Archive for the ‘AP-World’ Category

a post-Assad Syria

Monday, August 13th, 2012

Challenges for Israel

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Burgas – London – Burgas

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Turning Back!

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Why Russia Supports Syria

Saturday, July 14th, 2012

 
Amid the chorus of international condemnation for Bashar Al-Assad, Russia’s disapproval has been decidedly tepid. (more…)

Lebanon life and the arts

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

 
If one were living in a romantic, old seaside village in Lebanon; tending to gardening and the simpler life; without TV; without newspaper; without internet news stories about the world; then Lebanon would seem a pretty calm place to live. (more…)

A Current of Faith – By Mary Fitzgerald

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

As a divided Libya heads toward a historic vote, an Islamic “frame of reference” unites the country’s political neophytes.

BY MARY FITZGERALD | JULY 6, 2012

BENGHAZI, Libya – On a recent evening in Benghazi, as the sun dipped low over the Mediterranean, a stout, bespectacled man in a suit stepped, to wild applause, onto a stage erected on the city’s Kish Square. The man was Mohammed Sawan, a long-standing member of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, who is from Misrata, and who, after spending years in Muammar al-Qaddafi’s jails, is now leader of its affiliated Justice and Construction Party (JCP). JCP is fielding the largest number of candidates in Libya’s national assembly elections to be held on July 7. “Our revolution started from here,” Sawan began, going on to pay tribute to the martyrs of Benghazi.

Sarkozy’s Houdini Act – By Eric Pape

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Is France’s embittered former president trying to hide from prosecution or quietly laying the groundwork for a big comeback?

BY ERIC PAPE | JULY 6, 2012

PARIS – When Nicolas Sarkozy was battling his way toward the presidency in 2007, he often seemed like the Energizer Bunny of French politics: frenetic, relentless, and troublingly ubiquitous. Like that deranged, effervescent, pink rabbit, he broke through barriers and intruded into the darnedest places.

Long before he took office in the Élysée Palace, he had manufactured an image based on tough talk and hard-charging actions that could fill kiosks full of newsweekly covers and thus inspire the relentless dedication of legions of newspaper correspondents. (When he was a government minister under President Jacques Chirac, he would actually brag about his impact on magazine sales and television ratings.) The Sarko Show devolved into a national soap opera: His wife was his chief of staff, then left him for another man, but came back in time for his election to the presidency. Soon after, he gave France its first presidential divorce, speed-wooed former supermodel Carla Bruni, and provided the country with a rare presidential wedding and, better yet, its first presidential birth. In the end, it was hard to tell whether they were France’s Camelot, with Bruni as Jackie Kennedy, or its political Brangelina. Sarkozy’s jumpy voice seemed to play in a loop for years, accompanying people’s café and croissants over the morning radio, or barging in on family dinners during prime-time news broadcasts.

The country was so overwhelmed by his omnipresence (the media actually dubbed him the “omni-president”) that it began to suffer from what might be called Sarkozia — a mental disorder defined by the fraught disorientation of spending so much time around a politician who relishes destabilizing others.

And then, in little more than the time that it took for the electorate to reject him in May, Sarkozy was gone. The man who drove the French media insane for much of the last decade has tried to disappear like Houdini.

A Belated Apology Reopens NATO’s Supply lines in Pakistan

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

 
An apology by Secretary of State Clinton ended the months’ long impasse between the U.S. in Pakistan over an air strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers (more…)

WikiLeaks releases Syrian emails

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Wikileaks is at it again, this time releasing more than 2 million “embarrassing” emails from Syrian government and business officials.

The emails, which date from August 2006 to March 2012, are coming to light as Syria remains embroiled in 16-month violent rebellion.

“The material is embarrassing to Syria, but it is also embarrassing to Syria’s opponents. It helps us not merely to criticize one group or another, but to understand their interests, actions and thoughts. It is only through understanding this conflict that we can hope to resolve it,” Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said in a statement on the group’s website.

What the U.S. should do about Egypt’s Military, and why it will Never Happen

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

 
Earlier this week, Egypt’s military “transferred power to the military,” as the Masry Al-Youm newspaper put it.  (more…)

Syria’s violence Spills over borders

Friday, June 8th, 2012

 
For more than a year, and particularly in recent months, the “Syrian crisis” has dominated Middle East news.  (more…)

Israel skeptical of Iranian nuke deal with UN

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo/Ronald Zak

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s defense minister voiced skepticism on Tuesday over an agreement by Iran to open up its nuclear facilities to U.N. inspectors, saying the Iranians are trying to create a “deception of progress” to save off international pressure.

The cool reception from Defense Minister Ehud Barak signaled that Israel will not ease up pressure on the international community to curb Iran’s nuclear program. Israel has repeatedly hinted it is ready to use force if it concludes international diplomacy has failed to stop the Iranians.

Barak spoke shortly after the U.N.’s nuclear chief announced he had reached a preliminary deal to allow his inspectors to restart a long-stalled probe into suspicions that Iran is secretly developing nuclear arms. The announcement came a day before Iran and six world powers were to meet in Baghdad for another round of negotiations.

“It looks like the Iranians are trying to reach a technical agreement that will create a deception of progress in talks in order to reduce the pressure ahead of talks tomorrow in Baghdad and postpone harshening of sanctions,” Barak said during a discussion at the Defense Ministry, according to a statement from his office.

“Israel believes that a clear bar should be set for Iran that won’t leave room for any window or crack for Iran to proceed toward military nuclear capability,” Barak said. “It’s forbidden to make any concessions to Iran. World powers demands must be clear and unequivocal.”

Barak held out the possibility that Iran be allowed to keep a “symbolic amount” of low-enriched uranium for medical or research purposes, but only if it is under “strict” international supervision.

Israel wants Iran to halt the enrichment of uranium – a key step toward building a nuclear bomb – and agree to ship most of its stockpile of enriched uranium out of the country and open its nuclear facilities to inspection.

US Embassy in Kabul says US ambassador to leave

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Veteran U.S. diplomat Ryan Crocker will be leaving his post as ambassador to Afghanistan this summer, an embassy spokesman said Tuesday.

Crocker, 62, came out of retirement last July to take over the post after a request from President Barack Obama. Crocker was widely known for his role as U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009.

It is unclear why he is leaving the post a year ahead of schedule or who will replace him. The most likely candidate would be James Cunningham, one of four other ambassadors serving under Crocker in Kabul.

There have been persistent rumors that Crocker wanted to leave for personal reasons. The U.S. Embassy last denied such a rumor two weeks ago.

“Ambassador Crocker has confirmed, with regret, that he will be leaving Kabul this summer,” acting embassy spokesman Mark Thornburg said.

The Woman Who Would be King

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

 
The great kingdom that lies along the banks of the river Niger is Nigeria. A woman controls the wealth of this natural resource rich nation. (more…)

Deal undone? Activist now wants to leave China

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo

BEIJING (AP) — A cloud hung over annual talks between the United States and China on Thursday as a blind Chinese dissident who took refuge in the U.S. Embassy appealed to Washington for more help, saying from his hospital room in Beijing that he now fears for his family’s safety unless they are all spirited abroad.

China already demanded an apology from the U.S. even before Chen Guangcheng balked at a deal in which he would remain in his homeland. Now that he wants to leave, the case could overshadow talks in which Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are to discuss foreign policy and economic issues with their Chinese counterparts.

After six days holed up in the U.S. Embassy, as senior officials in Beijing and Washington tussled over his fate, Chen left the compound’s protective confines Wednesday for a nearby hospital for treatment of a leg injury suffered in his escape. A shaken Chen told The Associated Press from his hospital room that Chinese authorities had warned he would lose his opportunity to be reunited with his family if he stayed longer in the embassy.

U.S. officials verified that account. But they adamantly denied his contention that one American diplomat had warned him of a threat from the Chinese that his wife would be beaten to death if he did not get out of the embassy.

“I think we’d like to rest in a place outside of China,” Chen told the AP, appealing again for help from Washington. “Help my family and me leave safely.”

Only hours earlier, U.S. officials said they had extracted from the Chinese government a promise that Chen would join his family and be allowed to start a new life in a university town in China, safe from the rural authorities who had abusively held him in prison and house arrest for nearly seven years.

Clinton spoke to Chen on the phone when he left the embassy and, in a statement, welcomed the resettlement agreement as one that “reflected his choices and our values.”

But the murky circumstances of Chen’s departure from the embassy, and his sudden appeal to leave China after declaring he wanted to stay, again threatened to overshadow talks that were to focus on the global economic crisis and hotspots such as North Korea, Iran, Syria and Sudan.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry signaled its unhappiness with the entire affair, demanding that the U.S. apologize for giving Chen sanctuary at the embassy.

“What the U.S. side should do now is neither to continue misleading the public and making every excuse to shift responsibility and conceal its wrongdoing, nor to interfere in the domestic affairs of China,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said late Wednesday in a statement that was a response to comments from Clinton praising the deal on Chen.

Chen, 40, became an international human rights figure and inspiration to many ordinary Chinese after running afoul of local government officials for exposing forced abortions carried out as part of China’s one-child policy. He served four years in prison on what supporters said were fabricated charges, then was kept under house arrest with his wife, daughter and mother, with the adults often being roughed up by officials and his daughter searched and harassed.

Blinded by childhood fever but intimately familiar with the terrain of his village, Chen slipped from his guarded farmhouse in eastern China’s Shandong province at night on April 22. He made his way through fields and forest, along roads and across a narrow river to meet the first of several supporters who helped bring him to Beijing and the embassy. It took three days for his guards to realize he was gone.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner disputed Chen’s claim that he was left alone by the Americans at the hospital.

“There were U.S. officials in the building,” the spokesman told reporters. “I believe some of his medical team was in fact with him at the hospital.” He said U.S. officials would continue visiting Chen while he was there.

Chen’s supporters in the U.S. called on Clinton to meet him directly, and one of them, Republican Rep. Christopher Smith of New Jersey, said it appeared the resettlement agreement “seems to have been done under significant duress.”

“If ever there was a test of the U.S. commitment to human rights, it should have been at that moment, potentially sending him back to a very real threat,” he said.

But no one appeared to know precisely what to make of Chen’s change of heart. He had welcomed a deal that let him stay in China and work for change, telling his lawyer Li Jinsong on the way to the hospital, “I’m free, I’ve received clear assurances,” according to Li.

Toner said three U.S. officials heard Chen tell Clinton in broken English on the phone that he wanted to kiss her in gratitude. Chen told the AP that he actually told Clinton, “I want to see you now.”

Nor is it clear how the U.S. could be party to an agreement on Chen’s safety inside China when it has no power to enforce the conditions of his life there.

Hollande stands firm in French presidential debate

Thursday, May 3rd, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo/Thibault Camus

PARIS (AP) — French President Nicolas Sarkozy failed to deliver a knockout blow against leftist front-runner Francois Hollande in their only head-to-head debate in France’s presidential campaign, the last major hurdle just four days before Sunday’s election finale.

Hollande – an understated man whom many expected to wither under Sarkozy’s sharp attacks – stood his ground, surprising some observers and even himself. But Wednesday’s much-awaited TV debate produced no outright winner, and appears unlikely to shake up the campaign.

The debate had shaped up as Sarkozy’s last stand and last chance to draw blood against Hollande, and it quickly turned into a verbal slugfest that broke little new ground on substance but exposed big differences in style.

Sarkozy, an America-friendly conservative who has linked up with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to try to revive Europe’s finances and economic prospects, came out slugging and sought to cast himself as the best man to keep France both decisive and competitive.

The incumbent president assailed Hollande’s plans to raise taxes and boost spending – repeatedly accusing him of lying.

“The job of president isn’t a normal job and the situation we’re in isn’t normal,” snapped Sarkozy, riffing off of the Socialist Hollande’s promise to bring a “normal” presidency compared to the incumbent’s high-energy tenure. “Your normalcy isn’t up to the stakes.”

But for Hollande, the stakes boiled down to depicting presidential demeanor, and showing that he could hold his own against Sarkozy – a longtime political nemesis whom he has faced in TV debates dating to the 1990s.

“Hollande held up well,” political scientist and former pollster Stephane Rozes told France-3 TV, adding that he doesn’t think the debate will “shake things up” ahead of Sunday’s vote.

Hollande said on France-3 television afterward that he showed voters “what I was capable of.” But he acknowledged, “I don’t think this is a debate … that could bring out new voters.”

The campaign has largely focused on domestic issues such as the weak economy, immigration, and integration of French Muslims. Yet the outcome is considered crucial to the rest of Europe as well because France is a major economic engine at a time when the eurozone is trying to climb out of a debt crisis.

Sarkozy says France needs to do more to cut spending and high state debt, while Hollande backs government-funded stimulus programs. Both have pushed for similar approaches for the rest of the continent, too.

The two debaters quibbled over statistics; they scoffed sarcastically or spoke over each other, pointed fingers and raised their voices. Their debates came across at times as wonkish, esoteric or nitpicky.

“It’s a lie! It’s a lie!” Sarkozy insisted in one heated exchange on economic policies. The Socialist contender, meanwhile, forcefully denied some of Sarkozy’s claims about his intentions, insisting, “I never said that.”

Hollande accused Sarkozy of appointing cronies to government posts, and the president shot back, calling his rival “a little slanderer” and noting he had named some ministers from the political left in his first Cabinet.

A high point came as Hollande teed off on a presenter’s question about what kind of president he’d be. He tipped back in his chair, folded his arms, and launched into a litany of points starting with the phrase: “As president of the Republic, I …” on issues like the independence of judges, his plan to defer much policy-making to the prime minister or energy policy.

“You’ve just gave us a nice speech – we got teary-eyed,” retorted Sarkozy, trying to break down some of Hollande’s points. “Your bit about independence of judges is a joke.”

Hollande repeatedly using one of his campaign catchwords: like “unity” and “change” to stress the contrast between him and the divisive Sarkozy. Pollsters say the incumbent turned off a lot of voters early in his five-year term with his brash personal style. A stagnant economy made those troubles worse.

Sarkozy said he’s being unfairly blamed for France’s economic problems after years of crisis, and insisted he’s not “the only guilty one.”

Soldiers mutiny at military base in Mali

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Soldiers on Wednesday stormed the state TV and radio station in Mali, as fears of a possible coup gripped the country in the wake of a military mutiny which spread from a garrison in the capital to one thousands of miles away.

The sound of heavy weapons rang out and trucks carrying soldiers were seen fanning out around the building housing the state broadcaster. Television screens went black across the landlocked nation for roughly 7 hours, coming back a little before midnight to announce that a government statement would soon be issued.

Throughout Africa, coups usually begin with the seizing of national television, and the population was on edge. The presidential palace rushed to deny that a coup was in progress, issuing a Tweet, saying: “There is no coup in Mali. There’s just a mutiny.”

The mutiny began Wednesday morning at a military camp in the capital, during a visit by Defense Minister Gen. Sadio Gassama. In his speech to the troops, the minister failed to address the grievances of the rank-and-file soldiers, who are angry over what they say is the government’s mismanagement of a rebellion in the north of the country by Tuareg separatists. The rebellion has claimed the lives of numerous soldiers, and those sent to fight are not given sufficient supplies, including arms and food.

Recruits started firing into the air, according to a soldier who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press. By afternoon, soldiers had surrounded the state television station in central Bamako, and by evening, troops had started rioting at a military garrison located in the northern town of Gao.

A freelance journalist from Sweden who was driving to her hotel near the TV station at around 4 p.m. local time, said that trucks full of soldiers surrounded the building.

2 US men arrested on gay cruise in Caribbean

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

ROSEAU, Dominica (AP) — Two California men on a gay cruise of the Caribbean were arrested Wednesday in Dominica, where sex between two men is illegal.

Police Constable John George said police boarded the cruise ship and arrested the two men on suspicion of indecent exposure and “buggery,” a term equivalent to sodomy on the island. He identified the men as John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 43, but did not provide their hometowns.

George said the men were seen having sex on the Celebrity Summit cruise ship by someone on the dock.

The two were later charged with indecent exposure and are scheduled to appear before a magistrate Thursday morning. If found guilty, they could be fined $370 each and face up to six months in jail.

The ship carrying about 2,000 passengers departed Puerto Rico on Saturday and arrived in Dominica on Wednesday. It departed for St. Barts without the men, who are being held in a cell at police headquarters in the capital of Roseau.

The cruise was organized by Atlantis Events, a Southern California company that specializes in gay travel.

President Rich Campbell, who is aboard the cruise, said in a phone interview earlier that he thought the two men would be released. He later said in an email that the company has organized many trips to Dominica and would “happily return.”

“Many countries and municipalities that gay men visit and live in have antiquated laws on their books,” he said. “These statutes don’t pose a concern to us in planning a tourist visit.”

2 officers in New Zealand ship crash plead guilty

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The captain and the navigating officer of a cargo ship that ran aground on a New Zealand reef last year pleaded guilty Wednesday to mishandling the vessel and altering ship documents.

The men, both Filipino, were responsible for the sailing path of the vessel Rena on Oct. 5 when it ran aground on the well-charted Astrolabe reef near the port of Tauranga. In the days after the crash, the ship spilled about 400 tons of fuel oil, fouling pristine beaches and killing thousands of seabirds in what has been labeled New Zealand’s worst maritime environmental disaster.

In a Tauranga court Wednesday, both men pleaded guilty to operating a ship in a dangerous manner and trying to pervert the course of justice by changing the ship’s documents after the crash. The captain also pleaded guilty to discharging harmful substances from the ship.

The perverting the course of justice offense is the most serious, carrying a maximum prison sentence of seven years.

The 774-foot (236-meter) Liberia-flagged vessel split in two in January after foundering on the reef for three months. Both halves remain perched on the reef, with the stern section largely submerged. Salvage crews, who removed more than 1,000 tons of oil from the ship after the crash, are continuing the painstaking task of removing shipping containers.

New Zealand’s government this month estimated the costs of the cleanup at 130 million New Zealand dollars ($108 million). Most of the costs have been met by insurers, although taxpayers have paid for some costs. The ship is owned by Greek-based Costamare and was chartered by the Swiss-based Mediterranean Shipping Company.

Interpol says suspected Anonymous hackers arrested

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

PARIS (AP) — Interpol said Tuesday that 25 suspected members of the loose-knit Anonymous hacker movement have been arrested in a sweep across Europe and South America.

The international police agency said in a statement that the arrests in Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain were carried out by national law enforcement officers working under the support of Interpol’s Latin American Working Group of Experts on Information Technology Crime.

The suspects, aged between 17 and 40, are suspected of planning coordinated cyberattacks against institutions including Colombia’s defense ministry and presidential websites, Chile’s Endesa electricity company and national library, as well as other targets.

The arrests followed an ongoing investigation begun in mid-February which also led to the seizure of 250 items of IT equipment and mobile phones in searches of 40 premises in 15 cities, Interpol said.

In Chile’s capital, Subprefect Jamie Jara said at a news conference that authorities arrested five Chileans and a Colombian. Two of the Chileans are 17-year-old minors.

The case was being handled by prosecutor Marcos Mercado, who specializes in computer crime. He said the suspects were charged with altering websites, including that of Chile’s National Library, and engaging in denial-of-service attacks on websites of the electricity companies Endesa and Hidroaysen. The charges carry a penalty of 541 days to five years in prison, he said.

Jara said the arrests resulted from a recently begun investigation and officials do not yet know if those arrested are tied to any “illicit group.”

“For now, we have not established that they have had any special communications among themselves,” he said.

Jara said authorities were continuing to investigate other avenues, but gave no details.

Earlier on Tuesday, police in Spain announced the arrest of four suspected Anonymous hackers in connection with attacks on Spanish political party websites. These four were among the 25 announced by Interpol.

Senegalese president booed on election day

Sunday, February 26th, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Voters booed Senegal’s president so loudly when he went to cast his ballot Sunday that his bodyguards whisked him away, another sign of how much his popularity has dipped ahead of an election that has sparked weeks of riots.

This normally unflappable republic on Africa’s western coast has been rocked by back-to-back protests following President Abdoulaye Wade’s decision to seek a third term.

In choosing to run again, the 85-year-old leader is violating the term limits he himself introduced into the constitution, threatening Senegal’s reputation as one of the most mature democracies in Africa.

Wade argues that those restrictions should not apply to him since he was elected before they went into effect, and has predicted that he will win Sunday’s poll with a crushing majority.

But in a scene that longtime country watchers say they have never witnessed before in Senegal – where respect for the elderly is deeply ingrained – Wade was jeered and insulted when he arrived to vote. He didn’t give his customary press conference, as his security quickly got him to safety.

“I feel sad because our democracy doesn’t deserve this,” said the president’s daughter Syndiely Wade, who stayed back in the polling station in the neighborhood of Point E to talk to reporters. “My father doesn’t deserve this.”

The deadly riots began last month when the country’s highest court ruled that the term limits in the new constitution did not apply to Wade, paving the way for him to run again. The country’s opposition has vowed to render the country ungovernable should he win.

Moussa Signate, a security guard, sat against the cement wall of an elementary school that had been transformed into a polling station downtown, watching others line up to vote. Lines snaked outside the doors of the classrooms, but Signate said he was so discouraged that he was considering not voting at all.

“I’m thinking about the future of my country,” said the 47-year-old. “People have had enough. If you earn, like me, 80,000 francs ($160) a month, and a bag of rice costs 25,000 ($50), how are you supposed to live? We’re a peaceful people, but you can’t push us and expect nothing. If Wade wins, it will be chaos.”

Voting throughout the capital got off to an orderly start and turnout appeared to be high, said Thijs Berman, head of the European Union observation mission. However, in the southern region of Casamance that has been plagued for years by a low-level rebellion, rebels attacked two convoys carrying voting materials, according to military spokesman Saliou Ngom.

In a volatile part of the world, Senegal has long been seen as the exception.

Mauritania located to the north held its first democratic election in 2007, only for the president to be overthrown in a coup a year later. To the south, Guinea-Bissau’s president was assassinated two years ago. And further south in Ivory Coast, mass graves are still being unearthed containing the victims of last year’s postelection violence.

“For many years we all wrote and spoke about Senegal as being different,” said Africa expert Chris Fomunyoh at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs in Washington. “Senegal has been viewed as the anchor in the sub-region. And today, the metal on that anchor is melting before our very eyes.”

First elected 12 years ago, Wade was once hailed as a hope for Africa. He spent 25 years as the opposition leader of this nation of more than 12 million, fighting the excesses of the former socialist regime which ruled Senegal from 1960 until 2000 when he was first elected.

Growing unrest is being fueled by a sense that the country’s institutions are being violated, starting with the constitution. The anger is combined with the fact that one in two people in Senegal still live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.

Turks mark anniversary of attack in Karabakh war

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Tens of thousands of Turks, vawing Azeri flags, rallied Sunday to mark the anniversary of a notorious attack that Azerbaijanis say killed hundreds of people during the 6-year war with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Idris Naim Sahin made an impassioned nationalist speech at the rally in Istanbul, estimated at between 20,000 and 50,000 participants, which underlined the deep tensions with neighboring Armenia, even though fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh ended in 1994.

Ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia drove Azerbaijani troops out of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s during the war that killed some 30,000 people and sent 1 million fleeing from their homes. A cease-fire was reached in 1994, but the final status of the enclave, whose self-proclaimed sovereignty is not recognized internationally, is unresolved. The dispute continues to damage both nations’ economies and the threat of renewed war hangs over the region.

The protesters, including members of labor unions and nationalist groups, filled Istanbul’s Taksim square Sunday to denounce Armenia and express solidarity with close Muslim ally Azerbaijan. Thousands of Turks also staged similar protests in Ankara and several other cities across Turkey.

Azerbaijani authorities say 613 Azerbaijanis were killed when Armenian troops rushed into the village of Khodzhaly on Feb. 26, 1992. The attack appalled Azerbaijanis and contributed to the resignation two weeks later of President Ayaz Mutalibov, whom the opposition said had not acted decisively against the Armenians. The attack is observed every year with rallies and speeches in Baku.

Armenian forces do not deny the attack, but say the death toll is exaggerated. Turkey and Azerbaijan has called for world recognition of the killings as a crime against “humanity.”

“Murderers, cowards spilled the blood of 613 people in Khodzhaly, including innocent women and children,” Sahin said in an address to the protesters in Istanbul. “This bloodshed will not remain unpunished.”

Some protesters in Istanbul shouted “Nagorno-Karabakh will be a grave for Armenians.”

Turkey and Armenia have been locked in a bitter dispute for decades over the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in the last years of the Ottoman Empire. Efforts to normalize relations have been dealt a setback by the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

A 2009 agreement between Turkey and Armenia, meant to open the way to diplomatic ties and the reopening of their border, foundered over Turkey’s demand that Armenian troops withdraw from the Armenian-occupied enclave Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Turkey closed its border with Armenia in 1993 to protest Armenia’s war with Azerbajian.

Hopes for Western-backed rapprochement between Turkey and Armenia now seem ever more distant ahead of 2015 – the 100th anniversary of the Armenian killings.

Armenians say up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks around the time of World War I, which they call the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey disputes this, saying the death toll has been inflated and those killed were victims of civil war and unrest as the Ottoman Empire collapsed.

Egypt opens trial that has strained ties with US

Sunday, February 26th, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo/Amr Nabil

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt went forward with a trial Sunday that has plunged relations with the U.S. into the deepest crisis in decades, prosecuting 16 Americans and 27 other employees of pro-democracy groups on charges they used foreign funds to foment unrest.

Behind the scenes, U.S. and Egyptian officials were said to be in intense discussions in an attempt to resolve the case. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has raised the matter twice in person with Egypt’s foreign minister – once in London and once in Tunisia – in recent days, according to a senior U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity due to the delicacy of the discussions.

Speaking to reporters in Morocco on Sunday, Clinton said American officials are evaluating the latest developments, adding that it’s “a fluid situation and there are a lot of moving parts.”

Sunday’s opening session in Cairo quickly descended into chaos as lawyers and journalists crammed into a small courtroom. After a brief hearing, presiding judge Mahmoud Mohammed Shoukry, who had to step out of the session at one point because of the crush of frantic lawyers and observers, adjourned the proceedings until April 26. The time will allow defense attorneys to familiarize themselves with the case and the details of behind the charges.

The investigation into the four U.S.-based nonprofits, which began in December with a raid by Egyptian security forces on the groups’ offices, has put a severe strain on Washington’s relationship with Egypt – one of its most pivotal in the Middle East. U.S. officials have threatened to cut off a $1.5 billion annual aid package if the dispute is not resolved.

President Barack Obama has urged Egypt’s military rulers to drop the investigation, and high-level officials, including Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey and Republican Sen. John McCain, have flown in to Cairo to seek a solution.

However, the U.S. cannot be seen as pushing too hard against Egypt’s ruling military council, which is viewed as the best hope for a stable transition for a nation that is not just a regional heavyweight, but also the most populous in the Arab world and a lynchpin in Washington’s Middle East policy.

There are 43 defendants in the case – 16 Americans, 16 Egyptians, as well as Germans, Palestinians, Serbs and Jordanians.

At least thirteen of the Egyptians appeared in court for Saturday’s hearing, standing in a metal cage, as is customary in Egyptian trials.

Rio police strike exposes marred institution

Friday, February 10th, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo/Silvia Izquierdo

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A strike by Rio police a week ahead of Carnival celebrations is drawing attention to a deeply troubled force in which low wages help fuel corruption, extortion and lethal violence, experts said Friday.

Recent efforts by Rio de Janeiro state to increase wages and change police culture will help root out some of these long-standing problems, but the change won’t happen suddenly, said Guaracy Mingardi, a crime and public safety expert and researcher at Brazil’s top think tank Fundacao Getulio Vargas.

And this is worrying because part of Brazil’s successful pitch to host the World Cup in 2014 and the Olympics in 2016 relied on its ability to keep the peace during the events.

“Authorities are now more concerned with the short-term problem of the effects the strike may have on Carnival and are not paying attention to the longer term problem these strikes could represent for the World Cup and Olympics,” said Mingardi.

At the heart of the recent unrest among Brazil’s police forces are low salaries. Rio’s security forces decided to walk out on Friday to demand a pay raise, not content with a last-minute legislative approval of a 39 percent hike staggered over this year and the next.

“The main thing wrong with police forces in Rio, Bahia, and in the rest of the country is the poor wages paid,” said Mingardi. “This is the driving force of the strikes and of the problems affecting the forces.”

Mexico City fights trash pileup after closing dump

Friday, January 13th, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo/Christian Palma

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mounds of debris piled up at illegal dumping sites around the city in recent weeks as the metropolis grappled with an avalanche of refuse after closing one of the world’s largest landfills.

Garbage trucks queued up for more than six hours to dump loads at transfer stations, while overstuffed bags and other trash piled up even on the toniest streets over the holidays, when dumps in surrounding Mexico state refused to take the city’s trash.

This week, city officials were caught in a front-page photograph dumping tons of trash at the same landfill they claimed to have closed in December, promising a better, greener waste management system for the city of 8.8 million.

“We’re seeing a confusion obviously now in the handling of garbage,” said Pierre Terras, who coordinates the toxins campaign for Greenpeace Mexico. “You can see it in the streets.”

Like other mega-cities around the world, Mexico City is struggling to move from the informal garbage collection systems of the past to modern waste management designed to drastically cut the volume of material that ends up in landfills.

Mexico City officials count some 1,000 illegal dumping sites in a metropolis that generates more than 12,000 tons of trash a day. That includes some trash that is trucked in from neighboring towns in this sprawling metro area of more than 21 million – one of the world’s largest.

The Latin American capitals of Bogota and Buenos Aires, which face similar problems, have committed to Zero Trash, a campaign supported by environmental groups to manufacture reusable goods and materials, recycle and ideally cut the amount of unusable trash to zero. Greenpeace is pushing such a plan for Mexico City.

Everyone agreed that the Bordo Poniente landfill had to close as scheduled on Dec. 31, a move that could mean a drop in greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 2 million tons of carbon dioxide annually. Built on a dry lake bed partly to handle the rubble from the devastating 1985 earthquake, it had taken in more than 76 million tons of garbage.

Critics say the city was unprepared, and it wasn’t clear why there wasn’t a solid alternative waste system in place after earlier plans to build four new garbage processing plants were abandoned.

Meanwhile an interim plan to take refuse to smaller dumps outside the city fell apart almost immediately.

Last week residents of Ixtapaluca in Mexico state blocked a federal highway to prevent Mexico City garbage trucks from unloading at a dump in their neighborhood, while other communities staged similar revolts.

Mexico City has required its residents to separate trash since 2003, but without enforcement or the necessary recycling equipment. Despite public service campaigns, there is no culture for recycling.

Residents still rely on an old collection system in which trucks roam the streets daily, with a garbage man ringing a bell to alert neighbors who come running with their trash cans and bags.

The small amount of recycling is done at the trucks, as garbage workers open bags to separate out glass, plastic and cardboard.

Dumping on the street brings heavy fines. But trash routinely piles up on Mexico City street corners under the cover of night from households where people can’t wait around during the day for the trash bell.

Cargo drone makes debut in Afghanistan

Saturday, January 7th, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo/Justin M. Boling

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military is testing a revolutionary new drone for its arsenal, a pilotless helicopter intended to fly cargo missions to remote outposts where frequent roadside bombs threaten access by road convoys.

Surveillance drones for monitoring enemy activity and armed versions for launching airstrikes have become a trademark of America’s wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. But this is the first time a chopper version designed for transport has ben used operationally.

Two unmanned models of the Kaman K-MAX helicopters and a team of 16 company technicians and 8 Marines are conducting a 6-month evaluation program for the new craft at Camp Dwyer, a Marine Corps airfield in the Garmsir district of southern Helmand Province.

The craft have flown 20 transport missions since the inaugural flight on Dec. 17, said Maj. Kyle O’Connor, the officer in charge of the detachment. They have delivered nearly 18 tons of cargo, mainly thousands of Meals Ready to Eat and spare parts needed at the forward operating bases.

“Afghanistan is a highly mined country and the possibility of improvised explosive devices is always a problem moving cargo overland in a convoy,” O’Connor said.

“Every load that we can take off of a ground convoy reduces the danger and risk that our Marines, soldiers, and sailors are faced with,” he said. “With an unmanned helicopter, even the aircrew is taken out of harm’s way.”

The Marines from Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Squadron 1 lead the missions and deliver the cargo into combat drop zones, while contractors operate and maintain the two aircraft.

The craft’s onboard computer uploads the mission plans, enabling them to fly on autopilot. But an operator at base control monitors progress and can step in and override the autopilot for manual operation if any problems occur, or if the drone must be redirected in mid-flight.

The K-MAX is the latest in a series of Kaman synchronized twin-rotor helicopters dating from the 1950s. The unusual arrangement, with two side-by-side pylons on the helicopter’s roof supporting counter-rotating blades, results in exceptional stability while hovering and allows pinpoint cargo delivery.

Second Tunisian man sets self on fire in 2 days

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) — A middle-aged man with a history of mental illness set himself on fire Saturday in northern Tunisia, two days after a similar case in the south.

Hedia Khemiri of Bougatfa hospital says 50-year-old Daoud Bouhli poured gasoline over himself and then ignited it in front of Bizerte town hall in the country’s north.

Self-immolation has enormous resonance in the country that last year overthrew its long ruling dictator in an uprising sparked by fruit vendor Mohammed Bouazizi setting himself on fire after being harassed by police.

His actions set in motion a number of similar incidents across North Africa and self-immolation became a symbolic protest for people who had lost all hope, and were usually unemployed.

A year after the uprising, Tunisia has elected a new government but still suffers from serious unemployment and a flagging economy as tourists stay away and labor unrest strikes industries.

On Thursday, Ammar Gharsalli, a 45-year-old father of three, set himself on fire in front of the town hall in Gafsa – a center for phosphate mining in southern Tunisia.

Iran welcomes US rescue of sailors from pirates

Saturday, January 7th, 2012
AP Photo
AP Photo

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran’s government on Saturday welcomed the U.S. Navy’s rescue of 13 Iranian fishermen held by pirates, calling it a positive humanitarian gesture.

U.S. officials announced Friday that the fishermen had been rescued by a U.S. Navy destroyer on Thursday, more than 40 days after their boat was commandeered by suspected Somali pirates in the northern Arabian Sea. The rescue came just days after Tehran warned the U.S. to keep the same group of warships out of the Persian Gulf in a reflection of Iran’s fear that American warships could try to enforce an embargo against Iranian oil exports.

“The rescue of Iranian sailors by American forces is considered a humanitarian gesture and we welcome this behavior,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast was quoted as saying by state TV’s Al-Alam Arabic channel.

Iran’s hard-line Fars news agency had a different take, calling the rescue operation a Hollywood dramatization of a routine event.

The Fars report noted that attacks by Somali pirates in the region are common and said that Iran’s navy has itself freed many mariners held by pirates in recent years without seeking to highly publicize it.

Amid escalating tension with Iran over its nuclear program, the Obama administration reveled in delivering Friday’s announcement and highlighted the fact that the rescuing ships were the same ones Iran’s army chief had just said were no longer welcome in the Persian Gulf.

“Basically, rescuing trading and fishing boats from the hands of pirates in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden is considered a completely normal issue,” Fars said. “A U.S. helicopter filming the rescue operation from the first minute makes it look like a Hollywood drama with specific locations and actors. It shows the Americans tried to publicize it through the media and present the American warship as a savior.”

The semiofficial Fars news agency is considered close to Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard military force.

Fars reported in April that Iranian naval commandos had driven off pirates attempting to hijack a supertanker off Pakistan’s southwestern coast.

“Iran’s navy has rescued various foreign ships from the hands of pirates … but never publicized that,” it said.

Holocaust survivors blast Nazi garb at protest

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israeli Holocaust survivors and political leaders expressed outrage Sunday over a Jerusalem demonstration in which ultra-Orthodox Jews donned Star of David patches and uniforms similar to those the Nazis forced Jews to wear during World War II.

Thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered Saturday night to protest what they say is a nationwide campaign directed against their lifestyle. The practices, which call for strict separation of the sexes, are rejected by mainstream Israelis as religious coercion.

Ultra-Orthodox extremists have been under fire for their attempts to ban mixing of the sexes on buses, sidewalks and other public spaces. In one city, extremists have jeered and spit at girls walking to school, saying they are dressed immodestly. These practices, albeit by a fringe sect, have unleashed a backlash against the ultra-Orthodox in general.

At Saturday’s protest, children with traditional sidelocks wore the striped black-and-white uniforms associated with Nazi concentration camps. One child’s hands were raised in surrender – mimicking an iconic photo of a terrified Jewish boy in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial called the use of Nazi imagery “disgraceful,” and several other survivors’ groups and politicians condemned the acts.

Six million Jews were killed by German Nazis and their collaborators during World War II. About 200,000 aging survivors of the Holocaust live in Israel.

Turkey: Air raids kill 35 civilians

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish warplanes aiming for suspected Kurdish rebels hiding in Iraq instead killed 35 civilians – most of whom are believed to be cigarette smugglers, a senior official said Thursday.

It was one of the largest one-day civilian death tolls incurred during Turkey’s 27-year-old drive against militant Kurds seeking autonomy in the country’s southeast. It also is the latest instance of violence to undermine the Turkish government’s efforts to grant cultural and other rights to aggrieved Kurds.

Huseyin Celik, a spokesman for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, said authorities were still trying to identify the dead, but that most were youngsters from an extended family in the mostly Kurdish-populated area that borders Iraq.

“According to the initial information, these people were not terrorists but were engaged in smuggling,” Celik said. All of the victims were under the age 30 and some were the sons of village guards who have aided Turkish troops in their fight against rebels, he said.

Celik suggested Turkey was ready to compensate the victims. “If there was a mistake, if there was a fault, this will not be covered up, and whatever is necessary will be done,” he said.

Earlier, the Turkish military confirmed the Wednesday night raids, saying its jets struck an area of northern Iraq frequently used by rebels to enter Turkey after drones detected a group approaching the often unmarked mountainous border.

Border troops had been placed on alert following intelligence indicating that Kurdish rebels were preparing attacks in retaliation for a series of recent military assaults on the guerrillas, the military said.

France ponders removing recalled breast implants

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Michel Euler

PARIS (AP) — Emmanuelle Maria’s breasts were burning and globules of silicone gel were protruding into her armpits. Her implants had ruptured. Yet her doctors, she says, told her nothing was wrong.

Now she and a group of leading plastic surgeons want the French government to tell 30,000 women to get their implants removed – at the state’s expense.

Prompted by the calls, French health authorities are considering an unprecedented move: recommending that all women with the now-banned breast implants undergo surgery to remove them. Investigators say the implants were made with cheap industrial silicone whose medical dangers remain unclear.

Governments around Europe are awaiting France’s decision Friday. Tens of thousands more women in Britain, Italy, Spain and other European nations are walking around with the same implants, made by the now-defunct French company Poly Implant Prothese, or PIP.

The main concern in France is the risk of rupture, as well as uncertainty over what risks the suspected industrial silicone gel could pose when it leaks inside the body. Of the more than 30,000 women who have the implants, more than 1,000 have suffered ruptures, according to the French health safety agency AFSSAPS.

Eight cases of cancer among women with the implants, including one who died in November, have heightened pressure on the government to act, and Friday’s decision will depend partly on guidance from the French National Cancer Institute.

The implants in question were not sold in the United States, where concerns about silicone gel implants overall led to a 14-year ban on their use. Silicone implants were brought back on the market in 2006 after research ruled out cancer, lupus and some other concerns.

All implants – not just this brand – have a risk of rupture. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends regular MRI checks for ruptures and French health officials also recommend regular screening.

PIP implants were taken off the market last year after French authorities discovered the company misreported the type of silicone used.

British health officials say they see no reason so far to have the French-made implants systematically removed, and have said there is not enough evidence of a link between silicone implants and cancer. Italy’s Health Ministry is holding a meeting Thursday to discuss the French-made implants.

Iraq: A war of muddled goals, painful sacrifice

Saturday, December 17th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed

BAGHDAD (AP) — In the beginning, it all looked simple: topple Saddam Hussein, destroy his purported weapons of mass destruction and lay the foundation for a pro-Western government in the heart of the Arab world.

Nearly 4,500 American and more than 100,000 Iraqi lives later, the objective became simply to get out – and leave behind a country where democracy has at least a chance, where Iran does not dominate and where conditions may not be good but “good enough.”

Even those modest goals may prove too ambitious after American forces leave and Iraq begins to chart its own course. How the Iraqis fare in the coming years will determine how history judges a war which became among the most politically contentious in American history.

Toppling Saddam was the easy part. Television images from the days following the March 20, 2003, start of the war made the conflict look relatively painless, like a certain type of Hollywood movie: American tanks speeding across the bleak and featureless Iraqi plains, huge blasts rattling Baghdad in the “shock and awe” bombing and the statue of the dictator tumbling down from his pedestal.

But Americans soon collided with the complex realities of an alien society few of them knew or understood. Who were the real power brokers? This ayatollah or that Sunni chief? What were the right buttons to push? America had its own ideas of the new Iraq. Did most Iraqis share them?

Places most Americans had never heard of in 2002, like Fallujah and Abu Ghraib, became household words. Saddam was captured nine months after the invasion. The war dragged on for eight more years. No WMD were ever found. And Iraq drained billions from America’s treasury and diverted resources from Afghanistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida rebounded after their defeat in the 2001 invasion.

In the early months, America’s enemy was mostly Sunnis angry over the loss of power and prestige when their patron Saddam fell. In September 2007, the bloodiest year for U.S. troops, Shiite militias – part of a community that suffered terribly under Saddam – were responsible for three-quarters of the attacks in the Baghdad area that killed or wounded Americans, according to the then-No. 2 U.S. commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno.

Saddam had not tolerated al-Qaida. With Saddam gone and the country in chaos, al-Qaida in Iraq became the terror movement’s largest and most dangerous franchise, drawing in fighters from North Africa to Asia for a war that lingers on through suicide bombings and assassinations, albeit at a lower intensity.

As American troops prepare to go home by Dec. 31, they leave behind a country still facing violence, with closer ties to the U.S. than Saddam had but still short of what Washington once envisioned. Iranian influence is on the rise. One of the few positive developments from the American viewpoint – a democratic toehold – is far from secure.

In 20-20 hindsight, the U.S. probably should have seen it coming. By 2003, communal rivalries and hatreds, fueled by years of Saddam’s suppression of Kurds and Shiites, were brewing beneath the lid of a closed society cobbled together from the wreckage of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Saddam’s rule of terror kept all these passions in the pot. Lift the lid and the pot boils over. Remove Saddam and a new fight flares for the power that the ousted ruler and his Baath Party had monopolized for decades.

A day after Saddam’s statue was hauled down in Baghdad, the U.S. arranged what was supposed to be a reconciliation meeting in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, bringing together prominent clerics from the majority Shiite sect eager for a dominant role in Iraq after the collapse of Saddam’s Sunni-dominated rule.

One of them was Abdul-Majid al-Khoie, son of a revered ayatollah. Al-Khoie had fled to Britain during Saddam’s crackdown against Shiites after the 1991 Gulf War. Now he and the other clerics were back in Iraq, freed from Saddam’s yoke.

As al-Khoie approached a mosque, a crowd swarmed around him. He was hacked to death in an attack widely blamed on Muqtada al-Sadr, a fellow Shiite cleric.

In Baghdad, meanwhile, mobs looted and burned much of the city as bewildered U.S. soldiers stood by.

“Stuff happens,” then-U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld famously said at the time. “And it’s untidy, and freedom’s untidy, and free people are free to make mistakes, and commit crimes and do bad things. They’re also free to live their lives and do wonderful things. And that’s what’s going to happen here.”

Within months, angry Sunnis had taken up arms to resist what they saw as a Shiite takeover on the coattails of the Americans. Their ranks were bolstered by former soldiers whose livelihood was taken away when the Americans, in a bid to appease Shiite and Kurdish leaders, abolished Saddam’s military.

In August 2003, a massive truck bomb devastated the U.N. headquarters, killing the chief of mission, his deputy and 20 other people. Two months later, rockets slammed into the U.S.-occupied Rasheed Hotel in the Green Zone, killing an American lieutenant colonel and wounding 17 people. One of the architects of the war, visiting Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, barely escaped injury.

By then it was clear: America was in for a long and brutal fight. The triumphant scene of Saddam’s statue falling would be replaced by new iconic images: the bodies of butchered Americans hanging from a bridge in Fallujah, military vehicles engulfed in flames, terrified hostages staring into a video camera moments before decapitation, and flag-draped caskets resting at open graves as aging parents and young widows wept for their loved ones.

The Americans arrived with their own agenda for the new Iraq. That didn’t always mesh with what the Iraqis had in mind.

Phillip J. Dermer, a now-retired U.S. colonel who has returned to Iraq as a businessman, spent the summer of 2003 helping set up a city council in Baghdad.

The idea was to give Iraqis a quick taste of democracy while issues like a constitution and national elections were being worked out.

After months of preparation, the council was elected and got down to its first order of business: To the Americans’ surprise, an al-Sadr representative came forward to change the name of the Shiite slum in eastern Baghdad from Saddam City to Sadr City in honor of the cleric’s father, who was assassinated by the deposed regime. The measure passed unanimously.

Dermer and his colleagues had been expecting a vote for something like a new budget for water. For Dermer it was a signal. The Iraqis had their own priorities.

Iran says it’s almost done decoding US drone

Monday, December 12th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/STR

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iranian experts are in the final stages of recovering data from the U.S. surveillance drone captured by the country’s armed forces, state TV reported Monday.

Tehran has flaunted the drone’s capture as a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States in a complicated intelligence and technological battle.

Lawmaker Parviz Sorouri, who is on the parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, said Monday the extracted information will be used to file a lawsuit against the United States for the “invasion” by the unmanned aircraft.

Sorouri also claimed that Iran has the capability to reproduce the drone through reverse engineering, but he didn’t elaborate.

The TV broadcast a video on Thursday of Iranian military officials inspecting what it identified as the RQ-170 Sentinel drone. Iranian state media have said the unmanned spy aircraft was detected and brought down over the country’s east, near the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials have acknowledged losing the drone.

Officers in the Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s most powerful military force, have claimed the country’s armed forces brought down the surveillance aircraft with an electronic ambush, causing minimum damage to the drone.

American officials have said that U.S. intelligence assessments indicate that Iran neither shot the drone down, nor used electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky. They contend the drone malfunctioned. The officials spoke anonymously in order to discuss the classified program.

U.S. officials are concerned others may be able to reverse-engineer the chemical composition of the drone’s radar-deflecting paint or the aircraft’s sophisticated optics technology that allows operators to positively identify terror suspects from tens of thousands of feet in the air.

They are also worried adversaries may be able to hack into the drone’s database, although it is not clear whether any data could be recovered. Some surveillance technologies allow video to stream through to operators on the ground but do not store much collected data. If they do, it is encrypted.

Sorouri racheted up the anti-U.S. rhetoric in Monday’s remarks.

“The extracted information will be used to file a lawsuit against the United States over the invasion,” he told state TV.

Russian billionaire tycoon announces election bid

Monday, December 12th, 2011

MOSCOW (AP) — Mikhail Prokhorov, one of Russia’s richest tycoons and New Jersey Nets basketball team owner, says he will challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in next March’s presidential election.

While he was cautious not to cross Putin’s path in the past, Prokhorov may pose a serious challenge to Putin, whose authority has been dented by the Dec. 4 parliamentary election and massive protests against vote fraud.

Prokhorov said Monday that a decision to run for president was “the most important decision” in his life.

Pakistan truckers back NATO supply route blockade

Friday, December 9th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Fareed Khan

CHAMAN, Pakistan (AP) — Sleeping in a freezing cab, running out of money and worried about militant attacks, Ghulab is one of thousands of truck drivers stranded as a result of Pakistan’s blockade of the Afghan border to NATO and U.S. war supplies.

But they and the businessmen who run what has been a lucrative trade for most of the last decade say they support the decision to shut the frontier in retaliation for coalition airstrikes almost two weeks ago that killed 24 Pakistani troops in two remote border outposts.

“We risk our lives and take these supplies to Afghanistan for NATO, and in return they are killing our soldiers,” said Jan, whose fuel truck is parked in a terminal in the dusty, dangerous border town of Chaman in southwestern Baluchistan.

“This is unacceptable, and we unanimously support the government over closing the border.”

Given the current anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan, drivers might not want to call publicly the border to reopen. Even so, their stance illustrates the depth of anger in this country over the attack and the challenge the U.S. faces in repairing a relationship that is critical to its hopes of ending the Afghan war.

“I hope Allah grants my prayer that this NATO supply ends permanently, said Ghaza Gul, a 45-year-old driver who has been in the trucking profession since was he was 10 years old, when he washed the vehicles and made tea. “I would rather die of hunger than carry these shipments,” he said, sitting on a dirty mat with other drivers at a terminal in Karachi, the port city where the supplies are unloaded.

Pakistan closed its two Afghan crossings in Chaman and Torkham, in the northwest Khyber tribal area, almost immediately after NATO aircraft attacked two army posts along the border on Nov. 26. The supply lines account for 40 percent of the fuel, clothes, vehicles and other “non lethal” supplies for the Afghan war.

President Barack Obama and other American officials have expressed their condolences for the deaths and promised a full investigation into what they have said was an accident. But this has done little to assuage anger in Pakistan, where the military has continued to describe the attack as a deliberate act of aggression.

The government, needing to show a firm response to placate critics who have long protested its alliance with Washington, has also retaliated by demanding that the U.S. vacate an air base used for CIA drones and by boycotting an international conference aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan.

Many analysts believe Pakistan and the U.S. want to avoid a total rupture of their difficult relationship because of its mutual strategic importance. Pakistan needs American aid and cannot afford diplomatic isolation; Washington wants Islamabad’s help with Afghanistan.

For that reason, most people believe the trucks will start rolling again soon, likely within a few weeks.

The trucks are currently parked at terminals close to the border, some in large towns in the area. The drivers have remained with the vehicles, suggesting that the trucking companies believe the stoppage will be temporary.

“It won’t be much longer,” said Imtiaz Gul, director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad. “They can’t sustain it indefinitely. It would alienate the whole world,” he said, referring to the many countries that have troops in the coalition.

NATO officials have said the coalition has built a stockpile of military and other supplies that could keep operations in Afghanistan running at their current level for several months even if the route through Pakistan remains closed.

Turkish president criticizes EU ‘negligence’

Friday, December 9th, 2011

VIENNA (AP) — European Union “negligence” is to blame for the financial crisis roiling the continent, said Turkey’s president Friday, contrasting the EU’s malaise with his country’s economic and political dynamism.

Gul also called for a revamping of the U.N. Security Council, suggesting its permanent members no longer reflected the shift in influence from the postwar equation when the five nuclear powers effectively steered world policy. His comments, to the World Policy Conference’s three-day session, were a restatement of Turkey’s claim to prominence – in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and beyond.

His blunt criticism of the EU – a group Turkey has been prevented from joining mainly due to years of German and French opposition – also suggested that the Turkish government was increasingly disenchanted with the failure of its efforts.

Sentiment has been growing in Ankara to give up on EU membership hopes – fueled by the eurozone’s struggles to get a handle on the immense debts of member countries that threaten the future of their common currency.

Some progress appeared to be made Friday, with the EU saying that 26 of its 27 member countries are open to joining a new treaty tying their finances together to solve the euro crisis. But while Gul wished the EU good luck, his comments brimmed with self-satisfaction as he compared Turkey’s robust economic state to that of some of the European countries most at risk.

“At a time when euro member states are not able to abide by the criteria that they put for themselves, we are at the stage where we can meet those criteria,” he said, noting that Turkey’s budget deficit was at only 2.5 percent – well below the benchmark set for themselves by eurozone nations.

Ex-Panamanian dictator to be extradited in weeks

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

PARIS (AP) — Former Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega will be extradited to his homeland in the next few weeks, the French Justice Ministry said Thursday.

France and Panama have been working out the details of the extradition, Justice Ministry spokesman Bruno Badre told The Associated Press by telephone. A French court ruled on Nov. 23 that Noriega can be handed over to serve time for past crimes, more than 20 years after being ousted and arrested in a U.S. invasion.

Badre said “the judicial conditions have now been filled” for extradition and “this will occur in the next few weeks.”

The elderly former strongman has been behind bars in Florida, on drug charges, and in France, for money laundering. Panama wants Noriega returned to serve prison terms handed down after he was convicted in absentia for embezzlement, corruption and murder.

The court decision came after months of legal procedures. Friends and foes alike feared that Noriega might die in a French prison – notably Panamanians who fought against human rights abuses during his 1983-1989 regime.

Noriega, a one-time CIA asset, turned into an embarrassment for the U.S. after he sidled up to Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel and turned to crime.

Al-Qaida says it is holding US hostage in Pakistan

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Al-Qaida claimed responsibility Thursday for the kidnapping of a 70-year-old American aid worker in Pakistan in August, and issued a series of demands for his release.

In a video message posted on militant websites, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri said Warren Weinstein would be released if the United States stopped airstrikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He also demanded the release of all al-Qaida and Taliban suspects around the world.

“Just as the Americans detain all whom they suspect of links to al-Qaida and the Taliban, even remotely, we detained this man who is neck-deep in American aid to Pakistan since the 1970s,” al-Zawahri said, according to a translation provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant messages.

Weinstein was abducted by armed men from his house in the eastern city of Lahore on Aug. 13. Police and U.S. officials have not publicly said who they believed was holding him, but Islamist militant groups were the main suspects.

Weinstein, who has a home in Rockville, Maryland, worked in Pakistan for several years and spoke Urdu.

EU foreign ministers fail to agree on Iran oil ban

Thursday, December 1st, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

BRUSSELS (AP) — EU foreign ministers failed Thursday to reach an agreement to impose an oil embargo against Iran – a measure that some argued would have choked off funding for Iran’s alleged program to develop nuclear weapons.

But the ministers, incensed by the attack Tuesday by an angry mob on the British embassy in Tehran, did impose a new round of sanctions targeting dozens of people, groups and businesses in the country.

The ministers also imposed new sanctions on Syrian individuals and businesses in hope of pressuring the regime there to halt its deadly crackdown on anti-government protests.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the two issues are related, accusing Iran of supporting the violence in Syria. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates Sryian President Bashar Assad’s regime has killed more than 4,000 people over the past several months.

“There is a link between what is happening in Iran and what is happening in Syria,” Hague said.

In Iran, EU sanctions were imposed on 37 people and 143 “entities” – companies or organizations. The sanctions include a freeze on assets held in the European Union and a ban on traveling to EU countries.

The full list of names of those targeted will not be known until they are published in the official journal of the EU on Friday. But the official conclusions of the meeting said they include the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Line and members of, and entities controlled by, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said that Greece, which relies on Iranian oil, had objected to a ban on buying it. But he said work toward an embargo would continue.

“Greece has put forward a number of reservations,” Juppe said. “We have to take that into account. We have to see with our partners that the cuts can be compensated by the increase of production in other countries. It is very possible.”

Iran has denied it is pursuing nuclear weapons. The attack on the British embassy is believed to have begun as a state-approved protest over Western sanctions linked to the country’s nuclear program.

Britain pulled its diplomats out of Iran after its embassy was stormed. Germany, France and the Netherlands have recalled their ambassadors in solidarity.

With regard to Syria, the EU foreign ministers imposed sanctions on 12 people and 11 entities, adding to the list of those previously sanctioned by the EU. The bloc is working with the Arab League to halt the violence, and the league’s chief, Nabil Elaraby, attended Thursday’s meeting.

A statement from the foreign ministers said the crackdown by the Syrian government “risks taking Syria down a very dangerous path of violence, sectarian clashes and militarization.”

Britain orders Iran’s diplomats to leave UK

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Mehdi Marizad

LONDON (AP) — Britain ordered all Iranian diplomats out of the U.K. within 48 hours and shuttered its ransacked embassy in Tehran on Wednesday, in a significant escalation of tensions between Iran and the West.

The ouster of the entire Iranian diplomatic corps deepens Iran’s international isolation amid growing suspicions over its nuclear program. At least four other European countries also moved to reduce diplomatic contacts with Iran.

The British measures were announced by Foreign Secretary William Hague, who said Britain had withdrawn its entire diplomatic staff after angry mobs stormed the British Embassy compound and a diplomatic residence in Tehran, hauling down Union Jack flags, torching a vehicle and tossing looted documents through windows.

The hours-long assault Tuesday was reminiscent of the chaotic seizure of the U.S. Embassy in 1979. Protesters replaced the British flag with a banner in the name of a 7th-century Shiite saint, Imam Hussein, and one looter showed off a picture of Queen Elizabeth II apparently taken off a wall.

“The idea that the Iranian authorities could not have protected our embassy or that this assault could have taken place without some degree of regime consent is fanciful,” Hague told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

The diplomatic fallout from the attack quickly spread to other Western countries with embassies in Iran. Norway announced it was temporarily closing its embassy as a precaution, and Germany, France and the Netherlands all recalled their ambassadors for consultations. Italy said it was considering such a recall.

Iran currently has 18 diplomats in Britain. About 24 British Embassy staff and dependents were based in Tehran.

The White House condemned the attacks and spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. backed Britain’s ejection of Iranian diplomats.

European Union foreign ministers were to meet Thursday to consider possible new sanctions against Tehran.

France’s budget minister, Valerie Pecresse, said the EU should consider a total embargo on Iranian oil or a freeze on Iranian central bank holdings. British officials said the U.K. would likely support new measures against Iran’s energy sector.

Muslim Brotherhood’s machine helps in Egypt vote

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Bela Szandelszky

CAIRO (AP) — First-time voter Hassan Abdel-Hamid had no idea who to vote for in Egypt’s first parliamentary elections since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, so he followed the guidance of the friendly activist from the Muslim Brotherhood who handed him a flyer outside the polling station.

The fundamentalist Brotherhood was emerging as the biggest winner in partial results Wednesday from the first voting this week in Egypt’s landmark election in which voters turned out in unexpected droves.

That strength is not necessarily testimony to widespread Egyptian support for its Islamist ideology. More crucial were two other major factors: the Brotherhood’s history of helping the poor and a highly disciplined organization of activists, who on the two days of voting seemed to be everywhere.

Outside polling stations around the country, Brotherhood activists were set up with laptop computers in booths, helping voters find their district and voter numbers – which they wrote on cards advertising the party’s candidates. Elsewhere, they posted activists outside to wave banners, pass out flyers or simply chat up voters waiting in line.

And in a marked change from previous elections, when Brotherhood members running as independents touted their Islamic credentials, this time their campaign focused on promises to improve services, to appeal to poor voters.

“Do you think any of these guys prays when it’s not a holiday?” said Yasser Dawahi, pointing to four friends hanging out in his auto garage in the poor Cairo neighborhood of Zawiya al-Hamra before the vote. All said they’d vote for the Brotherhood.

“It’s all about services, clean streets, jobs and hospitals. That’s what’s important,” he said.

For decades, the Mubarak regime suppressed the Brotherhood, which was banned but still established a vast network of activists and charities offering free food and medical services. It transformed this into a potent campaign machine, holding rallies and wallpapering neighborhoods with banners for its Freedom and Justice Party. After voting closed in the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria on Tuesday night, Brothers even lined up to protect the road while ballot boxes were moved to the counting center.

During the voting Monday and Tuesday, many parties violated a legal ban on campaigning during elections, but the Brotherhood’s operation was by far the slickest and most widespread. The campaigning at the polls is particularly effective because so many parties are new and most Egyptians know almost nothing about them.

Abdel-Hamid, the first time voter, said he received the flyer telling him how to vote from “the guys with the computer.”

They sat across the street in front of a huge Freedom and Justice Party banner, punching voters’ ID numbers into their computer to get their voter numbers and make sure they were in the right place.

One of them, 25-year-old Essam Ahmed, acknowledged he was a party activist, but denied the group was campaigning. “Here I’m just a volunteer for all citizens,” he said.

Shortly after an Associated Press reporters arrived, the men took down the party banner and wrote voter information on plain white paper instead of party brochures.

The election is likely to be the best indicator of Egyptians’ political sentiments after decades of elections under Mubarak that were so rigged that few people even bothered to vote. The parliament it seats will play a role in determining if Egypt’s new government remains secular or moves in a profoundly Islamist direction.

The Obama administration on Wednesday hailed the vote as Egypt’s freest and fairest ever. This week’s voting took place in nine of Egypt’s 27 provinces, including the capital Cairo. In subsequent rounds, other provinces will take their turn in a process that will last till March.

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World’s central banks act to ease market strains

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Michael Probst

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The central banks of the wealthiest countries, trying to prevent a debt crisis in Europe from exploding into a global panic, swept in Wednesday to shore up the world financial system by making it easier for banks to borrow American dollars.

Stock markets around the world roared their approval. The Dow Jones industrial average rose almost 500 points, its best day in two and a half years. Stocks climbed 5 percent in Germany and more than 4 percent in France.

The action appeared to be the most extraordinary coordinated effort by the central banks since they cut interest rates together in October 2008, at the depths of the financial crisis.

But while it should ease borrowing for banks, it does little to solve the underlying problem of mountains of government debt in Europe, leaving markets still waiting for a permanent fix. European leaders gather next week for a summit on the debt crisis.

The European Central Bank, which has been reluctant to intervene to stop the growing crisis on its own continent, was joined in the decision by the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England and the central banks of Canada, Japan and Switzerland.

“The purpose of these actions is to ease strains in financial markets and thereby mitigate the effects of such strains on the supply of credit to households and businesses and so help foster economic activity,” the central banks said in a joint statement.

China, which has the largest economy in the world after the European Union and the United States, reduced the amount of money its banks are required to hold in reserve, another attempt to free up cash for lending.

The display of worldwide coordination was meant to restore confidence in the global financial system and to demonstrate that central banks will do what they can to prevent a repeat of 2008.

That fall, fear gripped the financial system after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a storied American investment house. Banks around the world severely restricted lending to each other. Investors panicked, resulting in a meltdown in stocks.

In October 2008, the ECB, the Fed and other central banks cut interest rates together. That action, like Wednesday’s, was a signal from the central banks to the financial markets that they would be players, not spectators.

This year, investors have been nervously watching Europe to see whether they should take the same approach and dump stocks. World stock markets have been unusually volatile since summer.

The European crisis, which six months ago seemed focused on the relatively small economy of Greece, now threatens the existence of the euro, the common currency used by 17 countries in Europe.

There have also been signs, particularly in Europe, that it is becoming more difficult to borrow money, especially as U.S. money market funds lend less money to banks in the euro nations because of perceived risk from the debt crisis.

European banks cut business loans by 16 percent in the third quarter. And no one knows how much European banks will lose on their massive holdings of bonds of heavily indebted countries. Until the damage is clear, banks are reluctant to lend.

Banks are also being pressed by European governments to increase their buffers against possible losses. That helps stabilize the banking system but reduces the amount of money available to lend to businesses.

“European banks are having trouble borrowing in general, including in dollars,” said Joseph Gagnon, a former Fed official and a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “The Fed did the Europeans a favor.”

The central banks are reducing by half a percentage point – to about 0.6 percent – the rate they charge banks for short-term dollar loans. The lower rate is designed to get credit flowing again. Dollars are the No. 1 currency for international trade.

The Fed had offered dollar swaps from December 2007, when world financial markets were weakening because of fear about subprime mortgages, until February 2010. It reopened the program in May 2010, as European debt concerns grew, and planned to end it Aug. 1, 2012.

Wednesday, in addition to lowering the interest rate on dollars borrowed, the Fed extended the program to Feb. 1, 2013. If it works, the rates on dollar loans will drop, and stock and bond markets will calm down.

“It shows that policymakers are on the case,” said Roberto Perli, managing director at the International Strategy & Investment Group, an investment firm. He said it has symbolic value even if it does not have a big impact on credit markets.

The decision to cut the interest charged on the dollar swaps was taken by the Federal Reserve following a videoconference held by Fed officials on Monday morning. The Fed’s policy-setting panel approved it 9-1. The president of the Fed’s regional bank in Richmond, Va., voted no.

In New York, the stock market jumped at the opening bell and added to its gains throughout the day. It finished up 490.05 points, its best day since March 23, 2009, two weeks after the stock market’s post-meltdown low.

Morocco’s Arab Spring election won by Islamists

Sunday, November 27th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar

RABAT, Morocco (AP) — The victory of an Islamist Party in Morocco’s parliamentary elections appears to be one more sign that religious-based parties are benefiting the most from the new freedoms brought by the Arab Spring.

Across the Middle East, parties referencing Islam have made great strides, offering an alternative to corrupt, long serving dictators, who have often ruled with close Western support.

The Justice and Development Party dominated Morocco’s elections through a combination of good organization, an outsider status and not being too much of a threat to Morocco’s all-powerful king.

By taking 107 seats out of the 395 seats, almost twice as many as the second place finisher, the party ensured that King Mohammed VI must pick the next prime minister from its ranks and to form the next government out of the dozen parties in Morocco’s parliament.

It is the first time the PJD – as it is known by its French initials – will be part of the government and its outsider status could be just what Morocco, wracked by pro-democracy protests, needs.

Although it didn’t bring down the government, the North African kingdom of 32 million, just across the water from Spain, was still touched by the waves of unrest that swept the Arab world following the revolution in Tunisia, with tens of thousands marching in the streets calling for greater freedoms and less corruption.

The king responded by modifying the constitution to give the next parliament and prime minister more powers, and held early elections.

But there was still a vigorous movement to boycott the elections. There was only a 45 percent turnout in Friday’s polls, and many of those who went to vote turned in blank ballots or crossed out every party listed to show their dissatisfaction with the system.

Election observers from the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute estimated that up to a fifth of the ballots they saw counted had been defaced in such a way.

In the face of such widespread distrust of politics, historian and political analyst Maati Monjib said a government led by a new political force could be the answer.

“If the PJD forms a coalition in a free and independent way and not with a party of the Makhzen,” he said referring to the catch-all phrase for the entrenched establishment around the king, “this will be a big step forward for Morocco.”

In Tunisia, Morocco, and on Monday most likely also Egypt, newly enfranchised populations are choosing religious parties as a rebuke to the old systems, which often espoused liberal or left-wing ideologies.

“The people link Islam and political dignity,” said Monjib, who describes himself as coming from the left end of the political spectrum. “There is a big problem of dignity in the Arab world and the people see the Islamists as a way of getting out of the sense of subjugation and inferiority towards the West.”

Italians want to cut debt but without sacrifices

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Luca Bruno

ROME (AP) — Ninety-three percent of Italians believe cutting the country’s hobbling public debt is a top priority, but few are willing to make personal sacrifices to do so, according to an AP-GfK poll released Tuesday.

Only about a quarter of Italians favor reforming labor laws to make it easier to fire workers, or raising the retirement age from 65 (and sometimes lower) to 67 – two of the reforms considered critical to curb Italy’s public spending and boost economic growth.

But while the European Union is demanding such reforms, 52 percent of Italians still have a favorable view of the EU, and a full 76 percent think Italy should stay in the 17-nation eurozone, according to the survey, conducted last week.

Italy has been engulfed in financial turmoil for weeks as markets woke up to the enormous size of its debt – euro1.9 trillion ($2.6 trillion), a eurozone high coming in at 120 percent of gross domestic product. The market turmoil and a loss of confidence in Italy’s ability to repay forced Premier Silvio Berlusconi to resign Nov. 12, ending his 17-year domination of Italian politics.

The AP-GfK poll was conducted Nov. 16-20, during the first days of economist Mario Monti’s new government, made up of bankers, academics and corporate executives instead of politicians. Monti is under enormous pressure to quickly rein in the debt and get the economy growing again.

Italy’s economy is hampered by high labor costs, low productivity, fat government payrolls, excessive taxes, choking bureaucracy, and low numbers of college graduates. Yet as the third-largest economy in the eurozone, Italy is too big for Europe to bail out like it did Greece, Portugal and Ireland.

Monti got high marks from the Italians surveyed after he was tapped to lead the country, garnering a 67 percent favorability rating. Only 10 percent had a negative view and 16 percent were neutral.

“Let’s say there’s hope,” said Fortunato Porcheddu, 63, as he strolled Tuesday with a friend through a piazza in Rome. “If I close my eyes and look back over the past 15 years and everything that has happened, I cringe.”

Monti has pledged to reform Italy’s pension system, re-impose a property tax annulled by Berlusconi’s government, fight tax evasion, streamline civil court proceedings, get more women and young people into the workforce and cut political costs.

But, critically, only 32 percent of Italians surveyed are strongly confident that his technocratic government can fix the country’s economic ills. Forty-two percent say they’re “moderately confident” and 22 percent say they have little or no confidence he can turn Italy’s finances around.

While there is some hopefulness about the future of the economy – 55 percent anticipate a better situation five years from now – the longer-term picture is gloomier. Only 35 percent of Italians think people will be better off in 20 years than they are today, while 43 percent anticipate a harder life for the next generation.

“Our generation always looked forward with the possibility of improvement,” said Alfonso Marozzi, 72, as he strolled in Rome. “Now, young people are resigned to wonder if they’ll be able to hold onto what their parents were able to build. There’s a lack of hope in the future.”

The survey found that Italians are especially concerned about corruption: 87 percent called it an “extremely” or “very serious” problem. Unemployment, the debt and organized crime followed.

A full 93 percent of Italians said reducing the public debt was either an “extremely” or “very important” goal for the government to tackle over the next decade. Only 2 percent said it was “not too important” or “not at all important.”

Yet only 26 percent of those surveyed favored raising the retirement age to 67 to help cut spending, while 67 percent were opposed. Parliament recently passed legislation raising the retirement age to 67 starting in 2026 and to 70 by 2050, but critics say the reforms are meaningless because any savings they produce are too far in the future.

Monti is expected to seek more reforms to the pension system and to try to make the contribution system more equitable.

Italian politicians have made few efforts to reform the labor market, and the AP-Gfk poll shows why. Seventy percent of respondents opposed deregulating the labor market to make it easier to fire workers, with only 22 percent favoring it. Of the 70 percent opposed, a full 56 percent were “strongly opposed.”

Ultimately, labor market reforms are likely to be much broader than just changes involving firing. Monti’s government is expected to open up “closed professions,” such as lawyers, notaries and taxi drivers, which in some cases restrict entry to people with connections or set standard prices that deprive the market of competition.

Monti also plans to loosen Italy’s system of collective bargaining, in which unions negotiate with entire industries rather than individual companies. Italy’s biggest carmaker, Fiat, told unions Monday that it is tossing out the old model as of Jan. 1 and will seek to negotiate new contracts plant by plant – something it has already done in four locations.

Raj Badiani, an economist at IHS Global Insight in London, said Fiat “is probably the forerunner of what we need to see.” But he cautioned: “Trade union opposition to that will be immense.”

Unions have balked at any labor market reforms, and so far the austerity measures that have been passed by Parliament haven’t touched the thorny issue.

Still, the AP-GfK survey found that labor unions in general get broadly negative ratings from Italians, with 53 percent of respondents saying they “only sometimes” or “never” trust unions to do the right thing.

Only 20 percent of Italians surveyed had a favorable opinion of Berlusconi, with 67 percent having an unfavorable view and 56 having a “strongly unfavorable” impression of the billionaire media mogul.

After Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, the leader with the most favorable ratings? President Barack Obama, with a 78 percent favorability rating.

Armando Manni, a 50-year-old who tends olive groves in Tuscany, said young Italians have to become more like their Anglo-Saxon colleagues and leave home to pursue their dreams rather than stay where their mothers cook, clean and wash their clothes until they’re well past age 40.

“A country that doesn’t have dreams is a country that is almost dead,” he said as he shopped for tomatoes.

The AP-GfK poll of 1,025 Italian adults across the country was conducted Nov. 16-20 using landlines and cell phones by GfK Eurisko Italy under direction of the global GfK Group. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

AP Poll is at http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

Jennifer Agiesta in Washington, Paolo Santalucia in Rome and Colleen Barry in Milan contributed.

Egypt police clash with protesters ahead of vote

Saturday, November 19th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian riot police firing tear gas and rubber bullets stormed into Cairo’s Tahrir Square Saturday to dismantle a protest tent camp, setting off clashes that injured at least 507 people and raising tensions days before the first elections since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

The scenes of protesters fighting with black-clad police forces were reminiscent of the 18-day uprising that forced an end to Mubarak’s rule in February. Hundreds of protesters fought back, hurling stones and setting an armored police vehicle ablaze.

The violence raised fears of new unrest surrounding the parliamentary elections that are due to begin in nine days’ time. Public anger has risen over the slow pace of reforms and apparent attempts by Egypt’s ruling generals to retain power over a future civilian government.

Witnesses said the clashes began when riot police dismantled a small tent camp set up to commemorate the hundreds of protesters killed in the uprising and attacked around 200 peaceful demonstrators who had camped in the square overnight in an attempt to restart a long-term sit-in there.

“Violence breeds violence,” said Sahar Abdel-Mohsen, an engineer who joined in the protest after a call went out on Twitter urging people to come to Tahrir to defend against the police attacks. “We are tired of this and we are not leaving the square.”

Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas and beat protesters with batons, clearing the square at one point and pushing the fighting into surrounding side streets of downtown Cairo. State TV, quoting the Health Ministry, reported that 507 people were injured, including 19 policemen.

Abdel-Mohsen said a friend was wounded by a rubber bullet that struck his head and that she saw another protester wounded by a pellet in his neck.

Crowds swarmed an armored police truck, rocking it back and forth and setting it ablaze. Black smoke rose over the crowd.

After nightfall, protesters swarmed back into the square in the thousands, setting tires ablaze in the street and filling the area with an acrid, black smoke screen. Police appeared to retreat to surrounding areas, leaving protesters free to retake and barricade themselves inside the square. The air was still thick with stinging tear gas.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf urged the protesters to clear the square.

Saturday’s confrontation was one of the few since the uprising to involve police forces, which have largely stayed in the background while the military takes charge of security. There was no military presence in and around the square on Saturday.

The black-clad police were a hated symbol of Mubarak’s regime.

Russian military chief warns of nuclear war risks

Thursday, November 17th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is facing a heightened risk of being drawn into conflicts at its borders that have the potential of turning nuclear, the nation’s top military officer said Thursday.

Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, cautioned over NATO’s expansion eastward and warned that the risks of Russia being pulled into local conflicts have “risen sharply.”

Makarov added, according to Russian news agencies, that “under certain conditions local and regional conflicts may develop into a full-scale war involving nuclear weapons.”

A steady decline in Russia’s conventional forces has prompted the Kremlin to rely increasingly on its nuclear deterrent.

The nation’s military doctrine says it may use nuclear weapons to counter a nuclear attack on Russia or an ally, or a large-scale conventional attack that threatens Russia’s existence.

Russia sees NATO’s expansion to include former Soviet republics and ex-members of the Soviet bloc in eastern and central Europe as a key threat to Russia’s security.

Makarov specifically referred to NATO’s plans to offer membership to Georgia and Ukraine as potentially threatening Russia’s security. Russia routed Georgian forces in a brief August 2008 war over a separatist province of South Ossetia. Moscow later recognized South Ossettia and another breakaway Georgian province of Abkhazia as independent states and increased its military presence there.

Makarov warned that the planned pullout of NATO forces from Afghanistan could trigger conflicts in neighboring ex-Soviet Central Asian nations that could “grow into a large-scale war.”

Pakistani ambassador to US caught in controversy

Thursday, November 17th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/B.K. Bangash

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani government said Thursday that it has not decided whether to accept a resignation offer from its ambassador to the U.S. over a reported attempt to enlist Washington’s help to rein in the country’s military after the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The government has summoned Ambassador Husain Haqqani to Islamabad to question him about any role he may have played in the growing controversy, which was first disclosed in an Oct. 10 column in the Financial Times, said Farhatullah Babar, a Pakistani presidential spokesman.

Mansoor Ijaz, a U.S. citizen of Pakistani origin, said in the column that a senior Pakistani diplomat asked him on May 9 – a week after U.S. commandos killed bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town – to pass a message from President Asif Ali Zardari to the U.S. asking for help. Ijaz did not name the diplomat.

Zardari was reportedly worried that the U.S. raid had so humiliated his government, which did not know about it beforehand, that the military may stage a coup – something that has happened repeatedly in Pakistan’s history, said Ijaz.

The memo sent to Adm. Mike Mullen, the top U.S. military officer at the time, reportedly offered to curb support to Islamist militants from Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the ISI, in exchange for American assistance, Ijaz said.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry has called the Financial Times column “a total fabrication.”

But Mullen’s spokesman, Capt. John Kirby, confirmed to Foreign Policy’s website Wednesday that Mullen did receive the memo from Ijaz, but he did not find it credible and ignored it. “Adm. Mullen had no recollection of the memo and no relationship with Mr. Ijaz,” Kirby said.

Haqqani said Thursday that he did not write or deliver the memo, but offered his resignation to end the controversy.

“I do not want this non-issue of an insignificant memo written by a private individual and not considered credible by its lone recipient to undermine democracy,” Haqqani told The Associated Press.

Ahmadinejad: Iran won’t retreat from nuclear path

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Ebrahim Seyyedi

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Wednesday that Iran won’t retreat “one iota” from its nuclear program, denying claims that it seeks atomic weapons. Key ally Russia gave the Islamic Republic a major boost, rejecting tighter sanctions despite a U.N. watchdog report detailing suspected arms-related advances.

In his first reaction to the report, Ahmadinejad strongly chided the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency – a day after it claimed Tehran was on the brink of developing a nuclear weapon – saying the IAEA is discrediting itself by siding with “absurd” U.S. accusations.

The comments, broadcast live on state TV, were a sharp rebuke to Western warnings that Iran appears to be engaged in a dangerous defiance of international demands to control the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambitions.

Russians desperately try to save Mars moon probe

Wednesday, November 9th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian space probe aiming to land on a Mars moon was stuck circling the Earth after equipment failure Wednesday, and scientists raced to fire up its engines before the whole thing came crashing down.

One U.S. space expert said the craft could become the most dangerous manmade object ever to hit the planet.

The unmanned Phobos-Ground craft was successfully launched by a Zenit-2 booster rocket just after midnight Moscow time Wednesday (2016 GMT Tuesday) from the Russian-leased Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. It separated from the booster about 11 minutes later and was to fire its engines twice to set out on its path to the Red Planet, but never did.

Russia’s Federal Space Agency chief Vladimir Popovkin said neither of the two engine burns worked, probably due to the failure of the craft’s orientation system. He said space engineers have three days to reset the spacecraft’s computer program to make it work before its batteries die.

The mishap is the latest in a series of recent launch failures that have raised concerns about the condition of Russia’s space industries. The Russian space agency said it will establish its own quality inspection teams at rocket factories to tighten oversight over production quality.

The $170 million Phobos-Ground was Russia’s first interplanetary mission since a botched 1996 robotic mission to Mars, which failed when the probe crashed shortly after the launch due to an engine failure. Mars has two moons, Phobos and Deimos, and the latest spacecraft aimed to take ground samples on Phobos.

UN’s Ban: Palestinians should defer agency bids

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere

CANNES, France (AP) — Palestinian efforts to join U.N. agencies beyond its cultural arm are “not beneficial for anybody” and could lead to cuts in funding sure to affect millions of people, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon warned Thursday.

In an Associated Press interview, the U.N. chief reiterated the world body’s support for a viable, independent Palestinian state – but lamented the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to join U.N. affiliates before the U.N. itself.

Ban also expressed hope for greater participation of women and youths in Libya’s future government, and praised a new Arab League deal with Syria aiming to end President Bashar Assad’s bloody crackdown on protesters.

Potential funding woes for U.N. agencies were high in Ban’s mind.

Cuba legalizes sale, purchase of private property

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba announced Thursday it will allow real estate to be bought and sold for the first time since the early days of the revolution, the most important reform yet in a series of free-market changes under President Raul Castro.

The law, which takes effect Nov. 10, applies to citizens living in Cuba and permanent residents only, according to a red-letter headline on the front page of Thursday’s Communist Party daily Granma and details published in the government’s Official Gazette.

The law limits Cubans to owning one home in the city and another in the country, an effort to prevent the accumulation of large real estate holdings. It requires that all real estate transactions be made through Cuban bank accounts so that they can be better regulated, and says the transactions will be subject to bank commissions.

Sales will also be subject to an 8 percent tax on the assessed value of the property, paid equally by buyer and seller. In the case where Cubans exchange homes of equal value in a barter agreement, each side will pay 4 percent of the value of their home.

“This is a very big step forward. With this action the state is granting property rights that didn’t exist before,” said Philip J. Peters, a Cuba analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Virginia. “If you think about it from the point of view of a Cuban family, it converts their house from a place to live into a source of wealth or a source of collateral. It’s an asset that can now be made liquid.”

While the Gazette was available online, few Cubans have access to the Internet and most were waiting for the booklet to go on sale at kiosks around the country. A handwritten sign posted at Havana’s main distribution center Thursday advised that the law booklet was not yet on sale.

Greek referendum call pummels markets

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Koji Sasahara

LONDON (AP) — Markets plunged Tuesday on fears that Europe’s plan to save the euro was already unraveling after the decision by Greece’s leader to call a referendum on the country’s latest rescue package.

Should the Greek government lose the referendum vote – and opinion polls say it’s going to have real trouble getting enough support – then the implications for Greece and Europe are massive. The vote could end up deciding whether Greece remains in the 17-nation euro currency union.

Markets, it seems, are taking the view that Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou won’t be able to pull off a come-from-behind victory – assuming that his government holds together. Papandreou saw his parliamentary majority cut to 2 seats Tuesday after one lawmaker defected, and at least seven more Socialist deputies have called for the formation of a cross-party, national unity government.

“Talk about your all-time bonehead moves,” said Benjamin Reitzes, an analyst at BMO Capital Markets. “It would reintroduce the risk that Greece could face a disorderly default and potentially be forced to leave the euro.”

Papandreou stunned investors, as well as his own citizens and his partners in the eurozone, by announcing late Monday that a plebiscite will be held in what he called “a supreme act of democracy and of patriotism for the people to make their own decision.” A confidence vote in the Socialist government will also take place at the end of this week.

The announcement came as the shine from last week’s European deal appeared to be wearing off.

5 killed, dozens hurt in Somalia after airstrike

Monday, October 31st, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — An air strike hit a refugee camp in southern Somalia, killing at least five people and wounding 45, most of them children, an international aid agency said Monday. Kenya’s military acknowledged carrying out an air raid but said it targeted only Islamist militants.

Details emerged, meanwhile, about an American-Somali man who al-Shabab said carried out a suicide attack against an African Union base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Saturday. Abdisalan Hussein Ali was 19 at the time he disappeared from Minnesota, which has a large Somali-American community, in November 2008.

In July 2010, he was among several men indicted in a long-running investigation in Minnesota. Charges against him included conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization and conspiracy to kill, maim, kidnap and injure. The U.S. hasn’t yet confirmed the identity of the bomber. FBI spokesman Kyle Loven in Minneapolis said the agency is using DNA to try to make a positive identification.

A Somali Islamist militant group used the casualties from the Kenyan air strike as a recruitment tool to try to win even more recruits. Kenyan military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, though, blamed an al-Shabab fighter for the civilian deaths, saying an al-Shabab fighter drove a burning truck of ammunition into the refugee camp in the town of Jilib where it exploded.

Chirchir said the Kenyan air force hit the truck on Sunday as it drove away from an al-Shabab training camp and accused the driver of attempting to use the refugees as a human shield. He said 10 al-Shabab members were killed and 47 wounded in the attack, citing informers on the ground.

But Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medicines Sans Frontieres or MSF, said the aerial bombardment hit the camp for displaced people. MSF said it treated 52 wounded people. As of Monday morning, MSF confirmed five deaths and said it was still treating 45 wounded, 31 of them children. Seven other patients had been discharged after receiving treatment. The head of the MSF mission in Somalia, Gautam Chatterjee, said most of the wounded had shrapnel injuries.

2-week old baby rescued after Turkish quake

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo

ERCIS, Turkey (AP) — A 2-week-old baby girl and her mother were pulled alive from the rubble of an apartment building on Tuesday in a dramatic rescue, nearly 48 hours after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake toppled some 2,000 buildings in eastern Turkey.

Television footage showed rescuers in orange jumpsuits applauding as the baby, Azra Karaduman, was removed from the wreckage. A rescuer cradled the naked infant, who was wrapped in a blanket and handed over to a medic.

Hours later, the baby’s mother, Semiha, was pulled from the flattened building, where she had been pinned next to a sofa, and rushed to an ambulance. The father was also in the rubble, but it was unclear if he survived.

Greek PM calls for unity as EU seeks debt solution

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Prime Minister George Papandreou called for unity across Greece’s political spectrum Tuesday, as European officials struggled to come up with a definitive solution to Greece’s debt woes and prevent it from dragging down other EU nations.

A barrage of meetings among European finance ministers leaders is to culminate in a Wednesday summit where leaders are expected to shore up the eurozone bailout fund to contain the continental debt turmoil and prevent the nation from a catastrophic default.

Eurozone governments hope the enhanced European Financial Stability Fund, or EFSF, will be able to protect larger countries such as Italy and Spain from being engulfed in the debt crisis.

“This is a critical time and I hope that we reach decisions tomorrow – that is the will of our partners, and it is our will,” Papandreou said as he briefed Greece’s president, Karolos Papoulias, on the latest developments. “We must remain clear-headed and calm with a sense of unity on all sides and all political parties.”

The prime minister, who stressed that banks must also share part of the burden of bailing out Greece, urged his European counterparts to act, saying Greece was determined to follow through on pledges to reform its economy.

“We Greeks have demonstrated repeatedly, not only that we fulfill our obligations but that we ourselves want to change our country,” he said. “Now is the hour for Europe to take the decision needed to stop this escalating crisis, which is creating insecurity for all the people of Europe.”

Official: Gadhafi’s son nearing Niger border

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — Moammar Gadhafi’s son and one-time heir apparent is now believed to be heading toward Niger, a desert nation just south of Libya where his brother and dozens of Gadhafi loyalists already have sought refuge, a government official said Tuesday.

Rissa ag Boula, an adviser to Niger’s president and an elected member of the regional council of the northern Nigerien town of Agadez, spoke to The Associated Press by telephone. He said he was in touch with the ethnic Tuaregs who are helping guide Seif al-Islam Gadhafi across the ocean of dunes that mark the path from Libya to next-door Algeria and finally to Niger.

Israel approves 1,100 new homes in east Jerusalem

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel granted the go-ahead on Tuesday for construction of 1,100 new Jewish housing units in east Jerusalem, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ruled out any freeze in settlement construction, raising already heightened tensions after last week’s Palestinian move to seek U.N. membership.

Israel’s Interior Ministry said the homes would be built in Gilo, a sprawling Jewish enclave in southeast Jerusalem. It said construction could begin after a mandatory 60-day period for public comment, a process that spokesman Roi Lachmanovich called a formality.

The announcement drew swift condemnation from the Palestinians, who claim east Jerusalem as their future capital. The United States, European Union and United Nations all expressed disappointment with Israel’s decision.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the Israeli announcement was counterproductive to efforts to relaunch Mideast peace talks. She said both Israel and the Palestinians should avoid provocative actions, and that international mediators will remain focused on guiding the two sides back to direct negotiations.

Richard Miron, a spokesman for U.N. Mideast envoy Robert Serry, said the announcement “sends the wrong signal at this sensitive time.”

The Palestinians have demanded that Israel halt all settlement construction in east Jerusalem and the adjacent West Bank – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war – as a condition for resuming peace talks.

Since capturing east Jerusalem, Israel has annexed the area and ringed it with about 10 Jewish enclaves that are meant to solidify its control. Gilo, which is close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, is among the largest, with about 50,000 residents. Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem has not been internationally recognized.

Meir Margalit, a Jerusalem city council member who is critical of east Jerusalem construction, said city officials had given initial approval to the Gilo project more than a year ago.

Margalit said he didn’t expect the project to be “an obstacle of peace” since it is in an existing Jewish area that is widely expected to remain part of Israel in any peace deal. But he said Interior Minister Eli Yishai, leader of the hawkish Shas Party, appeared to have timed the approval as a response to the Palestinian statehood gambit. Yishai declined an interview request.

UK sailor guilty of nuclear submarine killing

Monday, September 19th, 2011

LONDON (AP) — A Royal Navy sailor who murdered an officer and injured three other crewmen in a drunken shooting spree aboard a British nuclear-powered submarine was sentenced Monday to at least 25 years in jail.

Able Seaman Ryan Donovan admitted in Winchester Crown Court that he killed Lt. Cmdr. Ian Molyneux, the weapons engineer on the HMS Astute, while the submarine was docked in Southampton, southern England, on an April goodwill visit to the port city.

The 23-year-old carried out the attack after being reprimanded for not completing his cleaning duties, telling a colleague as he reported for duty April 8 that he was going to kill someone, the prosecution said. He was not mentally ill, but had been unhappy in his job and did not handle stress well, his defense said.

In resurgence of Yemen violence, 50 dead in 2 days

Monday, September 19th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Thousands of protesters armed with sticks and backed by armed military defectors overran a base of the elite Presidential Guards in Yemen’s capital as fighting erupted across much of Sanaa on Monday. The death toll for the worst violence in months rose to nearly 50 in two days of clashes.

The protesters, joined by soldiers from the rebel 1st Armored Division, stormed the base without firing a single shot and seized a large number of firearms, according to witnesses and security officials. The anti-government force used sandbags to erect barricades as they advanced, providing their allied troops with the shelter they needed in case they took fire from inside the base. Republican Guards’ troops did not fire at the protesters and eventually fled, leaving their weapons behind.

Violence has flared anew in Yemen in frustration after President Ali Abdullah Saleh dashed hopes raised by the U.S. last week that he was about to relinquish power after 33 years of autocratic rule.

Palestinian leader says nothing can stop UN bid

Monday, September 19th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/David Karp

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he won’t be deterred from seeking U.N. recognition of a state of Palestine, despite what he said was “tremendous pressure” to drop the request and instead resume peace talks with Israel.

Abbas spoke to reporters en route to New York, where he is to seek U.N. membership for “Palestine” in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast War. The U.S. and Israel oppose Abbas’ bid, saying a state can be established only through negotiations.

Abbas has said that negotiations remain his preference, but that they must be based on the pre-1967 war lines and include a halt of all Israeli settlement construction on occupied land.

Cuba hits back at Richardson over failed visit

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Javier Galeano

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba accused former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson of “blackmail” and slander on Wednesday, categorically denying his claims that he was invited to the island to negotiate the release of a jailed American government subcontractor.

In an exclusive interview with the Associated Press, the Foreign Ministry’s head of North American affairs, Josefina Vidal, said Cuba closed the door on Richardson’s request to even see imprisoned Maryland-native Alan Gross only after the American politician described him as a “hostage,” in an interview with AP.

“His request to see the prisoner … became impossible due to his slanderous statements to the press in which he described Gross as a ‘hostage’ of the Cuban government,” Vidal said. Richardson made the comment last Thursday after he said his demand to see Gross was rebuffed.

But Vidal said Cuba was already unhappy that word of Richardson’s visit was leaked to the press even before it had begun.

“Even before he had met with a single Cuban official the media fallout and the speculation had begun,” she said. Vidal insisted that no Cuban official ever led Richardson to believe he would leave the island with Gross.

Italy gives final approval to austerity plan

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Angelo Carconi

ROME (AP) — Italy’s Parliament gave final approval to Premier Silvio Berlusconi’s government’s austerity measures, a combination of higher taxes, pension reform and slashed spending that sparked street protests in Rome.

The Chamber of Deputies passed the package by a vote of 314-300. The Senate, Parliament’s upper chamber, already approved the measures.

Hundreds of demonstrators, some unleashing smoke bombs and others hurling paint, clashed with police in riot gear in the cobblestone squares and streets near Parliament as lawmakers were voting on the measures designed to fend off a financial crisis threatening much of Europe.

Earlier in the day, Berlusconi’s government, whose allies had squabbled publicly over the package, won a crucial confidence vote called to discourage debate and hasten approval. European Central Bank and European Union leaders in Brussels had pressed Rome for quick passage to calm markets roiled by a crisis that could endanger the entire 17-member eurozone.

Kenya police: Briton killed, wife kidnapped

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Armed men killed a British man and kidnapped his wife from a beach resort in northern Kenya near the border with lawless Somalia, officials in the East African nation said Sunday.

Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said Sunday that the couple arrived at the resort Saturday after visiting Kenya’s Masai Mara reserve. He said they were the resort’s only guests.

Other sources said they were staying at the Kiwayu Safari Village resort about 30 miles (about 50 kilometers) north of the island resort of Lamu.

Iteere said the attackers took the woman away by boat. He did not say where the attackers may have been from.

Israel, Egypt try to stem damage from embassy riot

Saturday, September 10th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Anonymous

CAIRO (AP) — Israel and Egypt’s leadership tried Saturday to limit the damage in ties after protesters stormed Israel’s embassy in Cairo, trashing offices and prompting the evacuation of nearly the entire staff from Egypt in the worst crisis between the countries since their 1979 peace treaty.

The 13-hour rampage deepened Israel’s fears that it is growing increasingly isolated amid the Arab world’s uprisings and, in particular, that Egypt is turning steadily against it after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the authoritarian leader who was a close ally.

In Israelis’ eyes, the scene of cars burning outside the embassy and the tale of six Israeli guards trapped inside for hours in a steel-doored safe room underscored their view that anti-Israeli sentiment in Egypt was running free after decades of being contained by Mubarak’s regime. The ousted leader’s powerful security forces never would have let a protest get near the Nile-side embassy.

Bombing outside court kills 11 in India’s capital

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Gurinder Osan

NEW DELHI (AP) — A powerful bomb hidden in a briefcase ripped through a crowd of people waiting to enter a New Delhi courthouse Wednesday, killing 11 people and wounding scores more in the deadliest attack in India’s capital in nearly three years.

An al-Qaida linked group claimed responsibility for the blast outside the High Court, though government officials said it was too early to name a suspect. The attack came despite a high alert across the city and renewed doubts about India’s ability to protect even its most important institutions despite overhauling security after the 2008 Mumbai siege.

“Have we become so vulnerable that terrorist groups can almost strike at will?” opposition lawmaker Arun Jaitley asked in Parliament.

UK: Inquiry to examine intelligence ties to Libya

Monday, September 5th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Francois Mori

LONDON (AP) — A British inquiry into the country’s pursuit of terrorism suspects will examine new allegations about cozy ties between U.K. intelligence officials and Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, Prime Minister David Cameron said Monday.

Security documents discovered after the fall of Tripoli have offered embarrassing examples of the warm relationships that British and American spies had developed with their Libyan counterparts.

The trove of files document efforts by the CIA and Britain’s overseas intelligence agency MI6 in advising Gadhafi’s regime on ending its international isolation. In return, the Western agencies won close cooperation as they hunted al-Qaida linked terrorism suspects.

Files discovered among tens of thousands of papers collected from an External Security building in Tripoli show how Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, now Libya’s rebel military commander, was targeted for rendition.

Rights chief urges probe of CIA detention centers

Monday, September 5th, 2011

BRUSSELS (AP) — Europe’s human rights chief urged Lithuania, Poland and Romania on Monday to investigate the roles their governments allegedly played in the CIA’s program of “secret detention and torture” of terrorism suspects.

“CIA rendition, detention and interrogation practices gave rise to the most serious categories of human rights violations on European soil,” said Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s rights commissioner. “The governments concerned have favored concealment and cover-up,” he said in comments emailed to The Associated Press.

Hammarberg alleges that officials in those countries lied to parliaments, made false statements to international organizations, and used judicial channels – including the invocation of state secrecy – to keep the most damaging revelations out of the public domain.

Lithuania, Poland and Romania either have, or are, investigating the issue, and none of them have admitted taking part in the CIA program.

During the past decade, hundreds of covert “extraordinary rendition” flights shuttled prisoners between CIA-run overseas prisons and the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay.

In a 2007 probe, Swiss politician Dick Marty accused 14 European governments of permitting the CIA to run detention centers or carry out rendition flights over their territories between 2002 and 2005.

A panel of the Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly is due to discuss Marty’s report and the alleged abuse of state secrecy at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday.

Although the governments involved promised to thoroughly investigate the abuses, their efforts have been halfhearted at best, Hammarberg said.

Foreigners complain of harassment by Libya rebels

Sunday, September 4th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Francois Mori

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — A Ghanaian teacher cowers in his house, certain he will be grabbed at a checkpoint because of his dark skin. Armed rebels detain 19 Ukrainian cooks and oil workers for several days on unsupported claims that they are really snipers for Moammar Gadhafi.

They’re among thousands of foreigners caught in a web of suspicion as rebel fighters pursue the remnants of Gadhafi’s forces. Gadhafi hired some foreigners as mercenaries, but many others held ordinary jobs in Libya, and the rebels who ousted the Gadhafi regime from most of Tripoli last month often seem to make little effort to tell them apart.

“How can we be snipers?” cook Maksim Shadrov asked angrily at a training center for oil workers in Tripoli where he, his wife and 17 other Ukrainians were being held.

“They are old. She is a woman. We are not snipers,” he said, pointing to some members of his group. Even a rebel commander conceded that he had no evidence to the contrary, but held them nonetheless, despite a diplomat’s efforts to free them.

Kurdish legislators push for autonomy in Turkey

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Kurdish legislators vowed Sunday to press on with a boycott of Turkey’s parliament and backed a recent declaration of autonomy in the country’s Kurd-dominated southeast. The defiant stances came as Kurdish rebels killed six people while military airstrikes targeted their hideouts.

The developments underscored the challenge facing the Islamist-oriented government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in dealing with the Kurds, even as it has taken some steps to improve relations with the long-marginalized ethnic group that makes up some 20 percent of Turkey’s 74 million people.

The European Union, which Turkey is striving to join, has pushed Erdogan’s government to grant more rights to the Kurds. But EU countries also have urged Kurdish lawmakers to distance themselves from the rebel Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which is considered a terrorist group by the U.S. and the EU.

The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in the southeast since 1984 and keeps bases in northern Iraq. In July, Kurdish lawmakers and leading activists declared autonomy for that region of Turkey.

Israeli army, settlers brace for West Bank unrest

Sunday, September 4th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

ELAZAR, West Bank (AP) — Israeli forces are seeking to prevent bloodshed when Palestinians march in support of a statehood drive this month, but they are preparing for worst-case scenarios, even authorizing West Bank settlers to shoot at Palestinians who approach their communities.

Palestinians say the rallies will be peaceful – a view shared by Israel’s own security assessments – and will steer clear of any settlements. Yet, the combustible atmosphere and the long and deadly history of Israeli-Palestinian violence are raising the specter that events might spin out of control.

For the Palestinians, the mass marches are intended to boost their campaign to get the U.N. to recognize an independent state, a strategy they are trying because negotiations aimed at bringing about a state through a peace deal with Israel have been stalled for two years.

Settlers living on land the Palestinians want for their future state have long been targets for militant attacks; likewise, some settlers have attacked Palestinian civilians. The fear among settlers now is that even unarmed crowds – if large enough – could overrun their communities.

Media organizations condemn WikiLeaks’ disclosure

Friday, September 2nd, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis

LONDON (AP) — Four of the high-profile media organizations that have collaborated with WikiLeaks on its release of secret documents on Friday condemned the group’s disclosure of its entire archive of uncensored U.S. State Department cables.

WikiLeaks announced that it had posted the last of its collection of 251,287 U.S. Embassy cables, a trove of diplomatic material whose exposure has embarrassed officials and laid bare examples of corruption and double-dealing around the globe.

But unlike previous releases, many if not all the newly-posted documents appeared to have been left uncensored – meaning that names and other details of people quoted in the often-sensitive cables are now freely available to all.

A joint statement published on the Guardian’s website Friday said that the British publication and its international colleagues – The New York Times, Spanish daily El Pais and German newspaper Der Spiegel – “deplore the decision of WikiLeaks to publish the unredacted State Department cables, which may put sources at risk.”

Le Monde, the French daily which also published some of WikiLeaks’ documents, will join other media partners in signing the statement, according to executive editor Sylvie Kauffmann.

WikiLeaks members of staff have not returned repeated requests for comment sent in the past two days. But in a series of messages posted to Twitter, the group seemed to suggest that it had no choice but to post the archive to its website because copies of the document were already circulating freely online following a security breach at the site.

WikiLeaks has blamed the Guardian for the breach, pointing out that a sensitive password used to decrypt the files was published in a book put out by David Leigh, one of the paper’s investigative reporters and a collaborator-turned-critic of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

But the Guardian, Leigh and others have rejected the claim, suggesting that the real problem was that WikiLeaks posted the encrypted file to the Web by accident and that Assange made the elementary mistake of reusing an old password.

The U.S. State Department has also condemned the latest release.

Greg Keller in Paris contributed to this report.

World conference on Libya urges new UN resolution

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Jacques Brinon

PARIS (AP) — A Western diplomat says a global conference on the future of Libya will urge the U.N. Security Council to press ahead with a new resolution that would help free up billions in frozen Libyan assets worldwide.

The diplomat, who requested anonymity to discuss details before publication of the summit’s conclusions, said Thursday that participants would vow to put the United Nations at the center of coordinating future assistance to Libya.

Details were contained in a draft of a planned joint statement from French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, the hosts of the Paris talks.

Cameron and Sarkozy were also calling on more countries and international bodies to recognize the National Transitional Council, whose leaders were attending, as Libya’s legitimate government.

Bahrain tensions grow amid stronger protest calls

Thursday, September 1st, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — It’s become a nightly duel in Bahrain: Security forces and anti-government protesters waging hit-and-run clashes in one of the simmering conflicts of the Arab Spring.

So far, the skirmishes have failed to gel into another serious challenge to the Gulf nation’s Western-backed monarchy after crushing a reform rebellion months ago. But there are sudden signs that Shiite-led demonstrators could be poised to raise the stakes again on the strategic island, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Hundreds of demonstrators Wednesday made their boldest attempt in months to reclaim control of a central square in the capital Manama, which was the symbolic hub of the protest movement after it began in February. Riot police used buses to block roads and flooded streets with tear gas to drive back the marchers before dawn.

Hours later, mourners gathered in a Shiite village in another part of Bahrain for a 14-year-old boy they claim was killed by security forces. Clashes flared until early Thursday across the oil hub area of Sitra before the boy’s burial.

Greek police recover stolen Rubens painting

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police recovered a 17th century painting by Flemish master Pieter Paul Rubens stolen from a museum in Belgium a decade ago, authorities said Thursday.

Two people, both Greeks, were arrested in the operation, he said. Neither the police nor the Culture Ministry would give further information on the raid, the painting or which Belgian museum it was stolen from, saying investigations were still ongoing into the case.

The artwork, dating from 1618 and stolen in 2001, was “a particularly important painting,” the ministry said. The artwork had been examined by experts from the ministry and determined to be genuine and “of priceless value,” Greek police spokesman Panagiotis Papapetropoulos said.

Radical Muslim sect kills 12 in northeast Nigeria

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) — A radical Muslim sect blamed for attacks across northeast Nigeria bombed a police station and robbed two banks Thursday, killing 12 people in an assault highlighting the group’s escalating willingness to shed blood, authorities said.

The sect, known locally as Boko Haram, stormed into the city of Gobi in Adamawa state in broad daylight, first attacking the police precinct with bombs and raking the building with gunfire, police commissioner A.T. Shinaba said. The group killed four police officers and a soldier guarding the area, he said.

The sect members then shot their way into two local branches of First Bank PLC and United Bank for Africa PLC, killing seven bank employees before speeding away with an unknown amount of cash, Shinaba said. Four others suffered injuries in the attack.

NATO says it will continue Libya operations

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev

BRUSSELS (AP) — NATO said Tuesday the situation in the Libyan capital of Tripoli remains very dangerous and the alliance will continue its operations over the country, bombing forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi if they keep fighting.

But spokesman Col. Roland Lavoie told reporters that pro-Gadhafi forces are severely degraded and losing strength through desertions and defections.

“Our military mission has not changed. It remains to protect the civilian population, enforce the no-fly zone and the arms embargo,” he said of the U.N. Security Council-authorized military action to protect civilians. “We will conduct strikes wherever necessary to protect the population of Libya.”

Lavoie spoke at a news conference in Naples, Italy, also taking questions from reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels by video link.

“The situation in Tripoli is still very serious and very dangerous,” Lavoie said. “Snipers, shelling, missiles could do much damage, but they can’t change the course of history or the outcome of this campaign.”

Hamas official: Gaza militants agree to cease-fire

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Militant groups in Gaza have agreed to a cease-fire aimed at ending a three-day round of violence with Israel, a senior Hamas official said Sunday, after a cross-border Palestinian attack on Israel threatened relations between the two countries and set off a round of Palestinian rocket barrages and Israeli airstrikes.

The official said Egypt helped broker the cease-fire, which was to go into effect Sunday evening. Egypt, which has been in contact with Israel, told the groups that Israel would halt its airstrikes only if the Palestinian groups stopped shooting first, he said.

Hamas security personnel would enforce the agreement, the official said.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make the cease-fire public.

Corruption-weary Indians support activist’s fast

Thursday, August 18th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Pankaj Nangia

NEW DELHI (AP) — Pradeep Bhatia cannot remember how many times he has paid bribes to government officials. From having an electricity meter installed to getting past traffic police officers on a busy day, he knows that in India, everything has a price.

The 50-year-old mechanic was so fed up with graft that he took a two-hour bus ride to New Delhi on Thursday to join hundreds of others outside a jail where an anti-corruption crusader was on a hunger strike to pressure the government to strengthen reform legislation.

Anna Hazare’s protest has struck a chord with a wide swath of the middle class in a nation where corruption has become so entrenched that there is an informal price list for the bribes required for most routine government services.

60 killed as wave of violence rolls across Iraq

Monday, August 15th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Emad Matti

KUT, Iraq (AP) — Bomb blasts ripped through more than a dozen Iraqi cities Monday, killing 60 security forces and civilians in the worst attack this year, one that highlighted al-Qaida’s resolve and ability to wreak havoc.

The bloodbath comes less than two weeks after Iraqi officials said they would be open to a small number of U.S. forces staying in the country past a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline.

The blasts were coordinated to go off Monday morning and included parked car bombs, roadside bombs, a suicide bomber driving a vehicle that rammed into a police station and even bombs attached to lightpoles.

The scope of the violence – seven explosions went off in different towns in Diyala province alone – emphasized that insurgents are still able to carry out attacks despite repeated crackdowns by Iraqi and U.S. forces.

Iraqis were furious at security officials and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Victorious Argentine president vows steady course

Monday, August 15th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Victor R. Caivano

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentine President Cristina Fernandez is pledging to protect the nation’s economy after trouncing her opponents in the country’s first open and simultaneous primary.

Libya rebels claim victory in key oil terminal

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — A Libyan rebel spokesman says rebel fighters have captured the key oil terminal of Brega from Moammar Gadhafi’s troops after three weeks of fighting.

Mohammed al-Rijali says “Brega is liberated.”

He says he was with the fighters when they took control of the strategic port earlier on Thursday. He spoke to The Associated Press over the telephone from nearby Ajdabiya.

The rebel claim could not be immediately verified.

Bomb explodes north of Beirut; 2 killed

Thursday, August 11th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Hussein Malla

BEIRUT (AP) — A bomb went off in a north Beirut suburb Thursday, killing two people and damaging several cars, including one belonging to a judge, security officials said.

It was not immediately clear if the bomb in the busy suburb of Antelias went off by mistake or whether it had a timer, the security officials said. They spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with regulations.

The explosion in a parking lot damaged at least four cars, including one with judicial license plates, the officials said.

The officials said they do not believe the judge was the target since his car has been recently used by his son, an engineer.

London burns: Riots spread through UK capital city

Monday, August 8th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Lewis Whyld

LONDON (AP) — Violence and looting spread to new areas of London on Monday – and to a second major city – as shops and cars were set ablaze and authorities struggled to contain the spiraling disorder on a third night of rioting in Britain’s capital, which will host next summer’s Olympic Games.

The worst unrest in London in decades saw buildings, vehicles and garbage dumps set alight, stores burglarized and police officers pelted with bottles and fireworks, as groups of young people rampaged through neighborhoods across the capital.

Fire crews battled to control a raging blaze that swept through a 100-year-old family run furniture store in Croydon, in south London, and forced nearby homes to be evacuated.

In the nation’s central city of Birmingham, dozens of people attacked shops in a main retail district – spreading the chaos beyond London for the first time since violence broke out on Saturday night.

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Syrian troops storm 2 towns, killing at least 10

Sunday, August 7th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/HO

BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian forces launched a pre-dawn raid on an eastern city in an intensified crackdown as the government tried to keep the uprising from escalating during the holy month of Ramadan. The assault, and another on a central town, killed at least 10 people.

An activist in the eastern city of Deir el-Zour told The Associated Press the military launched a pre-dawn raid, attacking from four sides and taking control of eight neighborhoods.

Abdul-Karim Rihawi, the Damascus-based chief of the Syrian Human Rights League, said at least 23 people were killed in Deir el-Zour. Rami Abdul-Rhaman, who heads the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said he can confirm four deaths in the city but the number is believed to be much higher.

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NATO says 4 killed in Afghan attacks

Sunday, August 7th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/RODRIGO ABD

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — NATO says four of its service members have been killed by insurgents in two separate attacks in Afghanistan.

In a statement Sunday, NATO says two were killed in an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan and another two in an attack in the south. It did not provide their nationalities or any other details.

The attack comes a day after where the Taliban shot down a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter, killing 38 people, including 30 American troops.

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AP source: G-7 to discuss central bank action

Saturday, August 6th, 2011
AP Photo
AP Photo/Andrew Medichini

BRUSSELS (AP) — Financial officials from the Group of Seven industrialized nations will discuss how to coordinate action among their countries’ central banks, a person familiar with the matter said Saturday, following several days of market panic and a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the level and timing of the contacts had yet to be confirmed.

Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating Friday night added to growing fears over debt levels and economic growth in the world’s biggest economy and in large European nations such as Italy and Spain. The downgrade is also set to hurt Europe, whose economy is closely linked to the U.S. and whose weak members depend on strong demand abroad for their goods to help them grow.

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72 charged in probe of child sexual abuse network

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seventy-two people have been charged with participating in an international child pornography network that prosecutors say used an online bulletin board called Dreamboard to trade tens of thousands of images and videos of sexually abused children….

Outside Mubarak’s trial, rage and satisfaction

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

CAIRO (AP) — A little after 8 a.m., the stones began to fly….

Sydney teen freed safely after 10-hour bomb scare

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

SYDNEY (AP) — An Australian teenager trapped next to a suspicious device for 10 horrifying hours was freed safely late Wednesday, but police said they do not know if the worrisome device is an explosive, who put it there or why….

Vietnam dissident’s 7-year sentence upheld

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — An appeals court upheld the seven-year prison sentence for the dissident son of one of Vietnam’s founding revolutionaries Tuesday, despite arguments that his support for a multiparty system did not mean he was against the Communist Party….

Russia’s Olympic bear kept caged on parked bus

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — For two years, a 36-year-old bear who performed during the 1980 Moscow Olympics has been kept with other retired circus animals in a rusty old bus parked on the outskirts of St. Petersburg….

Ex-Tower of London boss claims Beefeater bullying

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

LONDON (AP) — There is trouble at the Tower of London, and heads are rolling….

Desperate, sick Indonesians use railroad ‘therapy’

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Ignoring the red-and-white danger sign, Sri Mulyati walks slowly to the train tracks outside Indonesia’s bustling capital, lies down and stretches her body across the rails….

China train crash prompts anger at reckless growth

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

BEIJING (AP) — China’s bullet train was supposed to signal its arrival as a high-tech leader. Instead, a crash that killed at least 40 people has made it a lightning rod for anger at the human cost of recklessly fast development….

British police ask public to report anarchists

Monday, August 1st, 2011

LONDON (AP) — Spotted an anarchist? Call the cops….

China blames Pakistan-trained militants for attack

Monday, August 1st, 2011

URUMQI, China (AP) — China on Monday blamed Muslim extremists trained in Pakistan for launching one of two deadly weekend attacks in a troubled far western region, while overseas activists feared the government could respond by cracking down on ethnic Uighurs widely blamed for the unrest….

Alleged LulzSec teenage hacker released on bail

Monday, August 1st, 2011

LONDON (AP) — A teenager accused of acting as a spokesman for computer hacking groups that targeted Sony, Rupert Murdoch-owned newspapers and a British crime agency was freed on bail Monday as he awaits trial….

Jet from New York crashes in Guyana; no deaths

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — A Caribbean Airlines jet from New York touched down on rainy runway, then slid through a chain-link fence and broke apart just short of a ravine on Saturday in Guyana. Miraculously there were no immediate reports of death among the 163 people aboard, despite several dozens of injuries….

Norway massacre survivors tell their stories

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

OSLO, Norway (AP) — Three survivors of the bombing and shooting spree that left 77 people dead in Norway told their stories to The Associated Press this week….

Turkey’s resignations, a sign of military decline

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

ISTANBUL (AP) — In past decades, the Turkish military showed displeasure with civilian leaders by overthrowing them. This time, the upset generals quit, a move that only strengthened the hand of an elected government that has in turn been accused of targeting opponents at the expense of democracy….

Norway suspect was considering other targets

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

OSLO, Norway (AP) — The anti-Muslim extremist who confessed to a bombing and youth camp massacre that killed 77 people in Norway has told investigators he also considered attacking other targets linked to the government or the prime minister’s Labor Party, police said Saturday….

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