By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The family of an Iranian-American former U.S. Marine held in Iran since 2011 called on Saturday for senior Iranian officials to review his conviction and 10-year prison sentence on charges of collaborating with the U.S. government and to free him. The family of Amir Hekmati, whose previous espionage conviction and death sentence in Iran were overturned in 2012, said he was retried in secret, convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison on a charge of "practical collaboration with the American government." The family said he was innocent of the charges. Iran has not commented on any developments in the case. "The Hekmati family respectfully asks senior Iranian officials to review Amir's conviction, and to resolve this grave misunderstanding by granting Amir his freedom and a safe return home," the family, living in Flint, Michigan, said in a statement emailed to Reuters.
Tsuru (Japan) (AFP) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took US ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy on a test ride of Japan's super-fast magnetic train on Saturday, showcasing the "Maglev" technology Tokyo hopes to sell to its ally. "I hope ambassador Kennedy will enjoy the full package of Japan -- the blizzard of cherry blossoms, Mount Fuji and the state-of-the-art technology," a relaxed-looking Abe said ahead of the ride. As the distinctive white and pink petals of the blossom swirled in the breeze, the pair boarded at the Yamanashi Maglev Test Line near Mount Fuji. Maglev, short for magnetic levitation after the magnets that propel the vehicle forward in place of traditional wheels and axles, is a contender for President Barack Obama's multi-billion-dollar national high-speed rail project.
Aberdeen (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond set aside party politics in a major speech on Saturday as he appealed to Labour voters and women to back independence in the nation's upcoming referendum. Speaking at his Scottish National Party's final conference before the historic vote on September 18, Salmond said that all parties will be involved in negotiating the break with the United Kingdom in the event of a "yes" vote. "This referendum is not about this party, or this first minister, or even the wider 'Yes' campaign," the SNP leader told delegates in Scotland's oil capital of Aberdeen. "It's about putting Scotland's future in Scotland's hands."
Police fired tear gas and made a number of arrests in Rome on Saturday as an anti-government protest turned violent, leaving several injured, according to medics and an AFP photographer. Hooded protesters hurled rocks and firecrackers at police, causing some 20 injuries to officers, according to authorities. Flag-waving protesters shouted slogans against government employment reform plans, and carried banners reading "housing, income, dignity", and "you can call us NEET", the English acronym for people not in education, employment, or training. Protesters threw eggs and oranges at government buildings before turning on police, while officers tried to disperse the crowd by surging towards the group and blasting them with tear gas, leaving many protesters fleeing down side streets.
There are countless reasons not to reach into the field of play during a baseball game. A Los Angeles Angels fan learned the hard way last night. In the eighth inning of last night's road loss, New York Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson caught a pretty routine fly ball near the right field corner. ”Say whatever you want to say, boo, cheer, clap, cheer for your team, cheer for the other team, but just don’t physically touch the players,” Granderson would later say.
A backup computer outage on the International Space Station is forcing NASA to discuss plans for a possible spacewalk repair by astronauts in orbit, a move that could delay the planned Monday launch of a commercial SpaceX cargo ship to the orbiting lab. NASA officials decided Saturday (April 12) to avoid a final decision on whether to delay the unmanned SpaceX Dragon launch as station engineers weigh options to fix the backup computer, which stopped responding to commands Friday and is part of the station's robotics system. SpaceX currently aims to launch the Dragon capsule from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:58 p.m. EDT (2058 GMT) on Monday. "Station program officials, flight controllers and teams of engineers are working to determine whether there is any risk to launching the SpaceX cargo craft Monday," read a NASA statement released Saturday.
US authorities have opened a criminal probe into the nutrition and weight loss company Herbalife Ltd., according to media reports Saturday. The New York Times reported that sources said the case has been under investigation for several months. The daily added that officials it contacted say it is possible that authorities will opt not to take action against Herbalife. The Times wrote that the investigation focuses on Herbalife's direct-selling business model.
By Belinda Goldsmith ABERDEEN, Scotland (Reuters) - First Minister Alex Salmond on Saturday urged Scots to look beyond party politics and break the 307-year union with England when they vote in an independence referendum in September. Closing the Scottish National Party's (SNP) last conference before the ballot on September 18, Salmond said a vote for independence was not a vote for his party or for him, but a way to put Scotland's future in its own hands. His appeal comes after a narrowing in opinion polls that has for the first time in the SNP's 80-year history made independence look a possibility, with both sides now trying to convince up to 15 percent of voters who remain undecided. Salmond promised to form an all-party "Team Scotland" group after a "Yes" vote to negotiate terms of independence by March 24, 2016, such as how to divide oil revenues, the currency, removing nuclear weapons, and European Union membership.
By Swati Pandey PERTH (Reuters) - The search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner resumed on Saturday, five weeks after the plane disappeared from radar screens, amid fears that batteries powering signals from the black box recorder on board may have died. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned on Friday that signals picked up during the search in the remote southern Indian Ocean, believed to be "pings" from the black box recorders, were fading. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared soon after taking off on March 8 from Kuala Lumpur bound for Beijing with 227 passengers and 12 crew on board, triggering a multinational search that is now focused on the Indian Ocean. Search officials say they are confident they know the approximate position of the black box recorder, although they have determined that the latest "ping', picked up by searchers on Thursday, was not from the missing aircraft.
Investigators probing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 suspect that the co-pilot of the jetliner tried to make a call with his cellphone after the plane was diverted from its scheduled route, Malaysia's New Straits Times reported sources as saying on Saturday. The newspaper cited unidentified investigative sources as saying the attempted call from co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's phone was picked up by a cellphone tower as the plane was about 200 nautical miles northwest of the west coast state of Penang.
Iran signalled its defiance Saturday over America's refusal to grant a visa to its chosen UN ambassador, saying it does not plan to pick an alternative envoy. Tehran also said it was examining its legal options over the row, which has undermined a cautious thaw in relations after decades of enmity following the storming of the US embassy in 1979 and the hostage crisis that followed. The United States has said it will not issue a visa to Hamid Aboutalebi because of his links to the students who seized the embassy just months after the Islamic revolution. However, Iran's deputy foreign minister said the country was not considering any potential replacement for Aboutalebi, an experienced diplomat who has previously attended sessions at the UN headquarters in New York.
BEIRUT (AP) — The commandos infiltrated Syrian rebel-held territory near the Lebanese border, watching rebel fighters come and go from a two-story villa before slipping inside to plant a powerful bomb. The next morning, they detonated it as three rebel explosive experts and four assistants met inside, turning the villa to rubble in seconds.
What are the protests about? When the populist President Hugo Chávez died last year, he left Venezuela's economy and civil society in shambles. Chávez's handpicked successor, President Nicolás Maduro, has none of Chávez's charisma, but essentially the same socialist policies and autocratic governing style, and the country has quickly deteriorated. Crime is so bad that the government stopped tracking it, claiming the data was being "politicized." Kidnappings and robberies are rampant, and the police have been corrupted by criminal gangs.
Boda (Central African Republic) (AFP) - Stifled by the heat inside a barn in the Central African Republic town of Boda, dozens of emaciated and often sick displaced people subsist in fear of the vigilantes who surround them. The group, members of an extended family, fled to Boda from the village of Danga 25 kilometres (15 miles) away, seeking shelter from the anti-balaka -- or "anti-machete", mainly-Christian militia groups that have been hunting and killing members of the crisis-torn country's Muslim minority. But days after the family arrived in Boda, fierce clashes broke out between the anti-balaka and local Muslims, ending with the Christian militia forces encircling the southwestern diamond-mining town. More than 14,000 Muslims, including the displaced family from Danga, are now trapped inside with no way out and very limited supplies.