Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tens of thousands of supporters of Lebanon's pro-Western opposition thronged downtown Beirut on Sunday, demanding that the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah give up its weapons.

The rally was a potent show of support for Lebanon's toppled prime minister Saad Hariri, who moved into the opposition after Hezbollah and its allies forced his government to collapse in January.

"We want to place the weapons at the disposal of the state because it is the state that unites us all and it is the army that protects us all," Hariri said, shouting over the crowd as they cheered and waved Lebanon's national flag.

Hariri has taken a far stronger public stance against Hezbollah in recent weeks than he did during his 14 months as prime minister, suggesting that the country's political deadlock is far from over.

Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of Hezbollah's political bureau, said the group will not respond to Sunday's gathering.

But a slew of billboards has popped up in Beirut lately, saying "Israel also wants Hezbollah disarmed" - a clear message that Hezbollah sees its weapons as a necessary safeguard against its enemies.

Riot police have broken up an unauthorized protest in Casablanca by several hundred people, including many supporters of Morocco's best-known Islamist movement.

The state-run MAP news agency says members of the banned Islamist group, the Justice and Spirituality movement, gathered on a Casablanca square and "tried to start their march with violence" on Sunday.

An Interior Ministry official told The Associated Press that about 50 protesters were arrested and four officers injured.

A movement spokesman couldn't be immediately reached for comment via mobile phone.

King Mohammed VI said Wednesday that Morocco will revise its constitution for the first time in 15 years - part of steps to build greater democracy amid a push for it across the Arab world.
A newly-released secret U.S. diplomatic cable has alleged that British-based defense contractor BAE Systems PLC bribed Saudi officials in return for lucrative arms deals.

The cable from the U.S. embassy in Paris, released by WikiLeaks on Friday, said Britain's anti-fraud agency told a private OECD meeting in Paris in 2007 that they had evidence that BAE paid more than 70 million pounds ($113 million) to a Saudi prince with influence over arms deal contracts.

The cable, dated March 2007, says other payments were made to an unnamed senior Saudi official and to overseas agents employed by the Saudi government.

The SFO dropped an investigation into BAE's overseas dealings in 2006 after Saudi objection.

BAE did not explicitly refute the cable's content on Sunday, but said in a statement that no charges of bribery or corruption were brought up against the company.
The Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima is built on the shoreline in northeast Japan. So when an 8.9 magnitude earth quake struck on Friday, the tsunami waves it spawned -- as tall as a house and speeding like a jet plane -- washed right over the reactors and put them at risk of a meltdown.

Engineers were dousing the plants with seawater in a desperate effort to prevent a calamity on Sunday, even as the government evacuated 140,000 from the area after radioactive steam was released from the stricken plant.

The nuclear crisis was a triple whammy for Japan, coming on top of the earthquake -- Japan's biggest and the fifth strongest ever recorded in the world -- and one of the most powerful tsunami in history, which caused scenes of unimaginable destruction in northeast Japan.

Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the country was facing its biggest crisis since the end of the Second World War, which was when the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

"We're under scrutiny on whether we, the Japanese people, can overcome this crisis," a grim-faced Kan told a Sunday night news conference.

The quake caused Japan's main island to shift 2.5 meters (8 feet) and moved the earth's axis 10 cm (2.5 inches), geologists said. The question now is whether the catastrophe will spur other seismic changes in Japan, which has yet to emerge from its "lost decades" of stagnant growth, aging population, and loss of international prestige following the collapse of the Japanese asset bubble in the early 1990s.

At the very least, the drama at Fukushima is bound to shake the faith of many Japanese in the safety of their nuclear plants. The catastrophe will also sorely test Kan's deeply unpopular government.

President Barack Obama and other top Democrats have lavished praise on former Massachusetts Republican Gov. Mitt Romney for signing the health care law in 2006 that laid the groundwork for Obama's national health care overhaul.

Democrats are hoping to taint Romney by tying him too closely to a highly unpopular law among GOP voters.

But some analysts are wondering if Democrats are stretching, especially if Romney wins the Republican nomination for president and has to reach out to independents and moderate Democrats.

They say all that praise could help Romney if those voters start warming to the national law and its Massachusetts precedent.

Romney continues to walk a fine line on the 2006 law, cautiously defending his decision to sign it even as he calls for a repeal of the national law.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' chair sits empty as she recovers from a gunshot wound to the head, yet three friends are ensuring she still has a presence in Congress.

At nearly every hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, the panel's top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, carves out a few precious minutes from his time-limited turn quizzing military officials to ask a question on behalf of Giffords.

"She's a critical member of the committee - has been for the four years that she's been here," Smith said in a recent interview, just days after visiting Giffords at a Houston hospital. He confers with the Arizona Democrat's staff on questions that Giffords might ask about energy or the two major military installations in her district, the Army's Fort Huachuca and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

"I want to make sure her initiatives get in there," he said.

The bus company involved in an accident that left at least 14 people dead in New York this weekend has been involved in at least two other crashes with injuries in the past two years, government records show.

World Wide Travel was involved in a crash in New York in 2009 that resulted in one injury, and a crash in New Jersey in 2010 resulting in one injury, according to records on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration website.

The company has been cited five times for "fatigued driving" between December 2009 and October 2010 -- twice in in New Jersey, twice in Pennsylvania and once in Connecticut, records show.

At least 14 passengers died early Saturday after the driver of their tour bus lost control of the vehicle and struck a pole on Interstate 95 in the Bronx, New York police said.

The U.N. nuclear agency says Japan has declared a state of emergency at another earthquake-affected nuclear plant where higher-than-permitted levels of radioactivity were measured.

The International Atomic Energy Agency says Japan informed it that the source of the radioactivity at the Onagawa power plant is being investigated. It said all three reactors at the plant are under control.

Japan also said authorities at another plant have resorted to using sea water to cool a second reactor in an attempt to prevent a meltdown.

Japan said earlier attempts to cool the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant had failed. Sea water is also being used to cool the plant's No. 1 reactor.

Thousands of anti-government demonstrators cut off Bahrain's financial center and drove back police trying to push them from the capital's central square - shaking the tiny island kingdom Sunday with the most disruptive protests since calls for more freedom erupted a month ago.

Demonstrators also clashed with security forces and government supporters on the campus of the main university in the Gulf country, the home of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

The clashes fueled fears that Bahrain's political crisis could be stumbling toward open sectarian conflict between the ruling minority Sunnis and Shiites, who account for 70 percent of the nation's 525,000 people.

In some neighborhoods, vigilantes set up checkpoints to try to keep outsiders from entering. Bahrain's interior ministry warned Saturday that the "social fabric" of the nation was in peril.

More than 200 Saudis were allowed to protest outside the Interior Ministry on Sunday to demand the release of detainees in the largest demonstration in the capital since the regional outbreak of pro-democracy unrest.

Saudi authorities ban demonstrations and are increasingly determined to prevent the unrest, particularly Shiite protests in neighboring Bahrain, from spreading to the oil-rich Kingdom.

A massive show of force snuffed out a Facebook-based effort to stage unprecedented pro-democracy protests in Riyadh on Friday. But in heavily Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia, hundreds of protesters marched in at least four different locations, calling for the release of political prisoners and demanding reform. Saudi police opened fire to disperse one of the protests, wounding at least one man.

The protesters Sunday demanded information on the fate of mostly Sunni detainees held on security and terrorism-related charges, and their immediate release.

Police on rooftops fired live bullets and tear gas at protesters Sunday, injuring more than 100 people who were camping near Sanaa University, the latest in weeks of demonstrations calling for the Yemeni president to step down.

Wielding clubs and knives, police and government supporters also attacked protesters on the ground, said Mohammed al-Abahi, a doctor in charge of a makeshift hospital near the university.

Among the injured, more than 20 suffered gas inhalation, and one was in critical condition after being struck with a bullet, the doctor said.

The violence came a day after security forces killed seven demonstrators in protests around the country.

Each March, college basketball's regular season fades from memory as fans and players gear up for the NCAA Tournament and all the hoopla that comes with it: The brackets. Cinderellas. Buzzer beaters.

But this year was different. Long before March arrived, this season was officially Jimmered.

Brigham Young University guard Jimmer Fredette spent his senior season torching opposing defenses and shooting 3-pointers from unguardable distances.

"In a day and age where there's very little must-see TV, I think he's must-see TV," said David Locke, host of an afternoon sports radio show in Salt Lake City.

Heading into the postseason, Fredette isn't just leading the nation in scoring (27.9 points per game) and starting to pile up player of the year awards. In the world of college hoops, the unassuming kid with the funny name is also tops in Twitter references and YouTube videos.

He doesn't really look the part -- undersized (listed at 6 feet 2 inches) and a little slow, with a linebacker's shoulders. Yet he scores at will, inspires songs and is responsible for college basketball's version of a catchphrase -- teams don't just lose to BYU, they get Jimmered.

Pakistani intelligence officials say two suspected U.S. missile strikes have killed seven militants in the country's tribal region.

The two officials say the Sunday evening strikes also wounded five militants in Spalgah village near Miran Shah in North Waziristan.

They spoke on condition of anonymity in line with their agency's policy.

The officials say two missiles first hit a vehicle and four more struck a compound, a Pakistani Taliban hide-out.

The tribal region is home to several militant groups focused on attacking U.S. and its allied NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani Taliban have also taken refuge there after an army offensive in their neighboring headquarters of South Waziristan.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Gunmen ambushed a van and killed nine civilians Sunday in a stretch of northwestern Pakistan covered by a new peace deal among tribes from rival Muslim sects. Security forces responding to the attack killed three alleged gunmen, police said.

The clash does not bode well for the future of the peace deal in the Kurram tribal region, which stopped a four-year conflict that had cost hundreds of lives. There have been reports that Taliban militants planned to take advantage of the deal to gain more territory along the Afghan border.

Police official Mir Chaman Khan said the attack occurred in Hangu district along the main road from Kurram to the city of Peshawar. The road had recently reopened after the Shiite Muslim Toori and Bangash tribes inked the deal with the Mangal and other Sunni Muslim tribes.

The clash occurred in a Sunni-dominated area. The van was coming from Parachinar, a Shiite-dominated town in Kurram.

Khan declined to speculate on who was behind the attack.

Pakistan's tribal belt is a hotbed of Islamist militant groups, many linked to the Al-Qaida terrorist network. The Pakistani army has launched offensives in several areas, and the United States has fired hundreds of missiles at suspected militants using unmanned aircraft in the region.

The Taliban, who adhere to a hard-line interpretation of Sunni Islam, have at times exploited sectarian and tribal feuds to spread their influence along the Pakistan-Afghan border.

But tribesmen in Kurram also have reported that the Haqqani network, a fiercely independent branch of the Afghan Taliban and a major enemy of U.S. and NATO forces, had cut a deal with the Shiites so it could use Kurram as a staging ground for fighting in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, a suspected U.S. missile strike missed a target in Azam Warsak, South Waziristan.

A missile landed near a car carrying militants, who managed to flee before another missile hit the vehicle, two intelligence officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk with media on record.
The Irani government says a second session in the trial of three Americans accused of spying will be held May 11.

The Sunday report by the official IRNA news agency quotes Ali Reza Avaei, head of Tehran's justice department, as saying that the upcoming session will likely be closed, as the first one was on Feb. 6.

Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were hiking in northern Iraq near the Iranian border in July 2009 when Iranian forces detained them. Iranian officials have accused them of spying for the U.S., but the Americans and their families say the espionage charges are untrue.

Bauer and Fattal pleaded not guilty in the February session. Shourd was released on bail last September and pleaded not guilty in absentia.
Iran will put three Americans facing spying charges on trial for the second time on May 11, an official was quoted Sunday as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

"The next trial session of three Americans who have been charged by espionage will be held on May 11 in Tehran's revolutionary and general court," Alireza Avaiee, head of Tehran's prosecutor's office told IRNA.

Avaiee said the trial, unusually, may be held in public.

Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd were arrested on July 31, 2009, near Iran's border with Iraq and said they had crossed the unmarked border by mistake while hiking.

Shourd was released in September last year on $500,000 bail and returned home. Iran says the move a "humanitarian gesture."

The first trial session was held in February.

The case has added to strains between Iran and the West, already at loggerheads over the Islamic state's nuclear program. The West suspects the program might be aimed at making atomic bombs. Iran denies this and says it needs nuclear technology to meet its booming demand for energy.
People across a devastated swath of Japan suffered for a third day Sunday without water, electricity and proper food, as the country grappled with the enormity of a massive earthquake and tsunami that left more than 10,000 people dead in one area alone.

Japan's prime minister called the crisis the most severe challenge the nation has faced since World War II, as the grim situation worsened. Friday's disasters damaged a series of nuclear reactors, potentially sending one through a partial meltdown and adding radiation contamination to the fears of an unsettled public.

Temperatures began sinking toward freezing, compounding the misery of survivors along hundreds of miles (kilometers) of the northeastern coast battered by the tsunami that smashed inland with breathtaking fury. Rescuers pulled bodies from mud-covered jumbles of wrecked houses, shattered tree trunks, twisted cars and tangled power lines while survivors examined the ruined remains.

In Rikusentakata, a port city of over 20,000 virtually wiped out by the tsunami, Etsuko Koyama escaped the water rushing through the third flood of her home but lost her grip on her daughter's hand and has not found her.

Supporters of the rulers of Bahrain threatened about 5,000 university students protesting against the government at Bahrain University Sunday, eyewitnesses said.

Elsewhere in the strategically important kingdom, riot police fired tear gas at protesters to break up the blockade of a highway, the government said.

A video posted by an opposition party showed police appearing to fire two tear gas canisters at a man standing only a few feet from them. He doubles over after the first shot, and drops to the ground after the second, which appears to hit him in the face.

The man is not obviously threatening the police in the video, which was posted Sunday by Wefaq. The opposition party told CNN it was filmed Sunday near Pearl Roundabout, the center of month-old protests in the kingdom.

About 150 supporters of the royal family tried to get onto Bahrain University campus during the protest there, but only some managed to get in. An unknown number of people were injured, but it's not clear how many or how badly.

Security forces tried to prevent the regime supporters from entering the campus, and allowed people to leave the grounds but not to enter.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's trip to the turbulent Middle East highlights the Obama administration's deep concern over developments in Libya and fear that the unrest roiling the Arab world may not produce the changes demanded by increasingly vocal and emboldened anti-government protesters.

Failure to meet those demands for greater economic, political and social freedoms could spark more chaos and complicate the U.S. position in one of the world's most critical regions.

Clinton heads Sunday to Europe and then to the first Cabinet-level U.S. talks with the Libyan opposition and discussions on democratic reform with transitional leaders in post-revolt Egypt and Tunisia.

With Libya embroiled in near civil war and Washington and its NATO allies divided on military intervention, Clinton will discuss options with European officials on Monday in Paris, where she also plans to see foes of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to assess their capabilities and intentions.

The meeting comes as rebels step up calls for the imposition of no-fly zone to deter Gadhafi loyalists from air strikes that have helped the regime retake key opposition-held areas.

Tunisia's official news agency says that authorities have ordered a curfew in a central mining town amid simmering unrest following a bout of deadly clashes between police and protesters.

The TAP news agency said Sunday that the 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been imposed on Metlaoui, where clashes two days earlier left two people dead and 20 injured.

The military dispersed protesters and made arrests in lingering unrest Saturday, the latest sign of Tunisia's struggle for restore stability after a revolution that deposed an autocratic leader and sparked uprisings in the Arab world.

The protests began amid rumors that the regional phosphate mining company was secretly recruiting in a specific tribal area - instead of opening its jobs to the entire local population. Authorities have denied the rumors.
Southern Sudan is suspending talks and diplomatic contact with northern Sudan over claims that the northern government is funding militias in the south, a top Southern Sudanese official said Sunday.

The announcement, which follows clashes that have killed hundreds of people in recent months, could further destabilize what will become the world's newest country in July.

Pagan Amum, the secretary-general of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement, on Sunday repeated allegations that the northern government is arming local tribes to use as proxy forces, a tactic it has repeatedly used in both southern Sudan and the western region of Darfur.

"The country is in a crisis because the (northern ruling party) has been planning and working to destabilize Southern Sudan," he told reporters in the southern capital of Juba. He offered to provide documentary evidence on Monday.

The oil-rich south voted in January to secede from the north, but there are many issues that still remain unaddressed, including the sharing of oil revenues, the status of southerners or northerners living across the border, and who controls the disputed border region of Abyei, a fertile area near large oil fields.

Many southerners fear the north does not want to lose southern oil revenues and the two regions may resume their decades-long civil war.

Amum said that the northern government wanted "to overthrow the government of Southern Sudan before July and to install a puppet government" in order to "deny the independence of Southern Sudan.

"They have stepped up their destabilization of Southern Sudan by creating, training, and arming and financing various militia groups in Southern Sudan," he said.

Negotiations over the future of the volatile and contested north-south borderland of Abyei were set to resume Monday in Khartoum between Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and southern leader Salva Kiir, with former South African president Thabo Mbeki mediating the talks, but Amum said Sunday that these negotiations would not go ahead as planned.

Egypt's military has started rebuilding a church burned down in an outbreak of unrest between Christian Copts and Muslims, a military official told CNN on Sunday.

The Shahedin Church in Helwan province south of Cairo, the capital, was burned earlier this month in what was believed to be a feud between a Muslim and Coptic family. Further clashes last Tuesday killed 13 Copts.

"The engineering department of the Egyptian Armed Forces has started to rebuild the church in Atfeeh today at the same exact location," Army spokesman Maj. Mohamed Askar said. "The Armed Forces will bear all expenses."

Meanwhile, thousands of Christians in Cairo have protested outside the offices of the Egyptian state broadcaster for nine consecutive days, demanding the rebuilding of the church and an end to what they call government persecution and discrimination.

The Egyptian military previously announced an investigation into the church burning and ensuing violence.

Japan's nuclear crisis intensified Sunday as authorities raced to combat the threat of multiple reactor meltdowns and more than 170,000 people evacuated the quake- and tsunami-savaged northeastern coast where fears spread over possible radioactive contamination.

Nuclear plant operators were frantically trying to keep temperatures down in a series of nuclear reactors - including one where officials feared a partial meltdown could be happening Sunday - to prevent the disaster from growing worse.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano also said Sunday that a hydrogen explosion could occur at Unit 3 of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, the latest reactor to face a possible meltdown. That follows a blast the day before in the power plant's Unit 1, and operators attempted to prevent a meltdown there by injecting sea water into it.

"At the risk of raising further public concern, we cannot rule out the possibility of an explosion," Edano said. "If there is an explosion, however, there would be no significant impact on human health."

More than 170,000 people had been evacuated as a precaution, though Edano said the radioactivity released into the environment so far was so small it didn't pose any health threats.

It started with a 5-year-old boy who had the decency to do the right thing.

It is about to end with tragedy layered upon endless tragedy.

Eric Morse, who was 5 in 1994, was asked by some older boys in his Chicago neighborhood to steal candy for them.

He said no. He didn't want to steal.

The older boys, who were 10 and 11 at the time, determined that Eric, who was growing up in a home marked by frequent parental absence, must be punished for his honesty. The 10-year-old, according to court documents, had an IQ that was below 60. The 11-year-old had an IQ of 76. They had led wretched lives of neglect and squalor.

On October 13, 1994, the two older boys encountered Eric and Eric's older brother, Derrick Lemon, who was 8. They asked Eric and Derrick if they would like to see a clubhouse.

Eric and Derrick agreed to follow the older boys.

The older boys led them to an abandoned apartment on the 14th floor of the Ida B. Wells housing project, a high-rise building that had the reputation of being a home base for drug dealers.

They led Eric and Derrick into the empty apartment. It is where they would execute Eric.

The older boys lifted Eric up and dangled him from an open window.

His 8-year-old brother would testify later that he was able to grab Eric's arm and pull him back in.

A top Libyan al-Qaida commander has urged his countrymen to overthrow Moammar Gadhafi's regime and establish Islamic rule, expanding the terror network's attempts to capitalize on the wave of unrest sweeping the region.

Abu Yahia al-Libi, al-Qaida's Afghanistan commander, said in a video posted on a militant website that after the fall of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, it is now Gadhafi's turn, as rebel fighters there press a nearly monthlong campaign to oust him.

Those nation's autocratic governments - enemies of Islamic militants - practiced "the worst kind of oppression" with the backing of the West and had failed to heed the lessons of history, he said.

"Now it is the turn of Gadhafi after he made the people of Libya suffer for more than 40 years," he said, adding that it would bring shame to the Libyan people if the strongman were allowed to die a peaceful death.

A transcript of the video was provided Sunday by SITE Intelligence Group, a U.S. organization that monitors militant messages.

Oman's ruler granted lawmaking powers Sunday to officials outside the royal family in the boldest reforms yet aimed at quelling protests for jobs and a greater public role in politics.

The decree by Sultan Qaboos bin Said reflects the scramble to appease demonstrators and head off possible wider unrest in the strategically important nation, which shares control of the Gulf waterway that carries 40 percent of the world's oil tanker traffic.

Just hours before the announcement, suspected arsonists burned a government office and the home of a clan leader in Ebri, about 210 miles (350 kilometers) northwest of the capital Muscat. No injuries were reported, but military units boosted their presence in the area.

The sultan has made sweeping Cabinet shake-ups and promises for thousands of new civil service posts since demonstrations began late last month. But the latest plan introduces the most fundamental changes about how the country is governed.

Two current advisory councils - one elected and another appointed by the sultan - will receive powers to make laws and regulations within 30 days after a special commission decides how to amend the state statutes. But it was not immediately clear if the sultan would retain full veto power.

Police were investigating a bus driver's claim that he was driven off the road before his bus slid into a sign pole that sheared it end to end, killing 14 people and leaving others maimed in a horrific scene of blood, jumbled bodies and shattered glass.

The driver, Ophadell Williams, told police that a tractor-trailer clipped his World Wide Tours bus just as it crossed the city line on a trip from the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut. But state police said witnesses told them Williams was speeding before Saturday morning's crash on Interstate 95.

The crash, one of the deadliest bus accidents in years, killed 14 people who had traveled for a quick overnight trip to the casino and were returning to New York's Chinatown.

Capt. Matthew Galvin of the NYPD's Emergency Service Unit was one of the first rescuers on the scene. He said when officers clambered into the wreckage, they found "bodies everywhere."

"People were moaning and screaming for help," he said. Some of the dead were tangled up with the living.

Troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi shelled an oil town in eastern Libya on Sunday, pounding pockets of resistance during their swift advance on the country's poorly equipped and loosely organized rebels.

Rebel officials in their stronghold of Benghazi told The Associated Press that Brega, the site of a major oil terminal, came under heavy shelling Sunday. Libyan state television reported that government troops had retaken the town, but the report could not immediately be verified.

Libyan TV has issued faulty reports claiming territory in the past.

The loss of Brega would be the latest in a series of setbacks for opposition forces who just a week ago held the entire eastern half of the country and were charging toward the capital, Tripoli. But Gadhafi's troops have reversed many of those early gains, bearing down on the rebels with superior firepower from the air.

People across a devastated swath of Japan suffered for a third day Sunday without water, electricity and proper food, as the country grappled with the enormity of a massive earthquake and tsunami that left more than 10,000 people dead in one area alone.

Japan's prime minister called the crisis the most severe challenge the nation has faced since World War II, as the grim situation worsened. Friday's disasters damaged two nuclear reactors, potentially sending one through a partial meltdown and adding radiation contamination to the fears of an unsettled public.

Temperatures began sinking toward freezing, compounding the misery of survivors along hundreds of miles (kilometers) of the northeastern coast battered by the tsunami that smashed inland with breathtaking fury. Rescuers pulled bodies from mud-covered jumbles of wrecked houses, shattered tree trunks, twisted cars and tangled power lines while survivors examined the ruined remains.

In Rikusentakata, a port city of over 20,000 virtually wiped out by the tsunami, Etsuko Koyama escaped the water rushing through the third flood of her home but lost her grip on her daughter's hand and has not found her.

"I haven't given up hope yet," Koyama told public broadcaster NHK, wiping tears from her eyes. "I saved myself, but I couldn't save my daughter."

MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) -- Riot police in Bahrain fired tear gas and rubber bullets at anti-government demonstrators blocking the highway into the capital's financial district Sunday and surrounded the protesters' main camp in the capital, eyewitnesses said.

Authorities failed to dislodge the thousands of protesters blocking King Faisal Highway in Manama, the capital, demanding a greater political voice in the strategic Persian Gulf kingdom, the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.

About two miles (three kilometers) away, police moved on the Pearl Square protest camp in the largest effort to clear the area since the demonstrations, inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, started in mid-February. That police push, too, was unsuccessful.

Another protest at a university also descended into violence Sunday with security forces and government supporters clashing with students.

Protesters defiantly pushed their cause a day after U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited and urged Bahrain and other Arab governments facing popular uprisings to move quickly toward democratic reforms.

The last surviving member of Israel's first parliament has died.

Tawfik Toubi was a founding member of the Israeli Communist Party and two of its offshoots. He died Saturday at 88.

Toubi was born in 1922 in what was then British-controlled Palestine. He served in the Knesset, or parliament, from its establishment in 1949 until he resigned in 1990.

In all, he was elected to 12 terms.

His funeral was taking place in his hometown of Haifa on Sunday.
Tears streamed down Maisara Mucharam's face as she watched aerial shots of the tsunami pummeling Japan's coast and remembered the day, six years ago, when her youngest daughter was ripped out of her arms by the heavy salty sea.

Survivors of the 2004 tsunami that started off Indonesia sat glued to their TV sets, stroking each other's hands, as images of last Friday's disaster in northern Japan flashed repeatedly across the screen.

"I heard someone screaming and ran to see what was going on," said Mucharam, who also lost her husband and two other daughters.

"I tried, but couldn't stop watching," the 38-year-old said, her voice trembling. "It was exactly the same, except they have this horrible footage, events unfolding right before your eyes."

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck on the morning of Dec. 26, 2004, spawned a tsunami that smashed into coastal communities, beach resorts and towns in 12 nations, killing more than 230,000 people.

Two-thirds of them died here in Indonesia's remote Aceh province, and it took days for images to emerge. Even then, most showed the aftermath: crumpled buildings, flattened landscapes and row upon row of swollen corpses.

"Unbelievable," whispered 39-year old Cut Chalidah, who lost a son and nine other family members, as she watched the 23-foot (7-meter) high wall of water wash over Japan's coast, rolling up everything in its path. "So this is what it looked like."

She sat silent as the television showed cars, ships and even buildings lifted up and carried inland, tossed about in the debris-strewn water like floating toys in a running bath.

The images left 13-year-old Zaki Ramadhan, orphaned in the 2004 disaster, struggling to breathe.

"My chest was tight, I couldn't feel my legs," said the boy, now being raised by his grandparents. "All I could think of was my mom and dad, my sisters. ... They disappeared under water, just like that."

In Sri Lanka and Thailand, both also hit by the 2004 tsunami, some survivors said the pictures brought back tears and nightmares that had all but stopped.

Fire officials say a blaze in a Brooklyn apartment building has injured 31 people, four of them critically.

The New York City Fire department press office says firefighters got the call at 5:12 a.m. Sunday about a blaze in a four-story building at 510 61st Street in Brooklyn.

Chris Korzekwinski (kor-zuh-KWIN'-skee) at the press office says four of the injured are in critical condition with life-threatening injuries and four others are in serious condition. The rest had minor injuries.

He says the fire was brought under control at 7:27 a.m.

The cause of the blaze is under investigation.
Some of Britain's best-known actors and directors say the government's cuts to arts spending is the biggest threat to country's arts and culture in decades.

Actors Jeremy Irons, Kenneth Branagh, Helen Mirren and Julie Walters and writer-director Mike Leigh are among dozens others who signed a protest letter published in The Observer newspaper Sunday.

Cuts applied to cultural authorities are expected to deal a blow to funding for smaller, subsidized performance venues across the country.

They wrote: "We must remember that many of our most internationally recognized artists ... started in regional theaters and small arts venues."
Israel said Sunday it has approved hundreds of settler homes after five members of an Israeli family - including three children - were knifed to death as they slept in a West Bank settlement over the weekend.

The attack and the government's response threatened to drive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking even further out of reach. Israel, which blames the attack on Palestinian militants, is liable to set aside an emerging peace initiative it had planned to propose, while the planned construction of new settler homes only deepened Palestinian mistrust of Israel.

The settlement construction, approved Saturday night by the Cabinet's ministerial team on settlements, would take place in major West Bank settlement blocs that Israel expects to hold on to in any final peace deal, the prime minister's office said in a text message to reporters. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under domestic pressure to respond harshly to the killings, is a member of that team.

Between 300 and 500 apartments and homes were approved for construction, said a government official speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to release this information to the media

Palestinian opposition to settlement construction on lands they want for a future state has brought negotiations to a virtual standstill over the past two years, with Palestinians refusing to negotiate directly with Israel as long as it persists.

"We condemn this act of accelerated settlement construction," senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat said. "We urge the international community to intervene and implement the two-state solution. This is the only way out of this vicious circle of violence and counter-violence."

Settler leader Dani Dayan called the government's move "a very small step in the right direction."

Although ground has been broken on as many as 500 apartments and homes since an Israeli moratorium on new West Bank settlement construction expired in late September, the government is holding up approvals on hundreds of other homes, to the settlers' chagrin.

Hundreds of journalists have protested the detention of reporters that the authorities allege were involved in an attempt to bring the government down.

The journalists, joined by members of some non-governmental organizations, gathered in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Sunday to protest arrests of seven journalists earlier this month.

They shouted anti-government slogans and carried banners that read: "Turkey: set journalists free."

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denied that he has tried to silence the media after Western governments and international media rights groups voiced concern over the case of journalists, jailed over links to an alleged conspiracy to bring the government down in 2003.
Libya's de facto oil minister said Sunday the country's crude production has fallen "drastically" and that he has reached out to Italian oil giant Eni SpA for help in extinguishing a blaze at an eastern oil facility snatched back from rebel fighters.

The call for help by National Oil Co. head Shukri Ghanem demonstrated the country's dependence on foreign oil companies' expertise and the crippling impact of an exodus of that labor force as a result of the fighting in the OPEC member.

"There's quite a big fire in one of our ... kerosene storage units (at Ras Lanouf), and we're trying to fight it," Ghanem told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "We are asking for some help to try to put it down."

"I spoke with Eni's chairman to see if they can help us because it (the refinery) is on the Mediterranean and it affects the environment," he said, adding that he was told "they're deciding whether they can help."

Eni's offices in Milan and Rome were closed Sunday and company spokesmen weren't answering their cell phones.

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi recaptured Ras Lanouf - a key refining and export complex - after fierce battles against the rebels. It is part of a concerted push to reclaim the eastern part of the country where at least four major export ports are located.

Libyan state television reported Sunday that pro-Gadhafi forces retook the oil town of Brega, farther east of Ras Lanouf.