AP News in Brief at 8:58 p.m. EST

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Associated Press

Posted on November 30, 2013 at 11:02 PM

Updated Sunday, Dec 1 at 12:00 AM

Scotland's official holiday turns into day of mourning after police helicopter crash kills 8

GLASGOW, Scotland (AP) — Scotland's official holiday was transformed into a grim day of mourning Saturday as emergency crews searched the wreckage of a riverside pub smashed by a falling police helicopter. At least eight people died and more than a dozen remained hospitalized with serious injuries.

The Clutha, a popular Glasgow pub, was filled with revelers enjoying a local ska band on Friday night, the eve of St. Andrew's Day, named for the patron saint of Scotland and which is normally a celebration of Scottish culture and heritage.

Instead, Scotland's leader ordered flags at government buildings to be lowered to half-staff after the tragedy.

"This is a black day for Glasgow and Scotland, but it's also St. Andrew's Day, and it's a day we can take pride and courage in how we respond to adversity and tragedy," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said.

There may be more bad news. Police said a rescue and recovery operation is ongoing and that it wasn't clear what will be found once the aircraft's wreckage is removed. The process may take days.

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Thanksgiving shopping on the rise, but retailers see spending on Black Friday drop

Thanksgiving Day is no longer all about turkey: It's eating away at Black Friday shopping.

U.S. shoppers spent $9.74 billion on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. That's a drop of 13.2 percent compared with last year, according to data released on Saturday by research firm ShopperTrak.

The decline appears to show that more Americans shopped on the holiday itself: Combined spending on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, which had been considered the official start to the holiday buying season until this year, rose 2.3 percent to $12.3 billion.

The data reflects that Thanksgiving, which along with Christmas was one of two days a year that most stores were closed, is becoming an important day for major retailers.

Black Friday is a time when big retailers open early and offer deep discounts, but a few started opening and offering those discounts on Thanksgiving a couple years ago. And this year, at least a dozen did so, with a few opening earlier in the holiday than they did last year.

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Your fellow Americans aren't so trusting: Faith in one another at lowest level in 4 decades

WASHINGTON (AP) — You can take our word for it. Americans don't trust each other anymore.

We're not talking about the loss of faith in big institutions such as the government, the church or Wall Street, which fluctuates with events. For four decades, a gut-level ingredient of democracy — trust in the other fellow — has been quietly draining away.

These days, only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted. Half felt that way in 1972, when the General Social Survey first asked the question.

Forty years later, a record high of nearly two-thirds say "you can't be too careful" in dealing with people.

An AP-GfK poll conducted last month found that Americans are suspicious of each other in everyday encounters. Less than one-third expressed a lot of trust in clerks who swipe their credit cards, drivers on the road, or people they meet when traveling.

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Government supporters and foes clash violently in Thai capital; 1 shot to death, 5 wounded

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's capital braced for more violence Sunday after a week of aggressive political protests erupted in street fighting between supporters and opponents of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, killing at least one man and wounding several others.

It was not immediately known who fired the shots after clashes broke out Saturday near a stadium where a crowd that appeared to number well over 50,000 rallied in support of the government.

The violence in the short run may stir fears of further instability like what plagued the country during related political conflicts in 2006, 2008 and 2010. Any escalation of violence is likely to scare away tourists who come to Thailand by the millions and contribute a huge chunk to the economy.

But it may help the government by undermining the claims of its opponents to be carrying out a nonviolent campaign of civil disobedience. The violence is likely to scare away some supporters who would otherwise attend the opposition's rallies.

Matters were feared to come to a head Sunday, when the protesters vowed to seize the well-guarded prime minister's offices.

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Egypt panel begins voting on draft constitution, a step toward to democracy after coup

CAIRO (AP) — The panel amending Egypt's suspended constitution began voting Saturday on some 250 changes, the first step toward democratic rule following the July military coup that ousted the country's president.

The constitution before the 50-member committee makes drastic changes in ensuring civil liberties, fighting discrimination, criminalizing torture, protecting religious freedoms and giving lawmakers power to remove the president. Yet the draft also allows Egypt's powerful military to choose its own chief and try civilians in military tribunals.

The constitutional changes come amid a heavy handed crackdown on dissent that's left the country largely divided between supporters and opponents of the military that toppled Mohammed Morsi, the country's first freely elected president.

"This is the path of rescue from the current condition," said Amr Moussa, the elder Egyptian statesman leading the constitutional panel. "It is the transition from disturbances to stability and from economic stagnation to development."

The military suspended the Islamist-drafted, voter-approved 2012 constitution in the July 3 coup that ousted Morsi. The constitutional panel, dominated by secularists, has been working on changes as part of a military-backed timeline that calls for voters to approve it. It plans for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held early next year.

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Obama administration says it's on track to meet health care website goal, but questions remain

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration says it will meet its self-imposed deadline of fixing the troubled health care website so that 50,000 people can log in at the same time starting late Saturday. Yet questions remain about the stability of the site, the volume of traffic it can handle and the quality of the data it is delivering to insurers.

Round-the-clock repair work since HealthCare.gov went live on Oct. 1 has produced fewer errors, and pages are loading faster.

But the site still won't be able to do everything the administration wanted, and companion sites for small businesses and Spanish speakers have been delayed.

Still, the White House hopes a website that is at least operating more smoothly after weeks of bad publicity about its troubles will mark a fresh start for Obama and the signature domestic initiative of his presidency, as well as give him a chance to salvage a second term that has been weighed down by health care law's rough start and other issues.

Administration officials said HealthCare.gov was "performing well" Saturday, the deadline set to have it working smoothly for the "vast majority of users," after overnight hardware upgrades to boost server capacity. The deadline fell during a long holiday weekend when traffic to the site likely would have been slower anyway and at a level unlikely to expose new technical issues.

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NKorea says detained American tourist apologizes for war crimes; no direct word from tourist

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea state media claimed Saturday that an elderly U.S. tourist detained for more than a month has apologized for alleged crimes during the Korean War and for "hostile acts" against the state during a recent trip.

North Korean authorities released video showing 85-year-old Merrill Newman, wearing glasses, a blue button-down shirt and tan trousers, reading his alleged apology, which was dated Nov. 9 and couldn't be independently confirmed.

Pyongyang has been accused of previously coercing statements from detainees. There was no way to reach Newman and determine the circumstances of the alleged confession. But it was riddled with stilted English and grammatical errors, such as "I want not punish me."

"I have been guilty of a long list of indelible crimes against DPRK government and Korean people," Newman purportedly wrote in a four-page statement, adding: "Please forgive me."

The statement, carried in the North's official Korean Central News Agency, said the war veteran allegedly attempted to meet with any surviving soldiers he had trained during the Korean War to fight North Korea, and that he admitted to killing civilians and brought an e-book criticizing North Korea. DPRK stands for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official name.

Chris Davis' last-play 100-yard return lifts No. 4 Auburn past No. 1 Alabama, 34-28

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) — That crazy tipped pass for a long game-winning touchdown is now the second-most stunning and improbable play of Auburn's season.

Yes, the Tigers found a way to top "The Immaculate Deflection." Maybe call this one Auburn's happiest return.

Chris Davis returned a missed field-goal attempt more than 100 yards for a touchdown on the final play to lift No. 4 Auburn to a 34-28 victory over No. 1 Alabama on Saturday, upending the two-time defending national champions' BCS hopes and preserving the Tigers' own.

Davis caught the ball about 9 yards deep in the end zone after freshman Adam Griffith's 57-yard attempt fell short. He then sprinted down the left sideline and cut back with nothing but teammates around him in a second straight hard-to-fathom finish for the Tigers (11-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference).

Auburn clinched a spot in the SEC championship game with the stunning victory over the powerhouse from across the state. The Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1) seemed at several times poised to continue its run toward the first three-peat in modern college football.

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Syria to transport chemical weapons to port city; US will destroy them offshore

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Syria's government will try to move the most lethal components of its chemical weapons program to a port city by the end of the year, and the U.S. has offered to pick up and destroy the hazardous material at an offshore facility, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and Syrian officials said Saturday.

The international organization's director-general, Ahmet Uzumcu, said in The Hague, Netherlands, that the U.S. government will contribute "a destruction technology, full operational support and financing to neutralize" the weapons — most likely on a ship in the Mediterranean Sea. The weapons are to be removed from Syria by Dec. 31.

Separately, the woman appointed as go-between for the United Nations and the OPCW on destroying Syria's chemical weapons stockpile laid out some logistical details. Sigrid Kaag said the weapons will first be sealed and packaged and then transported from multiple sites within Syria to the country's largest port, Latakia. Then they will be loaded onto ships owned by other OPCW members before a second hand-off to U.S. vessels.

The weapons and chemicals "will not be (destroyed) in Syrian territorial waters," Kaag said at a news conference in Damascus.

Kaag, who is due to travel to The Hague by Monday, said the mission will require international contributions in terms of packaging material, other logistic needs and special equipment needed to get the job done.

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Though numbers are small, US officials concerned about Americans fighting in Syrian civil war

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Federal officials say Americans are joining the bloody civil war in Syria, raising the chances they could become radicalized by al-Qaida-linked militant groups and return to the U.S. as battle-hardened security risks.

The State Department says it has no estimates of how many Americans have taken up weapons to fight military units loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad in the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people over 2 ½ years. Other estimates — from an arm of the British defense consultant IHS Jane's and from experts at a nonprofit think tank in London — put the number of Americans at a couple dozen. The IHS group says al-Qaida-linked fighters number about 15,000, with total anti-Assad force at 100,000 or more.

This year, at least three Americans have been charged with planning to fight beside Jabhat al-Nusrah — a radical Islamic organization that the U.S. considers a foreign terrorist group — against Assad. The most recent case involves a Pakistan-born North Carolina man arrested on his way to Lebanon.

At a Senate homeland security committee hearing this month, Sen. Thomas Carper, D-Del., said: "We know that American citizens as well as Canadian and European nationals have taken up arms in Syria, in Yemen and in Somalia. The threat that these individuals could return home to carry out attacks is real and troubling."

The hearing came about two weeks after the FBI and other officers arrested Basit Sheikh, 29, at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport on charges he was on his way to join Jabhat al-Nusrah. Sheikh, a legal resident of the United States, had lived quietly, without a criminal record, in a Raleigh suburb for five years before his Nov. 2 arrest. A similar arrest came in April in Chicago. And in September, authorities in Virginia released an Army veteran accused of fighting alongside the group after a secret plea deal.

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