Suspected U.S. missile strike kills 27 militants in al-Qaida stronghold

ISLAMABAD (AP) âÄî Dozens of followers of PakistanâÄôs top Taliban commander were in a compound when a suspected U.S. missile attack hit Saturday, killing 27 militants in an al-Qaida stronghold near the Afghan border, officials said. The strike appeared to be the deadliest yet by the American drone aircraft that prowl the frontier, and defied Pakistani warnings that the tactic is fueling extremism in the nuclear-armed Islamic nation. In an interview unrelated to the attack, President Asif Ali Zardari said the Taliban had expanded their presence to a âÄúhuge amountâÄù of Pakistan and were even eyeing a takeover of the state. âÄúWeâÄôre fighting for the survival of Pakistan. WeâÄôre not fighting for the survival of anybody else,âÄù Zardari said, according to a transcript of his remarks that CBS television said it would air Sunday. Many Pakistanis believe the country is fighting Islamist militants, who have enjoyed state support in the past, only at WashingtonâÄôs behest.

Study: âÄòAstonishing richnessâÄô in polar sea species

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) âÄî The polar oceans are not biological deserts after all. A marine census released Monday documented 7,500 species in the Antarctic and 5,500 in the Arctic, including several hundred that researchers believe could be new to science. âÄúThe textbooks have said there is less diversity at the poles than the tropics, but we found astonishing richness of marine life in the Antarctic and Arctic oceans,âÄù said Victoria Wadley, a researcher from the Australian Antarctic Division who took part in the Antarctic survey. âÄúWe are rewriting the textbooks.âÄù In one of the biggest surprises, researchers said they discovered dozens of species common to both polar seas âÄî separated by nearly 7,000 miles (11,000 kilometers). Now they have to figure out how they separated. âÄúWe probably know more about deep space than we do about the deep polar oceans in our own backyard,âÄù said Gilly Llewellyn, leader of the oceans program for the environmental group WWF-Australia. She did not take part in the survey. âÄúThis critical research is helping reveal the amazing biodiversity of the polar regions.âÄù Most of the new discoveries were simpler life forms known as invertebrates, or animals without backbones.

North Korea offers possible olive branch to United States

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) âÄî North Korea is ready to improve relations with âÄúfriendlyâÄù countries, the communist countryâÄôs No. 2 leader said Sunday ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Asia. The remark by Kim Yong Nam, North KoreaâÄôs ceremonial head of state, could be an olive branch to Washington before ClintonâÄôs trip âÄî even though it came amid reports the North is gearing up to test-fire a long-range missile in an apparent attempt to grab President Barack ObamaâÄôs attention. Clinton was scheduled to depart Sunday on a trip to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China. âÄúWe will develop relations with countries that are friendly toward us,âÄù Kim told a national meeting held as part of celebrations on the eve of the 67th birthday of leader Kim Jong Il, according to the NorthâÄôs official Korean Central News Agency. North Korea has also been escalating tensions with the South, declaring all peace pacts with Seoul dead in anger over the hard-line stance South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has taken toward it. In Seoul, outgoing U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill met with his South Korean counterpart to discuss ClintonâÄôs trip and heightened tension on the Korean peninsula.