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23 April: Grenades rock Thai political protests

23 April: Grenades rock Thai political protests

Also today: Gulf of Mexico oil rig sinks, catastrophic spill feared; Britain’s election contenders clash in second televised debate; Pope may face American suit over sexual abuse claims; Independent report says healthcare reform may cost Americans more; Bits of former Yugoslavia creep toward Nato membership; ‘South Park’ cuts dialogue after Islamist threat.

Grenades rock Thai political protests


Attackers fired five grenades from near where anti-government protesters are camped in the Thai capital, Bangkok, toward areas where counter-demonstrators were gathered, killing at least one person and wounding nearly 100 more. The attack has upped the ante in a months-long standoff between so-called Red Shirt demonstrators and the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, after 25 people were killed and more than 800 wounded in earlier clashes between protesters and security forces. Thousands of mostly rural demonstrators want Abhisit to dissolve Parliament and hold immediate elections, claiming his government illegitimately came to power with military help. Things look set to go from bad to worse, as Thailand’s military warned them that time was running out before a crackdown.

Photo: A army soldier assists a pro-government supporter who was injured after multiple explosions shook Bangkok’s Silom business district on April 22, 2010. A series of grenade blasts shook Bangkok’s business district on Thursday, killing at least one person and wounding 75, heightening tensions during a showdown between troops and anti-government protesters. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Read more: Guardian, CNN


Gulf of Mexico oil rig sinks, catastrophic spill feared


A deepwater oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico sank after being crippled by a massive explosion, raising fears of a catastrophic oil spill that could unleash more than 300,000 gallons of crude a day. Eleven workers on the rig are still missing, but rescue workers indicated it was unlikely any of them survived the blast. The environmental hazards are greatest for the Louisiana coast, about 80km away. Oil major BP, which contracted the rig, put four aircraft and 32 vessels on standby spread chemicals to break up the slick, and suck up more than 171,000 barrels of oil a day from the water’s surface if needs be.

Read more: AP, Reuters


Britain’s election contenders clash in second televised debate


Britain’s second prime ministerial debate saw Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats’ Nick Clegg clash over everything from global affairs to Europe, climate change, tax and nuclear weapons. Brown and Cameron must have learnt their lesson from last week, agreeing less with Clegg after media reports propelled him to top spot in the first debate. Both Labour and the Conservatives are deeply unpopular in the public mind, with the Lib Dem “also-rans” making a surprising showing. Opinion polls were mixed over whether Cameron or Clegg came out on top in the second round, but said the margins between the three contenders were much tighter than in the first debate.

Read more: Reuters, Deutsche Welle


Pope may face American suit over sexual abuse claims


A US litigant who says he was the victim of an American paedophile priest is bringing a lawsuit against Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican in a US federal court. The late Father Lawrence Murphy is accused of sexually abusing up to 200 children at a school for deaf children in Milwaukee. In an unprecedented action against the Vatican, the litigant’s lawyers want the Catholic Church to release any files it has on abuse cases. The Church investigated Murphy, but didn’t conclude its findings before he died in 1998. There’s a possibility the pope may have to take the witness stand, but a month of Sundays is likely to pass before that happens.

Read more: BBC, Euronews, Aol News


Independent report says healthcare reform may cost Americans more


A report by independent experts at the US health and human services department says President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform will achieve its aim of giving some 34 million more Americans health coverage, but that it’ll increase the nation’s healthcare costs instead of bringing them down. That’ll give Republicans something to hang onto in mid-term elections, as the US public is unsure of the legislation. The report found that projected spending will rise by about 1% over 10 years, according to the AP news agency, and maybe more, and also warned that Medicare cuts may be unrealistic and unsustainable, forcing lawmakers to repeal them. It said such cuts could drive some 15% of hospitals and other medical service providers into the red. Though the report did acknowledge that some of the cost-control measures in the bill could help reduce the rate of cost increases beyond 2020, it held out little hope for progress in the first 10 years.

Read more: AP, Bloomberg, Health News


Bits of former Yugoslavia creep toward Nato membership


Bosnia-Herzegovina is a step closer to joining the West’s military alliance after Nato foreign ministers granted it a Membership Action Plan, the penultimate step to membership of the body. But all military equipment in Bosnia first needs to be registered as belonging to the federal government as part of a multistage process of political dialogue and military reform to bring a candidate country in line with Nato standards. Bosnia, which was at war in the 1990s as part of the former Yugoslavia, applied to join Nato in 2009. It can take several years before full membership of the alliance is granted. Croatia joined the alliance last year, while Montenegro was granted a MAP at the end of 2008. It makes for a safer Europe, and provides the prospect of joining the EU further down the line.

Read more: BBC, Voice of America


South Park cuts dialogue after Islamist threat


The broadcasters of cartoon television satire South Park removed about 35 seconds of dialogue from the show after radical group, Revolution Muslim, said on its website that South Park had insulted the Prophet Mohammed by depicting him in a bear suit. The Islamist group claimed it wasn’t threatening producers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but included a graphic photograph in its Web post of a Dutch filmmaker killed by a Muslim extremist in 2004, and said the producers could meet the same fate. However, Parker and Stone included the Mohammed character in this week’s episode, with his body obscured by a black box, as Muslims consider a physical representation of their prophet to be blasphemous. In the earlier show, when the bear costume was removed, it was revealed to be Santa Claus.

Read more: AP, Entertainment Weekly


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