Rebels advance in capital
Syrian rebels brought their fight within a mile of the heart of Damascus on Friday, seizing army checkpoints and cutting a key highway with a row of burning tires as they pressed their campaign for the heavily guarded capital, considered the likely endgame in the nearly 2-year-old civil war. The clashes raised fears that Damascus, a major cultural center and one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, could fall victim to a protracted battle and trigger a mass refugee exodus into neighboring countries.
Clashes follow protests
Egyptian security forces backed by water cannons fired tear gas at rock-throwing protesters outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Friday while demonstrators clashed with riot police in cities across the country in marches against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi. The protests are part of a wave of opposition-led demonstrations over the past two weeks that have frequently devolved into street clashes.
Kabul hosts fashion show
Afghan models paraded down a candle-lined catwalk Friday as men and women watched from the audience in a restaurant off a muddy street in Kabul. The rare fashion show in the war-weary capital was a small production but a big idea — part of an Afghan group’s efforts to empower women by breaking down barriers in this highly conservative Muslim society. The idea of women on display remains mostly taboo in Afghanistan more than a decade after the 2001 U.S. assault that ousted the Taliban from power.
Coffee emergency decree
President Otto Molina Perez declared a national emergency Friday over the spread of coffee rust, a fungus that is affecting 70 percent of the country’s crop. He also ordered the release of more than $14 million to aid coffee growers. He said the funds are aimed at helping 60,000 farmers to buy pesticides and to teach them how to prevent the disease and stop it from spreading.
Compiled from wire reports.