400 arrested in Occupy protest in Oakland

Posted Jan. 29, 2012, at 8:22 p.m.

OAKLAND, Calif. — More than 400 people were arrested at an Occupy rally near City Hall on Saturday on charges ranging from failure to disperse to vandalism, police spokesman Sgt. Jeff Thomason said. At least three officers and one protester were injured.

The protests had waned in recent weeks, with only a smattering of people taking to Oakland’s streets for occasional weekend marches that bore little resemblance to the headline-grabbing Occupy demonstrations of last fall.

Saturday’s rally started around midday at City Hall followed by a march. But hours later, the scene near downtown Oakland had dramatically deteriorated: clashes punctuated by rock and bottle throwing by protesters and volleys of tear gas from police, and a City Hall break-in that left glass cases smashed, graffiti spray-painted on walls and an American flag burned.

On Sunday, Oakland officials vowed to be ready if Occupy protesters try to mount another large-scale demonstration. Protesters, meanwhile, decried Saturday’s police tactics as illegal and threatened to sue.

Mayor Jean Quan said she wants a court order to keep Occupy protesters who have been arrested several times out of Oakland, which has been hit repeatedly by demonstrations that have cost the financially troubled city about $5 million.

Florida highway pileup kills at least 10 people

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A long line of cars and trucks collided one after another early Sunday on a dark Florida highway so shrouded in haze and smoke that drivers were instantly blinded. At least 10 people were killed.

When rescuers first arrived, they could only listen for screams and moans because the poor visibility made it difficult to find victims in wreckage that was strewn for nearly a mile, police said.

Authorities were still trying to determine what caused the pileup south of Gainesville on Interstate 75, which had been closed for a time because of the mixture of fog and heavy smoke from a brush fire that may have been intentionally set. At least five cars and six tractor-trailers were involved, and some burst into flame.

Reporters who were allowed to view the scene of the wreckage saw bodies still inside a burned-out Grand Prix. One tractor-trailer was burned down to its skeleton, charred pages of books and magazines in its cargo area. And the tires of every vehicle had burned away, leaving only steel belts.

Navy wants commando ‘mother ship’ in Middle East

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is rushing to send a large floating base for commando teams to the Middle East as tensions rise with Iran, al-Qaida in Yemen and Somali pirates, among other threats.

In response to requests from the U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, the Navy is converting an aging warship it had planned to decommission into a makeshift staging base for the commandos. Unofficially dubbed a “mothership,” the floating base could accommodate smaller high-speed boats and helicopters commonly used by Navy SEALs, procurement documents show.

Special Operations Forces are a key part of the Obama administration’s strategy to make the military leaner and more agile as the Pentagon confronts at least $487 billion in spending cuts over the next decade.

Syrian troops storm areas near capital of Damascus

BEIRUT — In dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, Syrian troops stormed rebellious areas near the capital Sunday, shelling neighborhoods that have fallen under the control of army dissidents and clashing with fighters. At least 62 people were killed in violence nationwide, activists and residents said.

The wide-scale offensive near the capital suggested the regime is worried that military defectors could close in on Damascus, which has remained relatively quiet while most other Syrian cities descended into chaos after the uprising began in March.

The rising bloodshed added urgency to Arab and Western diplomatic efforts to end the 10-month conflict.

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