A suicide bomber attack has killed 65 people and wounded over 100 in a volatile Pashtun region of northwest Pakistan, reported Reuters. The attack was thought to be targeting a meeting of tribal elders who had come to the office of a senior government official – hundreds of people were gathered at the time, including children who were casualties of the attack. In recent weeks, security forces have stepped up attacks on Taliban militants in the area, which borders Afghanistan. Earlier in the week, the Pakistani government announced its intention to hold a national conference to map out a plan to combat terrorism.
In Baghdad, a suicide bomber has blown up a car at an Army checkpoint, killing at least five people. Three soldiers were among those killed in the attack in western Baghdad’s mainly Sunni province, which was once an insurgent stronghold, reported the BBC. This comes three days after a suicide attack on a Shia pilgrimage in Baghdad killed almost 60 people, and the capital saw five bombings on Thursday. In its latest report, the United Nations said 4,068 civilians were killed in violence in 2009 in Iraq, and 15,935 injured, according to information provided by Iraq’s Ministry of Human Rights.
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A federal appeals court has rejected an attempt by the Obama administration to reinstate as six-month ban on deepwater oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The ban, which was imposed in May, was struck down last month by a US District Judge with extensive financial ties to the energy industry, reported Democracy Now!. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans refused to stay the decision of the lower court, and the Interior Department is expected to revise the ban to address issues raised by the courts.
A federal judge in Boston has ruled a key element of the same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional, reported The Los Angeles Times. In two Massachusetts cases, the judge found that the Defense of Marriage Act violates states’ rights to define marriage and the Equal Protection Clause.
The rich have stopped paying their mortgages at rates that greatly exceed the rest of the population, according to an investigation by The New York Times. Based on data compiled by a real estate analytics firm, more than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are “seriously delinquent.” Homeowners with more modest housing, however, were found to be more likely to keep writing checks to their lender – roughly one in 12 mortgages valued below the million-dollar mark is delinquent. An economist with CoreLogic, the analytics firm, said this suggests many well-off people are purposely dumping their financially weak properties. “The rich are different: they are more ruthless,” said Sam Khater, CoreLogic’s senior economist.
Russia and the United States have arranged a spy swap, with four American spies expelled by Russia to land in Britain and ten Russian agents on their way home, reported The Guardian UK. The spy swap was one of the biggest and least secret since the end of the cold war, and according to the Russian foreign ministry was being “carried out in the context of improved Russian-American relations”. The ten Russians had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and were sentenced to time they had already served.
Chinese authorities have renewed Google’s license to operate a web site, reported Reuters, stopping a potential shutdown of Google’s search page in the world’s biggest Internet market. Last week, Google said it would no longer automatically reroute users to its uncensored Hong Kong-based search page because Beijing said it would not renew its Internet Content Provider license if it continued to do so. If China had shut down Google’s China web page, it would have been a blow to other businesses in the region.