TUNIS, Tunisia – The funeral of an assassinated leftist politician drew hundreds of thousands of mourners chanting anti-government slogans to the Tunisian capital Friday – as well as gangs of armed youths who smashed cars and clashed with police just outside the cemetery.
Hours later, the prime minister insisted he’d try to form a new government despite his own party’s opposition, threatening to resign if his proposal wasn’t accepted.
The events added to the growing turmoil in Tunisia, where the transition from dictatorship to democracy has been shaken by religious divides, political wrangling and economic struggles.
‘Hell of a ride,’ says outgoing Panetta
Calling it the honor of my life, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said farewell to the U.S. military Friday, capping a venerated public service career that spanned four decades and included stints as a lawmaker, a top White House official and the spy chief who oversaw the killing of Osama bin Laden.
President Obama, honoring his first-term Pentagon chief at a ceremony at a military base outside Washington, said Panetta would be remembered for welcoming more Americans into the military by opening combat roles to women and overseeing the repeal of a ban on gays serving openly – In short, for making our military and our nation that much stronger.
It’s been, for me, a hell of a ride, said Panetta, who served in Congress and in the Clinton administration before becoming Obama’s CIA director and ultimately serving a brief but pivotal term as defense secretary.
Tour bus operator in fatal crash halted
Federal regulators Friday ordered Scapadas Magicas LLC, the tour bus operator involved in a Southern California crash that killed eight people, to immediately stop operating because its buses weren’t properly maintained or inspected and its drivers weren’t properly vetted for qualifications.
The roadworthiness of the 1996 bus involved in the Sunday crash has been in doubt after the driver said the brakes failed on a road in the San Bernardino Mountains east of Los Angeles.
Flu season shows signs of ending
The worst of the flu season appears to be over.
The number of states reporting intense or widespread illnesses dropped again last week, and in a few states there was very little flu going around, U.S. health officials said Friday.
The season started earlier than normal, first in the Southeast and then spreading. But now, by some measures, flu activity has been ebbing for at least four weeks in much of the country.
Flu and pneumonia deaths also dropped the last two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Ailing man issues call for help via dog
It’s the kind of thing Lassie did. A Tumwater, Wash., police detective says an ailing homeless man attached a note seeking help to his dog’s harness and sent the animal out in hopes someone would read the message.
Detective Jen Kolb tells Seattle’s KIRO-TV that a woman walking her dog along railroad tracks Wednesday spotted the dog with the note that read, Send Help. No Joke. Cannot walk. It also said, Medicine not working. Need doctor.
The note was unsigned, but police eventually found the man’s camp. KIRO reports the man was treated at an Olympia hospital and released.
Rebels taking fight to Damascus’ center
Syrian rebels brought their fight within a mile of the heart of Damascus on Friday, seizing army checkpoints and cutting a key highway with a row of burning tires as they pressed their campaign for the heavily guarded capital, considered the likely endgame in the nearly 2-year-old civil war.
The clashes raised fears that Damascus, a major cultural center and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, could fall victim to a protracted battle that would bring the destruction seen in other major cities and trigger a refugee exodus into neighboring countries.
Accused of sorcery, woman burned alive
A mob stripped, tortured and bound a woman accused of witchcraft, then burned her alive in front of hundreds of witnesses in a Papua New Guinea town, police said.
Kepari Leniata, a 20-year-old mother, had been accused of sorcery by relatives of a 6-year-old boy who died in a hospital Tuesday.
National police spokesman Dominic Kakas described the victim’s husband as the prime suspect and said the man had fled the province.
In rural Papua New Guinea, witchcraft is often blamed for unexplained misfortunes. Sorcery has traditionally been countered by sorcery, but responses to allegations of witchcraft have become increasingly violent in recent years.