BLAST HITS EAST LEBANON
At least five people were killed and 42 wounded as a car bomb exploded this morning in Hermel, a Hezbollah bastion in eastern Lebanon near the border with Syria, The Daily Star reports. The blast, which appears to have been the work of a suicide bomber, occurred as the trial in absentia of four Hezbollah members accused of the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 opened in The Hague, Netherlands.
EGYPTIANS BACK NEW CONSTITUTION
Voters in Egypt overwhelmingly backed the proposed constitution, which won over 90% approval, state media and government officials have said. The result, which might pave the way for General al-Sissi to run for president is hardly surprising since the Muslim Brotherhood called on its supporters to boycott the referendum. The turnout is nonetheless thought to be higher than in previous elections, at 55%. Read the full story from Reuters.
ISRAEL STRIKES GAZA AFTER INTERCEPTING ROCKETS
The Israeli Air Force launched air strikes on the Gaza strip, injuring four children and a woman, after the Iron Dome intercepted five rockets, news agency Ma’an reports. According to The Jerusalem Post, another rocket could have landed in an “open area,” but nobody was injured.
CONGRESS BLOCKS OBAMA’S DRONE PLAN
The U.S. Congress has inserted a secret provision in the spending bill introduced earlier this week that would block Barack Obama’s plan to hand over control of the country’s drone campaign to the Pentagon, The Washington Post reports.
F1 MOGUL TO FACE BRIBERY CHARGES
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone will face trial on bribery charges concerning a payment of $44 million to Gerhard Gribkowsky, a German banker who organized F1’s sale in 2005, a Munich court ruled this morning. The trial is scheduled for late April, Sky News reports.
BY THE NUMBERS
London has become the world’s most-visited city, ahead of Paris and Bangkok. See how many tourists traveled there in 2013.
An international probe has cracked a pedophile ring that streamed live sexual abuse of Filipino children over the Internet, leading to dozens of arrests, police in the Philippines, Britain and Australia said Thursday. Read more from the AFP.
FRANCE “UNDERESTIMATED” RELIGIOUS HATRED IN CAR
France’s UN envoy admitted that the situation in the Central African Republic was “near impossible” for the African and French troops and that his country had “underestimated” the hatred between Christian and Muslim militias, as deadly clashes continue in Bangui.
China’s 40-day Spring Festival began this morning. About 3.62 million trips will be made over the course of the season.
ONE SMALL JUMP FOR KANGAROO, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR AUSTRALIAN HISTORY
A small drawing of a kangaroo on a Portuguese manuscript from the 16th century raises the possibility that the Dutch ship Duyfken was not the first European discovery of Australia.