2011-12-27 / World

BRIEFS

Bachmann, Perry and Gingrich touring Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Three Republican presidential candidates, each claiming to be the truly conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, are launching bus tours today through this early nominating state.

Just a week before Iowa’s leadoff caucuses, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich prepared to rumble through small towns aboard their campaign buses. They’re looking for supporters one at a time and hoping to become a roadblock for Romney, who is looking stronger than expected. Romney returns to Iowa today after a quick stop in his longestablished stronghold of New Hampshire.

Ahead of the Jan. 3 caucuses that officially begin the GOP’s nominating calendar, the candidates were returning for a final rush of speeches, meet-and-greet stops and town hall-style meetings. And they are bracing for one last round of advertising, which most observers are expecting to be nasty.

Each campaign has also tried to gauge the level of enthusiasm for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. The libertarian favorite has built a strong organization here and recent polls suggest he is peaking, a rise that has him tied with or even ahead of Romney — and drawing more scrutiny for his views.

After days of attacks, Syria pulls tanks out

BEIRUT (AP) — After days of punishing assaults, Syria’s army began withdrawing tanks from the restive city of Homs today just as a team of Arab League observers was on its way to the central city, according to activists and an Arab official.

Opposition activist Mohammed Saleh said the heavy bombardment of Homs stopped this morning and tanks were seen pulling out of the streets. Another Homsbased activist said he saw armored vehicles leaving early today on a highway leading to the city of Palmyra to the east. He asked that his name not be made public for fear of retribution.

For days, military forces had pounded Homs with artillery despite agreeing to an Arab League plan to stop the bloodshed. The Arab monitoring mission is meant to ensure the government complies with the deal to halt the nine- month crackdown on dissent.

Opponents of President Bashar Assad, however, doubt that the Arab League can budge the autocratic leader at the head of one of the Middle East’s most repressive regimes.

Syria’s top opposition leader Burhan Ghalioun called Sunday for the League to bring the U. N. Security Council into the effort. The U.N. says more than 5,000 people have been killed since March in the political violence.

Looking for clues after Santa slays family

GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) — Investigators in suburban Fort Worth are trying to piece together the history of a family targeted in a Christmas Day shooting that police believe was carried out by a relative dressed in a Santa Claus suit.

The names of the seven people found dead inside the Grapevine apartment, including the alleged gunman, were expected to be released today, police said.

Grapevine police spokesman Sgt. Robert Eberling said the shooter showed up in the costume shortly before gunfire erupted, and the family appeared to have been opening Christmas presents. Police responding to a 911 call found four females and three males dead. They also found two handguns.

“ We think he was just inside there celebrating Christmas with the rest of them and decided for whatever reason that’s how he’s going to end things,” Eberling told The Associated Press.

Investigators worked through Sunday night and into Monday morning, meticulously searching the apartment where the bodies were found, along with vehicles parked outside. Police said they believe the victims were related, though some were visiting and didn’t live in the apartment.

Growing violence by religious extremists

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel ( AP) — A shy 8- year- old schoolgirl has unwittingly found herself on the front line of Israel’s latest religious war.

Naama Margolese is a ponytailed, bespectacled second grader who is afraid of walking to her religious Jewish girls school for fear of ultra- Orthodox extremists who have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing “immodestly.”

Her plight has drawn new attention to the simmering issue of religious coercion in Israel, and the increasing brazenness of extremists in the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.

“When I walk to school in the morning I used to get a tummy ache because I was so scared ... that they were going to stand and start yelling and spitting,” the pale, blue-eyed girl said softly in an interview with The Associated Press Monday. “ They were scary. They don’t want us to go to the school.”

The new girls school that Naama attends in the city of Beit Shemesh, to the west of Jerusalem, is on the border between an ultra-Orthodox neighborhood and a community of modern Orthodox Jewish residents, many of them American immigrants.

Prince Philip on mend, leaves the hospital

LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Prince Philip left the hospital today, after undergoing treatment for a blocked coronary artery.

Philip, Queen Elizabeth II’s 90- year- old husband, spent four nights in the hospital recovering from a successful coronary stent procedure. He was taken to Papworth, a specialist heart hospital in Cambridge, on Friday after complaining of chest pains.

It was the most serious health scare suffered by Philip, who is known to be active and robust. He has continued to appear at many engagements, most recently taking a 10-day tour of Australia with the queen.

For the first time in years he was forced to miss the royal family’s traditional Christmas festivities, which include attending a morning church service, viewing the queen’s annual Christmas broadcast together, and a shooting party on Boxing Day.

Philip did not speak to reporters as he was driven away from the hospital in a Range Rover this morning, though he smiled and waved to those gathered to film his departure.

Facebook blocked, but not its founder

HANOI, Vietnam ( AP) — Vietnam may block its citizens from using Facebook, but that didn’t stop website founder Mark Zuckerberg from vacationing in the communist country.

Zuckerberg spent Christmas Eve in the popular tourist destination Ha Long Bay, local official Trinh Dang Thanh says.

State- run media say Zuckerberg arrived in Vietnam on Dec. 22.

Zuckerberg spent Christmas Day at an ecolodge in the northern mountain town of Sapa and rode a buffalo, said Le Phuc Thien, deputy manager at Topas Ecolodge.

Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 27- year- old CEO, founded the social networking site in 2004.

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