AP News in Brief at 4:58 a.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on November 27, 2012 at 6:02 AM

Egypt president stands by edicts giving him sweeping powers, says he acted within his rights

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi struck an uncompromising stand Monday over his seizure of near absolute powers, refusing in a meeting with top judicial authorities to rescind a package of constitutional amendments that placed his edicts above oversight by the courts.

Morsi's supporters, meanwhile, canceled a massive rally planned for Tuesday to compete with a demonstration by his opponents, citing the need to "defuse tension" at a time when anger over the president's moves is mounting, according to a spokesman for the president's Muslim Brotherhood.

The opposition rally was going ahead as scheduled at Cairo's Tahrir square, birthplace of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak's regime nearly two years ago.

The meeting between Morsi and members of the Supreme Judiciary Council was a bid to resolve a four-day crisis that has plunged the country into a new round of turmoil, with clashes between the two sides that have left one protester dead and hundreds wounded.

Morsi, according to a presidential statement, told the judges that while the constitutional declaration he announced Thursday grants him immunity from any oversight, he intended to restrict that to what it described as "sovereignty issues."

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Rice meeting with senators whose votes she'd need if nominated to be next secretary of state

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice is meeting with key lawmakers in what could be her final pitch for their support if she is nominated to be the next secretary of state.

The discussions, beginning Tuesday, will focus on her much-maligned explanations of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans, officials said, but she's also clearly auditioning for America's top diplomatic job.

Despite lingering questions over her comments five days after the Benghazi attack, Rice has emerged as the front-runner on a short list of candidates to succeed Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., seen as her closest alternative. But despite a softening of Republican opposition to Rice, she still has work to do to ensure that enough GOP senators are willing to back her potential nomination.

Rice's series of meetings on Capitol Hill this week will therefore be a critical test both for Republicans, who will decide whether they can support her, and the administration, which must gauge whether Rice has enough support to merit a nomination. According to congressional aides and administration officials, Rice is expected to meet with small groups of lawmakers who will press her on her since-retracted description of the Benghazi attack as the byproduct of an angry protest over an American-made film ridiculing Islam. She'll be joined by acting CIA Director Michael Morell in the meetings.

A senior Senate aide said the administration was sounding out moderate members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee such as Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who is in line to become the panel's top Republican next year, and Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga. Assessing the prospects for Rice before President Barack Obama makes any announcement would avoid the embarrassment of a protracted fight with the Senate early in the president's second term and the possible failure of the nominee.

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Bangladeshis mourn garment-fire dead, plan more protests over poor worker safety

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Bangladesh held a day of mourning Tuesday for the 112 people killed in a weekend garment fire, and labor groups planned more protests to demand better worker safety in an industry notorious for operating in firetraps.

The national flag flew at half-staff in government buildings. The country's factories were closed as a mark of respect, and prayers for the dead were held in places of worship across the Muslim-majority South Asian nation.

Relatives and colleagues gathered near the site of Saturday's blaze, many wearing black badges as a sign of mourning.

"I've lost my son and the only member to earn for the family," said Nilufar Khatoon, the mother of a worker who died. "What shall I do now?"

Some labor organizations planned rallies later Tuesday. About 15,000 workers protested Monday blocks away from the gutted factory, blocking traffic on a major highway in a suburb of Dhaka, the capital.

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Cuomo compares Katrina and Sandy as damage estimate across region soars to more than $62B

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared Superstorm Sandy in some ways worse than 2005's Hurricane Katrina as he said his state would need $42 billion to recover from the damage wreaked in late October and prevent future catastrophe.

The figure includes more than $32 billion for damage and restoration and an additional $9 billion to head off damage in future storms, including steps to protect the power grid and cellphone network.

As he and other political leaders in his state conferred on how much federal aid to seek, he said New York taxpayers can't foot the bill.

"It would incapacitate the state," he said at a news conference Monday. "Tax increases are always a last, last, last resort."

Comparisons of Sandy to Katrina, which swamped New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005, put the East Coast's recovery "in focus," he declared, saying Sandy hit a more densely populated region and caused more costly damage than Katrina.

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Experts exhume remains of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat searching for clues to his death

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — Palestinian officials say Yasser Arafat's remains have been reburied, just hours after being exhumed as part of a probe into his death.

The exhumation began early Tuesday, under the cover of huge blue sheets of tarpaulin that have been draped around Arafat's mausoleum in his former government compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Two Palestinian officials say samples from the remains were given to expert teams from Switzerland, France and Russia who will examine the samples separately in their countries.

The Palestinian officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the exhumation.

Arafat died of a stroke in 2004, but the underlying causes of death remain a mystery.

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Ark. police arrest neighbor in death of 6-year-old girl involved in prior abuse case

BENTONVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A 6-year-old girl who was at the center of a high-profile child abuse case that sent her father and stepmother to prison was killed last week by neighbor, Bentonville police said Monday evening.

Jersey Bridgeman was reported missing the morning of Nov. 20. Minutes after a search for her began, Jersey's body was discovered in an abandoned house two doors from her home.

Zachary Holly, 28, who lives next door to where Jersey was staying, is being held in the Benton County Jail on charges of capital murder, kidnapping and residential burglary, police Chief John Simpson said Monday night.

Simpson said Holly will have a bail and probable cause hearing Wednesday, during which a probable cause affidavit will be released.

"Many questions related to this investigation and arrest will be answered by the affidavit of probable cause, which will be released on Wednesday," said the chief, who did not take questions from reporters.

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Is Norquist's influence fading? Some Republicans split with anti-tax activist over budget deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — For decades, conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist vowed to drive Republicans out of office if they didn't pledge to oppose tax increases. Many lawmakers signed on.

But now, several senior Republicans are breaking ranks, willing to consider raising more money through taxes as part of a deal with Democrats to avoid a catastrophic budget meltdown.

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker says the only pledge he will keep is his oath of office. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says no one in his home state of Virginia is talking about what leaders in Washington refer to simply as "The Pledge," a Norquist invention that dates to 1986. Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss says he cares more about his country than sticking to Norquist's pledge.

It's quite an about-face for senior members of a party that long has stood firmly against almost any notion of tax increases. And while GOP leaders insist they still don't want to see taxes go up, the reality of a nation in a debt crisis is forcing some to moderate their opposition to any movement on how much Americans pay to fund their government. Republican legislators and Democratic President Barack Obama's White House are haggling vigorously as they look for ways to reach agreement on detailed tax adjustments and spending cuts before automatic, blunt-force changes occur at the new year.

"Oh, I signed it," Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama said on Fox News about Norquist's pledge, adding he still supports its goals. "But we've got to deal with the crisis we face. We've got to deal with the political reality of the president's victory."

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Dr. Joseph Murray, Nobel winner who performed 1st successful kidney transplant, dies in Boston

BOSTON (AP) — Dr. Joseph E. Murray, who performed the world's first successful kidney transplant and won a Nobel Prize for his pioneering work, has died. He was 93.

Murray suffered a stroke at his suburban Boston home on Thanksgiving and died at Brigham and Women's Hospital on Monday, hospital spokesman Tom Langford said.

Since the first kidney transplants on identical twins, hundreds of thousands of transplants on a variety of organs have been performed worldwide. Murray shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1990 with Dr. E. Donnall Thomas, who won for his work in bone marrow transplants.

"Kidney transplants seem so routine now," Murray told The New York Times after he won the Nobel. "But the first one was like Lindbergh's flight across the ocean."

Murray's breakthroughs drew criticism from some ethicists and religious leaders. Some people "felt that we were playing God and that we shouldn't be doing all of these, quote, experiments on human beings," he told The Associated Press in a 2004 interview in which he also spoke out in favor of stem cell research.

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Late payment rate on auto loans post uptick in 3Q, but remains near lowest point since '99

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More Americans fell behind on their auto-loan payments in the third quarter, when back-to-school shopping and other needs traditionally put a strain on consumers' wallets.

But the uptick is likely only a seasonal blip in an otherwise multiyear decline in auto-loan delinquencies, reporting agency TransUnion said Tuesday.

The rate of U.S. auto-loan payments at least 60 days overdue rose to 0.38 percent from 0.33 percent in the second quarter, the company said.

That represents only a slight uptick from the second quarter, which marked the lowest delinquency rate on TransUnion's records going back to 1999.

The July-to-September delinquency rate also was down 19 percent from the 0.47 percent rate a year earlier, the firm said.

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Cam Newton's 4 TDs lead Panthers to 30-22 win over Eagles

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — This was the Cam Newton who was the talk of the NFL last season.

Newton threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more to lead the Carolina Panthers to a 30-22 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night in a matchup of teams with the worst records in the NFC.

Newton, who hadn't played up to his sensational rookie season, showed no signs of a sophomore slump against Philadelphia's porous pass defense. He finished 18 of 28 for 306 yards and had a passer rating of 125.

"I think my best game is still to come," Newton said. "I'm still focused on getting better each and every week."

Bryce Brown set a club rookie record with 178 yards rushing, including TD runs of 65 and 5 yards, but the Eagles (3-8) still lost their seventh straight game.

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