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Monday, March 11, 2013

U.S. Troops Killed in Afghanistan in “Insider Attack”

Two U.S. soldiers and several Afghan troops were shot to death today as a member of the Afghan security forces turned on them at a meeting in the province of Wardack. “Today one or several individuals wearing an ANSF (Afghan National Security Force) uniform turned his or their weapon at a group of Afghan … and coalition service members and killed several on both sides,” a NATO spokesman told the AFP. It was a “betrayal,” according to the U.S. military. This is the last of a growing number of insider attacks as Taliban are able to infiltrate the forces’ ranks. Last year alone, 60 NATO troops died in similar assaults. The gunman was shot on the spot after a 20-minute shooting. The news came after U.S. soldiers shot and killed two civilians who they said had approached their convoy too closely without responding to their calls. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has been increasingly critical of foreign military operation. Yesterday he demanded they left the Wardack province in response to allegations of torture.

Greek Economy Contracts 5.7% in Last Quarter of 2012

The Greek economy contracted 5.7 percent in the last quarter of 2012, less than the 6 percent economists forecast, according to the nation’s statistics agency ELSTAT. The new numbers add to a five-year recession as the gross domestic product shrank by 20 percent since 2008. Most analysts predict 2013 will be the sixth straight year of contraction. The news came as European leaders prepared to meet for a two-day summit in Brussels during which they will discuss a possible rescue package for Cyprus that could force creditors to take losses in an effort to avoid a return of uncertainty in sovereign debt markets. After a period of relative calm, question arose again after the Italian election, which resulted in a hung parliament, and France’s soaring unemployment. Cyprus’ package could reach the size of its €18 billion ($23 billion) economy.

Egyptian Government Struggles to Contain Riots

New riots erupted this weekend in the cities of Port Said, in the North of Egypt, and Cairo after 21 soccer fans were sentenced to death and others were sent to prison following in response to violence that killed 74 people after a game in February. The aftermath of the competition, which opposed local team al-Masry club and Cairo’s al-Ahly club, added chaos to an already unstable political situation as people demonstrated and rioted against the policies of Islamic President Mohamed Morsi and the religious parliament. Protesters in Cairo, where most of the victims came from, argued the punishment wasn’t harsh enough, while Port Said residents said it was unfair. Meanwhile, police forces called for a strike. After being criticized for their excessive use of strength in demonstration, they said they didn’t want to be held responsible for the mistakes of the central government.

Venezuela Presidential Campaign Off to Rough Start as Candidates Trade Invective

Tension rose over the weekend between Nicolás Maduro, acting president of Venezuela and anointed successor of Hugo Chávez, and Henrique Capriles, candidate for the opposition, as they exchanged attacks even as mourners continued to paid their respects to the corpse of the departed “comandante.” “I’m not Chávez, but I’m his son,” said Maduro as he presented his candidacy to the nation’s board of elections today. ” “Nicolás, I’m not going to give you a free passage… you are not Chávez,” Capriles retorted, accusing him of minimizing the gravity of Chávez’s illness to prepare for his campaign. “You are exploiting someone who is no longer here because you have nothing else to offer the country,” he added. Before his death, Chávez made it clear he wanted Maduro to replace him, which will give him a boost among the millions of poor who benefited from his policies of welfare and redistribution. While Chávez has been criticized for gutting the nation’s economy, this race will be an uphill battle for Capriles. Meanwhile, the U.S. expelled two junior Venezuelan diplomats in response to the expulsion of two US Air Force attachés from the South American country, who Maduro accused of espionage.

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