- - Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Iran proclaims nuclear advances

TEHRAN — Iran claimed Wednesday that it has achieved two major advances in its program to master production of nuclear fuel, a defiant move in response to increasingly tough Western sanctions over its controversial nuclear program.

In a further show of resistance to international pressure, state media reported Iran was taking steps to cut oil exports to six European countries in retaliation for new European Union sanctions, including a ban on Iranian oil.

The semiofficial Mehr agency said that Iran has halted exports to France and the Netherlands, and has given an ultimatum to Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece to either sign long-term contracts with Iran or be cut off.

State-run Press TV had earlier reported that exports were being cut off outright for all six. The contradiction in the reports could not immediately be resolved.

The EU ban on oil imports is to go into effect in July. Iranian officials say their country’s earlier cutoff will hit European nations before they can line up new suppliers, and that Tehran has already lined up buyers for the 18 percent share of its oil that goes to Europe.


Global report says 1 in 4 kids hungry

NAIROBI, Kenya — Five children around the world die every minute because of chronic malnutrition, according to a report released Wednesday that also said that almost half a billion children are at risk of permanent damage over the next 15 years.

A report from Save the Children said the deaths of 2 million children each year could be prevented if malnutrition were better addressed.

The report called chronic malnutrition a largely hidden crisis that affects one in four children globally. Global hunger has fallen markedly over the last two decades, but the 2011 Global Hunger Index found that six countries have higher rates of hunger today than two decades ago.

Five of those countries are in Africa. The other is North Korea.

The 2011 Global Hunger Index said that Congo, Burundi, Comoros, Swaziland and Ivory Coast have higher degrees of hunger today than in 1990. Kuwait, Turkey, Malaysia and Mexico have made the biggest gains against hunger.


Official: Nuke safety standards are flawed

TOKYO — Japan’s nuclear safety chief said Wednesday the country’s regulations are flawed, outdated and below global standards, and he apologized for their failure when a tsunami crippled one plant last year.

Haruki Madarame admitted Japanese safety requirements such as for tsunamis and power losses were too loose and many officials have looked the other way and tried to avoid changes.

“I must admit that the nuclear safety guidelines that we have issued until now have various flaws,” he said. “We’ve even said that we don’t need to consider risks for massive tsunamis and lengthy power outages.”

Mr. Madarame, who heads the Nuclear Safety Commission, was speaking at a parliament-sponsored inquiry investigating the meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi last year.


Prosecutors detain four in prostitution ring

MEXICO CITY — Mexican federal prosecutors said Wednesday they have detained four people who for almost a decade lured unsuspecting young Mexican women to the United States to force them into prostitution.

Prosecutor Jose Cuitlahuac Salinas said male members of the gang in the central state of Tlaxcala would court girls between the ages of 15 and 18 and once they fell in love would take them to New York state and exploit them.

He said four more suspects are being sought and five women were rescued in New York.

Mr. Salinas said the four suspects arrested in Mexico are from the same family in the town of Tenancingo.

Authorities say the town of just over 10,000 people has many families involved in forced prostitution. Some have been doing it for three generations.


Sarkozy declares bid for re-election

PARIS — President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday he is the man to defend a “strong France,” as he announced his re-election bid with 10 weeks to the vote and his socialist rival leading in opinion polls.

Portraying himself as a tough realist in a period of “unprecedented crisis” and dismissing poll-leading socialist candidate Francois Hollande as a dreamer, Mr. Sarkozy said he felt it was his duty to seek a new five-year term.

“Yes, I am a candidate in the presidential election,” he said in an interview on France’s TF1 television.


Journalists arrested for publishing nude photo

TUNIS — The head of a Tunisian newspaper and two of its editors were arrested Wednesday for violating public morals, after the publishing of a photo of a sports figure with a nude woman, the Justice Ministry said.

The Attounisia newspaper printed a photograph of German-Tunisian soccer player Sami Khedira dressed in a tuxedo with his hands covering the breasts of his otherwise naked German model girlfriend, Lena Gercke.

Authorities arrested the newspaper’s publisher, Nasreddine Ben Said; the editor in chief, Hbib Guizani; and foreign news editor, Hedi Hidhri. They were charged with an assault on public morality.


‘Janitor’ satellites to grab space junk

GENEVA — The tidy Swiss want to clean up space.

Swiss scientists said Wednesday they plan to launch a “janitor satellite” specially designed to get rid of space junk, the orbiting debris that can do serious and costly damage to valuable satellites or even manned spaceships.

The $11 million satellite called CleanSpace One, the prototype for a family of such satellites, is being built by the Swiss Space Center at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology in Lausanne.

Its launch would come within three to five years and its first task will be to grab two Swiss satellites launched in 2009 and 2010 that will be phased out of use.

NASA says more than 500,000 pieces of spent rocket stages, broken satellites and other debris are orbiting Earth. The debris travels at speeds approaching 17,500 miles per hour, fast enough to destroy or inflict expensive and time-draining damage on a satellite or spacecraft.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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