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New wave of bombings raises death toll for Iraqis

BAGHDAD — A yellow taxi loaded with explosives blew up Monday at the crowded front gates of a prison north of Baghdad, killing at least 13 people, many of them security guards or civilians waiting to visit jailed family members.

It was the third attack in less than a week and the latest in a streak that has killed about 50 Iraqis and further highlighted fears of increased insurgent attacks as the United States continues its military withdrawal from Iraq by the end of next month.

Later in the day, inside the fortified heart of Iraq’s governing complex, another explosion apparently aimed at assassinating the speaker of Parliament wounded a lawmaker and several security guards.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack at the prison, but the tactics used and the target involved — a suicide bombing in a crowd at a large government compound — suggested the work of an al-Qaida affiliate, al-Qaida in Iraq.

—Jack Healy, The New York Times

Supreme Court to rule on fairness in sentencing

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to resolve a question that has vexed the lower federal courts since Congress enacted a law to narrow the gap between sentences meted out for offenses involving two kinds of cocaine.

Selling cocaine in crack form used to subject offenders to sentences 100 times as long as those for selling it in powder form. The new law, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, reduced the disparity to 18-1, at least for people who committed their offenses after the law became effective on Aug. 3, 2010.

But what about people who committed their offenses before the statute came into force but were not sentenced until afterward?

For such defendants, Judge Terence T. Evans wrote in one of the pair of cases the Supreme Court agreed to hear, the law “might benefit from a slight name change: The Not Quite as Fair as it could be Sentencing Act of 2010 (NQFSA) would be a bit more descriptive.”

The usual rule is that new laws do not apply retroactively unless Congress says so, Evans wrote, and here Congress said nothing.

—Adam Liptak, The New York Times

Los Angeles police withdraw after Occupy eviction deadline

LOS ANGELES — It had all the makings of a showdown: shouting protesters, police officers in riot gear, batons drawn as they pushed forward to disperse the crowd. But in the end, as the deadline for Occupy Los Angeles protesters to clear their tents from City Hall passed Monday morning, there was hardly a commotion.

Of the thousands of people protesting, just four were arrested, officials said. When police continued to press forward to the ire of some protesters, a few threw sticks and plastic water bottles at the officers, who stood by with dozens of plastic handcuffs strapped to their waists. But at dawn, the police withdrew from the area without trying to break up the encampment.

Once again, Los Angeles officials appeared to give the protesters far more leeway than their counterparts in other parts of the country have received in the last several weeks.

Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa had set a Monday morning deadline for protesters to clear their tents and other possessions from the camp, which is on the grounds of City Hall.

—Jennifer Medina, The New York Times

Pakistan rejects US account of NATO strikes

ISLAMABAD — Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani angrily protested the NATO strikes that killed two dozen Pakistani soldiers over the weekend, even as early U.S. and Pakistani accounts of the events diverged sharply and it remained unclear exactly what precipitated that attack.

“Business as usual will not be there,” Gilani said of the already frayed relationship with the United States. “We have to have something bigger that satisfies my nation and entire country.” Gilani made his remarks in an interview on CNN, excerpts of which were prominently broadcast on Pakistani networks.

The Pakistani military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, rejected an account of the attack laid out by diplomats in Afghanistan and U.S. officials in Washington.

The diplomats have said that the strike occurred when a joint NATO and Afghan force operating along the mountainous and heavily wooded border with Pakistan came under sustained fire late Friday or early Saturday and called in air support. The coalition forces tried to contact the Pakistani military on the other side of the border, the diplomats said, and believed they were free to fire back.

—Salman Masood and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

Libya’s capital transforms for better and for worse

TRIPOLI, Libya — Tripoli is no longer the capital of a police state. But what it has become, in just a matter of weeks, can be both exhilarating and disturbing.

Hashish dealers are openly hawking their wares in Martyrs’ Square, known as Green Square before Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown. Drivers run red lights without giving it a thought, while political demonstrations snarl traffic. Irregular militia members who have replaced the hated Tripoli police in many neighborhoods still show poor discipline with their weapons, firing them accidentally or into the air too frequently.

Tripoli is a vibrant city of nearly 2 million people with a bustling port and is graced by Roman ruins and old fortification walls built by the Ottomans and other conquerors. But while it has gone through other abrupt changes over the centuries, what is happening now was unthinkable only weeks ago when Gadhafi tried to control even the smallest details of daily life.

—Clifford Krauss, The New York Times