5.7 magnitude earthquake strikes off California coast

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake was reported off the coast of Northern California on Wednesday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) said. No injures or damages have been reported. The quake struck about 25 miles away from Ferndale, California, and some 40 miles away from Sacramento. There is no tsunami expected at this time, though the USGS said there is a 40 percent chance of a “strong and possibly damaging aftershock” – either magnitude 5 or higher – in the next week.

Iran names new UN ambassador after first choice banned by US

Iran has appointed career diplomat Gholamali Khoshroo as its envoy to the UN, state-run Tasnim news agency said. Ten months ago the US barred the initial candidate for his role in the 1979-81 hostage crisis in Tehran, Reuters said. Khoshroo was a deputy foreign minister from 2002 to 2005 during the presidency of reformist Mohammad Khatami. Iran still objects the rejection of Hamid Abutalebi, and the issue will be pursued legally through the UN.

PACE Committee backs amendment to strip Russia of right to vote in 2015 – MP

The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has supported an amendment on stripping Russian’s delegation of the right to vote and its exclusion from PACE’s governing bodies in 2015, Tass quoted the deputy head of the Russian delegation, Leonid Slutsky, as saying Wednesday. “This amendment was passed by only one vote. The rapporteur on Russia’s credentials, Stefan Shennah, recognized it as destructive and destroying the entire architecture of the resolution,” Slutsky said.

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Bahraini opposition leader Salman goes on trial

Bahrain’s most senior opposition leader went on trial on Wednesday on charges of promoting the violent overthrow of the political system, Reuters said. Sheikh Ali Salman’s detention after a protest rally in December sparked violent demonstrations in the Sunni-ruled Gulf Arab state. Salman denied all the charges and said he had been calling for reforms in Bahrain through legal and peaceful means. The prosecution has accused Salman of promoting the overthrow of the political regime by force, inciting violence and supporting attacks that caused the deaths of 14 policemen. He faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted.

13 airstrikes hit ISIS targets near Kobani, Syria – US military

US and its allies launched 13 airstrikes near Kobani, Syria, in the last 24 hours, Reuters reported. The strikes around the city hit 12 Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) tactical units and destroyed nine fighting positions, according to the Combined Joint Task Force. The US military said this week the militants had been driven out of 90 percent of Kobani, a city near the border with Turkey, after four months of fierce fighting.

Sudanese rebels capture 6 Bulgarians working for UN World Food Program

A Sudanese rebel group has taken six Bulgarians working with the UN’s World Food Program captive, Reuters said. Their helicopter was forced to land in war-torn South Kordofan province in southern Sudan, the Bulgarian diplomats said on Wednesday. Fighting between the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, which reportedly captured the Bulgarians, has increased in the provinces of South Kordofan and Blue Nile since peace talks collapsed in December.

Parents of missing Mexican students reject official explanation of their deaths

Parents of 43 college students missing since last year have rejected the Mexican attorney general’s declaration that the youths were killed and incinerated after being seized by police in the southern state of Guerrero, AP said. The parents accused the government on Tuesday night of seeking to wrap up the investigation and hold out hope of finding their children alive. Lawyer Vidulfo Rosales, who is representing the families of the students, presented a 10-point argument explaining why they believe the investigation must continue. It included, in particular, a lack of conclusive forensic results.

Thailand warns US against meddling in its affairs after martial law remarks

Thailand warned the US against meddling in its political affairs on Wednesday, Reuters said. Assistant US Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific Daniel Russel, visiting a Bangkok university on Monday, called for more inclusive politics and the end of martial law. The remarks “hurt many Thais,” Deputy Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said after summoning the US Charge d’Affaires Patrick Murphy. “If we… lift martial law and it leads to problems, how will those people who are asking for the lifting of martial law take responsibility?” he said, adding that “in reality, Thais don’t even know there is martial law.”

Murdered Mexico students ‘mistaken for rival gang’ – officials

The 43 Mexican students who disappeared four months ago were murdered on the orders of a drug cartel which mistook them for members of a rival gang, Reuters reported, citing officials. The government earlier said only that the students were almost certainly murdered after clashing in the southwestern city of Iguala with corrupt police officers, who handed them over to members of local drug gang Guerreros Unidos. Their disappearance on the night of September 26 led to massive street protests in Mexico.

Indonesia’s search for AirAsia victims could end ‘within days’

Indonesia’s search for dozens of victims still unaccounted for from last month’s crash of an AirAsia passenger jet could end within days if no more bodies are found, Reuters reported. The Civilian National Search and Rescue Agency said it would scour the sea for bodies for at least another week. “If we can find one or two more bodies, that means we have the opportunity to prolong the operation,” agency chief Fransiskus Bambang Soelistyo said. The military withdrew from the search on Tuesday, apologizing to the victims’ families for not being able to do more.

Mother of Japanese hostage appeals to PM

Junko Ishido, the mother of a Japanese hostage held by Islamic State militants appealed publicly Wednesday to Japan’s prime minister to save her son. Kenji Goto’s captors had purportedly issued what they said was a final death threat to the journalist. Ishido read to reporters her plea to Shinzo Abe, which she said she sent after both Abe and the main government spokesmen declined to meet with her, AP said. “Please save Kenji’s life,” Ishido said, begging Abe to work with the Jordanian government to try to save Goto. The Islamic State group announced an apparent ultimatum over Goto and Jordanian pilot Lt. Mu’ath al-Kaseasbeh late Tuesday.

​Mexico threatens to sanction Google over data protection

Mexico has initiated proceedings to impose sanctions on Google’s Mexican unit for an alleged breach of the data protection law of the country, the Federal Institute for Information Access and Data Protection (IFAI) said in a statement. The legal proceedings were initiated following a failed Google request from an unidentified person asking the internet giant to erase his personal data from the search engine. IFAI ordered Google to follow up on the request and erase the personal data.

Media agencies

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