Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Obama Cuts US Nuclear Arms Use

President Obama's administration has unveiled a defence policy to significantly narrow the circumstances in which the US would use nuclear arms. But its Nuclear Posture Review warned that countries breaking the rules would remain potential targets.

The US strategy document also raised concerns about a "lack of transparency" in China's nuclear program The review comes two days before Mr Obama and his Russian counterpart sign a landmark nuclear arms reduction pact.

The deal, agreed last month, commits Russia and America to big cuts in nuclear warheads and is to replace the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start), which expired last December.

The far-reaching Nuclear Posture Review, published on Tuesday, outlines plans for "achieving substantial further nuclear force reductions" beyond the new treaty.

Every president since 1991 conducts such a review - the last one took place in 2001 at the start of George W Bush's administration.

Rio de Janeiro Floods Kill Scores

At least 90 people have been killed after torrential rain caused landslides and flooding in the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, officials have said. Thirty-three people died in Rio de Janeiro city after 11in of rain fell in 24 hours, while 33 were killed in the neighbouring city of Niteroi.

Flooding left another 12 people dead in Sao Goncalo, and one in Petropolis. Rio de Janeiro's governor has declared a state of emergency while the city's mayor has told people to stay indoors. Authorities say the transport system is close to collapse.

Many of the victims in the city of Rio de Janeiro, including a five-month-old baby and a nine-year-old child, died in landslides in shantytowns, officials said. The continuous rainfall also forced Santos Dumont airport, which handles domestic flights, to close for two hours on Monday night, causing a number of delays.

Many cars were left abandoned on main roads throughout the city. The head of Rio de Janeiro's civil defense department told TV Globo the amount of rain that had fallen was "more than any city is capable of supporting".

Venezuela Seizes Colombia 'Spies'

Venezuela has confirmed that eight Colombian citizens have been arrested on suspicion of spying, accused of trying to destabilize its power grid. Venezuela is currently experiencing its worst electricity crisis for 50 years.

President Hugo Chavez says the problem is partly down to sabotage by government opponents. Venezuela's relations with Colombia were suspended last year following a dispute over US access to Colombian military bases.

The eight Colombians, arrested last week, are all believed to be members of the same family who have lived in the Venezuelan state of Barinas for more than 15 years.

The Venezuelan interior minister accused the group of taking photos of restricted areas such as electricity substations with the intention, he said, of sabotaging the country's ailing electrical grid.

BREAKING: Major Earthquake Hits Indonesia

A tsunami alert has been issued after an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8 hit the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

The quake's epicenter was 127 miles northwest of Sibolga on Sumatra's coast, at a depth of nearly 28.6, the US Geological Survey said. Three aftershocks were reported in the northern state of Aceh, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, one of the world's most active areas for earthquakes and volcanoes. It has recently been struck by string of quakes; one off Sumatra in September killed more than 1,000 people.

The latest quake struck at 0515 on Wednesday morning (2215 GMT on Tuesday).

Oil Prices Hit New 18-Month High

The price of oil reached a fresh 18-month high on Tuesday on growing hopes of a US-led global economic recovery. US light crude hit $87.09 a barrel in New York trading, before falling back slightly to $86.84. Brent crude peaked at $86.63 a barrel - also an 18-month high - before falling to $86.15.

Investors have also signalled their confidence in the US economy with the strengthening of the dollar against both the pound and the euro. The US dollar was up almost a cent against the euro, with a dollar worth 74.8 euro cents. It was also up almost half a penny against the pound, with a dollar worth 65.7 pence.

Women Arrested After Taking Corpse Onto Plane

Police have arrested two women at an British airport after they reportedly tried to smuggle a corpse onto a flight. Police said Tuesday the women were detained at Liverpool's John Lennon airport "on suspicion of failing to give notification of death" of a 91-year-old man.

World media outlets have reported that the women placed the man, a relative of theirs, into a wheelchair and covered his face with sunglasses in a bid to get him aboard a flight to Berlin.

The women, aged 41 and 66, were detained Saturday and have been released on bail. They have not been charged and police say inquiries are continuing.

3 Plead Not Guilty In Mass. School Bullying Case

Three Massachusetts teenagers pleaded not guilty through their lawyers Tuesday in the bullying of a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide after what prosecutors call months of threats and harassment. The teens were not required to appear at the hearing in Hampshire Superior Court.

Sean Mulveyhill and Kayla Narey, both 17 and from South Hadley, and 18-year-old Austin Renaud, of Springfield, will remain free on personal recognizance on the condition that they stay away from the family of Phoebe Prince, the girl who died. Mulveyhill and Renaud are charged with statutory rape. Mulveyhill and Narey are also charged with violation of civil rights resulting in bodily injury, criminal harassment and disturbance of a school assembly.

They are among six teens charged in what prosecutors said was the "unrelenting" bullying of Prince, who hanged herself Jan. 14. Prince, who had emigrated from Ireland last summer, was a freshman at South Hadley High School.

Authorities said she was harassed and bullied after having a brief relationship with a popular boy. They have not identified the boy, but friends said it was Mulveyhill, who was a star football player at South Hadley High School.

Prosecutors said the bullying went on for three months, and included insults and threats made in school and through cell phone text messages. Phoebe killed herself Jan. 14 after a day of near-constant bullying, including being hit with a beverage container as she walked home from school.

Renaud's lawyer, Terrence Dunphy, would not comment on the relationship between Prince and Renaud or the statutory rape charge against him. He said lawyers have not received any information yet from prosecutors on what evidence they have.

A pretrial hearing for Mulveyhill, Narey and Renaud was scheduled for Sept. 15. The three others - Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins and Sharon Chanon Velazquez, all age 16 - are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Franklin-Hampshire Juvenile Court in Hadley. They are charged with violation of civil rights with bodily injury.

The three also face simultaneous charges of juvenile delinquency. Several news outlets, including the AP, have been reporting since charges were announced last week that a total of nine youths had been accused in the case. Because prosecutors by law cannot release the names of those charged as juvenile delinquents, they did not clarify that the three 16-year-olds were charged twice - once as delinquents and once as youthful offenders.

A person familiar with the proceedings confirmed to the AP on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity that a total of six were involved.

AP; TV Globol; Reuters; Sky News; USGS; Wall Street Journal

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