- - Sunday, October 9, 2011

SWEDEN

U.S. economic theorists top Nobel contenders

STOCKHOLM — Researchers who study economic growth and how technology helps drive long-term development are among the top contenders for the Nobel prize for economics to be awarded Monday, Swedish experts say.

A day before the announcement of the prestigious $1.5 million award, Americans Robert Barro and Paul Romer stood out as favorites for the prize for their research on growth.

The Nobel Committee maintains it doesn’t pay attention to current events when picking a winner, but an award to growth theory would be closely watched as the world debates how to revive the economy in the face of large public spending cuts.

EGYPT

Egypt puts end to military trials for civilians

CAIRO — Egypt’s military ruler has ordered a halt to trials of civilians before military courts known for swift and harsh verdicts.

Sunday’s decision by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi doesn’t completely spare civilians military justice.

His decree stipulates that those who violate military laws, like assaulting servicemen or damaging military installations, would still be referred to military tribunals.

Rights groups say at least 11,000 civilians have been tried before military tribunals since the February ouster of Hosni Mubarak.

Field Marshal Tantawi chairs a military council that took control of the country from Mr. Mubarak with pledges to return Egypt to civilian rule after a transition period.

The rights groups also claim the military tortures detainees.

PHILIPPINES

At least 11 wounded in two explosions

MANILA — Suspected homemade bombs exploded in a budget hotel and at a cockfighting arena in the southern Philippines on Sunday, wounding at least 11 people, officials said.

The nearly simultaneous blasts ripped through a room inside the hotel and at the cockfighting arena at around noon in Zamboanga city, which was celebrating an annual Roman Catholic festival, said Mayor Celso Lobregat.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the blasts. The city has been hit by deadly bombings by al Qaeda-linked militants in the past.

SYRIA

Syria warns countries not to recognize opposition

BEIRUT — Syria’s foreign minister warned the international community Sunday not to recognize a new umbrella council formed by the opposition, threatening “tough measures” against any country that does so.

Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem did not specify what measures Damascus might take. But he went on to say countries that do not protect Syrian missions could find their own embassies treated in the same way.

“We will take tough measures against any country that recognizes this illegitimate council,” Mr. al-Moallem said without elaborating on what type of reaction it might bring.

The Syrian National Council, announced last week in Turkey, is a broad-based group that includes most major opposition factions.

No country or international body has recognized it so far as a legal representative of the Syrian people.

Burhan Ghalioun, the opposition council’s most prominent official, said he expects the organization will be recognized “in the coming few weeks.”

Mr. al-Moallem’s comments came as the council was scheduled to hold two meetings Sunday, one in Cairo and another in Stockholm.

Damascus appears concerned that if the Syrian National Council is recognized by the international community, it could play the same role as the National Transitional Council in Libya that ultimately overthrew longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

AFGHANISTAN

Lawmaker’s hunger strike extends dispute

KABUL — It was the eighth day of ousted Afghan parliamentarian Simeen Barakzai’s hunger strike.

Through chapped lips and in a rough voice, she said Sunday she would not drink or eat anything until President Hamid Karzai opened an investigation into vote fraud by the woman who has taken over her seat.

Her protest is the latest turn in a seemingly interminable dispute over who belongs in the Afghan parliament - still going on, more than a year after elections that were marred by fraud.

Fraud monitors discarded 1.3 million ballots from the poll - nearly a quarter of the total - and disqualified 19 winning candidates before results were finalized last fall.

But many of the losers had argued that voters had been disenfranchised and pressured Mr. Karzai to revisit the results.

Mr. Karzai eventually took the case to the courts, which ruled that 62 sitting parliamentarians should be removed, even though the court had no legal standing to change the results.

The accusations, investigations and law-bending have delayed work and threatened to undermine the legislature’s legitimacy.

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