Cardinals begin pre-conclave meetings amid scandal, resignation and problems of church
VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinals from around the world have gathered inside the Vatican for their first round of meetings before the conclave to elect the next pope, amid scandals inside and out of the Vatican and the continued reverberations of Benedict XVI's decision to retire.
Cardinals were treated like rock stars as they entered the Vatican on Monday morning, with television crews swarming around the red-capped churchmen and their handlers pushing their way through the crowds.
The core agenda item is to set the date for the conclave and set in place procedures to prepare for it, including closing the Sistine Chapel to visitors and getting the Vatican hotel cleared out and de-bugged, lest anyone try to listen in on the secret conversations of the cardinals. But a date may not be agreed upon Monday.
Hard time understanding health reform law? Try figuring it out in Tagalog, Hmong or Vietnamese
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Set on a gritty corner of Oakland's International Boulevard, the nonprofit Street Level Health Project offers free checkups to patients who speak a total of 22 languages, from recent Mongolian immigrants seeking a doctor to Burmese refugees in need of a basic dental exam.
It also provides a window into one of the challenges for state officials who are trying to implement the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's sweeping health care overhaul.
Understanding the law is a challenge even for governors, state lawmakers and agency officials, but delivering its message to non-English speakers who can benefit from it is shaping up as a special complication. That is especially true in states with large and diverse immigrant populations.
For Zaya Jaden, a 35-year-old from Mongolia, getting free care for her sister's persistent migraine was a much higher priority than considering how the expansion of the nation's social safety net through the Affordable Care Act might benefit her.
The sisters crammed into the clinic's waiting room, sandwiched between families chatting in the indigenous Guatemalan language Mam, and discussed whether enrolling in Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would work for the family's finances.
Natural gas bill pushed by Sen. Menendez could have aided firm where top donor invests
WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Robert Menendez sponsored legislation with incentives for natural gas vehicle conversions that would benefit the biggest political donor to his re-election, the same eye doctor whose private jet Menendez used for two personal trips to the Dominican Republic, an Associated Press investigation found.
The disclosure reflects the latest intersection between the New Jersey Democrat who is the subject of an ethics inquiry on Capitol Hill and the Florida doctor involved in a federal criminal investigation.
Dr. Salomon Melgen invested in Gaseous Fuel Systems Corp. of Weston, Fla., and joined its board of directors in early 2010, according to the company's chief executive and a former company consultant. GFS, as the company is known, designs, manufactures and sells products to convert diesel-fuel fleets to natural gas. The amount of Melgen's investment is confidential under rules of the Securities and Exchange Commission, but a 2009 document filed with the SEC showed the company required a minimum individual investment at that time of $51,500.
At the same time, Menendez emerged as a principal supporter of a natural gas bill that would boost tax credits and grants to truck and heavy vehicle fleets that converted to alternative fuels. The bill stalled in the Senate Finance Committee, and after it was revived in 2012, the NAT GAS Act failed to win the needed 60 votes to pass.
While the bill was under consideration between 2009 and 2011, the former consultant for GFS spent $220,000 lobbying Menendez's staff and other congressional and federal officials on the act's provisions as well as other regulatory issues, according to interviews and Senate records.
Middle East airlines and airports transform the region into a new crossroads for global travel
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — It's 1 a.m. and the sprawling airport in this desert city is bustling. Enough languages fill the air to make a United Nations translator's head spin.
Thousands of fliers arrive every hour from China, Australia, India and nearly everywhere else on the planet. Few venture outside the terminal, which spans the length of 24 football fields. They come instead to catch connecting flights to somewhere else.
If it weren't for three ambitious and rapidly expanding government-owned airlines — Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways — they might have never come to the Middle East.
For generations, international fliers have stopped over in London, Paris and Amsterdam. Now, they increasingly switch planes in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi, making this region the new crossroads of global travel. The switch is driven by both the airports and airlines, all backed by governments that see aviation as the way to make their countries bigger players in the global economy.
Passengers are won over by their fancy new planes and top-notch service. But the real key to the airlines' incredible growth is geography. Their hubs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are an eight-hour flight away from two-thirds of the world's population, including a growing middle class in India, China and Southeast Asia that is eager to travel.
Remains of house, debris to be cleared from Fla. sinkhole so officials can decide what's next
SEFFNER, Fla. (AP) — The gaping sinkhole that swallowed a man from his Florida home last week could be revealed later Monday when demolition crews knock down the remaining walls and begin clearing away the debris.
Crews on Sunday razed more than half the home, managing to salvage some keepsakes for family members who lived there.
The opening of the sinkhole has been covered by the home, but once emergency officials and engineers can see inside it more clearly, they could begin planning how to deal with it. They also need to decide what will happen to the two homes on either side of the now-demolished house. Experts say the sinkhole has "compromised" those homes, but it's unclear whether steps can be taken to save them.
Jeremy Bush, 35, tried to save his brother, Jeff, when the earth opened up and swallowed him Thursday night.
On Sunday morning, Bush and relatives prayed with a pastor as the home — where he lived with his girlfriend, Rachel Wicker; their daughter, Hannah, 2; and others — was demolished and waited for firefighters to salvage anything possible from inside. The home was owned by Leland Wicker, Rachel's grandfather, since the 1970s.
Column: Losing sight of bigger picture with black-and-white labels in a grey political system
WASHINGTON (AP) — From an early age, Americans are conditioned to see the world in sharp contrast — black-and-white labels in a society where the reality is many shades of gray. The details, the subtleties? Well, those be damned.
Look at Walt Disney World, which attracts visitors by reducing a complex national heritage to its most basic elements.There's so much more to Main Streets throughout America — much more to frontier times, visions of the future and even other nations — than the narrowly-conceived scenes at the theme park.
This thinking extends beyond its gates, and is endemic today in Washington, where Democrats and Republicans constantly maneuver to be seen as the good guys, while painting the other side as simply the bad guys. In a constant quest for an edge, leaders stoke those stereotypes and play to people's proclivity to view everything — including their politics — in extremes.
Americans aren't merely receptive to this shorthand. Many are complicit, enthusiastically categorizing politicians as saviors or enemies — and consuming a mass media that perpetuates these simplistic views.
It's no coincidence that we have a political landscape that the extremes dominate. But is the system as broken as polls say? Or do Americans simply think it's in shambles because of the barbs that politicians throw and the labels they use?
Post-campaign, Obama aides fan out, form groups to promote president's agenda
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama learned in his first term that he couldn't change Washington from the inside, saying in the heat of his re-election race: "You can only change it from the outside." Months later, his former White House aides and campaign advisers are embracing Obama's words as a call to action.
Obama veterans are building a wide network of deep-pocketed groups and consulting firms independent of government, the Democratic Party and traditional liberal groups, a sweeping — if not unprecedented — effort outside the White House gates aimed at promoting the president's agenda and shaping his legacy.
From campaign strategists to online gurus and policy hands to press agents, Obama loyalists — including many who discovered that a second term yields fewer administration job vacancies — are slicing his agenda into smaller parts and launching highly targeted efforts on subjects including health care, job creation and electoral politics.
The lynchpin of the effort is Organizing for Action, a nonprofit run by former Obama advisers that has essentially transformed his re-election campaign into a grassroots machine to support his initiatives. In its early stages, the group is raising millions from big and small donors alike and whipping up support for issues like gun control and an immigration overhaul.
Known by its initials, OFA is chaired by Jim Messina, a former White House aide who ran Obama's 2012 campaign, and several former Obama aides sit on its board. David Plouffe, who until February served as Obama's senior adviser, is expected to join the board soon.
Pakistani Shiites mourn as death toll of massive car bombing in Karachi reaches 45
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) — Members of Pakistan's Shiite community were digging Monday through the rubble of a massive car bombing in Karachi looking for loved ones as the death toll from the blast the day before reached 45, a Pakistani doctor said.
The explosion on Sunday evening targeted members of the minority sect leaving a mosque in this port city, and underlined the increasing threat faced by Shiites as Sunni militant groups target them in ever-bolder attacks.
At least 146 people were also wounded in the explosion and 32 of them remain in serious condition, said Pakistani surgeon, Jalil Qadir.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility but Sunni militant groups who do not consider Shiites to be true Muslims have carried out such attacks in the past.
This was the third mass casualty attack since the beginning of the year against Shiites. The first two killed nearly 200 people in the southwestern city of Quetta, which is home to many Hazaras. They are an ethnic group, mostly made up of Shiite Muslims, who migrated from Afghanistan more than century ago.
Driver sought in NY crash that killed young expectant couple headed to hospital; baby survives
NEW YORK (AP) — Police continue to search for the driver of a BMW and a passenger who fled an accident after slamming into a livery cab, killing a young pregnant woman and her husband. Their unborn baby survived.
Nachman and Raizy Glauber, both 21, were looking forward to welcoming their first child into their tight-knit community of Orthodox Jews. Now the infant must be raised by relatives and neighbors.
The horrific crash happened in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn as the couple headed to a hospital, said Isaac Abraham, a neighbor of Raizy Glauber's parents who lives two blocks from where the crash happened.
The engine of the livery car ended up in the backseat, where Raizy Glauber, who was seven months pregnant, was sitting before she was ejected, Abraham said. Her body landed under a parked tractor-trailer, said witnesses who raced to the scene after the crash. Nachman Glauber was pinned in the car, and emergency workers had to cut off the roof to get him out, witnesses said.
The Glaubers both were pronounced dead at hospitals, and the medical examiner said they died of blunt-force trauma. Doctors performed a cesarean section on the mother to deliver the baby, a boy.
Female kicker lasts 2 kicks before injury halts tryout at NFL regional combine in New Jersey
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Frustrated and maybe a bit embarrassed, Lauren Silberman fought back tears after kicking her way into NFL history.
She became the first woman to try out at a regional combine Sunday, but she lasted all of two kicks — none of which traveled even 20 yards. The 28-year-old Silberman hurt her right quadriceps while preparing for the tryout earlier in the week, and attributed her struggles to that injury.
"I tried staying off it and waited for today," she said. "I didn't even take kicks in warm-ups, and, it's pretty hard to know that you'll be in pain, and I wanted to work through it and I certainly tried to, but I just couldn't do it today."
While some fans on Twitter praised her for breaking through in a male-dominated sport, others wondered if this was just a publicity stunt. Regardless, the NFL got plenty of attention on a Sunday in March for one of its regional combines — something most media normally ignore.
"I'm just really happy I had this amazing experience," Silberman said. "I might be the first woman trying out for the NFL, but I certainly hope I'm not the last."