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Lunch invitation draws criticism

LONDON (AP) -- Britain has come under criticism for inviting the king of Bahrain, whose Gulf state has engaged in a brutal crackdown on political dissent, to a lunch Friday celebrating Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee.

The lunch in Windsor Castle was the largest gathering of foreign royals in Britain since Queen Elizabeth II's grandson, Prince William, was married to Kate Middleton last year.

Then, as now, the decision to extend an invitation to members of the Bahraini royal family has angered those who are upset by the deadly violence deployed against demonstrators since protests erupted in the Gulf state.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa eventually skipped the royal wedding, saying he didn't want the controversy to tarnish the couple's happy day.

But on Friday, Buckingham Palace confirmed that his father, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, attended the queen's lunch -- along with some 45 other royal guests from around the world.

Republic, an anti-monarchy group, called the lunch invitation "a catastrophic error of judgment" which "seriously damages Britain's reputation."


Model province slips into rising violence

JALALABAD, Afghanistan -- Four years ago, Afghan and U.S. officials touted Nangarhar as a model for Afghanistan's other 33 provinces, bolstered by successes against the Taliban and the near-total eradication of opium poppies.

The tide has since turned. Poppy growing is rising, as is support for the insurgency, fueled in part by a harsh government poppy-eradication drive that's sparked clashes and led some farmers to sow land mines.

Many people fear that one of the most crucial provinces will only slip deeper into bloodshed and corruption as U.S. troops withdraw. Popular backing for the Taliban "is greater than before, and it's increasing," warned Malik Hassan Khan, the district chief of the province's Nazian district.

Elders and local officials cite a host of other reasons for the worsening situation. Feeble governance, a lack of development and searing poverty -- especially in remote areas -- topped every list. Nangarhar's backsliding "doesn't fit the good narrative that people want to see propagated at this moment," said a Western official.

-- McClatchy Newspapers


Driver in fatal crash facing several charges

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- New Zealand police filed charges Friday against a Boston University student who drove a minivan in a crash that killed three of his college classmates last week.

Stephen Houseman, 20, of Massapequa, N.Y., made his first court appearance Friday wearing a sling on his arm from his own injuries in the crash, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Houseman faces three charges of careless driving causing death and another four charges of careless driving causing injury. Each of the charges carries a maximum jail term of three months.

A group of BU students studying this semester in New Zealand and Australia were traveling in three minivans to a well-known volcanic crater hike May 12 when one of the minivans rolled.

Killed were Austin Brashears, of Huntington Beach, Calif.; Daniela Lekhno, of Manalapan, N.J.; and Roch Jauberty, of Paris, France.

Police said they do not believe the driver or any other students involved used alcohol or drugs before the crash.