Thursday October 4, 2012

As Libyan attack probe opens, past practice shows wide blame assessed when U.S. missions hit

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Past investigations into attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions have blamed both the administration and Congress for failing to spend enough money to ensure that the overseas facilities were safe despite a clear rise in terror threats to American interests abroad.

An Associated Press examination of two reports that are easily accessible to the public -- those created after the devastating Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania -- may offer clues to the possible outcome of the current investigation begun by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton into last month’s attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

That attack by what is now believed to be al-Qaida-linked militants has become fraught with election-year politics as Republicans accuse administration officials of dissembling in the early aftermath on what they knew about the perpetrators and for lax security at the diplomatic mission in a lawless part of post-revolution Libya.

Two House Republican leaders this week accused the administration of denying repeated requests for extra security at the Benghazi consulate, where Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.


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A five-member accountability review board appointed by Clinton will begin this week looking at whether security at the consulate was adequate and whether proper procedures were followed before, during and immediately after the attack.

Rare meningitis cases rise to 26 in 5 states including 4 deaths; more cases expected

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- An outbreak of a rare and deadly form of meningitis has now sickened 26 people in five states who received steroid injections, health officials said Wednesday. Four people have died.

Eighteen of the cases are in Tennessee where a Nashville clinic received the largest shipment of the steroid suspected in the outbreak. The drug was made by a specialty pharmacy in Massachusetts that has since issued a recall.

Three cases have been reported in Virginia, two in Maryland, two in Florida and one in North Carolina. Two of the deaths were in Tennessee; Virginia and Maryland had one each, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

More new cases are almost certain to appear in the coming days, said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner. Cases in that state began in July and five new cases were confirmed over the past 24 hours, he said Wednesday.

Investigators have been looking into at least three different products used for the back injections that could have been tainted by the fungus that appears to be behind the illnesses. None of the products have been ruled out. However, the primary suspicion is on steroid medication, which is commonly used for back pain.

Turkey fires artillery at Syria after 5 civilians killed in Turkish border village

BEIRUT (AP) -- Turkish artillery fired on Syrian targets Wednesday after shelling from Syria struck a border village in Turkey, killing five civilians, sharply escalating tensions between the two neighbors and prompting NATO to convene an emergency meeting.

"Our armed forces at the border region responded to this atrocious attack with artillery fire on points in Syria that were detected with radar, in line with the rules of engagement," the Turkish government said in a statement from the prime minister’s office.

The artillery fire capped a day that began with four bombs tearing through a government-held district in Syria’s commercial and cultural capital of Aleppo, killing more than 30 people and reducing buildings to rubble.

Along the volatile border, a shell fired from inside Syria landed on a home in the Turkish village of Akcakale, killing five civilians, including some children, and wounding a dozen others according to Turkish media.

The shelling appeared to come from forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, which is fighting rebels backed by Turkey.

Iran tries to halt currency nosedive by making arrests and deploying riot police

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iranian authorities used aggressive measures Wednesday in an attempt to halt the nosedive of the country’s currency, making arrests, vowing to stamp out sidewalk money changers and warning merchants against fueling the mounting public anger over the economy.

There were unconfirmed reports of sporadic violence. Associated Press photos showed riot police blocking a street with the charred hulks of a garbage can and a motorcycle that had been set on fire. Smoke was rising from the area in central Tehran near the main bazaar.

The sweeping responses to the freefall of the rial -- which has lost more than a third of its value in a week -- underscored the worries for Iranian leaders after months of dismissing the West’s economic squeeze seeking to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program. A declining currency causes shifts in an economy such as making imported goods more expensive.

Although the currency crisis is blamed on a combination of factors -- including internal government policies -- the rush to dump rials appears to reflect an underlying perception that international sanctions have deepened problems such as runaway inflation and soaring prices for imports and that the only safe hedge is to grab dollars or euros.

If the economic turmoil intensifies, it could boost pressure on the ruling system before elections next June to pick President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s successor. That has the potential to hinder nuclear talks with the West until after the elections.

Moroccan ministers say Dutch abortion ship has not asked for necessary permissions to dock

RABAT, Morocco (AP) -- Moroccan authorities said Wednesday that a Dutch ship promoting legal abortions set to dock in Morocco is operating outside the law and could possibly be stopped before arriving at a northern Mediterranean port.

The Dutch ship, which promotes safe and legal abortions worldwide, was invited by a Moroccan women’s group to raise awareness in the struggle to legalize abortions, which are not allowed in this conservative Muslim country. It is scheduled to arrive at the port of Smir on Thursday.

It would be the "Women on Waves" boat’s first landfall in a Muslim country.

"We haven’t been informed about the arrival of this boat and from a security standpoint. It’s a boat we don’t know or why it is coming, so I don’t see what we can do," Minister of Interior Mohend Laenser told The Associated Press.

Minister of Education Lahcen Daoudi added that any boat coming to Morocco had to respect its laws. "The people charged with applying the law will apply it on everything to do with the boat," he said.