KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

Religious leaders block bill to give women more rights

Conservative religious lawmakers in Afghanistan blocked legislation on Saturday aimed at strengthening provisions for women’s freedoms, arguing that parts of it violate Islamic principles and encourage disobedience.

The fierce opposition highlights how tenuous women’s rights remain a dozen years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, whose strict interpretation of Islam once kept Afghan women virtual prisoners in their homes.

Khalil Ahmad Shaheedzada, a conservative lawmaker for Herat province, said the legislation was withdrawn shortly after being introduced in parliament because of an uproar by religious parties who said parts of the law are un-Islamic.

“Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it,” Shaheedzada said.

The Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has been in effect since 2009, but only by presidential decree.

KATMANDU, NEPAL

Officials report 64 climbers top Mount Everest

Mountaineering officials say 64 climbers, including a Saudi Arabian woman, have successfully scaled Mount Everest from Nepal’s side of the mountain.

Tilak Padney of Nepal’s Mountaineering Department says 35 foreigners accompanied by 29 Nepalese Sherpa guides reached the 29,035-foot peak Saturday morning after climbing all night from the highest camp on South Col.

All were reported to be safe.

Among them was Raha Moharrak, who became the first Saudi Arabian woman to scale the world’s highest peak.

TORONTO

Purported video of mayor smoking crack causes uproar

A video purportedly of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack has caused an uproar in Canada. Ford on Friday called the allegations “ridiculous.” The video has not been released publicly, and there is no way to verify whether it is authentic. Reports by gossip website Gawker and the Toronto Star said it was taken by a man who claimed he had sold crack to Ford.

The conservative mayor of Canada’s largest city refused to take questions Friday. In brief comments outside his office, he said it was “another story with respect to the Toronto Star going after me. And that’s all I’ve got to say for now.”

The Star reported that two reporters watched a video that appears to show Ford, sitting in a chair, inhaling from what appears to be a glass crack pipe. The Star said it did not obtain the video or pay to watch it.

The Star also reported that Ford made an anti-gay slur against the leader of the federal Liberal Party of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

— From news service reports