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Yemen warplanes hit suspected power line saboteurs

Yemeni warplanes struck tribesmen Wednesday suspected of sabotaging power lines a day earlier, leaving the country without electricity and prompting angry protests in the capital. Amid the demonstrations, President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi replaced five ministers including those holding the finance, electricity and oil portfolios. Wednesday's air strikes targeted a gathering of tribesmen near Marib, a tribal source said, without any immediately reports on casualties. Another tribesman said the saboteurs were protesting against Marib's governor, whom they accuse of seizing government subsidies destined for the tribes.

Bombings in Shiite areas of Iraq kill 37

Bombings that included a suicide attack on tribal leaders in Baghdad hit Shiite areas of central and southern Iraq Wednesday, killing at least 37 people, officials said. They targeted three Baghdad neighbourhoods as well as Karbala and Basra provinces, south of the capital, the officials said. In the Sadr City area of northern Baghdad, at least 15 people died and 34 were hurt when a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a tent where local Shiite tribal leaders were meeting. A car bomb struck another northern area of Baghdad, killing 13 people and wounding at least 24, while a roadside bomb in the capital's east killed two people and wounded three.

First US drone strike of the year kills four in Pakistan

Miranshah (Pakistan) (AFP) - A US drone strike, the first this year, Wednesday killed at least four militants in a northwest Pakistani tribal district where pressure was building on Islamabaad to launch a full-scale military operation, officials said.

U.S. student loan refinancing bill fails Senate hurdle

By Jeff Mason WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Legislation to allow student loan borrowers to refinance at lower interest rates failed to clear a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, dooming a measure that was a Democratic priority ahead of November congressional elections. Democrats had said the bill would let holders of both federal and private undergraduate loans - some with rates of 9 percent or higher - to refinance at 3.86 percent. Young people made up a huge part of the coalition that helped elected President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. The Senate voted on Wednesday 56-38 to end debate on the measure and move to a final vote, short of the 60 votes required for it to move forward.

U.S. defense chief defends swap of Taliban for war prisoner

By David Alexander WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday defended the U.S. decision to trade five Taliban leaders at Guantanamo for war prisoner Bowe Bergdahl, insisting it was the right move but admitting failure to tell lawmakers hurt trust with Congress. Hagel told the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee the administration felt a growing sense of urgency about freeing Bergdahl in recent weeks due to concerns that his health was deteriorating and warnings from Qatari intermediaries that "time was not on our side." "We grew increasingly concerned that any delay, or any leaks, could derail the deal and further endanger Sergeant Bergdahl," Hagel told the sometimes contentious hearing. "We were told by Qataris that a leak would end the negotiations for Bergdahl's release." Lawmakers have sharply criticized the Obama administration for freeing the five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo prison without giving them 30 days notice as required by law.

C. African PM calls for World Cup truce

Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - Central Africa's prime minister called on Wednesday for a pause in the country's devastating sectarian violence so that the beleaguered population can enjoy the World Cup that starts on Thursday. Prime Minister Andre Nzapayeke said the football tournament -- and the month of Ramadan that starts at the end of June -- were an opportunity to step back from the brutal attacks that have killed thousands over the past year. "Many people have agreed to an end or a suspension of the social unrest, to allow the population and particularly young people, to fully enjoy this event that happens only once every four years," said Nzapayeke at a press conference in the capital Bangui. "Take this opportunity that the world has offered to admire our stars," he added, citing African heroes Samuel Eto'o and Didier Drogba.

How Eric Cantor's Shocking Loss Changes Everything

What happened in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District Tuesday night amounted to a political earthquake, with shockwaves that will be felt across the national political landscape. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., fell to conservative challenger Dave Brat — and not just by a little. Brat’s...

Tea party rejoicing at Cantor's defeat

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican tea party forces are rejoicing and the party establishment is somber or altogether silent in the wake of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's primary defeat at the hands of political neophyte David Brat, an unflinching foe of loosening immigration laws.

Snowden's lawyer sells film rights to Hollywood director

Hollywood director Oliver Stone has acquired movie rights to a political thriller penned by US whistle-blower Edward Snowden's Russian lawyer, the pro-Kremlin attorney said on Wednesday. "The rights to my book have been handed over to Oliver Stone and producer Moritz Borman," Anatoly Kucherena told AFP. "He (Stone) met with me, he did not meet with Snowden. Kucherena is completing a potboiler dubbed the "Time of the Octopus" which tells the story of a US whistle-blower and is loosely based on Snowden's experiences.

Most Favor Charges If Bergdahl Deserted

More Americans disapprove than approve of the prisoner exchange that freed Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl from Taliban captivity – especially if it’s established that he deserted his post. And if he did desert, nearly three-quarters say Bergdahl should be charged with a crime. Fifty-one percent in...

London mayor offers to be blasted by water cannon

London Mayor Boris Johnson offered on Wednesday to be sprayed by water cannon to demonstrate that they are safe, after buying the riot control equipment for the capital despite having no permission to use it. Water cannon were routinely used to disperse crowds during the civil unrest in Northern Ireland but have never been used on mainland Britain, and the issue is contentious. After a wave of rioting in London in August 2011, police said there could be limited use of water cannon in any future unrest, but the government is still considering the issue. Defending his decision on London's LBC radio, Johnson said he was "prepared to do anything to show that they're safe within reason".

Hagel testifies Wednesday on Taliban prisoner swap

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will face angry lawmakers as he becomes the first Obama administration official to testify publicly about the controversial prisoner swap with the Taliban.

Prominent Egypt activist Abdel Fattah jailed 15 years: lawyer

An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced in absentia prominent activist Alaa Abdel Fattah to 15 years in jail on charges of participating in an illegal protest, his lawyer said. Twenty-four other defendants were sentenced, also in absentia, to 15 years in jail each on the same charges. Abdel Fattah, who helped spearhead the 2011 uprising that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak, was arrested in November, charged with taking part in an illegal and violent protest. His arrest came amid a widespread crackdown by the military-installed authorities against Islamist and secular dissent in the wake of the army's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July.

C. Africa requests ICC investigation into violence

Bangui (Central African Republic) (AFP) - The Central African government announced on Wednesday that it had requested the International Criminal Court to investigate the most serious crimes committed during more than a year of violent unrest. "The intervention of the International Criminal Court appears to us indispensible in seeking the prosecution and conviction of those who have carried out the most serious of these crimes, which will not go unpunished," said Minister of Justice Isabelle Gaudeuille in a statement read of government radio. The government lodged an official request with the ICC on May 30 "to investigate the situation that has been continuing in CAR since August 1, 2012". On February 7, ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary investigation into abuses committed between March 2013 and January 2014 when the Muslim Seleka rebels had temporarily seized control of the country.

Iraqi oil production unaffected by jihadist push -- for now

Iraq's oil production and crude exports have so far been unaffected by the jihadist sweep into Iraq's second city and a swathe of northern territory, a senior official said Wednesday. Iraq, which boasts among the highest reserves of oil and gas in the world, produces about 3.5 million barrels of oil per day, with exports in February reaching 2.8 million bpd, the highest such figure in at least a quarter-century. Most the oil and gas fields however are in the centre and the south, although militants have seized territory in Iraq's oil-producing Kirkuk province. The Sunni militants spearheaded by fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) overran Mosul on Tuesday, dealing the Shiite-led Iraqi government a spectacular blow and sparking a mass exodus of an estimated half a million people.

Ailing S. African president hands more duties to deputy

South African President Jacob Zuma, who is suffering from exhaustion, has handed more duties to his deputy as he prepares a state of the nation address, the presidency said Wednesday. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa will stand in for Zuma at the funeral on Saturday of Epainette Mbeki, mother of former president Thabo Mbeki, and at Youth Day celebrations on Monday. Zuma spent the weekend in hospital for tests after officials from his African National Congress asked him to take a break because "the punishing election programme was taking its toll". The presidency said Wednesday Zuma had requested next week's state of the nation address to be brought forward from Thursday to Tuesday so he could attend the African Union summit in Equatorial Guinea.

Syria says ready to help Iraq fight jihadist 'terror'

The regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said Wednesday it is willing to help Baghdad in the fight against "terrorism", a day after jihadists overran Iraq's second city Mosul. "The foreign-backed terrorism that our brothers in Iraq are facing is the same that is targeting Syria," said the foreign ministry. Damascus is "ready to cooperate with Iraq to face terrorism, our common enemy", it said in a statement. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is a radical jihadist group operating in Iraq and Syria.

How American history judges Bowe Bergdahl

Bowe Bergdahl’s return has spurred questions about whether he is a hero or should be put on trial for deserting his post, but what does history say?