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Jesus' Birthplace May Become First Palestine World Heritage Site

Grotto of the Nativity
© Zvonimir Atletic | Shutterstock
Two entrances (one shown here) now lead to the Grotto of the Nativity. Originally, in the fourth century, there was only one entrance to the grotto from the main body of the church.
The holy city of Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, thought to be the birthplace of Jesus, may become the first World Heritage Site in the Palestinian territories, according to UNESCO.

In its 36th yearly session, the World Heritage Committee - consisting of representatives from 21 of the States Parties to the Convention - will consider 36 possible World Heritage sites, from June 24 to July 6 in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The list currently includes more than 900 properties deemed by the committee as having "outstanding universal value" as part of the world's natural and cultural heritage.

Palestine, which became a member of UNESCO in October 2011, will be presenting the church and the surrounding route used for religious pilgrimages as its first site for inscription on the World Heritage List.

That vote, to accept the Palestinians into UNESCO, proved controversial, according to a CNN news report, suggesting the United States held the view that a peace deal should be reached with Israel before the Palestinian territories were granted full UNESCO membership.

Located in the holy city of Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity, a Byzantine basilica, is built on top of the cave where, according to a tradition first documented in the second century, Jesus was born, UNESCO notes. Helena, mother of Christian Emperor Constantine, is said to have intended the basilica to commemorate Jesus' birth.


3rd Teen in Prostitution Ring Nabbed in Gatineau

© CBC News
Staff Sgt. John McGetrick called the teen human trafficking case shocking as three girls are accused in the prostitution of three other teenaged girls.
Girl, 16, appears in court Friday afternoon on several charges

Canada - Police in Gatineau, Que., have arrested the third suspect in a human trafficking case where three teenage girls are accused in the prostitution of three other teenage girls in Ottawa.

The youth, 16, was apprehended Thursday at about 8 p.m. and returned to Ottawa, police say. She appears in an Ottawa courtroom Friday afternoon on charges of human trafficking, procuring for prostitution, forcible confinement, robbery, assault and uttering threats.

The search for the third suspect was made more difficult, police say, because they could not release info about her due to provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Police had also originally said she was 17 years old.

Police said the three accused allegedly used social media to lure a trio of other girls, who are between 13 and 17 years old, to a home at a Walkley Road community housing project in southeast Ottawa. That is also where the accused live, neighbours say.

Bizarro Earth

Water, the next flash-point: tensions rising in the Middle East over shrinking water supplies

© UPI/Ismael Mohamad
A Palestinian child drinks water in the southern Gaza Strip refugee camp of Rafah on April 08, 2012. Israelis use 66 gallons a day, while Palestinians are limited to 15.4 gallons, even though they claim a major underground aquifer and access to Jordan River.
There are moves to rewrite contentious water-sharing agreements that are becoming a major source of friction in the Middle East as water supplies shrink.

Amid the profound political changes sweeping the Arab world, there are moves to rewrite contentious water-sharing agreements that are becoming a major source of friction in the Middle East as water supplies shrink.

In May, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki warned his neighbors, with Turkey and Syria his main targets, that the region faces conflict unless the issue of dwindling water resources is addressed by regional governments.

Baghdad is increasingly angry and frustrated at the failure of Turkey, in the north, and Syria, to the west, to resolve a growing crisis over the reduced flow and the deteriorating quality of water from the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers they allow Iraq.

Bizarro Earth

India's capital in water crisis after supplies cut in searing heat-wave

© Unknown
Large parts of New Delhi were struggling with acute water shortages on Friday after a neighbouring state cut its supplies at the peak of summer, officials said.

The sprawling Indian capital, with a population of 16 million sweltering in 43 degree C (109.4 F) summer heat, relies on four neighbouring states for its water -- Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand.

Haryana, the biggest supplier, cut its flow to the city on Thursday and about three million people have suffered shortages or been completely cut off, according to the Delhi Jal Board, a government agency responsible for water supply.


Police Arrest Last Fugitive in Japan Gas Attack

© Reuters/Yuriko Nakao
Police officers stand in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan police department as they wait for Katsuya Takahashi, the last remaining fugitive of the Aum Shinrikyo, to be escorted by police officers to the building in Tokyo June 15, 2012.
Tokyo - Japanese police Friday arrested the last fugitive suspected in a doomsday cult's deadly nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways 17 years ago: the cult leader's former bodyguard, who was finally tracked down at a comic-book cafe.

Katsuya Takahashi, 54, a former member of Aum Shinrikyo cult, was arrested on suspicion of murder, a Tokyo police spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity, citing department rules. An employee at the downtown Tokyo cafe had recognized him and called police, she said.

Mr. Takahashi admitted who he was when approached by the police at the cafe.

His trail had been cold for years, but it heated up after another fugitive from the cult was arrested June 3. Thousands of officers had been hunting for him across the capital, handing out fresh photos of the suspect and monitoring transportation hubs to keep him from escaping.

Arrow Down

Foxconn Worker Falls to Death in China

Trabajadores de Foxconn
© Reuters
A Foxconn worker fell to his death in China, the company which assembles products for Apple said Thursday, following a series of fatalities that sparked concern about conditions at its plants.

The 23-year-old, identified only by his surname Xie, fell from his rented apartment in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu on Wednesday, according to a statement released by Hon Hai Precision Industry, Foxconn's parent company.

It said the cause of the tragedy was not immediately clear and Chengdu police were still investigating.

Taiwan tech giant Foxconn, which assembles products for Apple, Sony and Nokia, has come under the spotlight after suicides and labour unrest at its Chinese plants since 2010.


Andre Pshenichnikov, Ex-Israeli Soldier, Seeks Palestinian Citizenship

Andre Pshenichnikov
© AP Photo/Ariel Schalit
In this June 11, 2012 photo, Andre Pshenichnikov, a 23-year-old immigrant from Tajikistan who was recently detained by Israeli police for residing illegally in the Dheishe Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, poses for a picture in Bat Yam near Tel Aviv, Israel.
Ramalla, West Bank -- In an odd twist to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian saga, a former Israeli soldier has embarked on a new fight: He wants to renounce his Israeli citizenship and move to a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank.

Andre Pshenichnikov, a 23-year-old Jewish immigrant from Tajikistan, was recently detained by Israeli police for residing illegally in the Deheishe Refugee Camp near Bethlehem. There he told police that he wants to break all ties with Israel, give up his Israeli citizenship and obtain a Palestinian one instead.

Pshenichnikov is currently traveling in Europe for two months. When he returns, he hopes to move to the West Bank.

It's incredibly rare for Israelis to seek to live under Palestinian rule. There are only a few known cases of Jewish Israelis who have done so, mostly ones who have married Palestinians, as well as a journalist for the Israeli daily Haaretz who moved to Ramallah and reports from there. None are known to have renounced Israeli citizenship - though some Israelis living abroad have. Nor are any known to have sought Palestinian residency instead. People are not allowed to be dual citizens.

Heart - Black

Touching off limits for kids at Mt Martha Primary School in Victoria

School principal Judy Beckworth
© Andrew Batsch
School principal Judy Beckworth.
A primary school has banned pupils from touching each other. Those caught giving high fives, hugging, playing tag, basketball or football are punished with "counselling sessions".

Mt Martha Primary School in Victoria is refusing to back down over the policy, despite opposition from parents and child psychologists who have called the policy "ridiculous", "over the top" and "crazy".

Parents did not get a memo about the policy until told by upset children this week.

But principal Judy Beckworth said the community had overreacted, adding: "I don't see what we have done as unreasonable."

Green Light

Pick-Up Truck Spills Dead Bodies on Highway

© unknown
China - Police thought they'd stumbled on a serial killer when a pick-up truck overturned on a motorway - and 16 bodies tumbled onto the tarmac.

Police sealed off the road in Luozhou, Sichuan province, China, but abandoned a murder hunt when the driver turned out to be a professor from the city's medical school who'd bought the bodies for his students to use in class.

"They began to go off pretty quickly once they were stretched out in the sun. The smell was sickening," said one motorist.

Police summoned ambulances from a nearby morgue to take the bodies to their their final resting place - in the college fridge.

Now the college is facing furious public criticism for carrying bodies "without dignity" on the back of a truck.

A spokesman for the Luozhou Medical School said:"We bought the bodies legally and fairly.

"They are the remains of unclaimed murder victims, street people who have died and criminals who have been executed."


Bizarre Burning and Cutting Ritual on Kids Lands Florida Woman in Jail

© Facebook
Charged: Police say Danielle Harkins, 35, told half a dozen teens that they had demons inside them

St. Petersburg - Danielle Harkins told the kids they needed to rid their bodies of demons as the group gathered before dusk Saturday around a small fire near the St. Petersburg Pier. They should cut their skin to let the evil spirits out, police said she told the children. Then, they needed to burn the wounds to ensure that those spirits would not return.

Some kids got cut, police said. Some kids got burned. Harkins got arrested.

Harkins, 35, a literacy teacher at Lealman and Asian Neighborhood Family Center, was booked in jail Tuesday morning on child abuse charges in connection with the bizarre ritual. She was held in jail Tuesday night on $55,000 bail.

Police said the ritual was attended by seven teenagers, all of Asian ethnic background, whom Harkins had taught a few years ago in her job at the center. At least two were injured, police said.

"Obviously, it's very strange," said St. Petersburg police spokesman Mike Puetz. "The motivations for the ritual are very unknown to us."