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World

    A preliminary report says a sightseeing helicopter spun at least twice before crashing in the Grand Canyon, killing three British tourists and injuring three others and the pilot. The National Transportation Safety Board doesn't say what caused the Feb. 10 crash, but aviation expert Jerry Kidrick says the report's description of the helicopter's movements indicates its tail rotor wasn't working properly to keep the helicopter from spinning. Kidrick, a former U.S. Army pilot who teaches at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, says that could be due to a mechanical problem or wind conditions in the canyon. The helicopter crashed in a rocky wash while approaching landing pads on tribal land outside Grand Canyon National Park. A full NTSB report won't be done for more than a year. ___ Information from: The Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com
  • Corruption continues to be a global problem and the majority of countries are moving too slowly in their efforts to combat it, a watchdog group said Wednesday. Transparency International said its 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index 'reveals some disturbing information.' 'Despite attempts to combat corruption around the world, the majority of countries are moving too slowly in their efforts,' the Berlin-based organization said. 'While stemming the tide against corruption takes time, in the last six years many countries have still made little to no progress.' Transparency ranks 180 countries and territories by perceived levels of public sector corruption where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. It relies upon 13 expert data sources, including assessments from the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the World Economic Forum, to determine levels of bribery, diversion of public funds, use of public office for private gain and other issues of corruption. The best performing region was Western Europe with an average score of 66, while the worst performing region was sub-Saharan Africa with an average of 32, followed closely by Eastern Europe and Central Asia with an average of 34. The global average was 43. New Zealand and Denmark topped the list at 89 and 88, respectively, with Somalia at the bottom with a nine, then South Sudan with 12, Syria with 14 and Afghanistan with 15. Britain was cited as one of the most improved over the past six years, raising its score by eight points since 2012 to 82, placing it in this year's rankings one point above Germany and tied with the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Canada. The United States was tied in 16th place, along with Austria and Belgium, with a score of 75. Other large increases since 2012 were seen in Greece, which rose 12 points to a score of 48 to put it in 59th place this year, Belarus which rose 13 points for a score of 44 and 68th place, and Myanmar which rose 15 points for a score of 30 and 130th place. Australia fell eight points since 2012 and is now ranked in 13th place with 77 points, tied with Hong Kong and Iceland. Other large declines since 2012 included Syria, which dropped 12 points, Bahrain, which dropped 15, and St. Lucia, which dropped 16. Incorporating data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Transparency said it found that journalists were in particular danger in corrupt nations. Over the last six years, more than nine of 10 journalists were killed in countries that scored lower than 45 on the index, and one in five journalists who died was covering a story about corruption. Looking at data from the World Justice Project, Transparency said it found that most countries that score low for civil liberties also tend to score high for corruption. 'Smear campaigns, harassment, lawsuits and bureaucratic red tape are all tools used by certain governments in an effort to quiet those who drive anti-corruption efforts,' said Patricia Moreira, Transparency's managing director. ___ Online: www.transparency.org/cpi2017
  • Newly-elected Liberian President George Weah and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have announced the creation of a fund to support sport projects in Africa. Weah, a former international soccer star, on his first trip out of Africa as head of state, had lunch Wednesday with Macron and top sport personalities at the Elysee Palace. Macron and Weah said at a news conference that they want to revive the relationship between their countries. Liberia, one of the poorest countries of Africa, mostly relies on close ties with the U.S. Macron pledged to provide development aid to the country. He said the new financing platform for sport will notably involve the African Development Bank. Weah became a star soccer player when he was playing in France in the 1990s.
  • Britain's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that police can be held liable for failing to bring serious criminals to justice — a judgment that could open U.K. forces to a wave of lawsuits from victims. The top court upheld a lower court's decision to award compensation to two victims of serial rapist John Worboys, who is believed to have attacked more than 100 women over many years. One of the women was attacked in 2003 and the other in 2007, but police didn't charge a suspect in either case at the time. London taxi driver Worboys was eventually arrested and convicted in 2009 of raping or sexually assaulting 12 women he picked up as passengers, using drinks laced with sedatives to stupefy his victims. He was convicted on charges relating to a fraction of the 102 women who made allegations against him. The two claimants, whose names haven't been released, argued that failings in the police investigation amounted to inhuman or degrading treatment under human rights law. The Supreme Court justices ruled that police could be held liable for breaches of human rights if their investigation was 'seriously defective.' Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Craig Mackey said the ruling would 'have implications for how we resource and prioritize our investigations.' He said the force might have to shift resources from other crimes, such as fraud, to investigate serious violent crime. Last month, it emerged that Worboys was set to be freed on parole after less than a decade in prison. The Parole Board decision was widely criticized, and is being challenged in court.
  • A German court on Wednesday sentenced a Swedish man to life in prison for fatally shooting a woman in Frankfurt 26 years ago. Prosecutors had reopened the case as part of a nationwide review of suspected far-right killings. A Frankfurt regional court said it found John Ausonius guilty of murdering restaurant employee Blanka Zmigrod in 1992. Ausonius allegedly believed the victim, who was Jewish, had stolen his electronic diary. German prosecutors reopened the case in 2014 amid concern that authorities hadn't pursued suspected far-right killings vigorously enough in the past. Ausonius became known as 'Laserman' for the gunsight he used in a series of shootings of immigrants in Sweden during the 1990s, in which one person was killed and several others were injured. Sweden, where Ausonius was serving a life sentence, agreed to extradite him to Germany in 2016. Frankfurt court spokesman Werner Groeschel said that if the verdict isn't overturned by a higher court, prosecutors will decide whether to allow the 64-year-old to serve his sentence in Sweden.
  • A European space probe has swung into position around Mars in preparation to analyze its atmosphere for possible signs of life. The European Space Agency said Wednesday its Trace Gas Orbiter successfully performed a delicate maneuver known as aerobraking that involved dipping into the red planet's upper atmosphere to slow the probe. The agency says the orbiter will start looking for trace gases such as methane, which can result from biological or geological activity, in April. It will also search for ice that could help future Mars landings. A NASA-made radio on board will also help relay signals from U.S. rovers on the surface back to Earth. Europe plans to land its own rover on Mars in 2021. A European test lander crashed on the surface of Mars in 2016.
  • Two French soldiers died in Mali when their armored vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device. The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said a soldier and an officer were killed Wednesday morning in the attack. They were part of an operation to fight 'terrorism' in the West African country. No further details, including the location in Mali of the deadly incident, were available. France's 4,000-strong counterterrorism force in Mali, part of Operation Barkhane, is meant to fight extremist groups in the African region of the Sahel, which also includes Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania and Niger. Macron praised the 'courage' of the French soldiers and their determination to continue their mission, 'which allows to strike blows against the enemy.
  • The Supreme Court is preventing survivors of a 1997 terrorist attack from seizing Persian artifacts at a Chicago museum to help pay a $71.5 million default judgment against Iran. The court ruled 8-0 Wednesday against U.S. victims of a Jerusalem suicide bombing. They want to lay claim to artifacts that were loaned by Iran to the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute more than 80 years ago. Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote for the court that a provision of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act does not support the victims' case. That federal law generally protects foreign countries' property in the U.S. but makes exceptions when countries provide support to extremist groups. The victims, who were wounded in the attack or are close relatives of the wounded, argued that Iran provided training and support to Hamas, which carried out the attack. Iran has refused to pay the court judgment. The federal appeals court in Chicago had earlier ruled against the victims. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling Wednesday. The artifacts in question are 30,000 clay tablets and fragments containing ancient writings known as the Persepolis Collection. University archeologists uncovered the artifacts during excavation of the old city of Persepolis in the 1930s. The collection has been on loan to the university's Oriental Institute since 1937 for research, translation and cataloging. Other items, including some at the Field Museum of National History in Chicago, were part of the case at an earlier stage. Justice Elena Kagan did not take part in the case. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect that the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute is the only museum involved in the high court case.
  • Russia's foreign minister on Wednesday criticized Western policies toward his country, urging European countries to maintain good relations with Moscow despite the Russia-West divisions. Sergey Lavrov said during a visit to Slovenia that being a member of NATO or the European Union 'does not mean it is necessary to avoid contacts with states that are not included in those international organizations,' like Russia. 'I think it's absolutely detrimental to push a false choice on any country, which suggests that well, you go either West or East,' he said. 'Regrettably, some of our counterparts in the West proceed from precisely this logic when they communicate with countries in Western Balkans, and not only there.' Lavrov visited EU member Slovenia before proceeding to Serbia, an EU hopeful that remains a rare ally of Moscow in the region where Russia wants to maintain its traditional influence. While Slovenia joined Western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, Serbia has refused to do so despite EU demands. There have been mounting fears in the West that Russia has been using Serbia to foment tensions in the Balkans by arming its ally. In a joint opinion piece with Serbia Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic, Lavrov wrote that policies of ''either with us or against us' have fueled mistrust and instability on the European continent.' The two officials pledged to further enhance the 'strategic partnership,' saying Serbia-Russia cooperation is based on 'mutual respect by the other side's choices and taking into account their interests.' Serbia has said it wants to join the EU while maintaining close ties with Moscow, in a balancing act that some analysts believe is not sustainable as the country moves closer to the bloc.
  • Scientists in Germany who developed a new way to make a key malaria drug several years ago said Wednesday they have come up with a technique to make the process even more efficient, which should increase global access and reduce the cost. The new procedure refines a method developed in 2012 at the Max Planck Institute to use the waste product from the production of artemisinin, which is extracted from a plant known as sweet wormwood, to produce the drug itself. That involved a new machine that could convert about 40 percent of the waste acid into artemisinin itself, producing more of the drug from what had in the past been discarded. The new procedure uses the plant's own chlorophyll instead of additional chemicals as catalysts to drive the reaction, directly using the crude materials to produce the drug more efficiently, chemist Kerry Gilmore said. 'We're able to get much more out of the plant than ever before,' he said. 'The process we have now is more efficient and significantly cheaper than what we had in 2012.' The World Health Organization reported in November that there were 216 million malaria cases worldwide in 2016, up 5 million over 2015, and 445,000 people died of the disease, primarily children. Artemisinin-based therapies are considered the best treatment, but often cost far too much for many of the impoverished communities worst hit by malaria. 'This development has the potentiation to save millions of lives by increasing the global access and reducing the cost of anti-malaria medicine,' Peter Seeberger, director of the Max Planck Institute unit working on the issue. The researchers are working with the US. state of Kentucky on a pilot project to start an operation where sweet wormwood is cultivated on thousands of acres and then processed on site into the anti-malaria drug. The target is to have it operational in three years, Gilmore said. 'We will have the entire supply chain under one roof, going from plants to pill,' he said.