Sabtu, 22 September 2012

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Minggu, 02 September 2012

US Democrats Prepare for National Convention

Later this week, Democrats will nominate President Barack Obama for a second term in office at their party’s national convention, following last week’s Republican gathering that nominated former Governor Mitt Romney. Although the messages to be delivered at the Democratic convention will differ from that of the Republicans, the overall focus is expected to be the same: America’s economic challenges. 
The Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, featured sharp attacks on President Obama’s economic record, culminating with a speech by Governor Romney.
“This president can ask us to be patient. This president can tell us that the next four years will get it right [improve U.S. economic performance]. But this president cannot tell us that you are better off today than when he took office.”
Democrats say they cannot wait to respond at their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Now it is our turn,” proclaimed Obama campaign strategist David Axelrod speaking on the U.S. television program Fox News Sunday.

While U.S. unemployment remains stubbornly high, economic growth remains stunted, and America’s national debt has ballooned to about $16 trillion, Axelrod insisted President Obama will be able to point to real accomplishments when he addresses Democratic delegates and the nation Thursday.
“When this president took office, we were losing 800,000 jobs a month. The quarter before he took office was the worst quarter that this country has had economically since the Great Depression. And we are in a different place [today]: twenty-nine straight months of job growth, 4.5-million private sector jobs [created],” said Axelrod.
President Obama’s former chief of staff, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, gave a pithy summation of Obama’s record on NBC’s Meet the Press program:
“[U.S. carmaker] General Motors is alive and well, and Osama bin Laden is not.”

In addition to defending the president, Democrats will spell out their intentions for the next four years, according to Obama advisor David Plouffe, who spoke on ABC’s This Week program.
“What the Republican Convention last week was, was hiding their own agenda, a bunch of platitudes and angry insults, and reminding people that we have a tough economy. People know that. They want to know how we are going to move forward.”
Democrats have blasted Republican economic proposals as a repackaging and a deepening of the policies of former president George W. Bush. Appearing on Meet the Press, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Republicans do not need flashy new ideas since the party is dedicated to principles that have withstood the test of time, including free enterprise and fiscal restraint.
Nominating conventions are prime opportunities for America’s two main political parties to make their cases to the American people ahead of the November 6 election. In recent decades, the conventions have become heavily-scripted events geared towards a national television audience. The goal is to rally the parties’ core backers, while also appealing to independent and undecided voters.

Couple Arrested After 'Burglars' Shot

A homeowner has been arrested after two suspected burglars were shot at his remote home.

The man and his wife were reportedly disturbed by the break-in in the Welby area of Leicestershire, near Melton Mowbray, in the early hours of Sunday.

The man, 35, and his 43-year-old wife were arrested in Melton on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm. Neither suffered any injuries during the incident.

A spokeswoman for Leicestershire Police said that at around 12.30am, the ambulance service was called to treat a man with shotgun injuries.

It is understood that call was made by one of the suspected burglars.

Later, a second man was treated for shotgun injuries after presenting himself at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Their injuries are not life threatening, police said.

The two men, along with two others, were all arrested at the hospital on suspicion of aggravated burglary.

A statement from Leicestershire Police said: "Police were called at 12.26 am this morning by a man reporting a group of men had broken into his home in Melton.

"A 35-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman were arrested in Melton on suspicion of GBH and four men aged 27, 23, 31 and 33 were arrested at Leicester Royal Infirmary on suspicion of aggravated burglary.

"Inquiries are ongoing and there is very little else we can add at this time."

Angola Says Dos Santos' Ruling Party Has Big Election Lead

Angola's electoral commission says the ruling party of President Eduardo dos Santos has a big lead with most of the votes counted after Friday's national election, effectively extending his 33 years in power.

In a statement Sunday, the commission said dos Santos' Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola, or MPLA, had almost three-quarters of the vote, with results in from 72 percent of polling stations. Angolans voted on Friday to fill 220 seats in parliament. The head of the party winning the most seats becomes the president-elect.

The electoral commission said Angola's main opposition party had 18 percent of the vote, up from about 10 percent in the last election in 2008, while the new opposition Casa party had around five percent. Both parties criticized the latest election as neither free nor fair.

Angolan state-run newspaper Journal de Angola published a report declaring a "major victory" for the MPLA and naming dos Santos as president-elect. Partial results showed the MPLA's share of the vote was down slightly from the 82 percent it received in 2008.

Final results were expected in several days. Angola has developed into Africa's second-largest oil producer under dos Santos' rule. But many of the nation's 19 million people live in poverty.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

Israeli Settlers Evacuate West Bank Outpost

Israeli settlers have voluntarily evacuated a West Bank settlement outpost, ending a year-long legal battle with the Israeli Supreme Court, which ruled the Jewish homes were illegally built on land privately-owned by Palestinians.
The remaining families of the Migron outpost, built without Israeli government authorization, left early Sunday as Israeli police handed them orders to evict ahead of a court-ordered Tuesday deadline. The families relocated to the nearby government-authorized settlement of Ofra. Dozens of radical Israeli youths from other settlements entered Migron to protest the eviction, but police removed them.
Palestinians denounce Israeli settlement activity as robbing them of West Bank land they claim for a future state. Much of the international community deems all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as illegal. Israel disputes those views and says it expects to keep major settlements in any peace deal with the Palestinians.
Israel's top court had extended the evacuation deadline for Migron repeatedly since its August 2011 ruling, as the settlers tried to prove ownership of the land and the government asked for delays to persuade them to leave voluntarily. The settlers criticized the evacuation order but agreed to relocate to Ofra as part of a compromise with the government.
In another development Sunday, Israeli ultranationalists moved into a home in East Jerusalem after a court ordered its Palestinian residents to vacate part of it. The Israelis took possession of a room and a courtyard in the home in the Palestinian neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.
An Israeli court has ruled that an American supporter of Jewish settlements, Irving Moskovitz, legally bought the property from Jewish organizations that owned the land before Israel's establishment in 1948. The Palestinian Hamdallah family has lived in the building since 1952 and has refused to leave.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast war, a move that is not recognized internationally. Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the future capital of a Palestinian state.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

South Africa Drops Murder Charges Against Miners

South African prosecutors have provisionally dropped murder charges against 270 miners accused of killing 34 fellow workers shot dead by police.
The miners were charged following the  August 16 shooting incident during a strike at the Lonmin mine in Marikana.
The acting director of prosecutions, Nomgcono Jiba, said Sunday that final charges will only be made once all investigations are complete. She said the murder charges against the 270 suspects will be formally withdrawn provisionally in court.
Local authorities charged the miners under an obscure statute called the "common purpose law," under which people in a crowd where a crime was committed can be charged as accomplices.
Under the Apartheid-era law, the miners can be blamed for the deaths even though police did the shooting in the incident.
Prosecutors say police were forced to shoot at the miners because the strikers were attacking officers with machetes and clubs. Police say the miners had fired at least one gun.
Workers at the platinum mine near Johannesburg went on strike earlier in August for more pay. The shooting incident was preceded by clashes in which 10 people, including two police officers, were killed.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

Man City Footballer Held Over Fatal Car Crash

Manchester City footballer Courtney Meppen-Walter and another man have been arrested after two people were killed in a collision.

Police were called to the crash at the junction of Bury New Road and Sherborne Street in north Manchester on Saturday night.

The 32-year-old driver of a red Nissan Micra and the front seat passenger, a 37-year-old woman, were dead at the scene. Two teenagers in the back of the car were taken to Hope Hospital with serious head injuries.

Meppen-Walter and the other man, who were in separate cars, were arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and remain in custody for questioning, Greater Manchester Police said.

More follows...

British Man And Son Drown In Majorca

A British man and his seven-year-old son have drowned off the coast of Majorca.

The father died as he tried to rescue his son swept out to sea by a huge wave at a small deserted cove called Cala Antena in the south-east of the Spanish island.

The tragedy was witnessed by the boy's horrified mother and two sisters from the shore.

The dead man was named in a local newspaper as George Selvi, 28, and his son as Louis Selvi.

The mother ran screaming for help, and lifeguards from a nearby hotel tried to rescue the two holidaymakers but could do nothing to save them.

Witnesses said they saw Mr Selvi shouting for help from the sea, waving his arms in the air.

According to one local report, he had been taking photos of his son by the rocks shortly before the tragedy, which happened at around 11am on Saturday.

It was raining lightly and a red flag was flying on the beach warning bathers not to enter the water.

Police and an ambulance arrived in Cala Antena, but it was too late to save the pair.

A police source on the island said: "It is a terrible tragedy. It appears the young boy was swept from the rocks by a large wave, and the dad naturally dived in to try to save him.

"The sea was ferocious with very strong waves crashing onto the rocks, and when it's like that those stairs are extremely dangerous.

"The staircase really should be closed off when the weather is like that."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We are aware of the tragic deaths of two British nationals in Majorca on September 1.

"We are providing consular assistance to the family".

She said she could not confirm the names published in the local newspaper.

The tragedy comes less than a fortnight after a Briton died as he tried to rescue his young granddaughter who was washed out to sea by a freak wave in Portugal.

Lara Lewis, five, was swept away as she played with shells on a beach near Nazare, 80 miles north of Lisbon.

Brian O'Dwyer, 66, drowned after diving in to try to save her. Grandmother Jill O'Dwyer also got into difficulties after leaping into the sea to try to help, but she survived.

They had taken Lara for a walk along the sandy beach leaving parents Philip and Sian Lewis sunbathing around 400 yards away.

Mr and Mrs Lewis, from Hackney, east London, were devastated as they watched as lifeguards spent an hour trying to revive Lara, but she died on the beach.

Man Arrested After Gun And Grenade Attack

A 33-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder after a man died in a gun and grenade attack.

The body of David Short, 46, was found at his house in Clayton, Manchester on August 10 after police responded to reports of gunfire.

Less than 10 minutes after Mr Short's body was discovered in Folkestone Road East, Greater Manchester Police received reports that shots had been fired at a second property, in Luke Road, Droylsden, where detectives say there was also a grenade blast.

No one was injured in the second incident.

Armed officers arrested a man in a park near the junction of Herne Street and Newton Close in Openshaw, police said.

Assistant chief constable Steve Heywood said: "Since David's tragic death, we have had armed officers on patrol in the north Manchester and Tameside areas to both reassure our communities and as part of our determination to ensure those responsible for David's death are brought to justice.

"Today, those same officers were on patrol in the Openshaw area and attended at a local park and made an arrest in connection with David's death.

"The arrest was made peacefully with no risk to any members of the public or the surrounding community.

"Our investigation remains ongoing and when we are in a position to say anything further we will do so."

Mr Short's son, amateur boxer Mark, 23, was killed in May when he was shot in the neck at the Cotton Tree pub in Droylsden after a gunman walked in and opened fire.

Three other men were shot during the attack and suffered leg and back injuries.

Earlier this month, police offered a £25,000 reward for information that would lead to the arrests of Dale Cregan, 29, from Droylsden, and Anthony Wilkinson, 33, from Beswick, who are wanted in connection with the two attacks on August 10.

Cregan is also wanted for questioning over the murder of Mark Short.

More follows...

Cameron Vows To 'Cut Through Dither'

David Cameron has signalled the start of a political fightback, vowing to show "fighting spirit" to "cut through the dither" holding Britain back.

In an article in the Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister hinted at a series of initiatives designed to breathe new life into the country's flagging economy.

These included bringing forward controversial measures to boost growth by relaxing planning rules.

And he warned that Britain could not afford the "paralysis" which causes new housing developments to be held up by local opposition and length planning inquiries.

He said: "A key part of recovery is building the houses our people need, but a familiar cry goes up - 'Yes, we want more housing; but no to every development - and not in my back yard'.

"The nations we're competing against don't stand for this kind of paralysis and neither must we.

"Frankly, I am frustrated by the hoops you have to jump through to get anything done - and I come back to Parliament more determined than ever to cut through the dither that holds this country back."

GCSE results The GCSE marking controversy occurred during the summer Westminster recess

His comments will raise fresh concerns that the Government wants to open up Green Belt land for development - a move that will prove highly controversial within the Coalition.

The Prime Minister also used his article to brush aside complaints by teachers over the fall in the latest GCSE results, promising further measures to reverse "dumbing down" in the classroom.

However Mr Cameron faced fresh sniping from within his own ranks, with backbencher Brian Binley publicly calling on him to axe George Osborne as Chancellor in the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle.

Also writing in The Mail on Sunday, Mr Binley said Mr Osborne should be made Conservative Party chairman so he could concentrate on winning the general election and be replaced by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who had the "analytical strengths and broad commercial experience" to make a fine chancellor.

In his article, the PM defended the Government's economic strategy, saying it was on the "hard road to balancing Britain's books".

He added: "We've cut the deficit by a quarter already, and we are sticking to this course: rejecting the easy path; restoring sanity to our finances; keeping Britain safe."

Mourners Attend Funeral of Ethiopia's Meles

A host of African heads of state have joined thousands of mourners at a state funeral for Ethiopia's longtime leader Meles Zenawi.

Dignitaries including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and former South African president Thabo Mbeki are among the speakers at Sunday's funeral in the capital, Addis Ababa.

Washington sent a delegation led by U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice.

Meles died in Belgium last month following a lengthy illness. He ruled Ethiopia for more than 20 years, after the rebel alliance he led, the EPRDF (Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front) seized power in 1991.

The late prime minister Meles earned praise abroad for improvements in the economy, education and health care. But human rights groups sharply criticized him for various abuses, including restrictions on independent media.

He will be buried at Trinity Church alongside other prominent Ethiopian leaders, including former emperor Haile Selassie.

Under Meles, Ethiopia fought a border war with Eritrea and sent troops to Somalia to fight Islamist militants.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

Clinton Facing Deadline on Terrorist Designation for Haqqani

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a joint news conference with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (not pictured) in Rarotonga August 31, 2012.


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a joint news conference with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key (not pictured) in Rarotonga August 31, 2012.

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is facing a Congressional deadline for deciding whether the Pakistani Haqqani network meets the definition of a terrorist organization.  Labeling the group as such may complicate Afghan reconciliation efforts and U.S. relations with Pakistan.
Secretary Clinton says she will meet the September 9 deadline to tell Congress whether the Haqqani group should be considered terrorists.
Several leaders of the al-Qaida- and Taliban-linked group are already subject to U.S. sanctions, but Congress wants the entire Haqqani network named a terrorist organization as it is now widely seen as the biggest threat to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
With the deadline approaching, there have been press reports of division within the Obama administration on the Haqqani question between those who see the terrorist designation as a show of strength and those who are more cautious about its regional impact.
Speaking to reporters in the Cook Islands, Secretary Clinton refused to comment on those reports, seeking instead to underscore what she says is steady U.S. pressure on the group.
"We are drying up their resources. We are targeting their military and intelligence personnel. We are pressing the Pakistanis to step up their own efforts. So we're already taking action, and we will have more to say about the specific request from the Congress next week," said Clinton.
The secretary of state is empowered to designate the group a terrorist organization if she determines that it is engaged in activities that threaten the security of the United States and its citizens.
Adding Haqqani to that list could slow efforts to negotiate an end to the Afghan conflict as it may be more difficult to include Haqqani leaders in a new government. There remain hopes that talks with the Taliban that were suspended in March could resume with the end of this year's Afghan fighting season.
Secretary Clinton says those are decisions for Afghans. She discussed the issue here in the Cook Islands with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who agrees that the question of negotiating with the Taliban or other groups is fundamentally a matter for Kabul.
"They will in the end have to try and find a way through what is a difficult situation and come to a conclusion of how that can best be handled. And I wouldn't be surprised if part of that attempt to deliver greater security in Afghanistan is some discussions, but that's ultimately a matter for President [Hamid] Karzai," said Key.
Secretary Clinton's decision on the Haqqani network could also affect relations with Pakistan as the group is believed to have close ties with elements of Pakistani intelligence services that are pushing for its inclusion in Afghan reconciliation efforts.
Months of sour relations between the United States and Pakistani are only just now easing with July's reopening of crucial military supply lines across the Afghan border that Pakistan closed following last year's killing of 24 Pakistani troops in a U.S. air strike.
On a visit to Islamabad last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Pakistan's military will soon begin a long-awaited offensive in the North Waziristan border region, where the Haqqani network is based.
U.S. officials say a drone strike in Pakistan last week killed the day-to-day operations commander of the network, Badruddin Haqqani.

Bush, Blair Should Face Trial for Iraq Actions, Says Archbishop Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu says former U.S. president George W. Bush and former British prime minister Tony Blair acted like "playground bullies" when they decided to invade Iraq in 2003, and should face trial for their actions.

In a scathing assessment of the pair in Britain's Observer newspaper, Tutu wrote "they have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand - with the specter of Syria and Iran before us."

Tutu said the decision to invade Iraq was "premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction."  He said that decision "has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history."

The South African peace icon and retired Anglican bishop argued Western leaders are held to a different standard than their African counterparts.  He said the death toll during and after the Iraq conflict was sufficient for Blair and Bush to face trial in an international court.  

Archbishop Tutu said "in a consistent world, those responsible for this suffering and loss of life should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their action in the Hague."

The Nobel Peace laureate asked "what should we teach our children" if it is acceptable for leaders to take "drastic action on the basis of a lie, without acknowledgement or an apology when they are found out."

Tutu also explained his decision not to attend a recent South African leadership conference.  He said as the date of conference drew near, he "felt an increasingly profound sense of discomfort attending a summit on 'leadership' with Mr. Blair."  

Tutu said in the article "good leaders are the custodians of morality.  He said Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush "should not have allowed themselves to stoop to Saddam Hussein's level.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

Pakistan Cleric Arrested for Evidence Tampering in Blasphemy Case

Pakistan police have arrested a Muslim cleric on suspicion that he planted evidence against a Christian girl accused of blasphemy.  

A police official said the cleric was arrested Saturday for allegedly placing pages of the Quran in the girl's shopping bag.   

Police arrested the girl more than two weeks ago after angry neighbors surrounded her house in Islamabad, accusing her of burning pages inscribed with verses from the Quran.  A bail hearing will be held for the girl Monday.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy law, anyone who speaks ill of Islam and the Prophet Mohammad commits a crime and faces the death penalty.

There are varying reports of the girl's age, with some saying she is as young as 11 years. old.  Others quote police who say she is 16.  There are also reports the girl is mentally handicapped.

Human rights activists say the blasphemy law in Pakistan is sometimes used to harass religious minorities.  

Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Khan Babar has said blasphemy cannot be condoned, but no one would be allowed to use it to settle personal scores.

Two prominent Pakistani politicians were killed in 2011 for speaking out against the country's blasphemy law.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Democratic Convention to Nominate President Obama for Second Term

Starting on September 4, the Democratic Party holds its convention to officially nominate President Barack Obama for a second four-year term. 

Four years ago, Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States.

The Democratic Party nominated him at a highly charged convention that focused on public disenchantment with the nation’s struggling economy.  Mr. Obama capitalized on the issue with his motto, “Change We Can Believe In.” 

President Obama has been in the White House now for nearly four years.  The economy has improved, but not as much as many had hoped.  Some political experts say Mr. Obama has learned the vast difference between campaigning and governing.

Jennifer Lawless directs the Women & Politics Institute at American University. “A lot of the promises he made were contingent on the idea there would be some kind of bipartisan effort in Washington.  And right after John Boehner was elected speaker of the House of Representatives, it became clear that the Republicans' number one goal was to make sure that was not going to happen," she said. 

One example is the so-called Dream Act. It would have granted citizenship to law-abiding immigrants who arrived in the U.S. illegally as children. It was endorsed by the president, but never made it out of Congress. 

In June, President Obama announced that the U.S. will temporarily stop deporting the immigrants who qualified under the Dream Act. 

Meanwhile, his administration has deported more illegal immigrants than any president in history. 

President Obama kept his campaign promise to reform the nation’s health care system.  While the resulting law has been highly controversial, the Supreme Court upheld its major provisions.

He pushed for, and Congress approved, a $787 billion economic stimulus package and then implemented a bailout for American automakers General Motors and Chrysler. 

On President Obama’s watch, Osama bin Laden, blamed for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, was located in Pakistan and killed in a surprise military operation. 

The president withdrew U.S. forces from Iraq, increased the number of troops in Afghanistan and signed a new arms control treaty with Russia.

Barack Obama is the first African-American to be elected president.  He also is the first sitting president to support legalizing same sex marriage.

In public opinion polls, Mr. Obama scores high on likeability, but Americans view his rival Mitt Romney as better able to handle the economy. 

Barack Obama was born in Hawaii in 1961. He and his wife Michelle have two daughters, Malia and Sasha. 

Vice President Joe Biden will again join Mr. Obama on the Democratic ticket. Biden was a six-term U.S. senator and is considered a foreign policy expert, having chaired the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. 

The president and vice president will speak at the Democratic National convention on Thursday, September 6.  

US Special Forces Suspend Training of Afghans

A leading U.S. newspaper says the senior commander for U.S. special forces in Afghanistan has suspended training for all new Afghan recruits until all Afghan troops can be re-investigated for ties to the insurgency.

The Washington Post reported Saturday the re-vetting process for the more than 27,000 Afghan troops working with the special forces comes as NATO officials struggle to stop the wave of attacks on NATO service members by their Afghan colleagues.

The newspaper says the killing of 45 troops this year has forced NATO officials to acknowledge what the Post says is a "painful truth" - that the killings might have been prevented if existing security measures had been applied correctly.

The report says many military guidelines, according to NATO officials, were not adhered to by Afghans and Americans because they did not want to hinder the growth of the Afghan army and police.

Special Operations officials say the current vetting process is effective, but lacks a follow-up that would screen out Afghan troops who have fallen under the influence of the insurgency or who have grown disillusioned with the Afghan government.

The Washington Post reports NATO officials say they knew that in some instances the vetting process for Afghan soldiers and police was never properly implemented.  The officials said they overlooked it because they were concerned that the extensive background checks would slow down the recruitment process.

Sabtu, 01 September 2012

SAF Buries Miners Killed in Deadly Shooting

— JOHANNESBURG — More than two weeks after a fatal shooting outside a troubled South African platinum mine, officials and residents gathered Saturday to bury some of the 34 miners shot dead by police. But these funerals don't bring closure to the saga, which has reached the highest levels in South Africa.

Dozens of bodies were laid to rest Saturday across South Africa, weeks after police shot 34 striking miners dead earlier this month at the Lonmin platinum mine.

Harold Maloka, a spokesman for the government's inter-ministerial committee into the killings, said most of the dead were buried Saturday. They were shot just outside the mine, which is some 100 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg.

Maloka said most of the funerals took place in the Eastern Cape Province where most of the miners came from.

Maloka described the scenes as "somber."  But he said the funerals are not the end.

"Yes, definitely government will also consider it to be an unfinished issue, but you must remember that President [Jacob] Zuma has appointed a judicial commission of inquiry," said Maloka.  "That judicial commission of inquiry has been given four months to investigate exactly what has happened and the commission of inquiry will then be able to unravel and identified what happened exactly and be able to come up with recommendations that will be considered by the president."

Maloka also said the government is committed to taking care of the grieving relatives.

"On the inter-ministerial committee side, the work is not done, Maloka added.  "Even after people have been buried, some of those people have been breadwinners in their own family. The government committee is committed that all those families be assisted as the government as we have a program of social grants that all families should, those who qualify, must be able to get social assistance from government, which includes social grants, food parcels and so on to make sure they are able go on with their lives even in the absence of their loved one."

The shootout happened after days of unrest just outside the mine. Union negotiations had failed so the miners held a wildcat strike seeking a threefold pay raise to about $1,500 a month.

South African Police have said they were shot at first and had no choice but to respond in self-defense.

No police have been charged, but the government has ordered an investigation into the August 16 shootings.

Earlier this week, a court charged 270 detained miners with murder over the deaths of their 34 colleagues under a little-used "common purpose" law. That decision drew a maelstrom of criticism, and prompted Justice Minister Jeff Radebe to formally demand an explanation from prosecutors.

The mineworkers' lawyers also sent an open letter to South African President Jacob Zuma demanding the workers' release by Sunday.

The shooting of the 34 miners has called into question the South African government's management of the mining industry and unions' role in what happened.  The shooting has been described by South Africans as the deadliest confrontation between police and civilians since apartheid.  And the entire saga has prompted a rise in platinum prices, a dip in Lonmin share prices and concerns among investors.

Activists: Syrian Rebels Seize Air Defense Facility

Activists say Syrian rebels have seized an air defense facility and attacked a military airport in eastern Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attacks took place in the city of al-Bukamal in Deir al-Zor province near the Iraqi border.

The monitoring group said the rebels captured 16 air defense personnel in their raid on the military facility.

An Observatory official, Rami Abdel Rahman, told the French news agency (AFP) seizing the air defense building was a "major coup" for the rebels.  The group said the attack on the Hamdan military airport sparked violent clashes with government forces.  

Opposition fighters have been carrying out a campaign targeting the government's air power.

A few days ago, Syrian rebels and government forces engaged in fierce fighting near a military airport between the northern cities of Aleppo and Idlib.  Rebels entrenched in Aleppo and Idlib have targeted the Taftanaz military airport several times.

Syrian authorities blame the 17-month uprising on a foreign conspiracy and accuse oil-rich Gulf countries Saudi Arabia and Qatar, in addition to the United States and Turkey, of backing "terrorists" seeking to oust the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

Human rights groups have accused Assad's regime of committing many atrocities in its attempts to crush the uprising.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Early Election Results Signal Victory for Angola's Ruling Party

Angola's preliminary election results indicate the ruling party of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos captured almost three-quarters of the vote, a move that could extend the president's 33-year-rule.

Election officials said Saturday that provisional results from Friday's polling show the ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) captured 74 percent of the vote.

The results indicate MPLA's closest challenger is the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA).  UNITA, the country's main opposition group, has about 18 percent of the vote.

The election is to appoint 220 lawmakers. The leader of the winning party is chosen as president. Opposition groups have complained of voting irregularities.

Election officials say Saturday's provisional results are from nearly 60 percent of polling stations.  Final results are expected next week.

The MPLA won the last election four years ago with 82 percent of the vote, trouncing UNITA and other parties.

The two parties fought a 27-year civil war after Angola won independence from Portugal in 1975.   This is only the second election since the war ended in 2002.

President dos Santos, who is 70, is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.

Since he came into power, Angola has become Africa's second-largest oil producer.  However, large numbers of Angolans remain unemployed and locked in poverty.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Clinton, Pacific Leaders Agree on Gender Equality

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has joined Pacific leaders in a call for full gender equality - equal treatment of men and women in all parts of social, economic and political life.

Clinton and other leaders attending the 16-member Pacific Islands Forum signed a joint statement  in the Cook Islands Saturday noting that overall progress toward gender equality has been slow in the Pacific region.  They pledged to address issues including violence against women, limited economic opportunities and the representation of women in Pacific legislatures - which the statement says "remains the lowest in the world."

Clinton is in the Cook Islands at the beginning of a six-nation tour that also includes China, Brunei, East Timor and Russia. Her next stop is in Indonesia.

The State Department says Clinton and senior officials in Jakarta will discuss the U.S.-Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership, a plan that calls for enhanced bilateral relations in areas including security, economy and technology.

On Friday, Clinton announced $32 million in new U.S. programs for the Pacific region on sustainable development, climate change and marine protection.

She played down what some see as a growing U.S.-China rivalry in the region, saying the South Pacific is "big enough" for both the U.S. and China. 

However, Clinton urged China to distribute its growing number of assistance programs fairly throughout the Pacific region. Analysts have said China sometimes uses its overseas investments in ways that exploit smaller nations' resources to the detriment of local populations.

Dozens Feared Dead in Guinea Boat Accident

Dozens of people are feared dead after an overloaded boat sank off the coast of Guinea.

Officials said Saturday eight people were confirmed dead, including at least two children.

Investigators say about 50 people were on the vessel Friday, traveling from the capital, Conakry, to an island off the west African coast.

Some passengers on the ill-fated vessel were rescued, but a rescue official is quoted as saying that hopes of finding survivors have faded, meaning about 30 people could be dead.

One survivor says the boat experienced engine trouble before it overturned Friday night.

Crowds gathered on shore where some of the survivors were brought to safety.

Accidents on overcrowded boats that are poorly maintained are common in the region.

In recent months dozens of people of have died in boating accidents off the West African coast.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Max Bygraves, Veteran Entertainer, Dies Aged 89

Comedian and variety performer Max Bygraves has died, aged 89.

The  entertainer - whose catchphrase "I wanna tell you a story"  propelled him to stardom in the fifties, sixties and seventies - had been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease.

He died at his daughter's home in Australia on Friday night, where he had been living since emigrating from his millionaire's row home in Sandbanks, near Bournemouth, Dorset in 2005.

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Gold Rush On Super Saturday At Paralympics

Sprinter Richard Whitehead has powered to gold on the track, breaking his own world record to take victory in the 200-metres T42 final as ParalympicsGB moved to second in the medal table.

The 36-year-old double amputee stormed home with enough time for a "two-gun salute" bicep flex as he crossed the line.

Just minutes later Natasha Baker won ParalympicsGB's first equestrian gold medal at Greenwich Park.

The 22-year-old fought back emotion as she triumphed in the Grade II individual championship on her Paralympic Games debut.

The twin victories came as the British team won three gold and two bronze medals before lunchtime on a morning of world records at the Games.

Richard Whitehead of Great Britain celebrates winning gold in the Men's 200m - T42 Final on day 3 of the London 2012 Paralympic Games at Olympic Stadium. Richard Whitehead crosses the line with a "two-gun salute"

Cycling pair Neil Fachie and Barney Storey produced a stunning performance in the velodrome to take gold in the tandem 1km time-trial in a world record time.

Whitehead, from Nottingham, said of his world-beating victory: "It's all about guts and determination. Today I came, I saw, I conquered.

"That was what the two-gun salute was all about - in honour of my hero Chris Hoy."

He dedicated the win to his family, including his fiancee Valerie Davies, who is expecting their first child in January.

Seconds after the phenomenal win, Valerie tweeted: "Love u baby. At finish line! We are all so proud of u! Love val, bump, mum & dad!!! #proudmoment."

Gold medallists Neil Fachie and Barney Storey (pilot) of Great Britain pose on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Men's Individual B 1km Cycling Time Trial. Gold medallists Neil Fachie, left, and Barney Storey, right, on the podium

Also at the Olympics Stadium, Gemma Prescott, 28, won bronze in the F32 club throw, with Rob Womack, 41, matching the feat in the shot put.

The successes set up an exciting afternoon at the Games, which promises to deliver more medals.

Lee Pearson will be looking for success in the dressage before darling of the pool Ellie Simmonds defends her title in the 400m freestyle, after powering through her heat in a personal best time this morning.

ParalympicsGB now has 27 medals, including seven gold, 11 silver and nine bronze.

Neon Trees Release 'Picture Show'

Neon Trees is a four member band out of Provo, Utah who made their debut in 2010 with the CD Habits.  Two years later the group has returned with Picture Show and continued its success with the hit "Everybody Talks."

Energetic pop rock is how Neon Trees describe their sound.   In the last two years the band has made it to the Billboard Top 20 with both of their albums.   Their newest CD is titled Picture Show.  Tyler Glenn describes how they approached their new project.

"We went into it thinking very fearless about it because many other bands I love have gone in to make a second record and you can tell they have overthought it," said Glenn.  "With us we wanted to do the kind of music we wanted to do and [include] the influences we have always talked about.  I am very happy with it.  It is more mature but still very fun".

Tyler Glenn did not always plan to be the lead singer of a rock band.  "I was going to be a journalist," he remarked.  "I always liked writing and the arts, but I started playing in bands and that is when I felt me really come out of my shell on stage and feel really alive".

Glenn admits he has an alter ego to help him deal with his stage fright.   "I have to, I think, because I am a very natural introvert and I think when I put the clothes on and listen to music before [going on stage] and get hyped," Glenn explained.  "In the last couple of years getting fans and a nice fan base to show up and sing with you.  You feel that energy and exchange.  That has helped me not have to do a bunch of rituals or whatever, I am able to just go out and be natural."

The band was actually discovered by a member of another popular band. "The drummer of The Killers [Ronnie Vannucci] got into us and came to some shows and saw we had something," recalled Glenn.  "We were only playing for 10 to 15 people at the time in [Las] Vegas.  In our home area we had started selling out shows but it was hard to go national and they gave us a nice break and let us open some shows."

Neon Trees chose their name after seeing the bright colored lights on display at a fast food restaurant in Los Angeles.   There is a special connection to the name as Tyler describes.

"When Brandon [Campbell] our bass player joined he asked where the name came from and I told him, he said his dad works at Yesco [a neon lighting company] from Las Vegas and he built the neon lighting in the 1980s and sure enough his dad built those lights years and years before I met Brandon so it was a weird spiritual twist," Glenn noted.

Neon Trees are on tour to promote the new CD Picture Show and have just released their second single from the new album.

Pair Arrested After Death Of Girl, 3

A man and a woman have been arrested on suspicion of murder following the death of a three-year-old girl.

Lancashire Police said a murder investigation has been launched after Lia Green died in Preston on Thursday.

A 22-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman are being questioned by detectives.

Lia was feeling unwell on the morning of August 30 and was taken by paramedics from her home on Norris Street to the Royal Preston Hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival.

Officers from the Force Major Investigation Team are working to establish exactly how she died.

Detective Superintendent Dermott Horrigan, the Senior Investigating Officer, said: "This is an incredibly complex and sensitive inquiry and we have a team of highly trained and professional officers looking into the matter.

"Dedicated family liaison officers will be working with the family.

"The death of a child will always be greeted with shock and a deep sense of sadness. We have dedicated neighbourhood policing officers working in the area and talking to residents and I would urge anyone who has any concerns to speak to them."

Spanish Wildfires Are Now Under Control

Thousands of people have been evacuated on Spain's Costa Del Sol as wildfires fanned by strong winds threaten the wealthy Mediterranean resort city of Marbella.

At least one person died, two sustained burns and more than 4,000 others were forced to flee their homes as they wildfire strengthened.

Authorities said the latest fire started outside the mountainside town of Coin, northeast of Marbella, and that arson was suspected.

A dry winter followed by a scorching hot summer has left much of southern Spain tinder dry and vulnerable to fires.

Around 580 square miles of land in Spain has burned in nearly 12,000 wildfires so far this year.

wildfire near malaga, spain Thousands of people have been evacuated along the Costa del Sol

Other European nations, including Greece, Portugal and Bosnia, have faced similar blazes.

Hundreds of Britons are among those forced out of their homes, including 300 who have been relocated to evacuation centres in the La Cala de Mijas and Calahonda areas, a Foreign Office spokesman confirmed.

The charred body of an elderly man was found near a house where he had apparently returned after being evacuated, according to the Andalusia government.

Local police found the body while searching through the burnt embers of a house, the statement said.

Two 58-year-old people were in critical condition with burns covering more than 60% of their bodies, it added.

Marbella - with its leisure craft port of Puerto Banus - is one of Europe's most luxurious seaside destinations.

Millions of tourists visit the southern coast every year and hundreds of thousands of expatriates live in the coastal belt stretching from Marbella east to the port city of Malaga.

UK Could Be A 'No Smoking Nation' By 2032

Senior doctors and anti-smoking campaigners have told Sky News they are working towards making the UK a no smoking nation within the next 20 years.

Leading specialist Professor John Britain has called on the Government to back the goal, describing it as entirely realistic.

"Andrew Lansley could make himself a legacy greater than almost of any other Health Secretary in history," Professor Britain, who chairs the Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group, said.

"I think it will be entirely realistic for all practical purposes to eradicate smoking within 20 years."

Cigarette butts in an ashtray The Department of Health says it is open-minded about new restrictions

Although smoking rates are falling, each year it kills around 100,000 people, while 200,000 children and young people take up the habit.

Smoking is estimated to cost the NHS in England alone £2.7bn per year, with the cost to society as a whole estimated to be £13.74bn.

In the North East, which has successfully reduced the number of adults who smoke from 24.2% in 2009 to 21.5% in 2011, the goal of a smoke-free UK within two decades is being actively promoted by Fresh, the regional office for tobacco control.

"Our vision is to make smoking history for our children in the next 20 years and we know there are millions out there that back this," Ailsa Rutter, the organisation's chief executive, said.

A woman smokes a cigarette Attempts have been made to make cigarettes socially unacceptable

Campaigners say they are not pushing for a ban, but want to make cigarettes more expensive, less well advertised and too socially unacceptable for most people to continue smoking.

Proposals to reduce the desirability of tobacco by forcing the industry to sell it in unbranded packaging are being assessed by the Government.

The Department of Health says it has an "open mind" about the idea, which is fiercely opposed by the tobacco industry.

UK campaigners have been spurred on by initiatives elsewhere, including attempts in Australia to make it illegal to sell tobacco to anyone born after the year 2000.

Ms Rutter said public opinion has changed in recent years and that she believes the tide is turning against smoking.

"We really can push further," she said. "We can make smoking history, and I do truly believe that it's the right thing to do."

Her vision is supported by Dr Chris Stenton, consultant chest physician at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary

He said: "I do look forward to the time when no one will smoke - 20 years or 30 years - but thereabouts."

Attack On Nato Base In Afghanistan Kills 12

A twin suicide bombing targeting a Nato base in eastern Afghanistan has killed eight civilians and four Afghan policemen.

A spokesman for Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said no one from the alliance was killed but two soldiers were wounded in the attack in Wardak province's Sayed Abad district.

The Taliban, which took responsibility for the Saturday morning attack, said it had dispatched two suicide bombers, one travelling on foot and another in an explosives-laden truck.

Government officials said the first attacker blew himself up to try to eliminate the Afghan security force guarding the compound and clear the way for the truck to hit the base down the road from the governor's complex.

The second bomber then blew up the fuel tanker as he was approaching the base.

Sahidullah Shahid, spokesman for the provincial governor, said: "The truck bomb was huge, killing 12 and wounding 50 more."

The Nato base was targeted last year on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, when a suicide bomber drove into it, killing four civilians and wounding 77 US troops.

Wardak province saw the worst single incident suffered by foreign forces in over 10 years of war when the Taliban shot down a transport helicopter last year, killing 38 troops, 30 of whom were American, mostly elite Navy SEALs.

Two US troops were also killed on Saturday in a separate insurgent attack in eastern Ghazni province, Isaf said in a statement.

Violence has increased across Afghanistan as the 2014 deadline for Nato to withdraw most of its troops approaches, and fears are mounting that the 350,000-strong Nato-trained Afghan security forces will not be able to tackle insurgents once they leave.

German Producer of Thalidomide Apologizes

A German pharmaceutical company has issued its first apology for the thalidomide tragedy - 50 years after the morning sickness drug given to pregnant women in the 1950s and the early 1960s caused thousands of babies to be born with severe birth defects.

Grunenthal chief executive Harald Stock apologized Friday, saying  "we have been silent and we are very sorry for that."

The pharmaceutical chief spoke in Stolberg, Germany, at the unveiling of a bronze memorial statue symbolizing a child born without limbs because of thalidomide.

Stock said the drug was taken by many women "who had no reason to imagine that it could seriously harm their unborn children."

He said "we ask that you regard our long silence as a sign of the silent shock that your fate has caused us."

Stock said Grunenthal has begun to develop projects with victims of the drug to improve their living conditions.  Some victim groups have rejected those projects as too little, too late.

The World Health Organization says more than 10,000 cases of birth defects were reported in more than 46 countries, following exposure to thalidomide.  WHO says children were born with missing or abnormal legs, arms, feet and hands.  There were also spinal cord defects, cleft lips or palates, and absent or abnormal external ears.  Other defects included heart, kidney and genital abnormalities and abnormal formation of the digestive system. 

Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.

Philippine Villagers Return Home After Tsunami Alert Lifted

Thousands of Philippine villagers who fled after an earthquake returned to their homes Saturday after a tsunami alert was lifted.

The U.S. Geological Survey says Friday's magnitude 7.6 quake was centered to the east of the Philippines, about 96 kilometers from the town of Sulangan.

Officials say the quake killed one person.  It also caused some power outages and damage to structures.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued warnings Friday for the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan and Palau, but cancelled the tsunami warnings after the threat passed.  Only a small wave was generated.

In March 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that struck northeast Japan. More than 15,000 people were killed.  The disaster also caused major damage to Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

4 Militants Killed in Drone Strike in Pakistan

Security officials in northwest Pakistan say a U.S. drone strike has killed at least four militants in the restive tribal region near the Afghan border.

Officials say the drones fired at least four missiles Saturday, hitting a house in the Degan area of North Waziristan, a known stronghold of al-Qaida and the Taliban.

Authorities say the targeted area is dominated by the Hafiz Gul Bahadur militant group. 

Drone strikes are a contentious issue between Washington and Islamabad.  Pakistan says the strikes violate its sovereignty, but the United States believes they are an important tool in the effort to defeat al-Qaida. 

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Obama Honors US Troops on Iraq Anniversary

U.S. President Barack Obama has marked the second anniversary of the end of the U.S. combat mission in Iraq by thanking soldiers and their families for their sacrifices.

During his weekly address Saturday, Obama spoke of his visit to Fort Bliss, Texas Friday, where he congratulated the soldiers on their accomplishments.

The president also said progress has been made against the Taliban in Afghanistan, but more difficult work lies ahead.  He said the U.S. is on track to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

President Obama said as troops return home they should not have to fight for a job.  Obama says helping troops realize their dreams is the way to show them honor.

Watch President Obama's weekly speech:

In the Republican address, Congressman Steve Scalise urged Democrats to help stop a tax hike on small businesses set to take effect in January 1st.

He said the tax will make it more difficult for small business owners to hire new workers.  Scalise says keeping the "American Dream"  alive means supporting an economy that promotes freedom and private sector job opportunities."