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NEWS Distillation – Week of 22-26 October 2012 – (TCP)CHICAGO

Today's Headlines - (TCP)CHICAGO

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22 – 26 October 2012

Jordan – The Jerusalem Post reported: Amman’s fears of spillover violence from Syria grow following death of Jordanian soldier killed in clashes with militants. Amman’s concerns over the rise of Salafist-Jihadist extremism grew on Monday, after a Jordanian soldier was killed in clashes with eight armed militants illegally attempting to cross the border with Syria. According to an official Jordanian Armed Forces source, Cpl. Muhammad Abdullah Manaseer al-Abbadi was killed Sunday night by members of Takfiri – a Salafist movement that condones acts of violence including suicide bombing, as a legitimate way to achieve political goals. “Another armed Takfiri group using Kalashnikov rifles and guns tried to cross the border at midnight local time and clashed with the Jordanian forces but all of the group was arrested and one of them was critically injured,” according to Jordan’s Petra News Agency.

SyriaUSA Today reported: Gunmen and Lebanese security forces clashed Monday around many Beirut neighborhoods for the second night in a row as violence from the civil war in Syria appeared to spill over into its neighboring country. Lebanese soldiers in armored vehicles tried to break up civilian roadblocks and chase gunmen off the streets after the assassination of a prominent security chief who was an opponent of Syrian involvement in Lebanon. Clashes killed at least five people. Heavy gunfire took place in neighborhoods until the Lebanese army restored calm Monday night.

GazaReuters reported: The emir of pro-Western Qatar will become the first head of state to enter the blockaded Gaza Strip on Tuesday, in a high-profile visit breaking the isolation of the Iranian-backed Islamist movement Hamas that seized power in 2007. Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani is officially visiting the Palestinian enclave to inaugurate reconstruction projects worth over $250 million, which an envoy of his oil-rich, conservative Arab emirate unveiled in Gaza last week. But his trip will be loaded with political symbolism. The emir will be the first foreign leader to go to Gaza under the rule of Hamas, a militant movement that is outlawed by Israel and the West as a terrorist organisation, but whose influence and aspirations in the Middle East conflict may be hard to ignore.

United NationsXinhua reported: The United Nations is planning a peacekeeping force for Syria if a proposed ceasefire takes hold in the conflict-torn Middle East country, which has been suffering from a political crisis since March 2011, said Herve Ladsous, the UN under-secretary-general for peacekeeping operations, here on Monday. “I would confirm that, of course, we are giving a lot of thought to what would happen if and when a political solution or at least a ceasefire would emerge,” Ladsous told a press conference. The UN peacekeeping chief made the statement as the UN-Arab League joint special representative for Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, is in the Syrian capital Damascus to mediate a ceasefire between government troops and armed opposition fighters during the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha, which starts on Friday. The peacekeeping force is one of the various contingency plans for bringing an early end to the 19-month Syrian crisis, Ladsous noted.

Pakistan – The Telegraph UK reported: Osama bin Laden retreated behind closed doors, refusing to set foot even in the courtyard of his hideaway in the final weeks before he died because of a security lapse, found the official Pakistani report on the al-Qaeda leader. An independent commission has spent the past year and a half questioning military officers, bin Laden’s wives and residents of Abbottabad. The Daily Telegraph has learnt from a senior government official that no one else in the town knew the world’s most wanted man had taken up residence there. It clears Pakistan’s government and military establishment of involvement, a verdict that will prompt accusations of a cover-up and infuriate Western diplomats. The investigation describes how the daughter of one of bin Laden’s two couriers, who lived with their families in separate buildings inside the high-walled compound, saw the al-Qaeda leader as she climbed the stairs in his private area for a Koran lesson with one of his wives.

Palestine – The Standard Examiner reported: Editor, The author of the Oct. 5 letter, “U.S. winks at illegal settlements In Palestine,” claims to have had a “mind numbing” experience from reading a previous letter of Sept. 27, “No illegal occupation of land by Israel.” Here are a few facts to increase the numbness: The estimated number of Palestinian Arab refugees created in 1948 varies wildly from 158,000 to 650,000, depending on who is doing the counting. These numbers come from divergent sources including the Arabs. The 800,000 figure mentioned in the letter is highly inflated. These Palestinian refugees were placed into “refugee camps” by their Arab brothers and are used as propaganda pawns by the Arab leaders. These Palestinian Arabs were not forcibly driven from their homes in 1948. They fled out of fear and urging of their leaders. I was there and my brigade never received any orders to drive civilians from there homes.

Lebanon – The LA Times reported: More than 50 are injured in the attack in Aleppo by government forces, on a day that saw more than 100 killed across Syria, activists say. At least 20 people were killed in the Syrian city of Aleppo on Tuesday when a bakery was hit by a shell, turning the bread shop into a bloodbath, activists said. More than 50 people were injured in the attack by government forces on the Masaken Hanano neighborhood, they said, with surrounding field hospitals so overwhelmed by the influx of victims that activists sent out a plea for local doctors to come and assist. Only half of the victims could be identified. One gruesome video showed a young girl, in a turquoise shirt, whose head had been blown off. They were among more than 100 killed across Syria on Tuesday, activists said.

Israel – The Jerusalem Post reported: 3 Hamas members killed, 3 injured in IAF operations; Palestinians fire 34 rockets into Israel; IDF officer critically hurt in by bomb. The IAF struck three rocket-launching cells in the northern and southern Gaza Strip late Tuesday after a volley of rockets and mortar shells fell in the Eshkol region earlier. Hamas said that three of its operatives were killed in the strikes, and another three were injured. Palestinian terrorists fired 34 rockets and mortars into southern Israel overnight Tuesday, sending local residents fleeing for cover. One resident said that a house was damaged in the barrage. Twenty of the projectiles landed in the Eshkol region while 14 landed in the Lachish region. Air raid sirens went off during the attacks and local residents fled for cover. No one was injured.

TurkeyFOX NEWS reported: An anti-aircraft shell from Syria hit an empty room of a health center inside Turkey, a private news agency reported Tuesday. No injuries were reported. The shell pierced through a window of the health center some 200 meters (yards) inside the Turkish border, in the town of Reyhanli and ricocheted five times before hitting a wall, the Dogan news agency reported. An investigation was launched into the incident, the agency said. Forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad have been battling rebels near the town of Haram, in Syria’s Idlib province, across the border from Reyhanli. Ever since a shell fired from Syria on Oct. 3 slammed into a Turkish border town, killing 5 civilians, Turkey has been firing into Syria in response to similar attacks.

Israel – The Jerusalem Post reported: FM says he’ll raise issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries, Iran whenever Palestinians demand repatriation of refugees. “We will not give up on this goal,” Liberman told representatives from the Central Organization for Jews from Arab Countries and Iran on Tuesday afternoon in reference recent developments on his ministry’s efforts to bring the issue of Jewish refugee rights to public and diplomatic attention. “Whenever the issue of Palestinian refugees is raised in the context of peace negotiations, we will raise the issue of Jewish refugees from Arab countries.” He noted that the Jewish refugees “came to Israel and were successfully absorbed by the state, as opposed to the Arab states who kept Palestinian refugees in refugee camps to tear Israel apart.” Liberman, who heads Yisrael Beytenu, also said the issue would be part of his party’s election platform and that he would insist that the campaign be advanced as part of any coalition agreement after the general election in January.

Japan – The New York Times reported: Japan’s justice minister resigned on Tuesday after an uproar over his past ties to members of organized crime, putting further pressure on Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to call national elections. The minister, Keishu Tanaka, appointed three weeks ago in a cabinet reshuffle, resigned for health reasons, the government’s top spokesman, Osamu Fujimura, said at a news conference on Tuesday. But the resignation came after days of haranguing from opposition lawmakers over a magazine report that said he had associated with a Japanese organized-crime syndicate. Mr. Tanaka acknowledged that he had helped with the wedding of an organized-crime member three decades ago and that he had attended a party hosted by a mobster boss. But he initially refused to resign, saying he had been unaware of their mob connections at the time.

Italy – The New York Times reported: Seven prominent Italian earthquake experts were convicted of manslaughter on Monday and sentenced to six years in prison for failing to give adequate warning to the residents of a seismically active area in the months preceding an earthquake that killed more than 300 people. Speaking in a hushed courtroom in L’Aquila, the city whose historic center was gutted by the April 2009 earthquake, the judge, Marco Billi, read a long list of names of those who had died or been injured in the disaster before he handed down the sentences to six scientists and a former government official. The defendants, who said they would appeal the decision, will also have to pay court costs and damages of $10.2 million. The seven, most of them seismologists and geologists, were members of the National Commission for the Forecast and Prevention of Major Risks, which met shortly before the quake struck — after weeks of frequent small tremors — but did not issue a safety warning.

 Cuba – The BBC reported: Sandy has reached south-east Cuba and strengthened into a strong category two hurricane. The hurricane was carrying maximum sustained winds of 175km/h (110mph) as it hit land just west of Santiago de Cuba, said the US-based National Hurricane Center (NHC). On Wednesday, one man was killed as Sandy swept over Jamaica. A hurricane watch is in place in the Bahamas, and Florida has been placed on tropical storm watch. The NHC said wind gusts of up to to 183km/h had been reported in Santiago de Cuba. It warned the hurricane was bringing heavy rain which could “produce life-threatening flash floods and mudslides, especially in areas of mountainous terrain”.

United Nations – The Radio Free Europe reported: The United Nations Security Council has called on the Syrian government and rebel groups to accept a four-day truce proposal. UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi has proposed that both sides lay down their arms during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha, which begins on October 26. The Security Council has in the past been sharply divided over Syria, but in a statement adopted unanimously on October 24, the 15-nation council called on all sides to work toward a “sustainable cessation of all violence.” The Syrian government has not yet officially announced whether it accepts the cease-fire plan, and at least one rebel group has already rejected it. Russia’s UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow has received “indications” that the Syrian regime will announce its agreement on the plan. An announcement from Damascus was expected on October 25.

Gaza – The Christian Science Monitor reported: Gaza and the West Bank have become two irreconcilable entities, many say. Meanwhile, Israelis increasingly support a state shared with West Bank Palestinians, albeit unequally. After decades of the “two states for two peoples” blueprint more or less dominating proposals for Israeli-Palestinian peace, a new paradigm is gaining momentum. Under this model, Israel absorbs the West Bank and its 2.5 million Palestinians, while Hamas-run Gaza becomes a separate entity aligned with the Middle East’s rising Islamist powers. Such a development could potentially improve stability after decades of unresolved conflict, but it represents a blow to Palestinians and their aspirations of statehood as well as to Israelis who see a Palestinian state as essential for their own security. Gaza militants’ firing of more than 70 rockets and mortars into Israel today emphasized the security risk posed to Israel by a rogue neighbor that neither it nor the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) can control.

Sudan – The BBC Africa Corps reported: The Sudanese government says it believes Israel was responsible for explosions at a military factory in the capital Khartoum on Tuesday. Culture and Information Minister Ahmed Bilal Osman said four Israeli planes attacked the factory and two people were killed. Israel has not commented. Sudan has blamed Israel for such attacks in the past. Correspondents say Israel believes weapons are being smuggled through the region to Gaza. Leaked US State Department documents three years ago suggested that Sudan was secretly supplying Iranian arms to Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In April 2011, Khartoum held Israel responsible for an air strike that killed two people in a car near the city of Port Sudan. Israel, again, did not comment on the incident.

China – The Jakarta Globe reported: Four Chinese government ships entered territorial waters around disputed Tokyo-controlled islands early Thursday, the Japanese coastguard said, sparking a strong protest from Japan. Three maritime surveillance vessels entered the 12-nautical-mile zone around one of the islands in the East China Sea shortly after 6:30 a.m., the Japanese coastguard said in a statement. Another surveillance ship joined them one hour later. The four Chinese vessels were off Minamikojima, one of the islands in a chain known as the Senkakus in Japan and the Diaoyus in China. Separately, two fisheries patrol ships were spotted in the so-called contiguous waters, which extend a further 12 nautical miles, of another island in the chain, coastguards said. The two vessel types are run by different Chinese government agencies but are not military.

North Korea – The Telegraph UK reported: A North Korean army minister was executed with a mortar round for reportedly drinking and carousing during the official mourning period after Kim Jong-il’s death. Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was taken into custody earlier this year on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who assumed the leadership after the death of his father in December. On the orders of Kim Jong-un to leave “no trace of him behind, down to his hair,” according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and “obliterated.” The execution of Kim Chol is just one example of a purge of members of the North Korean military or party who threatened the fledgling regime of Kim Jong-un.

RussiaReuters reported: The Russian opposition on Wednesday called on President Vladimir Putin to stop hounding his political opponents, saying the authorities had resorted to using direct and illegal physical pressure against people they considered a threat. The statement, from a newly-formed opposition body, followed the arrest of an activist whom the authorities have accused of plotting to foment unrest but who his supporters say was abducted, tortured, and forced to make a false confession. “The Russian authorities have turned to methods of direct physical pressure on their opponents that boldly violate the norms of Russian and international law,” the opposition Coordination Council said in statement. “We demand that the state authorities and Vladimir Putin himself stop the practice of pressuring supporters of the opposition.” The Council was elected by opposition supporters in an Internet vote earlier this month and tasked with trying to mount a structured challenge to Putin, who assumed the presidency in May for a six-year term. More than 81,000 people took part in the vote, underscoring the scale of the challenge the opposition faces in a country with a population of 142 million people.

EcuadorBloomberg NEWS reported: Ecuador wants a meeting with U.K. officials to discuss WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s declining health as four months in the South American nation’s embassy in London saps the anti-secrecy advocate’s strength. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said yesterday he is “concerned” Assange, who has been holed up in the country’s mission since June, is losing weight and wants the U.K. to guarantee the Australian citizen’s safe passage to a hospital if his medical condition worsens, according to a statement published in the president’s official gazette. Britain has threatened to arrest Assange and extradite him to Sweden, where he’s wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct, if he walks out of the embassy near the Harrods department store in London’s Knightsbridge district. Assange and Patino also want British and Swedish guarantees they won’t allow him to be turned over to the U.S., where they say he could face torture and execution. Ecuador “is waiting for an official statement by the British government about what happens in the case of a medical emergency,” Patino said, according to the statement. “I want to know what happens if there is a complication in his health.”

Iraq – The Indian Express reported: A 9-year-old schoolboy was among at least 12 people that insurgents killed across Iraq on Wednesday, rattling nerves ahead of a holiday weekend. The attacks took place in Kirkuk, Mansour, Mashtal and Mishada neighbourhoods spanned across Iraq.

Syria – The LA Times reported: Rebels as well as the government insist the other side not use the truce during the Eid al-Adha holiday to rearm. Few expect the four days to be violence-free. The Syrian military said Thursday that its forces would observe a temporary holiday cease-fire starting today, signaling a potential new phase in international efforts to halt a conflict that has caused vast destruction and loss of life and threatened to destabilize the Middle East. Brokering the truce was peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, a veteran Algerian diplomat who has been on a shuttle diplomacy mission aimed at selling the truce idea to the warring sides and to their international allies. Brahimi has voiced optimism that a truce coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha could expand into a more far-reaching peace initiative. How that might happen was unclear. Both sides reacted cautiously to the announcement and there were no signs of a broader breakthrough in the 19-month-old conflict.

Myanmar – The Houston Chronicle reported: At least 56 people have been killed and 1,900 homes destroyed in renewed ethnic violence in western Myanmar as the government warned perpetrators and the international community appealed for calm. About 75,000 people remain in refugee camps since an outbreak of violence in June between the Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in which at least 90 people were killed and more than 3,000 homes were destroyed. Curfews in place in some areas since then have been expanded with the latest violence, but tensions have stayed high in part because the government has failed to find any long-term solution other than segregating the communities, which have long been in conflict. Since Sunday, 25 men and 31 women were reported dead in four Rakhine state townships, local government spokesman Win Myaing said. Some 1,900 homes had been burned down in the fresh conflict, while 60 men and four women were injured. It was unclear how many of the victims were Rohingya people and how many were Rakhine.

IsraelTIME Magazine reported: Late on Oct. 23, an enormous explosion erupted around a government-run ammunition factory on the outskirts of Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. Terrified residents in the area reported a blackout, the whizz of a rocket, then a huge blast that sent white sparks into the night sky and matériel flying in all directions. While the first official report suggested it was due to an accidental explosion in a storage room, Khartoum later blamed Israel for launching the attack. “We believe that Israel is behind it,” said Information Minister Ahmed Belal Osman, adding that the planes had approached from the east. The Sudanese government claims that four Israeli strike planes launched the attack, which partially destroyed al-Yarmouk ammunition factory and killed two civilians. “The main purpose is to frustrate our military capabilities and stop any development there and ultimately weaken our national sovereignty,” Osman said, adding that “Sudan reserves the right to strike back at Israel.” Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Sudanese army (SAF), al-Sawarmi Khalid Saad, suggested there could be spies within the SAF as well; the military had had plans to relocate the factory. He also said that Israel had previously voiced its concern about the factory but acted on false information that it was producing heavy weapons.

Lebanon – The Jerusalem Post reported: Ceasefire due to begin on Id al-Adha; army says will respond to attacks or reinforcement of rebel units; FSA rebels say committed to truce; Del Ponte vows to bring senior officials to justice. Damascus residents reported artillery barrages by Syrian troops hours before Friday’s scheduled start of a ceasefire to mark the Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha. They said that on Thursday night troops stationed on a mountain overlooking the Syrian capital targeted Hajar al-Aswad, a poor neighborhood inhabited by refugees from the Golan Heights. There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Vatican City – The BBC reported: The Pope’s former butler, found guilty of stealing papal documents, has been moved to a Vatican cell to serve the rest of his sentence. Paolo Gabriele was given an 18-month prison sentence earlier this month. He admitted passing documents to a journalist, but said he did it out of love for the Church and the Pope. The Vatican secretary of state’s office has left open the possibility of a papal pardon if Gabriele repents and seeks forgiveness. As neither Gabriele’s defence lawyer nor the Vatican prosecutor has entered an appeal, his sentence has now become definitive.

Japan – The Voice of America reported: Japan says four Chinese government ships entered waters near contested Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea, as a territorial dispute between the two Asian giants drags on. Japan’s Coast Guard said the Chinese surveillance vessels spent several hours within a 22-kilometer zone surrounding the islands Thursday. It said this is the first time in three weeks that Chinese ships have entered the zone, which Japan considers its territory. The move prompted a “strong protest” by Japan’s foreign ministry. China’s foreign ministry shot back, saying the ships were conducting “routine patrols” to “safeguard the country’s sovereignty.”

 North KoreaFOX NEWS reported: A North Korean army minister was reportedly executed with a mortar round for allegedly drinking and carousing during the official mourning period following leader Kim Jong-il’s death. Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was reportedly taken into custody on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who assumed leadership after his father’s death, The Telegraph reported. Kim Jong-un reportedly ordered to leave “no trace of him behind, down to his hair,” according to South Korean media. “When Kim Jong-un became North Korean leader following the mourning period for his father in late December, high-ranking military officers started disappearing,” a source told South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo. “From information compiled over the last month, we have concluded that dozens of military officers were purged.”

Persian Gulf – The Guardian UK reported: Britain has rebuffed US pleas to use military bases in the UK to support the build-up of forces in the Gulf, citing secret legal advice which states that any pre-emptive strike on Iran could be in breach of international law. The Guardian has been told that US diplomats have also lobbied for the use of British bases in Cyprus, and for permission to fly from US bases on Ascension Island in the Atlantic and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, both of which are British territories. The US approaches are part of contingency planning over the nuclear standoff with Tehran, but British ministers have so far reacted coolly. They have pointed US officials to legal advice drafted by the attorney general’s office which has been circulated to Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence.

United Kingdom – The Guardian UK reported: Julian Assange has said he will not consider leaving the Ecuadorean embassy in London unless the US government drops its “immoral” investigation into WikiLeaks. Assange has been sheltering in the embassy since June as part of his attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations. He fears he will ultimately be sent to the United States to face interrogation over the whistleblowing website, which he founded. In a CNN interview in the embassy, Assange said the standoff could end if the US government drops its investigation. “It’s an immoral investigation,” he said. “It breaches the first amendment, it breaches all the principles that the US government says it stands for and it absolutely breaches the principles the founding fathers stood for and which most of the US people believe in.” Assange broke his bail conditions in June when he took refuge in the embassy in Knightsbridge after he lost a supreme court challenge to the validity of the European arrest warrant that demanded his return to Sweden for questioning. He was due to be sent within days when he took up residence in the diplomatic mission having been granted political asylum.

Afghanistan – The Associated Press reported: A suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a mosque packed with senior regional officials in northern Afghanistan on a major Muslim holiday Friday, killing 41 people. The officials escaped unhurt, and many of the dead were soldiers and police. the attack was the latest in a series of deadly strikes in recent weeks against Afghan army, police and government officials. The choice of targets suggests that the insurgents are increasingly turning against Afghan authorities and security forces now that NATO is drawing down toward a final withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014. Deaths of Afghan police and soldiers are higher this year than last year, according army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zaher Azimi. Although the Taliban have claimed responsibility for a parallel sharp increase in attacks by Afghan servicemen on their foreign colleagues, the overall number of coalition deaths has been noticeably lower than last year. Health Minister Soraya Dalil said 41 people were killed and 56 wounded in Friday’s attack.

PalestineReuters reported: Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Wednesday he would be ready for negotiations with Israel “straightaway” if the U.N. recognized Palestine as a non-member state. His comments appeared to be another attempt to assure the United States that the Palestinian campaign for status change at the U.N. is not an attempt to circumvent bilateral talks with Israel deadlocked since 2010 over settlement construction in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. “We have resolved to go to the U.N. to save the two-state solution and to achieve the rights of our people as an observer state,” Abbas told reporters during a visit by the Bulgarian president to the West Bank city of Ramallah. “We’re ready to go back to negotiations straightaway. Going to the U.N. is not a substitute for negotiations. We are in need of negotiations to solve the final status of issues that face us both,” he said.

GazaNew Jersey NEWS reported: A deadly flare-up in fighting between Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas group subsided on Thursday after Egypt helped to restore calm ahead of a major Muslim holiday. Weeks of simmering violence intensified on Tuesday night, when rocket fire from Gaza drew Israeli airstrikes that killed two Palestinian militants. Palestinian militants were angry over a series of Israeli strikes that targeted shadowy jihadists in Gaza. The hostilities came to a boil Wednesday, when militants fired some 80 rockets and mortars at southern Israel, and Israeli aircraft struck Gaza four times. In all, five Palestinians, including three militants, were killed in the fighting and two foreign laborers in Israel were critically wounded. The fifth Palestinian, a 24-year-old man, died on Thursday of wounds he sustained in an Israeli strike, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra. It was not known whether he was a militant. The rocket and mortar fire stopped overnight, though one projectile landed in southern Israel on Thursday morning, causing no damage. The military said it last struck Gaza on Wednesday morning. The violence ebbed as Muslims began preparing for the Eid al-Adha holiday, which begins Friday. Both sides confirmed Egyptian involvement in ending the fighting.

Afghanistan – The Washington Post reported: A suicide bomber detonated explosives outside a mosque packed with senior regional officials in northern Afghanistan on a major Muslim holiday Friday, killing 41 people. The officials escaped unhurt, and many of the dead were soldiers and police. The attack was the latest in a series of deadly strikes in recent weeks against Afghan army, police and government officials. The choice of targets suggests that the insurgents are increasingly turning against Afghan authorities and security forces now that NATO is drawing down toward a final withdrawal of foreign combat troops in 2014. Deaths of Afghan police and soldiers are higher this year than last year, according army spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zaher Azimi. Although the Taliban have claimed responsibility for a parallel sharp increase in attacks by Afghan servicemen on their foreign colleagues, the overall number of coalition deaths has been noticeably lower than last year.

AfghanistanPhilly.com via (AP) reported: At least 56 people have been killed and 1,900 homes destroyed in renewed ethnic violence in western Myanmar as the government warned perpetrators and the international community appealed for calm. About 75,000 people remain in refugee camps since an outbreak of violence in June between the Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya communities in which at least 90 people were killed and more than 3,000 homes were destroyed. Curfews in place in some areas since then have been expanded with the latest violence, but tensions have stayed high in part because the government has failed to find any long-term solution other than segregating the communities, which have long been in conflict. Since Sunday, 25 men and 31 women were reported dead in four Rakhine state townships, local government spokesman Win Myaing said. Some 1,900 homes had been burned down in the fresh conflict, while 60 men and four women were injured. It was unclear how many of the victims were Rohingya people and how many were Rakhine. The United States called for Myanmar authorities to take immediate action to halt the violence. The United Nations appealed for calm.

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    DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) - Caterpillar's third-quarter results beat Wall Street's expectations, buoyed by increased demand and higher prices. For the three months ended Sept. 30, the construction equipment company earned $1.73 billion, or $2.88 per share. A year earlier the Deerfield, Illinois-based company earned $1.06 billion, or $1.77 per share. ...
  • McDonald's puts up some supersized 3Q numbers October 23, 2018
    CHICAGO (AP) - McDonald's logged its 13th consecutive month of positive same-store sales and topped Wall Street profit and revenue expectations for the third quarter. Shares in the world's biggest burger chain defied a major sell-off in U.S. markets before the opening bell Tuesday, rising more than 2 percent. The ...
  • Farmer finds decomposing body in N Carolina soybean field October 23, 2018
    MONROE, N.C. (AP) - A North Carolina farmer has found a decomposed body among the rows of soybeans in his field. News outlets report the farmer was harvesting his crop Monday afternoon when he spotted the body in the 250-acre (101-hectare) field and called 911. Union County officials believe the ...
  • Ribbon cutting for Mississippi plant drying shrimp hulls October 23, 2018
    PASSCAGOULA, Miss. (AP) - There's money to be made from the hulls of peeled shrimp, material that usually ends up in landfills. A facility opening along Mississippi's Gulf Coast will process these shrimp exoskeletons and harvest the material known as chitin for use in a variety of products. WLOX-TV ...
  • Egypt arrests author, publisher over book on economy October 23, 2018
    CAIRO (AP) - Egyptian security officials are reporting that an economist and his publisher have been arrested over a book that challenged President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's assertion that Egypt is a poor country. The officials said Tuesday that prize-winning economist Abdel-Khaleq Farouq and his publisher Ibrahim el-Khateib were detained Sunday. Officials ...
    HAMZA HENDAWI
  • BMW to recall 1.6 million vehicles worldwide over fire risk October 23, 2018
    FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) - Automaker BMW says it is expanding a recall to cover 1.6 million vehicles worldwide due to possible fluid leaks that could result in a fire. BMW said Tuesday that in some diesel vehicles coolant could leak from the exhaust gas recirculation module, part of the emissions ...
  • Payday loan job shadows exec's run for Connecticut governor October 23, 2018
    HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - In his run for Connecticut governor, Republican businessman Bob Stefanowski touts his stints with blue-chip companies like General Electric and UBS Investment Bank. But the role getting all the attention is his most recent job as CEO of a global payday lending company. Rivals have piled ...
    SUSAN HAIGH
  • J&J moves to buy Japanese cosmetic products company October 23, 2018
    NEW YORK (AP) - Johnson & Johnson is paying about $2 billion in cash for the outstanding stake of a Japanese cosmetics and skincare products company. The New Brunswick, New Jersey, health care products company already owns about 20 percent of Ci:z Holdings Co. Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that ...
  • Verizon: 3Q Earnings Snapshot October 23, 2018
    NEW YORK (AP) - Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) on Tuesday reported third-quarter earnings of $4.92 billion. The New York-based company said it had profit of $1.19 per share. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, were $1.22 per share. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 19 analysts surveyed ...
  • Florida governor defends his health care record in new ad October 23, 2018
    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida Gov. Rick Scott is launching a new statewide television ad meant to blunt criticism over the Republican governor's health care record. In the ad Scott recounts how his family struggled to get health care when he was growing up. He says he supports "forcing insurance ...
  • Pennsylvania man admits taking bribes for military base work October 23, 2018
    NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A Pennsylvania man has admitted taking bribes in a scheme involving construction projects at two New Jersey military bases. Kevin Leondi pleaded guilty Monday to two conspiracy counts. The 57-year-old Stroudsburg man now faces up to 10 years in prison when he's sentenced Jan. 30. Federal ...
  • Fire engulfs Oakland apartment complex under construction October 23, 2018
    OAKLAND, California (AP) - A five-alarm fire has engulfed an apartment complex under construction, the latest in a series of blazes at large residential buildings in Oakland. There were no reported injuries, but officials were concerned about embers igniting other fires. The large blaze at the multi-story complex at West ...
  • Harley-Davidson: 3Q Earnings Snapshot October 23, 2018
    MILWAUKEE (AP) - Harley-Davidson Inc. (HOG) on Tuesday reported third-quarter net income of $113.9 million. The Milwaukee-based company said it had profit of 68 cents per share. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of five analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 47 cents ...
  • PulteGroup: 3Q Earnings Snapshot October 23, 2018
    ATLANTA (AP) - PulteGroup Inc. (PHM) on Tuesday reported third-quarter earnings of $289.5 million. The Atlanta-based company said it had net income of $1.01 per share. The results surpassed Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of eight analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 95 cents per ...
  • Honey Smacks returns to shelves with new recipe after recall October 23, 2018
    BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) - Kellogg's Honey Smacks is returning to shelves following a voluntarily recall after salmonella infected 100 people in 33 states. The company announced on Monday the cereal will return next month in limited quantities with "a simpler, updated recipe." The company says production was moved to ...