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1st independent TV station challenges Mugabe monopoly in Zimbabwe

| Friday, July 19, 2013, 9:27 p.m.


1st independent TV station challenges Mugabe monopoly

HARARE — Zimbabwe's first independent television station went on air Friday to challenge the 30-year state broadcasting monopoly controlled by President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe's party said earlier it will take all measures to “cripple” what it calls a pirate station.

The station, known as 1st TV, began broadcasting in the evening. It is a satellite feed from outside Zimbabwe using a free network received by an estimated 700,000 homes across the nation.

The state Herald newspaper reported that George Charamba, Mugabe's spokesman, said South Africa will be asked to stop broadcasts believed to be beamed from there because they “hurt Zimbabwean interests” ahead of elections on July 31.

Mugabe's state television has about 350,000 peak hour evening viewers. The new station hopes to attract 3 million viewers.


Shells strike near key Shiite shrine, killing caretaker

DAMASCUS — Mortar shells struck near a major Shiite shrine outside Damascus on Friday, killing its caretaker in an attack that threatens to further escalate sectarian tensions in Syria's civil war, the government and activists said.

State-run news agency SANA said shells fired by rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad landed “in the vicinity” of the revered Sayida Zeinab shrine, killing Anas Roumani, the shrine's administrative director. Several people were wounded in the explosion, SANA said.

Protection of the ornate, golden-domed mosque has become a rallying cry for Shiite fighters backing Assad, raising the stakes in a conflict that is increasingly being fought along sectarian lines.

South africa

Tutu: Mandela ‘peaceful' after turning 95 in hospital

PRETORIA — Archbishop Desmond Tutu visited Nelson Mandela in the hospital and said the ailing former president is “peaceful”after marking his 95th birthday.

Retired Anglican archbishop Tutu said Mandela was asleep when he visited the Pretoria hospital room. Tutu said he held Mandela's hand.

Mandela has been hospitalized since June 8 with a recurring lung infection and is in critical but stable condition. Mandela family members said he has made “remarkable progress” in recent days, after fears that he was close to death. Mandela remains on a breathing ventilator.


Kidnapped aid workers return home after 2 years

MADRID — Two Spanish aid workers for Doctors Without Borders who were kidnapped in Kenya by Somali militants and held hostage for nearly two years arrived home Friday, the group said.

Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut were met by relatives after their arrival at an air base in Madrid, it said. Somali militants kidnapped them from the Dadaab refugee camp in eastern Kenya in October 2011 and shot and wounded their Kenyan driver.

The attack was the third kidnapping of Europeans in Kenya in six weeks and a reason Kenya gave for sending troops into Somalia days later.

The organization announced their release Thursday, but declined to reveal whether a ransom had been paid.


3 tied to Berlusconi guilty in prostitution scandal

MILAN — A Milan court on Friday convicted three of ex-Premier Silvio Berlusconi's former associates of procuring aspiring show girls willing to prostitute themselves during the media mogul's infamous “bunga bunga” parties. The convictions, accompanied by stiff sentences, were the latest blow to Berlusconi, whose judicial woes have proven another obstacle for Italy's fragile coalition government as it seeks to get the country's finances in order.

The court handed down severe prison terms: seven years each to Emilio Fede, a longtime executive in the mogul's TV networks, and Dario “Lele” Mora, a talent agent; and five years to Nicole Minetti, a former regional politician who professed love for the ex-premier. All are expected to appeal the verdicts.

The three were part of a circle of formerly trusted associates who attended the racy parties at Berlusconi's villa near Milan that by some accounts revolved around provocative striptease performances for the then-premier. The court concluded that the three, to varying extents, played a role in organizing the women for the parties, which came to light after prosecutors started investigating the role of a Moroccan teen at the center of Berlusconi's sex-for-hire scandal.


Collider results support key theory of particle physics

GENEVA — After a quarter-century of searching, scientists have nailed down how one particularly rare subatomic particle decays into something else — a discovery that adds certainty to our thinking about how the universe began and keeps running.

The world's top particle physics lab said Friday it had measured the decay time of a particle known as a Bs (B sub s) meson into two other fundamental particles called muons, which are much heavier than but similar to electrons. It was observed as part of the reams of data coming from CERN's $10 billion Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest atom smasher, on the Swiss-French border near Geneva.

The rare sighting at the European Center for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN, shows that the so-called standard model of particle physics is “coming through with flying colors,” though it describes only 5 percent of the universe, said Pierluigi Campana, who leads one of the two main teams at CERN involved in the research.

— From wire reports

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