Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Two dead, 293 missing in S. Korea ferry capsize <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>South Korean rescue teams, including elite navy SEAL divers, raced Wednesday to find up to 293 people missing from a capsized ferry carrying 459 passengers and crew -- mostly high school students bound for a holiday island.<br /><br />Two people -- a male student and a female crew member -- were confirmed dead as the vessel sank 20 kilometres (13 miles) off the southern island of Byungpoong.<br /><br />The government retracted an earlier announcement that 368 people had been rescued, and said it could only confirm that 164 people had been brought to safety.<br /><br />&quot;The remaining 293 are unaccounted for,&quot; Lee Gyeong-Og, the vice minister of security and public administration, told a press briefing in Seoul.<br /><br />The revision raised concerns that the final death toll could be far higher than originally feared, after the 6,825-tonne ship listed sharply, capsized and finally sank all within two hours of sending a distress signal at 9:00am (0000 GMT).<br /><br />Dramatic television aerial footage showed terrified passengers wearing life jackets clambering into inflatable boats as water lapped over the rails of the vessel as it sank.<br /><br />Some could be seen sliding down the steeply inclined side of the ferry and into the water, as rescuers, including the crew of what appeared to be a small fishing boat, struggled to pull them to safety.<br /><br />Lee said the inflated figure for the number of rescued had resulted from confused information arriving from multiple sources.<br /><br />Of the 429 passengers on board the ferry which had been bound for the popular southern resort island of Jeju, more than 300 were students travelling with 14 teachers from a high school in Ansan just south of Seoul.<br /><br />Many of those saved appeared to have been rescued by fishing and other commercial vessels who were first on the scene before a flotilla of coastguard and navy ships arrived, backed by helicopters.<br /><br /><b>Visibility &#39;very low&#39;</b><br /><br />Lee said divers, including a team of South Korean navy SEALS, were searching the submerged vessel.<br /><br />&quot;There is so much mud in the sea water and the visibility is very low,&quot; he added.<br /><br />The US 7th Fleet said an amphibious assault ship, the USS Bonhomme Richard which was on routine patrol west of the Korean peninsula, was being sent to help.<br /><br />The ferry had sailed out of the western port of Incheon on Tuesday evening.<br /><br />The cause of the accident was not immediately clear, although rescued passengers reported the ferry coming to a sudden, shuddering halt -- indicating it may have run aground.<br />View gallery<br />The South Korean Coast Guard rescue some of the passengers&amp;nbsp;&amp;hellip;<br />The South Korean Coast Guard rescue some of the passengers from a ferry sinking some 20 kilometres o &hellip;<br /><br />The weather was described as &quot;fine&quot; with moderate winds and sea swell.<br /><br />&quot;There was a really loud noise and then the boat immediately began to shift to one side,&quot; said one rescued adult passenger, Kim Song-Muk.<br /><br />&quot;People were scrambling to get to the upper decks, but it was difficult with the deck slanted over,&quot; Kim told the YTN news channel.<br /><br />One local official, who had taken a boat to the site and arrived an hour after the distress signal was sent, said he was &quot;very concerned&quot; about those still missing.<br /><br />&quot;The ship was already almost totally submerged when I got there. A lot of people must have been trapped,&quot; the official, who declined to be identified, told AFP by phone.<br /><br />The water temperature was cold at around 12.6 degrees Celsius (55 Fahrenheit).<br /><br /><b>&#39;A big thumping sound&#39;</b><br /><br />&quot;I heard a big thumping sound and the boat suddenly started to tilt,&quot; one rescued student told YTN by telephone.<br /><br />&quot;Some of my friends fell over hard and started bleeding. We jumped into the water and got picked up by the rescue boats,&quot; he said.<br /><br />Distraught parents of the students gathered at the high school in Ansan, desperate for news.<br /><br />There were chaotic scenes in the school&#39;s auditorium, with parents yelling at school officials and frantically trying to make phone calls to their children.<br /><br />&quot;I talked to my daughter. She said she had been rescued along with 10 other students,&quot; one mother told the YTN news channel.<br /><br />&quot;They said they had jumped into the water before getting rescued,&quot; she said.<br /><br />Scores of ferries ply the waters between the South Korean mainland and its multiple offshore islands every day, and accidents are relatively rare.<br /><br />However in one of the worst incidents, nearly 300 people died when a ferry capsized off the west coast in October 1993.</p> Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:08:00 +0000 AFP 2435604 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/04/16/39/ferry.jpg South Sudan rebel chief vows to take key oil fields, capital <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>The leader of South Sudan&#39;s rebels has vowed to attack the capital Juba and target crucial oil fields, warning in an exclusive interview with AFP that the civil war will not end until the country&#39;s president is removed from power.<br /><br />Former vice president turned rebel chief Riek Machar branded his arch rival, President Salva Kiir a &quot;dictator&quot; and said he saw &quot;no reason for power sharing&quot;.<br /><br />The comments came as the conflict in the world&#39;s youngest nation enters its fifth month, and amid warnings of looming famine and floundering peace talks.<br /><br />&quot;If we are to remove the dictator, Juba is a target, oil fields are a target,&quot; Machar said late Monday in a secret location in Upper Nile state, one of South Sudan&#39;s key oil producing regions.<br /><br />&quot;We are only resisting a regime that wants to destroy us,&quot; Machar said, adding he still hoped a moribund ceasefire deal signed in Ethiopia in January &quot;will be respected by both parties.&quot;<br /><br />The conflict in South Sudan has left thousands dead and forced around a million people to flee their homes since fighting broke out on December 15 in the capital Juba, before spreading to other states in the oil-rich nation.<br /><br />The fighting is between soldiers loyal to Kiir against mutinous troops who sided with Machar, who was dismissed as vice-president in 2013. The conflict has also taken on an ethnic dimension, pitting Kiir&#39;s Dinka tribe against Machar&#39;s Nuer people.<br /><br />Seated in a plastic chair in his basic camp -- a dozen mud huts on flat grasslands -- the 62-year-old Machar said he was willing to hold face-to-face talks with Kiir, but also that he saw little point.<br /><br />&quot;What would we discuss? You are a discredited leader, you have committed massacres, I hope he accepts that,&quot; Machar said.<br /><br />&quot;He (Kiir) is buying more arms, more ammunition&quot; said Machar, dressed in military fatigues and with a greying beard, accusing his former colleague of &quot;corruption by exploiting our resources&quot;.<br /><br />Heavy fighting was reported Tuesday around the key oil town of Bentiu, as rebels sought to wrest it back from government troops.<br /><br /><b>No denial of atrocities</b><br /><br />Before fighting broke out, oil provided over 95 percent of government budget of the young nation, which only won independence from Sudan less than three years ago, after a decades of civil war.<br /><br />Earlier this month the United Nations warned that South Sudan, where the rainy season is just starting, could become the scene of the worst famine in Africa for decades without more aid and an application of the ceasefire that allows farmers to reach their fields.<br /><br />The UN children&#39;s agency has said up to 50,000 children will die within months if immediate action is not taken, while seven million people -- 60 percent of the population -- need food aid to survive.<br /><br />But Machar, who claims to command a loose alliance of army defectors and ethnic militia forces, said there would be no peace until President Kiir steps down and criticised the peace talks as flawed because some regional brokers -- in particular Uganda -- were also &quot;parties to the conflict.&quot;<br /><br />&quot;We have no choice, we have a tyrant in Juba who should be removed,&quot; Machar said, saying any bid by regional powers to protect oil fields would only escalate the conflict.<br /><br />President Barack Obama has said Washington will issue sanctions against those in the conflict who threaten peace moves or abuses human rights, but Machar said he had nothing to fear.<br /><br />&quot;It is good if it restrains those who are involved in the conflict, I hope Juba will take it the same way I have taken it,&quot; he said.<br /><br />However he admitted he &quot;cannot totally deny&quot; there may have been abuses, particularly in the early days of the conflict during &quot;spontaneous reaction&quot; from gunmen.<br /><br />Both sides in the conflict have been accused of war crimes including massacres, sexual violence, looting of humanitarian aid supplies and child soldier recruitment.</p> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:40:00 +0000 AFP 2435574 at sites/default/files/photo/2013/12/18/94/salva_kiir.jpg India top court recognizes transgenders as 'third gender' <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>India&#39;s highest court on Tuesday recognized a neutral gender that is neither male nor female, in a landmark ruling that paves the way for equal rights for several million transgenders and eunuchs.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Supreme Court also said transgenders should be granted access to social welfare schemes offered to other minority groups, in a judgement hailed by transgenders who suffer widespread discrimination.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Transgenders are citizens of this country and are entitled to education and all other rights,&quot; Justice K.S. Radhakrishnan told the court while handing down the ruling.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue,&quot; said Radhakrishnan who headed a two-judge bench on the case.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The case was filed in 2012 by a group of petitioners including prominent eunuch and activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi seeking equal rights under the law for the transgender population.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Transgenders and eunuchs -- men who have been castrated -- live on the extreme fringes of India&#39;s culturally conservative society, often resorting to prostitution, begging or menial jobs that leave them mired in poverty.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Tuesday&#39;s ruling comes after the same court last December reinstated a ban on gay sex in a shock ruling that sparked accusations it was dragging the country back to the 19th century.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Gay sex had been effectively legalized in 2009 when the Delhi High Court ruled that a section of the penal code prohibiting &quot;carnal intercourse against the order of nature&quot; was an infringement of fundamental rights.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&#39;Proud to be Indian&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian,&quot; Tripathi told reporters outside the court in New Delhi.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Today my sisters and I feel like real Indians and we feel so proud because of the rights granted to us by the Supreme Court,&quot; Tripathi said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The ruling comes after Australia&#39;s top court also ruled earlier this month that a person can also be legally recognised as gender neutral, ending a long legal battle by a sexual equality campaigner.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On Tuesday, the court in India instructed governments to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education like other disadvantaged groups, lawyer for the petitioners Sanjeev Bhatnagar said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The court said transgenders had the right to access medical care and other facilities and be categorised as socially and economically backward like other groups in a bid to bring them into the mainstream.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Direction has been given to all the state governments and the central government to comply with the direction of the court to give them reservations and to identify them and give them their rights,&quot; Bhatnagar told reporters outside the court.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Some state governments and official bodies already recognise transgenders, including the Election Commission which ruled in 2009 that they could be listed as &quot;others&quot; on electoral roles and voter identify cards.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Official estimates for India&#39;s transgender population are not known but they are thought to number several million.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Transgenders are classified as people who have either had sex change operations or who regard themselves as the opposite of their born gender, according to Sanjay Srivastava, professor of sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth in New Delhi.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>However only 28,341 are registered with the Election Commission for the general elections which are currently taking place, highlighting the fear and stigma many face.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It is a historical judgement for us because the transgender community has been discriminated against and harassed for over a century,&quot; said Kalki, founder of Sahodari Foundation which fights for the rights of transgenders.</div> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 10:26:00 +0000 AFP 2435568 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/04/15/39/indian.jpg Syria opposition says it has evidence of chlorine gas attack <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p><span id="articleText"><span class="focusParagraph">Syrian opposition activists have posted photographs and video that they say shows an improvised chlorine bomb to back up claims that President Bashar al-Assad&#39;s forces used chemical weapons in two attacks last week.</span></span></p><p><span id="articleText">Rebels and the government have blamed each other for the alleged poison gas attacks on Friday and Saturday on rebel-held Kfar Zeita village in the central province of Hama, 125 miles north of Damascus.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">Both sides said chlorine gas - a deadly agent widely used in World War I - had been used. The gas, which has industrial uses,</span></p><p><span id="articleText">is not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog last year for destruction.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">It is a so-called dual-use chemical, which would have to be declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a spokesman said.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">State-run television on Saturday accused the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front of carrying out the attacks, which it said wounded dozens.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">On Sunday, activists from the &quot;Syrian Revolution in Kfar Zeita&quot; posted video footage and pictures of an unexploded canister with the chemical symbol for chlorine, Cl2, on its side which they said was found in the village.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video or pictures.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">Eliot Higgins, a respected UK-based researcher who trawls daily through online videos of Syria&#39;s civil war to verify weapons in them, could not verify the opposition&#39;s claims but said the videos did appear to show an industrial chlorine cylinder.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">&quot;It looks like they (the government) have taken an industrial chlorine cylinder, put it in a improvised barrel bomb and dropped it out of a helicopter,&quot; he told Reuters.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">The yellow paint on the cylinder complies with international standards on industrial gas color codes indicating it contains chlorine, he said.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">BEHIND SCHEDULE</span></p><p><span id="articleText">A U.N. inquiry found in December that sarin gas had likely been used in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta, where hundreds of people were killed.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">The inquiry only looked at whether chemical weapons had been used, not who used them. The Syrian government and the opposition have each accused the other of using chemical weapons on several occasions, and both have denied it.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">The Ghouta attack sparked global outrage and a U.S. threat of military strikes, which was dropped after Assad pledged to destroy his chemical weapons.</span></p><p><span id="articleText"><span class="mandelbrot_refrag"><span class="mandelbrot_refrag">Syria</span></span> has destroyed or surrendered 65.1 percent of the 1,300 metric tons (1 metric ton = 1.1023 tons) of chemical weapons it reported possessing but must increase the pace if it is to meet deadlines it agreed to, the global chemical weapons watchdog said on Monday.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">A 13th shipment was loaded onto cargo ships in the port town of Latakia on Monday to be destroyed abroad, it said.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">OPCW head Ahmet Uzumcu said while the latest handover was encouraging, &quot;both the frequency and volumes of deliveries have to increase significantly to restore alignment of actual movements against the projected time frame.&quot;</span></p><p><span id="articleText"><span class="mandelbrot_refrag"><span class="mandelbrot_refrag">Syria</span></span> has until June 30 to completely abandon its program but is running several weeks behind schedule.</span></p><p><span id="articleText">Syria&#39;s three-year civil war has killed more than 150,000 people, a third of them civilians, and caused millions to flee.</span></p> Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:01:00 +0000 Reuters 2435545 at sites/default/files/photo/2013/10/05/484151/download_9.jpg