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Iraq records huge rise in birth defects linked to US invasion

Iraq birth defectsA new study reports a "staggering rise" in birth defects among Iraqi children conceived in the aftermath of the war.

High rates of miscarriage, toxic levels of lead and mercury contamination and spiralling numbers of birth defects ranging from congenital heart defects to brain dysfunctions and malformed limbs have been recorded. Even more disturbingly, they appear to be occurring at an increasing rate in children born in Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

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Report says U.S., Israel plan Iran strike

US and Israel plan Iran strikeThe United States and Israel are considering a surgical strike on Iran's nuclear enrichment facilities, Foreign Policy magazine says.

Based on a source reported to be close to discussions between the sides, the report published Monday maintains the strike may only take "a couple of hours" involving a "day or two," and would be conducted using "primarily bombers and drone support."

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Afghan war enters 12th year

Afghan WarNobody wants a repeat of the bloody ethnic fighting that followed the Soviet exit from Afghanistan in the 1990s - least of all 32-year-old Wahidullah who was crippled by a bullet that pierced his spine during the civil war.

Yet as the Afghan war began its 12th year on Sunday, fears loom that the country will again fracture along ethnic lines once international combat forces leave by the end of 2014.

"It was a very bad situation," said Wahidullah, who was a teenager when he was wounded in the 1992-1996 civil war. "All these streets around here were full of bullet shells, burned tanks and vehicles," he added, squinting into a setting sun that cast a golden glow on the bombed-out Darulaman Palace still standing in west Kabul not far from where he was wounded.

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US military deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 after 11 years of war

US war deadU.S. military deaths in the Afghan war have reached 2,000, a cold reminder of the human cost of an 11-year-old conflict that garners little public interest at home as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014.

The toll has climbed steadily in recent months with a spate of attacks by Afghan army and police against American and NATO troops, and questions about whether allied countries will achieve their aim of helping the Afghan government and its forces stand on their own after most foreign troops depart in little more than two years.

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Annan: Blair could have prevented Iraq War

Kofi AnnanFormer U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says former British Prime Minister Tony Blair could have averted the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Annan, in an interview with The Times of London, said he wonders what would have happened if Blair had told former President George W. Bush he would not go to war without a second U.N. resolution.

"I really think it could have stopped the war," he said. "It would have given the Americans a pause. It would have given them a very serious pause to think it through. ... All this would have raised a question: 'Do we go this alone?'"

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Afghan troops get a lesson in American cultural ignorance

US cultural ignoranceeA new Afghan army-issued guide explains to soldiers here that when their Western counterparts do something deeply insulting, it’s likely a product of cultural ignorance and not worthy of revenge.

Eleven years into the war in Afghanistan, NATO troops and Afghan soldiers are still beset by a dangerous lack of cultural understanding, officials say, contributing to a string of insider attacks that have threatened to undermine the military partnership. Fifty-one coalition troops have been killed this year by their Afghan counterparts.

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Drone strikes in Pakistan have killed many civilians, study says

Drone deathsFar more civilians have been killed by U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas than U.S. counter-terrorism officials have acknowledged, a new study by human rights researchers at Stanford University and New York University contends.

The report, "Living Under Drones," also concludes that the classified CIA program has not made America any safer and instead has turned the Pakistani public against U.S. policy in the volatile region. It recommends that the Obama administration reevaluate the program to make it more transparent and accountable, and to prove compliance with international law.

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