Amritsar (India) (AFP) - Clashes broke out between sword-wielding Sikhs on Friday at the Golden Temple in northern India on the 30th anniversary of a notorious army raid on the site. At least two people were wounded in the violence, according to an AFP photographer at the temple in the city of Amritsar, which is the holiest shrine in the Sikh religion. "Today we were supposed to have a solemn remembrance for the martyrs of 1984 so what has happened is very sad," said a spokesman for a radical Sikh outfit called the Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) whose supporters were involved in the clashes. "The Temple has once again been dishonoured today," the spokesman Prem Singh Chandumajra told reporters.
Kandahar (Afghanistan) (AFP) - At this sprawling US military base in the middle of the Afghan desert, sometimes it's difficult to tell if there's a war going on. Along a wooden boardwalk at the Kandahar Airfield, you can order a raspberry smoothie, buy pirated DVDs, eat a pizza, shop for trinkets and watch people in shorts play volleyball on a sand court. As NATO's US-led force prepares to depart by December, more and more troops are "behind the wire" on heavily guarded bases, with Afghan forces now taking charge of the fight against Taliban insurgents. The deadly conflict of homemade bombs and militant ambushes seems far away at the larger bases in Afghanistan, where television screens blast US cable news and basketball games.
A gunman stormed a college in the northwestern US city of Seattle and shot four people, one of them fatally, before he was brought down by a student security guard wielding only pepper spray. In what the city mayor denounced as the latest example of America's "epidemic of gun violence," the shooter opened fire on campus with a shotgun and was only halted after he stopped to re-load. Those wounded at Seattle Pacific University were being treated in hospital. Seattle Assistant Police Chief Paul McDonagh said the gunman was a 26-year-old white man.
The eurosceptic UK Independence Party on Friday failed in its bid to get its first MP, finishing second to the Conservative Party in a by-election. Robert Jenrick was able to retain the seat of Newark, central England, for the Tories after finishing 7,403 votes ahead of the anti-EU, anti mass-immigration party headed by Nigel Farage. But the margin of victory in Thursday's vote was 8,749 votes fewer than when Patrick Mercer claimed the seat at the 2010 general election as UKIP rocketed from fifth to second, overtaking the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats.
Soft drinks should be targeted like tobacco with consumer warning labels that spell out the risk of obesity and other maladies, American advocates of a war on soda say. The Center for Science in the Public Interest brought together health professionals and other experts this week to plot a strategy to turn around public attitudes toward the sugary drinks. "This is about transparency, telling the truth about these products and let the consumers decide by themselves," said Harold Goldstein, one of the dozens of doctors and other experts who attended the "Soda Summit" Wednesday and Thursday. At a news conference, Goldstein called for passage of a bill requiring warning labels to be affixed to sugary drink containers.
Thailand's junta said Friday that it had captured a fugitive anti-coup leader facing possible imprisonment, as the ruling generals seek to stamp out any criticism of their seizure of power. Sombat Boonngamanong, who spearheaded an online campaign to stage illegal flashmob rallies against the military takeover, was arrested late Thursday in eastern Chonburi province, army spokeswoman Sirichan Ngathong said. "He faces initial charges of violating an order to report to the junta," she said, a charge that carries a possible punishment of two years in prison. Since then he has urged followers to stage peaceful public demonstrations, flashing the three-finger salute from the "Hunger Games" films that has become a symbol of defiance against the junta.
Australia has decided to remove the term "occupied" when referring to East Jerusalem in what one lawmaker called "a massive shift" in the country's foreign policy. The issue flared in the upper house Senate this week with Attorney-General George Brandis issuing a statement to clarify Canberra's stance on the controversial question of the legality of settler homes. "The description of East Jerusalem as 'occupied' East Jerusalem is a term freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful. Israel's army seized the West Bank, including Arab east Jerusalem, in the Six-Day War of 1967.
The US space agency NASA has been warned that its mission to send humans to Mars will fail unless its revamps its methods and draws up a clear, well-planned strategy to conquer the red planet. The National Research Council said in a congressionally-mandated report that Washington should use "stepping stones" to achieve its goal of a manned flight to Mars. This could involve exploring an asteroid, building a moon outpost or building more international cooperation with countries like China. "To continue on the present course... is to invite failure, disillusionment and the loss of the longstanding international perception that human spaceflight is something the United States does best," said the NRC's 286-page report.
(Reuters) - The Obama administration is revamping the health insurance marketplace HealthCare.gov and removing significant parts from it to ensure that glitches on the site do not return, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing presentations to health insurers and interviews with government officials and contractors. The revamp and its tight timeline are raising concerns that consumers could encounter another troubled rollout when they return to the site to choose health plans, the paper said. A system to automate payments to insurers was running behind schedule, the WSJ reported, quoting a presentation that federal officials made to health insurers. The poor performance of HealthCare.gov in October was the first in a series of setbacks that posed a political challenge for President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies.
By Marice Richter FORT WORTH Texas (Reuters) - Texas Republicans opened their convention on Thursday poised for a bruising battle on whether to push for immigration reform in a state where Hispanics could make up the majority of the population by 2030, or adopt a hardline approach on the contentious issue. The conservative Tea Party branch of the party, which is led by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and carries great weight in the state, wants to shoot down a 2012 party policy known as the “Texas Solution" that would allow undocumented workers to hold jobs that go unfilled. "This amounts to nothing more than amnesty that never ends,” said Dallas-Fort Worth-area delegate Brenda White as she passed out stickers calling for “No Texas Solution.” Supporters of the Texas Solution say common sense has to prevail or the party will find itself increasingly out of touch as its base of white voters shrinks to a minority group in 15 years if demographic trends continue. “We have to reach out to Hispanics and young people,” said George P. Bush, the Republican nominee for Texas land commissioner, told delegates.
WASHINGTON (AP) — An additional 18 veterans in the Phoenix area whose names were kept off an official electronic Veterans Affairs appointment list have died, the agency's acting secretary said Thursday — the latest revelation in a growing scandal over long patient waits for care and falsified records covering up the delays at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide.