NEW DELHI (AP) — India's Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a 2009 lower court decision to decriminalize homosexuality, dealing a blow to gay activists who have fought for years for the chance to live openly in India's deeply conservative society.
Ukrainian security forces on Wednesday pulled out of the epicentre of mass protests in Kiev after a nine hour standoff with thousands of demonstrators, in a major boost for the opposition to President Viktor Yanukovych. Elite Berkut anti-riot police and interior ministry special forces moved against the protestors who have occupied Kiev's Independence Square for over a week at around 2:00 am (midnight GMT). US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed "disgust" at the crackdown, which came as Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton were in Kiev for talks with all parties to find a way out of the crisis.
UN peacekeeping troops in Democratic Republic of Congo have launched an offensive against Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels operating in the eastern part of the country, the UN command said Wednesday. "MONUSCO's intervention brigade launched operations against the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) yesterday, Tuesday, in Kalembe, in the Masisi region," the mission said on Twitter. MONUSCO is an acronym for the UN mission in DR Congo. Earlier this month the UN authorised its peacekeepers in the strife-torn country to go after armed groups and militias operating there.
By Tiisetso Motsoeneng PRETORIA (Reuters) - Thousands of people queued on Wednesday to say goodbye to Nelson Mandela, whose body was lying in state in Pretoria in the building where the anti-apartheid hero was inaugurated in 1994 as South Africa's first black president. Foreign dignitaries and celebrities joined thousands of South Africans at the imposing Union Buildings, perched on a hill overlooking Pretoria, for a last chance to see the body of the man regarded as the father of democratic South Africa. Mandela's flag-draped casket was met by officers representing branches of the military on arrival from the capital's main military hospital, in a formal ceremony that contrasted with Tuesday's memorial. Traffic in Pretoria was gridlocked from early morning and shops along the procession route were closed.
Aziziyah (Iraq) (AFP) - In a predominantly Shiite town near Baghdad, Saddam Hussein roams the streets unmolested, joking with checkpoint guards and shaking the hands of passers-by, proudly announcing his name. But the man, clad in a long black robe and leather jacket, is not the Saddam known the world over. From Saddam's hometown of Tikrit in the north to the western desert province of Anbar, down through the southern provinces, Sunnis and Shiites carry a name once given in tribute, but which has since become an albatross. "Saddam oppressed so many people, so those who were oppressed by him had strong feelings against him," said Saddam Hussein Ulaiwi, a 35-year-old generator operator living with his family in the town of Aziziyah, southeast of Baghdad.
Soweto (South Africa) (AFP) - US President Barack Obama may have moved the masses attending Nelson Mandela's memorial service with his stirring eulogy, but it was his grinning "selfie" with the Danish and British premiers that set social networks abuzz. In a candid moment captured by AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt, Denmark's Helle Thorning-Schmidt can be seen holding up her smartphone, with Obama lending a helping hand, as they pose for a picture with David Cameron, all three of them smiling broadly in their seats at Soweto's World Cup stadium. First Lady Michelle Obama, sitting to the left of her husband, does not join in with the lightheartedness, keeping her eyes firmly trained on the podium where world leaders were paying tribute to South Africa's anti-apartheid hero Mandela, who died Thursday aged 95. The so-called selfie -- short for self-portrait -- was quickly picked up by major international news outlets and went viral on social media sites, with many questioning whether the moment of mirth was appropriate for the occasion.
Perth (Australia) (AFP) - England great Geoffrey Boycott on Wednesday blasted captain Alastair Cook's "scrambled brain" and said the team needed to use more common sense to prevent yet another defeat to Australia. Boycott has been shocked by England's lacklustre efforts during the Ashes tour and laid some of the blame at Cook's feet, saying he appeared frustrated and worn down by the Australian attack. "Australia have worked Alastair out," Boycott said in a column for the West Australian newspaper.
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — World leaders bowed and prayed Wednesday before the flag-draped casket containing the body of Nelson Mandela, having a final look at the anti-apartheid icon in the amphitheater where he was sworn in 19 years earlier as South Africa's first black president.
The United States has suspended all non-lethal assistance into northern Syria after Islamist rebel forces seized armed depots belonging to the opposition Free Syrian Army, a US embassy spokesman said on Wednesday. "Because of the current situation the United States has suspended deliveries of non-lethal assistance into northern Syria," spokesman T.J. Grubisha told AFP. But he added that the US move would not impact on humanitarian assistance which was coordinated by international and nongovernmental organisations. The Islamic Front, the largest Islamist rebel force in Syria, seized the depots belonging to the Western-backed FSA near the Bab el-Hawa border crossing with Turkey on Saturday.
Munich (Germany) (AFP) - Manchester City's manager Manuel Pellegrini admitted keeping his stars fresh for Saturday's Premier League visit from leaders Arsenal had been a factor in their stunning 3-2 win at Bayern Munich. On a historic night for the club, City fought back from two-goals down to break the holders' record 10-match Champions League winning streak as Bayern coach Pep Guardiola suffered his first defeat in major competition with the German side. Bayern also fell to their first home defeat -- after 18 wins in Munich -- since losing 2-0 at home to Arsenal in last season's knock-out stages of the Champions League in March.
Thousands of Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps in Lebanon were weathering a winter storm on Wednesday that brought snow, rain and freezing temperatures to the country. In northern Arsal, just across the border from Syria, layers of snow sat atop flimsy shelters housing tens of thousands of recently arrived refugees. The UN refugee agency UNHCR has worked around the clock, partnering in recent days with the Lebanese army, to distribute winter supplies including thermal blankets and money for heaters. But despite the efforts, UNHCR spokeswomen Lisa Abou Khaled said there were concerns for thousands of people living in more than 200 informal camps in central and north Lebanon.
By Alissa de Carbonnel and Pavel Polityuk KIEV (Reuters) - Scores of Ukrainian riot police withdrew on Wednesday morning from a protest camp after moving against demonstrators overnight in the authorities' biggest attempt yet to reclaim streets after weeks of protests against President Viktor Yanukovich. Several columns of police left positions around the protesters' main camp in Independence Square and moved away from government buildings occupied by demonstrators enraged at Yanukovich's decision to pull the plug on an EU trade deal and move Ukraine further into Russia's orbit.
Uruguay has approved pioneering legislation legalizing marijuana, becoming the first nation in the world to oversee the production and sale of the drug. After a 12-hour debate, 16 leftist senators out of 29 lawmakers voted Tuesday in favor of the legislation championed by President Jose Mujica, who must now sign it into law. Outside the Senate, hundreds of cannabis-smoking supporters set off fireworks in what they dubbed "the last march with illegal marijuana." The atmosphere was festive. "The war against drugs has failed," said Senator Roberto Conde as he presented the bill on behalf of the ruling leftist Broad Front, calling it an "unavoidable response" to that failure.
Bangladesh's highest court held a hearing Wednesday to decide the fate of an Islamist leader sentenced to death for war crimes, after he was given a dramatic last-minute reprieve from execution. A judge stayed the hanging of Jamaat-e-Islami party leader Abdul Quader Molla on Tuesday night, just 90 minutes before his scheduled execution overnight at a jail in the capital Dhaka. He would have been the first person put to death for massacres committed during Bangladesh's 1971 independence war following a series of verdicts by a special war crimes court that have sparked deadly protests. The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard an appeal on whether Molla could seek a review of the death sentence, with his lawyers arguing that he had "a constitutional right" to do so.
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Police in Ukraine on Wednesday pulled back as protesters claimed victory after an overnight face-off in which authorities removed some barricades and tents and scuffled with demonstrators occupying Kiev's main square.
The trial of a retired British man in Uganda has again thrown the spotlight on country's uncompromising stance against homosexuality and the indefatigable work of its homophobe-in-chief, Pastor Solomon Male. An evangelical preacher on a self-declared crusade to rid his country of gays, Pastor Male is the man behind the case against Bernard Randall, who stands accused of "trafficking obscene publications". The pastor views homosexuality as evil, argues that gay men suffer rectal damage and lesbians risk losing the uterus, but also claims he can help turn gays straight. He first travelled to Uganda in 2011, and this year he settled in the Ugandan town of Entebbe on the banks of Lake Victoria.