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March 29, 2013 at 12:24 PM   |   Comments

Bombings kill 18 in Iraq

BAGHDAD, March 29 (UPI) -- At least 18 people, most of them Shiite Muslims attending religious services, were killed Friday in a series of bombings in Iraq, officials said.

Four mosques in Baghdad were targeted, CNN reported. Car bombs were set off as people left the mosques after Friday prayers, killing 14 people and injured 25.

Four people were killed in bomb attacks elsewhere in Iraq.

Sunni Muslims, a majority in much of the Arab world, are in a minority in Iraq. Under the regime of Saddam Hussein, however, they dominated the government.

Last week, the Islamic State of Iraq, a group affiliated with al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for a series of bombings that killed at least 61 people. Most of the victims were Shiite Muslims in Baghdad, although some of the bombs targeted Sunnis outside the capital.


Rep. Young apologizes for 'wetback' remark

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, March 29 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, has apologized for referring to Latino workers on his family farm as "wetbacks."

"During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California," Young said in a statement to the Alaska Dispatch. "I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays and I meant no disrespect."

During the radio interview on immigration reform, Young said he feared the United States had shipped off too many agricultural industry jobs, and noted automation and technological advances have reduced the number of labor positions available.

"My father had a ranch; we used to have 50-60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes," he said. "It takes two people to pick the same tomatoes now. It's all done by machine."

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, issued a statement calling on Republicans to condemn Young's use of the term.

"Shame on Rep. Don Young," the statement said. "It is deeply disheartening that in 2013 we are forced to have a discussion about a member of Congress using such hateful words and racial slurs."


Syrian rebels capture strategic town

DAEL, Syria, March 29 (UPI) -- Syrian rebels have taken control of a strategic town near the border with Jordan, the British Observatory for Human Rights said Friday.

After 24 hours of fighting, during which 16 rebels and several others were killed, opposition forces captured Dael in Daraa province, Voice of America reported.

The Observatory said Dael is an important gateway to Damascus. There was fighting reported Friday in cities, including Qaboon and Yarmuk, near Damascus.

The capture of Dael comes a day after an attack killed more than a dozen students at Syria's Damascus University. State-controlled media alleged that opposition forces were responsible for the attack.

Syria has been engulfed in a civil war, now in its third year, between forces loyal to President Bashar Assad and those who would like to see him out of power. At least 70,000 people have been killed in the conflict.


Harvard study: Iraq/Afghan war tab $4T-$6T

WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- The U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will cost taxpayers between $4 trillion and $6 trillion, a study by a Harvard researcher said.

In a study released Thursday, Harvard public policy Professor Linda J. Bilmes said the United States has already spent nearly $2 trillion for the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq -- just a fraction of the ultimate cost, The Washington Post reported. The largest ongoing expense will be providing medical care and disability benefits to veterans of the two conflicts, she said.

Historically, medical and disability expenses "come due many decades later," the report said, noting that the peak disbursement of disability payments for troops in the last century came decades after the wars ended.

"Payments to Vietnam and first Gulf War veterans are still climbing," Bilmes said.

"As a consequence of these wartime spending choices, the United States will face constraints in funding investments in personnel and diplomacy, research and development and new military initiatives," Bilmes' report said. "The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come."

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