In brief | Nation & world | 7-16-14


89 killed in suicide blast in Afghanistan, deadliest attack on civilians since 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan — A suicide bomber blew up a car packed with explosives near a busy market and a mosque in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing at least 89 people in the deadliest insurgent attack on civilians since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

The blast destroyed numerous mud-brick shops, flipped cars over and stripped trees of their branches, brutally underscoring the country’s instability as U.S. troops prepare to leave by the end of the year and politicians in Kabul struggle for power after a disputed presidential runoff.

Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, the Defense Ministry spokesman, said the bomber detonated his explosives as he drove by the crowded market in a remote town in Urgun district, in the Paktika province bordering Pakistan. Azimi gave the death toll and said more than 40 other people were wounded.

Subway derails in Moscow’s rush hour, killing 21 and injuring 136; officials say no terrorism

MOSCOW — A subway train derailed Tuesday deep below Moscow’s streets, twisting and mangling crowded rail cars at the height of the morning rush hour. At least 21 people were killed, Russian officials said, and 136 were hospitalized, many with serious injuries.

The Russian capital’s airports and transit systems have been a prime target for terrorists over the past two decades, but multiple officials vigorously dismissed terrorism as a possible cause.

The Moscow Metro is world-famous for its palatial interiors with mosaics, chandeliers and marble benches. Park Pobedy, where the derailment occurred, is Moscow’s deepest metro station — 84 meters (275 feet) below the surface — which made the rescue particularly difficult. The station serves the vast park where Russia’s World War II museum is located.

It was unclear what caused the train to derail. Lines of inquiry included a fault in one of the cars or the sinking of the roadbed, according to Vladimir Markin, spokesman for Russia’s top investigative body. He said other officials who said earlier that a power surge triggered an alarm, causing the train to stop abruptly, were incorrect.

California water use rises despite governor’s pleas to conserve during state’s severe drought

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Californians increased water consumption this year during the severe drought, despite pleas from the governor to conserve, fallowed farm fields and reservoirs that are quickly draining, according to a report released Tuesday.

The new figures surfaced as state water regulators prepared to vote later in the day on fines up to $500 a day for people who waste water on landscaping, fountains, washing vehicles and other outdoor uses.

The numbers underscore the need for action, State Water Resources Control Board Chairwoman Felicia Marcus said.

“Not everybody in California understands how bad this drought is … and how bad it could be,” she said. “There are communities in danger of running out of water all over the state.”

The report says overall consumption jumped 1 percent, even as Gov. Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent cutback. It corrected survey results released just a month ago that said use statewide had declined by 5 percent.

Iraqi lawmakers break deadlock, elect new parliament speaker in first step toward new government

BAGHDAD — Iraqi lawmakers broke two weeks of deadlock Tuesday and elected a moderate Sunni as speaker of parliament, taking the first step toward forming a new government that is widely seen as crucial to confronting militants who have overrun much of the country.

Still, it was not clear whether lawmakers had reached a larger deal that would also include an agreement on the most contentious decision — the choice for prime minister. The incumbent, Nouri al-Maliki, has ruled the country since 2006, but is under intense pressure to step aside. So far, he has insisted on staying for a third term.

After voting behind closed doors, the legislature tallied the results on a whiteboard wheeled into the hall that showed Sunni lawmaker Salim al-Jubouri winning with 194 votes out of 273 cast in the 328-seat parliament. A second candidate, Shorooq al-Abayachi, received 19 votes. There were 60 abstentions.

“Today’s step demonstrates the country’s democracy and national unity,” said Shiite lawmaker Abbas al-Bayati, putting a decidedly positive spin on a vote that was delayed twice. “We have now a legislative body that can do its job in building democracy.”

By wire sources