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

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Associated Press

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 5:02 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 19 at 5:02 AM

Pope Francis officially starts papacy with installation Mass that draws thousands

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis has officially begun his ministry as the 266th pope, receiving the ring symbolizing the papacy and a wool stole symbolizing his role as shepherd of his 1.2-billion strong flock.

A cardinal intoned the rite of inauguration at the start of Tuesday's Mass, saying "The Good Shepherd charged Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep; today you succeed him as the bishop of this church."

Later a half-dozen cardinals approached the Argentine-born pope to vow their obedience.

The installation occurred in sun-drenched St. Peter's Square before tens of thousands of people, princes, sheiks, rabbis and presidents.

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How can they do that?! A look at Cyprus' decision to seize a part of bank deposits

PARIS (AP) — Lawmakers in Cyprus are still scrambling for a way to raise €5.8 billion ($7.5 billion) to help pay for an international bailout of the country's banks and government.

A plan to seize up to 10 percent of people's savings has been met with fury and it has raised concern, if not panic, in the rest of Europe about the security of bank deposits in times of financial turmoil.

On Tuesday, Cypriot lawmakers are scheduled to vote on a revised plan that would not be so burdensome for people with less than €100,000 in the bank. Any plan must be approved by the other eurozone countries, which would then commit €10 billion in rescue loans to Cyprus.

Banks in Cyprus will remain shut until Thursday to give political leaders time to hash out a deal.

Here's a look at the plan and the problems it may pose.

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Obama confronts old challenges, new crises on a remade Middle East landscape

WASHINGTON (AP) — On his second trip to the Middle East as U.S. commander in chief, President Barack Obama this week will confront a political and strategic landscape nearly unrecognizable from the one he encountered on his first trip to the region shortly after assuming office in 2009.

Gone are the authoritarian regimes and leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, and the once seemingly indestructible Assad regime in Syria is tottering on the brink of collapse. Uncertainty abounds in the wake of the revolutions that have convulsed the Arab world for the past two years and shaken many of the strong but imperfect pillars of stability on the planet's most politically volatile patch of land.

And the few constants are hardly cause for cheer: a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process that remains mired in mutual distrust and recrimination, an Iran that seemingly inches closer to nuclear weapons capability despite intensified international sanctions, and the ever-growing threat from extremists.

At the same time, Obama's 2012 re-election has changed his political calculus. Having run his last race as a political candidate, he is no longer beholden to the whims of voters. His sights appear set on building a legacy that, at least in the short term, is focused not on foreign policy but on the domestic issues that now drive the agenda in Washington.

Thus, U.S. officials have set expectations low for the trip. No new plan to bring Israel and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. No big boost in assistance to the struggling Palestinian Authority. No new strategy for dealing with the chaos in Syria. No new outreach to Muslims like the one that was the centerpiece of his June 2009 visit to Cairo.

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Fed is expected this week to stick to low-rate policies despite a strengthening US economy

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. economy is strengthening on the fuel of more job growth, rising home prices and solid retail sales. Just don't expect the Federal Reserve to let up in its drive to keep stimulating the economy with record-low interest rates.

Not yet, anyway.

That's the view of economists as Fed policymakers hold a two-day meeting that starts Tuesday. On Wednesday, the Fed will issue a policy statement and update its economic forecasts, and Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold a news conference.

All of which will likely reinforce Bernanke's stated view that the job market, in particular, has a long way to go to full health and still needs the Fed's extraordinary support.

The unemployment rate, at 7.7 percent, remains well above the 5 percent to 6 percent range associated with a healthy economy. The Fed has said it plans to keep short-term rates at record lows at least until unemployment falls to 6.5 percent, as long as the inflation outlook remains mild. And it foresees unemployment staying above 6.5 percent until at least the end of 2015.

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Police: Central Fla. student plotted attack on others, then changed mind and committed suicide

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — A University of Central Florida student who pulled a dorm fire alarm in the middle of the night had a more sinister plan than sending students scurrying out into the night, authorities said.

Campus police said Monday that 30-year-old James Oliver Seevakumaran was armed with two guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a backpack filled with explosives and a plan to attack other students as they fled the seven-story dorm where he lived.

His plans were thrown off by campus police officers' quick response to the fire alarm and a 911 call from Seevakumaran's roommate who had holed himself in a bathroom after Seevakumaran pointed a gun at him.

Police officers found Seevakumaran dead with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head in his dorm room. No other students were hurt.

"It could have been a very bad day here for everybody. All things considered, I think we were very blessed here at the University of Central Florida," said Richard Beary, University of Central Florida's police chief. "One shooting is bad enough. Multiples would have been unthinkable. So, anybody armed with this type of weapon and ammunition could have hurt a lot of people here, particularly in a crowded area as people were evacuating."

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Tea Party favorite Rand Paul backs path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, with conditions

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is endorsing a pathway to citizenship for the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants, a significant move for a favorite of tea party Republicans who are sometimes hostile to such an approach.

In a speech to be delivered Tuesday morning to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the potential 2016 presidential candidate declares, "If you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you." A copy of the speech was obtained in advance by The Associated Press.

Paul's path to citizenship would come with conditions that could make it long and difficult for illegal immigrants. Chief among these, Congress would have to agree first that progress was being made on border security.

Nonetheless, Paul's endorsement of allowing illegal immigrants an eventual way to become citizens puts him in line with a growing number of Republicans who are embracing action on immigration as a way to broaden the GOP's appeal to Latinos. On Monday, a Republican National Committee report called on the GOP to support comprehensive reform, though without specifying whether it should include a pathway to citizenship, which is decried by some conservatives as amnesty.

Paul's move also comes as a bipartisan group of senators is nearing agreement on sweeping legislation to overhaul the nation's immigration laws, an effort that could get a boost from Paul's stance. In an interview, Paul said he could foresee backing the Senate group's emerging bill, although he plans to try to amend it on the floor with some of his own ideas.

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Beyond memory loss, report finds 1 in 3 seniors dies with dementia that can impede other care

WASHINGTON (AP) — A staggering 1 in 3 seniors dies with Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, says a new report that highlights the impact the mind-destroying disease is having on the rapidly aging population.

Dying with Alzheimer's is not the same as dying from it. But even when dementia isn't the direct cause of death, it can be the final blow — speeding someone's decline by interfering with their care for heart disease, cancer or other serious illnesses. That's the assessment of the report released Tuesday by the Alzheimer's Association, which advocates for more research and support for families afflicted by it.

"Exacerbated aging," is how Dr. Maria Carrillo, an association vice president, terms the Alzheimer's effect. "It changes any health care situation for a family."

In fact, only 30 percent of 70-year-olds who don't have Alzheimer's are expected to die before their 80th birthday. But if they do have dementia, 61 percent are expected to die, the report found.

Already, 5.2 million Americans have Alzheimer's or some other form of dementia. Those numbers will jump to 13.8 million by 2050, Tuesday's report predicts. That's slightly lower than some previous estimates.

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In Colorado, Democrat governor prepares to sign gun controls amid warning of political peril

DENVER (AP) — Firearms play an outsized role in the hearts of Coloradans. It's a frontier state that adopted gunslingers Buffalo Bill and Doc Holliday as native sons, where treasured guns are routinely passed from generation to generation.

So when Colorado's Democratic governor made known that he plans to ratchet back gun rights Wednesday by signing two limits into law, Republicans and gun-rights supporters gasped.

Then they set to work trying to undo the new laws to limit most ammunition magazines to 15 rounds and to expand required background checks to private and online gun sales.

At least two ballot petitions had been filed. Some Republicans hinted at lawsuits. More predicted political repercussions for Democrats in a state poised to be first outside the East Coast to put new restrictions on firearms after last year's mass shootings in Aurora and Newtown, Conn.

Hickenlooper says he supports gun rights. But a few months after famously saying the Aurora movie theater shooting couldn't have prevented by gun control, the self-described moderate started explaining how his thinking changed.

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AP PHOTOS: Scenes from Baghdad, 10 years on

BAGHDAD (AP) — To the first-time visitor, Baghdad might seem like a normal city. Well, almost normal: Pockmarked buildings and pervasive checkpoints serve as a stark reminder of the violence that nearly tore the country in the decade following the U.S.-led invasion, which began on March 20, 2003.

Today, the Baghdad Zoo is a popular destination for families wearing their finest clothes and enjoying spring weather before the temperature climbs. Nearly 10 years ago, the zoo's staff fled just before Baghdad fell to U.S. troops. All but 35 of the animals died. Later, an American platoon set up a small base at the zoo, where they protected the facility from looting while it was rebuilt.

Abu Nawas Park, where orphans sniffed glue and slept beneath American tanks, now too is a haven for families and a place for die-hard soccer players to practice in the afternoons.

The Iraqi National Museum lost countless treasures during a chaotic period before Americans moved in to secure it. Today, the grounds are under renovation. Fewer than half of the antiquities have been recovered.

The Karrada district is a bustling commercial hub of shops and restaurants that stay open late into the night. During the bloodiest stretch of the war, these shops were shuttered by sundown.

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BracketRacket: Everybody loves Louisville. Kind of. OK, Well, at least, Bill Clinton does

Welcome to Bracket Racket, the one-stop shopping place for all your NCAA tournament needs If you have any unfinished business related to the tournament, you might want to get started on it now.

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THANKS FOR STOPPING BY

The games don't even begin until tonight. But it feels like they're already over.

Yesterday, we reported the odds of someone filling out a perfect bracket were one in 9.2 quintillion.

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