Syria spillover exposes Lebanon's thin veneer of stability
BEIRUT | Potentially the most unstable country in the Middle East, Lebanon for the most part has stayed on the sidelines of the Arab Spring, keeping up appearances as an oasis of relative modernity, commerce and good times.
But the spillover effects of the Syrian war are ripping off that thin veneer.
Beneath the surface lurk the same forces that devastated the country during its years of civil war, with simmering hatreds still dividing Muslims and Christians, Sunni and Shiites, and secular and fundamentalist groups. Outside forces are still arrayed, militias are still armed and the country seems forever on the verge of tearing itself apart.
"Of all Syria's neighbors, Lebanon is the weakest, the most political and ideologically polarized and split among sectarian lines," said Fawaz A. Gerges, head of the Middle East Center at the London School of Economics. "The fear is not if the Syrian conflict will spill over — but whether it has already reached the streets of Beirut."
Clintons, celebrities land in Haiti to showcase industrial park
CARACOL, Haiti | Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton encouraged foreigners to invest in Haiti as she and her husband Bill led a star-studded delegation gathered Monday to inaugurate a new industrial park at the center of U.S. efforts to help the country rebuild after the 2010 earthquake.
Actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller, fashion designer Donna Karan and British business magnate Richard Branson were among the luminaries at the opening of the new Caracol Industrial Park, which is projected to create thousands of jobs more than 100 miles from the quake-ravaged capital of Port-au-Prince.
7 experts convicted in Italy for not warning of quake risk
L'AQUILA, Italy | In a verdict that sent shock waves through the scientific community, an Italian court convicted seven experts of manslaughter on Monday for failing to adequately warn residents of the risk before an earthquake struck central Italy in 2009, killing more than 300 people.
The defendants, all prominent scientists or geological and disaster experts, were sentenced to six years in prison.
Earthquake experts worldwide decried the trial as ridiculous, contending there was no way of knowing that a flurry of tremors would lead to a deadly quake.
"It's a sad day for science," said seismologist Susan Hough, of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena, Calif. "It's unsettling."
In Italy, convictions aren't definitive until after at least one appeal, so it was unlikely any of the defendants would face jail immediately.
France to send drones to Mali region against al-Qaida rebels
PARIS (AP) — France will move surveillance drones to West Africa and is holding secretive talks with U.S. officials in Paris this week as it seeks to steer international military action to help Mali's feeble government win back the northern part of the country from al-Qaida-linked rebels, The Associated Press has learned.
France and the United Nations insist any invasion of Mali's north must be led by African troops. But France, which has six hostages in Mali and has citizens who have joined al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, is playing an increasing role behind the scenes.
Many in the West fear that northeast Mali and the arid Sahel region could become the new Afghanistan, a no-man's-land where extremists can train, impose hardline Islamic law and plot terror attacks abroad. And France, former colonial ruler to countries across the Sahel, is a prime target.