- - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

SWITZERLAND

Researchers find evidence of the mysterious ‘God particle’

GENEVA — Scientists hunting for an elusive subatomic particle say they have found “intriguing hints” that it exists, narrowing the search for what is believed to be a basic building block of the universe.

The Higgs boson - popularly referred to as the “God particle” - is more likely to be found in the lower mass or energy ranges of the massive atom smasher being used to track it down, physicists from two independent research teams said Tuesday.

The researchers were careful to note they do not have enough data yet to definitively say the particle exists. But they said the latest data are strong enough that the question could be answered one way or another by next year.

Researchers hope that the particle, if it exists, can help explain many mysteries of the universe. British physicist Peter Higgs and others theorized the particle’s existence more than 40 years ago to explain why atoms, and everything else in the universe, have weight.

Both of the research teams are involved with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva. CERN oversees the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border, a 17-mile circular tunnel where high energy beams of protons are sent crashing into each other at incredible speeds.

MYANMAR

Suu Kyi’s party wins legal status for election

YANGON — Myanmar authorities Tuesday gave Aung San Suu Kyi’s opposition party the green light to rejoin mainstream politics, paving the way for the Nobel Peace Prize laureate to run for a seat in the new parliament.

The announcement in state media follows a series of reforms by a new military-backed government dominated by former generals who are now reaching out to political opponents and the West.

Ms. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) was stripped of its status as a legal political party by the junta last year after it chose to boycott a rare election, saying the rules were unfair.

A brief announcement in the official New Light of Myanmar newspaper Tuesday said that the country’s election commission had approved the NLD’s application to re-register as a political party.

PAKISTAN

President Zardari suffers ‘ministroke’ in Dubai

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari suffered a “ministroke” that led to his ongoing hospitalization in Dubai, a close associate of the leader said Tuesday.

Mr. Zardari’s trip to Dubai last week has led to speculation - denied by the government - that he is losing his grip on power.

The associate said Mr. Zardari, 56, will stay under observation in the Gulf sheikdom for about two weeks before returning. He said there is no question that Mr. Zardari was too ill to return to office, echoing what other officials have said in recent days.

A “ministroke” is medically known as a transient ischemic attack. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted, causing symptoms similar to a stroke but not as long-lasting.

The associate, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said the diagnosis was made by the president’s two physicians.

BELGIUM

Attack in shopping square leaves 4 dead, 75 wounded

LIEGE — A man armed with grenades and an assault rifle attacked holiday shoppers Tuesday at a central square in the Belgian city of Liege, leaving four people dead and wounding 75, officials said.

It was not immediately clear what motivated the attack, but Interior Ministry official Peter Mertens said it did not involve terrorism.

Belgian officials identified the attacker as Norodine Amrani, 33, a Liege resident who they said had done jail time for offenses involving guns, drugs and sexual abuse.

He was among the dead, but Liege Prosecutor Danielle Reynders told reporters it was unclear if he committed suicide or died by accident. He did not die at the hands of police, she said.

The dead included two teenage boys, 15 and 17; and a 75-year-old woman. The La Libre newspaper reported that a 2-year-old girl was clinging to life.

Ms. Reynders said Mr. Amrani had been summoned for police questioning Tuesday but the reason for the questioning was not clear.

JAPAN

Japan likely to buy U.S. F-35s to help modernize its air fleet

TOKYO — Japan’s government has selected the Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter to bolster its aging air force and is likely to announce the multibillion-dollar deal by the end of the week, news reports said Tuesday.

The announcement is expected after a committee meeting Friday, according to Kyodo News agency and the Yomiuri newspaper.

A spokesman for Lockheed Martin said it had not been informed of any decision, and pending the formal announcement, officials refused to comment on which plane is favored.

“We would like to announce our decision as soon as possible,” Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa said in response to the reports. He said the government is in the “final stages” of reaching a conclusion.

Japan is expected to buy 40 to 50 jets for as much as $8 billion, though the value of the deal depends on what package Japan chooses. The Yomiuri report said Japan will budget for the first four aircraft in 2012, with deliveries starting in 2016.

From wire dispatches and staff reports