US declares Pakistan’s Haqqani network a terrorist group

Posted Sept. 07, 2012, at 9:18 p.m.

WASHINGTON — The State Department on Friday designated Pakistan’s Haqqani network a foreign terrorist organization, opening the way for the use of new tools to thwart a complex enemy that has attacked American troops and Afghan civilians while operating much like an organized crime family.

The move by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came after lengthy debate within the Obama administration, with some officials fearing the designation might make it harder to negotiate a peace settlement with the Haqqanis and their allies the Taliban. But negotiations have gone nowhere, and the CIA has been launching drone strikes at Haqqani targets, including an attack last month that killed Badruddin Haqqani, son of the group’s leader and a member of its governing council.

Pakistani officials remain skeptical of Washington’s commitment to peace talks, and designating the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization will make negotiations less likely, said a Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Republicans Lose Ballot Lawsuits as Swing-State Rulings Loom

WASHINGTON — Republicans are losing most of the court fights with Democrats over whether GOP-backed state voter regulations will illegally suppress turnout among the poor and minorities in the Nov. 6 presidential contest.

As the general election begins in earnest following the conclusion of the Democratic national convention, legal battles continue in a half dozen swing-states where court challenges await decisions by state and federal judges.

Last month, U.S. courts rejected election-related laws passed by Republican-controlled legislatures in Ohio, Florida and Texas, finding they violated the right to vote. At least 14 cases challenging voter-list purges, provisional-ballot rules, early voting curbs or photo identification mandates are pending in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Iowa, Florida and Ohio.

Much of the litigation stems from revisions of election procedures Republican lawmakers passed after President Barack Obama’s election in 2008. Proponents argue the laws are necessary to prevent fraud and help elections run smoothly. Democrats and voter advocacy groups say the measures are aimed at disenfranchising likely Democratic voters in a veiled effort to limit turnout for Obama.

Canada breaks relations with Iran over Syria, support for terror

The Canadian government announced Friday that it has closed its embassy in Tehran and ordered Iranian diplomats to leave Canada, formally severing diplomatic ties and accusing the Islamic Republic of sponsoring terrorism.

“Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website.

Iranian diplomats in Canada were declared personae non gratae and given five days to leave the country, Baird said.

The decision to sever relations was based on a multitude of concerns, including Iran’s support for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which is engaged in a bloody crackdown on opponents, Baird noted.

Earthquakes kill dozens in southwest China

BEIJING — Twin earthquakes and a spate of aftershocks struck southwestern China on Friday, toppling thousands of houses and sending boulders cascading across roads. At least 67 people were killed and hundreds injured in the remote mountainous area, and more than 100,000 residents were evacuated.

Damage was preventing rescuers from reaching outlying towns, and communications were disrupted after the midday quakes hit along the borders of Guizhou and Yunnan provinces, a region of small farms and mines where some of China’s poorest people live.

The first 5.6-magnitude quake struck just before 11:30 a.m. and was followed by an equally strong quake shortly after noon, joined by dozens of aftershocks. Though of moderate strength, the quakes were shallow, which often causes more damage.

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