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This is BBC World News Today with me, Tim Willcox.
A potential breakthrough at the Syrian peace
A representative of President Assad is at the UN organised talks
in Geneva - and in the last few moments a main Syrian opposition
group - which had earlier refused to attend -
A mother who took her son to Syria becomes the first British woman
to be convicted of joining so-called Islamic State.
She denied ever encouraging terrorism.
It was never my intention to enter into Syria.
Economic growth slows sharply in the United States as consumers
And we'll be covering all the angles on the revelation that
Ancient Babylonians were the first to use geometry 1400 years
We start with what appears to be a potential breakthrough
at the first Syria peace talks for two years.
A main opposition group, the HNC, which had refused to attend now says
The "Higher Negotiation Committee" says it has now received assurances
Representatives of President Assad's regime have arrived.
The group, led by Syria's ambassador to the United Nations,
Bashar al Jaafari is now meeting UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura.
The aim is to bring peace to a country where at least
a quarter of a million people have been killed,
and more than 11 million forced from their homes.
Here's our diplomatic correspondent James Robbins.
Making peace is always most difficult when no side in a war
Despite all the bombing, even more intense since Russia
started massive aerial attacks in support of
President Assad last September, the battles for Syrian territory ebb
and flow with no one scoring a knockout
Recently, Syrian government forces have claimed significant
advances including in the province of Latakia.
But the large number of different forces preached against them,
both rebel forces backed by Western and some Arab powers,
as well as the outlawed extremists including so-called Islamic State,
make the search for negotiated peace even harder.
So, who will be at the Geneva peace talks?
Well, the Syrian government has promised to send a team,
although it still brands or opposition rebels as terrorists.
The opposition side and its international backers
Who will appear for them and when exactly?
There has been much opposition talk of boycotting
Deep disagreements involving Turkey that
insists that Kurdish representatives be excluded from the talks,
and Saudi Arabia, which wants only its
nominated list of organisations recognised, as well as Russian
and Syrian government demands, mean that
face-to-face talks remain a distant prospect.
Finding a way to move to a ceasefire, political settlement
and eventual peace looks even harder than in previous peace talks
Presumably good news that the HNC are attending. What is the latest?
Basically there were expectations that they would take part in
negotiations but they were trying to pressure for some guarantees and
apparently they got those guarantees. From the US and the UN.
They just announced they are taking part, we still don't know who the
delegation represented are. We do have a negotiation team. We still
don't know when they are arriving, when they are going to meet with the
UN special envoy but it is a good start for an already speculated
failed negotiations. Yes, Staffan de Mistura is hoping to speak to them
on Sunday. There are other glaring omissions, aren't there? Where are
the Kurdish groups, for example? There are Kurds in the high
negotiating committee. But some the Turks consider a terrorist group and
made it clear they should not take part. They were not included in this
negotiation. However, the special envoy considered many members of the
opposition as consultants since they were not represented in the Riyadh
meetings last month. Staffan de Mistura knows it will be the most
difficult task but he has put a time frame of six months on this. Hasn't
he? Yes, he made it clear this will be proximity talks. They won't be
face to face, inside the same room between opposition and government.
He said it will take a long time. Six months is the announcement, it
may be more than that given the difficulty these talks are facing.
But it is one step on 1000 mile road ahead. Thank you very much.
A young mother has become the first British woman to be convicted
of travelling to Syria to join the Islamic state group.
26 year old Tareena Shakil, a former health worker,
ran away with her toddler in October 2014.
She was arrested when she returned to the UK four months later.
The jury at Birmingham Crown Court also found her guilty of encouraging
Our correspondent Sian Lloyd reports.
Tareena Shakil, a British mother convicted today of being a member
of so-called Islamic state, the banned terror group.
Notorious for its violence and brutality.
She took her toddler son to Raqqa in Syria.
The court was shown in this picture, her child playing next to a gun.
She dressed him in IS clothing and wore
She urged others to join her in Syria,
The court has been really clear, they found her guilty
IS are really a dangerous organisation and at the moment
she should be treated as a dangerous individual.
Tareena Shakil was arrested the moment she arrived
When interviewed, she lied, telling police she was kidnapped
by a man she met on holiday in Turkey.
It was never my intention to go into Syria.
Whilst being on holiday, I happened to meet a young
I liked him and we developed somewhat of a relationship.
This image shows the former health worker at East
The journey was planned not as a holiday but a route
During the summer of 2014, Tareena Shakil
became increasingly interested in extremist material,
But she went further and began encouraging others
on social media to get involved in terrorism.
Tareena Shakil told the court she went to Syria only to live
under the rule of sharia law, she denies joining IS.
She said she had made a mistake and wanted to come
home, describing her escape in a taxi and the dash she made
for the Turkish border carrying her son and
I threw 9000 Syrian dollars at him, which is $15,
wrapped my Pampers, everything, this bag, grabbed the blanket
The jury was unanimous in finding Tareena Shakil
Fresh data on the health of the US economy is out,
Growth is slowing down - and in the 4th quarter of 2015
was at just 0.7%, compared with the same period a year before.
That's a sharp drop from the 2% growth recorded
Tanya Beckett is with me to explain what's going on.
A slowdown in the sale of durables. Durable goods, this is one of my
favourites. You are right, it's a good indicator of what is going on.
Sometimes you have to look behind the headlines. Durable goods are
purchases of goods which are durable, as the name suggests. It is
a sign of investment. It is an indication there is a lack of
confidence in the economy but you have to remember there is now a
sharp dip in investment in the mining and oil industry in the US
because the break even price for oil producers is very much higher in the
US and Saudi Arabia producers. Interest rates raised marginally.
They don't have the option of putting them back down because it
destroys credibility. What you can do is delay the next rise. It has
been pushed out the little bits to June. The problem they had as the
bank to plan, the European Central Bank are both moving in the opposite
direction. Dutch Mac bank of Japan. Big companies are being charged to
actually leave their money? Yes, a very peculiar situation. The Bank of
England is showing no signs at all. That divergences raters questions in
investors mind. -- raises. Is there anything positive? Yes, there may be
bounced back in the second quarter of this year so it is not all doom
and gloom. There are a variety of sciences uncertainties at the
moment. One is the Chinese economy, particularly the stock market and
how that is indicative of a bumpy transition to domestic consumption
led economy. The price of oil, there doesn't seem to be any prediction
that that will rebound. Where it represents a sharp fall in
investment, that is where it is taking a hit so there are some
fallout, even countries which are not oil-producing countries. You
mention tank of Japan, -- bank of Japan. The reason the bank of Japan
is doing this, is that the rate of reform simply isn't fast enough. It
is a economy based on particularly large companies. This has been the
case for a long time that Japan, of course, suffering from exactly the
same problem that we might find ourselves suffering from, which is
they are doing pushing on a piece of string. Lowering interest rates as
much as you like that demand is not stimulated. Thank you.
Chinese state TV has reported that all four surviving miners trapped
after the 25th December mine collapse in Shandong
The men had spent 36 days trapped underground.
The gypsum mine in eastern China's Shandong province collapsed
on Christmas Day, killing one and leaving 17 missing,
In the days that followed, rescuers detected the four 200
The International Olympic Committee says venues for the Rio Olympics
will be inspected daily in the lead-up to the Games
to minimise the risk of athletes and visitors contracting
It says any puddles of stagnant water, where mosquitos can breed,
The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to a surge in brain defects
among new-born babies in the Americas, where it's been
Little is know about Zika, but it was first discovered
The BBC's Catherine Byaruhanga has been there, and sent this report.
This is the Zika forest, a quiet, sleepy, much forgotten place.
70 years ago, the monkeys here were found to harbour the virus
causing today's international health concern.
As with so many discoveries, the scientists working in nearly 70
years ago were not actually looking for the Zika virus.
They were doing research on yellow fever and that's when they came
across the new micro-organism which they named after this forest.
He says there have only been two confirmed cases of
I asked him why it is proving so dangerous in other parts
One of the reasons is because the virus has moved
into new territory, and in this territory it's attacking people
who have never been affected by viruses which are similar
In which case, their bodies are not adapted, or they don't
have the immunity they would have if they had been affected.
These mosquitoes are similar to those
But scientists here say mosquitoes in Uganda are not good
Nevertheless, they are on the lookout, especially
as transmission spreads around the world.
We have a surveillance system which is continuous,
and it is doing the work of trying to find out which type of mosquitoes
We have indigenous type, the forest type or we have also
other types which have come into the country.
This is the only laboratory in Uganda that tests
Blood samples are brought here from across the country.
They are tested, labelled and stored.
Outbreaks of the disease are not that common.
The last confirmed case for several years ago.
Another challenge for the scientists here is the fact that people don't
often report symptoms of the Zika virus.
They are either not aware of it, or they assume it's malaria,
so a new initiative is going to start in April of this year
to try and make better sense of how widespread the disease
Officials in Saudi Arabia say at least two people have been killed
in a gun attack during Friday prayers in a Shia mosque.
This footage - that we can't verify - shows the moment of the attack
The attack in the eastern town of Mehasin has also left
One witness has said that worshippers stopped the attacker
A suicide bomber has attacked a market in northeastern Nigeria.
Police say at least three people were confirmed dead in the town
of Gombi in Adamawa state - a resident said he saw
Eye-witnesses say the bomber was disguised as a woman.
Government troops recaptured Gombi from Boko Haram in 2014
but the insurgents have since made several attempts to retake the town.
Police in south-west Germany say a grenade has been thrown
The device didn't explode and was found by a security guard
near buildings which house 170 people.
Last year there were more than one thousand attacks,
five times the number reported the previous year.
Anti-mafia police in Italy say they've captured two
of the country's most wanted fugitives at a mountain hideout
The two men Giuseppe Ferraro and Giuseppe Crea are high-level
members of a crime group that controls much of
They'd been on the run for more than a decade,
and had been linked with a string of murders.
Let's take you back to Ancient Babylon now.
What is now Syria and Iraq, to the year 1800 BC,
and what appears to be a far more sophisticated civilisation
A new study has been published showing that they were using
geometric calculations to track Jupiter across the night sky.
It's a surprising revelation as it means, that branch of sophisticated
mathematics was being used 1400 years earlier than previously
Well I am joined by it's author via skype -
Professor Mathieu Ossendrivjer, from the Humboldt University of
This was a bit of a surprise discovery for you, wasn't it?
Well, last year I received a new tablet which contained numbers and
calculations that reminded me of a bunch of strange thing that deals
with figures, and that is quite unusual in Babylonian astronomy. I
was able to figure out what was happening with all these weird
genetical tablets we're looking at one of these now will stop it looks
like a piece of plastic bread. How on earth do you read that? You spent
your in Tyre career doing that so it's not easy to explain the can you
have a go? Yes. It's writing and its well understood is. There are a list
of signs are able to decipher. The language is not a problem that the
astronomy on it, that's what I'm really interested in. There are
trapezoid is there, aren't there? That's a piece of John retreat. How
did they use that to track velocity in movement, of Jupiter, wasn't it?
So it turns out that this is like a modern graft. It shows you how the
velocity of Jupiter changes over time. On the vertical axis, its
velocity. So the velocity decreases with time. It unexpected with
antiquity. We don't have it anywhere else there. We were savages compared
to this lot, weren't we? Yes will stop we could say that, yes. This
kind of raft was only reinvented much later in Europe. 14th century
in Oxford. Sorry, Oxford. You didn't invent it for the first time. It was
the Babylonians. Debate came -- come up with it from their own research,
or do you think they got wind of the Babylonian tablets Rhys I think it
was forgotten and invented for the second time. Can you tell us about
Babylonian culture? What is now Syria and Iraq in 18th century BC,
it's an extraordinary city, even though it's been badly rebuilt by
Saddam Hussein. The culture was extremely sophisticated, wasn't it?
. Extraordinary. They had highly developed mathematics and John
retreat, though what we were doing much later in the fourth century was
to reapply the dormitory in a totally new way. What did they use
it for? Was it linked to their fascination of the planets, or was
this... Did they understand the importance of the planets, and the
earth, and the sun. What was needed for the production of food? They
were obsessed with the planets computing emotion and it was because
of astrology. They thought that by predicting the position of the
planets they could predict market prices, river levels, the weather.
They thought everything was connected to what happened in the
sky. There's an element of truth in that of course. Yes, but it's a kind
of astrology, but on these tablets you don't see anything of astrology.
It's very technical. Astrology, we learned about from other tablets.
What a fascinating breakthrough. Thank you for speaking to us. Thank
you for having me. British astronaut Tim Peak has asked
school children in Britain to help him in one of his
scientific experiments. He wants pupils to plant seeds
of rocket leaves that have been Their growth will be compared
with normal plants to help researchers develop new varieties
of crops that could be grown This report by our science
correspondent, Pallab Ghosh. Ever since Tim Peake blasted off,
his adventures in space Now, from the space station,
he is doing it again. We are going to get a packet
of these space seeds. When Tim Peake comes back down
to earth, we're going to do some He is asking schoolchildren
to help him with one I am looking after two
kilograms of very special space seeds, which is
ready for our special Now these seeds have been
on the International Space Station, I will be packing them up
at the end of their mission, When they arrive, they will be
sent out to thousands of schools to grow alongside
the seeds that have not been up here in space,
as part of our special Once they plant the rocket seeds,
instead of the stem going up, the stem will go down and the roots
will come up instead. I have watched virtually every
broadcast he has done and I'm really I think it is incredible
that all our schools all over the country will be
involved in something so important The pupils at Walton
High School in Stafford are among children from 10,000
schools expected to help him The experiment by pupils
here could ultimately help scientists develop a crop that
astronauts could grow In the future, it could enable
people to grow their own crops Eating on the space station has
never been straightforward. But their freeze-dried
food could soon It is really cool
seeing the Union Jack It has explored all over the world
and now it has explored space. Tim's space walk made British
schoolchildren realise one day it Even if they don't make it
into space, his mission might inspire them to reach
for the stars in their own way. Lets show you some pictures from
Australia. This is from the sea bed off the coast of Sydney 's. Octopus
are normally solitary creature, but you can see them fighting here which
means they could possibly have more social interactions than first
thought. This one showing a darker colour. The losing one. French film
director Jacques Rivette one of the most influential figures in US
cinema has died. He was 87. He received a critical acclaim for his
challenging and imaginative films, including selenium Julie go boating
and out one which lasted about 13 hours. The French president Francois
Hollande called him one of the greatest film-makers over several
generations. A reminder of our main news. A attentional breakthrough at
the first Syria peace talks for two years. The main opposition group
behind negotiation committee which had refused to attend now says it
will take part. The agency says it's received assurances from the United
Nations. We hope to speak to them on Sunday. That's it from me and the