Court won’t dismiss case against Garzon

MADRID, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A request to throw out a case against Judge Balthazar Garzon was rejected by the Spanish Supreme Court on Tuesday, officials say.

Garzon is accused of overstepping his authority by ordering an inquiry into massacres carried out by forces loyal to former dictator General Franco.

Two groups accuse Garzon of violating a 1977 Franco-era amnesty law — Manos Limpias (Clean Hands) and Libertad e Identitdad (Liberty and Identity). Garzon has argued that no amnesty can vouch for crimes against humanity.

Outside Spain, Garzon is best known for securing the London arrest of former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet in 1998. ThinkSpain reports thousands of people demonstrated in Garzon’s support in Madrid on Sunday.

China cracks down on unrest

CHENGDU, China, Jan. 31 (UPI) — China, in advance of next month’s Tibetan new year, has sent thousands of security forces into a southwestern area where ethnic Tibetans live, officials said.

The move follows unrest in the region that included self immolations by Tibetans and protests that sparked violent clashes with police, CNN reported Tuesday.

The recent turmoil appears to be the worst between ethnic Tibetans and Chinese authorities since 2008 when unrest in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa left at least 22 people dead.

Chinese police were stopping all cars trying to enter the region during the weekend, checking identification papers and turning away reporters and those with foreign passports.

Residents in a local village near the checkpoint told CNN China sent reinforcements because of the tense situation in Ganzi that borders Tibet and is home to a population that is nearly 80 percent ethnic Tibetan.

Last month, the Tibetan government-in-exile called for international intervention.

Chile president OKs human rights deputy

SANTIAGO, Chile, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A new undersecretary of human rights position would be created in Chile under a bill signed by President Sebastian Pinera.

If the measure wins approval from Congress, the Ministry of Justice would become the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the new undersecretary would report to the minister of justice and human rights, The Santiago Times reported.

“For the first time, Chile will have an authority responsible for leading all efforts by the government now scattered in different departments, relating to the protection of human rights,” Pinera said.

The undersecretary would also handle past human rights violations, particularly those dating to the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, with emphasis on compensation of victims.

“This new institutional framework is a clear demonstration of the commitment by the government and this presidency to create a culture of respect and protection of human rights,” Pinera said.

The undersecretary also would represent Chile in international courts dealing with human rights such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights when Chile is required to appear; work with the justice minister on studies on human rights within Chile; and head promotional campaigns to increase awareness of human rights.

The measure signed by Pinera also would create an inter-ministry Committee of Human Rights to handle human rights matters.

Ban calls for swift transition in Egypt

CAIRO, Jan. 31 (UPI) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Egypt’s military authority to uphold its commitments to a civilian-led government.

Ban met on the sidelines of a sustainability conference in Ethiopia with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamer Ali Amir. His discussions with the Egyptian leader followed a series of elections in post-revolutionary Egypt that saw Islamic parties like the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party score major victories.

Ban called on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to move quickly toward a civilian-led government, the United Nations said in a readout of his meeting.

SCAF faced widespread criticism over the pace at which it was ushering in a new civilian authority. The ruling military council had promised to have elections within six months of former President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation in February 2011. Elections began late last year for seats in the Egyptian Parliament.

An advisory council to SCAF, which took over after Mubarak resigned, said the military leaders had no plans to move quicker on political reforms, the country’s Egyptian Independent newspaper reports.

SCAF leaders announced nominations for eventual presidential elections could begin as early as April.

Police kill 2 wolves roaming city street

PITKYARANTA, Russia, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Police said they were forced to shoot at a pack of wolves, killing two, to drive the wild animals off the streets of a Russian city and back into the woods.

Authorities said they received reports Monday of wolves terrorizing residents of Pitkyaranta, a city near Russia’s border with Finland, RIA Novosti reported.

“A frightened man called police to report he had just been attacked by wolves … not in the woods, but on the city’s [streets],” a police spokesman said.

A patrol found several wolves outside the door of an apartment building and one charged when officers exited their vehicle, the spokesman said.

Police shot and killed the charging wolf and another that tried to attack, after which the pack moved toward a nearby forest, RIA Novosti said.

Deep freeze blankets Eastern Europe

KIEV, Ukraine, Jan. 31 (UPI) — More than 30 people have died in central and Eastern Europe as a result of sub-freezing temperatures, weather forecasters said.

In Ukraine, hypothermia was blamed for the deaths of at least 18 people while as many as 500 others have sought medical treatment for conditions related to the bitter cold, Europenews.net reported.

In Poland, at least 10 people have died after temperatures plunged to 18 degrees F. below zero. Among the victims were elderly and homeless people.

A state of emergency due to the cold was declared in Bulgaria for all but three of the country’s 28 districts.

Schools and colleges in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev have canceled classes beginning Wednesday due to the severe cold, the Kiev city administration announced Tuesday.

The administration head told the Interfax-Ukraine news agency it has been a long time since temperatures dropped below zero.

Oleksandr Popov said classes would resume Feb. 5 if temperatures rise.

Tymoshenko’s daughter arrives in U.S.

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — The daughter of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko arrived in the United States to attend a hearing on European affairs, the leader said.

Tymoshenko, the opposition leader and a former prime minister, is serving a seven-year prison sentence following a conviction on charges she abused her authority when she helped secure a natural gas deal with Russian energy company Gazprom.

Her daughter, Eugenia Tymoshenko, is attend a U.S. Senate hearing on Ukraine and broader European affairs through Friday, the former prime minister’s Web site announced.

Tymoshenko is to appear alongside members of the former prime minister’s opposition party.

The Yanukovych government claims the 2009 gas deal brokered with Tymoshenko’s help hurt a Ukrainian economy already bruised by the global recession.

Tymoshenko, in a letter sent last week to her opposition party from her jail cell, claimed the country’s “dictatorship” would collapse. Her supporters say the charges against her are politically motivated.

The government of the Czech Republic granted political asylum to Oleksandr Tymoshenko, husband of the jailed former prime minister, in early January. He filed his asylum request citing the potential for harassment.

Advocate pleads for Mumbai attacker

MUMBAI, Jan. 31 (UPI) — The counsel for the lone surviving gunman involved in the 2008 Mumbai massacre told India’s Supreme Court his client didn’t get a fair trial.

Senior Advocate Raju Ramachandran said Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, 24, was not part of the larger conspiracy that was waging war against India and does not deserve to die, the Press Trust of India reported Tuesday.

A special petition filed on behalf of Kasab challenges his conviction on grounds he was brainwashed into committing crimes in the name of God and does not deserve capital punishment because of his young age.

Ramachandran told the court the prosecution failed to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and that Kasab’s right against self-incrimination and adequate representation was violated during this trial.

Kasab’s death sentence was stayed in October and he is currently being held at Mumbai’s Arthur Road prison.

He was charged with taking part in a 2008 shooting spree that left more than 166 people dead and many more wounded in India’s financial capital.

Nine other Pakistanis involved in the attacks were killed.

China to ‘strike hard’ against Tibetans

BEIJING, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Chinese security forces are called on to “strike hard” against Tibetan activists following clashes in central Sichuan province, an official said.

Qi Zhala, secretary for the Lhasa Communist Party, called for tightened security near Tibetan monasteries after clashes last week turned deadly.

“We must strike hard at all the separatist, destructive and criminal activities of the Dalai (Lama) clique and make efforts to realize our goal of not letting any incident, big or small, occur,” he was quoted by the BBC as saying.

Self-immolations are on the rise in parts of central China. More than a dozen such acts have been reported by Tibetan activist groups in the last year. Free Tibet, a rights group in London, said many people are protesting Chinese security measures and the lack of religious freedom.

Tibetan rights groups said the death toll attributed to Chinese forces is much higher than Beijing estimates. The Chinese government, however, claims Western media are distorting the security situation in Sichuan province.

Tibetan activists are calling for more autonomy and the return of spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

College fakes SAT scores for 6 years

CLAREMONT, Calif., Jan. 31 (UPI) — A prestigious California college admitted Monday to falsifying SAT scores for the past six years to boost its standing in national rankings, officials say.

Claremont McKenna College, a small school ranked the ninth-best liberal arts college in the country by U.S. News & World Report, has reportedly falsified SAT scores since 2005.

Vice President and Dean of Admissions Richard C. Vos was allegedly responsible for the practice. Officials say his name was removed from the college’s online staff directory after college President Pamela B. Gann sent an e-mail to faculty and students revealing a “senior administrator” had taken responsibility for falsifying the scores.

The scores were increased by an average of 10-20 points, Gann said in the e-mail. While it may seem a small difference, the extra padding helped Claremont McKenna gain an unfair advantage over competing schools in U.S. News rankings.

Robert Franek, senior vice president of publishing for The Princeton Review, told The New York Times he’s never heard of a situation such as this.

“That’s a pretty mild difference in a point score,” he said. “That said, 10 points, 30 points to a student that isn’t getting that score on the SAT could be an important distinction.”

Russian diplomats leaving Canada

OTTAWA, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A second Russian diplomat has flown home from Canada following the arrest of a Canadian sailor for espionage, the Globe and Mail reported Tuesday.

Since the Jan. 16 arrest of Canadian naval intelligence officer Sub-Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle, accused of sharing government secrets to undisclosed foreign countries from a base in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a total of six diplomats’ names have been dropped from the daily register of Russian diplomatic staff, the newspaper said.

Two are known to have flown back to Russia. The most recent departure was a consular officer in Toronto, while the first was a military attache in Ottawa. Both had been in Canada for several years.

The departures leave 100 Russian diplomatic staff officially recognized by the Canadian government.

The Russian government told the Globe their staff is routinely reassigned to other postings and denied the recent activity had anything to do with the espionage case.

Prosecutors allege Delisle passed Canadian secrets to a foreign country between July 2007 and the day of his arrest, Jan. 13.

His initial lawyer has quit the case for undisclosed reasons and Delisle remains in custody awaiting a Feb. 28 bail hearing, CTV News said.

Turkey says Hamas not moving to country

ANKARA, Turkey, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Turkey said it will not allow Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal to move the group’s headquarters to that country from Syria nor provide millions in aid to the group.

“Khaled Mashaal’s stay in Turkey is out of question,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told a news conference Monday.

Turkey, which Mashaal visited recently, recognizes Hamas as a legal political party while fellow NATO members do not.

Arinc also dismissed reports Turkey had promised to provide Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, $300 million in aid, Today’s Zaman reported. The Turkish Foreign Ministry also denied reports diplomatic sources said Turkey would provide the aid.

Mashaal, 55, has been based in Damascus, Syria, since 2001, and serving as the chief of Hamas since 1996, charged with setting policy and planning attacks against Israel.

Today’s Zaman said Mashaal has not been spending much time in Syria where more than 5,000 people have been killed in 10 months of anti-government protests.

Hamas denied in a recent report it was moving its headquarters out of Syria and said Mashaal’s absence was due to security concerns.

First lady proposes military FMLA changes

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — The Family and Medical Leave Act should be expanded to provide more job protection to caregivers of U.S. military personnel, first lady Michelle Obama said.

Obama, announcing the changes with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis Monday, said the proposed expansion would allow spouses, parents and children of military personnel who provide care to attend military gatherings or handle childcare or finances without worrying about job security.

“Now, this means that more caregivers can now provide support at a hospital for days or weeks at a time. They can help their loved ones make that transition back home,” Obama said at a Department of Labor event. “And they can do it all without worrying about whether they will lose their job. And we all know the kind of difference that can make for our wounded warriors and for their families.”

The proposed language would extend military caregiver leave to family members of veterans for up to five years after leaving the military, the Labor Department said. The law now covers caregivers of “currently serving” military personnel.

Also, the proposal would expand the military family leave provisions of the FMLA by extending qualifying exigency leave to employees whose family members serve in the regular armed forces. Currently, the law covers only families of National Guard members and reservists.

The proposed FMLA expansion would include as much as 12 weeks of leave from work to help a military member deployed on short notice, as well as long as 26 weeks of leave to care for an injured or ill service member.

“So these new rules will make a real difference for our military families in so many ways,” Obama said.

Church leader stabbed by man in Santa suit

JAFFA, Israel, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Three suspects were arrested in the death of a prominent Christian leader in Jaffa in a property dispute, Israeli police said.

Gabriel Cadis, 61, chairman of the Jaffa Orthodox Church Association, was stabbed to death last month during a procession to mark Orthodox Christmas. The attacker was dressed as Santa Claus, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Police have just lifted a media ban on the investigation, the newspaper said.

Cadis had been involved in a dispute over a building purchased for the Orthodox Church Association. Three members of the Abu Maneh family, who claimed ownership of the building, have been arrested in the slaying.

Police said the family had been trying to prove in court that they lived in the $2.7 million building and Cadis had no right to evict them.

“The suspects wanted to get rid of Cadis so that the case would collapse,” a police source told the newspaper.

More targeted killings hit Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Nine people have died in a surge of targeted killings in Karachi, Pakistan, over the past 24 hours, authorities said Tuesday.

Among those killed were the wife and daughter of a local government official, a 40-year-old doctor and the manager of a fast food outlet, Pakistan’s Dawn News reported.

Karachi police cordoned off areas where the killings took place and arrested 36 suspects.

House GOP to unveil transportation funding

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A House transportation bill would give states more authority and encourage private companies to expand the U.S. highway system by building toll roads.

The Republican bill, to be presented Tuesday, also would drastically reduce environmental review time and would require people convicted of drunken driving to use ignition interlock devices for a year, The Washington Post reported.

The House proposal would fund transportation projects near current funding levels of about $260 billion over five years, averaging about $40.6 billion for highways and $10.1 billion for transit, a review indicated, less than the annual $54 billion proposed by the Senate in its two-year bill.

Among the more controversial issues in the House bill is a provision that would raise the maximum truck weight from 80,000 pounds to 97,000 and would allow their length to grow by five feet, the Post said. Safety advocates and the rail industry indicated they’re ready to lobby against that provision.

While congressional members have little appetite for imposing tolls on existing interstate highways, the House GOP plan would encourage private investment in projects that build additional lanes on those highways and collect tolls to pay for them.

The proposal for mandatory ignition interlocks, now required in 15 states, is in the Senate bill. An interlock device is a mechanism installed to a vehicle’s dashboard. Before the vehicle’s motor can be started, the driver must first breathe into the device. If the breath-alcohol concentration result analyzed is greater than the programmed blood alcohol concentration, the device prevents the engine from starting.

Palestinians indicted for abusing daughter

QALQIYLA, West Bank, Jan. 31 (UPI) — A Palestinian couple has been indicted on abuse charges for locking the man’s daughter in a bathroom for more than nine years, Israeli prosecutors said.

The indictment said the couple had prevented the 20-year-old victim from attending school beginning when she was 11-years-old and isolated her from other family members, Ynetnews.com reported Tuesday.

She was only allowed to leave the bathroom to do housework.

Qalqilya police on the West Bank said the father told them he imprisoned his daughter in the bathroom after some unspecified family quarrel.

Ynetnews.com said officers acting on a tip went to the home earlier this month and freed the girl who was turned over to a social worker.

The indictment states the father hit his daughter and caused contusions at the instigation of his partner who was not the girl’s mother.

It said the partner urged the girls’ father to leave a razor blade in the shower so the girl could kill herself.

Palestinian police turned the couple over to Israeli authorities.

Netanyahu votes in Likud party primary

JERUSALEM, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says low voter turnout and an activist boycott could inflate Tuesday’s party primary numbers for his opponent.

Netanyahu and rival Moshe Feiglin voted early Friday as the Likud party primary opened, The Jerusalem Post reported.

While Netanyahu remains the clear favorite, the prime minister said primary results could be skewed if voters fail to participate.

“If the inactive majority stays home, we get an inaccurate picture” of what party activists want. “If everyone comes and votes, we get a clear picture,” he told reporters in Jerusalem.

More than 125,000 people are eligible to vote.

Likud activists who have called for the boycott say they’re hoping for less than 50 percent turnout, which would give them the opportunity to question the legitimacy of the vote.

Feiglin is looking for a boost from the last Likud primary in August 2007, when he won just 23.4 percent of the vote, Ynetnews.com reported.

Nine militants die in Yemen drone strike

SANAA, Yemen, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Security officials in Yemen said Tuesday nine militants were killed in a suspected drone strike on a militant target in southern Yemen.

The strike occurred in Abyan province near areas that were taken over in May by Ansar al-Shariah, a militant group with links to al-Qaida, CNN reported.

The group had declared Abyan an Islamic emirate and called for the implementation of Shariah law.

Yemen’s efforts to wrest the province from the hands of the militants has resulted in hundreds of deaths, the country’s defense ministry said.

Two security officials told CNN Monday night’s drones belonged to the United States.

U.S. officials rarely discuss the drone program though privately they have said the covert strikes are legal and an effective tactic in the fight against extremists.

A CIA-operated drone killed American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki in September.

Militants attack Pakistan outpost

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Ten security officers were killed Tuesday and 32 others injured when militants attacked a military outpost in northwestern Pakistan, a security official said.

The official told Pakistan’s The Express Tribune scores of militants stormed the security post in the Jogi area of central Kurram Agency in retaliation for a battle that occurred last week.

“The security forces had entered a zone which is considered to be a stronghold of militants. It was a counter attack,” the official said.

Tuesday’s battle lasted for hours and involved helicopter gunships.

The official said 25 militants were killed by government forces.

The Kurram Valley is along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Obama: Use of drones heavily monitored

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) — U.S. President Obama defended the controversial use of drones, saying the program is tightly controlled for specific targets to avoid more invasive action.

Obama said use of unmanned aircraft in theaters of war helps keep civilian deaths down when striking at suspected terrorist sites in Pakistan and elsewhere, The New York Times reported Monday.

“We are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” Obama said during a Web-based interview session sponsored by Google Plus, the social media site of Google. “It is important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash.”

Obama confirmed the CIA drones were used by the State Department for surveillance of diplomatic facilities in Iraq, as reported by the Times. He said the drones were a key element in U.S. offensive against al-Qaida.

The CIA’s drone program, unlike the military’s use of armed unmanned aircraft in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq, is a covert operation and generally has not been addressed directly by the administration.

Italy reiterates commitment to UNIFIL

NAQOURA, Lebanon, Jan. 31 (UPI) — Italy has reiterated its commitment to South Lebanon as an Italian commander took over as chief of the 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping contingent there.

Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra was handed control Saturday of the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon — UNIFIL — taking over from Maj. Gen. Alberto Asarta Cuevas of Spain.

Serra takes over after Italy moved to reduce its troop contingent from 1,800 to 1,100 soldiers following attacks on peacekeepers in May and July — a move Rome said was made not in response to the attacks but as part of a wider round of defense cuts.

Serra was handed command of UNIFIL at its headquarters at Naqoura, Lebanon, in a ceremony attended by the Lebanese Defense Minister Fayez Ghosn, Lebanese armed forces commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi and Italian Defense Minister Giampaolo Di Paola, among other dignitaries.

Serra said he is “fully committed” to working with the Lebanese armed forces to train them to take over security at the border between Israel and Lebanon and promised to further develop the strategic partnership with them.

He said peace and security for the region “lies in the continued commitment of all the parties to the cessation of hostilities and full respect of (U.N.) Resolution 1701,” which was enacted to resolve the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict.

Part of the resolution calls for the two sides to adhere to the Blue Line, which marks the border between the countries.

“The respect for the Blue Line by the parties and their cooperation in UNIFIL’s efforts to further the visible marking of the Blue Line is a process that can support the improving of the general security for the people of southern Lebanon,” Serra said.

Di Paola told the Beirut newspaper The Daily Star Italy remains firmly committed to UNIFIL despite the troop cutbacks and last year’s attacks on peacekeepers.

Five Italian troops were wounded in an attack on a UNIFIL convoy in May, followed a month later by a roadside bomb attack on French troops in which five were also wounded.

Another attack in December near Tyre wounded a further five French peacekeepers and one Lebanese civilian.

Di Paola noted the violence of the incidents, but added, “overall, the incidents do not change the situation,” on the ground.

“When you look to the role of UNIFIL, and what they have been able to achieve, together with the Lebanese army, (it is hard to deny) the fact, we are contributing to bringing stability … in a very sensitive area.”

Di Paola noted the “Italian contribution is one of the strongest,” and added, “I am quite convinced and quite confident about the level of contribution.”

Also present in Lebanon was Italian Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Staffan de Mistura, who told The Daily Star, “Lebanon is part of the Mediterranean and is a priority country for Italy.”

He said the importance of UNIFIL was evident in that “11 months after the outbreak of the crisis in Syria, and except for some small incidents, the crisis has not affected Lebanon.”