- - Thursday, December 13, 2012


KANDAHAR — A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO air base in southern Afghanistan just hours after Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta left Thursday, killing two civilians and injuring 19 other people, police said.

There was no indication that the attack was connected with Mr. Panetta’s visit, a U.S. spokesman said.

Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the attack in a message to Agence France-Presse but did not link it to Mr. Panetta’s visit.


Cash-system welfare plan sparks a range of reaction

NEW DELHI — Protesters gathered Thursday in New Delhi to oppose a government plan that would transform India’s corruption-ridden welfare system by replacing subsidies with direct cash transfers.

The ruling Congress party, which is looking to the policy as a major vote-winner ahead of elections in 2014, has started trials and hopes to introduce the plan nationwide next year.

Instead of buying food, fuel and fertilizer at discounted rates from a government shop, those with identity cards will be paid cash by the government to purchase goods at market prices.

Many economists say the system will improve efficiency and reduce massive graft, but the realities of implementing the huge changes have sparked widespread opposition.

Under the cash model, the government can keep track of the funds it spends, cut endemic graft among middlemen and make the money conditional on things such as sending children to school.

A trial run in Rajasthan has hit trouble as a result of cash not reaching many of the 250,000 residents involved, even though they were listed on a new identity program that is key to the welfare shake-up.


Chinese plane spotted over disputed islands

TOKYO — A Chinese airplane was spotted Thursday above small islands controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing, the first time a Chinese aircraft allegedly violated airspace over the islands and the latest in a brewing territorial spat.

Japan levied a formal protest later in the day, but China said it was merely carrying out a normal operation.

The chief government spokesman said the Chinese plane entered Japanese airspace in the morning.

The Defense Agency said four Japanese F-15 jets headed to the area Thursday morning, but the Chinese plane, a Y-12, a nonmilitary type of aircraft, was nowhere to be seen by the time they got there.

The Foreign Ministry said a formal protest was sent to the Chinese government through the embassy.

The islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese have been at the center of a territorial dispute.

The Japanese government’s purchase of the islands this year from private Japanese owners set off massive anti-Japanese rallies in China.


Australian charged with plot to join Indonesia insurgents

BRISBANE — An Australian citizen has been charged under federal law with undergoing military training in Ukraine in order to fight with insurgents against Indonesian authorities in the restive province of West Papua.

Gerard Michael Little was refused bail Wednesday when he appeared in court in the eastern city of Brisbane charged with preparing for an incursion into a foreign state. His potential penalty was not immediately clear.

Magistrate Jacqui Payne remanded the 45-year-old invalid pensioner to custody until he next appears in court on Jan. 18. Mr. Little did not enter a plea.

Prosecutor Justin Williams told the court that Mr. Little was intercepted on his way to Papua New Guinea and intended to island-hop, undetected, across the border to West Papua, where he planned violence.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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