday during an attempt by Nigerian forces to rescue him, according to army and security sources. Edgar Fritz Raupach was seized in the north's main city Kano in January. A group claiming to be al Qaeda's North African wing said in March it was holding him and demanded the release of a Muslim woman imprisoned in Germany in exchange for his freedom. ... Full Story
Syria: anti-government groups committed Houla massacre Thu,31 May 2012 11:02 AM PDT Reuters - BEIRUT (Reuters) - Syria said on Thursday a preliminary investigation showed that anti-government armed groups carried out a massacre last week in Houla region with the aim of encouraging foreign military intervention against the government. Brigadier General Qassem Jamal Suleiman, head of the investigation committee formed by the government, said the victims were families "who refused to oppose the government and were at odds with the armed groups". ... Full Story
Young woman sentenced to death by stoning in Sudan Thu,31 May 2012 10:49 AM PDT Reuters - KHARTOUM (Reuters) - A Sudanese woman, believed to be around 20, has been sentenced to be stoned to death for adultery, and is being held near Khartoum, shackled in prison with her baby son, rights groups and lawyers said on Thursday. Campaigners condemned the ruling, saying it violated international standards and raised concerns that Sudan might start applying sharia, or Islamic law, more strictly following the secession of mostly non-Muslim South Sudan last year. The woman, Intisar Sharif Abdalla, was sentenced by the Ombada criminal court on April 22, court documents seen by Reuters showed. ... Full Story
Interpol seeks Canadian man in dismemberment murder Thu,31 May 2012 10:25 AM PDT Reuters - OTTAWA (Reuters) - Interpol issued an international arrest warrant on Thursday for a Canadian man suspected of dismembering a male murder victim and mailing body parts to political parties as Canadian police tried to determine if he was responsible for a grisly online video of a beheading. Montreal police said they believe the suspect, Luka Rocco Magnotta, has fled Canada as they continued to scour his blood-soaked apartment in the city. Police have said a janitor found a headless, limbless torso stuffed into a suitcase in an alley behind the building. ... Full Story