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U.S., Afghans near deal on post-2014 mission: Panetta

WASHINGTON — US and Afghan officials are weeks away from clinching a security pact allowing an American military mission to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday. The two sides still had to resolve disagreements over controversial night raids by US troops, which Afghan President Hamid…

Geithner asks Congress to act on budget, tax reform

WASHINGTON — US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urged Congress to do more to help the nation’s ranks of unemployed Tuesday, as he previewed tax reform plans and defended President Barack Obama’s budget. Stressing the fragile nature of the US recovery — and dinging the previous Republican administration for helping dig…

Syrian activists resort to pigeons to communicate

BEIRUT — Cut off by a relentless barrage of government shelling, activists in the besieged Syrian city of Homs have reverted to the age-old practice of using carrier pigeons to communicate with each other. “From the activists in Old Homs (district) to those in Baba Amr, please tell us what…

Palestinian hunger striker to petition top Israel court

JERUSALEM — The lawyer for an interned Palestinian who has been on hunger strike for 59 days said on Tuesday that he would ask Israel’s supreme court to overturn a military order imprisoning his client without trial. Attorney Jawad Bulus said he would file an urgent request to the Jewish…

Graffiti star’s invisible secret found 24 years after death

LONDON — Experts at London’s Sotheby’s auction house on Tuesday revealed they had discovered an invisible ink signature made by US graffiti icon Jean-Michel Basquiat on his painting “Orange Sports Figure”. The work will be the top lot in Wednesday’s Contemporary Art Evening Sale and had been expected to sell…

Santorum surging in Republican presidential race

WASHINGTON — Rick Santorum’s drive to capture the Republican presidential nomination gained momentum Tuesday as he surged to the front of the field in national polls and extended his lead over Mitt Romney in his rival’s native Michigan. But Romney’s supporters were just rolling out the big guns — massive…

Oliver Stone’s son converts to Islam in Iran

TEHRAN — US filmmaker Sean Stone, son of Oscar-winning director Oliver Stone, converted to Islam on Tuesday in Iran, where he is making a documentary, he told AFP. “The conversion to Islam is not abandoning Christianity or Judaism, which I was born with. It means I have accepted Mohammad and…

Valentine’s Day finds a niche in Islamic Iran

Iran may reject Western influences, but Valentine’s Day has become a growing phenomenon thanks to the romantically minded youth of the Islamic state’s affluent classes. Although the ruling clerics and hardline politicians have been waging a campaign against what they call “decadent” cultural imports, the Christian day dedicated to amorous displays…

Visiting China VP urges U.S. to ‘promote trust’

China’s Vice President Xi Jinping will meet US President Barack Obama on Tuesday in a key early test for Washington’s relations with the man on course to lead the Asian power for the next decade. Xi will start a week-long visit with a welcome at the White Houseand talks with Obama and other top US officials,…

Houston body arrives in home state

The body of deceased diva Whitney Houston arrived in her home state of New Jersey, CNN reported, as her family made funeralpreparations with the cause of her untimely death still unknown. CNN said a hearse and a large police procession arrived late Monday at the funeral home, where a large crowd had gathered, adding that…

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