EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 1, 2013

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Yemen again at forefront of fight against terror

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Yemen was thrust back into the forefront of the international fight against terrorism Tuesday when the U.S. and Britain evacuated embassy staff due to a threatened attack, a suspected U.S. drone killed four alleged members of al-Qaida, and militants shot down a Yemeni army helicopter.

As Westerners flew out of the country, Yemeni authorities launched a wide investigation into the al-Qaida threat to multiple potential targets in the impoverished Arab nation. Security officials said they believed the terror network was seeking retaliation for a U.S.-backed military offensive that has dealt serious setbacks to the terror network’s most active branch, including the death earlier this year of its No. 2 leader.

The Yemeni army, meanwhile, surrounded foreign installations, government offices and the airport with tanks and troops in the nation’s capital, Sanaa, as well as the strategic Bab al-Mandeb straits at the entrance to the Red Sea in the southern Arabian Peninsula, drawing parallels with security measures following the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor that killed 17 American sailors.

Authorities also set up checkpoints across Sanaa, searching cars and individuals, especially after night fell. Top government officials, along with military and security commanders, were told to stay vigilant and limit their movements.

Although the immediate threat seemed to be focused on Yemen, the U.S. has temporarily shut down 19 diplomatic posts in the Middle East and Africa. A U.S. intelligence official and a Mideast diplomat told The Associated Press that the closures were triggered by the interception of a secret message between al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri and Nasser al-Wahishi, the leader of the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, about plans for a major terror attack. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. Zawahri also made a public statement on July 30 that exhorted Muslims to kill Americans “in every spot on Earth.”

Geography of closures provides a window into terror fears

WASHINGTON (AP) — The map of closed American embassies — and those that remain open — in the Middle East and Africa provides a window into the Obama administration’s concern about a potentially imminent al-Qaida terrorist attack on overseas U.S. interests.

While diplomatic missions across a broad swath of the Arab world are affected, some, including in capitals that have been targets for extremists in the past, are not. And those chosen for closure in Africa and the Indian Ocean suggest that the fear may be as much about the vulnerability of certain embassies and staff and the range of increasingly mobile terrorists as it is about specific threats.

One apparently key factor: How significant is the security that is now in place?

A total of 19 U.S. embassies and consulates in 16 countries have been ordered to close to the public until Saturday. They run along a jagged, east-to-south crescent from Libya through the Persian Gulf to Rwanda and include the island nations of Madagascar and Mauritius, That’s fewer missions in fewer nations than were ordered closed this past Sunday in the administration’s initial response to intelligence that al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula was gearing up for an attack.

Prosecutors: Ft. Hood gunman planned carefully for attack

FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan fired the last of 146 bullets in his assault on Fort Hood, then walked outside where he met two civilians who asked about the commotion and the laser-sighted pistol in his hand.

Hasan told one person not to worry. He assured the other it was just a training exercise and the gun shot only paint. He let both live.

But moments earlier, dozens of uniformed soldiers received no quarter from Hasan, military prosecutors said Tuesday as the Army psychiatrist’s long-delayed trial began.

Hasan, who admits to killing 13 people and wounding 32 others in the 2009 attack, matter-of-factly told a jury of 13 officers that he was the gunman.

“The evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter,” he said, calmly delivering an opening statement that lasted little more than a minute. His only utterance of regret was toward his religion for being among the “imperfect Muslims trying to establish the perfect religion.”

US military study questions link between combat duty, suicide

CHICAGO (AP) — Combat appears to have little or no influence on suicide rates among U.S. troops and veterans, according to a military study that challenges the conventional thinking about war’s effects on the psyche.

Depression and other types of mental illness, alcohol problems and being male — strong risk factors for suicide among civilians — were all linked to self-inflicted deaths among current and former members of the military.

But the researchers found deployment and combat did not raise the risk.

“The findings from this study are not consistent with the assumption that specific deployment-related characteristics, such as length of deployment, number of deployments, or combat experiences, are directly associated” with suicides, the authors wrote.

The results echo smaller studies focusing on a specific branch of the military, but this is the first to look at a sampling from the entire military population, said lead author Cynthia LeardMann, a researcher with the Naval Health Research Center in San Diego.

Many optimistic that Bezos can innovate after buying Post

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jeff Bezos turned selling books online into a multibillion-dollar business that has changed retailing forever. Many are now anxious to see if Bezos can do the same for the media industry, after the Amazon.com founder announced he is buying The Washington Post and other newspapers for $250 million.

Monday’s news of the sale to the 49-year-old pioneer of Internet commerce came as a shock to observers, many of whom thought the Graham family would never sell. It also sparked hope among the ranks of reporters beset by seemingly endless cutbacks.

Among his champions are the members of the family selling the paper, including publisher Katharine Weymouth, who promised to stay on as publisher.

As some journalists shed tears, others expressed optimism.

“Jeff Bezos seems to me exactly the kind of inventive and innovative choice needed to bring about a recommitment to great journalism,” said Carl Bernstein, whose co-reporting of the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s cemented the newspaper’s identity as a political watchdog.

US senators urge Egypt’s government to release Islamist prisoners and start negotiations

CAIRO (AP) — Two U.S. senators urged Egypt’s military-backed government to release detained members of the Muslim Brotherhood before starting negotiations with the group, warning of worsening relations “if Egypt is not moving to democracy.”

But Egypt’s interim presidency denounced “foreign pressure” in a sign of its growing impatience with international mediations.

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham spoke after meeting with top military and civilian leaders in Cairo as part of a flurry of international efforts to resolve a standoff between the government and supporters of the ousted president, Mohammed Morsi.

McCain said “we urge the release of political prisoners,” referring to Brotherhood members who were detained after the military ousted Morsi, an Islamist, a month ago.

“In democracy, you sit down and talk to each other,” Graham said, adding, “it is impossible to talk to somebody who is in jail.”

Python’s strangling of 2 boys in Canada investigated; expert says snake may have been spooked

TORONTO (AP) — A 100-pound (45-kilogram) python blamed in the strangling deaths of two Canadian boys apparently escaped from its enclosure, slithered through a ventilation system and fell through the ceiling into the room where the young brothers were sleeping, authorities said Tuesday.

A snake expert said it was possible that the python was spooked and simply clung to whatever it landed on. Police are treating the deaths in Campbellton, New Brunswick, as a criminal investigation.

Autopsies on Noah Barthe, 5 and his brother Connor Barthe, 7, were being performed Tuesday.

The brothers had been visiting the apartment of a friend whose father owned an exotic pet store on the floor below, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Alain Tremblay said at a news conference in Campbellton. Tremblay said the African rock python was being kept inside the second floor apartment, not inside the pet store as authorities had previously stated.

Steve Benteau, a spokesman for the provincial Natural Resources Department, said no permit was issued for an African rock python and the province wasn’t aware it was being kept at the apartment. The department said the snake is generally only permitted in accredited zoos, unless there is a special permit.

Police: Pa. man packed car with guns, ammo before shooting up township meeting, killing 3

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A disabled junk dealer feuding with local officials over his debris-strewn property packed a rental car with guns and ammunition before opening fire at a town meeting and killing three men, authorities said Tuesday.

Rockne Newell, 59, had lost his property this year in a court fight over complaints that he lived in a storage shed, built an illegal culvert and used a bucket outside as a toilet.

At his arraignment on homicide charges Tuesday morning, a judge asked Newell if he owned any real estate.

“They stole it from me. That’s what started all this,” he replied.

Newell allegedly used a Ruger Mini-14 rifle to blast a barrage of gunfire through a wall into the meeting room Monday night in Ross Township, about 85 miles north of Philadelphia, before entering the room and shooting a supervisor and four residents, two of whom survived.

Former President George W. Bush has blocked artery, stent procedure done at Dallas hospital

Former President George W. Bush successfully underwent a heart procedure in Dallas on Tuesday after doctors discovered a blockage in an artery during his annual physical, Bush spokesman Freddy Ford said.

“At the recommendation of his doctors, President Bush agreed to have a stent placed to open the blockage,” Ford said. “The procedure was performed successfully this morning, without complication, at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.”

Bush, 67, was expected to be discharged Wednesday and resume his normal schedule the following day.

The blockage was discovered Monday during Bush’s physical at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, where the nation’s 43rd president lives.

Bush was described as being “in high spirits” and eager to return home.