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Monday, October 28, 2013

Four Die as Storm Batters Southern UK

Hurricane-force winds slammed the south of England on St Jude’s Day, the patron saint of desperate causes, killing four people and leaving as many as 600,000 homes without power on Monday. The winds also lead to widespread rail disruption and flight cancellations. Bethany Freeman, 17, was killed when a tree came down on the building where she was sleeping in Edenbridge in the early hours of the morning. A man in his 50s was crushed by a tree that fell on his car in Watford, near London, also in the morning. “We tried to assist, trying to get the tree off, but it was impossible. The poor chap didn’t stand a chance”, said Mark Joseph, who tried to provide assistance while emergency services arrived. A man and a woman died in west London after a fallen tree caused a gas explosion, leading to the collapse of three houses. A 14-year-old, Dylan Alkins, was swept out to sea in East Sussex on Sunday and is presumed dead.

NSA Monitored 60 Million Calls in Spain in One Month

A report published by Spanish daily El Mundo, based on information provided by US whistleblower Edward Snowden and written by journalist Glenn Greenwald, claims that the US National Security Agency monitored over 60 million telephone calls in Spain between December 2012 and January 2013. The biggest single day of call monitoring was December 11, when more than three million Spanish calls were monitored. The article says that the NSA did not record the actual content of calls, but the serial numbers of phones involved, the place where the callers were located, the specific telephone numbers and the duration of calls. The Spanish Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, said that his government had called on US ambassador James Costos to transmit its serious concerns about the alleged espionage, adding that the activity could “lead to a breach of trust” between the US and Spain. Costos said he would relay Spain’s concerns back to Washington and that the US would fully dispel any doubts the Spanish government had on the matter.

Tiananmen Vehicle Fire Kills Five

Five people have been killed and dozens were injured after a car plowed into a crowd of pedestrians in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Monday, despite the heavy police presence and the number of surveillance cameras dotted around one of the most strictly controlled areas in the Chinese capital. Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she did not know the specifics of the incident and declined to speculate when asked if it was in fact a terror attack. Police said that the car had veered off the road at the north of the square, crossing barriers and catching on fire. Three people inside the car died, as well as a female tourist from the Philippines and a male tourist from the Chinese province of Guangdong. Nearly 40 tourists were injured by the crash, including further tourists from the Philippines and a Japanese citizen. Pictures tweeted hours after the incident showed that the specific section of the square, near the huge portrait of Mao Zedong, had been purged of any traces of the burning car.

FARC Releases American Hostage

Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, released US citizen Kevin Scott Sutay after holding him captive for more than four months. The International Red Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) participated in the release and a doctor from the organisation said that the victim was in good health and able to travel. Sutay, a former US Marine, was kidnapped in mid-June after ignoring warnings from local police. He had decided on trekking through the jungle near the Venezuelan border in Guaviare province, an area still controlled by the FARC. “I explained to him that it was dangerous, that it was an area without much military presence. He kept insisting. So we called police and advised them that he wanted to make this trip, and that they should take action”, said Adriana Sanchez, the administrator of the hotel where Sutay had been staying at the time of his kidnapping.

Phone Hacking Trial Begins

Rebekah Brooks, former chief executive at News International, and Andy Coulson, former communications director for Prime Minister David Cameron, arrived at the Old Bailey in London to face the first day of their trial on charges linked to phone hacking and bribes to public officials while working at the News of the World, a newspaper closed since the surfacing of the allegations in 2011. Both have pleaded not guilty to the charges levelled against them. Judge Mr Justice Saunders, addressing the 80 potential jurors selected for the case, told them that they should approach the trial “free from any preconceptions” and that they should “not look up anything about the case either”. “You are not to talk about it, do not look anything up on Google, search engines; tweeting”, he said.

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