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Associated Press
An injured prison inmate is carried into the hospital in Barquisimeto, Venezuela, after a bloody riot erupted at the Uribana prison.
Briefs

Death toll hits 61 in Venezuela prison riot

– The death toll has risen to 61 after fierce gunbattles between inmates and National Guard troops at a Venezuelan prison, a hospital director said Saturday. About 120 more people were wounded in one of the deadliest prison riots in the nation’s recent history.

Penitentiary Service Minister Iris Varela said Saturday that officials had begun evacuating inmates from the Uribana prison in Barquisimeto and transferring them elsewhere.

Relatives wept outside the prison during the violence and cried at the morgue Saturday as they waited to identify bodies.

Varela said the violence erupted Friday when groups of inmates attacked National Guard troops attempting to carry out an inspection. She said the government decided to send troops to search the prison after receiving reports of clashes between groups of inmates during the past two days.

Nation

Bloomberg reaches milestone in giving

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving $350 million to alma mater Johns Hopkins University, pushing his lifetime giving to the private Baltimore university past $1 billion, the university said Saturday.

University officials believe Bloomberg, who earned his fortune creating the global financial services firm Bloomberg LP, is now the first person to give more than $1 billion to a single U.S. university.

Most of the latest gift, $250 million, will go toward a variety of cross-disciplinary subjects, including research on water resources, health care, global health, the science of learning and urban revitalization.

World

7 die in Bangladesh garment plant fire

A fire swept through a two-story garment factory in Bangladesh’s capital Saturday, killing at least seven female workers and injuring another five, police and fire officials said.

The fire at the Smart factory occurred just two months after a blaze killed 112 workers in another factory near the capital city, raising questions about safety standards and treatment of workers in Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry that exports clothes to leading Western retailers. The country has more than 4,000 garment factories

The cause of the latest fire was not immediately known, fire official Abdul Halim said.

Iran vows to stand with Syria in attack

Issuing Tehran’s strongest warning to date, a top Iranian official said Saturday that any attack on Syria would be deemed an attack on Iran, a sign that it will do all it can to protect embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Ali Akbar Velayati, an aide to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made his comments as Syrian troops conducted offensive air raids against rebels and discovered three tunnels they were using to smuggle weapons in their fight to topple Assad.

The world has been grappling over how to deal with Syria ever since an uprising against Assad’s regime erupted nearly two years ago. But so far, there has been no international intervention on the ground where more than 60,000 people have been killed, according to the U.N.

US, China agree on North Korea test

Washington and Beijing have agreed that a nuclear test by North Korea would lead to its further isolation and set back efforts to restart regional talks on its nuclear disarmament, a U.S. envoy said.

After talks in Beijing on Friday with senior Chinese officials, U.S. envoy for North Korea Glyn Davies said both sides are opposed to any nuclear test by North Korea and said ridding it of nuclear weapons remains a condition for bringing stability to the region.

He said North Korea can choose to test and further isolate itself or return to disarmament talks that involve South Korea, Japan and Russia as well as the U.S. and China.

Mexico in pickle on Azerbaijani statue

Mexico City authorities removed a much-derided statue of the late leader of Azerbaijan on Saturday from a park along the city’s main boulevard where it had stood for almost half a year, risking a diplomatic tiff with the former Soviet republic.

Some Mexico City residents had complained about the homage to Aliyev, noting his authoritarian record. The late leader had been criticized for repressing opponents and critics in his oil-rich Caspian Sea nation.

But the Azerbaijani Embassy suggested in a statement in October that removing the statue could affect relations with Mexico. Azerbaijan paid $5 million to restore the park, erect the monument and perform other public works.

The city government said it was in talks with the embassy about where to put it.

CERN: Higgs boson ruling this summer

The world should know with certainty by the middle of this year whether a subatomic particle discovered by scientists is the long-sought theoretical Higgs boson, the head of the world’s largest atom smasher said Saturday.

Rolf Heuer, director of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, said he is confident that “towards the middle of the year, we will be there.” By then, he said reams of data from the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border near Geneva should have been assessed.

The timing could also help Scottish physicist Peter Higgs win a Nobel Prize, Heuer said the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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