- Explosion in Afghan city of Khost, Taliban say target U.S. base
- Storm brings tornadoes, snow to US South; 2 dead
- Japan's Abe set for second term, to tap allies for cabinet
Posted: 25 Dec 2012 08:36 PM PST
KHOST, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A blast in the eastern Afghan city of Khost on Wednesday wounded three people, and the Taliban said they had sent a suicide bomber in a vehicle to attack an American military base.
The area's police chief said the explosion took place near a U.S. base. Hospital officials said three people were wounded and the number of casualties was expected to rise.
(Reporting by Elyas Wahdat; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 25 Dec 2012 08:02 PM PST
MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - A major winter storm system swept through the southern United States on Tuesday, spawning tornadoes in several states and killing two people in weather-related road accidents.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said a tornado struck Mobile, Alabama, home to about 200,000 people, at about 5 p.m. local time (2300 GMT). There were reports of damage to trees and widespread power outages, along with some structural damage, but no injuries or fatalities.
Tornadoes also touched down in Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana, flattening houses and causing some injuries, according to the NWS.
The wild Christmas weather was expected to continue into early Wednesday - the NWS' Storm Prediction Center forecasted the development of "a few strong tornadoes and thunderstorm wind damage over parts of the southeast" this evening and overnight.
It warned that tornadoes at night at this time of year can be particularly dangerous because they are usually fast-moving and obscured by rain and darkness. Areas mostly likely to be hit by strong storms include southern and eastern Alabama, the Florida Panhandle and southwest Georgia, the NWS warned.
Tuesday's storms also contributed to a 21-vehicle pile-up that shut down a major highway in Oklahoma City and tens of thousands of power outages.
A Texas man died after an accident involving a tree in the road, and another person died in a weather-related accident on I-44 in Oklahoma, according to local authorities.
The storm was expected to evolve into a blizzard from Arkansas to southern Illinois on Tuesday night, with snowfall of up to a foot (30.5 cm) in some areas, according to Accuweather.com.
Accuweather.com senior meteorologist Kristina Pydynowski warned on the website that travel will be "extremely treacherous, if not impossible, as the snow clogs roads, such as interstates 24, 55 and 57, and the blowing snow severely lowers visibility."
The Indiana governor's office issued an advisory Tuesday evening that "non-essential employees" who live in areas where snow emergencies have been declared do not have to come to work.
The snowstorm will shift on Wednesday to the eastern Great Lakes and northeastern region, with a blizzard warning in effect for Cleveland starting at 7 a.m. on Wednesday (1200 GMT), forecasters said. Cleveland could get up to a foot of snow, according to the NWS.
Southern Indiana is under a blizzard warning starting early Wednesday morning, according to NWS meteorologist Crystal Pettet. Indianapolis could see its biggest snowfall in four years, with a possibility of 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30.5 cm) of snow.
"Conditions should be pretty bad in time for rush hour," Pettet said.
In the town of McNeill in southern Mississippi, an apparent tornado destroyed 12 homes and injured eight people, though none of the injuries appear life-threatening, said Danny Manley, director of the Pearl River County Emergency Management Agency.
Manley said the homes could not be rebuilt, as some had lost roofs and their top stories and one was smashed by a tree.
Another apparent tornado hit Centreville, Mississippi, in the southwestern part of the state, injuring one person, destroying a trailer and heavily damaging other homes and buildings, according to Tim Destri, a NWS meteorologist in New Orleans.
A tornado destroyed a building 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Crockett, Texas, and a bank lost a section of its roof, according to Accuweather.com.
Freezing drizzle overnight led to 10 separate collisions on Interstate 40 in Oklahoma City early on Tuesday, said Betsy Randolph, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma Highway Patrol. The city also got a rare Christmas snowfall.
The 21-vehicle pile-up included three tractor-trailers and shut down the westbound lanes for about five hours, she said. Twelve people were taken to hospitals, and troopers were checking on the severity of their injuries.
Ahead of the storm's path, parts of eastern West Virginia are under a winter storm warning. Ice accumulations of up to half an inch (1.25 cm) are expected in higher elevations, the NWS said.
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
Posted: 25 Dec 2012 06:09 PM PST
TOKYO (Reuters) - Shinzo Abe will be voted in as prime minister by parliament's lower house on Wednesday, giving the hawkish lawmaker a second chance at Japan's top job as the country battles deflation and confronts a rising China.
Abe, 58, has promised aggressive monetary easing by the Bank of Japan and big fiscal spending by the debt-laden government to slay deflation and weaken the yen to make Japanese exports more competitive.
The grandson of a former prime minister, Abe has staged a stunning comeback five years after abruptly resigning as premier in the wake of a one-year term troubled partly by scandals in his cabinet and public outrage over lost pension records.
His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) surged back to power in this month's election.
"I want to learn from the experience of my previous administration, including the setbacks, and aim for a stable government," Abe told reporters as he entered parliament, where he will be voted in later in the day as Japan's seventh prime minister in six years.
Abe looks set to pick a slate of close allies leavened by some LDP rivals to fend off the criticism of cronyism that dogged his first administration.
Japanese media have said Abe will name former prime minister Taro Aso, 72, as finance minister, ex-trade and industry minister Akira Amari as minister in charge of a new economic revival headquarters and policy veteran Toshimitsu Motegi as trade minister. Motegi will also be tasked with formulating energy policy in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year.
Loyal Abe backer Yoshihide Suga is expected to become chief cabinet secretary, a key post combining the job of top government spokesman with responsibility for coordinating among ministries.
Others who share Abe's agenda to revise the pacifist constitution and rewrite Japan's wartime history with a less apologetic tone have also been floated for posts.
"These are really LDP right-wingers and close friends of Abe," said Sophia University professor Koichi Nakano. "It really doesn't look very fresh at all."
CHINA TIES, JULY ELECTION
The yen has weakened about 9.8 percent against the dollar since Abe was elected LDP leader in September. On Wednesday, it hit a 20-month low of 85.38 yen against the greenback on expectations of aggressive monetary policy easing.
Abe has threatened to revise a law guaranteeing the Bank of Japan's (BOJ) independence if it refuses to set a 2 percent inflation target.
BOJ minutes released on Wednesday showed the central bank was already pondering policy options in November, concerned about looming risks to the economy. The BOJ stood pat at its November rate review meeting but eased this month in response to intensifying pressure from Abe.
Abe also promised during the election campaign to take a tough stance in territorial rows with China and South Korea over separate chains of tiny islands, while placing priority on strengthening Japan's alliance with the United States.
Japanese media said Abe would appoint two low-profile officials to the foreign and defence portfolios.
Itsunori Onodera, 52, who was senior vice foreign minister in Abe's first cabinet, will become defence minister while Fumio Kishida, 55, a former state minister for issues related to Okinawa island - host to the bulk of U.S. forces in Japan - will be appointed to the top diplomatic post, the reports said.
Abe, who hails from a wealthy political family, made his first overseas visit to China to repair chilly ties when he took office in 2006, but has said his first trip this time will be to the United States.
He may, however, put contentious issues that could upset key trade partner China and fellow-U.S. ally South Korea on the backburner to concentrate on boosting the economy, now in its fourth recession since 2000, ahead of an election for parliament's upper house in July.
The LDP and its small ally, the New Komeito party, won a two-thirds majority in the 480-seat lower house in the December 16 election. That allows the lower house to enact bills rejected by the upper house, where the LDP-led block lacks a majority.
But the process is cumbersome, so the LDP is keen to win a majority in the upper house to end the parliamentary deadlock that has plagued successive governments since 2007.
"It's the economy, the economy, the economy," an LDP source close to Abe told Reuters. The new government plans to submit an extra budget for the fiscal year to March 31 in late January.
Financial markets expect a budget worth about 10 trillion yen ($117.93 billion), but the source said no more than half of that would be spent on public works projects, a traditional staple of LDP economic stimulus packages.
(Additional reporting by Leika Kihara, Kiyoshi Takenaka and Chris Meyers; Editing by Dean Yates)
Copyright © 2012 Reuters
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