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Flood watch issued December 20, 2014

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In brief

Afghans worry about security KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Hamida Gulistani was getting ready to leave home for her office when she heard the crack of gunfire. What she saw as she peered through the steel gates of her house deepened her fears about the future of her country.

Her driver lay dead. Her neighbor was shouting that Gulistani’s house was under attack. And the Afghan army and police weren’t responding to her phone calls. As an elected provincial councilor, and thus a prime target for the Taliban, she feared her time was up.

“I kept calling the police chief and other security forces, but by the time they arrived it was too late. The attackers took my car and drove away,” said the 40-year-old human rights activist. She has since moved from her province of Ghazni to the relatively safer capital, Kabul.

Ghazni and neighboring Wardak province have become a hotbed of insurgent activity in the past year, mainly along the main highway which links Kabul to Kandahar in the south and runs through Gulistani’s home town. Dozens of abductions and killings are reported weekly on the highway, and Afghans are beginning to worry that the nascent Afghan National Security Forces taking over the defense of Afghanistan won’t be up to the job.

Iraq readies for strike on SyriaBAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq’s prime minister says his government is on high alert ahead of a possible military strike on neighboring Syria.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made the comments during a weekly televised address Wednesday that mainly focused on the civil war in the neighboring country.

He says Iraqi security forces and other government institutions are on high alert to protect against any domestic consequences of a possible Western-led military action in Syria. Iraq’s government has an official neutral stance on the civil war raging across its border and has long called for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict.

NW health care system cuts jobsVANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) — A Vancouver, Wash.-based health care system that operates in Washington, Oregon and Alaska says it will cut about 500 jobs, most of them in southwest Washington.

PeaceHealth said Tuesday the jobs will be cut through a combination of layoffs, leaving positions unfilled and reducing employee hours. Executives said the cuts will target administrative and support positions. The Columbian reports that about 340 of the lost jobs will be in the system's Columbia Network of southwest Washington — with about 175 of those coming as layoffs.

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