Egyptians vote in first elections since ouster

CAIRO (AP) — Shaking off years of political apathy, Egyptians turned out in long lines at voting stations Monday in their nation’s first parliamentary elections since Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, a giant step toward what they hope will be a democracy after decades of dictatorship.

The landmark election has already been overshadowed by turmoil in the streets over the past week, and the population is sharply polarized and confused over the nation’s direction. Still, the vote promises to be the fairest and cleanest election in Egypt in living memory.

The Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest and best organized group, along with its Islamist allies are expected to do well in the vote, which has been a source of concern for secular and liberal Egyptians who fear the Brotherhood will try to implement a strict version of Islamic law in the country.

Early in the day, voters stood in lines stretching several hundred yards outside some polling centers in Cairo well before they opened at 8 a. m. local time ( 0600GMT), suggesting a respectable turnout. Many said they were voting for the first time, a sign of an enthusiasm that in this election one’s vote mattered.

For decades, few Egyptians bothered to cast ballots because nearly every election was rigged in favor of Mubarak’s ruling party, whether through bribery, ballot box stuffing or intimidation by police at the polls. Turnout was often in the single digits.

Pakistan says NATO ignored its pleas

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers went on for almost two hours and continued even after Pakistani commanders had pleaded with coalition forces to stop, the army claimed Monday in charges that could further inflame anger in Pakistan.

NATO has described the incident as “tragic and unintended” and has promised a full investigation. Unnamed Afghan officials have said that a joint Afghan- NATO force on the Afghan side of the border received incoming fire from the direction of the Pakistani posts, and called in airstrikes.

Ties between Pakistan and the United States were already deteriorating before the deadly attack and have sunk to new lows since, delivering a major setback to American hopes of enlisting Islamabad’s help in negotiating an end to the 10-year-old Afghan war.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the Pakistani troops at two border posts were the victims of an unprovoked aggression. He said the attack lasted almost two hours and that commanders had contacted NATO counterparts while it was going on, asking “ they get this fire to cease, but somehow it continued.”

The Pakistan army has previously said its soldiers retaliated “with all weapons available” to the attack.

Half of states see rise in kids skipping shots

ATLANTA ( AP) — More parents are opting out of school shots for their kids. In eight states now, more than 1 in 20 public school kindergartners aren’t getting all the vaccines required for attendance, an Associated Press analysis found.

That growing trend among parents seeking vaccine exemptions has health officials worried about outbreaks of diseases that once were all but stamped out.

The AP analysis found more than half of states have seen at least a slight rise in the rate of exemptions over the past five years. States with the highest exemption rates are in the West and Upper Midwest.

It’s “ really gotten much worse,” said Mary Selecky, secretary of health for Washington state, where 6 percent of public school parents have opted out.

Rules for exemptions vary by state and can include medical, religious or — in some states — philosophical reasons.

Doctors again face steep Medicare cuts

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s become a symbol of sorts for the federal government’s budget dysfunction: Unless Congress acts before Jan. 1, doctors will again face steep Medicare cuts that threaten to undermine health care for millions of seniors and disabled people.

This time it’s a 27.4 percent cut. Last year, it was about 20 percent. The cuts are the consequence of a 1990s budget law that failed to control spending but was never repealed. Congress passes a temporary fix each time, only to grow the size of reductions required next time around. Last week’s supercommittee breakdown leaves the socalled

“doc fix” unresolved with time running out.

A thousand miles away in Harlan, Iowa, Dr. Don Klitgaard is trying to contain his frustration.

“I don’t see how primary care doctors could take anywhere near like a 27-percent pay cut and continue to function,” said Klitgaard, a family physician at a local medical center. “ I assume there’s going to be a temporary fix, because the health care system is going to implode without it.”

Medicare patients account for about 45 percent of the visits to his clinic. Klitgaard said the irony is that he and his colleagues have been making improvements, keeping closer tabs on those with chronic illnesses in the hopes of avoiding needless hospitalizations. While that can save money for Medicare, it requires considerable upfront investment from the medical practice.

Withdrawals wreak havoc on N.G. soldiers

WASHINGTON ( AP) — Two months ago, Demetries Luckett left his job in Michigan, turned in his cable box, sent his daughter to live with her mother, and headed for Camp Shelby in Mississippi.

As a 1st lieutenant in Michigan’s National Guard, he was being deployed to Afghanistan.

But just a month after he arrived for training, the Army decided Uncle Sam didn’t need him after all.

Now Luckett’s unemployed and back home in Harper Woods, Mich. — a victim of the Obama administration’s ongoing effort to pull at least 33,000 U. S. troops out of Afghanistan by next fall.

Unlike active-duty soldiers who are stationed at U.S. military bases across the country and can be sent on a moment’s notice to a conflict anywhere in the world — the nation’s citizen soldiers have civilian jobs and lives they have to set aside when they get those deployment notices.



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