Giffords cleared to attend shuttle launch

Posted April 24, 2011, at 9:13 p.m.

HOUSTON — Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will attend husband Mark Kelly’s space shuttle launch in Florida on Friday, Kelly said, allowing the Arizona congresswoman to travel for the first time since she was flown from Tucson to Houston more than three months ago to recover from a gunshot wound to the head.

In an interview with CBS’ Katie Couric, Kelly said Giffords’ doctors had given her permission to travel to Cape Canaveral, Fla., for the launch of Endeavor, which is scheduled for 3:47 p.m. Friday. Kelly is the commander of the shuttle mission.

CBS released excerpts of the interview Sunday, and it was scheduled to air Monday on “CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” according to a network statement.

“I’ve met with her doctors, her neurosurgeon and her doctors, and … they’ve given us permission to take her down to the launch,” Kelly said in the interview in Houston. The network statement did not specify when the interview occurred.

James Harsfield, spokesman for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, referred all questions about Giffords to the congresswoman’s office, where there was no immediate comment.

At least 105 dead in clashes in Southern Sudan

JUBA, Sudan — At least 105 people have died in violence between government forces and rebel militias in Southern Sudan over the last week, an official said Sunday, raising concerns of southern instability ahead of the region’s independence declaration in July.

Brig. Malaak Ayuen, the head of the Southern Sudan’s Army Information Department, said fighting on Saturday between a group of rebels led by Maj. Gen. Gabriel Tanginye in Jonglei state and southern government forces led to 57 people being killed and scores being injured.

Ayuen said that five days of fighting between government forces and those loyal to another rebel chief, Peter Gatdet, in Unity state which is northwest of Jonglei, led to the deaths of 48 people. He did not give a breakdown of the number of civilians, rebels and the army killed in both incidents.

Since its January independence referendum, Southern Sudan has seen a wave of violence that has killed hundreds.

The south voted nearly unanimously to secede from the north, but there are many issues that still remain unaddressed including the sharing of oil revenues, the status of southerner and northerner minorities living on both sides of the border, and who controls the disputed border region of Abyei, a fertile area near large oil fields.

Southern officials now claim the militia groups they are fighting are being funded by the north to cause instability with the goal of taking over the oil fields in the south.

Jimmy Carter, other former leaders to visit North Korea

BEIJING — Ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter and three other former leaders arrived in Beijing on Sunday en route to North Korea to discuss the revival of nuclear disarmament talks.

Carter and the group of veteran statesmen known as the Elders are to travel to Pyongyang on Tuesday as part of international efforts to restart the negotiations on ending North Korea’s nuclear program.

The group, which includes former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Brundtland and former Irish President Mary Robinson, said it also plans to discuss North Korea’s chronic food shortages.

International disarmament talks with North Korea have been stalled for the past two years amid growing concerns over its nuclear programs.

“At a time when official dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea appears to be at a standstill, we aim to see how we may be of assistance in reducing tensions and help the parties address key issues including denuclearization,” Carter was quoted as saying in a statement.

Carter, a Democrat from Georgia who was president from 1977 to 1981, is well regarded in North Korea despite its longtime animosity with the U.S. He has visited several times in a private capacity, most recently last August to secure the release of an imprisoned American.

Syria targets activists in pinpoint raids

BEIRUT — Syrian security forces detained dozens of opposition activists and fired from rooftops in a seaside town Sunday as authorities turned to pinpoint raids after days of bloodshed brought international condemnation and defections from President Bashar Assad’s regime.

The strategy, described by a rights activist, appeared aimed at rattling the opposition’s leadership and showing that the state’s ability to conduct arrest sweeps has not changed despite abolishing nearly 50-year-old emergency laws last week.

The rising level of violence — more than 120 people dead since Friday — brought calls from the watchdog group Human Rights Watch for a U.N. inquiry. But Sunday’s tactics also suggest a government effort to head off the round of protest marches.

The police raids, which began late Saturday, concentrated around the capital Damascus and the central city of Homs, a hotbed of demonstrations against Assad’s authoritarian rule, said Ammar Qurabi, head of the National Organization for Human Rights in Syria.

“These people are not being arrested in a legal way. They are being kidnapped,” Qurabi said, claiming the plainclothes security agents did not have formal arrest warrants.

Qurabi did not have full figures for those detained, but said at least 20 people were arrested in Homs. A resident in the Damascus suburb of Douma said at least five people were taken into custody and authorities cut Internet and telephone lines.

 

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