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   ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani government said Wednesday that 3 percent of 2,227 people killed in U.S. drone strikes since 2008 were civilians, a surprisingly low figure that sparked criticism from groups that have investigated deaths from the attacks.

   The number, which was provided by the Ministry of Defense to the Senate, is much lower than past government calculations and estimates by independent organizations that have gone as high as 300. The ministry said 317 drone strikes have killed 2,160 Islamic militants and 67 civilians since 2008.

   The attacks, which mainly target suspected Islamic militants near the northwestern border with Afghanistan, are widely unpopular in Pakistan because they are viewed as violating the country's sovereignty and killing too many civilians. The Pakistani government regularly criticizes the drone program in public, even though it is known to have secretly supported at least some of the strikes in the past.

   Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pressed President Barack Obama to end the attacks in a visit to the White House last week, but the U.S. considers the attacks vital to its battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban and gave no indication it was willing to abandon them.

   The latest strike occurred around midnight Wednesday, when missiles destroyed a vehicle in Miran Shah, the main town in the North Waziristan tribal area, a major militant sanctuary, Pakistani intelligence officials said. No one was killed in the attack, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

   Defense Ministry officials could not be reached for comment on their civilian casualty figure, and the statement posted on the Senate's website did not give any indication why the number was so much lower than past government calculations and outside estimates.

   A U.N. expert investigating drone strikes, Ben Emmerson, said earlier this month that the Pakistani Foreign Ministry told him that at least 400 civilians have been killed by the attacks in the country since they started in 2004.

   Emmerson called on the government to explain the apparent discrepancy, saying the figures provided by the Foreign Ministry since 2004 indicated a much higher percentage of civilian casualties.

   "If the true figures for civilian deaths are significantly lower, then it is important that this should now be made clear, and the apparent discrepancy explained," Emmerson said in an email.

   The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based in London, has estimated that drones have killed at least 300 civilians in Pakistan since 2008, while the Washington-based New America Foundation put the figure at 185. These estimates are often compiled based on media reports about the attacks.

   Pakistan's overall death toll is lower than some other totals, although not to the same degree as its figure for civilians. The New America Foundation registered 2,651 people killed in the same period, while the Long War Journal website has 2,493.

   The danger of traveling to the remote tribal region targeted by the strikes makes it difficult to compile an accurate number of civilian casualties.

   The U.S. rarely speaks publicly about the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan because it is classified. But some American officials have insisted that the strikes have killed very few civilians and that estimates from the Pakistani government and independent organizations are exaggerated.

   Amnesty International called on the U.S. to investigate reports of civilians killed and wounded by drone strikes in Pakistan in a report released earlier this month that provided new details about the alleged victims of the attacks, including a 68-year-old woman killed while farming with her grandchildren.

   Mamana Bibi's grandchildren told the London-based rights group that she was killed by missile fire on Oct. 24, 2012, as she was collecting vegetables in a family field in North Waziristan. Bibi's relatives testified before members of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday.

   The Amnesty report also cited witnesses as saying that a volley of missiles hit a tent where 18 men with no links to militant groups were eating after work, then a second struck those who came to help the wounded on July 6, 2012 in North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials at the time identified the dead as suspected militants.

   In its latest statement, the Pakistani government said 21 civilians were killed in 2008, nine in 2009, two in 2010 and 35 in 2011. But it insisted no civilians have been killed since then.

   Amnesty researcher Mustafa Qadri said he was skeptical about the government figures because it conflicted with their research and indicated a failure of the state to adequately investigate alleged civilian casualties.

   The London-based human rights group, Reprieve, called the government's civilian casualty figures inaccurate, based on higher numbers it said were submitted to the Peshawar High Court by the top official in North Waziristan earlier this year.

   An Associated Press study in early 2012 of 10 of the deadliest drone strikes in North Waziristan over the preceding 18 months found that of at least 194 people killed in the attacks, about 70 percent — at least 138 — were militants. The remaining 56 were either civilians or tribal police, and 38 of them were killed in a single strike.

   The Interior Ministry also said Wednesday that "terrorist" attacks have killed 12,404 people and wounded 26,881 others since 2002, although these figures were disputed by some senators. The government has been battling an insurgency by the Pakistani Taliban, which seeks to topple the country's democratic system and impose Islamic law. It was not clear if the figure involved only attacks on civilians, or also attacks on security forces.

   A roadside bomb killed five soldiers and wounded three others Wednesday in the South Waziristan tribal area, the Pakistani Taliban's main sanctuary before the army conducted a large ground offensive in 2009, said military officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military policy.

   Also Wednesday, a bomb exploded in a market in southwestern Pakistan, killing two people and wounding at least 20 others, said police official Ahmad Raza. The attack occurred in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. The province is home to both Islamic militants and separatists who have waged a low-level insurgency against the government for decades.

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   WASHINGTON (AP) — Just two weeks after President Barack Obama saw his Democratic Party put up an unyielding front against Republicans, his coalition is showing signs of stress.

   From health care to spying to pending budget deals, many congressional Democrats are challenging the administration and pushing for measures that the White House has not embraced.

   Some Democrats are seeking to extend the enrollment period for new health care exchanges. Others want to place restraints on National Security Administration surveillance capabilities. Still others are standing tough against any budget deal that uses long-term reductions in major benefit programs to offset immediate cuts in defense.

   Though focused on disparate issues, the Democrats' anxieties are connected by timing and stand out all the more when contrasted with the remarkable unity the party displayed during the recent showdown over the partial government shutdown and the confrontation over raising the nation's borrowing limit.

   "That moment was always going to be fleeting," said Matt Bennett, who worked in the Clinton White House and who regularly consults with Obama aides. "The White House, every White House, understands that these folks, driven either by principle or the demands of the politics of their state, have to put daylight between themselves and the president on occasion."

   Obama and the Democrats emerged from the debt and shutdown clash with what they wanted: a reopened government, a higher debt ceiling and a Republican Party reeling in the depths of public opinion polls.

   But within days, attention turned to the problem-riddled launch of the 3-year-old health care law's enrollment stage and revelations that the U.S. had been secretly monitoring the communications of as many as 35 allied leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And with new budget talks underway, Democratic Party liberals reiterated demands that Obama not agree to changes that reduce Social Security or Medicare benefits even in the improbable event Republicans agree to increase budget revenues.

   The fraying on the Democratic Party edges is hardly unraveling Obama's support and it pales when compared to the upheaval within the Republican Party as it distances itself from the tactics of tea party conservatives. But the pushback from Democrats comes as Obama is trying to draw renewed attention to his agenda, including passage of an immigration overhaul, his jobs initiatives and the benefits of his health care law.

   The computer troubles that befell the start of health insurance sign-ups have caused the greatest anxiety. Republicans pounced on the difficulties as evidence of deeper flaws in the law. But Democrats, even as they defended the policy, also demanded answers in the face of questions from their constituents.

   "The fact is that the administration really failed these Americans," Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., told Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner at a hearing this week. "So going forward there can be just no more excuses."

   In the Senate, 10 Democrats signed on to a letter seeking an unspecified extension of the enrollment period, which ends March 31. "As you continue to fix problems with the website and the enrollment process, it is critical that the administration be open to modifications that provide greater flexibility for the American people seeking to access health insurance," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote.

   Another Democratic senator, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, has called for a one-year delay in the requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance or pay a fine.

   Democrats who have talked to White House officials in recent days describe them as rattled by the health care blunders. But they say they are confident that the troubled website used for enrollment will be corrected and fully operational by the end of November.

   The spying revelations also have created some tensions between the administration and Democrats. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and until now a staunch supporter of the NSA's surveillance, called for a "total review of all intelligence programs" following the Merkel reports.

   She said that when it came to the NSA collecting intelligence on the leaders of allies such as France, Spain, Mexico and Germany, "Let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed."

   With Congress renewing budget talks Wednesday, liberals have been outspoken in their insistence that Democrats vigorously resist efforts to reduce long-term deficits with savings in Social Security or Medicare. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who usually votes with Democrats, has been the most outspoken, saying he fears a budget deal will contain a proposal in Obama's budget to reduce cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and other benefit programs.

   Obama, however, has proposed that remedy only if Republicans agree to raise tax revenue, a bargain that most in the GOP firmly oppose. Moreover, leaders from both parties as well as White House officials have signaled that budget talks are looking for a small budget deal, not the type of "grand bargain" that would embrace such a revenue-for-benefit-cuts deal.

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BOSTON (AP) -- There hasn't been a party like this in New England for nearly a century.

Turmoil to triumph. Worst to first.

David Ortiz and the Boston Red Sox, baseball's bearded wonders, capped their remarkable turnaround by beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 on Wednesday night to win their third World Series championship in 10 seasons.

Shane Victorino, symbolic of these resilient Sox, returned from a stiff back and got Boston rolling with a three-run double off the Green Monster against rookie sensation Michael Wacha.

John Lackey became the first pitcher to start and win a Series clincher for two different teams, allowing one run over 6 2-3 innings 11 years after his Game 7 victory as an Angels rookie in 2002.

With fans roaring on every pitch and cameras flashing, Koji Uehara struck out Matt Carpenter for the final out. The Japanese pitcher jumped into the arms of catcher David Ross while Red Sox players rushed from the dugout and bullpen as the Boston theme "Dirty Water" played on the public-address system.

"I say I work inside a museum, but this is the loudest the museum's been in a long time," outfielder Jonny Gomes said.

And the Red Sox didn't have to fly the trophy home. For the first time since Babe Ruth's team back in 1918, Boston won the title at Fenway Park. The 101-year-old ballpark, oldest in the majors, was packed with 38,447 singing, shouting fans anticipating a celebration 95 years in the making.

There wasn't the cowboy-up comeback charm of "The Idiots" from 2004, who swept St. Louis to end an 86-year title drought. There wasn't that cool efficiency of the 2007 team that swept Colorado.

This time, they were Boston Strong - playing for a city shaken by the marathon bombings in April.

After late-season slumps in 2010 and 2011, the embarrassing revelations of a chicken-and-beer clubhouse culture that contributed to the ouster of manager Terry Francona, and the daily tumult of Bobby Valentine's one-year flop, these Red Sox grew on fans.

Just like the long whiskers on the players' faces, starting with Gomes' scruffy spring training beard.

"As soon as we went to Fort Myers, the movie's already been written," Gomes said. "All we had to do was press play, and this is what happened."

Ortiz, the only player remaining from the 2004 champs, was the MVP after a Ruthian World Series. He batted .688 (11 for 16) with two homers, six RBIs and eight walks - including four in the finale - for a .760 on-base percentage in 25 plate appearances.

Even slumping Stephen Drew delivered a big hit in Game 6, sending Wacha's first pitch of the fourth into the right-center bullpen.

By the time the inning was over, RBI singles by Mike Napoli and Victorino had made it 6-0, and the Red Sox were on their way.

And now, all over New England, from Connecticut's Housatonic River up to the Aroostook in Maine, Boston's eighth championship can be remembered for the beard-yanking bonding.

The win capped an emotional season for the Red Sox, one heavy with the memory of the events that unfolded on Patriots Day, when three people were killed and more than 260 wounded in bombing attacks at the Boston Marathon. The Red Sox wore "Boston Strong" logos on their left sleeves and erected a large emblem on the Green Monster as a constant reminder.

A "B Strong" logo was mowed into center-field grass at Fenway.

"All those that were affected in the tragedy - Boston Strong!" Victorino said.

Red, white and blue fireworks fired over the ballpark as Commissioner Bud Selig presented the World Series trophy to Red Sox owners John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino, leaving a smoky haze over the field.

"It was an awesome atmosphere here tonight," Lackey said.

Among the players blamed for the indifferent culture at the end of the Francona years, Lackey took the mound two days shy of the second anniversary of his elbow surgery and got his first Series win since the 2002 clincher. He pitched shutout ball into the seventh, when Carlos Beltran's RBI single ended the Cardinals' slump with runners in scoring position at 0 for 14.

Junichi Tazawa came in with the bases loaded and retired Allen Craig on an inning-ending grounder to first. Brandon Workman followed in the eighth and Uehara finished.

St. Louis had been seeking its second title in three seasons, but the Cardinals sputtered. Symbolic of the team's struggles, reliever Trevor Rosenthal tripped while throwing a pitch to Ortiz in the eighth, balking Dustin Pedroia to second.

Pedroia had brought back memories of Carlton Fisk's 1975 Game 6-winning home run, sending a first-inning drive about 10 feet foul of the Green Monster foul pole - and waving his left arm once to try to urge the ball fair as he came out of the batter's box.

Lackey escaped a two-on, none-out jam in the second when he retired Matt Adams and David Freese on flyouts and, after a wild pitch, struck out Jon Jay.

Boston wasted a similar threat in the bottom half, then went ahead on the third.

Jacoby Ellsbury singled leading off and went to second on Pedroia's grounder. Ortiz was intentionally walked, Napoli struck out and Gomes was hit above the left elbow with a pitch, loading the bases.

Victorino, wearing red, white and blue spikes with an American flag motif, had been 0 for 10 in the Series and missed the previous two games with a bad back.

Dropped from second to sixth in the batting order, he took two balls and a called strike, then turned on a 93 mph fastball and sent it high off the Green Monster, the 37-foot-high wall in left. Gomes slid home as Yadier Molina took Matt Holliday's one-hop throw and applied the tag, then argued with plate umpire Jim Joyce.

Victorino, pumped with emotion, went to third on the throw and pounded his chest with both fists three times.

After Drew's homer, Lance Lynn relieved Wacha with two on, and RBI singles by Napoli and Victorino boosted Boston's lead to 6-0. Wacha entered 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in his postseason career but gave up six runs, five hits and four walks in 3 2-3 innings, the shortest start of the 22-year-old's big league career.

"They came up here and prepared and jumped on him, and got the big hits when they needed to," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.

Boston was a 30-1 underdog to win the World Series last winter but joined the 1991 Minnesota Twins as the only teams to win titles one season after finishing in last place. Now, the Red Sox will raise another championship flag before their home opener next season April 4 against Milwaukee.

The Red Sox had not played a Series Game 6 since that infamous night at New York's Shea Stadium in 1986, when Bill Buckner allowed Mookie Wilson's 10th-inning roller to get through his legs. And there had not been one at Fenway since Fisk's 12th-inning home run off the foul pole atop the Green Monster.

Following consecutive late-season skids, the Red Sox parted with Francona at the end of the 2011 season and reports emerged of players drinking beer and eating fried chicken in the clubhouse during games.

Valentine took over as manager, injuries caused Boston to use a club-record 56 players, and the Red Sox skidded to a 69-93 record, their poorest since 1965.

John Farrell, Boston's pitching coach from 2007-10, was hired after a pair of seasons as Toronto's manager.

A roster turnover began in August 2012 when Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and their big-money contracts were traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a deal that saved Boston just more than $261.66 million through 2018. The Red Sox restocked during the offseason by signing seven major league free agents for contracts of three years or fewer at a total of $100.45 million: Victorino, Napoli, Gomes, Drew, Uehara, Ryan Dempster and Ross.

After losing closers Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey to injuries early in the season, the Red Sox remained relatively healthy: Seventeen players wound up on the DL, down from 27. They finished 97-65 - matching St. Louis for the best record in the major leagues - and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They also became the first team since the 2005 Cardinals to navigate the season without losing more than three in a row.

After falling behind 2-1, the Red Sox closed with three straight wins over St. Louis in a Series that featured a couple of crazy finishes and game-turning calls.

"Our guys have played real hard," Matheny said. "A lot to be proud of."

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 23:07
Published in Sports
Written by
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A St. Louis man is in custody and facing charges for making a terrorist threat.

The Post-Dispatch reports that Robert Metzinger posted the threats on his Twitter accounts. Police say the tweets implied that Metzinger was going to use a pressure cooker as an explosive device, similar to the devices used in the Boston Marathon bombings, in or around Busch Stadium. Metzinger posted bail and has been released.

His next court appearance is scheduled for late November.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013 17:22
Published in Local News
Written by
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