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Thursday, April 18, 2013

Scores Killed by Texas Fertiliser Plant Blast

Police say between five and 15 people are thought to have been killed and many others hurt by a huge explosion at a fertiliser plant in Texas. The US Geological Survey reported that the blast was equivalent to a magnitude 2.1 earthquake. Most of the buildings in the vicinity of the blast in the city of West were also destroyed. Sgt William Swanton of the local police department said that the blast site was a crime scene, but that this was a procedural matter and that there were “no indications this was anything other than an accidental fire”. He added some properties in town were looted in the aftermath of the explosion. The company operating the plant, West Fertilizer, had approximately 20 tonnes of anhydrous ammonia store on site, a common fertiliser that can become explosive when combined with air. The plant had been through a safety investigation in 2006 after residents complained of odors emanating from the site and fined by the EPA for failing to implement a risk management plan.

US Holds Back Recognition of Venezuela Election Results

The United States has refused to recognise Nicolás Maduro as the winner of the Venezuelan presidential elections and has called on the Venezuelan government to respect the right of free assembly of those opposed to his election. His rival, oppositionist Henrique Capriles, has maintained that irregularities occurred during the vote and that all ballots should be recounted. US Secretary of State John Kerry said that the administration would still evaluate the election, but that it thinks “there ought to be a recount”. “Obviously, if there are huge irregularities, we are going to have serious questions about the viability of that government”, added Kerry. Reacting to the news, Maduro said that the remarks were an “obscene” meddling into the “internal affairs of Venezuela”. “Take your eyes off Venezuela, John Kerry. Get out of here. Enough interventionism. We don’t care about your recognition. We have decided to be free and we will be free and independent, with you or without you”, said Maduro from the presidential palace in Venezuela. Seven people have already been killed in the country in clashes between government supporters and oppositionists.

North Korea States Conditions For New Talks

North Korea has listed its conditions for starting a new dialogue on its nuclear programme on Thursday. It wants the withdrawal of all UN sanctions imposed because of its nuclear tests and a pledge from the US government that it will not engage in what it termed “nuclear war practice” alongside South Korea. It also demanded that the US should remove any nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. “Dialogue and war cannot co-exist. If the United States and the puppet South have the slightest desire to avoid the sledge-hammer blow of our army and the people and truly wish dialogue and negotiations, they must make the resolute decision”, said a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency. “We again strongly urge North Korea to stop this kind of insistence that we cannot totally understand and go down the path of a wise choice”, said South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young.

Italy Fails to Choose New President

Italy has failed to choose a successor to President Giorgio Napolitano, who is stepping down after a seven-year term. The most popular candidate, Franco Marini, did not get the two-third majority necessary from an assembly of more than 1,000 politicians from the country’s parliament and regions, with 521 votes. Stefano Rodota, backed by the 5-Star Movement of comedian Beppe Grillo, achieved 240 votes. The election of an Italian president is particularly important because he has the power to appoint a prime minister and to dissolve parliament. He could negotiate an agreement between the highly polarised parties or take Italy to the polls once again. The country has yet to replace the interim government that has remained in power since elections seven weeks ago. A second vote is scheduled to take place later on Thursday, followed by two ballots every day until a winner is declared. “We don’t have anyone on Napolitano’s level”, said Tonino Giardini, a consultant, when interviewed by the Guardian. “I’m looking, but I can’t see anyone.”

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