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Obama announces release of US soldier held in Afghanistan

US President Barack Obama said Saturday that an American soldier held for half a decade in Afghanistan has been freed. "Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years," said Obama, announcing his release. In his statement, Obama expressed his "deepest appreciation" to the Emir of Qatar "for his assistance in helping to secure our soldier's return." He added: "Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery is a reminder of America's unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield," Obama added.

US solider freed from captivity in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The only American solider held prisoner in Afghanistan has been freed and is back in U.S. custody after nearly five years of captivity, U.S. officials said Saturday.

Biden to Delaware grads: Embrace challenges

NEWARK, Del. (AP) — Today's college graduates are stepping into a rapidly changing world that presents profound dangers and challenges as well as incredible opportunities, Vice President Joe Biden said Saturday in a commencement speech at his alma mater, the University of Delaware.

UK probes Briton's 20-year jailing in Iran for Facebook posts

The Foreign Office said Saturday it was following up the case of a British woman reportedly sentenced to 20 years in jail in Iran for posting anti-regime propaganda on Facebook. Iranian opposition website Kaleme said Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, an Iranian-born British woman, was among eight people jailed for posts on the social networking site. Nobakht has dual British and Iranian nationality and has lived in England with her British husband, Daryoush Taghipoor, 47, for more than six years, according to The Times newspaper. He travelled to Iran to find her, was allowed to visit her for 10 minutes and has not seen her since, the daily said.

New pollution rules will reduce asthma, heart attacks: Obama

US President Barack Obama said Saturday that his administration's proposals to cut carbon emissions will prevent thousands of asthma cases and heart attacks each year. Obama's prediction came during his regular weekly broadcast address as he discussed proposed guidelines designed to "cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot." Some 40 percent of the country's carbon pollution comes from power plants -- and while there are limits on the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and arsenic that the plants can produce, there are no similar national limits for carbon pollution. He described the proposals, which could be unveiled as early as Monday, as "America’s first climate action plan," which "cuts carbon pollution by building a clean energy economy – using more clean energy, less dirty energy, and wasting less energy throughout our economy."

Protest party Podemos shakes up politics in Spain

People were wondering what had happened to the "Indignants", the protesters who swamped Spanish squares in 2011 to demand political change. The protests may have lessened, but just when Spain was least expecting it, the Indignants have surged back -- not in the streets but in the polls. Although they still have a long way to go to really trouble Spain's establishment, the result took many observers by surprise since opinion polls had forecast only a two or three percent vote share for the party. It was particularly impressive since the party was only officially formed four months ago, and contributed to the decline of the mainstream Socialist party, whose leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, resigned in the aftermath.

Qaeda suspects on motorbike kill Yemen intelligence officer

Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen riding on the back of a motorbike shot dead a Yemeni intelligence officer in the south of the country on Saturday, a security official told AFP. The officer was killed on the spot and the attackers fled the scene, said the source blaming Al-Qaeda for the killing. A cheap form of transport frequently replacing taxis in the impoverished country, motorbikes have become a tool for hit-and-run shootings that have killed dozens of officials in recent years. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), seen by Washington as the network's deadliest franchise, has been blamed for most of the motorbike attacks on the security forces despite never claiming them.

Warnings on 'gaming' patient waits go back years

WASHINGTON (AP) — The report this week confirming that 1,700 veterans were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" at a Phoenix hospital was hardly the first independent review that documented long wait times for some patients seeking health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs and inaccurate records that understated the depth of the problem.

Portugal PM says austerity rejection a 'huge frustration'

Portugal's prime minister on Saturday vowed to overcome the "huge frustration" posed by the constitutional court's rejection of austerity measures in Lisbon's 2014 budget. Portugal's highest court on Friday turned down three out of four measures brought in by the centre-right government as part of ongoing cutbacks after the country exited an international bailout two weeks ago. We will announce at the appropriate time how we will overcome this huge frustration," said Pedro Passos Coelho. The decision by Portugal's constitutional court is expected to cost Lisbon between 500 and 800 million euros ($670 million-$1 billion), according to media estimates.

Russian police arrest women at 'Conchita Wurst' rally

Riot police on Saturday arrested two women as a small group of gay rights activists tried to stage a rally in central Moscow dedicated to Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian transvestite who won this year's Eurovision song contest. Officers chased away the handful of other activists who gathered for the unsanctioned rally, held in a central Moscow square and symbolically named after the Eurovision winner. The two women were holding a rainbow flag when they were arrested shortly after a Lada car adorned with rainbow flags raced along a nearby street with Wurst's signature song, "Rise Like A Phoenix," blaring out at full volume. President Vladimir Putin has made traditional family values and patriotism a key plank of his third term's agenda, but has denied that gays are mistreated.

US backs more active security role for Japan: Hagel

The United States Saturday backed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's plans to reshape the role of Japan's little-used military, in the strongest comments of support yet from Tokyo's major ally on the move. Abe told the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore Friday that Japan would become a more active player in maintaining regional security, as he sets about altering the Self Defence Forces' rules of engagement. Pentagon chief Hagel told the forum the United States "supports" Abe's effort to "reorient its Collective Self Defense posture toward actively helping build a peaceful and resilient regional order". To complement Japan's efforts, the United States and Japan "have begun revising our defense guidelines for the first time in nearly two decades," Hagel told fellow defence chiefs, senior military officials, diplomats and security experts attending the annual conference.

German FM says Iran nuclear talks 'encouraging'

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Saturday that ongoing negotiations between world powers and Iran over its disputed nuclear programme have been "encouraging". His remarks in Abu Dhabi come ahead of a new round of talks in mid-June between Iran and the P5+1 powers of Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany. "In recent weeks and months they were so encouraging that we maintained a chance of reaching an agreement," he added, after talks with the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan.

New Syria tunnel bombing kills 20 soldiers: NGO

At least 20 Syrian soldiers and militia were killed Saturday in a fresh attack by Islamist rebels, who planted explosives in a tunnel under an army position in Aleppo, a monitor said. The historic Old City area has seen horrific violence ever since a major rebel offensive on Aleppo in July 2012. "Islamist rebels detonated a tunnel near the Zahrawi market in the Old City of Aleppo, killing at least 20 army soldiers and pro-regime militiamen," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The attack was claimed by the Islamic Front, Syria's largest rebel alliance, which groups thousands of fighters across the strife-torn country.

eBay’s Egyptian Tomb Robbers

Political disorder and unemployment are forcing Egyptians to take dangerous, brutal work robbing ancient tombs. Their bosses make bank selling the loot to Americans online.

Brother of shot Turkish protester seeks justice one year on

Mustafa Sarisuluk didn't even recognise his brother as he watched his limp body being carried to an ambulance after being shot in the head during protests in Ankara last year. "Thousands were at the downtown Kizilay square in Ankara, under massive plumes of tear gas fired by the police billowing into the air. I saw police deliberately taking aim at protesters. The protests soon snowballed into a campaign against the authoritarianism of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government, drawing an estimated three million people onto the streets.

Hagel Dishes Out China Criticism, Gets It Right Back From Chinese

In an unusual move for a high-level meeting between military leaders, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel got an earful from his Chinese counterpart who condemned Hagel’s earlier comments Saturday in which he criticized China’s aggressive behavior towards its neighbors. “You were very candid this morning...

Obama's boldest move on carbon comes with perils

WASHINGTON (AP) — The new pollution rule the Obama administration announces Monday will be a cornerstone of President Barack Obama's environmental legacy and arguably the most significant U.S. environmental regulation in decades.

Obama's counterterrorism doctrine: Let locals lead the fight

By David Rhode NEW YORK (Reuters) - In a foreign policy address this week, U.S. President Barack Obama gave his clearest outline yet of his counterterrorism strategy. Al Qaeda splinter groups remain the largest threat to the United States, he said, but Washington must respond to it in a new way: by training local security forces, not deploying American ground troops. “We have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat - one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments,” Obama said. “We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.” But critics say America's past efforts to train local security forces have had mixed results. Washington has a poor track record of applying the long-term resources, funding and attention needed to carry out such efforts successfully.

Illinois shelving $100M gift to Obama library

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A plan to offer $100 million in tax dollars to lure Barack Obama's presidential library to Illinois is on the shelf, with lawmakers prepared to wrap up their spring session without advancing the idea.

Rice helping Obama juggle foreign policy crises

WASHINGTON (AP) — Once seemingly destined to become secretary of state, Susan Rice now holds a lower-profile job at the White House, juggling global crises for the president and trying to ensure his foreign policy priorities don't fall by the wayside in a storm of overseas problems.