International News in Brief
condemns insurgent attacks
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP):
Defying insurgents, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani yesterday condemned the wave of militant attacks striking his country ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops, vowing: "We will never surrender."
In a televised speech, Ghani called on all religious, political and social leaders to condemn the violence. At one point, he even shouted: "Enough! No more!
"This is unacceptable, it is un-Islamic, it is inhuman," he said, referring to the death of a university student in an attack targeting parliamentarian Shukria Barakzai and the suicide bombing of a volleyball tournament that killed about 50 people last month.
Ghani's words come just two weeks ahead of the withdrawal of most international combat troops, 13 years after the United States-led invasion following the September 11 terror attacks removed the Taliban from power.
Ahead of the pullout, Taliban insurgents have launched a series of high-profile attacks across the country, including those targeting foreigners in the capital, Kabul. On Saturday alone, insurgents killed at least 19 people, including 12 clearing landmines in the country's south, and a senior official of the country's Supreme Court shot dead outside his home in Kabul.
Congress cleared a $1.1 trillion spending bill for President Barack Obama's signature after a day of Senate intrigue capped by a failed, largely symbolic Republican challenge to the administration's new immigration policy.
The vote late Saturday night was 56-40 in favour of the measure, which funds nearly the entire government through the September 30 end of the fiscal year. It also charts a new course for selected shaky pension plans covering more than one million retirees, including the possibility of benefit cuts.
The Senate passed the bill on a day Democrats launched a drive to confirm two dozen of Obama's stalled nominees to the federal bench and administration posts, before their majority expires at year's end.
Several Republicans blamed Tea Party-backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz for giving the outgoing majority party an opportunity to seek approval for presidential appointees, including some that are long stalled.
It was Cruz who pushed the Senate to cast its first vote on the administration's policy of suspending the threat of deportation for an estimated four million immigrants living in the country illegally. He lost his attempt Saturday night, 74-22, although Republican leaders have vowed to bring the issue back after the party takes control of the Senate in January.
Haiti's prime minister resigns amid
political discontent, violent protests
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP):
Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe announced early yesterday that he was resigning, along with several ministers, in the wake of violent anti-government protests and a commission's call for him to step down.
In a speech that was delayed past midnight, Lamothe said he was leaving "with a sense of accomplishment," adding: "This country has undergone a deep and dynamic transformation and a real change in benefit of its people."
President Michel Martelly said earlier he accepted the findings of the commission that had recommended Lamothe's replacement.
Martelly appointed Lamothe as prime minister in 2012, and some political analysts believe Lamothe might seek the presidency in upcoming elections.
Lamothe's resignation complicates the current political situation, because nominations for a new prime minister require approval from Parliament and it is unclear whether someone would be nominated before Parliament is dissolves in January, said Michael Deibert, author of Notes from the Last Testament: The Struggle for Haiti.
Alleged American illegal immigrant says he's not being detained
North Korea (AP):
North Korea yesterday presented to the media an American who says he illegally crossed into the country but has not been put into custody and is seeking asylum in Venezuela.
Arturo Pierre Martinez, 29, of El Paso, Texas, said he entered North Korea by crossing the river border with China. Details of how and when he got into the country were not immediately clear.
In his comments to reporters, Martinez strongly criticised the United States for alleged human rights violations.
He made the statement at the People's Palace of Culture, which North Korean authorities have used in recent years for press conferences where they present North Korean defectors who have returned to North Korea, or on at least one occasion, a South Korean citizen who was detained in North Korea. It is also used for signing ceremonies between North Korea and other countries.
His comments came amid North Korea's own loud protests of a resolution in the United Nations that could open the door for its leaders to face charges of crimes against humanity for human rights violations, raising questions of whether Martinez was trotted out to the media for propaganda purposes.