Pressure mounting on Obama to finalize decision on building Keystone XL oil pipeline
WASHINGTON (AP) — Embarking on a second term, President Barack Obama faces mounting pressure on a decision he had put off during his re-election campaign: whether to approve the $7 billion proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline between the U.S. and Canada.
On its surface, it's a choice between the promise of jobs and economic growth and environmental concerns. But it's also become a proxy for a much broader fight over American energy consumption and climate change, amplified by Superstorm Sandy and the conclusion of an election that was all about the economy.
Environmental activists and oil producers alike are looking to Obama's decision as a harbinger of what he'll do on climate and energy in the next four years. Both sides are holding out hope that, freed from the political constraints of re-election, the president will side with them on this and countless related issues down the road.
"The broader climate movement is absolutely looking at this administration's Keystone XL decision as a really significant decision to signal that dirty fuels are not acceptable in the U.S.," said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Once content with delays that have so far kept the pipeline from moving forward at full speed, opponents of Keystone XL have launched protests in recent weeks at the White House and in Texas urging Obama to nix the project outright. Meanwhile, support for the pipeline appears to be picking up steam on Capitol Hill.
North Korea says it will launch a long-range rocket between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22
PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korea said Saturday it will launch a long-range rocket between Dec. 10 and Dec. 22, a move likely to heighten already strained tensions with Washington and Seoul ahead of a South Korean presidential election on Dec. 19.
This would be North Korea's second launch attempt under leader Kim Jong Un, who took power following his father Kim Jong Il's death nearly a year ago. The announcement comes several weeks after President Barack Obama was elected to a second term in the United States and ahead of his January inauguration.
Washington considers North Korea's rocket tests to be veiled covers for tests of long-range missile technology banned by the United Nations.
An unnamed spokesman for the Korean Committee for Space Technology said North Korea had "analyzed the mistakes" made in a failed April launch and improved the precision of the rocket and satellite, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. The April launch broke up shortly after liftoff, but quickly drew condemnation from the United Nations, Washington, Seoul and other capitals.
The North's statement said a rocket carrying a polar-orbiting earth observation satellite will blast off southward from its northwest coastal space center.
Mexico prepares to swear in president; old ruling party returning to power with a new face
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The party that ruled Mexico for seven decades returns to power Saturday with a president from a new generation to govern a country that has changed dramatically in the 12 years since the Institutional Revolutionary Party last held the top post.
Enrique Pena Nieto will take the oath of office after campaigning as the face of a new PRI — a party that claims to be repentant and reconstructed after being voted out of the presidency in 2000. The PRI ruled for 71 years with a mix of populist handouts, graft and rigged elections.
Pena Nieto has promised to govern democratically with transparency. But his first moves even before the inauguration showed a solid link to the past.
In announcing his Cabinet on Friday, he turned to the old guard as well as new technocrats to run his administration.
"I don't think there is any such thing as a 'new PRI,'" said Rodrigo Aguilera, the Mexico analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit. "There is a new generation of PRI members, but they don't represent any fundamentally different outlook."
Analysis: For Myanmar's Suu Kyi, pragmatism a major lesson in post-junta political life
BANGKOK (AP) — For Aung San Suu Kyi the democracy activist, the 25-year struggle against Myanmar's former army rulers was a largely black-and-white affair — a clear fight for freedom against one of the world's most oppressive regimes.
But Suu Kyi the elected lawmaker is finding it a lot more difficult to pick her battles, and she's a lot more pragmatic when she does.
With the long-ruling junta gone and a reformist government in place, the political prisoner-turned-parliamentarian is now part of a nascent government dealing with a complex transition to democracy — even as she maintains her role as opposition leader.
This week, Suu Kyi moved to settle a dispute that has festered in the northwest for years: controversy over a military-backed copper mine in Letpadaung that has raised environmental concern and forced villagers from their land with little compensation.
Suu Kyi made a two-day trip to the region to hear people's grievances and try to help mediate a resolution. Hours before she arrived Thursday, security forces launched a brutal crackdown on protesters that was the biggest of its kind since President Thein Sein took office last year.
Wyo. police: 2 slain before killer takes own life in front of college classroom
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — The first victim was found in the gutter of a quiet residential street, just as the killer was shedding blood again on the campus of a nearby community college.
Wielding some kind of sharp-edged weapon, he killed a community college instructor before taking his own life in front of a classroom of students.
Police wouldn't speculate on a motive for the murder-suicide and said little about how it all developed Friday at Casper College and in a neighborhood about two miles away. They hinted, however, that the three knew each another.
Casper Police Chief Chris Walsh said an "edged weapon" was used in at least one of the killings. He didn't say more about what type of weapon it was and whether the killer used the same weapon in all of the deaths.
He said he didn't know how many students were in the class or what the topic was. The attacker wasn't believed to be a Casper College student but it appeared he knew the victims, he said.
Mankato football coach cleared of child porn charges, but fate at school uncertain
MANKATO, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota college football coach said he wants to return to work now that a judge has dismissed prosecutors' claims that video he took of his children playing after a bath amounted to pornography.
A judge sided with Todd Hoffner, head coach at Minnesota State-Mankato, by throwing out the child porn charges against him on Friday. The judge said the cellphone video was nothing more than children playfully dancing naked after a bath.
"I'm just so thankful to be waking up from this nightmare," Hoffner said after the ruling, which came more than three months after the coach was escorted off a practice field and later arrested.
Now, Hoffner said, he wants to get back on the sideline. But it's unclear when that may happen.
Hoffner remains on administrative leave and won't be on the field Saturday when his undefeated Mavericks host Missouri Western in the Division II quarterfinals.
Muslim activists say Islam missing from debate over climate change and the environment
DOHA, Qatar (AP) — At Friday prayers in Qatar's most popular mosque, the imam discussed the civil war in Syria, the unrest in Egypt and the U.N. endorsement of an independent state of Palestine.
Not a word about climate change, even though the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar is hosting a U.N. conference where nearly 200 countries are trying to forge a joint plan to fight global warming, which climate activists say is the greatest modern challenge to mankind.
"Unfortunately the Arab and Islamic countries have political and economic problems," said Adham Hassan, a worshipper from Jordan streaming out of the al-Khatabb mosque in Doha. "Islam calls for the protection of the environment, but the Muslim countries are mostly poor and they didn't cause pollution and aren't affected by climate change."
Of six mosques contacted by The Associated Press in the Qatari capital, only one included an environmental message in the Friday prayers, telling those in attendance to plant trees, shun extravagance and conserve water and electricity.
The Quran, Islam's holy book, is filled with more than 1,500 verses to nature and Earth. Yet the voice of Islamic leaders is missing from the global dialogue on warming.
Jennifer Lopez tones down outfits, moves at concert in Muslim-majority Indonesia
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Jennifer Lopez wowed thousands of fans in Indonesia, but they didn't see as much of her as concertgoers in other countries — the American pop star toned down both her sexy outfits and her dance moves during her show in the world's most populous Muslim country, promoters said Saturday.
Lopez's "Dance Again World Tour" was performed in the country's capital, Jakarta, on Friday in line with promises Lopez made to make her show more appropriate for the audience, said Chairi Ibrahim from Dyandra Entertainment, the concert promoter.
"J.Lo was very cooperative ... she respected our culture," Ibrahim said, adding that Lopez's managers also asked whether she could perform her usual sexy dance moves, but were told that "making love" moves were not appropriate for Indonesia.
"Yes, she dressed modestly ... she's still sexy, attractive and tantalizing, though," said Ira Wibowo, an Indonesian actress who was among more than 7,000 fans at the concert.
Another fan, Doddy Adityawarman, was a bit disappointed with the changes.
No. 8 Stanford headed back to Rose Bowl after beating No. 17 UCLA 24-17 in Pac-12 title game
STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — After the final whistle blew, Stanford coach David Shaw lifted his arms in triumph. His players paraded around the field, and students came down from the stands to surround them from all sides.
So much for a transition year.
The post-Andrew Luck Era sure seems awfully rosy.
Kevin Hogan threw for 155 yards and a touchdown and ran for 47 yards and another score, helping eighth-ranked Stanford beat No. 17 UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 championship game Friday night. The redshirt freshman won game MVP honors while leading the Cardinal to the Rose Bowl for the first time in more than a decade.
"The best thing about it, the only people that believed are the guys that are in that locker room," said Shaw, who has won Pac-12 Coach of the Year in his first two seasons since replacing Jim Harbaugh.
Guards testify about confinement at Quantico brig of suspect in WikiLeaks case
FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) — Some former guards at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., are testifying against an Army private charged with sending hundreds of thousands of classified documents to the secret-spilling WikiLeaks website.
The guards are prosecution witnesses in a pretrial hearing that resumes Saturday morning for Pfc. Bradley Manning. He's seeking dismissal of the case, contending his nine months in isolation at Quantico amounted to illegal punishment.
The military maintains the restrictions were to prevent Manning from killing or hurting himself.
A former guard testified Friday that Manning partly collapsed and started whimpering one day in January 2011 after jailers admonished him about this attitude.
He says Manning seemed to strike at his own head during an argument later that day, causing the brig commander to place him on suicide watch.