Category: Bahrain


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/09/bates-family_n_1266264.html?ref=mostpopular

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Gil and Kelly Bates Welcome Baby No. 19

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20568636,00.html

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http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110408/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_syria

By BASSEM MROUE, Associated Press Bassem Mroue, Associated Press 1 min ago

BEIRUT – Syrian security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters Friday, killing at least 13 people, wounding hundreds and forcing residents to turn mosques into makeshift hospitals in a southern city that has become a flashpoint for anti-government demonstrations, witnesses said.

The government acknowledged violence in Daraa, but said only two people died and blamed armed thugs.

One witness said he helped ferry the dead and wounded to the city’s hospital, where he counted 13 corpses.

“My clothes are soaked with blood,” he said by telephone from Daraa, adding that he was among thousands of people at the protest and he witnessed security forces shooting live ammunition.

Like most activists and witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press, he requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

A nurse at the hospital said they had run out of beds; many people were being treated on the floor or in nearby mosques.

Protest organizers have called on Syrians to take to the streets every Friday for the past three weeks, demanding reform in one of the most authoritarian nations in the Middle East. The protests have rattled the regime of President Bashar Assad, whose family has ruled Syria for nearly 40 years.

The witness accounts coming out of Syria could not be independently confirmed because the regime has restricted media access to the country. Human rights groups say around 115 people have been killed in the security crackdown.

Witnesses in several other cities across Syria also reported protests Friday. An eyewitness in the coastal city of Latakia said hundreds of people took part in a largely peaceful protest Friday calling for political freedoms.

“Peaceful, peaceful!” they shouted, marching past soldiers who were deployed in force in and around the religiously mixed city where clashes two weeks ago killed 12 people. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Activists said protests also erupted in the central cities of Homs and Hama, the coastal city of Banyas, the northern city of Aleppo and outside the capital, Damascus.

A video posted by activists on Facebook showed a crowd of people in the Damascus suburb of Harasta shouting “We want Freedom!” and “The Syrian people will not be humiliated.” The footage could not be independently confirmed.

The state-run News agency said a police officer and an ambulance driver were killed Friday in Daraa. The report blamed “armed men” for the violence. The government has blamed much of the unrest in recent weeks on armed thugs.

It was not clear if SANA and the eyewitness were counting the same people.

The Interior Ministry called on residents of Daraa not to provide shelter for the armed groups that opened fire on civilians and police and to provide authorities with any information they have about them.

Syria had appeared immune to the unrest sweeping the Arab world until three weeks ago, when security forces arrested a group of high school students who scrawled anti-government graffiti on a wall.

Protests then exploded in cities across the country.

Daraa is parched and impoverished, suffering sustained economic problems from a yearslong drought.

Assad has made a series of concessions to quell the violence, including sacking his Cabinet and firing two governors.

On Thursday, he granted citizenship to thousands of Kurds, fulfilling a decades-old demand of the country’s long-ostracized minority. But the protest Friday in Amouda — a Kurdish city — suggested the population still was not satisfied.

An activist in Douma, a Damascus suburb where at least eight people were killed during protests last Friday, said he was expecting a large turnout Friday. Hundreds of activists and residents have met this week to prepare for the demonstration.

But telephone lines to Douma appeared to be cut Friday. Activists in Damascus, quoting people who came from Douma, said thousands of people were demonstrating outside the suburb’s Grand Mosque.

Despite the regime’s gestures, many Syrian activists remain skeptical about the regime’s concessions and have called for much more concrete reforms, such as lifting the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963 and gives the regime a free hand to arrest people without charge.

___

AP writers Zeina Karam in Beirut and Elizabeth A. Kennedy in Cairo contributed to this report.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/idol-worship/american-idol-recap-scotty-mccreery-175786

For Rock and Roll Hall of Fame week, the night started off with just the right superstar talking points: Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Elton John, James Brown… Will.I.Am? Errrkay. The week’s co-mentor is a Jimmy Iovine crony — and a serious hitmaker in his own right — much like Gwen Stefani, who styled the Top 9 in her own L.A.M.B. line (it must be said: did Gwen also dress Randy Jackson, or is he auditioning for a spot in the Black Eyed Peas?) Neither was seen in the studio audience, according to our own Shirley Halperin, but Todd Rungren was along with Christian Slater (more on him later), pimping his new Fox show Breaking In. Also spotted in the house: Season 8 finalist Scott MacIntyre and his fiancée Christina Teich, who canoodled every chance they got. 

Up first was Jacob Lusk, who said that he changed his song from “Let’s Get It On” to “Man in the Mirror” because his moral code prevents him from conveying that raunchy a message or something like that. Then, he threw down a challenge: if he ends up in the bottom 3 on Thursday night, then America “wasn’t ready to look at themselves in the mirror.” Ok, Jacob — way to triple dog dare the audience. We’ll see how that works out for you. 
 
As for the performance, Jacob seemed to be having trouble with his in-ears at the beginning of the song so he just yanked them out. He then sang a duet with Naima… Ok, not Naima, but Siedah Garrett, who co-wrote the Michael Jackson hit. Jacob looked a little awkward trying some hip swivels, but I like him working with a partner. Too bad he didn’t try to do something that had a little more rock in it.  After beckoning Garrett back out and crediting her with writing the ‘greatest song ever written,” Steven Tyler then gave his standard critique: “that was beautiful.” Steven, please do us all a favor and try another adjective. Jennifer said Jacob makes us feel like we can do anything (except get it on, perhaps?). Randy was proud of him and said he had “Jacob moments all over the place.” 
 
Haley Reinhart probably has the best shot on a rock-and-roll-themed night, with that Janis Joplin growl on “Piece of My Heart. It was time that she embraced the Joplin comparison, but if you’ve never seen footage of the legendary singer, check out one of the greatest moments at WoodstockMelissa Etheridge also absolutely KILLED it performing the same song at Woodstock 94 decades later. So Reinhart had big shoes to fill Wednesday night, and she had the rock look down decked in leather, but for some reason hiding her legs in pants (a bummer for Idol’s few male viewers, no doubt). Still, she brought it down with a bluesy finish that had Jennifer growling while speaking — it’s infectious! Jennifer said the competition was off to a strong start and Randy agreed, welcoming Haley back for the umpteenth time this season. Steven credits Janis with giving rock and roll “the voice in 1968,” and Haley brought it back. A mighty big compliment for what was by far Haley’s strongest performance, even if I still see her as Miley Cyrus’s long lost twin. 
 
For Casey Abrams to do “Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” the same week the mighty Constantine Maroulis returns to the stage was a tall order. Even Jimmy warned him that he sounded too Vegas, so Casey changed his song as well, even deciding to bring out the upright bass. It turned out Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty’s vocal was a much better match for Casey. Though he’s still gritting his teeth when he sings, which puts me off every time, this was a fine performance. Randy told him that he made CCR proud, and proclaimed him a revolutionary for making the upright bass cool again. Steven called him a “true musician,” and Jennifer said she would pay top dollar to be in the front row, which is, of course, a fraction of what she pays for a pair of her Louboutin shoes. 
 
Lauren Alaina came next with Aretha Franklin’s “You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman” which had Christian Slater cheering in the audience. Lauren’s country spin holds up and is pleasant enough but I’ve heard it done better. Still, Jennifer called her amazing, and Randy wasn’t jumping up and down, but alluded to people in previous seasons (ahem, Kelly Clarkson) who sang the heck out of that song. Steven loved her voice and was borderline drooling over Lauren, telling her, “You came here an immature little girl. Now you’re a natural born woman.” Walk this way, Lauren. Walk this way.
 
James Durbin also referenced a past Idol, channeling the Adam Lambert look on his slowed down version of The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I understand James trying to turn in a more subtle performance a la Adam, but the song’s lower register threatens his pitch. He can’t help himself, though, and lets out a wail at the end. He even, yes, weeped. Jennifer and Randy loved his sensitive side, and advised him that chances like these advance careers. As for Steven, perhaps he needs a reminder that George Harrison was in the Beatles when he wrote that song.
 
Bringing out the country side of rock was Scotty McCreery with “That’s All Right, Mama” by Elvis Presley, and for the second time, we got an upright bass!  Scotty grew up idolizing Elvis, and dagumit, he sounded like him on Wednesday night! If you closed your eyes and listened, it was as if the King were there possessing young Scotty (his hip swivels even rivaled Jacob’s). The unlikely teen idol this season had girls bum-rushing the stage (orchestrated by Nigel Lythgoe, says Shirley) but left me wondering: did Elvis hold his microphone to the side? Just putting it out there. Randy announced that we were witnessing the “new Scotty,” while Jennifer wanted to know if Scotty watches rap, because she feels some “flavor.” Um, not so much. Steven, in classic form, whips up another Tyler-ism, “I thought you were all hat, no cattle.” 
 
As promised, Pia Toscano took on Tina Turner’s “River Deep Mountain High.” I would have preferred “Proud Mary“ but that’s just me. Meanwhile, Gwen dressed her like a lamb. As in Mary Had a Little Lamb. I have to hand it to Pia, she is so in control of her vocals, it’s scary. She even used pyrotechnics, and actually moved around the stage. Christian Slater’s daughter also loves Pia, and I’m having trouble seeing my dreamboat from “Heathers” as a dad. Sigh… Jennifer told Pia how special she is and declared that her mission is to make Pia even greater. Randy was pleased that Pia can deliver an up-tempo song and I was loving Pia’s jewelry. Steven made another head-scratching quip: “There’s a million guys, in a million bars, having a million drinks about you tonight.”  Again — what? He really is becoming the male version of Paula!
 
Still looking for connection, Stefano Langone chose Percy Sledge’s “When A Man Loves a Woman.” Coached by Will.I.am and Ryan Tedder, they tried their best to get him to be more Percy and less Michael Bolton. Stefano kept his eyes open, used his sweet falsetto, and engaged in a way we haven’t seen yet, but he was nearly wheezing towards the end and I still felt like I was on a cruise ship (Simon Cowell, come back!). Jennifer was, of course, super proud of him, and cried out “Baby, baby, I knew you had it in you!” But Randy wasn’t feeling it, instructing Stefano to let the song marinate. So Idol is now a cooking show. 
 
Idol’s “imperfect boy” and Vote For The Worst’s love child Paul McDonald considered toning down Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” but Will.i.am and Jimmy disagreed, advising him to do all kinds of crazy things, like drink his own spit and get all “method” with his hair. It’s unclear whether Paul listened, but he nevertheless redeemed himself with impressive energy, nearly attacking the guitarist with some crazed dance moves. It’s a barn burner, y’all! Randy gave him three words, “I loved it,” and Jennifer said the performance was right in Paul’s lane. It all led to a raucous end to the show as the contestants boogied through the credits, but was it enough to erase the stench Paul left on stage last week?
 
Bottom 3 this week? I call Jacob (because he dared me), Stefano, and a toss up between Paul and Lauren. What say you, Idol Worshipers? 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_japan_earthquake

By SHINO YUASA and JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press Shino Yuasa And Jay Alabaster, Associated Press 11 mins ago

TOKYO – A suspected breach in the reactor at the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant could mean more serious radioactive contamination, Japanese officials revealed Friday, as the prime minister called the country’s ongoing fight to stabilize the plant “very grave and serious.”

A somber Prime Minister Naoto Kan sounded a pessimistic note at a briefing hours after nuclear safety officials announced what could be a major setback in the urgent mission to stop the plant from leaking radiation, two weeks after a devastating earthquake and tsunami disabled it.

“The situation today at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant is still very grave and serious. We must remain vigilant,” Kan said. “We are not in a position where we can be optimistic. We must treat every development with the utmost care.”

The uncertain situation halted work at the nuclear complex, where dozens had been trying feverishly to stop the overheated plant from leaking dangerous radiation. The plant has leaked some low levels of radiation, but a breach could mean a much larger release of contaminants.

The possible breach in Unit 3 might be a crack or a hole in the stainless steel chamber of the reactor core or in the spent fuel pool that’s lined with several feet of reinforced concrete. The temperature and pressure inside the core, which holds the fuel rods, remained stable and was far lower than would further melt the core.

Suspicions of a possible breach were raised when two workers waded into water 10,000 times more radioactive than levels normally found in water in or around a reactor and suffered skin burns, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Kan apologized to farmers and business owners for the toll the radiation has had on their livelihoods: Several countries have halted some food imports from areas near the plant after milk and produce were found to contain elevated levels of radiation.

He also thanked utility workers, firefighters and military personnel for “risking their lives” to cool the overheated facility.

The alarm Friday comes two weeks to the day since the magnitude-9 quake triggered a tsunami that enveloped cities along the northeastern coast and knocked out the Fukushima reactor’s cooling systems.

Police said the official death toll jumped past 10,000 on Friday. With the cleanup and recovery operations continuing and more than 17,400 listed as missing, the final number of dead was expected to surpass 18,000.

Click image to see photos of quake, tsunami damage

The nuclear crisis has compounded the challenges faced by a nation already saddled with a humanitarian disaster. Much of the frigid northeast remains a scene of despair and devastation, with Japan struggling to feed and house hundreds of thousands of homeless survivors, clear away debris and bury the dead.

A breach could mean a leak has been seeping for days, likely since the hydrogen explosion at Unit 3 on March 14. It’s not clear if any of the contaminated water has run into the ground. Radiation readings for the air were not yet available for Friday, but detections in recent days have shown no significant spike.

But elevated levels of radiation have already turned up in raw milk, seawater and 11 kinds of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and turnips. Tap water in several areas of Japan — including Tokyo — also showed radiation levels considered unsafe for infants, who are particularly vulnerable to cancer-causing radioactive iodine, officials said.

The scare caused a run on bottled water in the capital, and Tokyo municipal officials are distributing it to families with babies.

Previous radioactive emissions have come from intentional efforts to vent small amounts of steam through valves to prevent the core from bursting. However, releases from a breach could allow uncontrolled quantities of radioactive contaminants to escape into the surrounding ground or air.

Government spokesman Yukio Edano said “safety measures may not be adequate” and warned that may contribute to rising anxiety among people about how the disaster is being managed.

“We have to make sure that safety is secured for the people working in that area. We truly believe that is incumbent upon us,” the chief Cabinet secretary told reporters.

Edano said people living 12 to 20 miles (20 to 30 kilometers) from the plant should still be safe from the radiation as long as they stay indoors. But since supplies are not being delivered to the area fast enough, he said it may be better for residents in the area to voluntarily evacuate to places with better facilities.

“If the current situation is protracted and worsens, then we will not deny the possibility of (mandatory) evacuation,” he said.

NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said later that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. was issued a “very strong warning” for safety violations and that a thorough review would be conducted once the situation stabilizes.

Meanwhile, damage to factories was taking its toll on the world’s third-largest economy and creating a ripple effect felt worldwide.

Nissan Motor Co. said it may move part of its engine production line to the United States because of damage to a plant.

The quake and tsunami are emerging as the world’s most expensive natural disasters on record, wreaking up to $310 billion in damages, the government said.

“There is no doubt that we have immense economic and financial damage,” Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said. “It will be our task how to recover from the damage.”

At Sendai’s port, brand new Toyota cars lay crushed in piles. At the airport, flooded by the tsunami on March 11, U.S. Marines used bulldozers and shovels to shift wrecked cars that lay scattered like discarded toys.

Still, there were examples of resilience, patience and fortitude across the region.

In Soma, a hard-hit town along the Fukushima prefecture coast, rubble covered the block where Hiroshi Suzuki’s home once stood. He watched as soldiers dug into mounds of timber had been neighbors’ homes in search of bodies. Just three bodies have been pulled out.

“I never expected to have to live through anything like this,” he said mournfully. Suzuki is one of Soma’s lucky residents, but the tsunami washed away the shop where he sold fish and seaweed.

“My business is gone. I don’t think I will ever be able to recover,” said Suzuki, 59.

Still, he managed to find a bright side. “The one good thing is the way everyone is pulling together and helping each other. No one is stealing or looting,” he said.

“It makes me feel proud to be Japanese.”

___

Alabaster reported from Onagawa. Associated Press writers Elaine Kurtenbach, Tomoko A. Hosaka, Kristen Gelineau, Jean H. Lee and Jeff Donn in Tokyo, Eric Talmadge in Soma and Johnson Lai in Sendai contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110316/ts_yblog_thelookout/japans-nuclear-crisis-where-things-stand

The ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has turned into what one analyst calls “a slow-moving nightmare,” with fires, leaks of poisonous radiation, and mass evacuations.

With events shifting quickly, and a sometimes confusing succession of announcements coming from authorities, it can be hard to get a clear sense of exactly what’s happening, and of what to expect going forward. So here’s a rundown, based on several recent news reports, on where things stand five days in…

 

What’s at the root of the problem?

Friday’s earthquake and tsunami caused power outages across northern Japan — including at the Daiichi plant, which comprises six separate reactors. That in turn caused a failure of the reactors’ cooling systems, which are needed to keep the nuclear fuel from overheating and melting down and/or triggering an explosion, releasing poisonous radiation into the atmosphere.

What’s the current situation at the plant?

Yesterday, an explosion caused the containment vessel covering the Number 2 reactor to crack, releasing into the air a surge of radiation 800 times more intense than the recommended hourly exposure limit in Japan. One third of the fuel rods at the reactor were reportedly damaged. In addition, another powerful explosion blew a 26-foot wide hole in the side of Number 4 reactor, causing fires to break out and a pool containing spent fuel rods to begin dangerously overheating.

The Japanese military tried to use helicopters to dump water from the air to cool the Number 4 reactor, but that plan was abandoned after a third explosion — this one damaging the roof and cooling system of the Number 3 reactor — because it would have meant flying a helicopter into radioactive steam. Gregory Jaczko, the top U.S. nuclear official, said today that all the water was gone from the pool containing the fuel rods at the Number 4 reactor — an assertion denied by a spokesman for the Japanese power company that runs the plant. If Jaczko is correct, it would mean there is nothing to stop the fuel from melting down, spewing radiation.

Water was also poured into the Numbers 5 and 6 reactors, suggesting that essentially the entire plant could be at risk of overheating.

In what appears to have been an understatement, the plant operator described the situation at the Number 4 reactor as “not so good.” But in some ways the rupture at the Number 3 reactor is especially troubling, because it’s the only reactor that uses plutonium as part of its fuel mix. If absorbed into the bloodstream, plutonium can stay in the liver or bone marrow and cause cancer.

Japanese officials said early Thursday they’re close to completing a new power line which would restore the cooling systems for the reactors, but it’s unclear when the line will be up and running.

How much of the surrounding area is likely to be affected by the radiation?

The government has told the roughly 140,000 people who live within 18 miles of the plant to stay indoors, but has said that people outside that zone can safely go outside. However, some experts have accused the Japanese authorities of underplaying the severity of the crisis. The U.S. embassy has recommended that Americans within 50 miles of the plant evacuate the area or stay indoors.

Tokyo, 180 miles south of the plant, has recorded radiation levels only slightly above normal. Still, both France and Australia have urged their nationals throughout the country to leave, and many Tokyo residents have been staying indoors. One American couple living in Tokyo told family they don’t yet see a need to leave, but are monitoring the situation closely.

What other ideas are being considered?

In what experts describe as a last-ditch effort, police are hoping to use a water cannon — usually used to quell riots — to cool the nuclear fuel. Officials have also proposed using boric acid, which can help slow nuclear reactions by absorbing neutrons.

On Monday, 750 workers were withdrawn from the facility, leaving a core of 50 to battle the crisis alone while exposing themselves to potentially deadly levels of radiation. But even those workers appeared to have been withdrawn today after a surge in radiation caused by new explosions made the area too dangerous.

What are the best- and worst-case scenarios?

The best case scenario is that efforts to cool the fuel rods succeed, and damage to the surrounding environment is limited to an area within about 15 miles of the plant. The worst is a full-scale meltdown of the reactors caused by overheating, which would release much larger amounts of radiation into the air than has yet occurred.  In that case, the damage could potentially approach the level of the Soviet Union’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster, for which estimates of deaths vary from 4000 to close to one million.

How does the crisis rank, in terms of nuclear plant accidents?

On Saturday, Japanese authorities ranked the incident a Level Four on a one-to-seven scale used to rank nuclear accidents. but things have worsened since then, and yesterday France’s nuclear authority said it should be classified as a Level Six. Chernobyl is the only Level 7 accident ever to have occurred.

In this image released by Tokyo Electric Power Co., smoke billows from the No. 3 unit among four housings cover four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Okumamachi, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, on Tuesday, March 15, 2011.  (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110309/ap_on_re_as/as_pakistan

By RIAZ KHAN, Associated Press Riaz Khan, Associated Press 5 mins ago

PESHAWAR, Pakistan – A suicide bomber struck a funeral attended by anti-Taliban militiamen in northwestern Pakistan on Wednesday, killing at least 36 mourners and wounding more than 100 in the deadliest militant attack in the country this year. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility.

The blast near the city of Peshawar was not far from the tribally administered regions bordering Afghanistan where militants are at their strongest. The area struck is home to several tribal armies that battle the Pakistani branches of the Taliban with the government’s encouragement.

Police officer Zahid Khan said about 300 people were attending the funeral for the wife of a militiaman in the Matani area when the bomber struck. TV footage showed men picking up bloodied sandals and caps from a dusty, open space where mourners had gathered.

Witnesses said the bomber, who appeared to be in his late teens, showed up at the funeral just as it was about to begin.

“We thought this youth was coming to attend the funeral, but he suddenly detonated a bomb,” survivor Syed Alam Khan said.

Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan said the insurgents targeted the militiamen because they were allied with the Pakistani government and, effectively, the United States.

“We will carry out more such attacks if they did not stop their activities,” he said via phone from an undisclosed location.

Militia commander Dilawar Khan said he would consult his fighters and local elders about whether to keep battling the Taliban, insisting that the government did not provide them with the resources they need.

Another witness, Farman Ullah, complained that there was no police security in place for the funeral.

“It was the duty of the government to provide us security, but it did not do it,” he said.

The main hospital in Peshawar received at least 36 bodies and more than 100 wounded after the blast, hospital official Jamal Shah said.

Al-Qaida and Taliban militants are waging a bloody war against the Pakistani state from their bases in the northwest. The army has launched several offensives against the Islamist extremists but has also encouraged the formation of private militias to help out in the fight.

While human rights groups are alarmed at the state ceding authority to armed civilians, the government has praised the role of the militias in battling the Taliban or holding ground retaken from them.

Police in Peshawar said late last year that the militias in Matani were essential in stopping Taliban infiltration into the city.

The militiamen operate from heavily fortified compounds in the region and have seen their influence rise. But commanders have complained they do not get enough government help.

The army says it is winning the war against militants, but bombings still regularly strike in much of the country. On Tuesday, at least 20 people were killed in a car bombing in Punjab province.

Also Wednesday, police in Pakistan’s largest city said they had arrested four Pakistani Taliban militants after a tip and a shootout, but four alleged insurgents managed to escape. The militants were believed to be planning attacks in Karachi, a southern city of 18 million, senior police official Mohammad Aslam said.

Police showed reporters four hooded men who they said were the suspects. They also displayed an explosives-laden sucide jacket, assault rifles and other weapons they said they recovered late Tuesday.

Karachi has a history of sectarian, political and ethnic violence. Officials say Pakistani Taliban fighters, who tend to be based in the northwest, increasingly use Karachi as a hide-out.

In the country’s southwest, a landmine exploded next to a vehicle in Dera Bugti area of southwestern Baluchistan province, killing five people and wounding 18, government official Shoaib Jadoon said.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. But Baluchistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency which wants the province to have more autonomy and a greater share of the money derived from its natural resources.

____

Associated Press writers Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Ashraf Khan in Karachi and Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.

Ya’ll read this and tell me what you think.

http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/112284/subway-passes-mcdonalds

by Julie Jargon
Monday, March 7, 2011

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    It’s official: the Subway sandwich chain has surpassed McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCDNews) as the world’s largest restaurant chain, in terms of units.

    At the end of last year, Subway had 33,749 restaurants worldwide, compared to McDonald’s 32,737. The burger giant disclosed its year-end store count in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing late last month.

    The race for global dominance is an important one for an industry that’s mostly saturated in the U.S. High unemployment and economic uncertainty have battered the restaurant industry in the U.S., and chains are increasingly looking overseas for growth, particularly in Asia.

    [More from WSJ.com: Where to Put Your Cash Now.]

    Starbucks Corp. Honda (Nasdaq: SBUXNews) recently said it plans to triple its number of outlets in China, for example. Dunkin’ Brands Inc., parent of Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, plans to open thousands of new outlets in China in coming years as well as its first stores in Vietnam in the next 18 months. Subway just opened its 1,000th location in Asia, including its first in Vietnam.

    Subway, which opened its first international restaurant in 1984, in Bahrain, expects its number of international restaurants to exceed its domestic ones by 2020, says Don Fertman, Subway’s Chief Development Officer. The chain currently has just over 24,000 restaurants in the U.S., where it generated $10.5 billion of its $15.2 billion in revenue last year.

    [More from WSJ.com: The Most Expensive Town in America.]

    The closely held company, owned by Doctor’s Associates Inc., does not disclose its profits.

    McDonald’s is still the leader when it comes to sales. The burger chain reported $24 billion in revenue last year. “We remain focused on listening to and serving our customers, and are committed to being better, not just bigger,” a McDonald’s spokeswoman says.

    Subway, which surpassed the number of McDonald’s in the U.S. about nine years ago, expects China to eventually become one of its largest markets. The sandwich shop only has 199 restaurants in China now, but expects to have more than 500 by 2015.

    [More from WSJ.com: TV’s Next Wave: Tuning In to You.]

    Subway has achieved its rapid growth, in part, by opening outlets in non-traditional locations such as an automobile showroom in California, an appliance store in Brazil, a ferry terminal in Seattle, a riverboat in Germany, a zoo in Taiwan, a Goodwill store in South Carolina, a high school in Detroit and a church in Buffalo, New York.

    “We’re continually looking at just about any opportunity for someone to buy a sandwich, wherever that might be. The closer we can get to the customer, the better,” Mr. Fertman says, explaining that it now has almost 8,000 Subways in unusual locations. “The non-traditional is becoming traditional.”

    // The company has some concerns about the economies of certain international markets, such as Germany and the United Kingdom. The company is trying to develop more affordable offerings in those countries, similar to the $5 foot-long sandwiches that have been successful in the U.S.

    “Finding that kind of value proposition in those countries is essential,” Mr. Fertman says.

    I heard about this last night. I’m sad because I love McDonald’s. But, theres nothing I can do about it. So please comment and tell me what you think.

    Bahrain king orders release of political prisoners

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110222/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_bahrain_protests

    By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and BARBARA SURK, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi And Barbara Surk, Associated Press 28 mins ago

    MANAMA, Bahrain – Bahrain’s king ordered the release of some political prisoners Tuesday, conceding to another opposition demand as the embattled monarchy tries to engage protesters in talks aimed at ending an uprising that has entered its second week.

    The king’s decree — which covers several Shiite activists accused of plotting against the state — adds to the brinksmanship on both sides that has included a massive pro-government rally Monday, an opposition march in response and the planned return of a prominent opposition figure from exile.

    It’s unclear how many prisoners will be freed, government spokeswoman Maysoon Sabkar said.

    But they include some of the 25 Shiite activists on trial for allegedly plotting against the Sunni rulers of the strategic island kingdom, a leading member of Bahrain’s Shiite opposition, Abdul Jalili Khalil, told The Associated Press.

    He called the prisoner release “a good step” and a “positive gesture.”

    Two of those in the case are being tried in absentia, including opposition leader Hassan Meshaima, who has been in self-exile in London since last year. He was expected to return to Bahrain later Tuesday.

    Mesheima’s presence could bolster opposition forces seeking a harder line against the monarchy, including some who have called for the complete ouster of the king and the royal dynasty that has ruled for more than 200 years.

    Meshaima’s group, known as Haq, is considered more radical than the main Shiite political bloc that has taken a central role in the revolt, which began last week with marches but quickly met with violent resistance from security forces.

    The primary Shiite group includes 18 members of the 40-member parliament, who resigned Thursday to protest the killing of demonstrators by security forces.

    Tens of thousands of opposition supporters marched Tuesday through the capital of Manama, carrying Bahrain’s red-and-white flag and circling the Bahrain Mall and Manama’s financial district — symbols of the country’s prosperity in recent decades. Security forces did not move to confront the procession, but helicopters circled overhead.

    “Egypt, Tunisia, are we any different?” they chanted, calling for the Sunni rulers they accuse of discriminating against the island’s Shiite majority to fall.

    “I don’t care if it is this government or another, but whichever it is, I want my rights,” said Wassam Zabar, a 22-year-old student. “I want a chance to have a job, a career and a future.”

    The government said Tuesday that the overall death toll was seven from last week’s clashes, which included the army opening fire on protesters. Previous reports from opposition groups and hospital officials in the past week set the death toll at eight, but the government tally now appears accurate.

    The government said 25 people were hospitalized, but it’s unclear what degree of injury authorities used to arrive at that figure. Opposition group place the figure at more that 200. Associated Press journalists at the main state hospital witnessed many dozens of people being treated.

    The attacks on protesters have brought stinging denunciations from Bahrain’s Western allies, including the United States. The U.S. maintains very close ties with Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

    Bahrain authorities withdrew the military Saturday and allowed protesters to reclaim the landmark Pearl Square, which has been the center of the Shiite-led uprising.

    Bahrain’s Shiite majority has complained of discrimination and political persecution in the kingdom. They have staged protests in the past, but the current unrest — inspired by the toppling of regimes in Tunisia and Egypt — is the most serious against the Sunni rulers.

    In a brief statement to Bahrain’s official news agency, the king ordered the release of “a number of prisoners” and a halt to “several trials” of Shiite activists.

    On Monday, Bahrain’s crown prince called off Formula One’s season-opening race scheduled for March 13, handing another victory to protesters. Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa owns the rights to grand prix and serves as commander of the armed forces. Protesters said it would have been disrespectful the hold the race.

    Sabkar told reporters the “immediate priority is to keep the peace and maintain calm.” She said the government, led by the same prime minister — the king’s uncle — for 40 years, was “deeply saddened by the tragic events of the past few days and its condolences go out to those families who have lost loved ones.”

    Opposition leaders have called for the government to resign after last week’s bloodshed to pave the way for a dialogue with the crown prince.

    “The government has taken a decision to shoot at its people,” said Khalil, a Shiite opposition leader. “Our objective remains for this government to resign after failing to protect its people.”

    Army locks down Bahrain, police storm protest

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/ml_bahrain_protests

    By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press 2 hrs 22 mins ago

    MANAMA, Bahrain – Army patrols and tanks locked down the capital of this tiny Gulf kingdom after riot police swinging clubs and firing tear gas smashed into demonstrators, many of them sleeping, in a pre-dawn assault Thursday that uprooted their protest camp demanding political change. Medical officials said four people were killed.

    Hours after the attack on Manama’s main Pearl Square, the military announced on state TV that it had “key parts” of the capital under its control and that gatherings were banned.

    The developments marked a major crackdown by the island nation’s rulers to put an end to days of protests inspired by Egypt’s revolt against Hosni Mubarak. Tiny Bahrain is a pillar of Washington’s military framework in the region. It hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is a critical counterbalance to Iran’s efforts to expand its clout in the region.

    The capital Manama was effectively shut down Thursday. For the first time, tanks and military checkpoints were deployed in the streets and army patrols circulated. The Interior Ministry warned Bahrainis to stay off the streets. Banks and other key institutions did not open, and workers stayed home, unable or to afraid to pass through checkpoints to get to their jobs.

    Barbed wire and police cars with flashing blue lights encircled Pearl Square, the site of anti-government rallies since Monday. Police cleaned up flattened protest tents and trampled banners inside the square, littered with broken glass, tear gas canisters and debris. A body covered in a white sheet lay in a pool of blood on the side of a road about 20 yards (meters) from the landmark square.

    Demonstrators had been camping out for days around the square’s 300-foot (90-meter) monument featuring a giant pearl, making it the nerve center of the first anti-government protests to reach the Arab Gulf since the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

    The protesters’ demands have two main objectives: force the ruling Sunni monarchy to give up its control over top government posts and all critical decisions, and address deep grievances held by the country’s majority Shiites who claim they face systematic discrimination and are effectively blocked from key roles in public service and the military.

    But among Bahrain’s rulers, the prospect of a prolonged crisis raised fears of a potential flashpoint between Iran and its Arab rivals in the Gulf. Bahrain’s ruling Sunni dynasty is closely allied to Saudi Arabia and the other Arab regimes in the Gulf. Shiite hard-liners in Iran have often expressed kinship and support for Bahrain’s Shiite majority, which accounts for 70 percent of the island’s 500,000 citizens.

    The police assault came early Thursday with little warning. Mahmoud Mansouri, a protester, said police surrounded the camp and then quickly moved in.

    “We yelled, ‘We are peaceful! Peaceful!’ The women and children were attacked just like the rest of us,” he said. “They moved in as soon as the media left us. They knew what they’re doing.”

    Dr. Sadek Al-Ikri, 44, said he was tending to sick protesters at a makeshift medical tent in the square when the police stormed in. He said he was tied up and severely beaten, then thrown on a bus with others.

    “They were beating me so hard I could no longer see. There was so much blood running from my head,” he said. “I was yelling, ‘I’m a doctor. I’m a doctor.’ But they didn’t stop.”

    He said the police beating him spoke Urdu, the main language of Pakistan. A pillar of the protest demands is to end the Sunni regime’s practice of giving citizenship to other Sunnis from around the region to try to offset the demographic strength of Shiites. Many of the new Bahrainis are given security posts.

    Al-Ikri said he and others on the bus were left on a highway overpass, but the beatings didn’t stop. Eventually, the doctor said he fainted but could hear another police official say in Arabic: “Stop beating him. He’s dead. We should just leave him here.”

    Bahrain’s parliament — minus opposition lawmakers who are staging a boycott — met in emergency session. One pro-government member, Jamila Salman, broke into tears.

    A leader of the Shiite opposition Abdul Jalil Khalil said 18 parliament members also have resigned to protest the killings.

    As the crackdown began, demonstrators in the square described police swarming in through a cloud of eye-stinging tear gas.

    “They attacked our tents, beating us with batons,” said Jafar Jafar, 17. “The police were lined up at the bridge overhead. They were shooting tear gas from the bridge.”

    Many families were separated in the chaos. An Associated Press photographer saw police rounding up lost children and taking them into vehicles.

    Hussein Abbas, 22, was awakened by a missed call on his cell phone from his wife, presumably trying to warn him about reports that police were preparing to move in.

    “Then all of a sudden the square was filled with tear gas clouds. Our women were screaming. … What kind of ruler does this to his people? There were women and children with us!”

    ABC News said its correspondent, Miguel Marquez, was caught in the crowd and beaten by men with billy clubs, although he was not badly injured.

    Hospital officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said four people were killed early Thursday. Wounded streamed by the dozens into Salmaniya medical center, the main state-run hospital in Manama, with serious gaping wounds, broken bones and respiratory problems from the tear gas.

    Outside the medical complex, dozens of protesters chanted: “The regime must go.”

    Tanks and armored personnel carriers were seen on some streets — the first sign of military involvement in the crisis — and authorities send a text message to cell phones that said: “The Ministry of the Interior warns all citizens and residents not to leave the house due to potential conflict in all areas of Bahrain.”

    Hours before police moved in, the mood in the makeshift tent city was festive and confident.

    People sipped tea, ate donated food and smoked apple- and grape-flavored tobacco from water pipes. The men and women mainly sat separately — the women a sea of black in their traditional dress. Some youths wore the red-and-white Bahraini flag as a cape.

    While the protests began as a cry for the country’s Sunni monarchy to loosen its grip, the uprising’s demands have steadily grown bolder. Many protesters called for the government to provide more jobs and better housing, free all political detainees and abolish the system that offers Bahraini citizenship to Sunnis from around the Middle East.

    Increasingly, protesters also chanted slogans to wipe away the entire ruling dynasty that has led Bahrain for more than 200 years and is firmly backed by the Sunni sheiks and monarchs across the Gulf.

    Although Bahrain is sandwiched between OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it has limited oil resources and depends heavily on its role as a regional financial hub and playground for Saudis, who can drive over a causeway to enjoy Bahrain’s Western-style bars, hotels and beaches.

    Social networking websites had been abuzz Wednesday with calls to press ahead with the protests. They were matched by insults from presumed government backers who called the demonstrators traitors and agents of Iran.

    The protest movement’s next move is unclear, but the island nation has been rocked by street battles as recently as last summer. A wave of arrests of perceived Shiite dissidents touched off weeks of rioting and demonstrations.

    Before the attack on the square, protesters had called for major rallies after Friday prayers. The reported deaths, however, could become a fresh rallying point. Thousands of mourners had turned out for the funeral processions of two other people killed in the protests earlier in the week.

    After prayers Wednesday evening, a Shiite imam in the square had urged Bahrain’s youth not to back down.

    “This square is a trust in your hands and so will you whittle away this trust or keep fast?” the imam said. “So be careful and be concerned for your country and remember that the regime will try to rip this country from your hand but if we must leave it in coffins then so be it!”

    Across the city, government supporters in a caravan of cars waved national flags and displayed portraits of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

    “Come join us!” they yelled into markets and along busy streets. “Show your loyalty.”

    Thousands of mourners turned out Wednesday for the funeral procession of 31-year-old Fadhel al-Matrook, one of two people killed Monday in the protests. Later, in Pearl Square, his father Salman pleaded with protesters not to give up.

    “He is not only my son. He is the son of Bahrain, the son of this nation,” he yelled. “His blood shouldn’t be wasted.”

    Monday’s bloodshed brought embarrassing rebukes from allies such as Britain and the United States. A statement from Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said suspects have been “placed in custody” in connection with the two deaths but gave no further details.

    ___

    Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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