NATO will start drawing down its troops in Afghanistan next July and its combat role in the war-torn nation will end by 2014 or earlier so security can be turned over to the Afghans, a top alliance official said Friday. "We think that goal is realistic, and we have made plans to achieve it, but of course if circumstances agree, it could be sooner, absolutely," said Mark Sedwill, NATO's top civilian representative in Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke hit back at critics, both at home and abroad, who have challenged the central bank's $600 billion bond-purchase program. In a speech in Germany, he argued that Congress must help support the Fed's program with further stimulus aid. And he issued a stern warning to China, saying it and other emerging nations are putting the global economy at risk by keeping their currencies artificially low.
DUBLIN (AP) — Irish, European and International Monetary Fund officials mounted tough negotiations Friday over terms of a massive credit line for Ireland's debt-crippled banks — with the fate of Ireland's prized low business taxes in the firing line. Irish officials said talks were under way at several locations in Dublin involving different government departments and agencies and more than 40 officials from the European Central Bank and Washington-based IMF. Most arrived Friday.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A gas explosion ripped through one of New Zealand's largest coal mines Friday while dozens of workers were underground. Five of them, dazed and slightly injured, stumbled to the surface hours later, and 27 were missing, officials said. Police said that shortly before the blast the electricity went out in the mine, which may have caused ventilation problems. That may have contributed to a buildup of gas underground. Rescue teams were waiting for word that the mine was safe to enter.
MOSCOW (AP) — Is the reset on the rocks? Rumblings in Washington by the resurgent Republican Party against Senate ratification of the New START nuclear arms reduction treaty raise doubts about a fragile U.S.-Russian rapprochement — the "reset" that has been a centerpiece of President Obama's diplomacy.
BANGKOK (AP) — Thai police investigating a strong smell emanating from a Buddhist temple have found more than 2,000 fetuses hidden in the complex's morgue that appear to have come from illegal abortion clinics. During an initial investigation at the temple in Bangkok on Tuesday, police discovered piles of plastic bags containing more than 300 fetuses. Police Lt. Col. Kanathud Musiganont said workers pulled more bodies from the temple's morgue Friday. More than 2,000 have been unearthed from vaults where bodies are traditionally interred pending cremation, which under some circumstances can take place years after death.
BEIJING (AP) — Pollution in Beijing was so bad Friday the U.S. Embassy, which has been independently monitoring air quality, ran out of conventional adjectives to describe it, at one point saying it was "crazy bad." The embassy later deleted the phrase, saying it was an "incorrect" description and it would revise the language to use when the air quality index goes above 500, its highest point and a level considered hazardous for all people by U.S. standards.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Michael Harden's problems were just beginning when agents rolled up to his cluttered trailer to arrest him for letting the battery in his GPS ankle bracelet run low, making it difficult to track the movements of the paroled child molester. Then the agents found something even more disturbing: graphically sexual photographs on his cell phone. Seven months after he left prison, the 44-year-old Sacramento man was on his way back.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists have discovered the first planet from another galaxy, sort of. While some 500 planets have been identified in other parts of our galaxy — the Milky Way — none has been reported in other galaxies.
PADUA, Italy (AP) — Italian prosecutor Benedetto Roberti has confirmed that he met with American investigators at Interpol headquarters in France this week regarding an international inquiry into doping in cycling. Roberti, who has carried out numerous doping investigations from his base in Padua, told The Associated Press on Friday that the meeting was mostly "an exchange of information regarding the international traffic of banned substances," but also indicated that the Americans are focused on seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, who has always denied doping.