Gbagbo’s Son Charged In Violence

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, Aug. 11 (UPI) — The son of Ivory Coast’s former president is among 12 people charged in the post-election violence in which an estimated 3,000 people died, officials said.

Michel Gbagbo was charged with other allies of his father, Laurent Gbagbo, including Pascal Affi N’Guessan, the former prime minister and leader of Gbagbo’s Ivorian Popular Front, the BBC reported Wednesday.

Those charged were among among dozens of people placed under house arrest along with Gbagbo in April. With the exception of Gbagbo and his wife Simone, all have been charged in the violence that rocked the African country for five months after the presidential election when Gbagbo refused to leave so the internationally recognized winner Alassane Ouattara could assume office.

The 12 were charged with participating in an armed insurrection and attempting to undermine the state. They are being held in separate towns and could be investigated by the International Criminal Court, the BBC said.

Human rights groups have decried the detentions, saying Gbagbo supporters should either be charged or release.

While Ouattara has said both sides would face justice if they committed crimes during the dispute, not one of his supporters has been arrested, observers said.

Jerusalem To Get Thousands Of New Units

JERUSALEM, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai approved the construction of 1,600 housing units in Jerusalem and plans to okay 2,700 more next week, officials said.

Aides close to Yishai said the minister is trying to ease the housing shortage in the capital, said Thursday.

The move to approve 4,300 housing units in Jerusalem is likely to draw fresh international condemnation.

Yishai Thursday approved 1,600 housing units in Ramat Shlomo in northeast Jerusalem, and Army Radio reported.

In the coming days he plans to approve construction of 700 housing units in Pisgat Ze’ev in East Jerusalem and 2,000 units in Givat Hamatos in southern Jerusalem, said. Both neighborhoods are over the Green Line, in areas Israel annexed following the Six Days War.

Last year during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel, Yishai approved construction of 1,600 units in Ramat Shlomo. The move drew a sharp rebuke from Biden, who said it would undermine the peace process. Israel-U.S. ties were affected and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu imposed a freeze on construction.

Thursday’s announcement came days after the ministry’s Housing and Planning Committee approved 700 housing units in Har Homa, drawing sharp condemnation from the United States and European Union.

Twin Blasts Kill Several In Peshawar

PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Two blasts Thursday in Peshawar, Pakistan, one of them by a teenage girl suicide attacker at a police checkpoint, killed several people, police said.

The blasts ended nearly two months of calm in the violence ravaged city, capital of the northwest Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province near the country’s tense tribal region bordering Afghanistan, Geo News reported.

The suicide attack occurred minutes after another explosion nearby that targeted a police truck, CNN reported.

At least seven people including the suicide bomber died in the two blasts, the report said quoting authorities. China’s Xinhua news agency, quoting local television, reported eight people died in the attacks.

At least 37 more were wounded in the two attacks, Geo News said. Those killed included five police officers.

“This was a female suicide bomber aged around 17 or 18 who threw a hand grenade on the police checkpoint, 20 meters (21 yards) away from the site of the first blast, and then blew herself up,” a police official told Geo News.

“Her vest did not explode completely. She was killed and another woman was also killed … We feel that she was just a passerby,” a hospital spokesman said.

The police official said those injured included a 10-year-old boy.

In the first attack targeting the police truck, the bomb, hidden in a handcart and set off remotely, tore through vehicle carrying 20 police personnel.

CNN reported although the region has been hit by bombings, attacks by a female suicide bomber are rare.

The report quoted police as saying casualties in the suicide bomb attack were low because the attacker’s explosives-packed vest did not function properly.

In December 2010, a teenage female suicide bomber killed more than 40 people and injured more than 100 others at a food distribution point in Pakistan’s tribal region.

The Xinhua report, quoting local reports, said Thursday’s attacks may have been to avenge a police search operation the previous day in which a Taliban leader was arrested.

Also on Wednesday, a suspected U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan killed about 20 fighters suspected of belonging to the Haqqani network.

N.Y. State Lawmaker’s Car Hit By Gunfire

NEW YORK, Aug. 11 (UPI) — A New York state lawmaker and his son were unharmed after the vehicle they were riding in was hit by gunfire, a police spokeswoman said.

Deputy Inspector Kim Royster said police do not believe Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr., who represents part of Brooklyn, was the intended target in Wednesday’s incident, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The gunfire, Royster said, appeared to be “a random shooting.”

“It doesn’t seem they were aiming at the vehicle,” the police spokeswoman said.

The shooting occurred as Boyland was returning from a barber shop, authorities said. After hearing several shots fired, Boyland pulled over his vehicle over and called police.

Royster said Boyland, 40, a four-term assemblyman, did not know the sport utility vehicle he was driving had been hit. Royster said the back window was shattered and investigators recovered a bullet from one of the front seats.

“I asked him what happened and he said, ‘Somebody tried to shoot me through the window,'” witness Israel Narvaez told the New York Post. “The son looked like he was in shock. I asked if they wanted something to drink. The kid was obviously scared, I got him a soda.”

Boyland was indicted in March in a bribery and corruption scandal along with other lawmakers, the Times said. He pleaded not guilty to charges of accepting money as a consultant in return for his influence on behalf of MediSys Health Network.

Obama’s Schedule For Thursday, Aug. 11

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) — President Obama will discuss the role innovative technologies will play in helping automakers achieve fuel efficiency standards Thursday, the White House said.

The daily schedule indicates Obama will:

— Travel to Holland, Mich., where he will tour the Johnson Controls Inc. advanced battery facility and speak about innovative technology’s role in the economic and job growth in the United States.

— Travel to New York, where he will speak at two Democratic National Committee events.

U.S. Pumps $175 Million Into Vehicle Tech

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) — More than $175 million during the next five years would help manufacturers develop more advanced and fuel-efficient vehicles, the U.S. Energy Department said.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that about 40 efforts across 15 states would target projects ranging from better fuels to lighter materials and longer-lasting batteries.

“Investments in the next generation of autos will strengthen our economy and lead to a more fuel-efficient, clean energy future,” Chu said in a statement.

The announcement follows a series of new automotive and truck standards for future model years.

U.S. President Barack Obama announced that standards for trucks and buses built in 2014 through 2018 will reduce oil consumption by a projected 530 million barrels and greenhouse gas pollution by approximately 270 million metric tons.

Obama unveiled new fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks in July. Over a series of incremental increases, the standards would impose restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions and push fuel efficiency standards to the equivalent of more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025.

Members of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives said the measures are too strict. They are lower than those in place in China and the European Union, however.

No Jail For California Woman Who Fed Bears

LAYTONVILLE, Calif., Aug. 11 (UPI) — Prosecutors in California agreed to drop charges against a woman who fed bears on her property if she stays away from the animals for three years.

The prosecutors said Lynne Gravier, 77, of Laytonville, who pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of feeding big game, will be cleared of the charge in three years if she abides by orders to cease feeding the black bears, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.

The California Department of Fish and Game said Gravier’s home was condemned last year after she was found to have been feeding corn meal and peanut butter sandwiches to bears on her property. The department said Gravier also put out wading pools for the bears.

“The end result to me was very positive,” said Gravier, whose home was condemned following an Aug. 24, 2010, raid. “I’m glad that it is over and I can go on.”

Gravier, who authorities said will not be allowed to return to her home, said she will abide by the instructions of prosecutors but she plans to continue advocating for black bears.

Obama: High-tech Automaking Creates Jobs

HOLLAND, Mich., Aug. 11 (UPI) — New auto technologies will create jobs and help automakers meet higher mileage requirements and lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, the White House said.

Technological advances, combined with new mandates requiring automakers to bring their average fuel mileage for passenger cars to 55.4 miles per gallon by 2025 from the current 27 mpg mandate, “represent the largest single step our nation has ever taken to reduce our dependence on oil,” Heather Zichal, who coordinates the administration’s energy and climate policy, told reporters ahead of a trip by President Barack Obama Thursday to Holland, Mich., to tour a Johnson Controls Inc. advanced battery facility.

“This facility just emphasizes the administration’s commitment both to job creation and investment in clean-energy technologies,” Zichal said.

“Because of the critical investment we have made and because of innovative companies like Johnson Controls, the United States will soon have the ability to produce enough batteries to support 500,000 plug-in and hybrid vehicles,” she said.

Obama, who made similar remarks July 29 when he announced the 55.4 mpg fuel-efficiency standards for light-duty vehicles, was expected to deliver remarks at 2:40 p.m. EDT highlighting “the key role innovative technologies will play in helping automakers achieve the historic fuel-economy standards, establishing U.S. leadership in advanced vehicle manufacturing, spurring economic growth and creating high-quality domestic jobs in cutting-edge industries across America,” the White House said late Wednesday.

Obama visited Interstate Moving Services in Springfield, Va., Tuesday to announce the final fuel-efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles such as work trucks, buses, garbage trucks and heavier vehicles.

Big tractor-trailer trucks, for instance, will have to get 20 percent more miles per gallon by the 2018 model year under the first-ever fuel economy rules for heavy vehicles.

Total benefits, including less time spent refueling and lower global-warming emissions, were expected to exceed the projected costs of $8 billion by $49 billion over the trucks’ lifetime, the Environmental Protection Agency said.

The rules will save about 500 million barrels of oil over the vehicles’ life, the administration said.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the Tuesday and Thursday events “highlight this administration’s ongoing commitment to saving families and American businesses money at the pump, slashing our dependence on oil and creating cutting-edge jobs.”

Obama has called for getting 1 million plug-in electric hybrids on U.S. roadways by 2015, The Detroit News reported.

Congress created a $25 billion advanced-technology vehicles manufacturing loan program in 2008 to help U.S. automakers make vehicles that meet higher-mileage requirements and lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Obama plans to travel around the Midwest for three days next week on an “economic bus tour,” the White House said.

Palin To Appear In Iowa After GOP Debate

AMES, Iowa, Aug. 11 (UPI) — Ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is to visit the Iowa State Fair after GOP presidential hopefuls debate but before Saturday’s Iowa straw poll, her office said.

“We accept with gratefulness an invitation to meet folks at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines,” she said in an e-mail her political action committee sent to supporters announcing the resumption of her “One Nation Tour” that spotlighted iconic U.S. destinations in the Northeast in May and June.

The fair is a popular stop for White House contenders and her appearance could coincide with those of declared Republican hopefuls Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who are also due there Friday.

Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has said she will announce by next month whether she intends to run for president. She is to deliver the keynote address at a Sept. 3 Tea Party of America “Restoring America” rally in Waukee, Iowa, near Des Moines.

Thursday’s nationally televised GOP hopefuls debate, sponsored by Fox News Channel and The Washington Examiner, begins at 8 p.m. CDT (9 p.m. EDT) and is to feature eight of nine candidates.

Pawlenty, who has lagged in polls and fundraising, has invested more time and resources in Iowa than any other candidate. He will likely get aggressive with national front-runner former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and highlight his own executive experience to set himself apart from Bachmann, who is leading Iowa opinion polls, the Examiner said.

Romney — who will skip the non-binding Ames Straw Poll after winning it in 2007 to focus on actual nominating contests in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida — will likely try to focus on President Barack Obama and his perceived failings in handling of the economy, the Examiner said.

Bachmann, a native Iowan widely considered the straw poll favorite, is expected to combat Pawlenty’s claims her rhetoric masks a lack of accomplishment, the Examiner said. She could also be asked to explain her views on homosexuality and her family’s acceptance of federal farm subsidy payments.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who was recently Obama’s ambassador to China, will make his debate debut Thursday night and is expected to emphasize his self-professed centrist appeal, which he says gives him a general-election advantage over the other hopefuls in defeating his former boss.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, a fringe candidate in the 2008 race, is sometimes described as the “intellectual godfather” of the Tea Party philosophy and is now credited even by his rivals with helping shift the GOP focus to the nation’s burgeoning debt and faithfulness to the Constitution, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — who struggled to explain how spending large sums on jewelry fit with his message of the virtues of fiscal conservatism, will likely rail against big-government policies he says stifle economic growth, the Examiner said. His boast that his 1.3 million Twitter followers outnumbered those of Romney and Bachmann by a factor of 10 was also shown by fact-checking organization PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter to be mostly false.

Former Godfather’s Pizza Chief Executive Officer Herman Cain is expected to criticize Obama and emphasize his business experience and outsider status, the Examiner said.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a close ally of former President George W. Bush, is a social conservative who says he believes strongly in “the culture of life.” He is a high-profile crusader against abortion and same-sex marriage who as a senator focused on national security, foreign policy and so-called entitlement programs.

Not participating in the debate is openly gay candidate Fred Karger, who claims he meets the Fox News Channel criteria but was disallowed. The criteria include earning an average of at least 1 percent in five “most recent” national polls.

Karger, a senior consultant to the presidential campaigns of George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, met the average polling results but included three polls, one by Harris Interactive and two by Zogby International, that FNC said didn’t qualify because they were conducted online rather than over the phone.

FNC said one of its own polls that Karger submitted was too old to be considered “most recent” because it was conducted April 27.

Karger said FNC’s criteria “never specified” the polls had to be conducted by telephone and never defined “most recent.” Karger said he would file a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission and created Web site to gather support.

He said he believed FNC excluded him because his “centrist” positions “would be appealing to a broad range” of voters, the Keen News Service reported.

Obama Ready To Call On Assad To Resign

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11 (UPI) — The Obama administration is poised to harden its position and call on Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up power, administration officials said.

President Barack Obama “believes that Syria will be better off … without President Assad,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

The administration will cite the brutality Assad has inflicted on Syrians in the five-month uprising and Assad’s failure to put into practice meaningful political reforms despite multiple promises to do so, the officials said.

The precise timing and content of a presidential statement was still under discussion, officials told Britain’s The Guardian, partly because the administration wants a full account of Assad’s nearly 7-hour meeting Tuesday with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

During that Damascus meeting Turkey warned Assad he would face the fate of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi — whose regime is being attacked by NATO airstrikes — if he didn’t end the bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters and begin a process of reform.

The meeting was followed Wednesday by a demand from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Assad end the violence and change his ways within 15 days.

The official Syrian Arab News Agency said Wednesday Assad would continue the crackdown and “not be tolerant in pursuing the armed terrorist groups for the sake of protecting [the] homeland’s stability and citizens’ security.” The regime refers to government opponents as “terrorist groups.”

Assad admitted Wednesday Syrian security forces had made “some mistakes” in the early stages of the uprising, which began March 15 when residents of a small southern city took to the streets to protest the March 6 arrest and torture of students who had put up pro-democracy graffiti.

He told deputy foreign minister delegates from U.N. Security Council members Brazil, India and South Africa that “efforts were under way to prevent their recurrence,” a statement released by India’s U.N. mission said.

Rights groups say more than 2,000 people have died in protests since the uprising started, with at least 35 deaths reported Wednesday.

Assad told the delegation “political reforms were being finalized in consultation with the people of Syria and the national dialogue would continue to give shape to the new laws and to arrive at a suitable model for the economy,” the Indian statement said.

It said Assad promised a multi-party democracy by the end of this year and complete constitutional revisions by February or March 2012.

Brazil, India and South Africa have refused to support strong U.N. action against Syria.

The 15-member council was privately briefed on Syria Wednesday afternoon by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Oscar Fernandez-Taranco.

Britain’s Deputy U.N. Ambassador Philip Parham told reporters later he considered the briefing “chilling” and “depressing.”

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Washington had evidence of “crimes” in Syria and was ready to use it to step up pressure on Assad.

“He has lost his legitimacy … and Syria would be a better place without him,” she said, echoing Carney’s words.

Syrian U.N. Ambassador Bashar Jaafar said the Western envoys “tried to manipulate the truth and to hide important facts and elements related to the so-called situation in Syria.”

“Deliberately they ignored and avoided making reference to very important and positive progress that has been achieved in my country,” he said, citing Davutoglu’s meeting Tuesday and the Brazilian, Indian and South African meeting Wednesday.