World in Brief
Obama lays wreath at Tomb of Unknown Soldier on holiday
WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Barack Obama led the nation in commemorating Memorial Day, declaring the United States has reached "a pivotal moment" in Afghanistan with the end of war approaching.
Obama, who returned just hours earlier from a surprise visit with U.S. troops at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, paid tribute to those lost in battle there and elsewhere over history. He called them "patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice" for their country.
"Early this morning, I returned from Afghanistan," Obama told the audience of several thousand people. "Yesterday, I visited with some of our men and women serving there -- 7,000 miles from home. For more than 12 years, men and women like those I met with have borne the burden of our nation’s security. Now, because of their profound sacrifice, because of the progress they have made, we’re at a pivotal moment."
"Our troops are coming home. By the end of this year, our war in Afghanistan will finally come to end," the president said to applause. "And yesterday at Bagram, and here today at Arlington, we pay tribute to the nearly 2,200 American patriots who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. We will honor them, always." Obama has said it was likely that a small contingent of U.S. forces would stay behind for counterterrorism missions, as well as to train Afghan security forces.
U.S.-China business links too profitable to be broken by hacking controversy
WASHINGTON (AP) -- China may be trying to steal trade secrets from U.S. businesses, as federal prosecutors allege. Yet for many U.S.companies, China’s vast market remains an irresistible source of business.
The Justice Department’s indictment last week of five Chinese military officials accused them of trying to pilfer confidential information from American companies. But even some of the alleged U.S. corporate victims of the hackers have little incentive to cheer any trade rupture with China.
One, Westinghouse, is building four nuclear reactors in China.
Another, specialty steelmaker Allegheny Technologies, operates a joint venture in Shanghai.
A third, Alcoa, is the biggest foreign investor in China’s aluminum market. Indeed, Alcoa went so far as to downplay Justice’s charges: "No material information was compromised during this incident which occurred several years ago," the company said.
Ukraine’s new leader vows talks with restive east; Kiev launches airstrike on insurgents
DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine’s president-elect said Monday he wants to begin talks with Moscow and end a pro-Russia insurgency in the east, but the rebels escalated the conflict by occupying a major airport, and the government in Kiev responded with an airstrike.
As darkness fell in Donetsk, a city of about 1 million, it was unclear who was in control of the airport. Hundreds of fighters of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic had been brought by trucks to a wooded area on the fringes of the airport, many of them armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic rifles. At least one warplane streaked over the city, firing flares, and explosions were heard from the direction of the airport.
The rebels, who declared independence for Donetsk and the neighboring Luhansk region after a hastily called and dubious referendum two weeks ago, regarded Sunday’s election of candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko as president to be illegitimate.
In a victory speech, the billionaire promised to open a dialogue with residents of eastern Ukraine and to guarantee their rights. The rebels and many others in the region say they fear the February ouster of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych will lead to the repression of its predominantly Russian-speaking population by Ukrainian nationalists.
Poroshenko also said he would not negotiate with armed insurgents that he calls terrorists.
Thai coup leader receives royal endorsement, warns citizens not to criticize
BANGKOK (AP) -- Bolstered by an endorsement from Thailand’s king, the nation’s new military ruler issued a stark warning Monday to anyone opposed to last week’s coup: don’t cause trouble, don’t criticize, don’t protest -- or else the nation could revert to the "old days" of turmoil and street violence.
Speaking in his first public appearance since the coup, Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha defended the army’s takeover, saying he had to restore order after seven months of increasingly violent confrontations between the now-ousted government and demonstrators who had long urged the army to intervene.
"I’m not here to argue with anyone. I want to bring everything out in the open and fix it," said Prayuth, who spoke at the army headquarters in Bangkok dressed in a crisp white military uniform.
"Everyone must help me," he said, adding: but "do not criticize, do not create new problems. It’s no use."
The tough words came as an aide to former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said she had been released Monday from military custody after being held for three days at an undisclosed location without access to a telephone. The aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said Yingluck had returned to her home.
Nigerian defense chief says military has located abducted girls but can’t go in with force
ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) -- Nigeria’s military has located nearly 300 school girls abducted by Islamic extremists but fears using force to try to free them could get them killed, the country’s chief of defense said Monday.
Air Marshal Alex Barde told demonstrators supporting the much criticized military that Nigerian troops can save the girls. But he added, "we can’t go and kill our girls in the name of trying to get them back."
He spoke to thousands of demonstrators who marched to Defense Ministry headquarters in Abuja, the capital. Many were brought in on buses, indicating it was an organized event.
Asked by reporters where they had found the girls, Barde refused to elaborate.
"We want our girls back. I can tell you we can do it. Our military can do it. But where they are held, can we go with force?" he asked the crowd.
After Euroskeptic rise muddles future, EU leaders must find a way out
BRUSSELS (AP) -- Euroskeptics celebrated across the continent on Monday, from Britain to France and beyond, over their unmatched success in the European Parliament election. Now they are keen to put up internal borders again, keep foreigners out of their labor markets, abolish the common euro currency and let their nations go it alone in a globalized world.
The 28 European Union leaders meeting in Tuesday’s postelection summit have a different task: making sure the surge of anti-EU and anti-establishment parties that claimed almost 30 percent of the EU’s 751-seat legislature doesn’t dislodge the 64-year project of closer cooperation between European nations.
They will also need to look for a way to reconnect with an ever more disenchanted European electorate that stayed away from the polls in massive numbers -- and cast plenty of protest votes when they did show up.
Trust in political leadership "is going down dramatically," EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso acknowledged Monday in Sintra, Portugal.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, faced with the rise of the Euroskeptic UK Independence Party at home, struck a similar note, saying nothing will be business-as-usual any more.
Obama administration accidentally reveals name of undercover top CIA official
WASHINGTON (AP) -- In an embarrassing flub, the Obama administration accidentally revealed the name of the CIA’s top official in Afghanistan in an email to thousands of journalists during the president’s surprise Memorial Day weekend trip to Bagram Air Field.
The officer’s name -- identified as "chief of station" in Kabul -- was included by U.S. embassy staff on a list of 15 senior American officials who met with President Obama during the Saturday visit. The list was sent to a Washington Post reporter who was representing the news media, who then sent it out to the White House "press pool" list, which contains as many as 6,000 recipients.
The Associated Press is withholding the officer’s name at the request of the Obama administration, who said its publication could put his life and those of his family members in danger. A Google search appears to reveal the name of the officer’s wife and other personal details.
White House officials realized the error after the Post reporter notified them, and sent out a new list without the station chief’s name. Other major news organizations, including the Post, also agreed not to publish the officer’s name.
The reporter who distributes the pool report sends it to the White House to be checked for factual accuracy and then forwarded to the thousands of journalists on the email distribution list, so in this case the White House failed on at least two occasions to recognize that the CIA official’s name was being revealed and circulated so broadly.
Egyptians vote for new president as former military chief hopes for landslide
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt’s presidential election on Monday turned into a nationalist celebration at many polls with voters singing and dancing for the almost certain winner -- former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who last year ousted the first freely elected president.
But the first day of voting in the two-day election also illustrated the bitter divisions that have riven Egypt since the military’s removal of Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi. In towns where Islamists dominate, voting was often thin or non-existent.
The 59-year-old retired Field Marshal el-Sissi is looking for more than a landslide victory from the election. He’s hoping for a strong turnout to show international critics that his July 3 ouster of Morsi reflected the will of the people -- and to claim popular support as he tries to tackle Egypt’s daunting economic woes.
For 10 months, el-Sissi has had the institutions of state and nearly all of Egypt’s media behind him, whipping up a pro-military jingoism and depicting him as the sole figure who can rescue the country. After polls closed Monday, the prime minister declared Tuesday a holiday for government employees to allow them go to the polls, in a push for greater numbers.
El-Sissi’s only rival in the race is left-wing politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who finished third in the 2012 presidential vote.
How to identify a mass murderer? Experts say they’re hard to predict
GOLETA, Calif. (AP) -- Colorado movie theater shooter James Holmes. Sandy Hook school attacker Adam Lanza. And now Elliot Rodger.
All were young loners with no criminal history who went on shooting sprees, leaving devastated families in their wake.
Mass murderers tend to have a history of pent-up frustration and failures, are socially isolated and vengeful, blaming others for their unhappiness, experts say.
"They all display deluded thinking and a lot of rage about feeling so marginalized," James Garbarino, a professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago, said in an email.
Since mass killings are extremely rare, scholars say there’s no way to predict who has deadly intentions, let alone who will reach a breaking point and take action.
In delicate balancing act, Pope wraps up Mideast pilgrimage with calls for coexistence
JERUSALEM (AP) -- Pope Francis wrapped up his Mideast pilgrimage Monday with a balancing act of symbolic and sometimes spontaneous gestures to press his call for peace between Israel and the Palestinians and friendship between Jews and Muslims in the land of Jesus’ birth.
A day after he boosted Palestinian aspirations by praying at Israel’s security barrier surrounding Bethlehem, Francis honored Holocaust victims by kissing the hands of several survivors, and accepted Israel’s last-minute request to pray at a memorial to victims of suicide bombings and other attacks.
But the image that the Vatican hopes will define the trip, and perhaps Francis’ young papacy, was another: that of the leader of the 1.2 billion strong Roman Catholic Church embracing his Argentine friends, a rabbi and a Muslim, in front of the Western Wall, adjacent to the disputed hilltop compound that lies at the heart of decades of Israel-Arab tensions.
After visiting the golden-topped Dome of the Rock shrine on the compound on Monday morning, Francis prayed at the nearby Western Wall, leaving a hand-written note with the "Our Father" prayer written in his native Spanish in between the cracks of stone.
When he finished, a visibly emotional Francis embraced Rabbi Abraham Skorka and Omar Abboud, a leader of Argentina’s Muslim community, both of whom joined Francis on his official delegation in a potent symbol of interfaith friendship.