Monday, January 18, 2010

At least 5 dead as militants storm Kabul

KABUL — Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers attacked buildings across the heart of Kabul on Monday, killing at least five people including a child and triggering fierce gun battles with security forces.

Fires were blazing after two shopping centres, a cinema and the only five-star hotel in the Afghan capital were targeted by heavily-armed militants, setting off a wave of explosions, witnesses and officials said.

Five people were killed and 38 others wounded, the public health ministry said, in the most spectacular strike on Kabul since Taliban militants laid siege to government buildings in February 2009, killing at least 26 people.

Defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi said a child was among the dead, also telling Afghan television that "four terrorists" had been killed -- two who blew themselves up and another two shot dead by security forces.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said security had now been restored in the highly-fortified capital after hours of fighting.

The Taliban, waging an increasingly deadly insurgency against the Western-backed government and foreign forces in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they had sent in 20 suicide bombers.

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Obama Campaigns in Crucial Massachusetts Senate Race

U.S. President Barack Obama made a last minute campaign stop Sunday in Massachusetts, where a crucial election Tuesday will fill the Senate seat held by the late Edward "Ted" Kennedy. The race is extremely tight, and the president's legislative agenda is at stake.

When Democrats in Massachusetts went to the polls last month to choose their nominee for this special election, there was little cause for concern.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in the state by a 3-to-1 margin. And party leaders felt they could coast to victory.

They were wrong.

A little known Republican state senator named Scott Brown has turned this into an extremely tight race, and Democratic candidate Martha Coakely is fighting for her political life.

With time running out, President Obama traveled to Boston to energize the party faithful. "Understand what is at stake here, Massachusetts, is whether we are going forward or going backwards," he said.

Also at stake: the president's health care reform plan.

If Martha Coakley loses, Democrats will no longer have enough votes to keep Republicans from blocking action on the president's top legislative priority.

Concerns about health care and the rising federal deficit are seen as helping Scott Brown and the Republicans in Massachusetts. President Obama reminded a campaign rally at a Boston-area university that voters should think twice before trusting Republicans to cure the nation's ills. "We sure aren't going to get there if we look backwards and try to re-institute the same failed policies that we have had over the past decade. That is not going to work. We've been there. We've done that," he said.

But Republicans counter the president's policies are a blueprint for fiscal disaster. During an appearance on the Fox News Sunday television program, the top Republican in the Senate, Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, described the Massachusetts election as a referendum on health care. "If it is unpopular in Massachusetts, it's unpopular everywhere. The American people don't want us to pass this bill," he said.

The irony, perhaps, is that health care reform was one of Ted Kennedy's signature issues. Kennedy, who served for almost 47 years in the Senate, died in August after battling brain cancer.

Search for Survivors Offers Small Glimmer of Hope as Aid Trickles to Haiti

U.S. officials say a trickle of international aid is beginning to reach survivors of Haiti's massive earthquake, but impassable roads, limited airlift capability and other challenges are complicating that effort. As anger and restlessness escalate in the Hatian capital, Port-au-Prince, there were some signs of hope amid the destruction as rescue workers dug through crumbled buildings, and in some instances, freed trapped survivors.

The sound of applause rang out as rescue workers pulled Jens Christensen, a Danish United Nations worker, alive from the ruins of the U.N. mission headquarters in Haiti. Christensen was buried alive beneath the rubble for five days.

Dave Hutcheson, a U.S. rescue worker says Christensen appeared to be in good shape.

"It took us four hours to get to him," he said. "We saw him, we got a visual on him in about three [hours] and we had him out in four. He wasn't trapped physically around his body. He was trapped in an area."

Christensen was one of several survivors pulled from the rubble on Sunday. His rescue from the wreckage of the U.N.'s offices in Haiti came just minutes after United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon visited the site.

Mr. Ban, on a one-day trip to offer support, says, right now, the first priority of the U.N. is to save as many lives as possible.

"The destruction, the loss of life, are just overwhelming. Therefore, we need unprecedented international support to Haitian people," he said.

The international community is reaching out to Haiti with massive amounts of aid, but getting help to survivors is challenging.

The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, Rajiv Shah, outlined some of the obstacles on ABC's "This Week" program.

"We are talking about 3.5-million people in need. We are talking about a significant degradation of what was already relatively weak infrastructure [in Haiti]. No port access, roads are difficult to get around," said Shah. "So what we are now doing is putting in place military assets. The [U.S.] aircraft carrier arrived this week. It has 19 helicopters, and a lot of the transport of commodities and supplies is through the helicopters."

More than a dozen aid centers have been set up in and around Port-au-Prince, and massive crowds materialize whenever shipments arrive.

In some cases, supplies have been parceled out with relative calm and order. But confrontations between aid-seekers and security personnel have also occurred, and, in some instances, delivery helicopters have been forced to leave prematurely, or drop supplies from the air.

Coordinating the arrival of massive quantities of aid and personnel from around the world to Port-au-Prince's small and damaged international airport has also proved challenging.

U.S. President Barack Obama has tapped two of his predecessors, former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, to lead a private fundraising effort to assist and rebuild Haiti.

Clinton has said he will travel Monday to Port-au-Prince in his capacity as U.N. special envoy to Haiti.

In the midst of the disaster, many Haitians paused Sunday for worship in the overwhelmingly Catholic nation.

A female earthquake survivor says she is praying for herself and for her country, especially for those who are suffering and under the rubble.

Haitian authorities say tens-of-thousands of corpses have been buried in mass graves, and that the final death toll could reach 200,000.

Daryl Mikell Brooks 50 Day Hunger Strike

On Monday, January 18, 2010 in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., editor of Today's News NJ Daryl Mikell Brooks will begin a 50 day hunger strike. Brooks will have no food, only liquids, during his hunger strike.

No food just liquids....

Who is Daryl Mikell Brooks?

As an activist Daryl have sought to confront those issues that plague our neighorhoods: drugs, guns, gang violence, inadequate educational system, prison system, police corruption and poverty.

He is the new age civil, human and political activist. A former host radio talk show on WTTM, ran for congress, US Senate twice and editor of Today's News NJ

A civil rights activist, former candidate for U.S. Senate and veteran of the justice system, Brooks is angry at the treatment of himself and persons released from the corrections system in the New Jersey.

“Racial and economic disparity in the treatment of people in the criminal justice system is the elephant in the room that no one is talking about,” Brooks said. “The hunger strike will draw attention to this critical issue – and hopefully stir action and lead to justice.”

As a result of his being mistreated at the hands of the Trenton Police Department, a former councilman, the city’s current Mayor, a corrupt drug dealer family and the Mercer County justice system, Daryl was convicted in 1998 of a crime to which he maintains his innocence.

Brooks’ supporters are requesting that the Mercer County Court reopen the case.

According to Black, Hispanic, and other minority groups, minority groups are disproportionately targeted and receive unfair treatment by police and other front-line law enforcement officials. They face charges and offenses that may be racially skewed, and many times endure plea bargaining decisions of prosecutors without full process of the law. Some claim discriminatory sentencing practices; and the failure of judges, elected officials and other criminal justice policy makers to redress the inequities that become more glaring every day.

Disdain of primarily inner city Blacks toward the justice system runs deep. Many uphold that it is because of the conviction rates of inner city Blacks of crimes they did not commit: A practice that ran rampant during the civil rights era and, some say, still exists today.

As Brooks explains, "As America builds prisons instead of universities, we are writing ahead our history, a script written well into the future. And it is a pretty ugly script with a grim outcome.”

Dr. King put it best when he said, "I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law."

Brooks also believes in the immortal words of the great American patriot Patrick Henry, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"