Tag Archives: Iran

Lies of the week from Bowling Green to Yemen

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The Bowling Green Massacre has been voted the best lie of the week by near-universal Facebook acclamation. You don’t remember the massacre? Shame on you. On February 2, Kellyanne Conway defended Trump’s refugee ban by referring to the Bowling Green Massacre:

“Most people don’t know that because it didn’t get covered,” Conway said.

The Bowling Green massacre didn’t get covered because it didn’t happen. There has never been a terrorist attack in Bowling Green, Ky., carried out by Iraqi refugees or anyone else.

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World/National news – Black women and breast cancer, Iraq elections, Pakistan bomb, Iran protests

Black women and breast cancer Black women would be disproportionately affected by changes in mammogram practices, report the TC Daily Planet and NPR.  The TC Daily Planet reports:

According to the National Cancer Institute’s Snapshot of Breast Cancer, the incidence of breast cancer is highest in whites, but African Americans have higher mortality rates. In fact, African Americans have higher mortality rates from breast cancer than any other racial or ethnic group, and the gap is widening.

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NEWS DAY | H1N1 update: cats, vaccine, peak? / Laptop pilots want to fly again / Extending unemployment comp / more


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H1N1 update: Cats, vaccine, peak? “Viruses are not transmitted between species,” was the common vet school and medical school wisdom not too long ago, according to our veterinarian, but common wisdom cracked again this week with a Washington Post report that a cat now has been diagnosed with H1N1. The 13-year-old kitty caught H1N1 from her human family, and humans and feline all have recovered. The Post notes that the virus has also been found in birds and ferrets, as well as humans and pigs. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Flu, vaccine, and MN pigs / Mortgage foreclosures dead ahead / War Reports

<a href=Flu, vaccine, and MN pigs “Unprecedented levels” of flu were reported by the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) last week, saying that “the amount of influenza and pneumonia mortality is above the epidemic threshold.” The CDC and others say that more swine flu vaccine will be available by the end of the month, and express concern about resistance to getting vaccinated. According to NPR, about one third of people who don’t want vaccination are worried about side effects, 28 percent say they don’t think they are at risk, and 25 percent say they can get medication and treatment if they do get the flu. Not necessarily, says Arthur Kellermann, an emergency medicine physician at the Emory University School of Medicine who has treated swine flu cases: Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | St. Paul school board contest heats up / A sheriff who’s been around / Bloody news from the war fronts / more

ballot box graphicSt. Paul school board contest heats up The teachers’ union refusal to endorse three incumbents and the revelation that Republican candidate John Krenik’s employment as a teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools was terminated last year make the school board race look a lot more interesting.

CLARIFICATION: In an email asking for a correction, John Krenik says he wasn’t fired: “After a settlement was reached I resigned/retired, I was NOT fired.”

The Star Tribune reported that Krenik “said in June 2007 that he heard from an administrator that he would be recommended for termination.” According to the Star Tribune, he accepted a $12,000 settlement last year, in return for quitting his job as a special education teacher at Murray Junior High School and promising “not seek or accept work as a teacher with [the] district at any time in the future.”

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News Day: Chicken towns / Hot property / Lutherans come to MN / Police violence on video

Photo from video by Ashley Siebel Chicken towns St. Paul may soon have more chickens, reports the Star Tribune. A proposed new ordinance would allow St. Paul residents to keep three or fewer hens without getting permission from their neighbors, and with a reduced license fee of $25. The Strib quotes St. Paul city environmental manager Bill Gunther: “I’m a city kid, and I’m thinking they’re an agrarian animal that belongs on a farm,” he said. “But there’s a shift in thinking. Chickens are nothing more than a big bird.”

Of course, St. Paul already has some backyard chickens. So do Minneapolis, Anoka and Burnsville (but not Hastings.) Minneapolis even has a chicken rescue operation. And, unlike St. Paul, Minneapolis allows roosters in its backyard flocks.

Hot property The Star Tribune tagged Lake and Knox in Minneapolis as a “hot property:”

Details: Minneapolis property owners Nick Walton and Daniel Oberpriller have gotten approvals for a two-part development at a highly visible “gateway” into the Uptown neighborhood.

The article did not mention the strong community opposition to the development, or the protest resignation of Lara Norkus-Crampton, ECCO resident and Minneapolis Planning Commission member for the past three years, when the Planning Department and Planning Commission overruled the Uptown Small Area Plan (USAP).

More unallotments Late on Friday, Governor Tim Pawlenty released notice of another round of unallotments. The $13.6 million comes from agency operating budgets for FY 2011. Budget Commissioner Tom Hanson’s letter and accompanying documents (PDF) list all of the agencies that will be affected.

MPR reports that the biggest cuts come from a Revenue Department account, the Human Services Department, and Metro Transit aid. The cuts are widespread, ranging from the governor’s office to public health outreach and education. the Natural Resources Department also received more than a million dollars in cuts.

Lutherans come to MN You thought they were already here? Well, that’s true, but this week, Minnesota’s home-grown Lutherans will be supplemented by 1,000+ delegates to the national gathering of the 4.8 million member ELCA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The most controversial item on the agenda is “rostering” of openly gay, non-celibate pastors. While some gay and lesbian pastors already serve congregations, the synod does not officially recognize them.

The Minnesota Independent reported on leading voices on both sides of the issue last week, and the Star Tribune reported yesterday that, although a close vote is expected, the Lutherans insist that a tradition of politeness will prevail.

Episcopalians also face issues over gay and lesbian clergy, with breakaway groups trying to recruit more congregations to their ranks, as dioceses in Minnesota and Los Angeles plan to consecrate gay or lesbian bishops.

So far, the defections represent only about 5 percent of the 2.3 million total membership. But in July, the spinoff denominations announced an aggressive plan to launch 1,000 congregations in the next five years. …

On Aug. 1 — less than a month after the end of a moratorium on the consecration of gay bishops that was put in place to appease restive congregations — the Diocese of Minnesota announced that one of its three nominees for bishop is the Rev. Bonnie Perry, a Chicago priest who is in a long-term same-sex relationship. The next day, the Diocese of Los Angeles included two openly gay priests on its list of nominees for assistant bishop.

Circus tumble The young performers at Circus Juventas flew through the air with their usual aplomb, but spectators tumbled to the ground last night as half of the bleachers collapsed at the end of the performance. Half of the audience of 900 fell with the bleachers, and seven people were hospitalized. Broken wrist or ankles were the most serious injuries expected, according to the Pioneer Press. The collapse happened as the audience rose to applaud the end of the final performance of the three-week run of “YuLong: The Jade Dragon” at the Circus Juventas academy’s Big Top, in St. Paul’s Highland Park.

Violent police video Minneapolis police say that they used reasonable force in a February traffic stop, but the defendant, David Jenkins, his lawyer, and the squad car video tell another story, according to a report in the Star Tribune. The county attorney’s office dropped assault charges against Jenkins “in the interest of justice” after they reviewed the video, which can be viewed on the Star Tribune website. Jenkins was stopped for allegedly going 15 miles over the speed limit. He was also charged with refusing to submit to a blood or urine test, but a judge dismissed those charges.

After being thrown to the ground by the first police officer on the scene, Jenkins was beaten and kicked and tasered three times by police.

He required seven stitches above his eye after six officers punched and kicked him while he was face-down in a snowbank. He was treated at the hospital and then jailed for four days.

Jenkins said he was the victim of an unprovoked attack simply because he had vigorously questioned Officer Richard Walker about why he was stopped and asked to talk to his supervisor.

Police chief Tim Dolan said he would review the video on Monday.

World/National News

Public option going down? The New York Times says that the “public option” for health care reform may be abandoned by the administration in favor of nonprofit health care co-ops.

On Capitol Hill, the Senate Finance Committee is expected to produce a bill that features a nonprofit co-op. The author of the idea, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Budget Committee, predicted Sunday that Mr. Obama would have no choice but to drop the public option.

Former Vermont governor and Democratic party chair Howard Dean disagrees, reports AP:

“You can’t really do health reform without [a public option],” he said. Dean maintained that the health insurance industry has “put enormous pressure on patients and doctors” in recent years.

He called a direct government role “the entirety of health care reform. … We shouldn’t spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the insurance industry.”

Gaza Some 13 people were killed in clashes between Hamas government forces and an extremist religious sect, reports the Washington Post:

According to wire service and eyewitness reports of Moussa’s sermon, the cleric said the group drew its inspiration from al-Qaeda, demanded that a strict Salafi form of Islam be imposed in Gaza, and criticized Hamas for its occasional meetings with Europeans and Americans, including former president Jimmy Carter.

Hamas officials said they dealt with the sect as an illegal group possessing guns and weapons.

Suicide bombing in Russia A suicide bomber in the violence-plagued North Caucasus region attacked a police station in the city of Ingushetia, killing 20 and wounding many more, reports the New York Times:

The attack seemed to further undermine the authority of Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, Ingushetia’s populist president who came to power last October vowing a softer approach in dealing with rebel violence than Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of neighboring Chechnya. It was the bloodiest single attack to hit Ingushetia for some time, though violence against police and government officials in this and other North Caucasus republics occurs almost daily. Mr. Yevkurov himself announced last week that he would soon return to work after he was seriously wounded in a suicide attack on his convoy in June. Ingushetia’s construction minister, Ruslan Amirkhanov, was assassinated in his office last week.

Iran Accusations of jailhouse violence, beatings and sexual abuse continue, reports the New York Times. Reformist cleric and presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi refuses to back down despite calls for his arrest by conservative clerics and politicians.

War Reports

Afghanistan Five days before national elections, reports the Washington Post, s suicide bombing in Kabul killed seven people and wounded dozens more.

Iraq A “witch hunt” against gay men in Baghdad has killed 90 since January, reports BBC, which says that “Mehdi army spokesmen and clerics have condemned what they call the ‘feminisation’ of Iraqi men and have urged the military to take action against them.”

Afghanistan drug money A new Senate report says that the Taliban is getting only about $70 million of the estimated $400 million in drug profits each year, reports the Los Angeles Times. According to the Times:

Al Qaeda’s dependence on drug money is even less, according to the report by the staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which found that “there is no evidence that any significant amount of the drug proceeds go to Al Qaeda.” …

In one of its most disconcerting conclusions, the Senate report says the United States inadvertently contributed to the resurgent drug trade after the Sept. 11 attacks by backing warlords who derived income from the flow of illegal drugs. The CIA and U.S. Special Forces put such warlords on their payroll during the drive to overthrow the Taliban regime in late 2001.

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News Day: Little clinic, big insurance / Bridge collapse, contracts / TiZA: When success isn’t enough / more

Little clinic, big insurance show need for health care reform Ruben Rosario reports in the Pioneer Press about a little clinic run by a nurse-practitioner that offers affordable health care basics to uninsured and underinsured families. Associated Press reports that Humana insurance raked in second-quarter profits that are 34 percent higher than last year “on higher premiums from the company’s Medicare and commercial insurance programs.” (Last week, Minnetonka-based insurer UnitedHealth reported a 155 percent increase in second-quarter profits.)

At the Anoka North Metro Pediatrics clinic, the check-ups and immunizations required for two kids to attend school cost $40, on a sliding-fee scale that takes income into account. “Private clinics wanted to charge a minimum $150 a head,” Rosario reports. “No upfront money, no exams.”

More than 70 percent of the families the clinic serves have no health insurance. About 20 percent have partial insurance through a state-subsidized plan. Roughly 10 percent have insurance but are grappling with high deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. Roughly 60 percent are minorities.

The clinic scrapes by, with private and corporate donations and a grant from the Minnesota Department of Health. Nurse practitioner Connie Blackwell, who doesn’t draw a full salary and left a good-paying job to found the clnic, worries about funding cuts and the needs of the families she serves. Their stories, eloquently told by Rosario, should be read by every lawmaker and by everyone who has not yet managed to call/write/email their congressional reps about health care reform.

Meanwhile, the Star Tribune reports, “insurers worried that an overhaul could hurt their bottom line are funneling a wave of cash to members of Congress.” Insurers have funneled more than $40 million in direct contributions to members of Congress over the past decade, and spent more than half a billion in lobbying.

Bridge collapse – yesterday’s news for MnDOT? Although the state is suing URS and Progressive Contractors Inc., and “holds the companies responsible” for the 35W bridge collapse two years ago, the MN Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has also given the two companies more than $55 million of “contracts for projects across the state in those two years, including work to predesign other bridges,” reports the Star Tribune.

While PCI company officials said this shows the state does not really believe that is to blame for the 35W collapse, the Star Tribune points to a “complicated relationship” that includes contracts given to URS for its work on the I-35W bridge after URS hired MnDOT’s longtime bridge engineer, Don Flemming, and MnDOT’s refusal — a year before the bridge collapse — to follow a URS recommendation to “reinforce the aging bridge with $2 million in steel plating.”

TiZA – When success isn’t enough Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy (TiZA) has consistently posted high student test scores, especially remarkable for a school where more than 85 percent of the children live in poverty and a high percentage speak English as a second language. TiZA has also been the target of high-profile attacks by Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten, which also triggered an ACLU lawsuit accusing the school of illegally promoting Islam. The campaign against TiZA has resulted in especially close and prolonged scrutiny by the MN Department of Education.

The state department is withholding millions of dollars in state and federal aid to TiZA, alleging that the school had 14 unlicensed teachers, reports the Star Tribune. The school received $4.7 million in state aid (based on per-pupil funding for charter school students) last year, and the MN Department of Education is withholding $1.3 million of state aid this year, based on the teacher licensure charges. TiZA executive director Asad Zaman says that amount “is enough to cripple just about any charter school in the entire state.”

According to a Ramsey County judge, the state also withheld the information that TiZA needs to defend itself on the teacher licensure charges. After TiZA went to court last month, the judge’s order finally resulted in the release of 10,000 pages of documents last week.

The documents disclosed a previously-secret investigation, this one by a private contractor hired by the Department of Education to look at TiZA’s high test scores. The test score investigation, by a private contractor paid by the state, turned up no wrong-doing.

“The silver lining of this cloud is that it is absolutely clear that our test results are valid,” said Asad Zaman, executive director of the K-8 school, which has campuses in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine.

The Education Department has visited the school more than a dozen times since January 2008, Zaman said, reviewing the school’s special education services, after-school programming and more.

The MN Department of Education is still holding up federal aid for TiZA, including “$375,000 to help other schools replicate TiZA’s learning program,” and $500,000 for renovations to the school’s physical plant.

Minnesota connections to Americans arrested in Iran, Israel Israel arrested two Americans who arrived by plane Saturday, planning to visit Palestinian activists in Ramallah, reports the TC Daily Planet. According to press releases by the Anti-War Committee in Minneapolis, a third woman was deported immediately and the two who were arrested were put on a plane and deported on Sunday.

Iran announced the arrest of three American hikers near the Iraq border Friday, reports the New York Times. Kurdish officials said the hikers apparently lost their way. According to the Star Tribune, one of the hikers is a Minnesota native, a freelance journalist who now lives in San Francisco.

World/National News

Iran The government put more than 100 dissidents on trial, reports the New York Times. Two of the figures recanted their past beliefs on the stand, saying they had changed since being arrested, and said they had not been tortured. People close to the two men, including the wife of one, said that the phrasing of their testimony was not characteristic and that they did not believe the denial of torture.

In addition, “a Tehran prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, who is running the trials, released a statement warning that anyone criticizing the trial as illegitimate, as many opposition figures have done, would also be prosecuted.” Even as former President Mohammad Khatami denounced the trials, hardline political leaders warned of more arrests and hinted that defeated opposition presidential Mir Hossein Moussavi could be targeted.

Nigeria The death toll mounted to 700 after a week of battles between government forces and an extremist religious sect called Boko Haram, reports the New York Times.

The Nigerian authorities disregarded dozens of warnings about a violent Islamist sect until it attacked police stations and government buildings last week in a blood bath that killed more than 700 people, Muslim clerics and an army official said.

War Reports

Uganda The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is on the move again, reports BBC. They recently attacked people in the south Sudanese town of Ezo and killed civilians in several towns in the Central African Republic. The LRA is a Ugandan group based in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Afghanistan The Taliban killed nine U.S. and NATO soldiers over the weekend, reports the New York Times. The NYT cited two factors contributing to higher death tolls – more U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, and more sophistication by rebels in use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

Iraq A car bomb in a crowded market in Haditha killed at least six people, reports the BBC.

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News Day: Beer Summit / Gangs of St. Paul / Police gang / Harassment by pizza / Iran repression

Picture 4Beer Summit Red Stripe for Henry Louis Gates, Blue Moon for the police officer, and Bud Light for the president: beer choices at the White House were all over the news yesterday, along with Congressional admonitions to the president to drink American.
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News Day: MN guilty pleas on Somalia terrorism / Minneapolis to Najaf / Above average / Health care: Costs, rescissions, reform

Minnesota guilty pleas to terrorism in Somalia Salah Osman Ahmed, age 26, and Abdifatah Yusuf Isse, 25, have pleaded guilty in federal court in Minneapolis to terrorism charges, based on their travel to Somalia in 2007 to fight with Al-Shabaab. Ahmed went to Somalia in December 2007, where he learned to use a machine gun and helped to build a training camp, according to the Star Tribune. He faces a sentence of five to 15 years. Other charges, dropped in the plea agreement, would have carried a life sentence.
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News Day: Eviction stopped / Six imams win court ruling / Fong Lee cop in court again / McCollum and Medicare / Krugman’s four pillars of health care reform

Picture 3Last-minute reprieve Rosemary Williams, who has been fighting foreclosure and eviction to stay in her south Minneapolis home, got a reprieve on Friday, the day she received a final eviction notice. MPR reports:

Minneapolis city council member Elizabeth Glidden announced that she helped secure negotiations between GMAC Mortgage and the Greater Metropolitan Housing Corporation, a local non-profit developer. Under the proposed agreement, the non-profit would sell the house to another local non-profit, which would then lease it back to Williams.

Fong Lee case cop and another gun story Minneapolis police officer Jason Anderson, accused of planting a gun in the Fong Lee shooting case, was also accused of planting a gun in March 2008 on Quenton Tyrone Williams. Williams, who was convicted of drug dealing, is appealing his conviction, and claims Anderson planted a gun on him. Anderson testified at trial that he did not plant the gun and that he was a member of the now-disbanded Metro Gang Strike Force at the time of the arrest.

In the Fong Lee case, the Pioneer Press reports:

[Fong Lee’s] parents and siblings sued Andersen and the city for wrongful death. The case languished in relative obscurity until March, when lawyers for the family filed a motion with an explosive claim: They said witnesses and a surveillance video showed the teen was unarmed. They said evidence suggested the gun found a few feet from the dead man’s body was planted by police after the shooting.

The case went to trial in May, and a jury ruled Andersen did not use excessive force. (The lawyers filed an appeal last week.) On the witness stand, Andersen vehemently denied planting the gun, saying he had never touched it.

At this time, Anderson is suspended with pay, because of a domestic assault case, and is scheduled to appear in court on Muly 27 in that case.

Andersen, 32, has been on paid leave since Big Lake police arrested him. His six-week leave following the domestic assault arrest is in stark contrast to the two days he spent on leave following his 2006 fatal shooting of Fong Lee, 19, in a Minneapolis schoolyard.

Six imams can sue The lawsuit by six imams who were ejected from a U.S. Airways flight in 2006 will go to trial, according to a ruling handed down Friday by U.S. District Judge Ann Olson Montgomery. The judge’s ruling, which denied motions to dismiss made by an FBI agent and the Metropolitan Airport Commission, reads in part:

When a law enforcement officer exercises the power of the Sovereign over its citizens, she or he has a responsibility to operate within the bounds of the Constitution and cannot raise the specter of 9/11 as an absolute exception to that responsibility…no reasonable officer could have believed they could arrest Plaintiffs without probable cause.

Medicare fix agreement Congress member Betty McCollum announced an agreement on Medicare reform that would help higher-efficiency, lower-reimbursement states, including Minnesota. According to Minnesota Independent:

The Medicare pact also includes $4 billion in funding for both 2012 and 2013 to soften the blow as states adjust to the new reimbursement system. In addition, the agreement calls for another study looking at ways to reward efficient health-care delivery through Medicare, to be completed by 2011.

Minneapolis loyalty test The new neighborhood program is looking for a Deputy Director for Neighborhood and Community
Relations. Among the qualifications for the $80,000+ job, according to the job listing:

(5) The person occupying the position needs to be accountable to, loyal to, and compatible with the mayor, the city council, and the department head.

World/National News

Krugman on health care Paul Krugman, in his usual incisive style, summarizes the basics of health care perform in a New York Times column that takes on the Blue Dogs and their bad faith efforts to stop that reform. Krugman’s summary:

Reform, if it happens, will rest on four main pillars: regulation, mandates, subsidies and competition.

By regulation I mean the nationwide imposition of rules that would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on your medical history, or dropping your coverage when you get sick. This would stop insurers from gaming the system by covering only healthy people.

On the other side, individuals would also be prevented from gaming the system: Americans would be required to buy insurance even if they’re currently healthy, rather than signing up only when they need care. And all but the smallest businesses would be required either to provide their employees with insurance, or to pay fees that help cover the cost of subsidies — subsidies that would make insurance affordable for lower-income American families.

Finally, there would be a public option: a government-run insurance plan competing with private insurers, which would help hold down costs.

That’s the current health care reform debate in a nutshell. As Krugman also points out, elminating any one of the four “pillars” would kill health care reform.

Now, the plan is not the single-payer, universal-coverage public health care that many of us (including me) think would be the best solution, but it is a huge improvement over the current private health insurance disaster. And, as some NPR commentator pointed out months ago, real reform may take several steps over many years.

As the August recess approaches, drug and insurance companies are mobilizing their money and troops to pressure Congress members to kill reform. As in many other debates, the right wing will mobilize millions of emails and letters and phone calls, to go along with the billions of dollars that are already in play against health care reform. The key question for reform may be whether its supporters can respond with equal numbers and passion.

Iran protests continue The opposition sent a letter of protest about repression of dissent to religious authorities the day after the funeral of a young man whose father is a former Revolutionary Guard and current opposition figure. The letter said the current repression is “reminiscent of the oppressive rule of the shah.”

Mr. Ruholamini said he had tried for days to find his son, who was arrested in Tehran on July 9. Finally he was directed to the morgue, where he found his son’s body, brutally beaten, his mouth “smashed,” according to an account by a retired senior Revolutionary Guards commander that was posted on various Iranian Web sites and blogs. The report said that Iranian newspapers refused to publish the account.

In the meantime, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has yielded to religious pressure and canceled the appointment his first vice-president, who was thought to be too friendly to Israel. He then appointed the man, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, as a top adviser. BBC reports that Ahmadinejad also dismissed his intelligence minister and that the culture minister quit, citing the “weakness” of the government.

Zelaya on the border The Honduran military agreed to the July 22 San José Accord, which would allow President Manuel Zelaya to return. Zelaya has appeared on the border twice this weekend, but remains in Nicaragua, according to BBC.

In the meantime, however, thousands of troops had been deployed to tighten security along the border to prevent Mr. Zelaya from returning. And thousands of his supporters defied government curfews and military roadblocks, by abandoning their cars and hiking for hours to reach the remote border post to see him.

War Reports

Iraq As people gathered for the funeral of a police officer killed the night before, a suicide bomber detonated his vest, killing five people, including two police officers, in the Anbar province town of Khladiyah, reports the New York Times. Gunmen also killed five people and wounded 12 in an attack on a money exchange in Baghdad.

BBC reports that a car bomb attack on a Sunni party headquarters in Falluja killed at least four people and wounded at least 23.

Afghanistan Six Taliban fighters with AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades and suicide vests attacked a police station in Khost and a nearby bank, but all were killed before they could detonate their suicide vests, according to the New York Times. A seventh attacker was killed after detonating a car full of explosives, and an eighth may have escaped. About 14 people were wounded.

In other news from Afghanistan, the government announced that it has reached an election truce with the Taliban in the north-western province of Badghis , according to BBC. The government says the Taliban there have agreed not to attack polling places during next month’s presidential election.

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