Navalny, Russia's charismatic opposition leader, shakes up Moscow mayor campaign
MOSCOW (AP) — A motley gaggle of hipsters, mothers with children and two babushkas with hair dyed bright red gather to listen to something they haven't heard in over a decade: a stump speech for Moscow mayor.
Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption blogger and leader of Russia's protest movement, is trying to take his following offline and into the street, waging a traditional campaign of hand-shaking and leaflet drives to win voters outside his base of the young and web-savvy.
Navalny has little hope of defeating incumbent Sergei Sobyanin — but polls show his star is rising. And if he gets a big chunk of the vote, the Kremlin will face pressure to show leniency over his five-year prison sentence, and the grassroots protest movement that fizzled out after Vladimir Putin's return to the presidency last year may gain new wind.
Sobyanin, meanwhile, is playing the regal incumbent: Throughout the campaign, the Kremlin-backed politician has been all but invisible, allowing the constant drone of jackhammers or whiff of fresh paint that are signs of a Moscow makeover to remind voters of who's in charge — and who can pull the purse-strings.
Navalny is the one who has been soaking up attention, and generating buzz. On a recent August day, the opposition leader stood on stage in a sprawling Moscow park dotted with enormous space shuttles and other scraps of Soviet-era glory, and attempted to connect with an audience he rarely reaches through Twitter: the feared and revered babushka contingency.
UN Syria team departs hotel on day of scheduled attack site visit
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — A U.N. team that is supposed to investigate an alleged deadly chemical attack near the Syrian capital Damascus last week left their hotel Monday, as President Bashar Assad denied his troops used chemical weapons during the fighting in the rebel-held suburb.
An Associated Press photographer saw the members wearing body armor leaving in seven SUVs. It was not clear if the team was headed to the suburb where the alleged attack occurred.
The United States has said that there is little doubt that Assad's regime was responsible for the attack on Aug. 21 in the capital's eastern suburbs. The group Doctors Without Borders said 355 people were killed in an artillery barrage by regime forces Wednesday that included the use of toxic gas.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the eastern suburbs have witnessed a wide army offensive over the last week, but have been relatively quiet since Sunday night.
Mohammed Abdullah, an activist in the eastern suburb of Saqba, said the U.N. is expected to visit the rebel-held area on Monday and they will be under the protection of the Islam Brigade, which has thousands of fighters in the area.
Rare military death penalty possible for convicted Fort Hood gunman as sentencing phase begins
FORT HOOD, Texas (AP) — The Army psychiatrist convicted of the Fort Hood rampage that killed 13 people begins the sentencing phase of his trial Monday facing a possible death sentence for the deadliest mass shooting ever on a U.S. military installation.
Maj. Nidal Hasan showed no reaction after being found guilty last week by a military jury, which will now decide whether the Virginia-born Muslim who said he opened fire on unarmed American soldiers to protect insurgents abroad should be executed.
Twelve of the dead were soldiers, including a pregnant private who pleaded for the unborn child's life. More than 30 others were wounded in the 2009 attack on the Texas Army post, where investigators collected more than 200 bullet casings.
At the minimum, the 42-year-old Hasan will spend the rest of his life in prison.
"This is where members (of the jury) decide whether you will live or whether you will die," Col. Tara Osborn, the trial judge, told Hasan on Friday following his conviction.
As Chicago Public Schools embark on mayor's 'new beginning,' Safe Passage workers stand watch
CHICAGO (AP) — Thousands of Chicago Public Schools students will head to new schools Monday, the first day of what Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called "a new beginning" for the nation's third-largest district after a number of schools were closed.
As students go, many will be accompanied by some unfamiliar faces: A crop of newly hired workers in yellow reflective vests, Chicago firefighters and even the security guards from local public libraries, all of them expected to stand guard to ensure kids get to and from school safely.
The effort known as Safe Passage — which stations workers and others along designated routes to help students who must cross gang boundaries — is perhaps the most visible sign of how much is at stake for students in a district that has long struggled academically and financially, as well as for a mayor who has vowed since taking office that he would turn things around.
"Safe Passage is about more than just building a route to school," Emanuel told about 1,000 people during a training session last week. "It is about building a route to college, career and beyond, so that once our kids get to school, they get the world-class education they deserve."
The Chicago Board of Education — hand-picked by Emanuel — voted in May to close about 50 elementary schools and programs, a move Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said would allow the district to improve academics and help pay down a $1 billion budget deficit.
Firefighters struggle to contain huge wildfire raging in Yosemite National Park area
TUOLUMNE CITY, Calif. (AP) — Hundreds of firefighters were digging trenches, clearing brush and starting back blazes to keep a wildfire raging north of Yosemite National Park out of several mountain hamlets.
Inaccessible terrain, strong winds and bone-dry conditions have hampered their efforts to contain the Rim Fire, which began Aug. 17 and has grown to become one of the biggest in California history.
Firefighters were hoping to advance on the flames Monday but strong winds were threatening push the blaze closer to Tuolumne City and nearby communities.
"This fire has continued to pose every challenge that there can be on a fire...," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. "It's a very difficult firefight."
The fire has consumed nearly 225 square miles of picturesque forests. Officials estimate containment at just 7 percent.
Civil rights movement and US immigration history connected
NEW YORK (AP) — When 250,000 marchers converged on Washington in August 1963, the issues were jobs and freedom.
Now, as the crowds come together to mark the 50th anniversary of that seminal event in the civil rights movement, those issues have been joined by others, including one, immigration reform, that wasn't nearly on the political radar then like it is today.
"They were fighting for equality, and that's exactly what we're fighting for," said Mikhel Crichlow, 28, a native of Trinidad and Tobago now living in Brooklyn. Crichlow said he was going to Washington for the commemoration.
The push for comprehensive immigration reform was heard from the speakers' podium on Saturday, when tens of thousands marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial and down the National Mall.
"It doesn't make sense that millions of our people are living in the shadows," said Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who was a speaker at the 1963 event. "Bring them out into the light and set them on the path to citizenship."
Prosecutor demands severe sentence for Bo, who drops love triangle charge on last day of trial
JINAN, China (AP) — China's most sensational trial in decades ended Monday with disgraced politician Bo Xilai hinting at a love triangle involving his wife and former right hand man — both key witnesses against him — as he made last-ditch efforts to redeem his reputation.
The prosecution countered by saying Bo should be severely punished because he showed no remorse in the five-day corruption trial in the eastern city of Jinan, aimed at capping a scandal set off by his wife's murder of a British businessman and resulting in Bo's purge from top posts and the Communist Party.
In testimony, Bo denounced both his wife, Gu Kailai, as crazy and his former police chief, Wang Lijun, as dishonest, as he has sought to portray himself as an official who worked too hard to scrutinize his family's affairs and who was surrounded by conniving, duplicitous people.
"He (Wang) was secretly in love with Gu Kailai, his emotions were tangled and he could not extricate himself," Bo told the court.
Prosecutors said Monday that the trial proceedings have shown adequate proof of Bo's guilt on charges of netting $4.3 million through bribes and embezzlement and abuse of power in interfering with the murder investigation. A date for the verdict has not been given.
Zurich opens drive-in 'sex boxes' in a new experiment with its legal prostitution trade
ZURICH (AP) — No car, no sex.
That's the rule for an experiment Zurich is launching Monday to make prostitution less of a public nuisance and safer for women.
Switzerland has long been famous for its mountaineering, chocolate and precision watches, but a lesser known aspect is its legal prostitution since 1942, for which its largest city is one of the main centers in Europe.
Fashionably teak-colored open wooden garages, popularly called "sex boxes" by the Swiss media, will be open for business for drive-in customers. The several dozen sex workers who are expected to make it their new hub will stand along a short road in a small, circular park for clients to choose from and negotiate with. The park was built in a former industrial area nestled between a rail yard and the fence along a major highway.
The publicly funded facilities — open all night and located away from the city center — include bathrooms, lockers, small cafe tables and a laundry and shower. Men won't have to worry about video surveillance cameras, but the sex workers — who will need a permit and pay a small tax — will be provided with a panic button and on-site social workers trained to look after them.
First woman member of the New York Stock Exchange, Muriel Siebert dies at 80
NEW YORK (AP) — Muriel "Mickie" Siebert, who started as a trainee on Wall Street and became the first woman to own a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, has died of complications of cancer at age 80.
Siebert died Saturday at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. Her death was confirmed by Jane Macon, a director of Siebert Financial and a partner at the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright.
Siebert was founder and president of brokerage firm that bears her name, Muriel Siebert & Co. Inc. The company went public in 1996 as Siebert Financial Corp.
Macon said Siebert was "a fabulous woman, a trailblazer and a pioneer" who set a high standard for those who entered the financial world after her. "She always pushed the doors open and kept them open for other people to follow."
Siebert, who was born in Cleveland and moved to New York in 1954 at age 22, started her career as a trainee in research at Bache & Co. earning a $65 a week. She went on to become an industry specialist in airlines and aerospace and later became a partner at brokerages including Brimberg & Co.
Justin Timberlake wins video of the year, reunites with 'N Sync at MTV Video Music Awards
NEW YORK (AP) — Miley Cyrus' foam finger, Lady Gaga's thong, Taylor Swift's mean streak and the look on Rihanna's face while Drake performed will surely be remembered, but these MTV Video Music Awards belonged to Justin Timberlake.
Timberlake briefly reunited with 'N Sync, won moonman trophies including top honor video of the year for "Mirrors" plus the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award and managed to overshadow most of today's top pop stars while doing it.
"I don't deserve the award, but I'm not going to give it back," Timberlake said. "I'm taking this home."
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were the night's other top winners, taking home trophies for best hip-hop video and best cinematography for "Can't Hold Us," and best video with a social message for "Same Love." They performed that song with Mary Lambert and Jennifer Hudson in a show-stopping moment.
"Gay rights are human rights," Macklemore said during the telecast. "There is no separation."