Report: US Economy Gains Just 54,000 New Jobs

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. economy had a net gain of only 54,000 jobs in May, the smallest increase since last September.

Friday's report from the Labor Department shows the unemployment rate rose slightly to hit 9.1 percent. The figures surprised many economists who were expecting the jobless rate to decline a little bit and a bigger gain in the number of jobs.

Budget problems prompted state and local government to cut 29,000 jobs. Manufacturing cut a small number of positions, while health care added 17,000 employees.

The U.S. economy destroys and creates millions of jobs every month as resources and workers are re-allocated to more profitable areas. Experts say the economy would have to show a monthly net gain of at least 200,000 jobs to cut the jobless rate significantly.

Friday's data show just under 14 million Americans are unemployed. There are millions more people who want full-time work, but can find only part-time jobs.

In an effort to showcase his efforts to improve the job situation, U.S. President Barack Obama traveled to an auto factory on Friday. In a speech in Toledo, Ohio, he said government efforts to help Chrysler and General Motors emerge from bankruptcy saved many jobs as well as an important industry. He noted that most of the emergency loans have been repaid.

Earlier, opposition Republicans said President Obama has no clear plan to create jobs. House Speaker John Boehner said raising taxes on the wealthy would hurt employment.

34 Dead Following Protests in Syria

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 2:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian rights groups say at least 34 people were killed after security forces opened fire on a large group of demonstrators in Hama, a stronghold of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Activists said shooting broke out after Friday prayers in Hamas, which is about 300 kilometers north of Damascus. Witnesses said thousands of people coming out of mosques took to the streets for a protest rally, and government forces began firing live ammunition.

Demonstrations spread across Syria Friday in Damascus and other cities, following a call by opposition groups to denounce a growing number of casualties among children in recent weeks of the uprising against Mr. al-Assad.

Despite official denials, protest organizers say at least 25 children have died in the recent violence. The list of young victims includes a 13-year-old boy who reportedly was tortured and killed by security forces – an accusation that Syrian authorities dispute.

Hama was the scene of a brutal government crackdown in 1982 that left at least 10,000 people dead, according to rights groups' estimates. President Hafez al-Assad – father of the current president — crushed an uprising against his government in that year.

Unofficial reports say all Internet service stopped in Damascus and several other cities on Friday.

The latest unrest follows a two-day meeting in Turkey of Syrian opposition figures, who called for President Assad's immediate resignation. Opposition figures say they are committed to do whatever is necessary to “bring down” the Assad government and begin planning for new, democratic elections.

In New York Friday, a spokeswoman for U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon says he called for an immediate end to “violent repression” by Syrian forces and for dialogue that leads to comprehensive reforms in the country.

Yemen’s President Survives Challenges From Protesters, Tribes and Al-Qaida

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 2:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Yemen's president, wounded Friday in a rocket attack on his compound, has survived three decades of challenges.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh has ruled Yemen since the country's unification in 1990. He had served as leader of North Yemen since 1978 and played a key role in the merger between the North and the communist South.

Mr. Saleh is one of Yemen's longest-serving leaders. He was re-elected to a seven-year term in 2006. Mr. Saleh has said he will not seek re-election in 2013 but will not meet international and opposition demands that he leave office immediately.

Mr. Saleh has been challenged by al-Qaida militants, Shi'ite Zaidi rebels and anti-government protesters.

Mr. Saleh started his career in Yemen's military, where he rose through the ranks. He fought in a civil war that began in 1962.

Mr. Saleh is from a tribal branch that is part of the al-Ahmar family. However, tribal chief Sadiq al-Ahmar emerged as one of his most prominent challengers after anti-government unrest erupted in January.

Opponents have been demanding his immediate resignation.

In April, the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council presented Mr. Saleh with a plan designed to end Yemen's unrest by providing for a timetable for Mr. Saleh to leave office and paving the way for new elections.

Mr. Saleh has declined to sign the agreement, even after several attempts by Gulf leaders to broker an end to the crisis.

US Diplomat Prepares for East Asian Swing

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 2:00 pm (UTC-5)
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The top U.S. diplomat to East Asia is preparing for a four-nation tour next week.

Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, leaves Sunday for Beijing where he will attend a series of meetings on cooperation in the region. He is also expected to discuss concerns about North Korea and Iran.

From China, Campbell will travel to Mongolia and then Indonesia, where he will meet with other senior officials in preparation for the coming East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

Campbell will also make a stop in South Korea before returning to Washington.

Campbell last traveled to the region in March, when he visited Japan, Mongolia and South Korea.

Last month, Campbell told an audience in Washington that the U.S. government will be working with Asian countries to improve education, health, and the well being of their people.

He noted that southeast Asia has made significant progress in the past decade, and that the 10-nation ASEAN group has developed into a strong institution. He praised ASEAN's role in tackling arms proliferation, Burma's human rights record and regional maritime security.

He also said Washington is not in competition for regional dominance with China, but rather seeks its cooperation toward solving shared problems.

Wounded Yemeni President Makes No Public Appearance After Compound Attack

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 1:55 pm (UTC-5)
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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has made no appearance in public after being wounded by rockets fired into the presidential compound in the capital, Sana'a.

Yemen state media had said the president would address the nation Friday, just hours after the attack – possibly to refute a report aired by an opposition-controlled television station that he was killed during the shelling.

But as hours passed, there was no sign of Mr. Saleh. A government spokesman said at a news conference that Mr. Saleh was receiving medical treatment at a military hospital for scratches to his face.

Deputy Information Minister Abduh al-Janadi told reporters that Mr. Saleh was in “good health,” but cancelled immediate plans to speak to reporters or make a public address. The spokesman said Mr. Saleh will hold a press conference as soon as he heals.

Western media accounts quote an opposition report saying that Mr. Saleh was attending prayers at a mosque in the presidential compound at the time of the rocket attack. No group has claimed responsibility.

Yemen's state news agency said three guards were killed and the imam leading the prayers was wounded. Other reports said several other high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, were also at the mosque.

The United States White House strongly condemned the upsurge in violence in Yemen on Friday.

A State Department statement called for an immediate end to hostilities and fulfillment of an Arab Gulf peace plan that calls for Mr. Saleh's departure.

Residents in the capital remained barricaded behind closed doors as fighting raged in Sana'a after dusk.

Earlier Friday, clashes between President Saleh's forces and loyalists to an opposition tribal leader, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, escalated with the destruction of the headquarters of an opposition TV station in Sana'a.

Reports said fighting in the capital had expanded into new neighborhoods, and opposition tribesmen were traveling to Sana'a to take part in the fighting. Government forces reportedly shelled al-Ahmar's tribal headquarters after the mosque attack.

The rising chaos is reportedly pushing the conflict closer to all-out civil war. Government troops are said to have killed 50 opposition members in fighting this week.

Yemen is engulfed by multiple conflicts, with street battles raging in Sana'a, popular unrest by anti-government demonstrators throughout the country and fighting against Islamist militants who have seized the southern city of Zinjibar.

In the southern city of Taiz, government forces and protesters clashed Thursday. At least 25 people have died in the violence in Taiz in the past few days.

U.S. envoy John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, left the U.S. Thursday to travel to the United Arab Emirates to continue talks on Yemen. He is seeking help to pressure President Saleh to accept a deal brokered by regional powers that would secure a peaceful end to his nearly 33-year rule.

The fighting in Sana'a broke out last week when pro-Saleh forces moved against al-Ahmar's compound in Hasaba, a district of the capital.

In March, the al-Ahmar family had announced that the Hashid confederation – the country's most powerful tribal alliance – would back the protest movement, but its armed fighters had avoided clashes with Mr. Saleh's forces.

Syria Death Toll Mounts in Protests

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 1:10 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian rights groups say at least 34 people were killed after security forces opened fire on a large group of demonstrators in Hama, a stronghold of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Activists said shooting broke out after Friday prayers in Hamas, which is about 300 kilometers north of Damascus. Witnesses said thousands of people coming out of mosques took to the streets for a protest rally, and government forces began firing live ammunition.

Demonstrations spread across Syria Friday in Damascus and other cities, following a call by opposition groups to denounce a growing number of casualties among children in recent weeks of the uprising against Mr. al-Assad.

Despite official denials, protest organizers say at least 25 children have died in the recent violence. The list of young victims includes a 13-year-old boy who reportedly was tortured and killed by security forces – an accusation that Syrian authorities dispute.

Hama was the scene of a brutal government crackdown in 1982 that left at least 10,000 people dead, according to rights groups' estimates. President Hafez al-Assad – father of the current president — crushed an uprising against his government in that year.

Unofficial reports say all Internet service stopped in Damascus and several other cities on Friday.

The latest unrest follows a two-day meeting in Turkey of Syrian opposition figures, who called for President Assad's immediate resignation. Opposition figures say they are committed to do whatever is necessary to “bring down” the Assad government and begin planning for new, democratic elections.

Wounded Yemeni President Yet to Appear in Public After Compound Attack

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has yet to appear in public after being wounded by rockets fired into the presidential compound in the capital, Sana'a.

Yemen state media had said the president would address the nation Friday, just hours after the attack – evidently to refute a report aired by an opposition-controlled television station that he was killed during the shelling.

As hours passed, there was no sign of Mr. Saleh, however. State television said only that he was “well” following the attack. One pan-Arab television network Mr. Saleh was receiving medical treatment at a military hospital.

Western media accounts quote an opposition report that Mr. Saleh was attending prayers at a mosque in the presidential compound at the time of the rocket attack. No group claimed responsibility.

Yemen's state news agency said three guards were killed and the imam leading the prayers was wounded. Other reports said several other high-ranking officials, including Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Mujawar, were also at the mosque.

The United States strongly condemned the upsurge in violence in Yemen on Friday.

A State Department statement called for an immediate end to hostilities and fulfillment of an Arab Gulf peace plan that calls for Mr. Saleh's departure.

Residents in the capital remained barricaded behind closed doors as fighting raged in Sana'a after dusk.

Earlier Friday, clashes between President Saleh's forces and loyalists to an opposition tribal leader, Sheik Sadeq al-Ahmar, escalated with the destruction of the headquarters of an opposition TV station in Sana'a.

Reports said fighting in the capital had expanded into new neighborhoods, and opposition tribesmen were traveling to Sana'a to take part in the fighting. Government forces reportedly shelled al-Ahmar's tribal headquarters after the mosque attack.

The rising chaos is pushing the conflict closer to all-out civil war. Government troops are said to have killed 50 opposition members in fighting this week.

Yemen is engulfed by multiple conflicts, with street battles raging in Sana'a, popular unrest by anti-government demonstrators throughout the country and fighting against Islamist militants who have seized the southern city of Zinjibar.

In the southern city of Taiz, government forces and protesters clashed Thursday. At least 25 people have died in the violence in Taiz in the past few days.

U.S. envoy John Brennan, President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser, left the U.S. Thursday to travel to the United Arab Emirates to continue talks on Yemen. He is seeking help to pressure President Saleh to accept a deal brokered by regional powers that would secure a peaceful end to his nearly 33-year rule.

The fighting in Sana'a broke out last week when pro-Saleh forces moved against al-Ahmar's compound in Hasaba, a district of the capital. In March, the al-Ahmar family had announced that the Hashid confederation – the country's most powerful tribal alliance – would back the protest movement, but its armed fighters had avoided clashes with Mr. Saleh's forces.

John Edwards Charged over Affair Cover-Up

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 1:00 pm (UTC-5)
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A federal grand jury has indicted former U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards on charges he violated campaign finance laws by using political donations to hide an extramarital affair and resulting pregnancy.

The indictment was filed Friday in Edwards' home state of North Carolina. Edwards was charged on six counts — one count of conspiracy, four counts of illegal campaign contributions and one count of false statements.

The Justice Department says Edwards is alleged to have accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal facts from the public that he believed would harm his candidacy. The indictment claims Edwards knew that the public revelation of the affair and pregnancy would undermine his image and force his campaign to divert resources to respond to criticism and media scrutiny.

The case centers around money paid to Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, and a former aide, Andrew Young, who previously claimed paternity of the politician's daughter with Hunter.

The money came from two wealthy supporters of Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign, and prosecutors say the funds should have been reported as campaign donations. But Edwards' lawyers say the money constituted gifts intended to keep the affair secret from Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, who died last year after a long battle with cancer.

Edwards is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Friday afternoon. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each of the six counts.

Reports that Edwards' lawyer, Gregory Craig, would be in North Carolina Friday had fueled speculation that federal prosecutors were ready to indict Edwards or were negotiating a plea agreement with him in order to avoid a trial.

The 58-year-old Edwards resides in North Carolina and was elected to the U.S. Senate from there in 1998.

UNAIDS: Global HIV Infection Rates Drop

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 12:45 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations says a record number of people around the world are accessing HIV-AIDS treatment, and that the rates of new infections have fallen.

In a report released Friday, UNAIDS said a record 1.4 million people began treatment last year. The head of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibe, said access to treatment will transform the response to AIDS in the next decade.

In the report, marking 30 years since the first cases of HIV-AIDS emerged, the U.N. estimated that 34 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2010, up approximately 700,000 from 2009.

It said global rates of infections fell by nearly a quarter between 2001 and 2009 — with substantial decreases in two hard-hit countries, India and South Africa

The report noted, however, that a “major treatment gap” remains, saying nine million people who were eligible for treatment at the end of last year did not have access to the antiretroviral therapy.

The report also said while the rates of new infections declined globally, the total number of infections still remained high, with about 7,000 new infections per day.

Syria Death Toll Mounts in Protests

Posted June 3rd, 2011 at 12:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Syrian rights groups say at least 34 people were killed after security forces opened fire on a large group of demonstrators in Hama, a stronghold of opposition to President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Activists said shooting broke out after Friday prayers in Hamas, which is about 300 kilometers north of Damascus. Witnesses said thousands of people coming out of mosques took to the streets for a protest rally, and government forces began firing live ammunition.

Demonstrations spread across Syria Friday in Damascus and other cities, following a call by opposition groups to denounce a growing number of casualties among children in recent weeks of the uprising against Mr. al-Assad.

Despite official denials, protest organizers say at least 25 children have died in the recent violence. The list of young victims includes a 13-year-old boy who reportedly was tortured and killed by security forces – an accusation that Syrian authorities dispute.

Hama was the scene of a brutal government crackdown in 1982 that left at least 10,000 people dead, according to rights groups' estimates. President Hafez al-Assad – father of the current president — crushed an uprising against his government in that year.

Unofficial reports say all Internet service stopped in Damascus and several other cities on Friday.

The latest unrest follows a two-day meeting in Turkey of Syrian opposition figures, who called for President Assad's immediate resignation. Opposition figures say they are committed to do whatever is necessary to “bring down” the Assad government and begin planning for new, democratic elections.