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Africa's hunger for data sends satellites into orbit

Aerial view of the Millennium Village project in Dertu, a remote pastoral and nomadic society in northern KenyaBy Helen Nyambura-Mwaura JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Africa's demand for bandwidth is doubling every year, outpacing the laying of terrestrial telecom fibre links and encouraging commercial satellite operators to launch more units into orbit. The arrival of submarine cables on Africa's eastern shore just five years ago was largely expected to herald the end of satellite connections, which had been the region's only link to the outside world for decades. But the opposite is happening with Africa's political geography - notably its many landlocked countries, such as Zambia, South Sudan and Rwanda - bringing undersea cable plans back to earth. Do you think that it would make economical sense to take fibre to every village in Kenya?" said Ibrahima Guimba-Saidou, a senior executive for Africa at Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES SA. "Satellite is still around and will continue to be around because it's the best medium to extend connectivity to the masses." Hundreds of millions of people on the continent still have no access to the Internet, he said.

Algerians trickle to the polls for new president

ALGIERS, Algeria (AP) — Algerians are trickling into the polls to elect a new president of this oil-rich North African nation in an election expected to be won by the ailing incumbent.

Forensic expert faulted at Pistorius trial

Oscar Pistorius, middle, accompanied by brother Carl Pistorius, behind, and police officers leaves the high court in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, April 16, 2014. Pistorius is charged with murder for the shooting death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on Valentines Day in 2013. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The prosecutor at the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius, a double-amputee Olympian, cross-examined one of the defense's forensic experts Thursday after the judge overseeing the case warned spectators watching the televised proceedings in an adjacent room for their "unruly" behavior.

Evacuation came too late for many on sinking ferry

South Korean Coast Guard officers search for missing passengers aboard a sunken ferry in the water off the southern coast near Jindo, South Korea, Thursday, April 17, 2014. Strong currents, rain and bad visibility hampered an increasingly anxious search Thursday for more than 280 passengers still missing a day after their ferry flipped onto its side and sank in cold waters off the southern coast of South Korea. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)MOKPO, South Korea (AP) — An immediate evacuation order was not issued for the ferry that sank off South Korea's southern coast, likely with scores of people trapped inside, because officers on the bridge were trying to stabilize the vessel after it started to list amid confusion and chaos, a crew member said Thursday.

Ukraine is holding about 10 suspected Russian intelligence agents: state security

Ukraine is holding in detention about 10 Russian citizens, all of whom have intelligence backgrounds, the State Security Service (SBU) on Thursday. Answering a journalist's question about comments made on Thursday by Russian President Vladimir Putin about the extent of Russian involvement in the Ukraine crisis, an SBU spokeswoman said: "We have about 10 Russians, with Russian passports, who have been detained. Writing By Richard Balmforth;

Putin says to speed up process of switching Crimea to ruble

Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Thursday the country would speed up the process of switching Crimea's banking system to the ruble as Moscow looks to integrate the peninsula it annexed last month. Crimea has officially introduced the ruble and started paying out pensions and state salaries in the currency since the region voted overwhelmingly in favor of joining Russia on March 16. "The (situation) in the banking sector has not been completely resolved," Putin said in a televised call-in with the nation. The situation leaves no choice but to move to an accelerated circulation of the ruble." Putin said it would take about a month to create a network and open up the needed number of accounts.

Captain of capsized South Korean ferry faces criminal investigation

By Narae Kim JINDO, South Korea (Reuters) - The captain of the South Korean ferry that capsized off the southwest coast was facing a criminal investigation on Thursday, an official said, amid unconfirmed reports that he was one of the first people to jump to safety as the vessel began sinking. The captain, identified as Lee Joon-seok, 69, is being questioned by the coastguard and is the subject of a criminal investigation, a coastguard official said. "It's still an early stage and we're questioning the circumstances," said one coastguard official in the town of Mokpo, which is the centre of the investigation. Television showed the captain sitting hunched over, wearing a hooded jacket, at the coastguard centre in Mokpo on Thursday.

Putin says Ukraine risks abyss, dialogue only solution

Armed men gather beside armoured personnel carriers (APC) as they stand guard outside the regional state building in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slavyansk, on April 16, 2014Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday accused Ukraine's new authorities of driving the country towards the abyss but said that dialogue was the only way out of the intensifying crisis. "Only through dialogue, through democratic procedures and not with the use of armed forces, tanks and planes can order be imposed in the country," Putin said at the start of a major nationwide phone-in broadcast on Russian television. "It is very important today to think about how to get out of this situation and offer people a genuine dialogue and not one just for show," added Putin, saying he believed the talks opening Thursday in Geneva between top diplomats on the crisis were "extremely important". He accused the Ukrainian authorities who took over after the fall of president Viktor Yanukovych of driving the country to the abyss.

China factories face new challenge as growth slows

In this April 12, 2014 photo, Chinese made smart phone speakers are displayed in a booth at the Global Sources Spring China Sourcing Fair in Hong Kong. As China's economy downshifts, manufacturers are bracing for the turning point that’s in store for the world’s second biggest economy. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)HONG KONG (AP) — As China's growth inexorably slows, manufacturers such as Linan Meite Cable are discovering that being an efficient low cost producer is no longer enough to prosper.

UN: Iran cuts stock closest to nuke-arms grade

VIENNA (AP) — The U.N. nuclear agency says Iran has neutralized half of its stockpile of higher-enriched uranium that could be turned quickly into the core of a nuclear weapon.

Nigeria: principal denies kidnapped students free

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — The principal of a northeastern Nigerian school said she cannot confirm a military report that more than 100 female students kidnapped by Islamic militants are free.

Putin says Ukraine's decision to disbanded Berkut police will backfire

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Ukraine's Berkut riot police, a force disbanded by authorities in Kiev after being blamed for the deaths of protesters, had served honorably in the line of duty. Answering a question from a former Berkut officer in televised call-in with the nation, Putin told him "there is no doubt you and your colleagues ... professionally and honorably carried out your duty." He said the decision to disband the force after deadly clashes during protests that ousted President Viktor Yanukovich would "backfire for the Ukrainian state because you cannot humiliate fighters and make kneel fighters who are defending the interests of the state." (Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk;

World stocks subdued, Nikkei flat on profit taking

HONG KONG (AP) — World stocks were subdued Thursday ahead of a long weekend for many markets, with Japan's Nikkei faltering as investors locked in profits after a strong rally.

Putin hails Russia's relationship with China

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday relations between Russia and China have developed to an all-time high and they will play a significant role on the global political stage. "It..will significantly influence the modern architecture of international relations," Putin said in a televised call-in with the nation, but added that they were "not considering the question of a military-political alliance." (Reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Additional reporting by Polina Devitt and Andrey Kuzmin; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Lidia Kelly)

Insight: In green car race, Toyota adds muscle with fuel-cell launch

Fil ephoto of a hydrogen nozzle plugged into a Toyota Fuel Cell Hybrid Vehicle during the Toyota Advanced Technologies media briefing in TokyoBy Norihiko Shirouzu, Paul Lienert and Yoko Kubota TOYOTA CITY, Japan/IRVINE, California (Reuters) - In 1997, Toyota caught its competitors by surprise with the revolutionary Prius, the first commercially successful gasoline-electric hybrid car. Toyota Motor Corp will next year launch a hydrogen-powered car in the United States, Japan and Europe. For now, people at Toyota are calling it the 2015 FC car, for fuel-cell. Their only emission, bar heat, is water vapor, they can run five times longer than battery electric cars, and it takes just minutes to fill the tank with hydrogen - far quicker than even the most rapid charger can recharge a battery electric car.