BAGHDAD

Car bomb attacks, clashes kill 21 around Baghdad

Car bomb attacks and clashes between security forces and militants around and north of Baghdad killed at least 21 civilians, officials said Sunday, amid an ongoing standoff between Iraqi forces and al-Qaida-linked militants west of the Iraqi capital.

The deadliest blast occurred at a bus station in central Baghdad when an explosives-laden car exploded, killing at least nine people and wounding 16, police said.

Another parked car bomb targeted a gathering of buses and taxis in Baghdad’s northern Hurriyah neighborhood, killing four civilians and wounding 12, police said.

Shortly after sunset, fighting erupted in Baghdad’s western suburbs of Abu Ghraib as gunmen attacked a military convoy, authorities said. Army artillery shells later landed on the Sunni village of al-Mahsna in Abu Ghraib, killing five civilians and wounding 13, police said.

Later, a suicide car bomb exploded in the northern town of Tuz Khormato, followed minutes later by bomb hidden in a cart nearby, killing three people and wounding 27.

WASHINGTON

Court weighs president’s authority to fill positions

The Supreme Court is refereeing a politically charged dispute between President Obama and Senate Republicans over the president’s power to temporarily fill high-level positions.

The case being argued at the high court Monday is the first in the nation’s history to consider the meaning of the provision of the Constitution that allows the president to make temporary appointments to positions that otherwise require Senate confirmation, but only when the Senate is in recess.

Senate Republicans’ refusal to allow votes for nominees to the National Labor Relations Board and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau led Obama to make the temporary, or recess, appointments in January 2012. Three federal appeals courts said Obama overstepped his authority because the Senate was not in recess.

CAIRO, Egypt

Referendum seen as test of Egypt’s military chief

This week’s constitution referendum is widely seen as a vote of confidence in the regime Egypt’s military chief installed last summer.

The charter is an overhaul of an Islamist-backed constitution adopted in December 2012 during the rule of Mohammed Morsi, the ousted president, and his Muslim Brotherhood. Drafted by a panel of mostly secular-leaning politicians, it criminalizes discrimination, enshrines gender equality and guarantees a raft of freedoms and rights.

And crucially, the Jan. 14-15 vote provides the country’s increasingly popular military chief, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, with a first electoral test since he ousted Morsi in a military coup on July 3.

– From news service reports