LONDON

Newspapers urge the U.S. to give Snowden clemency

The New York Times and Guardian newspapers have called for clemency for Edward Snowden, saying that the espionage worker-turned-privacy advocate should be praised rather than punished for his disclosures.

The papers – both of which have played a role in publishing Snowden’s intelligence trove – suggested late Wednesday that the former National Security Agency contractor’s revelations about the United States’ world-spanning espionage program were of such public importance that they outweighed any possible wrongdoing.

The Guardian said it hoped “calm heads within the present (U.S.) administration are working on a strategy to allow Mr. Snowden to return to the U.S. with dignity.”

JERUSALEM

Israeli leader lashes out at Palestinian president

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blasted his Palestin ian partner in peace-making efforts Thursday, accusing him of embracing terrorists “as heroes,” harsh words that clouded Secretary of State John Kerry’s 10th trip to the region to negotiate a peace deal he claims is “not mission impossible.”

Kerry arrived in Israel to broker negotiations entering a difficult phase aimed at creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Kerry is asking Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to make tough political decisions in hopes of narrowing differences on a framework for a peace pact.

ISLAMABAD

Ex-dictator’s chest pains delay treason court case

After twice defying summonses to appear before a special court formed to hear treason charges against him, former Pakistani military dictator Pervez Musharraf apparently suffered heart problems Thursday en route to court, forcing the case to be adjourned until Monday.

Musharraf, who’s 70, wasn’t known to have health problems, and many people greeted the report of his illness with skepticism. Some noted his motorcade didn’t go to Islamabad’s modern state hospital, about four miles from where he complained of chest pains. Instead, he was taken to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, which would have taken three times longer.

Aides to Musharraf said he was in intensive care and that physicians had ordered an angiogram to check for any damage to his heart.

WASHINGTON

Sunni militants on verge of capturing Iraq towns

Militants with ties to al-Qaida threatened Thursday to take over towns in Iraq’s predominantly Sunni Anbar province from Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government, after 2013 ended with the most civilian deaths and injuries in five years.

Civilian deaths in Iraq, including police casualties, totaled 7,818 last year, compared to 6,787 in 2008, according to data from the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq.

Sunni militants allied with an al-Qaida offshoot were on the verge of capturing Ramadi and Falluja, the focus of the 2007 “surge” of U.S. forces in Iraq, The New York Times reported. The Obama administration, which has stepped up military supplies to Maliki’s government, said the war in Syria is contributing to the Iraq violence.

BILLINGS, Mont.

Warning issued on volatility of oil from Northern Plains

Following a string of explosive accidents, federal officials said Thursday that crude oil being shipped by rail from the Northern Plains across the U.S. and Canada may be more flammable than traditional forms of oil.

A safety alert issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation warns the public, emergency responders and shippers about the potential high volatility of crude from the Bakken oil patch. The oil shale reserve is fueling the surging industry in Montana and North Dakota.

The warning declares that the Bakken’s light, sweet crude oil is prone to ignite at a lower temperature than heavier crudes.

– From news service reports