Financiers fronting for lottery winner

GREENWICH, Conn., Nov. 29 (UPI) — A trio of Connecticut financiers accepted a check for a $254 million Powerball drawing on behalf of an anonymous client, a friend of one of the men said.

Brandon Lacoff, Greg Skidmore and Tim Davidson of Belpointe LLC, based in Greenwich, accepted an oversized check Monday for $108 million — the after-tax lump sum amount of the winnings. Tom Gladstone, a longtime friend of Lacoff, said the three men did not purchase the ticket and were accepting the check to keep the winner’s identity a secret, The Stamford (Conn.) Advocate reported Tuesday.

“I called him last night and said, `Brandon, I saw you on Friday and you did not tell me that you won the lottery.’ He said, `we are just representing the guy,'” Gladstone said.

Gladstone said he didn’t know if the real winner was a client of Belpointe when the winning ticket was purchased “but he sure is now.”

However, a public relations specialists issued a statement on behalf of the three denying the report.

“While there has been much speculation and quite a bit of misinformation over the last 24 hours, this Trust, with its three trustees, has been established to manage the winnings in the most practical and expedient way possible so that we can achieve our strategic goal of helping those who can best benefit from these funds,” Gay Lewi said in a statement reported by CNN. “And to be clear, there are a total of three trustees and there is no anonymous fourth participant.”

Lewi said the three partners — who have formed the Putnam Avenue Family Trust, with each serving as a trustee — will distribute $1 million with 10 days to a select group of military veterans’ relief organizations, CNN reported.

Students arrested on counterfeiting charge

DENTON, Texas, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Two University of North Texas students face a felony charge of forgery for allegedly running a counterfeiting operation from a dorm room, police said.

Brent Bakewell and Keeley Lynn Dunnam were arrested Nov. 7 after a clerk at a Denton convenience store reported receiving a questionable-looking $20 bill, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Monday.

The clerk said he received the bill from a man who regularly shops at the store. Police found Bakewell based on the clerk’s description and searched his dorm room.

“They found a scanner/printer and a computer used to print money,” Officer Ryan Grelle said. “Apparently there was money on top of it that they were still in the process of making money. … They were only making ones and 20s.”

Grelle said Bakewell and Dunnam allegedly used the fake bills at fast food restaurants and convenience stores. If convicted, the two freshmen face 180 days to two years in prison and a fine of as much as $10,000.

Cemetery sued for jumping on casket

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 29 (UPI) — A Pittsburgh family has filed a lawsuit alleging cemetery workers jumped up and down on the casket of a family member in an effort to fit it into a grave.

The family members of Agnes Zimmick, who was buried at St. Stanislaus Catholic Cemetery in Shaler in 2009, filed the lawsuit Monday against the Diocese of Pittsburgh and Catholic Cemeteries Association of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

“Frankly, it’s shocking this happened at a Catholic cemetery,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Richard Sandow. “You’re not dealing with lumber. You’re dealing with the deceased. There were many jumps, shoves and stomps.”

The suit alleges several of Zimmick’s family members visited other family graves after her burial. A short time later, the family said they saw cemetery workers jump “up and down on the casket;” walk on top of the casket; and “repeatedly [strike] said casket with poles … to force the casket into place,” according to the lawsuit.

The family made their initial complaint to the cemetery just after the Dec. 1, 2009, funeral.

“The family filed a complaint and we investigated it thoroughly. We are confident after our investigation that the allegations are unfounded,” said Annabelle McGannon, executive director of the cemeteries association. “Beyond that, it’s our policy not to comment on issues in litigation.”

Gov. names Flint, Mich., emergency manager

FLINT, Mich., Nov. 29 (UPI) — Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday appointed Michael Brown to run the city of Flint until it gets its financial house in order.

“I know it’s a major challenge, there’s no glossing it over,” the newly appointed city emergency manager told the Flint Journal in a telephone interview. “I think there’s a long road ahead and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

A state-appointed review panel had recommended this month that the state take over management of the city after finding a structural deficit and other serious financial problems, the newspaper said.

Brown, in effect, will be Flint’s czar, with the city’s elected leaders having to answer to him and abdicating authority over city contracts, personnel and other matters to him. He said he will start his new job Thursday.

“I’m ready to go to work,” he said. “I’m going in with my eyes open, that’s for sure.”

The Detroit News said Brown, who served as acting mayor of Flint for six months in 2009, is president of the Prima Civitas Foundation in Lansing and director of the Flint Area Reinvestment Office.

“Michael Brown has a strong track record of serving the Flint-area community,” the News quoted Snyder as saying. “Given his experience in public, private, and non-profit settings, I’m confident he is well equipped to take on this critical post.”

The Michigan Legislature this year passed legislation giving emergency managers wide-reaching powers to cancel union contracts and overrule elected boards and city officials, the News noted.

Reid scolds Gang of Six, seeks legislation

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., Tuesday chastised the Gang of Six for not producing a deficit-cutting agreement in writing.

“I’m stunned by the Gang of Six,” Reid said of the bipartisan group of senators, which has agreed to cut $4 trillion in spending but has not yet produced any legislation, The Hill reported.

“Put it in bill form, other than that, it’s happy talk,” Reid said.

The spotlight has turned to the Gang of Six after the supercommittee failed last week to reach an agreement on the deficit.

Alan Krueger, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, said at a White House news briefing Tuesday the government needs to get a handle on public debt.

“I think it’s very important that we get on a sustainable fiscal path,” Krueger said.

“The president has proposed — in September gave a proposal to the supercommittee or joint committee of Congress to help put us on a fiscally sustainable path. And I think that as we strengthen the economy in the short run, we need to do two things at once: We need to strengthen the economy in the short run, and we need to return to a fiscally sustainable path.”

Senate rejects easing detainee policy

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — The U.S. Senate Tuesday rejected a defense spending bill amendment that would have eased the policy on detainees captured as terror suspects on the battlefield.

The Senate voted 61-37 to reject the amendment, which would have removed a section of the defense spending bill that authorizes the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” and would have created a timeline for judicial hearings, The Hill reported.

The amendment’s author, Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., said law enforcement and military officials should have more say in the policy over detainees.

“We are ignoring the advice and the input of the director of the FBI, the director of the intelligence community, the attorney general of the United States, the secretary of defense and the White House,” Udall said.

“My amendment would take out these provisions, and give us in the Congress an opportunity to take a hard look at the needs of our counterterrorism professionals, and respond in a measured way that reflects the input of those who are actually fighting our enemies. The secretary of defense is warning us that we may be making mistakes that will hurt our capacity to fight terrorism at home and abroad,” Udall said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., speaking against the amendment, said, “The idea that an American citizen helping al-Qaida doesn’t get due process is just a lie.”

Accused salon shooter pleads innocent

SANTA ANA, Calif., Nov. 29 (UPI) — Scott Dekraai pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges he opened fire at a Seal Beach, Calif., hair salon and killed eight people, including his ex-wife.

The 42-year-old defendant faces eight counts of first-degree murder for the eight deaths and one count of attempted murder for allegedly wounding a ninth victim who survived the Oct. 12 massacre a Salon Meritage.

The Los Angeles Times reported Dekraai appeared alert and was responsive when Judge Erick Larsh addressed him in Orange County Superior Court

Friends and family of the victims attended the hearing and some wept afterward, the newspaper said.

Dekraai, who allegedly went on the shooting rampage following a bitter custody dispute with his ex-wife Michelle Fournier over their 8-year-old son, will have a preliminary hearing April 24, the Times said.

Arizona sheriff endorses Perry

AMHERST, N.H., Nov. 29 (UPI) — Rick Perry’s bid for the Republican U.S. presidential nomination Tuesday received the endorsement of well-known Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio.

Arpaio, the sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County who has built a reputation for his stance on border security and immigration issues, said in an announcement in Amherst, N.H., where Perry is campaigning ahead of New Hampshire’s Jan. 10 primary, that he likes the Texas governor’s efforts to tighten border security.

“The federal government has failed on border crime and border enforcement, and no candidate for president has done more to secure the border than Governor Rick Perry,” Arpaio said in a statement posted on Perry’s campaign Web site. “I’m endorsing Rick Perry because we need a tough-on-crime president who will champion and fund full-time border security operations from Brownsville [Texas] to San Diego. Governor Perry has a superior border security record and plan to make our border and our nation safer.”

The Perry Web site note the governor’s push to beef up border security and faulted President Barack Obama for not approving his January 2009 request for more National Guard troops and helicopters.

Perry said he is “honored” to have Arpaio’s backing.

“Sheriff Arpaio knows the struggle border states face as Washington politicians and bureaucrats fail time and again to properly secure our nation’s southern boundary with Mexico,” Perry said.

The Washington Post reported Tuesday Perry stumbled Tuesday on the nation’s voting age and the date of next year’s presidential election. Speaking at Saint Anselm’s College in Goffstown, N.H., Perry asked all of the college students on hand who will be 21 by Nov. 12 to support him.

“Those who won’t be, just work hard. Because you’re … counting on us,” Perry said.

The voting age is 18 and the election will be Nov. 6.

Afterward, Perry spokesman Mark Miner said “the governor misspoke.”

The Hill noted the governor’s gaffe follows one he made in a recent debate in which he couldn’t come up with the names of the three government agencies he wants to chop if elected president.

Turkey preparing sanctions on Syria

ISTANBUL, Turkey, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Tuesday Turkey will impose sanctions on Syria after discussions with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“It will not be very long” before the sanctions are announced, Davutoglu said at a news conference Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

He offered no details beyond saying the sanctions would differ in “nuance” from the sanctions imposed Sunday by the Arab League.

Earlier, Davutoglu told Turkey’s private Kanal 24 television station a military buffer zone along the border with Syria was possible if the refugee situation worsened, but he told the news conference such an action was “not on the agenda.”

He said Syria was “ready for all possible scenarios.”

Additional economic sanctions could help pry the business community’s support from President Bashar Assad. Turkey’s trade with Syria totaled $2.4 billion last year, the Journal said.

Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim told the state Anadolu Ajansi news agency border crossings with Iraq may be opened if the situation in Syria gets worse.

Poll: Romney pulling away from pack

ASBURY PARK, N.J., Nov. 29 (UPI) — Mitt Romney has pulled significantly ahead of the rest of the Republican U.S. presidential candidates in New Hampshire, poll results released Tuesday indicated.

The Rasmussen Reports poll indicated the former Massachusetts governor is the preferred candidate for 34 percent of those likely to vote in the state’s GOP primary in January. That puts him 10 percentage points ahead of Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker from Georgia who received the endorsement of The New Hampshire Union Leader this past weekend, and 20 percentage points in front of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

Jon Huntsman, a former Utah governor and U.S. diplomat, followed at 11 percent.

At various points in the campaign, Romney has been consistently at or near the top of the polls, with the other GOP contenders — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Georgia businessman Herman Cain among them — rising and falling back as their campaigns ran into various political headwinds.

The New Jersey polling company surveyed 762 likely voters by phone Monday. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Rasmussen said its polling also found 20 percent of the nation’s voters strongly approve of President Obama’s performance while 42 percent strongly disapprove.

Rasmussen said in a hypothetical match-up with Cain, who was hit by allegations of a longtime extramarital affair on the heels of sexual harassment accusations, Obama would win by 10 percentage points, while the other GOP candidates would be within single digits. Those surveyed also are more likely to have an unfavorable view of the Occupy movement protesters and Tea Party activists (55 percent and 48 percent, respectively) than a favorable view (39 percent and 44 percent).

FTC, Facebook reach privacy agreement

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Facebook, accused of deceiving its customers, has agreed to take steps to assure their privacy won’t be violated in the future, U.S. regulators said Tuesday.

The Federal Trade Commission said in a release the social networking Web site has agreed to give people clear and prominent notice — and obtain their express consent — before sharing their information beyond established privacy settings.

The FTC had charged Facebook with deceiving people by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.

“Facebook is obligated to keep the promises about privacy that it makes to its hundreds of millions of users,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said. “Facebook’s innovation does not have to come at the expense of consumer privacy. The FTC action will ensure it will not.”

Among the commission’s eight-count complaint was that in December 2009 Facebook changed its Web site so users’ list of friends and other information they may have designated as private was made public. Users were not warned the change was coming and Facebook did not seek their approval.

Under the proposed settlement, under which Facebook does not admit guilt, the online social networking company also would be required to create a program to address privacy risks associated with the development and management of new and existing products and services, and to protect the privacy and confidentiality of consumers’ information.

Within the next six month, and every two years after that for the next 20 years, Facebook would be required to obtain independent, third-party audits certifying it has a privacy program in place that meets or exceeds the requirements of the FTC order, and to ensure consumers’ privacy is protected.

The agreement, passed on a 4-0 commission vote, will be put up for public comment for 30 days, after which the commission will decide whether to make it final.

Teen charged in Craigslist slayings

CALDWELL, Ohio, Nov. 29 (UPI) — An Ohio youth suspected of killing at least two men who answered a Craigslist job ad was sent back to his cell Tuesday after a brief hearing in juvenile court.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Brogan Rafferty, 16, of Stow was to have had a hearing in Noble County Juvenile Court in Caldwell on whether he would be tried as an adult. However, the hearing was quickly continued until a yet-to-be-determined date after aggravated murder and complicity to aggravated murder were added to the juvenile counts lodged earlier, the newspaper said.

The Zanesville Times Recorder said the hearing was continued after a motion was filed to consolidate the cases against Rafferty.

“We’re praying for the families and the victims,” Rafferty’s mother, Michelle Y. Rafferty, told reporters afterward.

The teenager is suspected in the shooting deaths of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio.

Authorities had not yet linked him to the body of a third possible victim, a man found shot to death last week in Noble County whose identity has yet to be confirmed.

All three men had been shot in the head this month.

A second suspect, Richard J. Beasley, 52, of Akron, is accused of helping Rafferty try to kill a fourth man who was wounded in the arm while escaping his assailants. Beasley was being held in Summit County under $1 million bond on unrelated charges, the Dispatch said.

The online job ad offered $300 a week and a place to stay in return for working on a farm. The ad allegedly was a ploy to attract robbery victims.

Biden meeting with Iraqi leaders

BAGHDAD, Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Iraq Tuesday to meet with the country’s leaders less than a month before American troops pull out of the country.

Biden was to meet in Baghdad with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, President Jalal Talabani and other Iraqi officials, and to thank U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The vice president, whose visit was unannounced for security reasons, comes ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from the country.

The United States ended its combat mission in the country Aug. 31, 2010, when it reduced the number of troops to fewer than 50,000 from about 144,000 in January 2009.

During that span, a White House official noted, violence in Iraq has remained at its lowest level since 2003.

As part of the U.S-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement, the two countries are to strengthen cooperation on politics and diplomacy, trade and finance, energy services, technology, the environment, transportation, law enforcement, the judiciary, defense and security.

A meeting co-chaired by Biden, the Higher Coordinating Committee in Baghdad, will focus on such joint efforts and policy issues.

Issa asks automakers about Obama meetings

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., asked major U.S. automakers for details on closed-door meetings with the Obama administration.

Issa, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent letters Monday to the chief executive officers of 15 U.S. automakers, including Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, seeking information on the negotiations, The Hill reported Tuesday.

The talks resulted in stricter fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks.

“I am concerned about the agreements lack of transparency, the failure to conduct an open rulemaking process, as well as the potential for vehicle cost increases on consumers, and negative impact on American jobs,” Issa wrote to automakers in July at the start of the investigation.

Issa also has requested information on fuel-economy standards from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, The Hill said.

Iran spooked by U.S., Israeli covert ops

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Iranian news agencies reported an explosion Monday in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, which hosts a nuclear research facility, but on Tuesday the provincial deputy governor denied there had been any explosion.

It was never made clear where the reported blast occurred, although there was nothing to link it to the research facility attached to the city’s university.

But the explosion-that-never-was, the Iranians say, underlines how the country is being spooked by covert operations against its nuclear program by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services.

The Isfahan episode occurred just more than two weeks after a massive explosion at a ballistic missile base near Tehran killed the architect of Iran’s strategic missile program, Maj. Gen. Hassan Tehrani Moghaddam.

It also came hard on the heels of an Iranian announcement that security authorities had captured a dozen “CIA spies” targeting the nuclear program. That followed reports earlier in the week that other alleged CIA operatives had been rounded up in May.

None of the reports have been verified and the CIA declined comment, although agency officials had in recent days admitted — unusually — that bungled operations in Beirut against Hezbollah, Iran’s key proxy in Lebanon, had led to the capture of a dozen Lebanese informants.

“The U.S. and Zionist regime’s espionage apparatuses were trying to damage Iran both from outside and inside with a heavy blow, using regional intelligence services,” declared Parviz Sorouri of the Iranian Parliament’s national security committee.

Iranian officials say the Nov. 12 blast at the al-Ghadir base, a storage and testing area for Shehab-3 ballistic missiles, was an accident that occurred during the testing of a new missile.

Israel’s foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, has been widely seen as responsible for the explosion as part of its clandestine campaign to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. However, Iranian Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani denied that Israel was involved.

Israel has made no direct comment on this. However, Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor observed elliptically after Monday’s report of an explosion that in dealing with the Iranian threat “there are countries that impose economic sanctions and there are countries who act in other ways.”

Meantime, Brig. Gen. Ithai Baron, head of the research directorate of Israel’s Military Intelligence, told Parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Monday that al-Ghadir explosion could delay Tehran’s drive to produce intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching the Jewish state.

But he stressed, “We must emphasize that Iran has other development tracks in addition to that facility.”

The al-Ghadir blast followed the assassination and defection of several Iranian nuclear scientists and a formidable cyberwarfare assault, suspected to be run by Israeli intelligence, that damaged Iran’s nuclear program.

Iranian officials have copiously accused Israel and the United States of covert operations but insist that the al-Ghadir blast was an accident.

In recent days, Iran’s leading generals have been falling over themselves to warn the Americans and Israelis of the dire and terrible retaliation they face if the Islamic Republic is attacked, as Israel has threatened to do.

Veteran Middle East analyst Mahan Abedin sought to explain this paradox by observing: “Mischievous Israeli posturing notwithstanding, there is no evidence or credible information at this stage to suggest that the explosion at the al-Ghadir base was anything but an accident caused by an important experiment involving ballistic missiles and high explosives.

“But assuming the explosion was the result of sabotage, senior Iranian officials have two overriding reasons to insist on an accidental cause.

“In the very short term, an admission that sabotage is the cause runs the risk of inflaming public opinion with the resulting overwhelming demand for immediate retaliation,” Abedin noted.

“For various reasons — not least the desire to avoid escalation — Iranian leaders are not overly keen to respond to Israeli and American provocations which they view as a trap.

“At a deeper level, this remarkable forbearance in the face of seemingly intolerable provocations is the result of Iranian leaders’ strategic calculus.

“Iran’s leaders long ago concluded that enormous pressures — including sabotage operations — would be directed against the country to coerce the leadership to discontinue the nuclear program,” Abedin observed in an Asia Times analysis.

“By refusing to retaliate against the country’s enemies, Iranian leaders are sending yet another signal that they are committed to staying on the same strategic trajectory regardless of the costs.”

Ann Coulter calls McCain ‘douche bag’

NEW YORK, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Conservative pundit Ann Coulter Tuesday called U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a “douche bag” on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” television program.

Producers for former Rep. Joe Scarborough’s program failed in an attempt to censor Coulter’s choice words to describe the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, who said she prefers conservatives who stick to principles.

Coulter’s commentary was silenced three separate times for a total of 13 seconds, Politico reported.

“What did I say? Oh, douche bag,” Coulter was heard saying once she realized her audio had been cut.

“Just blur it all out,” Scarborough told producers in the control room.

“OK, well they got the general drift of that,” Coulter said. “Consistency is not a great thing, and especially someone like John McCain who consistently annoyed conservatives, bragged about annoying conservatives, and would claim he was courageous by attacking conservatives and getting good press in The New York Times.”

Iran apologizes for embassy protests

TEHRAN, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Police in Iran fired tear gas Tuesday on protesters who stormed the British Embassy in Tehran and tore down the British flag, state media reports.

Iran, through the semiofficial Fars News Agency, reports several people were injured, one critically, after police descended on protesters who stormed British Embassy grounds in central Tehran.

The protest, state media reports said, coincided with the first anniversary of the alleged assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist by British intelligence officers.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a statement, expressed his grave concern over the matter to his counterparts in Tehran. Iranian authorities, he said, are obligated under international law to ensure the protection of diplomats.

“The United Kingdom takes this irresponsible action extremely seriously,” he stressed.

The Fars report described the protesters as “self-motivated.” They managed to pry open the doors of the embassy and set British and Israeli flags on fire. Fars notes security officials arrested several of the demonstrators after gaining control of the situation.

Iran, state-funded broadcaster Press TV said, expressed regret over the incident. Hague, in his statement, confirmed the apology but stressed “this remains a very serious failure by the Iranian government.”

Tehran noted that all diplomats at the British Embassy were safe.

Tymoshenko appeal set for Thursday

KIEV, Ukraine, Nov. 29 (UPI) — The court of appeals in Ukraine will have a preliminary hearing Thursday on the conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko, her lawyer said.

Lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko said Thursday’s hearing would be a technical session though the appeal process should be outlined at that time. He alleged a district court in Kiev didn’t conduct its investigation properly.

“Of the 30 witnesses requested by the defense, only two were allowed to testify and even then their evidence wasn’t taken into consideration,” he was quoted by Tymoshenko’s Web site as saying.

Tymoshenko, 51, is serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges she abused her authority when, as prime minister, she helped broker a gas deal with Russian energy company Gazprom.

That deal secured natural gas supplies to Ukraine following contract disputes, though the current government in Kiev claims the deal hurt an economy battered by recession.

Tymoshenko is reportedly ill with unspecified ailments.

Kiev was moving closer to Europe before her October sentencing, though the European Union said it was reviewing its relationship with Ukraine over the matter.

Tymoshenko’s Western supporters say her sentence was a political move by the pro-Kremlin government in Kiev.

Western governments sanction DRC candidate

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — U.S., French and British governments have sanctioned a member of the Mai Mai militia for international rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The governments, in a statement, said they’ve sanctioned Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka, the leader of the militia, for blocking reconciliation efforts in the DRC and for “serious” violations of international law “involving the targeting of children.”

“Our missions strongly encourage the Congolese government to implement the existing arrest warrant currently outstanding against Sheka,” the statement read.

The decision follows reports of violence in the DRC following the country’s second democratic election since gaining independence in 1960.

The DRC government said gunmen killed five people during an attack on a polling station and several polling stations were torched across the country. Voting was carried over to a second day Tuesday, London’s Guardian newspaper reports.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said Washington has heard reports of “some anomalies” during the voting process but said “we’ll wait and see” before making a final assessment of the vote.

Thousands of candidates competed for seats on the country’s legislative assembly. President Joseph Kabila was expected to fend of challenges from a handful of candidates and win re-election.

Sheka was among the candidates running for legislative office. Authorities issued an arrest warrant for him on mass rape charges in January.

Witnesses said armed members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, and the Mai Mai militia were behind widespread sexual violence in DRC. The FDLR is linked to the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

London backs probe into Pakistani strikes

LONDON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Peace must be the top priority for the AfPak region, London said in backing an investigation into a NATO airstrike that killed several Pakistani soldiers.

Anonymous Afghan security officials, speaking to The Washington Post, said U.S. Special Operations forces, working alongside Afghan commandos, called in an airstrike when they came under fire on the Pakistani side of the border in a weekend raid. Islamabad said the strike was unprovoked, blaming NATO allies for the deaths of several Pakistani soldiers.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said U.S. President Barack Obama takes the deaths “very seriously” as NATO forces braced for possible Pakistani-backed insurgent reprisals. British Foreign Secretary William Hague, through his spokesman, expressed his condolences and said an investigation was warranted.

“It is more important than ever that all parties do their utmost to improve mutual peace and security, which will be to the benefit of all the countries in the region,” Hague’s office said in a statement.

Ties between Washington and Islamabad are at an all-time low, complicating the international mission in Afghanistan.

Islamabad said it was boycotting a conference on Afghanistan next week in Germany in protest of the NATO raid.

Pakistani Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told the BBC the strike was a violation of national sovereignty.

“The Cabinet has unanimously agreed to boycott the Bonn conference and described the NATO strikes as a violation of all terms and conditions we have with NATO,” she said.

U.N. tells Yemen to Implement transition

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 29 (UPI) — The U.N. Security Council called on Yemen to honor the timetable for political reform, as outlined by the Gulf Cooperation Council, in a transparent fashion.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh signed a deal to step down in deal brokered by the GCC. Saleh had promised to sign the initiative multiple times since early this year before following through during meetings in Saudi Arabia last week.

Saleh handed power over to Yemen’s vice president. Yemen is to have presidential elections within 90 days and implement a constitutional review.

The Security Council, in a statement, called on all parties to honor the agreement “in a serious, transparent and timely manner and in a spirit of inclusion and reconciliation.”

Jamal Benomar, the U.N. special adviser on Yemen, said the political transition should include all members of Yemeni society.

“The implementation envisions meaningful participation across the full political spectrum, including the youth who paved the way for this change in the political order,” he said in a statement.

Saleh announced Monday that he issued a general amnesty for those who “committed errors” during the 10-month political crisis in his country.

Egyptian court extends blogger’s detention

CAIRO, Nov. 29 (UPI) — An Egyptian court ordered a blogger detained 15 more days as authorities investigate charges he incited violence during a Coptic Christian protest in October.

The Supreme State Security Prosecution, a civilian court, extended the detention for blogger Alaa Abdel Fattah, who appeared before a military court Oct. 31, Bikyamasr.com reported.

Abdel Fattah had refused to testify in front of the military court, saying the country’s military courts did not have authority and refusing to acknowledge fabricated charges.

Military authorities detained him for 30 days and when his case was transferred to the civilian court Monday, it extended his detention 15 days.

Abdel Fattah, a prominent blogger, has been a vocal critic of the country’s military rulers.

He was accused of inciting violence in the Oct. 9 clash between troops and Coptic Christians in which a military crackdown left 27 people dead and nearly 300 injured.

The country’s interim military rulers, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, accused him of stealing weapons from soldiers and assaulting officers.

Bikyamasr.com reported activists and witnesses disputed the accusations.

The military courts, criticized for harsh sentences and lack of proper legal procedures, have tried and sentenced 12,000 Egyptian civilians since the council assumed power in February, an Egyptian human rights group estimated.

U.S. weighs arms sales to Bahrain

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (UPI) — Washington is waiting to see what Bahrain does regarding the findings of a human rights commission before moving forward with an arms sale, an official said.

Washington was criticized for taking a soft stance against Bahrain as the Sunni-led kingdom cracked down against a Shiite uprising early this year, a response that included Saudi security forces.

The U.S. State Department said it would review the findings of Bahrain’s independent human rights report on the unrest before moving ahead with a $53 million arms sale, which included armored vehicles and wire-guided missiles.

Mark Toner, a spokesman for the State Department, said Washington was “going to wait and see” how Bahrain implements the findings of a human rights report before moving ahead with the deal.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry found state security forces used unnecessary lethal force during the crackdown. Mohammed bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, the country’s deputy prime minister, said during the weekend a national commission was reviewing BICI’s findings.

Toner added it would be a “significant period of time” before the weapons deal moves forward.

Bahrain is home port to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.