Pakistan pulls forces out of liaison centers along Afghan border, sparking U.S. concern
ISLAMABAD (AP) -- Pakistan on Tuesday temporarily recalled some troops from border posts meant to coordinate activity with international forces in neighboring Afghanistan. Authorities want to discuss how to improve the process after NATO airstrikes last month killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the military said.
The decision highlighted current problems with coordination because U.S. military officials seemed to think it was another retaliatory move by Pakistan for the NATO strikes. The officials feared it would hamper efforts to liaise with Pakistani forces and increase the risk something could go wrong again.
The troops were recalled Tuesday for "consultation" and should be back at their posts within the next few days, said a senior Pakistani military official. The official did not specify how many troops would be recalled or how many would be left at the border centers.
U.S. military officials said late Monday that Pakistan was pulling out of at least two of the three centers along the border. Both the U.S. and Pakistani officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
The U.S. and Pakistan have offered different accounts of what led to the NATO attacks against two army posts along the Afghan border before dawn on Nov. 26, but the deadly incident seems to have been caused in part by communication breakdowns.
Afghan police say Kabul blast kills at least 48, wounds more than 100
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghan officials say 48 people have been killed in a suicide bombing targeting Shiite worshippers in Kabul.
The attacker blew himself up Tuesday in the midst of a crowd of men, women and children gathered outside the Abul Fazl shrine to commemorate the seventh century death of the Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussein.
Mohammed Zahir, chief of the Kabul Criminal Investigation Department, gave the death toll and said more than 100 people were wounded.
Officials say four other people were killed when a bomb strapped to a bicycle exploded as a convoy of Afghan Shiites drove by in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
Dozens of bodies dumped in flashpoint Syrian city, activist group says
BEIRUT (AP) -- A surge in violence in the restive Syrian city of Homs has killed up to 50 people in the past 24 hours, leaving dozens of bodies in the streets, activists said Tuesday.
The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights cited witnesses as saying 34 bodies were dumped in the streets of Homs on Monday night. Homs-based activist Mohammed Saleh said there was a spate of kidnappings and killings in the city earlier Monday.
The activists' reports could not be independently confirmed. Syria has banned most foreign journalists and prevents the work of independent media.
For nearly nine months, the Syrian government has been trying to crush an uprising against President Bashar Assad. But there are growing signs of an armed insurgency and mounting sectarian tensions that could push the country toward civil war.
Homs has emerged as the epicenter of the uprising, and the government has laid siege to the city for months.
German Chancellor Merkel downplays possible S&P downgrade; says eurozone will stay the course
BERLIN (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel is downplaying the news that Standard & Poor's is examining the credit rating of 15 eurozone countries for a possible downgrade, saying the region is on the path out of its financial crisis.
She told reporters Tuesday that "what a rating agency does is the responsibility of the rating agency" but that leaders would plot a course to "regain confidence" when they meet later this week.
She says "I have always said this is a long process... and it will continue, but we charted the course yesterday with the French president and we will continue to stay the course."
Markets have been jittery following the news that S&P had placed 15 nations on notice for possible downgrades, including France and Germany, which both have a AAA rating.
Republican candidates make impossible pledge to secure US-Mexico border
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have promised to complete a nearly 1,950-mile fence. Michele Bachmann wants a double fence. Ron Paul pledges to secure the nation's southern border by any means necessary, and Rick Perry says he can secure it without a fence -- and do so within a year of taking office as president.
But a border that is sealed off to all illegal immigrants and drugs flowing north is a promise none of them could keep.
"Securing the border is a wonderful slogan, but that's pretty much all it is," said Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. "Even to come close would require measures that would make legal commerce with Mexico impossible. That's an enormous price for what would still be a very leaky system."
Perry, the longest-serving governor of a state that makes up roughly 65 percent of America's border with Mexico, already knows that. What he's actually pledging, clarifies spokeswoman Catherine Frazier, is achieving "operational control" of the border -- defined by the U.S. Border Patrol as areas where it can detect, respond to and interdict illegal activity either at the border or after entry into the U.S.
The U.S. Border Patrol says 873 miles of the border, about 44 percent, have been brought under operational control. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said that "the border is better now than it ever has been."
Punishment awaits ex-Ill. Gov. Rod Blagojevich for trying to hock Obama seat
CHICAGO (AP) -- Rod Blagojevich's days of reckoning arrive Tuesday when a federal judge opens a sentencing hearing for the disgraced former Illinois governor on 18 corruption counts, including trying to auction off President Barack Obama's old Senate seat.
The impeached state executive-turned-reality TV star has good reason to feel anxious and afraid at the two-day hearing in Chicago. He faces the prospect of 10 or more years behind bars.
If Judge James Zagel settles on a sentence Wednesday of more than a decade, that would make it one of the stiffest penalties imposed for corruption in a state with a long history of crooked politics.
Prosecutors will ask Zagel to imprison the twice-elected governor for 15 to 20 years, arguing he has not only shirked all responsibility for his crimes but repeatedly thumbed his nose at the U.S. justice system.
Blagojevich has already paid a price in public ridicule and financial ruin, the defense argues in proposing a term of just a few years. They also seem bent on an approach judges often frown upon at the sentencing stage: Continuing to insist their client is innocent.
Clinton calls Russian election unfair, issues new warning to Islamist winners in Egypt vote
VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) -- Issuing new warnings to two U.S. partners Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton criticized Russia for a parliamentary election she said was rigged and said election gains by Islamist parties must not set back Egypt's push toward democracy after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak this year.
She acknowledged the success of Islamist parties in Egyptian parliamentary voting that the U.S. has praised as fair. But many of the winners are not friendly to the United States or U.S. ally Israel, and some secular political activists in Egypt are worried that their revolution is being hijacked. Islamist parties are among the better-known and better-organized in Egypt, and while they were expected to do well in last week's first round voting, a hardline bloc scored surprisingly large gains.
Clinton addressed head-on the fear that the hardliners will crimp human and women's rights.
"Transitions require fair and inclusive elections, but they also demand the embrace of democratic norms and rules," she said. "We expect all democratic actors to uphold universal human rights, including women's rights, to allow free religious practice."
Speaking to the election-monitoring Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Clinton repeated criticism of Russia's weekend elections, in which Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's party won the largest share of parliament seats. Opposition politicians and election monitors say the result was inflated because of ballot-box stuffing and other vote fraud.
Elderly complain about lowering pants for NY airport search, highlighting concerns of aging
NEW YORK (AP) -- With age come such things as catheters, colostomy bags and adult diapers. Now add another indignity to getting old -- having to drop your pants and show these things to a complete stranger.
Two women in their 80s put the Transportation Security Administration on the defensive this week by going public about their embarrassment during screenings in a private room at Kennedy Airport. One claimed she was forced to lower her pants and underwear in front of an agent so that her back brace could be inspected. Another said agents made her pull down her waistband to show her colostomy bag.
While not confirming some of the details, the TSA said a preliminary review shows officers followed the agency's procedures in both cases. But experts said the potential for such searches will increase as the U.S. population ages and receives prosthetics and other medical devices, some of which cannot go through screening machines.
"You have pacemakers, you have artificial hips, you have artificial knees," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "As we get older and we keep ourselves together, it's going to take more and more surgery. There's going to be more and more medical improvements, but that can create what appears to be a security issue."
Prosthetic devices can set off metal detectors, and certain devices such as catheters and bags are visible on body scanners, making those passengers candidates for more thorough inspections. Metal detectors and wands can disrupt some devices such as implanted defibrillators, so those passengers must ask for pat-downs instead.
Wisconsin shoemaker to open stores in China, reversing virtual 1-way flow of shoes from Asia to US
PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. (AP) -- There's a good chance the shoes you're wearing right now were made in China. Now an American shoemaker wants to put the shoe on the other foot, by persuading the Chinese to wear shoes made in the USA.
The Allen Edmonds Shoe Corp., whose high-end shoes have been worn by U.S. presidents for generations, is preparing to open stores in China while keeping the manufacturing work at home. The plan marks a reversal of sorts in a footwear industry that has flowed almost entirely from East to West.
Nearly 99 percent of shoes sold in the U.S. are imported, with China accounting for about 88 percent of the total, according to a report by the American Apparel & Footwear Association.
Allen Edmonds is hoping to become a larger player in the world market. So the Wisconsin-based shoe company announced Tuesday it has signed a licensing agreement with a Shanghai-based company to sell its shoes in China, Hong Kong and Macau. The first store is slated to open in Shanghai by the end of June.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that the cheapest way to sell to the Chinese is to assemble the products in China, thereby minimizing labor and shipping costs. But Paul Grangaard, Allen Edmonds' top executive, wouldn't hear of it. He said a significant part of his company's appeal is that its products are U.S.-made.