Wednesday November 21, 2012

Taliban suicide bombers strike near U.S. base in Kabul, killing 2 Afghan guards, police say

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Two Taliban suicide bombers struck near a U.S. base in Kabul early Wednesday, killing two Afghan guards in the heart of a neighborhood filled with foreign forces and embassies. The attack came despite increased security ahead of a Muslim holy day that last year saw one the capital’s deadliest attacks.

The bombers apparently meant to target the American base but were spotted by security guards as they approached on foot. The guards fired on the assailants, killing them, but not before one of the vests exploded, said Gen. Mohammad Daoud Amin, the deputy provincial police chief.

Two Afghan security guards were killed and five civilians were wounded in the morning explosion, he said.

The blast reverberated around Kabul’s Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood. An alarm started going off at the nearby U.S. Embassy, warning staff to take cover. The neighborhood also is home to many high-ranking Afghan officials, international organizations and the headquarters of the international military coalition.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing in an email to reporters.

Mom who turned in son fearing he was planning movie theater attack says son ‘born different’

KANSAS CITY, Mo.


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(AP) -- The mother who reported her son to police after he amassed what she feared were weapons to attack a southwest Missouri movie theater during a "Twilight" showing said he had recently asked her if he was a failure.

Tricia Lammers made her first public statements Tuesday since the arrest last week of her 20-year-old son, Blaec. Authorities said he admitted planning to attack the theater in Bolivar and then a nearby Wal-Mart store, where he’d been arrested in 2009 after following around a clerk while armed with a knife.

Investigators determined he recently purchased two assault rifles and 400 rounds of ammunition.

During a news conference at the National Alliance for Mental Illness in Springfield, Tricia Lammers said her son had undergone inpatient treatment. She said her son has shown signs of Asperger’s syndrome, borderline personality disorder and other conditions.

"He didn’t ask to be born different. He grew up his whole life in (his sister) Kristyn’s shadow. He wanted to be successful and be somebody," she said, KLOR-TV reported. "Just two weeks ago he asked me -- both my kids still call me mommy -- he said, ‘Mommy, do you think I’m a failure?’ I said, ‘No, Blaec, I don’t."’

Eurozone finance ministers fail to reach deal on badly needed loan for Greece

BRUSSELS (AP) -- European Union officials failed Wednesday to reach a deal on giving Greece more aid, prolonging uncertainty over the future of the debt-hobbled country and the 17-member eurozone.

Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the meeting of finance ministers from the 17 countries that use the euro, said the talks which lasted nearly 12 hours will reconvene on Monday. It was the second consecutive meeting at which the ministers failed to agree on a deal, highlighting the depth of their divisions over how to handle Greece’s huge debt problem without reaching more deeply into the pockets of their own taxpayers.

Juncker, however, said he was optimistic that a deal could be reached eventually.

"We are very close to a result. We see no major stumbling block," he said. There are technical issues and calculations to be made in coming days, he said.

But Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, which gives Greece bailout loans alongside the eurozone, sounded a more cautious note, saying only "we have narrowed the positions."

Russian farmer strikes back at corruption by publishing his own newspaper

YARABAIKASY, Russia (AP) -- When Eduard Mochalov tried to have the people who stole his cattle and pig farm brought to justice, he spent eight months in jail on charges he says were cooked up. He appealed to Vladimir Putin and even set himself on fire outside the Kremlin in protest, but still couldn’t draw attention to his cause as his farm slowly fell into disrepair.

Now, Mochalov has found a new life as a crusading journalist investigating corruption in his native region, fueled by tips from disgruntled businessmen and government workers. Undeterred by a system where the law is selectively used to protect the powerful and crack down on critics, Mochalov has quickly earned cult status -- not to mention the ire of countless local officials -- throughout the small province of Chuvashia.

Roughly once a month, he publishes a free newspaper called Vzyatka, or The Bribe, which rails against what it calls "Chuvash kingpins" who steal from the province’s budget. Headlines include "The Governor of Chuvashia’s Family Business" and "If Nobody’s Been Found Guilty, That Means They’re Already In Power." The paper has proved so popular that with a print run of 20,000 he has trouble meeting demand.

Frustration with corrupt officials has skyrocketed under President Putin’s rule. Twenty-nine percent of Russians believe that civil servants only care about using public funds to enrich themselves, a more than nine-fold increase since Putin took power in 2000, according to the Levada Center, an independent polling agency.

Corruption was a key motivation behind the unprecedented series of mass protests against Putin in Moscow last winter and spring, and remains a key rallying point for the opposition. Recently, the Kremlin has attempted to siphon off popular anger by launching a major crackdown on corruption, which has cost several high-level officials their jobs.

India hangs lone surviving gunman from 2008 terror attack on Mumbai

MUMBAI, India (AP) -- India executed the lone surviving Pakistani gunman from the 2008 terror attack on Mumbai early Wednesday, providing Indians much-needed closure over the three-day rampage that shook the nation’s core and deepened enmity with neighbor Pakistan.

India blames a Pakistan-based militant organization for the attacks carried out by Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and his comrades that killed 166 people at a train station, a Jewish center and two luxury hotels in its financial capital. India accuses Pakistan’s intelligence agency of training, arming and sponsoring the attackers, allegations Pakistan denies.

Kasab, a Pakistani citizen, was hanged in secrecy at 7.30 a.m. at a jail in Pune, a city near Mumbai, after Indian President Pranab Mukherjee rejected his plea for mercy.

Indian authorities faced public pressure to quickly execute Kasab, and the government fast-tracked the appeal and execution process, which often can take years, or in some cases, decades.

Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said the home ministry sent Kasab’s mercy plea to Mukherjee on Oct. 16 and Mukherjee rejected it on Nov. 5.

Elmo puppeteer resigns amid underage-sex allegations, leaving Elmo behind on ‘Sesame Street’

NEW YORK (AP) -- Even on "Sesame Street," where everything is famously A-OK, problems can arise for its residents.

And that includes the Muppets. Cookie Monster grapples with an eating disorder. Oscar the Grouch gets cranky. Mr. Snuffleupagus gets the blues.

But Elmo seemed immune to any of that. Since enjoying his breakout success more than two decades ago, the 3 1/2-year-old red monster has radiated good cheer, love and trilling giggles. No wonder everyone -- adults as well as children -- adore him.

The key to Elmo is "his innocence, his positiveness and his sweetness," according to Kevin Clash, the man who created him and once told The Associated Press, "I would love to be totally like Elmo."

Now Clash has been scandalously separated from Elmo and from "Sesame Street," the TV series where he reigned behind the scenes for 28 years.