News stories from around the world
IRAN: The Islamic Republic has launched its first cyber police unit in the face of Western efforts to sabotage computers involved in its civil nuclear energy programme.
At an inaugural ceremony on Sunday, Brigadier General Esmail Ahmadi-Moqaddam said that the unit would boost the country's web defences, which failed to stop the Stuxnet computer worm that temporarily shut down Iran's uranium enrichment programme last year.
A secret US diplomatic memo released recently by WikiLeaks includes a recommendation that "covert sabotage" including explosions and computer hacking "would be more effective than a military strike."
RUSSIA: Two icebreakers pulled a Russian ship out of ice today which had trapped it since New Year's Eve.
The Russian Transport Ministry said that the ship, a refrigerated vessel with a crew of 35, was towed to open water in the Sea of Okhotsk.
The icebreakers will now attempt to free the last of three ships that became stuck in the sea on December 31. The last could be the most difficult because it is wider than the path the icebreakers can clear. Nearly 350 people are aboard.
IRAQ: A car bomb killed six pilgrims today in the latest deadly attack on Shi'ite Muslims travelling to mark religious rituals in the holy city of Karbala.
Authorities said 13 people were wounded.
The car exploded near busloads of pilgrims in a car park on the outskirts of the city.
Today's attack followed a triple suicide bombing last week along two highways leading to Karbala that killed 56 and wounded at least 180, most of them pilgrims.
UNITED STATES: General Motors (GM) announced today that it sold more cars and lorries in China than it did in the US in 2010 for the first time in its 102-year history.
The transnational sold 2.35 million vehicles in China, about 136,000 more than it sold in the US.
GM said that Chinese sales had risen by 28 per cent on the previous year, compared with 6.3 per cent in the United States.
SWITZERLAND: A Zurich court has decided that tax evasion whistleblower Rudolf Elmer should be held on remand after police questioned him last week over possible breaches of Swiss bank law.
A statement dated January 22 posted on the office of defence lawyer Ganden Tethong's website said that Mr Elmer, a former employee of Swiss investment banking giant Julius Baer, would appeal the court's decision within 10 days.
Mr Elmer was detained last week after he handed WikiLeaks computer discs which were believed to contain details of as many as 2,000 offshore bank accounts.
SYRIA: A court in Damascus sentenced a veteran labour rights activist to seven-and-a-half years in jail on Sunday for belonging to "a secret organisation."
Abbas Abbas, who had already been jailed for 17 years under the rule of late president Hafez al-Assad for belonging to the banned Communist Labour Party (CLP), was arrested with three of his comrades in May 2009.
The remaining three received a four-year sentence each. Two of them had also spent years as political prisoners affiliated to the CLP, which was decimated by the ruling Baath Arab Socialist Party in a wave of repression in the 1980s.
IRAN: Two members of the banned People's Mujahedeen (PMOI) organisation were executed today for filming and distributing footage of anti-government protests after the disputed presidential election in June 2009.
Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Hajaghaei were also accused of visiting a PMOI base in neighbouring Iraq for training, according to a report by the state's IRIB news agency.
IRIB quoted the prosecutor's office as saying: "The two Monafegh (hypocrites) were members of an active PMOI cell who were involved in the 2009 unrest."
ISRAEL: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet has approved a sharp increase in taxes on profits from the country's recently discovered gas reserves.
Texas-based Noble Energy, the main driller, and its Israeli partners oppose the plan, which would roughly double current tax rates to collect 52 per cent to 62 per cent of revenues from gas and oil finds.
Parliament has yet to approve the tax increase.
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