Bin Laden tape calls for suicide bombings

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

An audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden exhorts Muslims to rise up against Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other governments it claims are “agents of America,” and calls for suicide attacks against U.S. and British interests to “avenge the innocent children” of Iraq.

The 27-minute tape quotes extensively from the Muslim holy book, the Quran, and says jihad, or holy war, in this context is the “only solution to all the problems.”

The tape was obtained Monday by The Associated Press from an Algerian national, known as Aadil, who said he had slipped across the border from Afghanistan, where the tape was apparently recorded.

There was no way immediately to confirm that the voice on the tape was that of the al-Qaida chief.

But it was translated by an Arabic-speaking Afghan who met with bin Laden years ago and said he believed the voice was his.

There also was no clear indication of when the tape was made, although it references the war in Iraq and the leaders who launched it, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“You should avenge the innocent children who have been assassinated in Iraq.


Radical Serbian group pegged as assassins

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro

The assassination of Serbia’s prime minister was orchestrated by a shadowy group that wanted to replace the pro-Western government with allies of Slobodan Milosevic, investigators said yesterday.

The group behind Zoran Djindjic’s March 12 killing – called the “Hague Brotherhood” – hoped the assassination would create widespread chaos and planned to follow with a coup against Serbia’s government, the officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

But Djindjic’s Democratic Party quickly named a successor after his death and police cracked down hard, arresting 7,000 people, effectively spoiling the plan. The assassins also may have been caught off-guard by the huge public outpouring of grief over Djindjic’s death – nearly 1 million people attended his funeral.

Police believe a feared paramilitary group known as the Unit for Special Operations, formed during Milosevic’s rule, played a large role in the Hague Brotherhood. Its deputy commander, Zvezdan Jovanovic, was arrested soon after Djindjic’s slaying on suspicion of being the assassin.


Crude oil, gas prices continue to drop

WASHINGTON

After falling nearly a dime in three weeks, gasoline prices are expected to keep sliding to a national average of $1.56 a gallon this summer thanks to lower oil prices and optimism about the war in Iraq, the government says.

The Energy Department’s statistical agency revised its price forecast sharply downward yesterday to reflect the recent fall in crude oil prices. It also warned of uncertainties that could cause prices of both crude oil and gasoline to rebound.

The price of crude, which hit a high of nearly $40 a barrel on Feb. 27, was around $28 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday. It has dropped by about 20 percent since the war began in Iraq.

A month ago, before the war in Iraq, the agency predicted gas prices would average more than $1.70 a gallon through the summer, hitting 1.76 this month.


Colorado to use new schoool vouchers

DENVER

Colorado will soon become the first state with public school vouchers since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling declared such programs constitutional.

Republican Gov. Bill Owens is expected to sign a bill into law this month that will allow public schools to pay private or religious schools to educate low-income children. Other states, including Texas and Louisiana, are considering similar plans.

Owens, who campaigned for vouchers as a legislator, said approval of the plan was a milestone.

“It sends a powerful message that our education system exists for one simple reason, to provide access to a quality education for every child,” he said.

A goal of conservatives for years, vouchers were twice rejected by Colorado voters. But the bill was pushed through the Legislature after Republicans won control in November’s elections.


Childhood obsesity linked to depression

CHICAGO

A study has found a startling level of despair among obese children, with many rating their quality of life as low as that of young cancer patients on chemotherapy.

The research published in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association offers a glimpse of what life is like for many obese youngsters nationwide.

They are teased about their size, have trouble playing sports and suffer physical ailments linked to their weight.The study was published in an edition of the journal devoted to obesity research. It also comes amid growing concern about the nation’s obesity epidemic and recent data suggesting 15 percent of U.S. youngsters are severely overweight or obese.

Obesity researcher Kelly Brownell, who runs a Yale University weight disorders center, said the increasing prevalence of obesity hasn’t made it any less stigmatizing.

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