29/01/2016 World News Today


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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


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