Rebels commanders unite
Rebel commanders from across the country have joined forces under a united command they hope will increase coordination between diverse fighting groups and streamline the pathway for arms essential to their struggle against President Bashar al-Assad. Disorganization has bedeviled the rebel movement since its birth late last year. Scores of rebel groups battle al-Assad’s forces across the country, many coordinating with no one outside of their own area. The new body, expected to be announced officially yesterday, hopes to form the basis of a united rebel front.
Elections bring uncertainty
The center-left government is expected to win a comfortable victory after yesterday’s parliamentary elections, but the result could lead to more of the political instability that has plagued the impoverished Balkan nation this year. President Traian Basescu must nominate the prime minister, and he has indicated he may not reappoint Prime Minister Victor Ponta even if his coalition wins a majority. The two have been embroiled in a bitter personal feud since Ponta tried and failed to impeach the center-right Basescu in July. If Basescu refuses to reappoint Ponta, it would cause a political standoff. Basescu could nominate someone else, but his choice would have to be approved by parliament. If his candidate fails in two rounds of voting, parliament could be dissolved.
Medvedev jokes about aliens
Men in Black agents K and J may be about to recruit a new assistant: Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Medvedev has spoken about top secret files on aliens that may have landed in the country. In footage recorded on Friday after a TV interview, the former president joked that each leader gets two folders with information about extraterrestrials that visited our planet — and stayed. Unseen on camera footage, he is heard telling a Ren TV journalist he could not tell “how many of them are among us, because it may cause panic.” He said more details could be found in Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black films.
Gypsies’ roots analyzed
In parts of Europe, they are still shunned as disruptive outsiders or patronized as little more than an exotic source of music and dance, but scientists have now proved the continent’s Gypsies have ancient roots stretching back more than a millennium. A genetic analysis of 13 Gypsy groups around Europe, published in the Current Biology journal, has revealed that the arrival on the continent of Gypsy forebears from northern India happened far earlier than was thought, about 1,500 years ago. The earliest population reached the Balkans, while the spread outward from there came about nine centuries ago, according to researchers at the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and elsewhere. Gypsies were originally thought to have come from Egypt and some of the earliest references to them in English, dating back to the 16th century, call them “Egyptians.” Early European references describe wandering, nomadic communities who were known for their music and skill with horses. They arrived in Spain in the 15th century or earlier records of groups and held on despite attempts to expel them or imprison those who refused to give up their language and culture. The study shows not only that they share common ancestry from northwest India, but also that they have mixed extensively with other Europeans.
Thirteen die in clashes
Authorities say gunmen rampaged through a town in Chihuahua, killing at least six people, including a child. State prosecutors say the attack happened late on Friday in the town of Guadalupe y Calvo. They say six bodies were found in three different neighborhoods. A house also was burned. In Coahuila, officials say seven suspected organized crime members died during two clashes with the military early on Saturday. Four were killed when marines fought with an armed group before dawn in the town of Morelos. Three others died minutes later in a battle between army special forces soldiers and gunmen 60km north in Piedras Negras, which is next to Eagle Pass, Texas.
Father kills son in accident
A man getting into his truck while holding a gun accidentally shot and killed his seven-year-old son on Saturday, police said. The tragedy occurred in East Lackawannock, about 100km north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The father was identified as Joseph Loughrey, 44, and his son, who was shot in the chest, was named Craig, according to a statement from the Pennsylvania State Police. The father and son were getting back into their truck after visiting a gun store called Twigs Reloading Den. Loughrey told police he had emptied the magazine of his handgun, but did not realize there was still a bullet in the chamber, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.
Strauss-Kahn eyes deal
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former IMF managing director and French presidential hopeful, wants to draw a line today under the New York sex scandal that destroyed his stellar career. Lawyers for Strauss-Kahn are due in Bronx Supreme Court to discuss a settlement of the civil suit brought by Nafissatou Diallo, who accuses the French economist of sexually assaulting her when she went to clean his luxury hotel room in May last year. Justice Douglas McKeon said he expects Diallo and her attorneys to be present at the hearing, but not Strauss-Kahn himself. The terms of any possible settlement — which would allow Strauss-Kahn to avoid the embarrassment of a civil trial and the potential for a jury to order a huge payout — have been kept confidential. Strauss-Kahn’s lawyers confirmed only that negotiations for a settlement were under way ahead of today’s hearing and that they were “hoping” for a deal within days.
Couples wed in Washington
As midnight chimed in Washington state, a lesbian couple exchanged vows in the first of hundreds of mass weddings yesterday — the first day that same-sex couples could legally tie the knot there. Washington, Maine and Maryland became the first US states to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples by a popular vote last month, in a leap forward for gay rights. Washington’s law went into effect on Thursday, when hundreds of couples lined up to apply for marriage licenses, and the first legal same-sex weddings began yesterday after a three-day waiting period required of all marriages expired. Judge Mary Yu stepped up to wed a dozen couples at the King County Courthouse in downtown Seattle. The first couple to say “I do” were Sarah and Emily Cofer, a couple who have been together for more than 10 years, the court said. Yu decided to work through the night, marrying couples at 30-minute intervals, because she felt they should not have to wait any longer to tie the knot, her bailiff and law clerk Takao Yamada said.