AP News in Brief at 10:58 p.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on November 15, 2012 at 12:02 AM

Xi Jinping assumes leadership of rising power China by securing top Communist Party post

Xi Jinping has become leader of China, securing the Communist Party's top spot as the country faces slower economic growth and rising public demands for change.

The state Xinhua News Agency on Thursday confirmed Xi's elevation to party general secretary. Xi also was appointed head of the commission that oversees the military.

The selection of Xi follows a pivotal party congress that underlined the communists' determination to remain firmly in power.

Xi is the son of a party elder and has served as vice president for the past five years.

He will lead the world's No. 2 economy and newest diplomatic and military power amid increasingly vocal calls for economic and political reform.

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Obama blasts Republicans over criticism of his UN ambassador Rice: 'They should go after me'

WASHINGTON (AP) — Setting an unflinching tone for his second term, President Barack Obama on Wednesday accused two top Republicans senators of lobbing outrageous criticism at his United Nations ambassador instead of confronting him directly over a deadly attack on Americans in Libya.

"They should go after me," Obama said, referring to Sens. John McCain of Arizona, his 2008 White House rival, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Obama's comments, at a far-reaching news conference, underscored how much the Libya attack shadows the president, how strongly U.N. ambassador Susan Rice is being considered for secretary of state and how eager Obama is for some fights even as he talks compromise on others.

For the first time, Obama reflected on the meaning of his re-election victory, offering a more limited reading of his economic mandate from voters. He promised to begin work on a major immigration bill soon after his January inauguration and said he would at least pursue broader ways to attack the global-warming climate change.

Pressed on challenges abroad, Obama said he was not ready to formally recognize Syria's opposition leadership or arm it. The president also insisted there was still time to peacefully solve a nuclear standoff with Iran, saying he would push again soon for international talks "to get this thing resolved."

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10 Things to Know for Thursday

Your daily look at late-breaking news, upcoming events and stories that will be talked about Thursday:

1. OBAMA, BOEHNER SPAR OVER THE NATION'S WELL-TO-DO

Let taxes rise on the rich, the president urges. That would hurt the economy and stunt job growth, GOP leader counters.

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Israel kills Hamas military chief, warns of broader operation in Gaza

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel carried out a blistering offensive of more than 50 airstrikes in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, assassinating Hamas' military commander and targeting the armed group's training facilities and rocket launchers in Israel's most intense attack on the territory in nearly four years.

Israel said the airstrikes, launched in response to days of rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza, were the beginning of a broader operation against the Islamic militants codenamed "Pillar of Defense." Israeli defense officials said a ground operation was a strong possibility in the coming days though they stressed no decisions had been made and much would depend on Hamas' reaction. There were no immediate signs of extraordinary troop deployments along the border.

The attack came at a time when Israel seems to be under fire from all directions. Relations have been deteriorating with Egypt's new Islamist government, Egypt's lawless Sinai desert has become a staging ground for militant attacks on Israel, and the Syrian civil war has begun to spill over Israel's northern border. Earlier this week, Israel fired back at Syria — for the first time in nearly 40 years — after stray mortar fire landed in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

With at least 10 Palestinians dead, including two young children, Wednesday's offensive was certain to set off a new round of heavy fighting with Gaza militants, who have built up a formidable arsenal of rockets and missiles.

It also threatened to upset Israel's relations with neighboring Egypt and shake up the campaign for Israeli elections in January. In a preliminary response, Egypt recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest.

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Obama responds warily to Petraeus, Allen mess, sees no evidence of national security damage

WASHINGTON (AP) — Responding warily to his administration's sudden sex scandal, President Barack Obama said Wednesday he's seen no evidence that national security was damaged by the revelations that ended his CIA director's career and imperil that of his Afghan war commander.

But the president said he is reserving judgment about how the FBI has handled the investigation that began in the summer but didn't reach his desk until after last week's election.

"I have a lot of confidence, generally, in the FBI," Obama said, qualifying his words of support for the agency and its actions in the case.

As Obama spoke about the scandal from the White House, legislators on Capitol Hill were grilling FBI and CIA officials privately about the same issues: whether national security was jeopardized by the case and why they didn't know about the investigation sooner.

"I have no evidence at this point, from what I've seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security," Obama said at his first postelection news conference.

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Obama stands firm on raising taxes on richest Americans, says best way to avert 'fiscal cliff'

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama challenged congressional Republicans Wednesday to let taxes rise on the wealthiest Americans on both economic and political grounds, noting he campaigned successfully for re-election on the point and contending it would instantly ease the threat of the "fiscal cliff" plunging the nation back into recession.

"A modest tax increase on the wealthy is not going to break their backs," Obama said of the nation's top income earners. "They'll still be wealthy," he said at his first news conference since winning a second term.

At the same time, the president stressed he was amenable to compromise on other approaches from Republicans who say they will refuse to raise tax rates. "I believe this is solvable," he said during the news conference.

At a news conference of his own a short while later, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, agreed that a bipartisan "spirit of cooperation" has been evident since the election that augurs well for talks expected to begin Friday at the White House.

However, he said of the president's proposal, "We are not going to hurt our economy and make job creation more difficult which is exactly what that plan would do."

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Romney says Obama won re-election by promising 'gifts' to blacks, Hispanics and young voters

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is telling top donors that President Barack Obama won re-election because of the "gifts" he had already provided to blacks, Hispanics and young voters and because of the president's effort to paint Romney as anti-immigrant.

"The president's campaign, if you will, focused on giving targeted groups a big gift," Romney said in a call to donors on Wednesday. "He made a big effort on small things."

Romney said his campaign, in contrast, had been about "big issues for the whole country." He said he faced problems as a candidate because he was "getting beat up" by the Obama campaign and that the debates allowed him to come back.

In the call, Romney didn't acknowledge any major missteps, such as his "47 percent" remarks widely viewed as denigrating nearly half of Americans, his lack of support for the auto bailout, his call for illegal immigrants to "self-deport," or his change in position on abortion, gun control and other issues. He also didn't address the success or failure of the campaign's strategy of focusing on the economy in the face of some improvement in employment and economic growth during the months leading up to Election Day.

Obama won the popular vote by about 3.5 million votes, or 3 percent, and won the Electoral College by a wide margin, 332-206 electoral votes. Exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks showed that Obama led Romney by 11 percentage points among women and won better than 7 of 10 Hispanic voters and more than 9 of 10 black voters.

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Israel says rebels take Syrian frontier villages; conflict moves closer to Jewish state

JERUSALEM (AP) — Syrian rebels control almost all the villages near the frontier with the Israel-held Golan Heights, the Israeli defense minister said Wednesday, bringing the conflict dangerously close to the Jewish state and raising the possibility of an armed clash with the region's strongest power.

During a tour of the Golan Heights, Defense Minister Ehud Barak gave a scathing assessment of Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces and said Israel will remain "vigilant and alert."

"Almost all of the villages, from the foot of this ridge to the very top, are already in the hands of the Syrian rebels," said Barak, who was accompanied by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "The Syrian army is displaying ever-diminishing efficiency."

The civil war in Syria has renewed tensions over the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau that Israel captured from Syria in 1967. Despite hostility between the two countries, Syria has been careful to keep the border quiet since the 1973 Mideast war.

But in recent days, Israeli troops have fired into Syria twice after apparently stray mortar shells flew into Israel-held territory. On Wednesday, an Associated Press journalist said an Israeli helicopter was patrolling the border area, and gunfire could be heard. The source of the gunfire was not immediately clear.

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Teacher sues Calif. district, says her breastfeeding needs were not accommodated

CARMEL, Calif. (AP) — A former California school teacher accuses school officials in a lawsuit of failing to accommodate her breastfeeding schedule.

The Monterey Herald reports (http://bit.ly/W25R7H) that Sarah Ann Lewis Boyle has sued the Carmelo School, where she worked, and the Carmel Unified School District, alleging discrimination and wrongful termination.

The lawsuit was filed on Oct. 30.

Boyle says before returning to work, she told a manager at the school that she would need about 15 minutes every day between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. to pump her breasts.

Boyle claims the manager told her to train her breast not to make milk then, and the district made no accommodations to allow her to feed her newborn. According to Boyle, she later received a negative evaluation and was urged to resign.

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Dickey becomes 1st knuckleballer to win Cy Young Award; Price edges Verlander in AL

NEW YORK (AP) — R.A. Dickey languished in the minors for 14 years, bouncing from one team to another before finally perfecting that perplexing knuckleball that made him a major league star.

David Price was the top pick in the draft and an ace by age 25, throwing 98 mph heat with a left arm live enough to make the most hardened scout sing.

Raised only 34 miles apart in central Tennessee, Dickey and Price won baseball's Cy Young awards on Wednesday — one by a wide margin, the other in a tight vote.

Two paths to the pantheon of pitching have rarely been more different.

"Isn't that awesome?" said Dickey, the first knuckleballer to win a Cy Young. "It just shows you there's not just one way to do it, and it gives hope to a lot of people."

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