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1 Taliban rebuffs Karzai’s offer
By JASON STRAZIUSO, Associated Press Writer
30 minutes ago
|KABUL, Afghanistan – President Hamid Karzai offered to meet with the Taliban leader and give militants a government position, but a spokesman for the militant group on Sunday said it will “never” negotiate with Afghan authorities until U.S. and NATO forces leave the country.
Karzai made the offer only hours after a suicide bomber in army disguise attacked a military bus Saturday, killing 30 people – nearly all of them Afghan soldiers.
Strengthening a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency in recent weeks, Karzai said he was willing to meet with the reclusive leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and factional warlord leader.
2 Ukraine votes in tense contest to end turmoil
by Sebastian Smith, AFP
30 minutes ago
|KIEV (AFP) – Ukrainians voted Sunday in a snap parliamentary election meant to end months of political chaos, with pro-Western forces hoping to push their Russian-backed rival from power.
Polling stations across the former Soviet republic of 47 million people, which is sandwiched between Russia and the European Union, opened at 7:00 am (0400 GMT) and were due to close at 10:00 pm (1900 GMT).
The election to the single-chamber parliament, the Rada, was called to resolve a power struggle between Western-leaning President Viktor Yushchenko and his prime minister, Viktor Yanukovych, who is closer to Ukraine’s former ruler Moscow.
3 12 dead in Kurdish separatist attack: Turkish officials
2 hours, 42 minutes ago
|DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (AFP) – Kurdish separatists fired shots at a bus in southeastern Turkey, killing 12 people and wounding two others, local officials said Sunday.
The incident happened Saturday near the town of Beytussebab in Sirnak province not far from the Iraqi border, a statement issued by Sirnak officials said. The bus carried a total of 14 people.
Seven Village Guard militiamen were among the dead.
4 Musharraf wins legal battle but future still uncertain: analysts
by Rana Jawad, AFP
35 minutes ago
|ISLAMABAD (AFP) – Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has won a key battle in his quest for re-election, but riots at the weekend show that the war over his political future is far from over, analysts said.
The Supreme Court handed Pakistan’s opposition a potentially knock-out blow on Friday when it dismissed petitions seeking to disqualify Musharraf, a vital US anti-terror ally, from an October 6 presidential vote.
The verdict was the first good news in months for the one-time commando — who is battling slumping popularity and a wave of Islamist violence — and removed the biggest hurdle to him securing another five-year term.
5 Democracy efforts trampled in Myanmar
4 minutes ago
|YANGON, Myanmar – Thousands of soldiers and police were deployed in Myanmar’s largest cities Sunday, keeping even the most die-hard protesters off the streets, and more arrests were reported, further demoralizing dissidents desperate for democracy.
The forces were deployed as the top U.N. envoy on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, was in the country trying to persuade the military rulers to end a deadly crackdown on demonstrators that has sparked international outcry.
Many protesters said that despite that effort they were seeing a repeat of the global reaction to a 1988 pro-democracy uprising, when the world stood by as protesters were gunned down.
6 Wounded vets also suffer financial woes
By JEFF DONN and KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press
writers 2 hours, 33 minutes ago
|TEMECULA, Calif. – He was one of America’s first defenders on Sept. 11, 2001, a Marine who pulled burned bodies from the ruins of the Pentagon. He saw more horrors in Kuwait and Iraq.
Today, he can’t keep a job, pay his bills, or chase thoughts of suicide from his tortured brain. In a few weeks, he may lose his house, too.
More than in past wars, many wounded troops are coming home alive from the Middle East. That’s a triumph for military medicine. But they often return hobbled by prolonged physical and mental injuries from homemade bombs and the unremitting anxiety of fighting a hidden enemy along blurred battle lines. Treatment, recovery and retraining often can’t be assured quickly or cheaply.
7 Jenna Bush begins national book tour
By BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 32 minutes ago
|ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Jenna Bush looked poised as she stepped to the podium, but she couldn’t quite hide the butterflies as she stood before an eager bookstore crowd Saturday to introduce her new book, “Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope.”
“This is my first day, so I’m a little nervous,” the 25-year-old first daughter admitted.
Her face lit up, though, as soon as she started talking about the subject of her nonfiction narrative – a teenage mother with HIV whom she met during an internship with UNICEF in Latin America.
8 Gingrich rules out presidential run
Sat Sep 29, 7:54 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Ending months of speculation, former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Saturday he would not run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, citing campaign finance law restrictions.
Gingrich, who previously said he was considering joining the race, told Fox News the McCain-Feingold campaign law would have forced him to leave his American Solutions political organization if he declared his candidacy.
“I wasn’t prepared to abandon American Solutions, even to explore whether a campaign was realistic,” he said.
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9 Dengue fever surges in Latin America
By MICHAEL MELIA, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 21 minutes ago
|SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Dengue fever is spreading across Latin America and the Caribbean in one of the worst outbreaks in decades, causing agonizing joint pain for hundreds of thousands of people and killing nearly 200 so far this year.
The mosquitoes that carry dengue are thriving in expanded urban slums scattered with water-collecting trash and old tires. Experts say dengue is approaching record levels this year as many countries enter their wettest months.
“If we do not slow it down, it will intensify and take a greater social and economic toll on these countries,” said Dr. Jose Luis San Martin, head of anti-dengue efforts for the Pan American Health Organization, a regional public health agency.
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10 Blackwater guards killed 16 in week of violence
By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers
Sat Sep 29, 3:06 PM ET
|BAGHDAD – On Sept. 9 , the day before Army Gen. David Petraeus , the U.S. military commander in Iraq , and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told Congress that things were getting better, Batoul Mohammed Ali Hussein came to Baghdad on business for the day.
A clerk in the Iraqi customs office in Diyala province, she was in the capital to drop off and pick up paperwork at the central office near busy al Khilani Square, not far from the fortified Green Zone, where top U.S. and Iraqi officials live and work. U.S. officials often pass through the square in heavily guarded convoys on their way to other parts of Baghdad .
As Hussein walked out of the customs building, an embassy convoy of sport-utility vehicles drove through the intersection. Blackwater security guards, charged with protecting the diplomats, yelled at construction workers at an unfinished building to move back. Instead, the workers threw rocks. The guards, witnesses said, responded with gunfire, spraying the intersection with bullets.
11 US Army sniper sentenced in Iraq deaths
By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer
Sat Sep 29, 2:36 PM ET
|BAGHDAD – The court-martial that cleared a U.S. Army sniper of two counts of murder sentenced him Saturday to five months in prison, reduced his rank to private and ordered his pay withheld for planting evidence in the deaths of two Iraqi civilians.
Sectarian violence, meanwhile, claimed at least 40 more lives across Iraq, with a flurry of attacks around the northern city of Mosul where bombs, gunmen and mortar fire killed 14.
Two U.S. soldiers were killed by gunfire, one in Diyala province north of Baghdad and one in a southern district of the capital.
12 Iran labels CIA ‘terrorist organization’
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 30 minutes ago
|TEHRAN, Iran – Iran’s parliament voted Saturday to designate the CIA and the U.S. Army as “terrorist organizations,” a largely symbolic response to a U.S. Senate resolution seeking a similar designation for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.
The parliament said the Army and the CIA were terrorists because of the atomic bombing of Japan; the use of depleted uranium munitions in the Balkans, Afghanistan and Iraq; support of the killings of Palestinians by Israel; the bombing and killing Iraqi civilians and the torture of imprisoned terror suspects.
“The aggressor U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency are terrorists and also nurture terror,” said a statement by the 215 lawmakers who signed the resolution at an open session of the 290-member Iranian parliament. The session was broadcast live on state-run radio.
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13 Bush chides Congress for not passing funding bills
By Tabassum Zakaria, Reuters
Sat Sep 29, 1:35 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President George W. Bush chided the Democratic-led Congress for failing to complete annual spending bills on time and signed a temporary measure on Saturday to keep the government running.
“This legislation was necessary because Congress failed in its most basic responsibility: to pass the spending bills that fund the day-to-day operations of the government,” Bush said in his weekly radio address.
The temporary spending measure will keep the federal government running through November 16 after Monday’s start of the new fiscal year, giving Democrats and Republicans time to work out budget disagreements.
14 Weak dollar won’t cut flow of European wine to US, experts say
by Karin Zeitvogel, AFP
1 hour, 5 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – American wine lovers are worried. With the dollar scraping the bottom of the foreign exchange barrel, they fear their favorite French Bordeaux or Italian Barolo could become unaffordable.
“Logically, with the weak dollar, you would think there would be an avalanche of wines going out and the shut-out of European wines especially coming into the United States,” Jon Frederikson of the California-based Gomberg-Frederikson wine consultancy told AFP.
“Remarkably, though, imports are continuing to come in because demand here is quite strong and prospects for growth over the next decade are excellent,” he said.
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15 Leading indicators point down for GOP
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent
2 hours, 43 minutes ago
|WASHINGTON – It is gallows humor time for Republicans in Congress, where one lawmaker jokes that “there’s talk about us going the way of the Whigs,” the 19th century political party long extinct.
“That’s not going to happen,” Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., hastens to add, although a little more than a year before the 2008 election, the major leading political indicators still point downward for a party abruptly turned out of power in 2006.
Fundraising for Republican campaign organizations lags. That is strikingly so in the House, where the party committee spent more than it raised in each of the past two months, reported only $1.6 million in the bank at the end of August and a debt of nearly $4 million.
16 3 Republican hopefuls visit Wyoming
By MEAD GRUVER, Associated Press Writer
2 hours, 56 minutes ago
|CASPER, Wyo. – Three presidential candidates on Saturday courted Republican leaders from across Wyoming, home to next year’s first primary event.
Fred Thompson, Sam Brownback and Duncan Hunter are trailing in polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, which traditionally have had the earliest primaries. But the three are hoping to claim Wyoming, where the state GOP last month moved its delegate-selection conventions to Jan. 5.
“I want to tell you how good it is to be in the Cheneys’ home state,” Thompson told the crowd. Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, both grew up in Casper.
17 Blackwater case deepens as investigations multiply
by Daphne Benoit, AFP
Sat Sep 29, 12:46 PM ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – US and Iraq investigations into powerful private security group Blackwater USA are multiplying as more questions are raised about the firm’s actions in a Baghdad shooting that left at least 10 Iraqis dead.
On Friday the US Department of State announced it was sending a team to Iraq led by a senior official to evaluate security measures for US diplomats who have relied on Blackwater and other private security firms for protection in the violence-ridden country.
“My instructions to the panel are simple: their review should be serious, probing and comprehensive,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement about the review.
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18 Storied Indian tea industry ailing
By TIM SULLIVAN, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 47 minutes ago
India has long been famous for its tea, and the $1.5 billion industry launched by British colonials nearly two centuries ago is, after China’s, the world’s second largest. More than 1 million tons were grown in 2007, much of it here in the northeastern state of Assam.
But production costs are mounting and a brutal insurgency has targeted the planters. Globalization, with the spread of cheaper tea from countries such as Vietnam and Kenya, has increased competition. While there have been glimmers of good news recently – a $320 million revitalization package announced by the government, and an uptick in prices from historic lows – the business is still at the bottom rungs of profitability.
On one side are corporations that maximize profits through enormous scale, with dozens of estates and tens of thousands of workers. On the other side are the growing number of micro-producers, many with just a couple acres of land, that are increasingly powerful in the market. All are competing in a market where prices have fallen 30 percent in just a decade.
19 While France fusses, Germany welcomes a surging euro
by Damien Steffan, AFP
Sun Sep 30, 12:23 AM ET
|LONDON (AFP) – The high-flying euro, which last week soared from record to record against the dollar, has sparked sharply contrasting reactions in France and Germany, with Paris complaining and Berlin applauding.
The single currency, shared by 11 other European nations besides France and Germany, shot to a new all-time high of 1.4263 dollars on Friday.
While French President Nicolas Sarkozy has made no secret of his distress at the euro’s upward trajectory, which tends to punish French exporters, his German counterparts remain serene.
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20 Sen. Craig’s fall may benefit salmon
By MATTHEW DALY, Associated Press Writer
Sat Sep 29, 4:03 AM ET
|WASHINGTON – The surprising fall of Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, removes a longtime obstacle to efforts by Democrats and environmentalists to promote salmon recovery on Northwest rivers.
Craig, who was removed from leadership posts on the Senate Appropriations and Energy committees after a sex scandal, is known as one the most powerful voices in Congress on behalf of the timber and power industries. Environmentalists have fought him for years on issues from endangered salmon to public land grazing.
Now Senate Democrats, exercising their slim majority, have waded into two contentious issues – both related to Snake River salmon.
21 50 years on, Sputnik achievement remains undimmed
by Nick Coleman, AFP
1 hour, 55 minutes ago
Thursday marks the 50th anniversary of the Soviet Union’s launch, on October 4, 1957, of Sputnik 1, the starting signal for the Space Race and a propaganda coup that Russia’s present leaders can only envy.
The launch of the world’s first man-made satellite, a silvery orb with four frond-like antennae and two radio transmitters, was at first obscure.
The official announcement was buried in leaden prose in the corner of a Pravda newspaper front page, the identity of Sputnik’s creator kept a state secret.
22 Big dreams, few results in private space exploration
by Paula Bustamante, AFP
1 hour, 43 minutes ago
|LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (AFP) – A dusty launchpad in a remote region of New Mexico could become one of the first gateways to the heavens for private individuals clamoring to be the pioneer generation of space tourists.
If British billionaire Richard Branson’s vision is realised, by 2010, tourists could be paying around 200,000 dollars to board “SpaceShipTwo” and be rocketed into space to experience weightlessness before returning to earth.
Branson’s Virgin Galactic has already begun taking reservations for seats aboard “SpaceShipTwo”, a six-seater reusable spacecraft developed by American engineer Burt Rutan.
23 Asia could win next ‘Space Race’, US scientists fear
by Tangi Quemener, AFP
15 minutes ago
|PASADENA, United States (AFP) – Fifty years after the launch of Sputnik left the United States scrambling to play catch-up in the first Space Race, US scientists fear history may be repeating itself as Asia emerges as the rising force in space exploration.
While the achievements of space programs run by China, Japan and India are modest in comparison to the milestones set by the United States and former Soviet Union, experts at a recent conference in Pasadena believe it is only a matter of time before Asia leads the field.
China, which sent a man into space for the first time in 2003, plans to launch its own moon probe before the end of the year, followed by India in the first half of 2008. Japan kick-started the Asian lunar race on September 14 when it successfully launched its first lunar orbiter.