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Ecuador shows defiance

QUITO, Ecuador -- U.S. President Barack Obama tried to cool the international frenzy over Edward Snowden on Thursday as Ecuador stepped up its defiance and said it was pre-emptively rejecting millions in trade benefits it could lose by taking in the fugitive from his limbo in a Moscow airport.

The country seen as likeliest to shelter the National Security Agency leaker seemed determined to prove it could handle any repercussions, with three of its highest officials calling an early-morning news conference to "unilaterally and irrevocably renounce" $23 million a year in lowered tariffs on products such as shrimp and frozen vegetables.

Fernando Alvarado, the secretary of communications for leftist President Rafael Correa, sarcastically suggested the U.S. use the money to train government employees to respect human rights.

Obama, meanwhile, sought to downplay the international chase for the man he called "a 29-year-old hacker" and lower the temperature of an issue that has raised tensions between the U.S. and uneasy partners Russia and China. Obama said in Senegal the damage to U.S. national security has already been done and his top focus now is making sure it can't happen again.

 

Restraint for suspect

DENVER -- The suspect in last year's U.S. theatre shooting that left 12 dead and dozens injured will be restrained during his trial by wearing a harness under his clothes that will be anchored to the floor.

A judge ruled Thursday James Holmes must be restrained because he's charged with violent crimes.

Defence lawyers asked Holmes not be shackled because it would make him look like a criminal to the jurors.

The judge said jurors won't see the harness. The judge ruled earlier Holmes can wear civilian clothing at his trial.

Holmes has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murder and attempted murder charges.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

 

Queen up for a raise

LONDON -- Buckingham Palace accounts showed Thursday Queen Elizabeth II had a good year financially -- the monarch will receive a five per cent income boost following record portfolio profits.

The Crown Estate, a vast property portfolio that includes much of London's Regent Street and also Windsor Great Park, made 253 million pounds ($380 million) in the last financial year, a 5.2 per cent annual increase.

The queen receives 15 per cent of Crown Estate profits through a grant supplied by the British government that funds the monarch's spending as head of state.

The annual grant is currently 36.1 million pounds ($55 million) but will rise to 37.9 million pounds in 2014, representing a 5 per cent increase.

 

Mandela improves

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Nelson Mandela's health improved overnight and although his condition remains critical it is now stable, the South African government said Thursday. One of the former president's daughters said he is still opening his eyes and reacting to the touch of his family even though his situation is precarious.

The report that the health of the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader had taken a turn for the better came amid a growing sense in South Africa Mandela was approaching the end of his life. Well-wishers have delivered flowers and messages of support to the Pretoria hospital where he is being treated, and prayer sessions were held around the country on Thursday.

 

Trayvon trial gets testy

SANFORD, Fla. -- George Zimmerman's defence attorney insisted during several testy exchanges with an important prosecution witness Thursday Trayvon Martin injected race into a confrontation with the neighbourhood watch volunteer and insinuated the young woman was not believable because of inconsistencies in her story.

However, 19-year-old Rachel Jeantel stood firm in her testimony about the night Zimmerman shot the unarmed black 17-year-old after a fight Jeantel said she overheard while on the phone with Martin. Jeantel has said Martin told her he was being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker" -- implying Martin was being followed by a white man because of his race.

Zimmerman identifies as Hispanic. Race has permeated nationwide discussions of the case since the February 2012 shooting, which prompted protests and claims from critics that police took too long to arrest Zimmerman.

The neighbourhood watch volunteer has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder and says he acted in self-defence.


-- from the news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2013 A20

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